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prayer

March 27, 2011

I’ve felt myself drawn to this prayer written by Scotty Smith, a prayer that asks God to help our friends finish well in the gospel—to help us all remain faithful until Today becomes the Day. It begins with this passage of Scripture:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. Hebrews 3:12-14

Dear Jesus, this portion of your Word is both sobering and encouraging. It leads me to think about friendship this morning and the gospel-posse you’ve given me. I’m so very grateful for the friends you’ve woven into my life. Being an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long term relationships has required, and still requires the work of the gospel in my heart—a grace work you’ve been faithful to provide.

I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets and they’ll do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together in the gospel. What does look like and what will it require, Jesus?

My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks—I just enjoy these relationships without much thought or effort. It’s a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other’s sentences, endure one another’s jokes, appreciate each other’s quirks and accept one another’s weaknesses. Surely, this is a gospel-gift.

Yet, Jesus, we’re still foolish men—capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. Sin is exceedingly deceitful. With all of my heart, I believe in the “final perseverance of the saints,” but I equally believe that it’s the saints who will finally persevere. Your Word is very clear—continuance in the gospel is a sign of being rooted in the gospel. That doesn’t scare me, but it does humble me.

Help us know how to hold each other accountable for believing the gospel. Help us to take each other’s heart-struggles seriously. Don’t let us confuse flattery with encouragement. Help us never to minimize nor marginalize the hardening power of sin. Help us know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily and to each all the time, until Today gives way to the Day. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious name.

March 13, 2011

Here’s a prayer from Scotty Smith, one that really helped me this morning. In it Scotty looks at Psalm 42, where a deer pants for water, and asks God to help us long for him the way David did. As he says, “Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.”


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2

Loving Jesus, there’s no craving more demanding than thirst. It’s neither patient nor polite. When we get thirsty, we’re usually quick to slake its unrelenting demand, one way or another. Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.

Because this is true, we join the Psalmist in crying out, “Jesus, intensify our thirst for you. Keep us panting like the deer which pants after streams of water—the unpolluted, undistilled, never-ending brooks of your bounty.

Quickly drain the broken-cisterns of our own making. Don’t let us be even momentarily satisfied with any other beverage than the draft you draw, the potion you pour, the life-giving libation you alone can give.  

If we take up King David’s lament, “When can I go and meet with God?”,  you answer back, without delay, “Right now, my beloved, do not wait. If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)

If we should say, “But Jesus, where can we find you?” You answer back even quicker, “Not in the Law; not in your strivings; not in your labors; not in your earnestness; not in your self-loathing’s; not in your vain promises, but only in the gospel. Come and fall into the rivers of my love. Stand under the cascading waterfalls of my grace. Open your heart wide to my supply and I will over-fill you with everything you need and more than you want.”

Even so and evermore, Jesus, school us well in pant-theology. Fill us afresh than we might be a people to the praise of your glory and grace. So very Amen, we pray, in your all glorious and all generous name.

February 27, 2011

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have the privilege of preaching at Grace Fellowship Church this morning. I awoke feeling tired and worn, believing that fatigue is God’s means of rebuking me, of calling me to depend on him instead of myself. So I turned to the Valley of Vision, looking for a prayer that I could make my own. Here is how that book ministered to me today.

My Master God,
I am desired to preach today,
but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony might be borne for thee;
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertaining to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
Help me to offer a testimony for thyself,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people,
and set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached.
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments
drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings,
that men might be made holy.
I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of thy grace,
and be able to do something for thee;
Give me then refreshment among thy people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer,
or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end,
from lack of warmth and fervency.
And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.

February 03, 2011

I recently received an email from a long-time reader of this blog who asked if I could write about a week of prayer.

Your blog is the third time in the last month that I’ve heard of churches having a week of prayer once a year.  You state that you pray 2 hours a day every day during that week.  I would be curious how churches like yours conduct these week of prayers?  What are the finer details of how it is organized?

As the question indicates, my church begins each year with a Week of Prayer. Let me give a few details about how and why we do this.

The why is answered quite easily: we believe that prayer must be instrumental in the life of the church rather than being merely supplemental. The beginning of a new year seems like a perfect opportunity to dedicate as much time as possible to prayer, to seeking God’s will and God’s blessing for the year to come. When thinking about this I’m always drawn to a story from the life of Charles Spurgeon.

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.

Let me say a few words about the how of it all.

February 01, 2011

After episode 25 of the Connected Kingdom Podcast, David and I signed off for a couple of months—a couple of months we wanted to take to re-evaluate and re-charge. And having done that, we’re now back with a new episode in what we are calling Season 2 of the podcast.

