Give Attention to Prayers of Praise

All who give attention to prayer make an effort to grow in the practice of prayer. One area that I personally need to grow in is the expression of praise. I am convicted that if we consider the presence and majesty of God, then praise becomes more natural. Often I fall quickly into a long list of requests. While requesting of God is a part of prayer, the practice of praise should not be neglected.

When King Solomon dedicated the temple he gave some instruction to the people that I think will help us to grow in giving attention to praise. The temple was the physical manifestation of the presence and power of God. As a great celebration was held to bring it to completion, Solomon offered these thoughts about worship and prayer that relate to praise.

Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)

Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”(1 Kings 8:29-30)

Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)

Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)

Scripture records that, “When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.  He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors….so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.  And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” (1 Kings 8:51-64)

I pray that these reflections on the awesome presence of God may fuel prayers of praise for all of us.

Thanks for reading, JD

For further reflection…

The Prayer of Praise by Stormie O’Martian

Thanksgiving Prayers – 7 Encouraging and Inspiring Prayers

Giving the World a Song to Sing – Jim McGuiggan

 

 

Your Ultimate Prayer Partners

Your Ultimate Prayer Partners

…We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. – Romans 8:26, NRSV

The end of Romans 8 is so rich that one could spend hours contemplating the truths there and still not reach the end. It is encouraging to know that when we are in prayer we never pray alone, for the ultimate partners in intercession are with us. With just a cursory glance we see the Holy Spirit involved in our prayers in five ways (Romans 8:26-27):

1. The Spirit helps us in our weakness

2. The Spirit intercedes when we do not know what we ought to pray for.

3. The Spirit prays with sighs too deep for words.

4. The Spirit and the Father are in sync with one another.

5. The Spirit intercedes in accordance with God’s will.

Each of those principles deserves much consideration, but they demonstrate the reason our prayers are so powerful: it is not our own spirituality but the participation of the Father and the Holy Spirit in our season of prayer. It is by the presence and power of the Spirit that we cry out to our Abba (Rom 8:15-16). Even more, we read in verse 34, “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”

The Father, Son, and Spirit are intertwined in your prayers in such a way that we are ultimately confident that our prayers are much more powerful than we can imagine. They are much more in tune with God’s will than we know. They are in process of being answered as we utter the words.

This is why Romans 8:28 is truer than we realize. Never separate that verse from prayer! Your prayers matter because your ultimate prayer partners are tirelessly enmeshed into the eternal providence and power of God! Never be intimidated by prayer! It unlocks a Divine partnership!     

Thanks for reading, JD

Wait

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;  be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13-14 (NRSV)

I do believe that God answers prayer. I know and acknowledge most of the reasons we recount when trying to explain why it seems like a prayer isn’t being answered.  In the end of those reasons we are left with empty hands trying to make sense of one reality.

I’m praying. And waiting.

I really hate to wait. On anything. I don’t think impatience is one of the characteristics of my enneagram number (which has me wondering if I’m another number, but I doubt it. What is the enneagram?).  But that doesn’t stop me from a growing sense of irritation when I have to wait. Apparently, this does not impress God.

In our church (and maybe yours) we are in the habit of going over our prayer list weekly. Parts of our list are pretty fluid… names come and go as situations are resolved. But some names are there and apparently carved into stone. We have prayed and prayed and prayed for these dear ones. 

Does it bother you when items on your prayer list never budge? Some may think the answer is just to quit praying. Not me. It’s not easy to wait, but I believe that is our calling.

Wait for the Lord.

We are waiting for God to answer – as He has always done. The children of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. The generation that was delivered from the hands of Pharaoh were great grandchildren of the ones who first began to pray for a deliverer. It’s not that God was too busy to answer that request. He answered in a bold and miraculous way. When it was time. Some of our prayers may not be answered in our lifetime. 

Be strong.

It takes a lot of strength to grow in our prayer life while waiting. Strength implies that we are not going to give up. Strength requires muscles to be exercised in order to remain strong. We exercise our prayer muscles on our knees in the prayer closet continuing to develop a relationship with our listening Father. We’ll never be strong if we are weak in our prayers.

Let your heart take courage.

