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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

PRAYING FOR PLEASURE?

Pleasure is to happiness what candy is to nutrition.

James 4:3 reads, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” How do we justify this verse with verses like Matthew 7:7-8? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
When you find two things in the Bible that seem to contradict one another, study them prayerfully and you will come to understand both passages far more deeply than you would have at a glance.
In fact Jesus gave us a hint at the answer in Matthew 7. The very next verse compares God answering our prayers to a father giving to his child. Does a father who loves his daughter give her all the candy she asks for?
In John 15:7 Jesus brings this promise into divine perspective. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
The English Standard Version of Scripture footnotes the word passions in James 4:3 as “pleasures.” We live in a society that is driven by pleasure. And we may be the first generation to have no awareness of problems with pleasure. Pleasure is to happiness what candy is to nutrition.
The word translated passions here is a broader word than simple desire. It refers to the drive for comfort, luxury, thrills, and physical pleasures in our world. 1 John 2:15,16 warn us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the father but is from the world.”
The entire passage, James 4:1-10, brings all three of these together.
God, as the ultimate Father, protects His children from those things that draw us away from Him. In his book Desiring God John Piper coined the term “Christian Hedonism.” But he was talking about living for the deeper pleasures and the higher joys that come in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 affirms, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Our prayers spring from what we love. As long as we love the world, we will be drawn away from the only source of satisfaction in our lives. And our prayer lives will be frustrating because our Heavenly Father loves us too much to let us fall into the worlds quagmire of pleasures.
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http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

http://daveswatch.com/

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A PRAYER CORNER

Does your church have a prayer corner in the worship center? I Know a church that designates a back corner of their worship center as a place of special prayer. In every service they invite people to slip back at any time to pray. Members of a prayer team are there to pray with anyone who wishes.
They accomplish a number of important things with this. First, this helps to create an atmosphere of prayer in a church. Some might say, “We already have that. We pray throughout our services.” That is of course good. But in the church I where I observed this people began asking themselves if they should go back and pray. There is a difference in hearing a prayer and being invited to pray yourself. This practice helps normalize prayer in a congregation. People are told, at least by implication, that it is alright to need to pray. It is a normal thing to pray.
This helps to accommodate people who come into the church with burdens. This is a powerful way to tell them God cares about their heartache.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

http://daveswatch.com/

Monday, October 30, 2017

LISTENING TO GOD

Like love, meaningful prayer is initiated by God. Romans 8:26 admits that we don't know what to pray for as we ought. I certainly do not object to praying for what you want. But faith in God at least leads to the realization that what God wants for me is better, more fulfilling, and more satisfying than what I want.
So how do we listen in prayer? There is of course an attitude of listening in prayer that humbly comes to God expecting him to impress something on you. And I have occasionally experienced that in my life. But as we grow really serious about listening to God we will come to the place that we want to meditate. Now biblical meditation is not anything like Eastern meditation or what was called in the 1960s Transcendental Meditation. In Eastern meditation you repeat over and over again a mantra, a word that is nonsense to you because it comes from a language you probably do not speak. And you completely empty your mind of anything. In Christian meditation we fill our mind with truth. We focus on what God is saying. That has great depth of meaning. This can be about as relaxing as a wrestling match. But its fruit is nourishing and satisfying.
The most important spiritual meditation is on the word of God. If you want God to speak to you, read his word. If you want God to speak to you, study and meditate on God's word. I've often told people that you can meditate on facets of the character of God. For instance you might spend a whole day meditating on all the ways that God shows His infinite love to you. However, I think the best way to do this is to memorize a verse or even an entire passage that reveals a part of God's character. And God will speak to you whatever scripture you memorize and spend extended time thinking about.
The final way of listening to God that I want to show you here is to pray in a group. Listen to other people praying and see if you're not impressed that God is speaking to you in their prayers.

http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

WELCOMING PRAYER

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.
http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
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http://daveswatch.com/

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A CRUCIAL KEY TO UNIFIED PRAYER

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.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/
http://daveswatch.com/

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A TAPESTRY OF PRAYER

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.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

http://daveswatch.com/

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WHEN PRAYER DIMINISHES

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.
http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

http://daveswatch.com/