Your story might make a great parable

This is for pastors.  The rest of you may listen in.

We have all had defining stories occur in our families and our personal lives that would make great teaching parables. Interesting stories in themselves, they also serve as vehicles to convey spiritual truths to our people.

I have three samples for you.  Whether you use them as parables–microcosms of spiritual lessons–or simply as sermon illustrations will be up to you.

First Parable:  Eugene Peterson, in his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” gives one of his parables.

Dr. Peterson was in a hospital room, recovering from minor surgery on his nose which had been broken years earlier in a basketball game. The pain was great and he was in no mood for fellowship.

However, the young man in the next bed wanted to chat. Peterson brushed him off–his name was Kelly–but overheard him telling his visitors that evening that “the fellow in the next bed is a prizefighter. He got his nose broken in a championship fight.” Kelly proceeded to embellish it beyond that.

Later, after the company had left, Peterson told him what had actually happened and they got acquainted. When Kelly found out that Peterson was a pastor, he wanted nothing more to do with him and turned away.

The next morning, Kelly shook Peterson awake. His tonsillectomy was about to take place and he was panicking. “I want you to pray for me!” He did, and they wheeled him to surgery.

After he returned from surgery, Kelly kept ringing for the nurse. “I hurt. I can’t stand it. I’m going to die.”

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Ron Dunn’s prayer stories

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.

Seeing her son like that–his face flushed, his body trembling and dripping with perspiration–frayed her, and she drove to the clinic as fast as she dared.  She was frayed a bit more waiting for the doctor to emerge from the examination room, which he was now doing, walking toward her with a slip of paper in his hand.

“Get him to bed,” he told her, handing her the prescription, “and start him on this right away.”

By the time she got the boy home and in bed and headed out again for the shopping mall, she was not only frayed, but frazzled and frantic as well. And she had forgotten about the pie in the oven. At the mall, she found a pharmacy, got the prescription filled and rushed back to the car.

Which was locked.

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Truths the devil uses to stop us from praying

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.

Don’t miss that:  Sometimes he speaks the truth.

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…

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The eternal difference your prayers make

“So, you were the one praying for me!  Thank you!”

In Heaven, two things will happen, I predict–

–1.  People will be coming up thanking you for praying for them.  You barely remember calling out their names to the Father, but He heard and used your prayer and they are living forever because you were faithful.  Sure makes you want to be faithful, doesn’t it?  (See Luke 18:8)

–2. People will be coming up telling you they had prayed for you. And that will answer a question that had bugged you for years:  Was it someone’s prayers that caused those wonderful things to happen in your life?  And now you know. Sure makes you want to be grateful, doesn’t it?

This was brought home to me by a testimony in Christianity Today for July/August 2014.  (I wrote about it then and still treasure it.)

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What I said when she said her prayers were so weak

“It’s not all up to you.”

She had given me a burdensome list of prayer needs.  Her husband was battling a terminal illness, her daughter was in a bad situation, the grandchildren were at risk, and she herself felt so far from the Lord.

I’m breaking no confidence in sharing this.  First, she gave permission, and second, her needs are not unlike a dozen people whom I know. There is a lot of this going around.  A few minutes later, a mother whom I do not know, but who found us on the internet, wrote with a similar list of prayer needs.

She asked me to pray for her. She did not ask for advice. However, while I am indeed lifting her needs in prayer, the next best gift I can give is to encourage her own praying.  I asked if she was “up” to my commenting on her prayers.  She was.

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The three mysteries of divine intercession

“…seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). 

We hear it all the time and we preachers are not shy about proclaiming divine intercession.  One member of the Trinity interceding with the other Two, or even two members of the Trinity interceding with the Third.  If I sound unsure about this subject, it’s because there is much that eludes me.

One.  The mystery of divine intercession: What does it look like?  What’s going on in Heaven when it happens?

This would be a good time for me to describe what I think goes on at the Throne when intercession is taking place.  I’ll pass, thank you.  This is far beyond my poor powers to imagine.

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The number one way to encourage a pastor

There was a time when it was easier to pastor a church than it is today. There was a time when churches running a thousand on Sunday were considered mega. There was a time when churches took what they had in the way of pastoral leadership and pretty much went with it without a lot of complaints.

Those days are no more. It’s a different world we live in.

People demand strengths and excellence and results from their leaders. They look for power in the pulpit and skills in relationships. They want degrees and winsomeness and it wouldn’t hurt if you looked sharp either.

They want to be fed in sermons and challenged in programs. They want input in decisions and no longer hand the keys to the kingdom to the new preacher.

What they do not want…

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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)

I love You, my Lord.

I love You as much as I’m capable of.  If I were You, I would not be satisfied with that.  I would grow weary of watching me stumble and hearing me confess and repent for the zillionth time.

And yet, You are patient. Steadfast.  Forgiving to the ultimate, loving beyond anything that I imagine or ask.

How can I begin to comprehend Thy love and faithfulness?

Help me, Father.

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Have you ever been arrested? Did anyone pray for you?

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them…. (Hebrews 13:3) 

This was my morning radio program (“Phone Call from the Pastor,” Lifesongs 89.1 FM.  Christian radio station in New Orleans)….

Have you ever been arrested? Imagine the devastating impact on your family.

Last night the television news showed the arrest of a fellow on the Northshore for the murder of a convenience store clerk several years ago.  In handcuffs, he was being escorted into jail by a couple of sheriff’s deputies.

As he passed the camera, the man paused, 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 anything but that.

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10 verses that forever make prayer available, God accessible and us responsible (to act in faith!)

We begin with four verses in Romans 8 that are stunners. In truth, we don’t need to go further to settle the matter of God’s availability and our blessedness…

1.–“The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

2. –“It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).

3. –“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us (which is what he has been saying for 30 verses!), who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

4. –“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

In addition, there are incredible verses, promises, and insights scattered throughout the New Testament shining forth like beacons calling us to believe God and start obeying…

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