All in Prayer
I don't know a single Christian who doesn't desire a deeper prayer life.
Each month I teach a discipleship class at Redemption and naturally, prayer is a central topic. Halfway through the class we have a time for table discussion about areas in which individuals desire to grow. I have yet to teach one class in which the vast majority of people did not express a desire for a deeper prayer life.
Prayer is arguably the most important practice in the Christian life, yet often the most neglected. How do you explain that? Why do we desire to pray more, but struggle to do so?
There is no one answer. There are a great number of realities that are ruining our prayer lives. Here are five:
Preachers aren’t the only people who need to pray prior to the preaching of God’s word. Every Christian should spend time in prayer before sitting under a sermon. If your pastor is a faithful Bible teacher then each week you have the opportunity to hear God speak in a heart-altering, life-changing manner. This should be taken seriously and prepared for properly.
If you want the most out of the next sermon you listen to, here are five prayer requests for those listening to preaching:
Prayer is the most effective and often neglected tool in the preparation of a sermon. It should go without saying (though sadly it cannot), that the preparation of a sermon requires meditating on the text, reading commentary, studying cultural background, and the hard work of illustrating and applying God’s word in a way that’s helpful.
However, no amount of study will make up for a lack of supplication. Ingenuity won’t cover up the obvious absence of intercession for the church body. Rhetorical power is a sorry substitute for prayer-soaked proclamation.
The preacher preps the sermon, but prayer preps the preacher.
People should have a sense that their preacher has been much with God and prayer is an indispensable means of doing just that. But what should we as preachers be praying for? Here are 5 prayer requests for preachers:
Every parent has high hopes for their children. We all want our kids to be “well-adjusted” (whatever that means), healthy, successful, and most of us pray our kids marry somebody great. While I share all of these hopes for my kids, I have one desire for them towering above the rest: I want each of my kids to know and love Jesus.
Sadly, many of us have abdicated this responsibility, delegating the shepherding of our children to the local church. Obviously, the local church has a crucial role to play in the spiritual formation of children, but God’s goal is for discipleship to start in the home. This demands the “God-talk” described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. At breakfast, on the way to school, sitting around the house, playing games, watching TV, mealtimes - there is never a time we cannot and should not engage the hearts of our kids in spiritual matters.
As a parent of three young kids (Ava 5, Ryder 3, Lincoln 1) I always want to look for these opportunities to talk about Jesus and we’ve found regular family devotions to be the best way to plant the seeds from which these everyday conversations can grow - especially while our kids are young.
We’ve struggled to find the right manner and method. I’ve read a number of books, listened to some lectures, and asked lots of friends how they practice family devotions and finally we’re starting to feel like we’re figuring it out…I think…maybe…at least right now :-) It’s hard work and requires constant attention. In our house, we’ve found that effective family devotions are made up of three basic rhythms…
As a preacher, I'm regularly asked how long it takes me to write a sermon. My go-to answer is, "It depends on how much I've prayed." I see a direct correlation between the quality of my preparation/preaching and the quality of my praying.
For many pastors, myself included, prayer can be the easiest aspect of sermon prep to skip. This, however, is a grave error. The preacher preps the sermon, but prayer preps the preacher. Prayer is what prepares our hearts to proclaim God's Word. Prayer is what gives preaching power in the pulpit.
My journal is filled with desperate prayers concerning what have often felt like daunting problems.
A few weeks ago I woke up one morning knowing the day before me held the possibility of a handful of these daunting problems. I immediately felt the all too familiar anxiety and apprehension surrounding what I hoped to accomplish and what needed to be done.
But suddenly I was struck by a very different reality...
"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength..."
"I can't do this anymore..."
"What's the point of this..."
"I think it would be easier to just give up..."
These are the types of thoughts that mark seasons of weariness in our lives. Weariness is the state of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion. It's a fatigue that extends to every facet of life and remains a reality that all Christians face. The prophet Isaiah meant to make this clear when he pictured the strongest, healthiest, highest capacity person he could and said even they grow weary.
(For full sermon audio, listen here...)
Many of us don’t pray or we feel very insecure when we do, because we’re uncertain HOW to pray. Prayer is not about getting what we want, forcing God’s hand, or fulfilling a religious obligation. It’s about relating with God.
If anyone is going to teach you how to pray, wouldn’t you want it to be Jesus? The good news is He has done exactly that in Matthew 6:5-15.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, it’s important to note He advised them to “Pray then like this” (v.9) He didn’t say “pray this specific prayer” or “pray these exact words”. While we shouldn't pray this prayer mindlessly, Jesus did provide us with five signs, or categories to guide our prayer life:
Our failure to pray is fraught with excuses. See if you can find yourself in one of these five reasons we fail to pray:
Of course you have. We all have. Some of us have begged, implored, and pleaded with God to move in a particular manner and been left feeling like our prayers fell on deaf ears. In my experience, one of the primary reasons people struggle to believe in the goodness of God is unanswered prayer
We've all experienced one of those seasons we simply didn't believe we could endure. One of those seasons where life was hard and we were so tired we just weren't sure we could take any more. A sickness. A job loss. A divorce. A death. The seasons change, but the fatigue remains.
I don't know about you, but my prayers tend to be more fervent in these seasons. Typically, they sound like this: "Lord, please deliver me out of this season. I can't take any more. I just want this to end. Please make it stop!"
At Redemption we are meticulous about keeping track of our numbers. This is NOT because we find our identity in, nor measure our worth by the numbers, but because behind every number is a name. Every number is a life that has been influenced and impacted by Jesus.
Last week we had a members meeting and Ashely Herr, one of our elders, put together a presentation that served as a celebration of God's grace in and through our church, as well as an incredible blessing to our church family.
Here are some of the things we celebrated in a few areas of focus at Redemption:
I was frustrated - which in and of itself is not an abnormal experience for me, unfortunately. I was in the midst of one of the few short walks I take each day, trudging around the neighborhood next to my office, wrestling through one of the many leadership issues every pastor faces on a regular basis. In this particular situation I had tried everything I could think of. I did not know what to do. I was tired of trying to figure it out.It was into this ever-growing frustration that the Holy Spirit spoke a simple question that stopped me in my tracks.
One of my goals for this year has been to pursue growth in my prayer life. To do so, I have been reading, studying, and most importantly, praying. By God's grace I am seeing growth and have found these three things to be crucial to the consistent increase of fervent prayer.
One of the great mistakes a Christian can make in his, or her life is to overcomplicate prayer. Prayer is not complicated. Prayer is difficult for most of us, sure, but it's not complicated. At the root of all our petitioning of God in prayer is really the same prayer: