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Monday, December 25, 2017


Many of us have a few quiet days after Christmas. This is a good time to rest. You may want to read something you have not had time to read or maybe a new book given you for Christmas. This is also an important time to think and pray.
As Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart, it is well to savor all that God has done for us, for you. As you think of your celebration of Christmas, you may remember things that did not go as you wished or as God desires. Was there a conflict in your family? Pray for the people involved. Pray for God to heal the rift. Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to ask God's forgiveness? Do you need to struggle with repentance until you can rest in the luxury of His grace.
You may need to look back at the tumultuous year that is coming to a close. It should alarm us, and cause us to pray. Americans need to pray for our country. We need to pray for the world. But even in the midst of the turmoil we need to rest in God. He is sovereign even in the face of immorality, lies, terrorism, war, disruption of homes driving needy people across the world.
And while you are thinking and praying, ask God to show you what you need to be praying for the coming year. What is God calling you, us, to join Him in?

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Believers need to continue to pray for one another when we're apart throughout the week. It is very easy to be so busy with our families, our jobs, our lives that we don't even remember our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy that he remembered him in his prayers day and night. He wrote something very similar to Philemon and to the Philippians and other churches.
Frankly, my memory is not always that good. So I must discipline myself to remember my brothers and sisters. To do that I need a list. I need to pray through a church roll. I need to write people's names down, especially new people I meet on a Sunday or at other times in the week. And I need other people to help me remember. We have a prayer meeting each week with the primary purpose of praying for every church member.
I've also discovered that God we'll remind me to pray for other people. This sometimes seems coincidental although I'm not sure that it is. I may be going through a Walmart store, trying to pray for everybody I pass in the aisles, or sitting in the doctor's office praying through the waiting room. I see someone who reminds me of a brother or sister in Christ. I use that as a cue to pray for the person I remember as well as the person I see.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Praying for one another is a necessary element for tightening the bonds of fellowship in the church. Of course we need to pray for one another while we are in worship. Pray for the people seated around you or across the room from you. Pray for your pastor, the music leader, usher's, offering bearers. Pray for guests whom God would like to bring into the warmth of your fellowship. Nothing will make them feel as welcome as God touching their lives as you pray for them.

A man came up to me Sunday, and as we talked he said, “I have been thinking about you this week, feeling like I needed to pray for you.” I thanked him. And I told him I had had some illness and some spiritual attack last week. I believe God’s Spirit often calls people to our minds so we will pray for them. Ralph Speas once told my wife and I about his wife's mother calling in the middle of the night that she had a terrible burden to pray for their daughter. And she asked if they wouldn't go into her bedroom and check to see if she were all right. They went in and discovered a gas leak in the room, and their daughter being asphyxiated by it.

Sometimes the bond of Fellowship in a church is disrupted because there are people who just don't like one another in the church family. I think it was Tim Keller who said, “The church is the only organization in the world that is made up of natural enemies.” What do you do when you don't like someone, or someone in the church doesn't like you? You need to pray twice as much for that person. You will find this to be a holy discipline.
What if you have spiritual discernment, and you are terribly uncomfortable with someone in the church? Maybe you're convinced that someone is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Your prayers may be the primary protection for others in the church. And wouldn't it be wonderful if God did what He has sometimes done in the past, bringing about a Damascus Road miracle in that person's life?
There were times as a Pastor that I needed to confront someone in the church. I would not have dreamed of going to talk to them without having prayed for them with all of my heart. And it was always easier for me to go to someone, if I knew others had been praying for that person for months.

God binds us together in prayer.

Monday, December 4, 2017

A 24 Hour Prayer Room

Many years ago my parent's church began a 24 hour Prayer Room. I heard some powerful testimonies of what God did through this ministry. I was also blessed to see things God did in the lives of my family members and others I knew who participated.
Many of you are familiar with churches that have 24 hour prayer rooms. Some were large enough we may began that they did not have too much trouble filling the hours. Others went out on faith trusting God to help them fill the 168 prayer slots each week.
Churches appoint someone to organize and administer this ministry. They set aside a room usually with an outside entrance. And they invite and recruit people to sign up for specific prayer times. My parent's church encouraged people to have a prayer partner who signed up to pray with them each week. These churches place prayer requests and possibly a church roll in the room for people pray through. My parent's church put a telephone in the room and publicized the number for people to call to pray with someone 24 hours a day seven days a week.  
My nephew, Trent Young, was a very young man when they started the prayer room. And it had a profound effect upon his life. He wrote me this about the prayer room.
“I usually went in the after-midnight hours because I worked late, and these were always open. I was scared to death someone would call. But hardly anyone ever did. I spent a little time praying over requests. I mostly praised God and spent time with Him.
“I put in two or three hours there a couple of nights a week. I don't know why praying in the prayer room was more important than praying at home, but it seemed to be. My prayer life developed during this time. It was non-existent before.
“The regiment, the scheduled length of time and the accountability was helpful in training me to pray and developing my relationship with God. Everyone seems to think that one has to have a prayer life before joining a prayer room or even a prayer group. But I think the opposite. I think these are the schools that God uses to develop our prayer life.”
Max Alexander, one of the pastors of my parent’s church when they were starting the prayer time, told me they faced more spiritual attack at that time than he had ever seen in his life. But they seemed to have more victory in people’s lives than they had ever seen. God will bless a church that is this serious about prayer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


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.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


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.

Monday, October 30, 2017


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.

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?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Do your prayers reflect your purpose in life? I suspect they usually do. If the purpose of your life is success, your prayers will be driven by your ambition. If you just want to have fun, that purpose will certainly taint your prayer life. Is your ultimate purpose luxury or comfort? Do you live for pleasure? Is your life driven by fear or avoiding pain of any kind? Is your goal to always be at peace in yourself? That was not the purpose of our Lord.
In Matthew 12:27 Jesus said,
“Now is my heart troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”
Scripture could not declare that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, (Heb. 4:15) if He were spared inward disturbances. Does that mean we should never pray to be delivered from them? Not praying such prayers may never have occurred to you. But I think this is an important question to ask.
We know that Paul prayed for his thorn to be removed. (2 Cor. 12:8) Whatever Paul's thorn was, it disturbed him. He prayed three times for the Lord to take it away. Then he heard the Lord telling him that His power was made perfect in weakness.
Let me suggest some principles of God's purpose in our prayers.
First, you need to understand that God has a purpose for your life too. His ways are certainly as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth. (Isaiah 55:9) And we may need God to shake us pretty hard before we can can understand that pain may be an important part of His will, even His joy in us.
And we need to know that God will tell us what His will for us is. This may be too small of a way to look at this. God may be telling you His will for all the earth, for all of history or eternity. Such cosmic perspective is crucial to our prayers and even our comfort in difficult and painful situations.
We need to trust that God's will is good. But to see problems as good we have to see the larger picture. You have to cultivate a whole life view of happiness. You need to see your growing faith and promised hope to properly rejoice in God's grace. The life of Annie Johnson Flint was crushed by grief, sorrow, disease and physical pain. I am convinced that God used her suffering to show her glories the rest of us hardly glimpse. Among many others she wrote this hymn.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving has only begun.
Here is the chorus.
His love has no limits. His grace has no measure.
His power no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again!
Is God molding your perspective and growing your prayers? Are you praying for or against God's purpose?