Posts Tagged With: prayer

He Understands Our Heavy Hearts

He understands what heavy hearts we have sometimes, when under a sense of sin.  Satan says to us, “Why should you pray? How can you hope to prevail? In vain, thou sayest, I will arise and go to my Father, for thou art not worthy to be one of his hired servants.  How canst thou see the king’s face after thou hast played the traitor against him?  How wilt thou dare to approach unto the altar when thou hast thyself defiled it, and when the sacrifice which thou wouldst bring there is a poor polluted one?”  O brethren, it is well for us that we are commanded to pray, or else in times of heaviness we might give it up.  If God command me, unfit as I may be, I will creep to the footstool of grace; and since he says, “Pray without ceasing,” though my words fail me and my heart itself will wander, yet I will still stammer out the wishes of my hungering soul and say, “O God, at least teach me to pray and help me to prevail with thee.”

— Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), The Golden Key of Prayer, from “12 Sermons on Prayer.”

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Your Prayers Matter, Church: The Connection Between Praying and Not Losing Heart (or Not Praying and Losing Heart)

In reading through Luke 18 this morning, Luke tells us the point of the upcoming parable of Jesus by saying, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).  I believe this connection is lost on many populating the pews in our churches–and maybe even the pulpits as well.

When we fail to pray, we fail to connect with the perspective and purpose of our Heavenly Father.  Therefore, all we focus on are the frailties, failings, and foibles that happen in us in all around us.

I love what the study notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible say:

Our perspective is limited and our vision is clouded.  Holy Scripture continually reminds us that God is truly for us in Jesus.  We need this constant reminder of God’s kind heart and great power toward us as we fight against our inherent unbelief.  We now belong to him.  He is our advocate.  He delights to care for us and to defend us.

Without Christ-centered prayer focused on God’s will and way, we leave ourselves to our own devices.  We, in essence, believe we are “god enough” (if you will) to handle the day-to-days.  We rest in our own knowledge, rely on our own wisdom, and recognize our own wonder in moving things forward.

And yet, when our failings rise, we could listen to Osteen who would tell us basically to draw deep from our own goodness and destiny that God has planted in us.  How unsustainable!  We can take his advice and plow our own future–and lose heart when we come to the end of that highway (and yes, I said when–it will happen).

Or we can pray out of our frailties, feebleness, failings, and foibles, trusting in the One who is able, and not lose heart because our rest is in Him.  He is our Father and will listen to us (Luke 18:8).

In a beautiful scene in Revelation 8, the Lamb is opening the seventh seal–after which heaven was silent for one-half hour.  The seven angels stood before God and were given seven trumpets.  But verse 3 is a joy to read:

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throneand the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

I cannot add to what John Piper preached in a sermon on this very topic, and rejoice that not only does God hear our prayers, but they are an instrument for the judgment to come at the end of the world.

The utterly astonishing thing about this text is that it portrays the prayers of the saints as the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world with great divine judgments. It pictures the prayers of the saints accumulating on the altar before the throne of God until the appointed time when they are taken up like fire from the altar and thrown upon the earth to bring about the consummation of God’s kingdom.

In other words, what we have in this text is an explanation of what has happened to the millions upon millions of prayers over the last 2,000 years as the saints have cried out again and again, “Thy kingdom come . . . Thy kingdom come.” Not one of these prayers, prayed in faith, has been ignored. Not one is lost or forgotten. Not one has been ineffectual or pointless. They have all been gathering on the altar before the throne of God.

So the continued connection between praying and not losing heart is that not only will God hear, but He will judge in righteousness at the consummation of all things, and will vindicate His people based on His righteousness purchased at the cross and seal at the resurrection.

Do not lose heart, church!  Pray!  God will hear.

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Firing Up the Great Commission Engine Through Prayer

Starting this past Sunday, our deacons are taking turns—two by two—to pray for me and for our church during the preaching time.  They situate themselves in our fellowship hall, directly beneath the pulpit to pray.  Below is a sample prayer guide I give them to help them pray through what I’m preaching.

