“The life that God calls into being in us is enormously various and infinitely complex. Rote responses are not adequate to the dazzling creativity of address that is put to us by God’s word. What is required in us is not that we learn a specific answer to a specific address, but that we acquire facility in a personal language that is accurately responsive to what we hear God say to us out of his word in Scripture and in Christ in our changing situations and various levels of faith. We need a vocabulary and syntax that is sufficiently personal and adequately wide-ranging to answer everything that God says from wherever we happen to hear it within every developing stage of our pilgrimage across the entire spectrum of our lives.” (Eugene Peterson in Working the Angles)
“The inner action of prayer takes precedence over the outer action of proclamation. The implication of this for pastoral work is plain: it begins in prayer. Anything creative, anything powerful, anything biblical, insofar as we are participants in it, originates in prayer. Pastors who imitate the preaching and moral action of the prophets without also imitating the prophets’ deep praying and worship so evident in the Psalms are an embarrassment to the faith and an encumbrance to the church.” (Eugene Peterson in Working the Angles)
“Let us thoroughly understand ourselves and understand, also, this great business of prayer. Our one great business is prayer, and we will never do it well without we fasten to it by all binding force. We will never do it well without arranging the best conditions of doing it well. Satan has suffered so much by good praying that all his wily, shrewd and ensnaring devices will be used to cripple its performances.
We must, by all the fastenings we can find, cable ourselves to prayer. To be loose in time and place is to open the door to Satan. To be exact, prompt, unswerving, and careful in even the little things, is to buttress ourselves against the Evil One.” (E. M. Bounds in The Reality of Prayer)
“If we believe with our minds that God is holy, we must also come to find his holiness enjoyable and satisfying just to praise it. If we believe the great God of the universe really loves us, it should make us emotionally unshakable in the face of criticism, suffering, and death. In short, we must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity – that is, in name only – and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine.” (Tim Keller in Prayer)
“Meditation is likened to tree roots taking in water. That means not merely knowing a truth but taking it inside and making it part of yourself. Meditation is spiritually ‘tasting’ the Scripture – delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually ‘digesting’ the Scripture – applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. To shift metaphors, meditation is taking the truth down into our hearts until it catches fire there and begins to melt and shape our reactions to God, ourselves, and the world.” (Tim Keller in Prayer)
“All prayer is responding to God. In all cases God is the initiator – ‘hearing’ always precedes asking. God comes to us first or we would never reach out to him. Yet all prayers are not alike or equally effective in relating to God. The clearer our understanding of who God is, the better our prayers. Instinctive prayer is like an emergency flare in reaction to a general sense of God’s reality. Prayer as a spiritual gift is a genuine, personal conversation in reply to God’s specific, verbal revelation.
Yet prayer can be even more than that. Many or perhaps most of our conversations are relatively superficial. Persons can exchange information without much self-disclosure. Some conversations, however, go deep and we sense that both of us are revealing not just information but our very selves. The conversation then becomes a personal encounter, a true connection.” (Tim Keller in Prayer)
“The Church is in urgent need of shepherds and teachers who will study. The pressures and pace of contemporary life make that an increasingly difficult goal to achieve. Christ’s flock on earth depends upon its undershepherds to lead it into fresh pastures of God’s Word. Undershepherds maintain an effective ministry as they extend their own understanding of God’s Word. If we are constantly pouring out without pouring in, we will soon cease to pour out anything that is of value to others.” (Derek Prime & Alistair Begg in On Being A Pastor)
5 Types of Prayer
It is essential to understand and practice each prayer type on a regular basis. Each type of prayer has a unique and vital role in the believer’s relationship with God. For this reason, no prayer type is more or less important than the others.
1. Praise & Thanksgiving: Praise and thanksgiving are the primary ways we give daily adoration and worship to God.
2. Confession: Consistent confession is the primary way we receive God’s forgiveness and maintain a Spirit-filled life.
3. Petition: Petition is the type of prayer in which we present our individual needs and desires to God.
4. Intercession: Intercession is the type of prayer that focuses on the needs of others.
5. Meditation: The act of reflecting on God’s Word and quietly listening for His still small voice.
(Gregory Frizzell, How To Develop A Powerful Prayer Life)
Let me say up front that this post may upset you, though that is certainly not my intent. I love our country. We are a privileged people to live in the good ol’ US of A! But, as believers, our ultimate allegiance is not to this country. Our ultimate allegiance is to our Savior and his kingdom.