We are beginning with a bang, so to speak, having invited Joel Beeke to be our guest. In the podcast we talk to Dr. Beeke about prayer—always an interesting subject. So don’t listen to this for me or for David—listen to Dr. Beeke’s great wisdom when it comes to one of the great duties and delights of the Christian life.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

January 30, 2011

Because of all I’ve written about pornography over the past few years, I was interested to see a recent prayer that Scotty Smith posted at his blog. He titled it “A Prayer for Friends Struggling with Pornography.” Here it is:

Jesus, my heart goes out today for friends and their spouses whose lives are being assaulted by the ravaging and enslaving grip of pornography.  I know of no other power sufficient for the task but the gospel. This is why I run to you today with grave concern, but also with great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your mercy and might to bear in stunning fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an over abundance of both.

Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself in the deepest place of their hearts. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body which is subject to death?”

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. They need a lot more than embarrassment and fear, they need contrition and hope. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them so they can see and feel the horror of their entrapment, and more so… much more so, the wonder of your deliverance.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger, the disgust, the wound, the shame, and the mistrust that goes with this story. Help us walk with our friends who are right in the middle of this dark vortex. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Bring patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen, we pray, in your great and glorious name.

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:21-8:2

January 27, 2011

The Lord has been forcing me to learn about prayer. And it’s a good thing since I’m finding myself in one of those times in life when prayer is coming only with difficulty. It was a blessing to attend a local pastors’ fellowship on Monday where I enjoyed a panel discussion about prayer and the pastoral ministry. And it was a blessing to record an interview this morning with Dr. Joel Beeke, a man who is known not only for writing books on prayer, but for being a man who loves to pray and who prays powerfully. (listen to the interview)

When discussing prayer, I find that there is always a lot of value in the little nuggets, the little pieces of gold that are encountered in conversation. While listening to an hour-long panel discussion on prayer, each person in the audience picked up on a few little things that impacted him. And the same was true in my conversation with Dr. Beeke.

I want to share with you just a few of the things that have been resonating in my mind.

Pray in Jesus’ name. To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray with his authority in a way that claims his power. In prayer I should always be asking, “In whose interest am I praying? What is God’s agenda in this?” In other words, I need to make sure that I have a conscience sense of praying to the Lord, the King, the Sovereign One. I pray not only to this God, but I also pray in his power and with his authority. That merits a “wow!”

Use model prayers. One of the best ways to learn to pray is to use the New Testament prayers as a model. The Apostle Paul always brings home what he has been teaching through his prayers. So learn these prayers, learn how they relate to the letters, and learn to pray them first for yourself. Let Paul be your teacher.

Pray within your capacity to believe. One pastor said that we often pray beyond our capacity to believe. He used the example of praying for the salvation of his wife’s parents. He and his wife would pray that the Lord would save them, but they were praying without faith; though they knew God could, in theory, do this, they doubted that he actually would. What they decided to do was to pray within their capacity to believe, and so they began to pray smaller, incremental prayers for things they truly could ask in faith. In a similar situation you might pray that the Lord would bring your parents just one Christian friend, or that they would hear the gospel just one time, and so on. And once that prayer is answered, you can then pray for the next, slightly bigger thing. All the while you are ratcheting up your prayers while acknowledging God’s incremental answers to them.

Do not stop praying until you get through to God. This pastor said that you need to labor in prayer until you feel that you have gotten through to God. He particularly warned against stepping into the pulpit and preaching before first gaining a sense of the Spirit’s presence and power. If the preacher cannot go into the pulpit in the power of the Spirit, how can he expect the Spirit to then speak to the people?

Prayer is better caught than taught. Do you want to know how to pray? Then spend time with people who pray and pray with them. Do you want your children to learn to pray? Then pray with them and let them catch the ability to pray. There are few shortcuts here.

Prayer changes us, not God. The purpose of prayer is not to change God, but to change us, to realign ourselves according to his purposes. Prayer is not an attempt to twist the arm of God or to bend him to our will. Instead, it is God’s means of changing and transforming us, driving us to joyfully submit to his will.

Pray warmly. Dr. Beeke asked what right anyone has to feel that he should be able to pray warmly out of the cold blue. If we want to enjoy warm fellowship in prayer, we should first be willing to spend time with the Lord in the Word and in meditation. This warms the heart and draws us to the Lord, igniting our prayer.