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Deacon Prayer Guide
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Deacons,

Thank you so much for sacrificing your time to pray for us during the service. Our people need this, you need this, and I definitely know I need this. More and more, I recognize my dependence on Christ in preaching, pastoring, and leading this church to where He called me—and there’s no place on the planet I’d rather be.

This morning, I will preach out of the familiar book of Jonah. Jonah is a complex character—running from God’s call, then recognizing God’s saving power, preaching from mixed motives, then angry that God is a saving God.

The title of the sermon is “A God Who’s Not Confined.” We cannot run away from God’s presence, resist his power, nor rebel against His passion for all people—even the brutal, cruel Ninevites, sworn enemies of Israel.

Below is a prayer guide to go through during the preaching time.

  1. Pray that God would give me clarity of thought and speech for the clear Word to go forth (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5), and that the Spirit would give the church ears to hear (Revelation 2-3).
  2. Read Jonah 1.
    • Pray that when God calls us as individual believers or as a church to do something, we would run toward His will and presence, and not away from it.
    • Pray that God would work in an around us to keep us in His will, even if it’s rough (like the tempest on the sea).
    • Pray that even pagans and those who worship false gods would see the power of God in creation, and seek Him in salvation—like those men on that ship who ultimately confessed worship to the living God (1:16).
  3. Read Jonah 2.
    • Pray all would see God’s working in their lives to bring them to Himself in Christ.
    • Pray all would repent and confess that Christ is king and Lord over all aspects of life (“For you cast me into the deep… all your waves and your billows passed over me.”) 
    • Pray that no matter where people are, they are not too far from God’s saving presence and power (“Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple (v. 4b). . . “My prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (v. 7)).
  4. 4. Read Jonah 3.
    • Pray for those who have resisted God’s call to salvation and to ministry would repent and go as God calls again (3:3).
    • Pray your pastor and all would speak God’s message, no matter how silly or somber the world sees it, and we would be enthralled at the glory and power of the Word of God to change hearts even today.
    • Pray that hearts would be broken, and the hardest hearts would repent from the eternal disaster to come—from the kings and presidents on down.
  5. Read Jonah 4
    • Pray for the hearts of our people who say they are Christians, yet in their heart of hearts want justice accomplished rather than grace extended to enemies.
    • Pray that our people would see the passion that God has for His glory among all peoples.
    • Pray that we would never believe we deserve His grace while others do not (be it the common grace of a plant, or the special grace of salvation). Pray we would all see we are sinners, deserving nothing but the hottest hell, and yet Christ comes to redeem us from what we deserve. Pray we would not care about our own comfort more than the eternal discomfort of the nations—or our neighbors.
  6. Pray that, as ARBC is a missions hub, that all believers would welcome new guests and befriend them; that all would unashamedly brag on Jesus and His church; and that God would provide opportunities to witness for Christ.

This will be a work in progress, but hopefully you will get the idea. I encourage you to listen to the sermon once it’s posted online so you can hear what you missed and hear what you prayed for. May we continue to connect with our Lord Jesus in prayer. He is risen and He hears us, interceding for us even now. Be encouraged! God’s got great things in store.

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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Knowing these men pray for me during the service gives my heart no end of joy.  So, please pray for our prayer life.  That with the Word is the fuel that fires the Great Commission Engine.

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What are the Top Excuses for Not Praying?

D.A. Carson, in his book Spiritual Reformation, outlines six reasons on why we do not pray.  I recommend reading the entire article (HT:  Monergism). 

  1. I am too busy.
  2. I feel too spiritually dry to pray.
  3. I feel no need to pray.
  4. I am too bitter to pray.
  5. I am too ashamed to pray.
  6. I am content with mediocrity.

The last one contains (as they all do) contains some fleshing out.  But this must be included in this blog post:

Some Christians want enough of Christ to be identified with him but not enough to be seriously inconvenienced; they genuinely cling to basic Christian orthodoxy but do not want to engage in serious Bible study; they value moral probity, especially of the public sort, but do not engage in war against inner corruptions; they fret over the quality of the preachers sermon but do not worry much over the quality of their own prayer life. Such Christians are content with mediocrity.

Read the rest here.  Worth your time!

