All tagged prayer
I don’t love confrontational conversations. When I have one coming down the chute it occupies a huge sum of mind-share. I worry about it going poorly. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry about my heart being unclear. I worry about hurting the person.
In short, I’m not a fan of conflict. I actually don’t know any sane person who is. Regardless of my discomfort, conflict remains a part of relationship in a fallen world. If you’re going to relate with someone, a time will come when you have to confront them about something. It may be something they said or did that hurt you. It may be a blind spot in their lives that is a problem. The context will change, but the inevitability of conflict will not.
Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I've found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation:
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:
Pastors always have plenty to do.
There is always another meeting to attend, sermon to write, class to teach, decision to make, counsel to give, etc. If we are not careful, our calendars can quickly fill to the point of being unrealistic. This is one reason so many pastors burn out.
What most pastors are not honest about, or maybe even in touch with, is what truly drives our over-busyness. Too many pastors don’t trust the God we preach. We betray our disbelief when we try to be saviors instead of the stewards God has called us to be. In his book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson cuts to the heart of this over-busyness problem:
“The word 'busy' is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective 'busy' set as a modifier to 'pastor' should sound to our ears like 'adulterous' to characterize a wife or 'embezzling' to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” (P.27)
Having a fruitful life and full schedule is a good thing. We should work hard and spend ourselves making Jesus known. But busy to the point of burnout is a problem. It’s a problem for the pastor and it’s a problem for the church.
Busyness becomes a problem when what we CAN do crowds out what we MUST do. We can do all kinds of things, but there are at least three things that must be prioritized in the pastor’s life…
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:
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.
Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Despite the clarity of this verse, “weary” is the way I’d describe many of the Christians I know. Understand, when I say “weary” I don’t mean “tired.” A nap will take care of tired. Weariness is a soul fatigue that impacts every facet of life.
The good news is, nobody simply wakes up weary one day. We wind up weary after an extended time of neglecting the means God has given us to draw our strength from Him. In essence, weariness is what happens when we try to be God.
I’ve written previously on how to get through a season of weariness, but it’s equally important that we identify the behaviors that cause the weariness in the first place. Here are seven ways to wind up weary:
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.
Every preacher knows the discouragement of looking out on an obviously disengaged audience - glassy stares, confused looks, slowly closing eyes just moments from a nap - it's awful. While some of the responsibility lands in the laps of our listeners, most of the responsibility is ours as preachers.
Our job is to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15). That's the command the apostle Paul gave young Timothy - a green, insecure, uncertain pastor in a jacked up situation.
I am part of a tribe that takes this task seriously. We preach the Word week in and week out. We don't play games with God's Word. But, if we're not careful we can make the mistake of believing that faithful preaching means nothing more than mere accuracy. I believe Paul's encouragement to Timothy begs more than accuracy alone.
Here are seven reasons people might hate our preaching (even if it's Biblically accurate)…
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:
Preaching is draining work. A faithful Bible preacher labors week after week to carefully and prayerfully craft sermons in a way that are faithful, helpful, and clear.
All the while they see the faces of actual people God has entrusted to their care. They see their victories, their trials, their suffering, and their sin. They hear their fears, doubts, and their prayers. All of this adds to the weight of bringing a word from God that will build them up, encourage them, feed them, and challenge them.
If you are a preacher, you have done it. You have been right in the middle of preaching your sermon and used that illustration you had a feeling might flop, but decided to take the risk anyway. Then it happens.
It detonates in your face and all you want to do is sit down and let the band come back on and play. Maybe it was unnecessarily offensive, distracting, or not thought through. Maybe it made no sense, confused people, or wound up serving no purpose whatsoever.
"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 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.
The truth is, apart from God, creation is hard-wired for weariness.
I've always been oddly interested in the process various pastors use in preparing to preach. Not just the textual work and crafting of the sermon, but specifically their day of preparation. Personally, I've seen over and over how the quality of my preparation directly impacts the quality of my proclamation. My Sunday morning schedule has changed with our facilities, service times, and other factors, but here's my current Sunday morning process for preparing to preach.
Four years ago I instituted a semi-regular retreat day into my schedule for the purpose of prayer, fasting, and personal planning. Few things have grown and blessed my soul, my family, and my ministry like regularly withdrawing to engage with Jesus in this way. This practice started for me when I heard another pastor at a conference mention that he took a regular retreat day as one of his spiritual rhythms, so I decided to give it a shot. It was uncomfortable early on, as I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't have any real plan. Some of my retreat days were fruitful and some of them were, quite frankly, awful.