I had led a family to Christ. They soon joined our church and were baptized the following Sunday. My notes remind me of something the grandfather said. He was chairman of deacons in a church 3 hours away, and of course, they were excited about what had happened. He said to me, “We’ve been praying for this family, but one by one. We had no idea they’d all get saved at the same time!”
Expectations. Dale Caston told me something that took place in a high school class when he was a teen. The teacher asked the students, “What do you expect to get out of this class?” She looked at one student: “Eddie, what do you expect?” Eddie said, “Well, I’ve had you before–and I don’t expect nothing!” — What do you expect when you pray? The curse of modern Christianity is that we expect little from the Lord, too much from the church, and nothing from ourselves.
“Thou art coming to a King; Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.” –John Newton
Okay. Now, some quick thoughts on what the Lord has taught and is teaching me on prayer….
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name….”
We’ve said praying is not as complicated as we’ve been made to think. We preachers sometimes function like lawyers who pile up billable hours, but in our case we heap up rules and regulations and, pardon the expression, insights on how to make spiritual things work. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
Prayer is as simple as speaking to the Heavenly Father. Period.
(Ha. You knew that was coming, I betcha.)
Something inside us rightfully wants to pray more effectively, to address God in a way honoring Him, and to be able to express all that is within us.
So, let’s talk about it.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven…” (Matthew 6:9)
So, you want to pray? Good.
Or, you already pray and something inside you wants to learn to pray better? That’s also good.
Let’s see if we can help the beginner to pray effectively and the “regular customer” to pray with greater insight, stronger faith, and more confidence. But–and this is a biggie–let’s not make this more complicated than it is.
Just do it. The Father wants to hear His children praying.
Don’t be afraid.
Worse, don’t let someone scare you about all this.
Martin Luther used to say he had so much to do that day, he had to pray six hours.
Sheesh! Read that and you feel like tossing in the towel and calling it a day. Who among us has six hours to pray?
“Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
My ministry in that church was uphill all the way. Everything was hard, it seemed. There were few rest stops, places where we could take a breather and enjoy a sense that we are accomplishing something significant for the Lord.
The church had few financial resources due to a heavy debt load, made worse by a major split in the congregation 18 months before I arrived as pastor. The ministerial staff had little money for the outreach and educational programs they wanted to do.
It was a tough time in the life of that church.
Perhaps I was tired. Or discouraged. Or needed a boost of some kind.
Anyway, one day, on the way back to the church office from lunch I prayed a prayer unlike any I’d ever prayed before.
From my journal of January 13, 1998.
This was my morning radio program (“Phone Call from the Pastor,” Lifesongs 89.1 FM. New Orleans)….
Have you ever been arrested? Imagine the devastating impact on your family.
Last night the evening news showed the arrest of a fellow on the Northshore for the murder of a convenience store clerk several years ago. He was in handcuffs and being escorted into jail by a couple of sheriff’s deputies.
As he walked past the camera, he stared into it and said, “Pray for me. And pray for my family.” I confess to being shocked. I mean, he was a fairly rough-looking man–the word ‘burly’ comes to mind–and I was expecting him to say anything but that. And it touched my heart.
This is semi-funny. In my retirement ministry–preaching in various churches–I naturally preach the passages that mean a great deal to me. And, since I know them so well, in many cases I quote the verses from memory. Often I don’t even carry a Bible to the pulpit with me. To read, I need cumbersome reading glasses, and if I already know the Scripture, what is the point? Just recite the passage and preach it. If someone asks–as they often do, probably not seriously– whether I have memorized all the Bible (try to imagine that!), I say, “No, I just preach the parts I’ve memorized.” That’s flippant, I suppose, but pretty much how it is.
I do love the Word of God. I love all of it, not just the parts I’ve preached again and again. And I love how those well-known familiar passages keep yielding insights and blessings. Here are a few thoughts on ten passages that I dearly love…
One. Romans 8 is the mother lode of spiritual insight.
In my sermon on prayer last Sunday morning, Romans 8:26 played a huge part. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…”
We are poor pray-ers. If the Apostle Paul did not know how to pray, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that you and I don’t!
But, we’re not to despair.
“O Thou who dost hear prayer, to Thee all men come” (Psalm 65:2).
God hears prayers. It’s what He does.
God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Scripture is consistent on this.
The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father….'” (Luke 11:1ff).
Slow down. Do not rush through the “Our Father” (what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”). Look how it begins.
You are praying to the Father. He is not just yours, of course, but “our” Father. He has quite the large family.
He is the Father. He birthed us. Created us. Knows us.
God is on your side. He is not impartial and definitely not antagonistic. He wants to do well for you, to bless you in every way. Jesus said, “Fear not, little children. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
All right. It’s Wednesday, the day after.
If you stayed up for the election returns last night, you’re experiencing something like a hangover today.
Donald Trump has been named President-elect of this country.
Like it or not, he won. And half the country does not like it, let us admit.
Which statement we could just as easily make if Hillary Clinton had been elected instead. Half the country either way. The very definition of divided.
I want to say a word to my friends who are trying to get their minds around this development which all the polls and most of the media said would not happen.
Next January, Donald Trump and his wife Melania will move into the White House and he into the Oval Office. Everything inside you weeps at the thought.
When friends (like me) urge you to pray for Mr. Trump as we are commanded, something inside you rebels at the thought.
Here are some reasons that may explain why some among us do not wish to pray for the man…
The forces of hell will do anything to keep us from praying.
Satan tells lies to keep us from praying. He uses pleasures and misinformation and our laziness to keep us from praying. He uses false teachers and busy schedules and great television to keep us from praying.
He also has been known to use truth.
As odd as it seems, the dark prince does not hesitate to speak the truth if it will make us think we shouldn’t pray.
Here are eight true statements Satan uses to put a stop to the most powerful force in the world, the prayers of God’s people…
1–God already knows what you need. No point in asking.
“How many times I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Almost daily, I hear of churches that are firing their preachers, are engaged in lawsuits, and struggling with inner conflict. I know a hundred churches that were strong a generation ago but are fighting to survive now.
These are difficult days for churches, which makes these challenging days for church leaders.
If you are not grieving for the church these days, it must be because your mind is on other things.
Let us care for what is happening, and pray for the Lord’s people.
I grieve for the trendy church which is drawing people in from the smaller surrounding congregations and bursting at the seams, but leaving the smaller ones to shrivel and die. The huge church often cons its members into thinking they are doing something for the kingdom since they are experiencing such growth. Churches can be so self-centered.
I grieve for the church which is having mind-staggering growth but gradually becomes secretive about what it does with the millions of dollars it takes in, protective about the pay it gives its pastor, and dismissive about the questionable personal lives of its leadership. Churches can be carnal.
I grieve for the smaller church which turns an envious eye at the growing congregations in its community and, desiring to be like the others, dismisses its faithful pastor and worship leaders because “we have to stay current with modern trends.” Churches can be wrong-headed.