Wednesday’s Reminders

“Reminding the Lord” is how Isaiah 62:6-7 sees prayer. The Hebrew word there, “mazkir,” was the title of a recording secretary on the official staff of various Old Testament kings. He took notes on what the king did and said and promised. Later, when requested, he consulted his notes and reminded the king of past dealings, treaties, promises, that sort of thing.

It’s a great insight on how to pray: remind the Lord.

The Lord Jesus said, “Your Father knows what things you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8) Our task is to remind Him. Throughout the Bible–particularly the Old Testament–perhaps half the prayerful entreaties consisted of telling the Lord things He had done, said, seen, promised. In Acts 4, when Peter and John were threatened against preaching in Jesus’ name, they reported this to the church. Everyone dropped to their knees and began praying. “Lord, you made the heavens and the earth.” A reminder. “Lord, you said the heathen would rage and oppose your Anointed One, the Christ.” Quoting Psalm 2; reminding Him. “Now Lord, behold their threatenings.” Reminding Him of their predicament. “Stretch forth thine hand and let us speak with boldness.” Boom. The power of God fell.

Somewhere along the way I have heard people criticize church prayers for the way the minister spends half the time telling the Lord what He has done and reminding Him of what the people have experienced, before finally addressing their needs. The critic needs to read his Bible. This is the biblical way to pray.

Try it sometime. Congregations will appreciate hearing the pastor build a historical context for the requests he is making in his Sunday prayers. After all–and this might come as a surprise to some–that Sunday prayer is not just a prayer. It is a teaching moment. You are showing your people how to pray.

That’s how we learn, you know, by hearing others. If you question that, notice all the poor prayers uttered every Lord’s Day in churches across this land. Listen to the sameness, the trite cliches, the vain repetitions. They learned those lines from someone.

How many times I have heard someone pray before the offering: “Help us to give for the betterment of Thy Kingdom.” I want to scream, “How in the sam hill are you going to BETTER the Kingdom of God?” And don’t you love the way we pray before the offering telling the Lord to use these gifts wisely!

So why do we pray that way? The pray-er heard it somewhere and thought it sounded spiritual and added it to his prayers.

God, deliver us from dumb prayers.

No wonder the Apostle Paul said, “We do not know how to pray as we should.” (Romans 8:26) Thankfully, the gracious Father ignores our mindlessness and accepts our sincerity. Perhaps like cutting the rotten off an apple and eating the good part.

Wednesday, some 40 or 45 gathered at Good Shepherd Spanish Baptist Church at 10 a.m. We emphasized the Anne Graham Lotz “Just Give Me Jesus” event Saturday in the N.O. Arena. 10 am to 6 pm. No charge; an offering taken; men and boys are just as welcome as women and girls.

We promoted the “Prayer Rally” on the first anniversary of Katrina, next Tuesday night, August 29, held at the FBC of New Orleans at 7 pm. The address is 5290 Canal Boulevard. We’re looking for a great crowd and a blessed time. We also promoted the seminary’s events that day, already covered in this blog, and the newspaper pages we are purchasing for that day.

Freddie Arnold announced that so far only 20 people have preregistered for our September 9 “Ridgecrest on the River.” This annual training event was canceled last year by Katrina. Normally we have 600 to participate. The Baton Rouge “Blitz” last Saturday, their version of the same thing, was attended by a smaller crowd than expected since the population of B.R. is up by nearly 50 percent over last year.

Speaking of that, the front page of Wednesday’s paper gives what may be the first really accurate reading of the population of New Orleans proper. Entergy, our power company, knows precisely how many customers it has in each section of the city. The current population is 219,000, according to the company, down by 52 percent from last year. Earlier, a professional demographer had used several yardsticks and marked the population at 235,000, which emboldened our mayor to reach into thin air and announce his own number: 250,000.

What Entergy did was multiply the number of customers by something just over 2, since the actual number of their customers is 100,947. Eastern N.O. shows a decrease of 84 percent; Lakeview is down by 74 percent; and the Ninth Ward is down by 74 percent.

Freddie announced that 86 people were certified as Disaster Relief trained last Saturday, his largest group ever. Participants drove in from as far away as Mississippi and Houma (70 miles out).

Two calls for volunteers have gone out. Samaritan’s Purse has given the First Baptist of New Orleans playground equipment; the church needs people who know how to assemble it. The “new” First Baptist Church of Arabi–now an arm of Celebration Church–has a tent and equipment arriving tomorrow, Thursday, at 11 am, and volunteers are needed to assemble it.

Each year, August 31 signals the end of the denominational year for Southern Baptists. That’s when church clerks fill out the ACP–Annual Church Profile–and get it back to the associational office. This is recorded and forwarded to the state convention. A reminder.