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Still Gotta Study War Some More: How to Stay Strong in the Spirit (Part III: Prayer)

In verse 18, Paul continues on when he says, “Praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” Prayer and supplication are very similar. When Paul tells us that he prays in the Spirit, he prays with confidence of the protection and the hope that he has based upon what the word has said. He can pray with confidence knowing that God will keep this promise and will provide grace and help in time of need. When we see the phrase pray in the Spirit, many believe this refers to simply speaking in tongues.

But even if you believe that the tongues are still spiritual gift being used now, we know from Scripture that not everyone has all of the gifts. To some he gives certain gifts into others, others. Praying in the Spirit simply means praying in accordance to what the Word says because we know that is God’s Holy Word. Since we know that the Spirit inspired these 40 men to write the word then praying in the spirit means we are praying in accordance with God’s will. Even if we are not praying and requesting his will, our heart of hearts what’s God’s will to be done, even if it’s not ours. So we pray in the Spirit wanting not our will but his will to be done.

Paul does something that I so appreciate he asks for us to pray and keep alert all personal errands making supplication for all the saints. Our new pastor of discipleship and administration, Adam Embry, came in and developed a prayer guide for the members of our church. We will be having these out tonight but we will also make them available for those of you who can not make it to Sunday evening services. In this prayer guide, we will be praying for five of the families each day that are members here at our church. After 31 days, we will have pray for all the families. Is this not a wonderful thing to do to pray for those in our church who may have it together and who may not have it together, who may seem to have it together on a Sunday, but Monday through Saturday is a struggle? We know that if Monday through Saturday is a struggle, and that can certainly affect the corporate worship time on Sunday. We will be praying for the Saints and we hope the same to be praying for us look at what it said verse 19.

And also pray for me, that words may be given to me an opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am in chains as an ambassador, but I made the clear it boldly as I ought to speak.

Pastors, teachers, evangelists, and all those who are in the ministry need your prayers. We know from statistics that 1500 pastors and ministers leave the ministry every single month.  It could be for moral failure, fatigue, dealing with ungodly church folks, and a myriad of other reasons. Many ministers say that being in the ministry has a negative affect on their family life. Many who stay in the ministry our hair’s breadth away from leaving the ministry. They recognize God has called to lead them spiritually, what the world has gotten into such a way in their hearts that they do not wish to be led spiritually, but the simply have their lives affirmed and condoned.

This is why the Apostle Paul asks that he would be able to preach boldly and to preach clearly the mystery of the gospel. and personally that the request that I have all of you, that I would be willing and able to clearly and boldly declare the Word of God.

Back in Kentucky, I had a member at my church and her name is Linda Moon. Linda is a very important part of our lives for the eight years that I was in Kentucky. She had a heart to serve she has a heart to love she has a heart for people to know Jesus. Even with all the physical issues that she is dealing with, that does not stop for. Even when we were in Trinidad with her back and foot issues, she always said that Jesus was carrying. She had a habit every Sunday morning and not just while I was in Kentucky, but she also leaves a message on Cindy’s phone what we’ve been here in Colorado. And every time she says I put your armor on. Why? Because she wanted her pastor and she wanted her church protected from the fiery darts of the devil. She wanted more than anything for us to be strong in the Lord weather in Kentucky, or in Colorado.

And we have to ask ourselves where we wish to find our strength do we find our strength in buildings, budgets, or bodies. This body must find strength in Christ who supplies the armor to protect his body. Are we exposed are we ready? We’ve heard the story the emperor has no clothes. that’s terrible for an emperor. It’s even worse for a church, for the body of Christ.

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The Five Points of Criticism–and How to Respond

The book of Nehemiah is a fascinating account of how God instills a vision for His glory and the good of His people, then how God works in Nehemiah and the surrounding circumstances to carry it out.

But challenges arose–significant challenges that could only be withstood by a man whose heart was gripped by God’s call on his life.  Nehemiah’s task was to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, for the destruction of the city and its walls left it exposed to enemy threat and pilfering.  When Nehemiah heard the account of Jerusalem from other Jews who had visited there, he wept and prayed (Nehemiah 1:1-11).  Through this, God galvanized him in approaching the king, asking for materials and safe conduct to rebuild the wall, and to rally the troops to go help.
But those challenges.  They came in the form of Five-Point Critics.  How so?  Nehemiah chapters 4 and 6 give a blueprint for us to spot out the Tobiahs and the Sanballats of our walk.  Here’s how to spot the ungodly, selfish critics that may come our way.
  1. The quality of the workers. When Sanballat saw that they were moving ahead and rebuilding the wall, he said, “What are these feeble Jews doing?”  Critics will go after your qualifications, your experience, your supposed strengths.  What fuels them?  Envy, jealousy, power?  For Sanballat, it was anger and rage.   Who knows what lies in the heart of man, except that the heart is evil and desperately wicked above all things–who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)?  The end product is discouragement.
  2. The quantity of the work.  “Will they restore it themselves?  Will they sacrifice?  Will they finish up in a day?  Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that” (Neh. 4:2b)?  Critics see the bigness of the task.  Christ-followers see the bigness of Christ who calls to the task.
  3. The quality of the work.  Tobiah chimes in:  “Yes, what they are building, a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall” (Neh. 4:3).  Self-explanatory, yes, but we see that these critics discourage by questioning the structural soundness of this wall.
  4. The quantity of the critics.  Critics breed more critics–it’s a contagious disease, to be sure.  “But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward… they were very angry … and they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and cause confusion in it” (Neh.  4:7-8).  Critics come together like birds of a feather to work to undermine God’s work and will.  When God continues to move regardless of their complaints, they recruit more critics to fight and confuse.  They will do whatever it takes to get their way and slow down the process of the sanctifying momentum among God’s people.
  5. The cruelty of the critics.  Nehemiah shows an enemy warned by Shemaiah that they would come to kill Nehemiah, so he should lock himself up in the Temple for protection (Neh 6:10).  If they cannot frustrate the plans, they will destroy the one executing the plans–even if those plans come from God himself.
How did they respond?
  1. Nehemiah prayed (4:4-5). (“Hear, O our God, for we are despised… .”)
  2. Nehemiah kept moving (4:6). (“So we built the wall.”)
  3. Nehemiah left the fighting to God (4:20). (“Our God will fight for us.”)
  4. Nehemiah remember the great work and wouldn’t come down (6:3). (“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”)
  5. Nehemiah held fast, even when death would possibly approach from his enemies (6:11). (“Should such a man as I run away?”)
  6. Nehemiah did his homework on his enemies (6:12-13).  (“And I understood and saw that God had not sent him.”)
  7. Nehemiah prayed again (and again, and again, and again)(6:14).  (“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things they did.”)
  8. Nehemiah persevered until completion (6:15). (“So the wall was finished… .”)
  9. Nehemiah used it as an opportunity to teach the people to give glory to God for His blessings (Neh 8-9).  (“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave sense, so that the people understood the reading.”)
  10. They praised God by dedicating the wall to Him–putting into practice what they had been taught:  give glory to God for His amazing grace (Nehemiah 12). (“And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”)
So much more could be said.  Criticisms will come, dear Christian.  God warns us about this–and gives us the prescription to respond.  Praise Him for His kind providence in Christ Jesus.

[Addendum:  I just noticed that 9 Marks had a blog post from a few years back on the Five Points of Criticism on how to engage in godly criticism–worth reading, I might add.]

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Who Is Serving the Church Most Today?

‎”The value of intercessory prayer is tremendous. So often we view those leading the forces of God against the enemies, like Moses, as the most important people serving the church. We forget the value of the ‘Aarons’ and ‘Hurs’ who are holding up the blessing hands of prayer (Ex. 17:12). If the Aarons and Hurs tire, Moses’ hands droop, and the church gains and accomplishes nothing. Who is serving the church most today? It may well be the intercessors, whom few would know by name.”

–James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke, Developing a Healthy Prayer Life, p. 26

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“A Call to Prayer” by J.C. Ryle

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever read on the topic of prayer was penned by Bishop J.C. Ryle called A Call to Prayer (via Grace Gems).  He hooks you right from the beginning:

I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY?