We are witnessing a major shift in our society. As a student of history, I know without a doubt that our country was founded on Christian principles. It is impossible to study our founding fathers without encountering within their writings a Judeo-Christian mindset concerning government and morality. Some were not believers (this is well documented – just look at the Thomas Jefferson bible) but even the founding fathers who were non-believers argued that the best form of government and society would follow biblical principles. The shift is towards an increasingly secular society. Believers, who were in the majority for much of our nation’s history, have increasingly become the minority on social issues.
Here is what I believe we will see in the coming years unless something changes dramatically:
1. Same sex marriage will be legalized in all 50 states. This week President Obama (who originally personally opposed same sex marriage and then changed to personally agreeing with same sex marriage) has declared that he believes same sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Recently, the Supreme Court decided not to take up this issue thereby upholding a lower court’s ruling that same sex marriage was legal in certain states. Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriage while 26 states have laws against same sex marriage. At some point the justices will have to rule on this issue and I personally believe they or Congress (through enacting a federal law) will make same sex marriage legal across our nation which is approved of by the majority of Americans.
2. Christian businesses will choose to close their doors or face lawsuits, fines and jail time. This week a couple in Idaho who run a for-profit wedding chapel were told that they must conduct same sex weddings or face fines and possible jail time due to violating non-discrimination laws (this previously happened with a baker, florist, and photographer). In my opinion, the courts will rule that the wedding ceremony must be allowed to happen at the chapel but the Knapps will be able to recuse themselves (because of religious conviction) from performing the ceremony. Another person (licensed to perform marriages and who does not have this religious conviction concerning same sex marriage) will be brought in to conduct the ceremony. Christian businesses (bakery, florist, wedding chapel, etc.) operating in the secular marketplace will be increasingly required to abide by secular laws. They can stand up against these laws because of religious conviction but will likely face lawsuits, fines and jail time.
3. Pastors will be removed as agents of the state in regards to performing weddings. Currently ordained pastors operate as agents of the state when it comes to conducting wedding ceremonies. This is why at the end of a wedding service a pastor will say, “By the authority invested in my by the state of ______________, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” While churches are exempt from non-discrimination laws currently with regards to marriage, I believe this will be the next thing challenged. The argument will be made that ordained pastors, as agents of the state, must abide by state laws regardless of religious conviction. The likely result will be that pastors will not be able to act as representatives of the state. They will be able to do Christian weddings in the church but the couple would then need to go to the court to be officially married in the eyes of the state.
Here is how I think we should respond:
1. Pray. Unfortunately, prayer is often thought of as a last result. We attempt to do things to affect change until we feel like there is nothing else we can do…then we pray. Our temptation in this society will be to busy ourselves doing things and fail to pray. However, prayer should be our first response – we need to hit our knees! We need to ask God to move in a powerful way in our churches and in our culture. We should intercede for those lost in their sin. We need to ask God to search our hearts and our motives. Prayer is not the spare tire in our lives; it must be the steering wheel that drives our lives.
2. We, as believers, should seek to defend our religious liberties both in the ballot box and in the courts. We do not need to bow down and retreat at this point. We need to take a stand through both the courts and the ballot box. I believe religious freedoms need to be preserved. Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up our responsibility, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” We cannot and must not remain silent as religious liberties are stripped away. Houston has given us a glimpse of what is to come and we must be prepared to stand together.
3. Recognize that God may be allowing persecution to come so that his church would be purified and more effective in reaching people with the gospel. I have been preaching through the book of Habakkuk recently. Interestingly, Habakkuk begins the book asking why God has failed to turn His people’s hearts back to him and bring revival. God responds that he is at work but it will not be what Habakkuk expects (God will bring in the Chaldeans to take Judah captive and lead them into exile). He then tells Habakkuk “the just will live by their faith.”
Have you considered that God might be allowing persecution to come upon the church to purify it (when it costs to follow Christ, you find out who the true believers are)? Could it be that this world needs to grow darker so that the light of the gospel can more effectively shine through the church? Throughout church history, the gospel has exploded when Christians were persecuted. We, as believers, are called to live by faith…trusting God is at work to bring about his glory and our good regardless of what happens around us!
“Praying in Jesus’ name is not some kind of magical password that can be used indiscriminately to get our way. Prayer in Jesus’ name is effective only when we are praying in a manner that is both consistent with our relationship to Christ and God’s will. Prayer involves adjusting and even relinquishing our expectations and plans to the will of the Father.” (David Alan Black, 7 Marks of a New Testament Church)