One. “Back in my day.” I’m actually living in my day. Today.
This is my day. I am as alive and active as I have ever been. I vote, I read the paper every day, I blog several times a week, and I’m often on Facebook. I still work–traveling to cities far and near to preach and minister.
I married Bertha three years ago. She still teaches English at a community college across town. Much of her day is spent at the laptop grading papers and communicating with students. She is very much in the present; neither of us is living in the past.
Earlier this month I drove to northern Kentucky (495 miles) to minister and drove back the next day, arriving home in time to sketch for two hours at our church’s Christmas program that evening.
I’m still here.
Two. I’m going to ‘unpack’ this message. Ugh!
“When you pray, say , ‘Our Father….'” (Luke 11:2)
I used to have around fifty books on prayer. C. S. Lewis said he would never write one, but that’s been done for him posthumously. Someone took articles he wrote in various books and insights from his letters and assembled them into How to Pray, which Bertha and I are reading with enormous pleasure. (Most of my collection I gave away over the years as I down-sized my library twice.)
I fear with all the books on the subject that beginners may be scared away from serious praying, thinking it’s harder than it is, more complicated than it should be, and reserved just for the most religious among us. And what a tragedy that would be.
Prayer is for every child of God.
I love to find insights and encouragements in Scripture about prayer. One of the best is on display in the amazing and rich 8th chapter of Romans, everyone’s “mother lode” of treasures. It’s this…
A blind man sat by the roadside begging. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:35fff)
The blind beggar of Jericho had a name, at least in a way he did. Bartimaeus they called him, according to the account in Mark 10. However, Bar-Timaeus means “Son of Timaeus.” This tells us no one really knew his name, only that his father was a man known to some.
Bartimaeus was blind. In that culture, no options existed for a blind adult other than to beg. Perhaps someone helped him to his begging place each day, we don’t know. We may assume that he was unwashed, that he needed a haircut last year and had not had a bath in memory. By any standards of the day, his situation was clearly hopeless.
Maybe so, but….
This happens too often, and it’s frustrating.
A fellow who reads this blog emailed to say, “I’ve been asked to serve on an ordination council.” He asked a couple of questions, then said, “What would be some good questions for me to ask the candidate?” I replied at length, then hit “send.” A few minutes later, my email was returned to me. “Undeliverable,” said the message.
I resent the message. Same thing happened.
Arghhh. What to do now?
Mostly, when this happens–and as I say, it occurs more often than one might expect–I keep trying to resend it or I might put a message on our website in hope the person will see it.
If he doesn’t, what will he think? Either that I did not get his email or received it but did not reply, both of which are wrong.
Is this like unanswered prayer, I wonder?
“Pray without ceasing.” — I Thessalonians 5:17.
I do not imply that I know more about prayer than you. I hate to hear anyone celebrated as “an expert in prayer,” for the simple reason that no child should be called an expert in talking to his/her parent. What’s so hard about that?
Granted, we make it harder than it should be, with our rules, our religions, our legalism, our opinions, our blindness, and our sinfulness. But in its essence, prayer is talking to the Father through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Period.
What I do imply however (for this article) is that there are insights in Scripture on the subject of prayer many of us may have missed. Here are a few……
One. Scripture says you do not know how to pray as you should. That’s Romans 8:26. So, let’s not let that stop us. God’s not looking for eloquence but faith.
Two. Scripture says both the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus are interceding for us. That is Romans 8:26 and 8:34. Now, personally, I have no idea how this works, particularly when Romans 8:31 says “God is for us!” So, it appears the Triune God is on our side!
Three. Scripture says the best pray-ers were Moses and Samuel. That’s Jeremiah 15:1.
“Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Not long ago, my wife and I attended the funeral of a distant in-law kind of relative. We enjoyed meeting friends and making new ones, and were blessed by the service. It was all great except for one thing.
Something big was missing.
Not a single prayer was uttered. Not the first one.
One wonders if the leaders remembered later and said something like, “Oh my–I forgot to pray.”
It would appear that a lot of people are forgetting to pray these days. We should find that extremely disturbing. And more than a little revealing.
“Pray for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
Whether requested or not, you and I would do well to pray for our pastors.
Then, continuing to pray for your pastor in good times and ill is a sign of great faith in Christ.
So much depends on whether our spiritual leaders are functioning well, close to the Lord, thinking clearly, and in good health.
Here are ten requests we should be asking of the Father for our pastors….
One. A strong sense of God’s calling on the pastor’s life.
“It is the Lord Christ whom ye serve.” (Colossians 3:24)
He is not his own, nor is he “ours.” He has been bought with a price. So, we pray that He may always have a clear sense of where his allegiance begins and ends. This will produce a far greater intensity in his faith and drive to his work ethic than anything the deacons or finance committee can impose.
“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word” (I Kings 18:36).
I was pastoring a church that had survived–just barely–a massive split a couple of years before I arrived. Many were still carrying guilt over how they had behaved or anger over the misbehavior of others. Or both.
And since these people had ousted the pastor who had provided the spark for all this turmoil, it soon occurred to a strong handful that they could do the same to me.
So, for the first years of my ministry in that church–which actually lasted nearly fourteen years–I had to put up with the detractors, people who were determined to find fault with everything I did and turning it against me.
And then one day I noticed how Elijah had prayed on Mount Carmel.
When a church is pastorless, no one knows who the next pastor will be. While we pray for the Pastor Search Committee regularly, has it occurred to us to begin praying for the object of their search? Here is how I’m praying for our next pastor.…
Please send our church a pastor who will be Thy choice first and foremost. Let him know it, let our search committee know it, and let the church be just as confident about it. May the pastor’s family be supportive also, and even excited. And then…
–protect the pastor and our church from anyone who would rise up later and claim this was a mistake and try to oust him. Dear Lord, protect Thy church.
Send us a pastor who will be loved as dearly as any pastor has ever been loved. This congregation wants to love its pastor.
The pastor says “Now, in the original Greek, this word means….” and church members roll their eyes. Oh brother, some are thinking.
Or, he might say, “In the original Hebrew, that word is…..and it means…..”
To the pastors among us, I ask: Is this necessary?
I find a great many church members are completely turned off by this little one-upsmanship of the preacher. It feels to many like he’s showing off, bragging that he knows some Greek.
I’m not one to say the preacher is showing off. After all, if he studied the language for a few years, clearly learning the Bible in its original forms is important to him, he is now capable of bringing in some of the finer insights from the Word.
But he must not overdo it by trying too hard or expecting too much.
I fear I’ve done this so many times in the past. Forgive me, members of the six churches I’ve served.