Courage does not give in to the fear that maybe God isn’t listening …. or just doesn’t care… or is too weak to do anything about it. No, courage continues on the spiritual paths of prayer discovery. Courage is unafraid of being confident in God’s eternal faithfulness and presence. I want to remind you to be ‘en-couraged’ because our confidence is not in our beautiful prayers or even consistent practices … but in an all-powerful all-present Abba who cares.

Wait for the Lord.

In spite of your strength and courage, you’ll still have to wait. You will be joining generations of praying Christians who have learned to wait. And while waiting they have developed the awareness of God’s nearness. 

I have a feeling that if we could see the world the way God does, we wouldn’t be tapping our foot in impatient waiting right now. We would be amazed at the intricate ways that Father has set in motion a thousand ripples across the Kingdom when a child whispers a prayer. Waiting humbles us. So don’t turn away from prayer when you’ve been waiting so long. Even more important than the answer you seek, is a growing relationship with the Father who loves.

But don’t give up on an answer. The Psalm says, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I think you should believe that too.

Questions for Contemplation

*In praying for certain situations and outcomes, have you considered that YOU might be the answer to your own prayer? What can you do to help or bless someone who is fighting a battle for their health?

*We are often impatient for a positive answer from God. Is it possible that you’ve received the negative answer? A ‘no’ is as much of an answer as a ‘yes’. How would you know?

*Who is the most prayerful person you know? Could you spend some time learning how to pray from them? Having a prayer mentor might be a way to move you from an anxious waiting to an accepting waiting.

*Are you aware of the positive answers you have received from prayers? Perhaps a prayer journal would be a good idea so that you could, in times of discouragement, look back to see the many answers you’ve received but forgot about.

*How can you move from seeing prayer as a heavenly prayer list to a developing and growing relationship with a God who draws near when we draw near?

Thanks for reading, JD.

 

Pray For Your Preacher

Preachers can be odd birds. I know, because I are one and I know a lot of them. Having spent a good bit of time listening to preachers and communicating with them, I can tell you that most preachers aren’t the blustering self-assured three-point personas you’ve gotten used to seeing in the pulpit. OK, a few of them are. But most people in the congregation never really get to see their preacher as a real person. Our current frantic lifestyles leave little time for ‘preacher visits’ and given the constant pressure of moving ahead to the next event or series, most preachers have little time for social visits any more. If your preacher is a praying man (and we hope he is), he is praying for you. I wonder how many congregants are praying for their preacher?

Many years ago a friend and church elder, Jim Ingram, told me, “John, I pray for you every single day.” I would feel confident that he prays for his current preacher every day now. I can’t recall how long ago that was, but I still remember how that made me feel and the knowledge of his prayers stuck with me. 

Over and over the Apostle Paul appealed for Christians to pray for him.

Romans 15:30 Brothers and sisters, I urge you, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggles in your prayers to God for me.

2 Corinthians 1:10b-11a We have set our hope on him that he will rescue us again, since you are helping with your prayer for us.

Colossians 4:4 Pray that I might be able to make it as clear as I ought to when I preach.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

How can you pray for your preacher?

*Pray for His Studies. There are so many things expected of preachers these days that do not relate to their teaching and preaching. However, here is one primary duty that is incumbent upon preachers and that is to spend time in the Word. Vance Havner said, “It’s not our business to make the message acceptable, but to make it available. We are not to see that they like it, but that they get it.” Preachers accept the burden of attempting to translate their studies into messages that reach the daily journey of all.

*Pray for His Spiritual Life. Separate from studies for lessons, the minister must maintain a vigilant spiritual life. Like everyone else, there is a world of distraction and the urgent duties and details of life. E. M. Bounds wrote, “A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.”  Just because preachers spend a lot of time studying the Bible doesn’t mean they are spending a lot of time with God. To know that there are prayer warriors standing strong with the preacher brings renewed zeal and encouragement.

*Pray for His Family. Preachers aren’t alone in this, but ministry is one career that encompasses the whole life. Often times the wives and children of ministers are neglected because the preacher makes the mistake of believing that he has a call that surpasses all earthly ties. But it’s a tragic mistake to ignore the family God has given him. In addition, minister’s wives often bear up under the duel weight of hearing the criticism of her husband and serving in the roles she is expected to fill because of the identity of her husband. Both of those are unfair consequences of being married to the minister. In some cases preachers move frequently and so the loss of friendships over time can begin to weigh heavily.

