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For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1John 5:3

No command of God is burdensome. If it seems so, then something is wrong with our thinking. We can dismiss or avoid considering this reality – to our spiritual harm. If you are sensing that inclination rising up in your mind, beware; for that is exactly what our carnal mind would encourage us to do.

Beware, indeed; for our love of the LORD is at stake here – the first and greatest commandment. Like His Father, the Son encourages, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 15:14).” Our obedience should be motivated by love.

Loving the LORD with all our heart, mind, soul and strength is not a burdensome exercise. Quite the opposite, it should be accompanied by joy and thanksgiving.

Out of enmity with God, our carnal mind would have us disobey; or, failing that, obey grudgingly. If we are not careful, our love will turn to burdensome obligation.

Resistance is warranted. We must overcome our carnal mind!

What does it say about our Christian walk if our lives are burdensome? If we are living under His reign – only doing what He commands – should we be so burdened?

  • Perhaps we are doing more than He commands – introducing unnecessary burdens.
  • Perhaps our love for God is inhibited in some way – the burden we feel is due to disobedience.
  • Perhaps we are allowing our carnal mind, in vulnerable moments, to convince us that His commands are burdensome.
  • Perhaps we have not come to believe the reality of 1John 5:3.

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You may recall the images from Iraq during the onset of Desert Storm. Having done their reconnaissance, American forces were bombing Bagdad, seemingly without mercy. The military commentator explained that we were trying to kill Saddam Hussein – which was unlikely – and/or destroy his command and communication centers. In other words, we were trying to separate the snake’s head and its body.

As it turns out, this is the strategy of every offensive force, in every war. Separate the commanders from the troops and you create a decided advantage for yourself and your allies. Consequently, threatened nations go to great length to protect their communication centers.

Regrettably, our enemies have made significant progress is cutting off the Western church from its High Command. Communication centers have been destroyed. Little effort is being made to rebuild and retrench. Consequently, we are separated from God and each other. Our efforts are disorganized, even divisive.

While it would be easy to blame the devil, those of us in leadership know better. In many respects, we are our own worst enemy. We have allowed the world to distract us and our carnal minds to deceive us into thinking we can get by with our own strategies, plans and programs.

Reestablishing communication is where we must start. Sacrifices will have to be made, but they will be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. God has all the grace we need to turn the tide in this war.

As hard a time as we seem to be having with prayer, prayer is not hard. The Father is standing by waiting on our attention. He loves speaking with His children.

Much has been said about the decline of prayer in the Western Church. We have simply lost site of the importance of personal and corporate communion with God. This is so obvious, it hardly seems worth the time and effort to say it again. Just how much encouragement is enough?

Fortunately, God has not given up on us. He is aware of our weaknesses in this area. We are not the first generation of church leaders who have needed an attitude (re)adjustment about prayer.

Now, I’m no expert on prayer; but I know some people who are. I don’t know them in-person personally; in fact, quite a few of them are dead. I know them personally through the books they have written on prayer. You can learn a lot about a person through their attitude towards prayer. After all, prayer is their heart tie with God; a connection to the center of their being.

I learned from a dear friend and mentor that giving away books is a great way to disciple someone. This is particularly true with subjects like prayer. Better to let the authors speak than try to speak for them.

So, what I would like to do here is introduce three of my favorite books on prayer. I will include some thoughts and encouragement in the way they will help you and those in your spheres of influence renew your minds regarding the importance of personal and corporate prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:14

If we are not careful, our carnal mind will play tricks on us through this passage. It will – ever so subtly and most often subconsciously – encourage us that this promise is for anything we want – as long as we attach Jesus’ name to the request.

So, let’s take a moment before we go on – just to be sure we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When Jesus said, “If you ask anything…”, He was clearly not talking about a bigger house, another car in the garage, or a change of eye color. We can work hard and afford these things (and many more) but attaching His name to it will not make one bit of difference.