If you would like to hear the wisdom of these men, you don’t have long to wait. Audio from Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship will be available soon. My interview with Dr. Joel Beeke will be available here at the blog next Tuesday (Lord willing).

January 16, 2011

Do you ever find that you just don’t know how to pray? You know that you need to pray for someone, but you don’t know how? That is a great time to turn to the Bible and to pray to God the words of God. Mary Kassian once wrote a brief overview of praying Scripture and I thought I’d share it with you today. It’s quite helpful as you consider one way of taking the words of the Bible and turning those into prayers. Note that I am not endorsing lectio divina here (and neither is Mary, I’m sure); rather, I am simply saying that there is real value in searching Scripture for application that can be immediately prayed to the Lord.

Here is how Mary encourages you to pray Scripture:

1.  Read
Read a passage of Scripture slowly. Let’s use a passage from Psalm 1:1-2 for example:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

2.  Reflect
Think about how to personalize the text and apply it to your own life. Take note of any particular verse or phrase that seems to be of particular importance. For instance, in the above verses you might take note of the word “Blessed” and “delight is in the law of the Lord.” You might want to think about where you are seeking happiness and delight. Do you delight in God’s Word?

3.  Resonate
Respond to/agree with the passage by praying it back to God. Pray the words of the Scriptures, applying them to your life or circumstance. You could pray Psalm 1:12 in the following way:

“Lord, please help me not to walk according to the advice of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers. Help me find my happiness and delight in Your word, and to meditate on Your word all the time.” (Or, you could pray this as an intercessory prayer for your husband, children, or for a government official, church leader, or friend.)

4.  Receive

Keep Reading this article at the True Woman blog.

January 09, 2011

Here’s another good prayer from Scotty Smith. This is one for a day we’ve all experienced; it’s a prayer for days when you don’t feel like praying. Scotty and I aren’t the only one who have these days, are we?—those days when you’re just so glad that God’s delight in you isn’t contingent on your delight in him.

Here’s how Scotty prayed on a day like that:

Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality… more about me, than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling a bit distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than my grip on you. It’s one of those days I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you. It’s one of those days I’m very thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but helps us in our weakness. Just as Jesus constantly prays for us, the Holy Spirit faithfully prays in us with “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get the part about you searching our hearts and you knowing the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me great comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not to shame us… to deliver us, not to demean us… to change us, not to chide us. You know my dignity and my depravity, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in Christ. No one but you knows how little or how much of the gospel I actually get.

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me… perfectly tuned into my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I will gladly groan to your glory. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including this season.

All I have to do is look at Jesus and know these things are true. You have called me to life in him and you will complete your purpose in me… and in each of your children… and in the entire cosmos. I do love you, I would love you more. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and faithful name.

January 01, 2011

Happy new year! Here is a prayer I found in Heart Cries to Heaven by David Campbell. It seemed very appropriate for the start of a new year.

Our great and Gracious God,

As we come to the close of another year, we would indeed make it the prayer of our hearts that you would abide with us.

We thank you that you have been with us through the days of this past year.

Perhaps many a day we have not felt you near,
Perhaps at times we have even felt that you have
forsaken us and forgotten us but we thank you
that it has never been so.

We thank you that you are constantly with your people, and that you have enabled us to persevere in grace,

You have comforted our hearts,
You have heard our prayers,
You have come so often to our aid.

We pray that you will go with us into this new year.

There is none of us who knows what the new year will hold, but we thank you that every moment of that year is in your hands, and you will be with your people.

We thank you that with that promise girding us, we can go forward with confidence and in your peace. We pray that you will help us to walk with you in this new year better than we have ever done before. Forgive us, Lord, for our sins and our backslidings of this past year.

Grant to us, as the days of the new year unfold, an ever closer walk with you.
Help us to put sin to death,
Help us gladly yield our lives unreservedly to Jesus Christ, our Savior, and God that we may regard ourselves entirely at his disposal to be, to go, to do, as he would wish
We pray that it may be our privilege to serve him,
to bring glory to him, to help others to know him better, and to help some, indeed, to come to know him for the first time.

Have mercy, we pray, upon those connected with us who come to the end of this year and their hearts are still closed against you, still hardening their hearts against you.

Spare them, O God, we pray; spare them! Grant that this new year would mark the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ. We are so thankful for the almighty Holy Sprit, for his limitless power
to bring conviction of sin,
to give new birth,
and to draw those who are away from you
to faith and to repentance.
We pray, Lord, that you would do that in the hearts and lives of all who are upon our hearts.

For Jesus’ sake,
 Amen.

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