*Pray for His Spirit. Ministry can be challenging. There are the needs of each day and the weekly teachings that have to be accumulated and considered. In addition there is the weight of criticism – sometimes deserved, but often delivered in a crass manner. Some preachers get ‘anonymous letters’, given more attention than they deserve (all such should be immediately placed in the garbage can). Whatever opinions are expressed from the outside, none are more crushing than the inward reflections to which all preachers are subject. The self-comparisons to other preachers, the unanswered questions as to why members quit or move to other churches, the casual ease with which ‘church friends’ seem to no longer be interested in being friends, and the failed efforts at outreach all feed into the minister’s psyche. I doubt much of this is considered when someone blurts out some complaint about some insignificant issue. Having been in ministry for over 30 years I have seen ministers toughen up to the point that they don’t listen any longer (which isn’t good) and I’ve seen them try to please everyone (which they can’t). I’m not trying to say that preachers are so sensitive that we need to coddle them, but I do think it’s fair for us to be considerate of their spirit and do what we can to balance complaints and encouragements.

*Pray for His Success. The best thing for everyone in the church is that when plans are made and there are efforts toward outreach that we all do what we can to make it a success. If the minister is successful in balancing his life spiritually, physically, and emotionally, then his ministry among the congregation will benefit. If the plans of the minister are met with enthusiasm and support, then the congregation will benefit. The preacher’s top three desires for his work are that (1) God is glorified, (2) the congregation is encouraged and (3) the lost are saved. When we all work toward the efforts that lead to those desires, the congregation as a whole benefits.

Everyone has challenges in life and I’m not suggesting that preachers have it worse. In fact, I hesitated to write this post lest it come off as whining or calling attention to myself. But who else besides a preacher can write a post like this? I am confident that people in my church are praying for me, but I know many ministers who do not share that confidence. Some are barely hanging on. Some will not only change churches, but leave ministry altogether. I wanted to urge Christians everywhere to keep their preacher in prayer and let him know it. The Enemy will certainly do all he can to discourage him.

God is looking for broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When he wants anything done, he takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves but in God.” – Henry Ironside

Questions for Contemplation

*What actions can you take to include your preacher in regular prayer?

*How could you use the Scriptures above to assist you in composing your prayers?

*If you do not particularly like your preacher or have a hard time getting along with him, how can you use prayer to bridge the gap?

*What are some ways you can communicate to your preacher that you are praying for him?

*When can you ask your preacher what he most needs you to be in prayer for him?

*When is the last time you’ve prayed for your preacher’s family?

Links:

Six Prayers for Pastors 

Pray for Your Pastor – links to nine posts all dealing with praying for your preacher.

 

Prayer for Windy Times

There are times when it seems that the troubles of our friends multiply and we seek to be of help and strength. Often, though, we find that there are no real answers and the solutions to these troubles are out of reach. We desire to fix it … to alleviate the suffering and struggles of our loved ones. The more we try to help, the farther the resolution.

I was reading through some writings in Elizabeth Goudge’s A Diary of Prayer and found this prayer. It encourages what we all know to be the only real answer when we are in pain.

O Savior Christ, we beseech thee, when the wind is boisterous, and our faith weak, and we begin to sink even as we would fain come to thee on the water, stretch forth thy hand, O Lord, as of old to thy fearful disciple, and say to the sea of our difficulties, Peace be still; for thy holy Names’ sake. – Dean Vaughan

Whenever I’ve preached about Peter’s walking on the water I’m tempted to find the humor in the situation. I think there is something that makes us smile in the impetuous demand of Peter, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” … only to see him flailing in the waves in a few moments. But that can cause us to overlook the real terror that must have been his experience.

Walking with Christ in our lives does not necessarily diminish the fears that come from seeing the swelling waves of life’s most painful moments around us. Even if Jesus rescues us from the fearsome threat before us, it is always with an realization that the cross is yet ahead. The waves that got the best of Peter weren’t the only waves he would face in his life, but each time he faced them, even when he failed, there was a Savior pulling him towards peace.

