My morning prayer

In the morning, O Lord, I will direct my song and my prayer unto You and will look up.  (Psalm 5:3)

O Lord. I feel so weak.  So helpless.  So unworthy.  So guilty.  So lazy and so unqualified.  I feel fleshly, not spiritual, and burdened, not free. 

If You were to mark iniquities, O Lord, surely I would be the first to fall.

Thank You for grace. Thank You for Thy infinite mercy.

Thank You that this is not about me.

It’s all about Thee.  Thy riches, Thy supply, Thy will, and Thy honor.

I have no words to say how liberating that is.

Thank You, Father.

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The effective pastor: Teach the congregation how to pray.

Second article in a series on The Effective Pastor. 

Now, it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught the disciples.’  (Luke 11:1)

The Lord’s people want to pray.

Most of the Lord’s people want to learn to pray.

You are the one to teach them effective praying, pastor.

You do know how, don’t you?

Granted, none of us do it very well. Even the great Apostle Paul said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).  So, we are not saying any of us do it as well as we should, only that we know enough to be able to help others.

Here are some thoughts on the subject….

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The most unusual way I pray for some of my grandchildren

“Faithful is He who called you, and He will bring it to pass” (I Thessalonians 5:24)

If God starts something, He will see it through to the end.

And that’s how I pray the way I do:

“Lord, these are your children.  They would not exist without Your love.  Had you not laid it on my wife’s heart to adopt a foreign child, and later pulled me to the same decision, their mama would still be in Korea and these three granddaughters would never have been born.”

“Therefore, Lord, I feel a special confidence in interceding on their behalf.  They are your responsibility.  They were your doing.  They are yours.”

“So, I ask you to watch over them.”

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What to do about the labor shortage in the Lord’s work

“But when He saw the multitudes, (Jesus) was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to the disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38).

Little of this is what we would have expected.

The newly baptized Savior was moving in and around Galilee preaching and ministering.  Was this the first time He had “gotten out” and seen the crowds, growing up as He did in the small town of Nazareth where He worked alongside His father in the carpentry business?  Was this a surprise to Him, seeing the crowds in this way?

The people seemed as sheep with no shepherd.  Think of what that means….

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Ron Dunn’s stories about prayer

Ronald Dunn, now in Heaven, was a prolific writer and speaker on prayer and the deeper life.  He pastored in Texas and authored many books.  What follows are stories taken from his book “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.” Published in 1991 by Thomas Nelson.

First story. (I’ve heard this from numerous speakers, but it’s Ron’s story.)

I was speaking at a banquet for a church’s intercessory prayer ministry when (this mother of a teenager) shared a recent answer to prayer. A few days before, as she was getting a pie ready to put into the oven, the phone rang,  It was the school nurse.  Her son had come down with a high fever and would she come and take him home?

The mother calculated how long it would take to drive to school and back, and how long the pie should bake, and concluded there was enough time. Popping the pie into the oven, she left for school. When she arrived, her son’s fever was worse and the nurse urged her to take him to the doctor.

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If I could make one change in your church

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations…” (Mark 11:17)

If the church asked me to suggest one thing that would make the greatest improvement in all they do, I would not hesitate.

I would make their worship center a house of prayer.

While that could involve a number of things, the most obvious change would take place in the worship service.

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Great and mighty things thou knowest not

“Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

God knows a zillion things we do not.

Let’s start with that no-brainer.

The overwhelming majority of “things God knows” are, I expect, reserved exclusively for Him. “The secret things belong to God,” we’re told in Deuteronomy 29:29. The farthest reaches of this enormous universe are seen and appreciated only by Him and His legions.  And the heavenly realm itself is His and His alone.

However.

The Heavenly Father has many things He is dying to show us, to reveal to us, to allow us to stumble upon, or learn in His classroom.

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Prayer: He has taken all the work out of it!

“Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.” –Matthew 6:8.

We would all like to lose weight without dieting.  We’d like to get healthy and have our muscles toned up while we sleep.  We’d like to get a college degree without going to class or studying.

Those are not about to happen.

Spiritual disciplines require great effort from us also.  Whether we are fasting and enduring great tribulation for Jesus’ sake, or doing something as simple as studying our Sunday School lesson and offering grace before meals, conscious effort is required, and that means a strong focus on the Savior.

Prayer is hard work, we are told.

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Fear: What happens when we quit trusting the Lord

“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Not long ago, I arrived early at the church where I was to preach that morning and found that a Sunday School class was meeting in the auditorium.  I made my way to a chair and joined the dozen or so adults of various ages.

Whatever scripture they were studying that day, they had wandered far afield from it.  Class members were excitedly speaking against abortion, gay marriage, transgender acceptance, hate crime laws, political shenanigans, the coming world government, the antichrist, President Obama, and the possibility of an armed uprising in America so everyone had better have plenty of ammunition. Also, blood moons, Armageddon and Joel Osteen.

At one point, during a lull, I asked, “So, what is the scripture for today’s lesson?”  As far as I could tell, only the teacher caught the irony (and gentle rebuke) of that.  He named some place in one of the prophets.

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Leave room in your theology for mystery

“…I know not; God knows.”  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Some things you will never figure out in this life.

Some mysteries you will eventually see–or the Spirit will reveal them to you or someone much smarter than you will explain it to you–but you haven’t so far.

Until then, humility is the order of the day.  (And, yes, afterwards, humility is still in order.)

Here’s one that has me going.

In Romans 8:26, one of my favorite “prayer” verses, after informing us that “we do not know how to pray as we should”–I knew it; I’m just surprised that Paul admits it!–and after saying “The Spirit also helps us in (that) weakness”–we read that “the Spirit Himself also intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Okay. That sentence carries mystery enough to occupy me for the next few years.

There’s more.

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