Of course, no one would think to use Jesus’ name in such a selfish way. The problem is: A lot of our thinking is subconscious; and we take a lot of our thinking for granted. Sometimes, we simply don’t think; at least not in this way. Most would agree (myself included) that we pray with His name attached, not really considering what it means to invoke His name.

I wonder if Jesus ever thinks, “Is that really what you want to be asking for?”

Prayer with Faith

Most of us, when we think about it, know that prayer must include faith. We may say, “That’s right! We must pray with faith in Jesus’ name.”

I hate to be the one to tell you, but that’s still missing the mark. It is not even faith in His name (i.e., “Jesus”) – as powerful as that name is – that makes the difference.

Stay with me; this will make good sense soon. Read the rest of this entry »

To hear sound doctrine is not enough; for hearing without doing produces self-deception (James 1:22), and a house that will not stand in the storms of life (Matthew 7:26-27).

To have faith in what we hear is not enough; for faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

To work – even supernaturally – is not enough; for only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21-23).

How do we know the will of the Father? We ask Him; AND we wait patiently for the answer.

The sufficiency for these things is not in ourselves; our sufficiency is from God (2Corinthians 3:5).

For this, there are conditions: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow after Jesus (Luke 9:23), obey His commandments (John 14:15), abide and bear fruit (John 15:2), etc.

The sufficiency for this is not something given to us as an empowerment of our life – something we own and control. It comes from the Life that is now present and reigning within us. Read the rest of this entry »

I ride my bicycle to commune with God; the exercise is icing on the cake. Our conversations are most often about people He has me praying for, conversations I need to have with others, or lessons we are preparing to write or teach. Every once in a while, God uses the ride to show me something about myself and/or His kingdom.

Here’s one from the other day.

Distractions are a big part of cycling – passing cars and approaching dogs in particular. Most are not a threat, but it only takes one. Having to deal with them on a regular basis has taught me to allow distraction when necessary, and then get back to matter at hand. It has become a natural part of the process.

I wish I could say the same about hills.

Hills are different than cars and dogs. They don’t generate the same adrenaline spike as a ferocious dog on the loose or a driver passing on a hill. In fact, they don’t scare me at all. On the other hand, they last longer, the distress builds over time, and the distraction is real and present discomfort and pain.

Hills are a major distraction to my communion with God.

For me, hills are a metaphor for the challenging seasons of our lives. These may be momentary, lengthy, or any amount of time in between. God has used the hills in my life to reveal a few things about myself and my relationship with Him:

  1. The more I focus on the pain, the greater the pain becomes.
  2. When I set my mind on things above, the hill is not only less of a distraction, but easier to navigate.
  3. The approach I take has a dramatically positive effect on my mental and physical response to the effort after cresting the hill.
  4. It occurs to me as I write this that having a riding partner to remind me of these things – and encourage me in them during the climb – would be an incredible blessing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering God’s ultimate purpose in His story is something of a double-edged sword. On the one edge, the fact that He is ultimately interested in more than saving humanity is a revelation that can free us, from ourselves, to participate in the most exciting adventure of our lives.

At the same time, a discovery of such magnitude often leaves us with a fractured paradigm. This will leave many people uncomfortable, confused and spiritually disoriented. Don’t be alarmed; this is normal.

God uses the truth to make us free. With God, that can be like cutting our tether while floating in deep space. What we do next is critically important!!

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

When God frees us from one thing, it is always to focus on something better. He intends for us to focus on Him; and (this is the most important thing) He intends to help us. This you must believe!!

Here are three practical disciplines that will – in a very personally way – comfort, clarify and re-orient our minds toward God’s purpose in His call to more. As you will see, they are based on the three primary purposes of His story.

What you will discover in exercising these disciplines is a strong bond to His heart, and the desires that are waiting there for you.

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Navigating God’s call to more based on the trajectory of our past, is profitable and encouraging; but it is a limited perspective. To understand and follow God’s purpose for the next season, we must also look to the future.

You may be tempted to balk at this. The future is unknown. It can be an uncomfortable consideration for many; and our subconscious minds seem to always be playing tricks. Resist the temptation. Be suspicious of your mind. Embrace the mind of Christ; and the heart of God.

