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Monday, May 30, 2016

PRAYING FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERS

Most of us are aware that the Bible calls us to pray for those who have authority over us in government. But let me suggest that we need to pray quite as much for spiritual leaders whom God has raised up to touch our lives and strengthen His church. Many of you are already praying, hopefully daily, for your pastor, your Bible study teacher or that person who has a great influence in your life.
Beyond praying for those whom we know personally are some who teach and inspire us. Many of these influence entire nations and much of the world. It is crucial to pray for their spiritual, moral and even physical protection. You know that the enemy is bombarding them in every way he can think of. You can easily imagine how many people would be harmed if they fell into sin, heresy and public disgrace. And who knows what God might do through them because you are praying.
I pray every day for Eric Metaxis. I know my prayer is part of God using him. There are other writers with not nearly so public personas that I pray for. I once shared Christ with someone by getting them to read Vienna Prelude, by Bodie and Brock Thoene. I pray for them and their powerful novels. My wife and I read Phillip Yancey's Disappointment With God, years ago when our daughter was critically ill. My wife was reading in the night in our daughter's hospital room tears streaming down her cheeks as God ministered to her. A nurse came running into the room wondering why Marsha was crying.
"Oh, I'm just reading this book." She held it up. The nurse charged her not to read it any more in the hospital room in the night. God used that book in our lives in those days.
Do you pray for Franklin Graham? Are you praying for his son, William? I also continue to pray for another of Billy Graham’s grandsons, Tullian Tchividjian, after all that has befallen him. I am sure much of it is his own fault. Who knows how God might restore him. And I still pray for Billy in these final years of his life.

I think we need to pray daily for Tim Keller with his emphasis on the gospel touching all of life. I pray with him and with Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan as they desire the number of believers in New York to triple in the next ten years. We need to pray for Ravi Zacharias and the ministry of his team members in more than a dozen countries across the world. Ravi will be on hundreds of university campuses this year. 
I often discover some new preacher to pray for, maybe one that I should have been praying for all along. I just added Chip Ingram and David Jeremiah to my daily prayer list. I can't wait to see who God calls to my attention next. God may use me to pray for a Luther, a Wesley, another C.S. Lewis or an Elijah for these days. My prayers could become vital support for the two witnesses that stand before all the earth in Revelation 11. Whom will God use you to pray for to further His kingdom on the earth? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

PRAYING YOUR APOLOGETICS

We see God doing much through apologetics in these days. And while I thank God for professional apologists, in fact, all of us are called in one way or another to give an answer to those we interact with. 1 Peter 3:15 reads,
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
However, since the issue is spiritual battle, more than intellectual evidence is necessary. As with all evangelism many things must accompany our presentation of the truth. How does your life radiate the hope that you have? How does what you have to say touch the deepest recesses of people's hearts?
Prayer is the power that removes objections and embeds the gospel into the lives of people. And whether you are the apologist or you are merely observing the debate, you need to be praying for the opponent and for those who listen. Let me suggest some essential elements of apologetic prayer.
1. Humility before God, who must work in your life and attitudes as well as those of others, is essential. This is the beginning of prayer. And it is the beginning of obediently and effectively bearing witness for Christ.
2. You also need faith in God who works in the hearts of those who hear the gospel. I often bolster my faith with the words of Matthew 28:18. Before He commissioned us to take the gospel to all nations Jesus affirmed, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to me." Even when listening to a bitter opponent, remember that God, who loves that person and his audience, is working in their lives. Paul was on his way to arrest Christians and drag them bound back to Jerusalem when Jesus appeared to him and spoke his name. "Saul, Saul!"
3. Love is possibly the most powerful weapon in your apologetic arsenal. In A Wrinkle In Time Madeleine L'Engle portrayed the prodigious Charles Wallace under the control of IT, a disembodied brain in the dark world. His older sister, Meg, bravely approaches the evil brain. At first she does not know what to do. In desperation she begins to pour out all the love of her soul on her little brother. I know something of the power of the love of my older sister. It seemed natural to me that the monster was not able to keep its grip on the mind of Charles Wallace. The brain's power was broken by her love, and the two escaped. She was not able to manage it, but if she could have turned her love toward the hapless brain, it would surely have melted into a puddle of liquid protein.
When evangelist David Stockwell was a student at Rice University, the famous atheist, Madeline Murray O'Hare made an appearance on campus. As a well known Christian, David was chosen to debate her in an evening program before the student body. He was of course terrified. 
But his roommate called him into their room. "I've got it figured out. Wherever she goes she insults whomever she debates. They get their feelings hurt and insult her in return. She is better at hating than any Christian she goes up against. So before long her opponent is ready to give up and flee. All you have to do is try to show her God's love."
Still nervous, David took the platform and told the world's most famous atheist that God loved her, and he was praying for her. She unleashed her fiercest invective at David. But whatever she screamed at him, he answered, "I love you."
David said that night a string of students came crowding into their dorm room saying, "I was an atheist," or "I was an agnostic, but I don't want to be whatever she is."
Prayer is the primary means of loving people you have no direct contact with. But the love of Jesus gives you a hunger to meet the practical, personal, and possibly painful needs of people you come in contact with even if they refuse to listen to anything you have to say. And such practical love will flow from your consistent prayers for people around you. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

STRETCHING PRAYER MEETINGS

Today I want to speak to those of you who lead prayer times and prayer meetings. You have a great responsibility in helping people focus on God in prayer. Most of you are aware that the great tendency in corporate prayer meetings and possibly in private prayer is to focus on ourselves, our needs and immediate desires. Let me suggest that the next time you lead a prayer time that you try to stretch the prayer requests people lift to eternal perspectives.
You need to begin by praying about this for several days before you come to the prayer meeting. You might also stir some excitement about such a prayer meeting by announcing in advance what you are planning to do, explaining how you plan to do it.
I would warn you not to complain about how people have prayed in the past. Even in petty prayers people enter the presence of God Almighty. You can tell them, "We will pray for every request, then we will try to stretch it to an eternal perspective."
Explain this again as you begin the prayer meeting. I think all prayer meetings should begin with praise. As you invite people to lift praises explain the difference between praises to our wonderful God and thanksgivings for specific things He has done in our lives. You can lift thanks as well, but you need to help people see that God is great even when He does not give us what we think we need.
Then as people lift requests start stretching them. Different groups and different prayer times need to operate differently, but if it is possible you need to word these petitions. Suppose someone asks prayer for an aunt having surgery. You might pray briefly for a successful surgery and healing. Then ask rhetorically, "How do we stretch this prayer toward eternity?" You might then suggest that you pray for the lady to know she is in God's hands. You might ask that God give her a powerful witness of God's grace to the doctors and nurses.
After you have stretched several prayer requests begin inviting people in the group to stretch prayer requests toward a divine perspective.

I am not leading a prayer meeting right now. But I wish I were. I would like to try this and see how people respond. If some of you try it out, let me know what happens.

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