And so we join in prayer and ask for peace when the winds are boisterous and our faith weak.. Our willing Savior awaits our call.                                                                                   

Thanks for reading, JD.

Prayer: Growing in Intercession

10.20.14

Prayer: Growing In Intercession

Audio

Intercessory Prayer is praying to God on behalf of others. God Desires us to Stand in the Gap.

Ezekiel 22:30 I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.

This is the gap between the needs of the nation and the people who are praying. An intercessor is one who plead the case of another to God asking for His divine intervention. When we pray for others we are standing in the gap between their needs and God’s blessing. Below are some ideas to help us grow in our intercessory prayer practices. Some are ‘borrowed’ and the resources are listed at the end of this post.

1. Intercessory Prayer Begins With Friendship With God

The idea of intercession is that we draw close to God so that we can present the case of someone else to Him. When we spend time with God we try to see things the way God sees them so that we can pray in accordance with His will. 

“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know God himself” – Oswald Chambers.

2. Intercessory Prayer Grows When Our Knowledge of Scripture Grows.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double- edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Let God’s Word guide your prayers. Pray a specific Psalm over a person or a nation, inserting actual names where possible.

1 John 5:14  If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

This means that when we pray in accordance with his will we can expect an answer. If God’s Word is in our hearts, then his desires become our desires and we can have assurance he will answer our prayers. Make sure your prayers are in line with Scripture. The Lord always honors his word.

3. Intercessory Prayer Grows in Silence

It is totally normal to have moments of silence when we pray. Before sitting in silence, pray, asking God to show you a picture or give you a scripture to reveal the desire of His heart.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

4. Intercessory Prayer Looks Beyond Self to Caring for Others

Intercession is born out of genuine love for God and for men. It is more than sympathy, though … it is seeking God’s will for their lives. 

It is impossible for us to have living and vital intercession unless we are perfectly and completely sure of God. And the greatest destroyer of that confident relationship to God, so necessary for intercession, is our own personal sympathy and preconceived bias.  – Oswald Chambers

5. Intercessory Prayer Can Be Before or After a Time of Worship

To worship before prayer is a way to recognize the presence and power of God. Worship shifts focus from our own ideas and agendas to the heart and agenda of God. Worship can be in song, reading Scripture, writing thoughts of devotion.

6. Intercessory Prayer Is Characterized By Jesus’ Name

Numerous Bible references talk about the importance of praying in the Name of Jesus. Jesus Himself said,

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you (John 16:23). 

When we pray in the Name of Jesus, God the Father hears us. He responds to the prayer offered in the name of his Son Jesus, because our relationship with God is through the Son.

7. Intercessory Prayer Requires Personal Introspection.

1 John 3:22 Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

Are there places of disobedience you’ve been unwilling to yield? These need to be confessed and forgiven before moving forward in prayer.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

8. Intercessory Prayer is the Activity of a Believer.

God wants us to have faith that he will hear our prayers.

Matthew 21:22 Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. 

The Lord promises to respond to our prayer of faith.

Ephesians 3:12  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

9. Intercessory Prayer Relies on the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”

We don’t always know how to pray, and we don’t always feel like praying. Therefore we need the Spirit’s power to help us pray.

10. Intercessory Prayer is Persistent.

Don’t give up if you haven’t received an answer to your prayers. Throughout the Bible there are stories of men and women who persevered in prayer. In Luke 18:1-8 there was a little old widow who did not lose heart. James tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Isaiah 62:6-7 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

Conclusion: Growing In Intercessory Prayer Will Require…

1. Friendship With God

2. Knowledge of the Word

3. Grows in Silence

4. Looks Beyond Self

5. Connected to Worship

6. Offered in Jesus’ Name

7. Personal Introspection

8. In Accordance with Belief

9. Relies on the Holy Spirit

10. Persistence 

Does Prayer require a great deal of effort? It certainly does … but is anything more vital to our lives and how can we pursue anything that is of more worth?

Resources For Further Reading

Five Keys to Growing in Intercessory Prayer

Keys to Personal Prayer

Becoming an Effective and Successful Intercessor

Vital Intercession – Chambers

Free Prayer Guide for Families Facing Medical Adversity