Here’s a good word: God’s call to more is an adventure. There’s just no getting around it. Adventures are a mix of excitement and fear. Deal with the fear, and it is all excitement. Behind every fear is a lie. Deal with the lie, and the fear will fly.

Welcome to the most exciting adventure of your life!!!

Now, back to the heart of God. That’s where we will find the light we need to discern the purpose God has for our next season, and the transition that will guide us into it. Read the rest of this entry »

The discovery that God is a process-oriented problem solver can be an empowering revelation. To know God is up to something – in both His story and in the seasons of our lives – gives us hope and understanding. It is not a small thing to stop looking at the work of God in terms of events that are haphazardly strung together.

God is a very careful and deliberate orchestrator!!

This discovery is particularly helpful for those in transition. It stretches our perspective, helping us to see the connection of what He has done, and what He will do, to what He is doing right now. It gives value to every moment; and helps us to follow along.

Because we are “in process”, examining the past and the future often sheds light on the purpose God has for our next season.

Let me stop here and remind everyone that every bit of examination, consideration, exploration, etc. is to be done in conversation with God. If we are not positioned to hear what He has to say, we will undoubtedly miss something – potentially something very important.

It is good to know that the Father loves talking to His children.

Now, with that reminder, let’s look at the way God brings the past into our conversation about the His call to more. Read the rest of this entry »

Here we are: Already into the eighth article of this series. Some of you are itching to get on with the plan. Am I right? I know how you feel – fighting the urge to get something done.

So, step back from the edge and take a deep breath. You don’t want to go there. You really don’t. Be encouraged: God has it all under control. It’s more about the journey than the destination.

We are making progress. In fact, we are about to move on to the next phase – from positioning ourselves before God, to discovering His purpose.

Remember, patience is a virtue. It is also a necessity – assuming we are determined to find the center of God’s will in the good works He has created us to walk in.

Are You Ready to Move On?

God’s greatest intention, in calling us to more, is to better position us to hear, believe and obey His voice. Now is the time – in these relatively quiet beginnings – to establish that foundation. Doing so will protect us when the chaos of adventure arrives.

Therefore, we are going to take a pause here to check ourselves. Just how are we doing with our preparation? Important note: These are intended to be conversation starters… with God.
Read the rest of this entry »

This series of articles is for those who sense that God is transitioning them into a new season – a season of more. Positioning ourselves before God is the prerequisite step in our knowing His purpose and plans for the coming season. It is also the place where He prepares us for our new assignment.

It is no coincidence that God has made prayer man’s most powerful weapon in the battle for the kingdom. This is the place where God is most intimate in revealing His plans and encouraging His children. As we battle with Him through prayer, He establishes His relationship with us. There is no more important thing we can do in our preparation for the next season.

Prayer (deēsis): Need, indigence, want, privation, extreme poverty; a seeking, asking, entreating, entreaty to God or to man. From deomai: to want, lack; to desire, long for; to ask, beg; the thing asked for; to pray, make supplications. Outline of Biblical Usage, BlueLetterBible.org

There are three things to notice about the definition of prayer. First, it is more about need than want. Second, that need is out of an extreme sense of poverty (i.e., it is humble). Third, prayer includes seeking and desiring – its relational aspects.

Changing the Way We Pray

Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. It is the only way we can get in touch with the truth and the reality of God Himself. To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

Prayer is difficult because our enemies do not want us communicating with God. Satan is a powerful being. An opposing power is needed – God’s power. Is it possible that our prayer life lacks God’s power because we do not pray in the way God has designed? Have we chosen our own way in prayer?

In his book, The PAPA Prayer, Larry Crabb discusses how many in the church turn to God in prayer as if He were Santa Claus sitting behind a vending machine. If we just put in the right change (our time) and push the right buttons (our requests), He will give us what we want. As Crabb laments, this approach has drawn us far from God’s intention in our prayer time with Him: To establish and nurture an intimate relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

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