Jesus Prayed

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…” – Luke 6:12-13

I am humbled by this verse. Jesus had a big decision to make and he prayed before making it. Two chapters earlier, Jesus went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and to prepare for that encounter, he fasted 40 days. Jesus knew that in all things he had to totally rely on God in order to have success. So before he selected the 12, Jesus prayed. On one hand, Jesus is the Son of God who would presumably already know who the 12 would be prior to praying about it. On the other hand, Jesus is the Son of Man, who identifies with us through coming in flesh and blood, fully dependent on God in all things. Luke doesn’t tell us why he prayed but it humbles me that Jesus often prayed before big decisions and big events (Luke 3:21, 5:16, 9:18, 9:28-29, 22:40-46). Too often I am inclined to “go it alone” and make a decision without spending enough time in prayer. Jesus reminds us that many things require prayer if they are going to take place…if we have faith in Christ, we will take his teaching and example seriously enough to spend more time in prayer…even if we think we already know the answer.

Praying for the Lost is the Gateway to Evangelism

Not everyone is comfortable having a Bible study with a non-Christian. Everyone is able to pray for lost people. Start with what people can do and are willing to do and eventually they will be willing to try new things. If they are willing to write a note to a new person, ask them to write. If they are willing to have lunch with a visitor, ask them to do that. If they are able and willing to study with a non-Christian, take the time to line up that study. If time is a problem, have them do it in an unused room during Bible class on Sunday or Wednesday. We may not start with 100 people who are willing and able to study with non-Christians but if you can get them to start by praying for the lost and for specific lost people they know, in time they will get comfortable with more. Learning to evangelize is a process of maturation that comes only by experience.

The Prayer I Woke Up Praying

I rarely ever wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. Missy will tell you that once I lay down in bed it is not uncommon for me to fall asleep in mid sentence. I sleep hard. But last week I woke up around 4am and just couldn’t get back to sleep. There was too much on my mind. Around and around went the thoughts but it all kept coming back to a prayer that I just kept praying over and over that night, “God, increase my desire for you.” The Sunday before I had challenged our 20s & 30s Bible class to pray that prayer because a growing desire for God is central to our own spiritual development. It wasn’t just something I expected them to do, it is becoming more a part of my own prayer life.

So there I was praying that prayer and feeling at peace. When it was time to get up I told Missy about the prayer. I told her, “God and I had a conversation last night…it was pretty informal but it was needed.” This is a prayer that I continue to pray and I am grateful that God can and will answer that prayer. It also helps me to refocus myself and my own desires to be more in line with God’s desires and to put away the distractions.

So I would encourage you to start asking God to increase your desire for Him. There is nothing magical or automatic about it. It is going to take work. It is going to take removing some things that distract you and replacing them with other things that point you back to God. In a sense there will be sacrifice that will come along with that prayer but it will all be worth it because when we pray things God himself desires for us you can be sure He will answer.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37:1-7

Principles Wrapped in Practices – The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s prayer offers us several great teachings about the Christian faith. We learn everything from God being our Father to kingdom values and the importance of God’s will being done. We learn about God providing for our necessities and the importance of forgiveness. Those are all amazing teachings. What is so great about the Lord’s Prayer is that it takes those core truths and wraps them in practice, the practice of prayer. This is not just something to think about…it is something to participate in, to create and experience. When we repeatedly participate in the practice of praying like this, those teachings and truths become more deeply engrained into our being. Jesus was after more than just mental ascent and ideological agreement with his teaching…Jesus was after our hearts, transforming the very essence of who we are…to become more like Him.

This, then, is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
-Matthew 6:9-13

Praying Like Paul

I am touched and motivated by this prayer by Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21. We prayed this payer over our LIFE group tonight,

“14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I am going to start incorporating this into my intercessory prayers.

400 Prayers for Preachers & 300 Quotations for Preachers by Elliot Ritzema

Elliot Ritzema has just come out with two new series for the Logos Bible software: 400 Prayers for Preachers and 300 Quotations for Preachers. Elliot has done a fantastic job pulling valuable resources together into two resources that are attractive, highly functional, easy to use and extremely well organized. Do you have a scripture that you would like to grab a quotation that fits with it? You can search these quotes and prayers by scripture. You can also search by topic or just read through all the quotations or payers through the author list.

300Quotations

There are two main strengths of this program. First is the content. Elliot was really thorough in pulling from many different people and over a long period of time (See the list below). Second is that it is organized extremely well and that makes navigating it and finding what you need fast and effective. Here is where it gets really good, there is a sidebar index on the left side of logos that allows you to see the author list. You can click the drop down arrow by each name and get a quick synopsis of all the quotes for that author (see the screen shot). You can click on the author and start at the beginning of their section or you can click directly on any of the quotes under their name. He has even included a powerpoint slide for all 300 quotes that you can insert into your presentation (again, see the screen shot to the left). These are the things that make this superior to than just going to google and combing through a bunch of random quotes by and then having to take what you find and make a slide for it. Here is a list of people the quotes are taken from (the prayer program is equally impressive):

