DA Carson has had a strong influence on me theologically and pastorally through the books that he has written and scores of his sermons. That’s why it was such a great privilege for me to be able to meet him in person at the EV Free Western District meeting on November 5th.
Carson preached three of the most moving sermons on the subject of prayer that I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to. It was a joy to be able to attend and to hear him in such an intimate environment.
Valley Church of Vacaville just recently made the sermons available online. They can be found here.
I think the sweetest thing that any church member can do for their pastor is to pray for them. There are a number of couples in my church that I know are committed to praying for me and my family. Every time I see them I can’t help but but deeply moved by this tender act of mercy for me.
Trevin Wax recently re-posted an article suggesting specific ways that you can pray for your pastor. I’d like to add a hearty amen behind each of these:
That the gospel would be the focal point of my life and identity.
That I would not fear man by desiring the admiration of people.
That the Lord would not allow me to go long between repentances.
That I would continue to grow in character qualities of man of God.
That I would have a consistent, powerful, diligent life of private prayer.
That the Lord would give me great diligence in study and sermon preparation.
That my preaching and teaching ministry would be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
That I would boldly and faithfully and humbly and joyfully and intentionally share the gospel with the non-Christians in my social orbit.
That I would see Jesus as supremely valuable.
You can follow this link to read the expanded version of each of these.
Grant me to feel thee in fire, and food and every providence, and to see that thy many gifts and creatures are but thy hands and fingers taking hold of me.
Thou bottomless fountain of all good, I give myself to thee out of love, for all I have or own is thine, my goods, family, church, self, to do with as thou wilt, to honour thyself by me, and by all mine. – The Valley of Vision
The Valley of Vision is a book of prayers that has meant a lot to me over the years, especially in times of darkness and uncertainty. They provide a well lit path when my own soul seems dark and unable to pray. This is the opening prayer and it has meant a lot to me over the years and especially today.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorry, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley.
Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other. This creates an environment where closeness can happen, where we can begin to understand each other’s hearts.
You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly.
When we pray, we must always remember three things. We must remember the love of God, which ever desires only what is best for us. We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring to pass that which is best for us. He who prays with a perfect trust in the love, wisdom, and power of God will find God’s peace. – William Barclay
This is a powerful “sermon jam” from Matt Chandler on being devoted to prayer. It’s meant a lot to me over the last couple of weeks.
Isaiah 62:6-7 – “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”
God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are;
nor yet at the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are;
nor yet at the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many they are;
nor yet at the music of your prayers, nor yet at the sweetness of your voice, nor yet at the logic of your prayers;
but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are.
The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver our mind will not hold together, but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What would we think of a petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing with a feather or catching a fly?
Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. – Spurgeon
Something that I’ve been convicted of lately is my need to make my own prayer time more personal. That may sound kind of odd, because isn’t personal prayer always…well…personal? In one sense, yes personal prayer is always personal because it’s time spent between you and God. But at the same time, what I have found in my own heart is that I often come before God with a laundry list of requests that leaves something very important out…me.
As I began to think about my prayer I discovered that I frequently approach prayer much like a cameraman approaches his subject. I look out upon a need, whether it be a person who is suffering physically, or a financial need that only God can meet, and I ask for God to act. Now, it’s not that there is anything wrong with praying for people who are hurting or for God to meet needs, but what is missing from this request is me. What I need to do is turn the camera on myself and ask for God to work on me in the midst of the circumstances that He has brought into my life.
For example, my wife and I are selling our house right now. So, I have been praying that God would send a buyer our way and that we would be able to pay off the mortgage with the sale price. Now, this is a fine prayer and is certainly a legitimate need. But what’s missing from this prayer is me. So, rather than praying that God would send a buyer to purchase our home, a more intimate prayer might be:
“Father, you are already aware of our need to sell our home and we ask that you would move in a powerful way by sending a buyer and allowing us to move in a timely fashion. Yet, Father even more importantly than that I ask that you would keep our hearts restful through this whole process. We are so prone to anxiety, especially in the midst of big events in our lives. So, Father I ask that you would keep us very close to You during these months and that we would experience peace as we wait for you to act.”
When I pray, what I’m looking for primarily is for God to change me in the midst of the circumstances that He has placed me in.
Another application of this principle would be for those we pray for. We certainly want to ask God to help in the midst of their circumstances, but even more so we want to ask that God would be actively sanctifying them in the midst of those circumstances. This becomes especially powerful when small groups begin to pray for each other in this way or when husbands and wives begin to share prayer requests in this way, because when we pray for one another we inevitably grow closer as we share our struggles, fears, and joys.