Morningside Baptist Church of Yuma, Arizona, has a team in town assisting First United Baptist Church on Jeff Davis Parkway to rebuild. Pastor Gilbert Taeger introduced two of his team. The others are handing out flyers around the neighborhood this morning. “We were the first church to adopt First United,” he said. “We’re not a large church. We run about 170 in attendance. I’ve been there 12 years. When we decided to adopt them, we were hurting financially, running behind the budget. But we took up an offering of over four thousand dollars to send the church and then gave the money to send our team here. And wouldn’t you know it–we’re now exceeding our church budget. There’s a great lesson there.”

The lesson, young pastors, is that the people in the pew need direction to their giving. Show them you’re doing something worthwhile and they will give. Challenge them. They give more readily to a cause than from habit or mindless duty.

John Galey (Poydras) said, “We’re running 55 on Sunday mornings. Our volunteers are coming to help us start painting the sanctuary. We hope to be meeting there (instead of fellowship hall) later this year.” Boogie Melerine (Delacroix Hope): “We had between 70 and 74 in attendance Sunday. One couple joined and will be baptized as soon as we can find a place. We’re meeting in my house.”

Tobey Pitman (Operation NOAH): “I go to a lot of meetings, many of them boring. But I enjoy coming to these Wednesday meetings because there is always a sense of hope expressed and it rejuvenates me.”

Craig Ratliff (Arabi) met with the superintendent of schools in St. Bernard Parish. Out of that came an idea for our people to renovate one of the schools that has not been touched. Also, the parish does not have the money to keep up all their parks and we could help there. The parish is rolling out the red carpet for us. This could be a long-term relationship. The only official in the parish Craig has not met with is Parish President (and true N.O. character) Junior Rodriguez. (The board of Operation NOAH Rebuild will be meeting next week and will consider these opportunities, which fall outside the scope of planned rebuilds.)

Shawn Powers is the regional consultant and Ty Salter the national consultant for NAMB’s Church Finance Department. Wednesday, they offered their services to the pastors. “We customize our counsel to your need,” Shawn said. “It’s free. Your church treasurer may need advice on how to maintain records, handle ministerial salaries, etc. We’re here to help. Two of you have already made appointments with us today. Even if you are working with a local lender, call us. We can guide you to understand what to expect and how to speak their language.”

Asked about the loans which NAMB makes to churches, Ty and Shawn pointed out that the $100,000 loans for getting through the storm crisis last year are no longer available. Conventional loans for rebuilding your church are, however. “The interest is not lower than the market. If we gave loans lower than the prevailing market, the money would be gone and we’d have a long waiting list. Our rate is below prime, however, for short-term and long-term loans.”

Joe Williams, our NAMB counselor-in-residence, spoke of the fatigue some of our pastors are battling. A wife thought her husband was having an affair. “No,” he said, “it’s the church.” Joe calls it the post-traumatic stress disorder, or burnout. He said, “A friend told me of a pastor who left. He’s had it, and just upped and left.”

Bill Day (Parkview; NOBTS) announced that the seminary has more new students this fall at registration than last year, which was a pleasant surprise. They’re not just here to get an education, he said, which they will. They’re in New Orleans to make a difference. He repeated Tuesday’s plans for blanketing this city with student and faculty volunteers.

Bill Day said, “We’re studying the impact of Katrina on all our churches, not just the Baptists. The point is to learn how to help future victims of these catastrophes. Of the 1500 churches in all the parishes of metro New Orleans, 40 percent are not operating. In Orleans Parish, 60 percent are not operating. And when I say ‘not operating,’ I mean they’re not having a Bible study in a home or anything.”

Bill is seeking two bits of information from all our churches. What was your attendance in Sunday School on Sunday, August 21, 2005? What was it last Sunday?

Alberto Rivera, our regional strategist for the state convention, announced a “Vision Tour” for October 5 and 6. A number of outside ministers will be in our area those days to receive a guided tour of a number of sites where we would like to plant new churches. We’ll be needing local churches to sponsor the start-ups, and thus some local pastors to take the tour along with the outsiders in order to give your perspective.

Jay Adkins (FBC Westwego) took his family to Disneyworld. “The boycott is over,” he told the group. His children enjoyed it so much, he said, “I honestly did not want to come back.” Jay said, “In the beginning I was so upbeat every time I came to our weekly meetings. But now I’m feeling the effects of it all. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster.” Before sitting down, he said, “I just wanted you to know where I am. I want your prayers.”

We gathered in groups of three or four all over the church auditorium and prayed for each other. Reminding the Lord of our situation and reminding one another of the Father’s nearness, love, and power.

“Take no rest for yourselves,” Isaiah said in our text for today. “And give Him no rest until He make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth.” Until He accomplish that which is His Kingdom purpose.

You knew this. Just reminding you.

1 thought on “Wednesday’s Reminders

  1. The comments on prayer–that we “learn to pray” by listening to others–reminded me of my teaching college students about prayer over the years (27 of them) in campus ministries. One particular phrase I used to hear in the church in which I was active in that college community was: “May (it) be a blessing and a benediction…” I believe I first heard that from a pastor; but then I heard many laypeople use the same phrase!

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