The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers or not your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.

I beseech you in all affections to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray. Do not tell me that my question is necessary. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you good reason for asking it.

Take time to read this.  Save it as a PDF and put it in your Kindle.  You will be challenged, encouraged, and hopefully more prayerful to the one who ransomed your soul! 

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Gospel Gripped Fellowship Book for March: Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke

March is coming up quickly–actually tomorrow. I am happy to share the book of the month. Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke. The subtitle: 31 Meditations on Communing with God. Let’s take time to read this and post some insights from the Beekes and even our own insights. Let’s be a people of prayer!

Here’s the description found on Amazon:

Is your prayer life characterized by such things as sincerity, urgency, and delight? Engagement in prayer is a vital part of our communion with God, making a profound impact on our growth in grace. In this book, you will find thoughtful meditations on prayer in the life of the believer, as well as ample encouragement to cultivate this spiritual discipline in your own life. If you want to be more devoted to prayer, or simply want to assess the health of your prayer life, read this book. It provides both a helpful examination and a needed tonic for those concerned about growing in godliness.

What better way to prepare for Resurrection Sunday on March 31 than to saturate our lives in prayer? 

If you are on Facebook, you can join the Gospel Gripped Fellowship group and contribute to the conversation.  Otherwise, feel free to contact us via this website.  Let’s take time to pursue this discipline together!

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A God Who Hears in House and Home (Psalm 5)

The Takeaway:  “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.  Devotion should be both the morning. . . and the evening star” (Charles Spurgeon).

1. Rejoice in God that He hears the prayers of the saints (Psalm 5:1-3).

When we pray, do we pray with a sense of urgency (“Give ear,” “Consider,” “Give attention.”) or do we take Him for granted? This is a promise only for the saints: God will hear your prayers (whether with words, groaning, or cries). He is “my King and my God.”

2. Recognize that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked (5:4-6).

Sin cannot dwell in the God’s presence, and shouldn’t dwell in God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Those who exalt ‘self’ over the Savior will not dwell with Christ in heaven because they see no need for a Savior. In His justice, God does not delight in wickedness, but will destroy it. May none of us be in that number (139:23-24).

3. Realize that God’s hesed love permits us to approach Him with confidence (5:7-8).

Hesed in Hebrew is God’s steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness in one term. God’s love comes to rescue; God’s mercy comes to cleanse our sin; and God’s faithfulness stays with His people, even in the midst of their unfaithfulness. Christians have a longing to be led by our Lord Jesus, who took our sin (love and mercy) and gave us God’s righteousness (faithfulness).

4. Rebellion against God is made clear by their words (5:9-10).

Here, David brings out the words of the wicked. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:33-37). Paul takes verse 9 and implements it in Romans 3 to show how everyone is a slave to sin and in need of rescue. The wicked will “fall by their own counsels.”

5. Refuge in Christ brings blessings and joy abundantly (5:11-12).

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Magnify: As you magnify our Lord Jesus this week, praise Him that He is one who hears the prayers of those who are His, and is just toward those who reject Him and His plan of rescue. We cannot magnify our Savior and self (Matthew 6:19-24).

Mature: We cannot mature in our relationship with our Lord Jesus without communing and connecting with Him in prayer. And we must continue to ask him to search out any wickedness or blind spots that may keep His light from shining full and free in and through us.

Minister: We can enter the house of worship here at ARBC by way of God’s overflowing steadfast love. The hesed love of God’s mercy-steadfast love-faithfulness is something desperately needed to be worked in us and through us. Read Luke 18:11-14—let us make sure we are not simply looking at external righteousness, but pray for the internal working of the Spirit in everyone!

Mobilize: Do we believe that those outside of Christ really understand their condition and position before God? Do we really believe that the wicked “have rebelled against you” (5:10)? If this truth about their condition and position has set it, how do you believe that God would have us react to them? Do we recognize we were there before Christ rescued us? Do we believe Christ will rescue them? Are we ready to be used as His instrument of rescue? May God help us realize His hesed love may be theirs as well—not just ours!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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