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Bother Me!!!

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.”

HT: Truth Matters

April 22 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on Bother Me!!!

What Does God Look for in Prayer?

Here is a quote from Thomas Brooks (Works 2:256):

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.

HT: Justin Taylor

February 23 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on What Does God Look for in Prayer?

Distractions in Prayer

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

May 05 2010 | Blog | Comments Off on Distractions in Prayer

Personal Prayer

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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.

April 12 2010 | Devotional | 1 Comment »

If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

pray1 One of the questions that I often encounter is in my adult Sunday School class as well as youth group is, “If God is sovereign, why should I pray?”  For years I wondered the same thing.  It seems that when you combine the fact that God is sovereign (He can do anything) with the fact that He is omniscient (He knows all things) prayer almost seems unnecessary.  I mean, if there is no chance that I am going to change God’s mind with my prayers, than what’s the point of praying?

What helped to change my thinking about prayer and the sovereignty of God was one simple principle that has since become very precious to me: Prayer is not about changing God, prayer is about changing me.  In other words, we do not pray in order to change God’s mind but rather so that God will change our mind.

One of the radical implications of this truth involves the way that we approach prayer requests.  For years I maintained a prayer list which I would go over in my prayer time that simply consisted of asking God to do things for certain people (provide financially, give the doctors wisdom, etc.).  These things are all well and good, but I’ve come to understand that God is interested in more than providing financially for those who I care about, or giving wisdom to the doctors who are working on those I love.  God is supremely interested in my heart and how these circumstances affect me personally.

It seems that God uses prayer as one of the primary means by which He sanctifies His children.  So rather than giving God a laundry list of items I would like Him to address, my prayers should focus on the needs before me and specifically on my response to those needs.  For example, rather than simply praying for God to bring healing to a loved one I might want to pray something like this, “Father, I am greatly concerned for my dear friend in the hospital right now.  I ask that you would provide for all of her needs and that you would bring healing to her in Your good time.  But Father, I also want to confess that when those close to me are sick I find myself prone to anxiety, because I don’t want to lose them.  I know that ultimately, this anxiety is really a way for me to question your goodness so Father, would you guard my heart against this temptation and help me to trust in you for the life and well being of those I love.”  I believe that what God is doing in these kinds of prayers is changing my heart and conforming my desires to His.  Kent Hughes described prayer in this way:  Imagine getting into a boat, having secured a line to the shore and casting out onto a lake.  When you pull on that line of rope, the mainland does not come to you but rather you are drawn to the mainland.  In prayer, God is seeking to line us back up with Himself by changing our hearts through the discipline of prayer.

January 24 2010 | Devotional | Comments Off on If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

Many Things…

This is a worthwhile prayer from Scotty Smith’s blog for this Christmas morning:

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you–the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus–things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

HT: Challies

December 25 2009 | Blog | Comments Off on Many Things…

“When You Pray” Book Review

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A few months ago I began reading “When You Pray” by Philip Ryken with several of the elders as a part of our Tuesday morning prayer time.  I first came across Ryken’s book several years ago and was blessed by first reading of it in 2006.  I’m happy to report that having finished the book for a second time, I have found myself doubly-blessed by Ryken’s careful exposition of the Lord’s prayer.

“When You Pray” is an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:5-14.  Ryken devotes a chapter to each of the major portions of this passage and to each of the clauses of “The Lord’s Prayer” itself.  The result of Ryken’s book is not a “How To” manual on prayer but a careful explanation of what Jesus taught about prayer, which lifts the affections of the reader to a lifestyle of prayer.

Part of the power of Ryken’s book is his masterful use of quotations and historical references to illuminate his exposition.  Here is one example of Ryken illustrating the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 6:6 – “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  The story is taken from the life of Dr. John Paton (1824-1907) who was a great Scottish missionary.

The closet was a very small apartment…having room only for a bed, a little table, and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding a diminutive light on the scene.  This was the sanctuary of that cottage home.  There daily, and many times a day, generally after each mean, we saw our father retire, and-shut to the door; and we children got to understand, by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about), that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place.  We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice, pleading as for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tip-toe, not to disturb the holy charge.  The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light, as of a new-born smile, that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived.

I supposed the best thing that I can say about this book is that it has motivated me to pray more.  I long for the intimacy that Ryken describes in these passages and for the peace that comes from a praying life.  “When You Pray” is an excellent work on prayer and one that will teach and motivate you to pray.

October 19 2009 | Blog | Comments Off on “When You Pray” Book Review

Praying for God’s Kingdom

These are some quotes from Philip Ryken’s book When You Pray in his chapter “Your Kingdom Come”.

The reason the church tries so many other things besides preaching Christ is because it suspects the kingdom can be established some other way.  But there is no other way.  People will not come into the kingdom because they like the minister, support, the children’s program, or enjoy the music.  They may come into a church that way, but not into the kingdom.  The only way people ever come into God’s kingdom is by hearing this heralds proclaim a crucified King.

It is through the common activities of daily life that God establishes his uncommon kingdom.  God’s kingdom may not be of this world (see John 18:36), but it is certainly meant to come into this world, and it does so in rather ordinary ways.  Whenever you calculate the accounts payable, double-check a lab result, haul away the trash, serve a hot meal to the homeless, finish your history homework, help a customer find the right size, water the geraniums, or snap the lid on a sippy-cup, you are doing kingdom work.  You are doing kingdom work provided, that is, you do whatever you do in submission to God’s rule, for the sake of his royal honor.  You are doing kingdom work, not because doing these things will necessarily change the world, but because by doing them, you show how God has changed you.

August 07 2009 | Blog | Comments Off on Praying for God’s Kingdom

Men of Prayer

“We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, and new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel.  This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization.  God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else.  Men are God’s method.  The church is looking for better methods; god is looking for better men.

 

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.  The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men.  He does not come on machinery, but on men.  He does not anoint plans but men – men of prayer.” – EM Bounds

May 29 2009 | Blog | Comments Off on Men of Prayer

A Prayer

It’s been a while since I quoted anything from the Valley of Vision, but this prayer arrested me this morning and has given me much to think about throughout the day.

Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus makes other interests a shadow and a dream. Keep us from intermittent attention to eternal things; Save us from the delusion of those who fail to go far in religion, who are concerned but not converted, who have another heart but not a new one, who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ. Let us judge our Chrisianity, not only by our dependence upon Jesus, but by our love to him, our conformity to him, our knowledge of him. Give us a religion that is both real and progressive, that holds on its way and grows stronger, that lives and works in the Spirit, that profits by every correction, and is injured by no carnal indulgence.

January 30 2009 | Blog | Comments Off on A Prayer

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