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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,

December 26, 2010

You know that I like to go looking for prayers to post on Sunday (or even better, to pray on my own on Sundays). Here is one I came across a few days ago, one that shares the grief and bewilderment of a father’s heart as he ponders the imminent death of his son. It is a prayer that comes from a place of great pain, but one that also comes from a deep-rooted faith that God is good and that God does only what is good. It gives me hope that even in the midst of such pain, God would bolster my faith to trust in him.

Lord, you know my heart; you know everything about me.  It is early morning right now and on this morning, I need you so desperately.  You know I am in knots and anxious; you know I am not the strong one, but You are.  I need you to be my hiding place today; my shelter and the place where you hide me in the cleft of the rock when you pass by and show us your glory.  For today is something I am dreading beyond anything I have had to face.

Daddy, I’m weak.  I have nothing good I can give you; no reservoir of strength within me that would spark any sort of hope to get through what could possibly happen today.

Everything is from you; in you is my breathe, my being, my movement and my reality.  I must confess that though I have wanted to be as strong as others see me as, the very real reality is that I am frail and foolish; you are the strong One.  For you are my tower, my fortress, my rock that I cling to today.  I know in my weakness, in my poorness of spirit, in my emptiness of self you shine through and fill me.  Lord, it is YOU; all you that empowers us and gives us strength.  Let THAT testimony be shouted from the rooftops.  Our GOD IS FAITHFUL.  You have gotten me through yesterday, last week, last year and thus far in my life.  You have blessed others with your Spirit, your breathe, your strength and your comfort in their lifetimes and I trust that you are the same yesterday, today and forever.  You are indeed the Alpha and Omega of my life, and you INDEED created Samuel fearfully and WONDERFULLY in the womb of Kelly.  God, THIS is your truth!

Read More at Loth Blogs.

December 12, 2010

Once again I am going to post a prayer today and once more it is drawn from Scotty Smith’s blog. But this prayer was just what I needed to pray today. “It’s always been easier for me to do ‘productive’ things for you, rather than spend undistracted, unrushed time with you. I confess this as sin.” I know far too much about this, about doing in place of knowing. “An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart… by any stretch.” Amen! Maybe you need to pray this too.

Gracious Jesus, the juxtaposition of images in the nativity scene are almost too much to wrap my tiny heart around. Your mother, Mary, is just beginning to nurse and know you. Even as I write these words I realize what a holy mystery and immeasurable condescension your incarnation was. You, the very God who created all things… the Lord who sustains all things by the power of your word… the King who is making all things new… as a baby you drew life-sustaining nourishment from a young maiden’s breast. I’m stunned by your inconceivable humility—a humility that marked your life from cradle to cross.

Shepherds ran off to spread the word of your birth, while Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” “Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still and letting you tell me about yourself. It’s always been easier for me to do “productive” things for you, rather than spend undistracted, unrushed time with you. I confess this as sin, Jesus. This simply isn’t okay, for knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart… by any stretch.

To know you is eternal life, and I do want to know you, Jesus… so much better than I already do. I want to treasure you in my heart and ponder who you are. I want to contemplate your joyful life within the Trinity, from all eternity. I want to marinate in everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you will be to us in the new heaven and new earth—the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride.

O, blessed circuit board overloading and breaking glory… there’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder. It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering. I treasure and ponder a lot of things, Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit…an impoverished heart… and a spent body.

Jesus, this very Advent season, by the power of the gospel, slow all of us down… settle us afresh… center us on yourself, that each of us might say with awe and adoration, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, we pray, in your peerless and priceless name.

December 04, 2010

Yesterday a friend sent me this prayer from The Valley of Vision, one called “Peril.” I’m grateful that he did not send it to me because I am going through such great distress at the moment. But what a great prayer it is when harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief and darkness, when the heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude. Here is a prayer that begs God for his presence and finds comfort in his sovereignty.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali -
    ‘satisfied with favour’ -
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

November 27, 2010

Here’s another of Scotty Smith’s prayers that I particularly enjoyed. As I’ve said before, what I like about these prayers is how real they are; they’re not full of fancy words and Christianese. They’re not too polished or perfect—they’re just heartfelt prayers. If you didn’t read it a couple of days ago, be sure to read A Prayer About My Dad’s Welcome Home.

In the meantime, here is “A Prayer About Jesus’ Tenacious Questioning.”

Jesus, we’re always vulnerable to the destructive power of sin, but it seems like we’re especially vulnerable when there’s some kind of emotional upheaval in our hearts. Like Cain, when we’re angry and sulking about something or someone (Abel), we can be easily “had” by sin, giving into its desire—its seductive and destructive ways. O for the Day when the season of sin’s pleasure will be ended forever (Heb. 11:25; Rev. 21:1-5).

Jesus, thank you for tenaciously pursing us and asking searching questions like, “Why are you angry?”, or, “Why are you so downcast?”, or “What do you fear?”, or “Why are you so quiet and distant?” Though you know the answer to these and every question you ask, we probably don’t. Gracious heart-knower, show us our hearts… show me my heart. What are these emotions really saying? What sins are waiting to take these feelings and have a destructive field day?

I wish we only had to think about the sin that’s crouching just outside the door—the tempter and temptress without just waiting to pounce. But the truth is, Jesus, until you return to finish making all things new, we’ve got to be wise to the sin that’s crouching inside of us, as well. Like Paul, the very things we don’t want to do, we still do… and the very things we want to do, they’re not easily done. We long for more freedom to live and to love as we’re loved by you.

How I praise you there’s no condemnation hanging over me for my sin… for you hung on the cross in my place. How I praise you that to be tempted is not an act of sin, for even you, Jesus, were tempted. I would despair if this were not the case. You have mastered sin for us. You’ve exhausted its penalty and broken it’s power. Sin will not have dominion over us ever again.

In this good news… in this gospel.. I trust today. As you show me my vulnerable heart, Jesus, show me your compassionate and loving heart ten times over. That will more than meet my need. So very Amen, I pray, in your strong, present and redeeming name.