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Sunday, October 15, 2017


I have seen some interesting things in churches over the years. I knew a church where no one spoke to visitors or anyone else in the service. They had a young pastor who wouldn't put up with that. He challenged them, encouraged them, and scolded them. And sure enough, they began to speak to one another and gregariously welcome guests. But when you watched this congregation a while you realized that no one felt welcomed in there fellowship. Why do you think that was?
I knew another church where the people were quiet even a little shy. But everyone who came felt loved. I don't know all the differences, but I know something crucial about this church. The pastor encouraged everyone to pray for visitors and everyone around them in the services. He used to say, “We want to be a church where people know they will be prayed for when they come here.” It should not surprise us that people were often heard to say they sensed the presence of God there.

This is an important part of a church being or becoming a house of prayer. This can be done informally and quietly. I believe it should also be done formally and openly. I love welcome tables in the vestibule of a church. I believe someone working in a welcome center should ask guests entering a church how they would like someone to pray for them. You can pray briefly with many of those coming. At least write that request down and pray silently for God to meet that person's need. Possibly share it with the deacons or a prayer team.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Last week I wrote about uniting in a tapestry of prayer focusing on the prayer meeting in Acts 4. Among the treasurer's that can be easily mined from that prayer meeting are some wonderful keys to unity in prayer. One of the most important is praise.
When Believers come together in prayer there is, or ought to be, a humility that welds our hearts together. We are broken, heartbroken, and forgiven. And that is certainly an underlying factor in the book of Acts and the whole Bible. However there is no specific reference to it in this prayer. You can, I suppose, sense it in the tone, but I do not believe it is in the words of this prayer.
The Holy Spirit also uses the opposition of the world to bind Believers together in prayer. This prayer is a prime example of that. Peter and John have just returned from the Sanhedrin having been beaten within an inch of their lives and warned never to speak the name of Jesus again in public. It is from this platform that this prayer burst forth from the hearts of the Believers. But while this was certainly a factor in their unity on that day, something else is primary as the people raise their voices together in prayer.
Note the words of this prayer beginning with verse 24.
“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
The primary words that bound the church miraculously together on that day we're a triumph of praise. The people were bound together by the greatness and majesty of God our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I was recently in a prayer meeting that began with praise. The first two three people praised God. The next man chafed at beginning with praise. He was upset over things he had seen on the news that morning. He said, “I live alone and I don't have anyone to talk to but my dog. I've got to share this grief, and we've got to pray about these things.” As he shared the unity of the prayer meeting was diluted. The primary focus of prayer needs be God. When we start with our heart aches, fears, or the trials we face, we focus on ourselves.
Focusing on the greatness of God strengthens our faith. Praising God together strenghthens one another’s faith. Then when we come to pray for heartaches, we face them in confidence in the greatness of our God to handle them. Praise brings us into a powerful unity of faith encouraging one another to trust in God.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


One of the themes of my blogs has been the importance of praying together. I believe the American notion of independent faith is a serious problem. The lyrics of an old him used to say “You've got to walk that lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself.” This is false teaching. The Holy Spirit certainly dwells in you as an individual. But almost every verse where the Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit lives in us is plural. One of the foundational ways of developing real understanding of our spiritual unity is in praying together.
Much of my thinking and about praying together has been influenced by the prayer meeting in Acts chapter 4. Verse 24 tells us that the church raised their voices together in prayer. The translators of the King James Bible, recognizing that it would be very difficult for the entire church to pray this prayer together, interpreted this verse as praying with “one accord.” This expresses what Jesus said in Matthew 18:19 “If two of you shall agree on Earth as touching anything that they ask, it shall be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
Here is what I believe we would have experienced had we been there on the day recorded in Acts chapter 4. Someone, possibly Simon Peter, began, “Sovereign Lord.” Someone else, maybe you, followed that up by saying, “You made the Earth.” When I heard you pray that the Spirit spoke to my heart, and I prayed, “and the sea.” Someone else added “and everything in them.” And so our prayer became a tapestry with all the vividness of the Holy Spirit speaking through each of us as we prayed one prayer.
Now to do this we have to listen prayerfully as everyone else in a group prays. Most of us have been guilty from time to time of thinking, maybe desperately, about what we were going to say when our time came. You can guard against that by recognizing that God will speak to you when others pray. And you can pray what the Spirit presses on your heart in their prayer.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


When crises come like a series of category 5 hurricanes driving millions of people from their homes people pray, for a little while. Many of you remember that large numbers of people were driven to their knees in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. A close friend of mine led a citywide prayer meeting last week on 9/11. 5 people showed up to pray.
When we see things like this we are tempted to be cynical. And while I am in that number, I must admit that is a wrong response. We should be thrilled that people pray in a crisis. It will be terrible when we come to the place that no one prays even in the face of terror.
What do we do when we see diminishing numbers of people praying? We need to redouble our own praying. And while you are praying, pray for your church and other churches to begin praying as they have never prayed. Who knows how God will answer your prayers? Encourage others to pray as well. Encouragement usually has greater effect than complaining. And, of course, nothing brings about prayer as effectively as prayer.