Anselm of Canterbury, Augustine of Hippo, James Arminius, Francis Bacon, Richard Baxter, Venerable Bede, Bernard of Clairvaux, William Blake, Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatius Bonar, E. M. Bounds, Thomas Brooks, Brother Lawrence, John Bunyan, Lord Byron, John Calvin, Thomas Carlyle, Stephen Charnock, G. K. Chesterton, John Chrysostom, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Charles Dickens, John Donne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Epistle to Diognetus, Charles Finney, John Flavel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Goodwin, William Gurnall, Matthew Henry, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Richard Hooker, David Hume, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Jerome, Thomas à Kempis, Abraham Kuyper, William Law, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Mara bar Serapion, Robert Murray McCheyne, John Stuart Mill, G. Campbell Morgan, George Müller, Edgar Young Mullins, John Henry Newman, John Newton, John Owen, Blaise Pascal, Edward Payson, Pliny the Younger, William M. Ramsay, Jean Jacques Rousseau, J. C. Ryle, Francis de Sales, William Shakespeare, Richard Sibbes, Charles Spurgeon, Suetonius, Teresa of Avila, R. A. Torrey, Trajan, B. B. Warfield, Thomas Watson, John Wesley, George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, & William Wordsworth

Last, this is reasonably priced:
400 Prayers for Preachers  – 24.95
300 Quotations for Preachers – 19.95

Thanks to Elliot and Logos for graciously allowing me access to these programs to use and review them. I will make good use of these in the future and hope others will consider it as well.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18…Three Short Verses, Three Powerful Commands

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 packs three important commands into three tiny verses. Paul wrote,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What Paul wrote here is more than just three easy memory verses. Paul tells us three things that he expects Christians to do on a continual basis. It isn’t just that Christians need to occasionally rejoice or be “part-time pray-ers” or give thanks under selective circumstances. Paul says these are three things to do always, continually and in all circumstances. Instead of give you more things to think about I want to ask you to do something. I am going to give you three lists to rejoice over, pray over and give God thanks about.

Rejoice:

  • That God has created you
  • That God has saved you
  • That God sent Jesus for you
  • That God loves you unconditionally
  • That God has supported you through His church/people
  • For the people God has put in your life
  • What else would make your list?

Pray

  • For guidance in your decisions
  • For the church to grow and reach more people
  • For God to keep working on your heart
  • For greater wisdom
  • For greater boldness
  • For the words to say to those who need God
  • What else would make your list?

Give Thanks

  • For whatever circumstances your life is currently in, whether it seems good or bad
  • For the way God has sustained you up to this point in your life
  • That God will continue to sustain your life
  • To God for family and friends
  • To God for whatever blessings you have…they all came from God
  • For God’s patience, mercy, and grace
  • What else would make your list?
It is important we make a regular habit out of doing these three things.

Three Prayer Requests

I have a couple of prayer requests to put out there. First, my grandmother has been having a rough time with her health. She is in her 90s and has been in good healthy until this last July. She has several issues that are concerning and I just ask for your prayers for her. Second, I have a friend named Dustin who is needing a transplant. He is really in need of prayers. I will be posting more about this later this week but please pray for him as well. Last, I just read this story about the death of a New York Anchorman’s baby and the baby’s babysitter. Prayers go out to Michael Baldwin and his family. I don’t normally post things like that but having a 9 month old this really hits close to home.

 

Jonah Teaches Me to Pray

I was praying with Jonah (our two year old) tonight and he taught me a valuable lesson on prayer. I was thanking God for everything from his mommy to his friends and then he spontaneously picked up right in the middle of it all,

“Sanks you God for me-me…sanks you God for my play ground…sanks you God for Jennifer…sanks you God for mommy.” Then I said, “In Jesus’ name…” and he finished with his “Ament.”

It really touched me. It touched me that his prayer was so pure and simple and perfect and yet from a human/worldly perspective he messed up the words and didn’t get it out right. He didn’t say amen right or thank you right and all of that but from his daddy’s perspective it was a perfect prayer because it came out of genuine and spontaneous thankfulness. It reminded me of Romans 8:26-27 where Paul teaches us that God works through our prayerful groanings to make something good come out of it all. We stutter and stammer and gibber and gabber. Maybe we think it all came out right but it didn’t or maybe we were so floored emotionally that we had no words but God knew what needed to be said.

While my prayers may come out sounding really nice and neat they aren’t nearly as pure and well intended as Jonah’s. He has a lot more to teach me when it comes to prayer and I can’t wait to find out what Jonah still wants to teach me on that subject!

If You Had Three Years to Change the World…

If you had three years to change the world, would you spend as much time away alone with God as Jesus did? If I knew I had three years to change the world I know I would be tempted to never slow down and solitude would be pretty far down on the priority list. Not so with Jesus…

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
– Matthew 14:13

35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and
went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
– Mark 1:35

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
– Luke 5:16

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
– Luke 6:12

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
– John 6:15

36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

42He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
– Matthew 26:36-43

There are even more verses if you count in the times Jesus was just with his disciples, praying in private or in solitary places. I am sure all that is mentioned in scripture is not even the tip of the iceberg of how often Jesus found alone time with God. The take home message I got from this is that if I can’t find time to be alone with God in prayer I might as well give up keeping myself so busy and make sure to include what matters most.