Friday, September 15, 2017


God calls to us to pray for everyone. 1 Timothy 2:1 reads,
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.”
This is one of those scriptures that you have to stop and ask how we do that. Is this scripture calling us to pray prayers like, “God save the whole world. Amen”? I believe God is urging this on us so we will make a legitimate effort to pray individually for as many people as possible. Everyone needs prayer. This of course leaves us with the same problem. How do we do that?
There are a number of things we can work on as we seek to pray for everyone.
I wrote earlier about assigning leaders to pray for everyone listed on a church roll. I think this is a good start.
Paul’s one specific application of this verse was to pray for kings and all who are in authority. This too needs to be an organized effort. Most of you know the name of your local mayer, the governor of your state, and the President or Prime Minister of your country. But there are hundreds of others who fall into this category whose names we do not know. I couldn’t start to list the names of those serving in our State Assembly. These could easily be looked-up and printed off encouraging church members to pray for them.
In the past I have encouraged prayer-walking. Prayer-walking is a great way to pray for your block, your whole neighborhood. An organized effort could pray for an entire town, even a city.
Finally, let me suggest a kind of praying that I mention often which takes no planning, organization, or preparation. Can you begin praying for everyone around you wherever you are, in a restaurant, at work, in a store, at school? Many of us wonder what we would pray for complete strangers. I have three suggestions and a fourth that is more important than the others.

Use the word BLESS as an an acrostic memory tool.
BODY, Pray for a person’s physical needs.
LABOR, Pray for someone’s work and income. I fear my prayer for this is sometimes selfish. I pray for the clerk at the bank or at the Post Office to work efficiently. I still think this is good.
EMOTIONS, I pray for people to hunger for God. And I pray for ultimate peace in the person’s life.
SOCIAL, Pray for God to intervene in a person’s relationships.
SPIRITUAL, Pray for God to draw that person to Himself.

Another tool may not be quite as easy to remember has all Bs.
BURDEN, Father, lift that woman’s burden.
BITTERNESS, Lord, wash the bitterness out of that man’s heart.
BLINDNESS, Open that person’s eyes to see spiritual reality.
BONDAGE, Lord, free that man from attitudes, addictions, and spiritual forces that keep him from You.

My next suggestion takes less time. Simply pray for God to meet a person’s need. Maybe pray for God to meet the deepest need in someone’s life.

These are all aids for people to get started praying like this. And after many years of trying to do this, I still use them. However, I think it is more important to be open for the Holy Spirit to impress something on you to pray for a person. The strangest things can come into my mind as I am glancing over a group of people trying to avoid staring rudely at any them. I have prayed things like, “Father, I ask you to heal that person of cancer.” “Rescue her child from sin.” “Father, comfort her in the midst of divorce.” Now to be honest, I have never had the courage to go up to someone and ask, “Are you going through a divorce right now.” I am not trying to prove my spiritual acuity. I was talking to my Heavenly Father. And I can assure you that I have been drawn nearer to Him as I prayed things that came into my mind.

The last thing listed in 2 Timothy 2:1 is crucial. Thanksgiving ought to be made for everyone. I try occasionally to spend a whole day thanking God. And this includes praying for people around me. I begin each prayer with, “Thank You, Father. . .” I thank God that He is already at work in the life of that person He has called me to pray for. I thank Him for everything I can think of for everyone around me. I am uplifted by this. And I am convinced that others are blessed as I give thanks.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


I have been thinking about writing a book on prayer in a church family. My working, or maybe thinking, title is Praying Together. I can get excited about it, but I am not sure I will get to it. I want to write two more books before I start it. And my time is limited. So I want to set some of the ideas out to you in my blog.
Our church is in a difficult place right now. We are without a pastor. And for this and other reasons my wife and I have felt we need to pray as we have never prayed before. In fact, I believe churches all over the world need to sense and respond to this urgency. This week my wife suggested that we go to the church one morning and pray through the church roll. Our reasoning for doing this had nothing to do with the experience. But we were both blessed by our time in prayer. We intend to do this regularly and invite some others to join us. I was still a young pastor when God began to convict me to pray through our church roll Every day. Many pastors and church leaders are so blessed with church members that you would need to divide up the roll up into sections to pray for each day. I know you are busy.  But prayer is important. You might even break up your study and other work during a day to pray ten minutes every hour or so. I try to do that with my writing. I believe this, along with a weekly Sabbath, has kept me from burn-out over the years.
But none of these things are actually what I would like to see. What I long for begins with individuals and couples praying for the church body. But I would like something that includes more people. I would like to see deacons and elders, staff members, teachers and leaders commit to spend time every day praying for our church families. I would like to see it spread like wildfire through a church body.
Is that all the prayer that I think we need? Absolutely not. But I believe God might use something as simple as this to begin a movement that would shake a nation to its knees and touch the entire world.

Monday, August 28, 2017


I have been very moved lately with the promise in John 15:7,8. I started to write a blog post on praying for fruitfulness. Then I discovered that about a year ago I wrote a blog post on this but never posted it. So I am offering it to you today.
Modern Americans often have the strangest notion of prayer. Much prayer in these days is an extension of our materialist convictions. You can hear preaching, here and in many countries around the world, that poses provision as the primary purpose of prayer. This is often taken to the extremes. "God give me a Cadillac." "God let me win the lottery."
But according to Jesus, the primary purpose of prayer is fruitfulness. In John 15:7 Jesus gave us a wonderful promise of prayer. He said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”
Jesus continued in verse 8, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." The purpose of prayer is fruitfulness. Today I read day 10 in the little booklet, 40 Days of Prayer, on the fruit of the Spirit. It reminded me that bearing fruit begins with my character and continues in the significance of my life. God is planting His seeds in my life to touch others and impact the world.
The provision of the Father is a foundational assumption of prayer. You don't need to spend much time praying for provisions. Your Father knows what you need before you ask. But fulfillment and joy do not come from worldly possessions, luxury, pleasure, or success.
Jesus continues in John 15:11, "I have told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full.” Joy comes from purpose and usefulness. Are you praying for fruitfulness? Or are you praying junk?