Before you open your mouth

If you could ask God for anything right now, what would you ask? If you had one prayer to pray, what would you pray? Here is a request for prayer that hit me hard this week,

“Pray for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” – Ephesians 6:19-20

These are not my words. These words are from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (6:19-20). He said them following his teaching on spiritual warfare. The apostle gave more time and space to talk about prayer than any other weapon. He gives us three powerful truths to think about before opening your mouth.

Pray for opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Ephesians 6:19a).

Everyday you proclaim many things. You talk about the news or weather, the football match from the night before, how your work or health is going, how you are having trouble with your neighbors, or how the preacher went really long on Sunday at church.

On average women say 20,000 words a day and men 7,000 words a day. That’s a lot of words! No, this is not a message encouraging women to speak less and men to speak more. Rather it is to encourage you to consider the opportunities you have each day to speak. Isn’t it important to pause and pray. Pray that God would give you a good word.

What should we pray? Paul says pray for opportunities to proclaim the good news. In other letters he says to pray for open doors for the good news. Pray for readiness and a response for the hope that is in you.

I’d like to say that before I visit my neighbors house I pray. Or before I chat with a group of men at the market I pray. Or before work with others I pray. Sometimes I neglect to pray.

There is a story in Acts 4:24-31 when Peter and John healed a blind the beggar in Jesus name. It caused a lot of attention and they were invited to speak before the the leaders. After they were released they gathered with believers and told them what happened. They asked them pray. Here is what they prayed,

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” – Acts 4:24-31

It is interesting how the believers start that prayer by appealing to the sovereignty of the Lord. They quote David speaking about how the nations gather together against the Lord, and how Herod and Pontius Pilot conspired against the Lord, but at the end of the day God is in control. When there is resistance to the name of Christ, a recognition of the sovereignty of God and His plan is of utmost importance.

Prayer isn’t passive, it’s active. Prayer is really doing something. Prayer isn’t the least you can do, it’s the most. Prayer is never secondary, it’s always primary. It’s not the last thing you do when there is no other option; it’s the first and best thing to do. If there is no prayer, there is no power. Prayer is trusting God that He can accomplish more when you are on your knees than you can accomplish on your feet.

Prayer warriors with no real grasp of what the gospel is all about, may be spirited, but they are no more useful on the field than a soldier without weapons. That leads us to the second truth before opening your mouth.

Proclaim the Gospel (6:19b).

What is the gospel?  The gospel is good news. There are many things that are good. A house that doesn’t leak when it rains is good. Fried chicken is good. A faithful friend is good. Marriage is good. Healthy children are good.

What is the good news? Before we zero in on what the good news is let’s begin by talking about what the good news is not.

The good news is not about having a good character. Some people think a Christian is someone who don’t drink, smoke or chew or go with girls that do. Yes, it is true Christians are different. Christians aren’t to be like the world. They are to be more like Christ. On the other hand, some Christians only talk about the good they do. They brag about how much they pray, go to church, or even fast. Being good is good, but it is not the good news.

The good news is not talking good about God or religious things. Maybe when talking with friend or stranger you bless them in God’s name. They think you are religious because you have religious talk. That is good, but it ’s not the good news.

The good news is not doing good things for God or people. I work with an organization that does good things everyday to help poor and needy people. Other like-minded organizations fight hard for social issues and justice. Christians all over the world have done good—building hospitals, building wells, and freeing slaves. These are good things, but this is not the gospel.

These are all good things. We should be good people, who say good things and do good things, but that is not the good news. There are a lot of people who do and say good things, but ‘good’ people go to hell too.

The Scripture talks a lot about good news. What is the good news and why is it so good? In order for there to be good news there has to be bad news. Do you want to hear the good news or bad news first? Good. Let’s hear the good news first.

The good news first starts with God. God is good. He is more than good. He is great. He is holy. He is wise. He is unlike no other. He is powerful. He created the world by his word. He created it good. He created man from the dust and breathed life into his. He created man very good. He cares for his creation. That is really good news. Could you imagine what this life would be like if God wasn’t like God. Not good.

That leads us to the bad news. Yes, there is bad news. When God created man he gave them one rule. One. What was that rule? Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Did man listen? No. What happened? Man did not listen. When God came to the garden. Man hid. Why did he hide? He was ashamed. Can anyone hide from God? No. Who did God call first? Adam. Why Adam? God created Adam first. Adam was made responsible. When asked if he ate the fruit how did Adam respond? He said, “The woman made ma eat it.” Is that true? Yes and No. Yes, Adam ate, BUT he was there when she ate too and he did nothing. Not good. When God asked Eve if she ate the fruit what did she say? She said the serpent made her eat it. Both Adam and Eve took no responsibility for their disobedience. Therefore, they were cursed. They were created eternal beings, but they would now die. All their children and children’s children would inherit their desire to sin. Not good. The bad news is that no one is born good.

Thankfully there is even better news. God did not start over. He didn’t leave his plan or forget man. He did not utterly wipe humans from the face of the earth. Before creation he had a plan to send a redeemer—a Savior. He himself came to earth. Jesus was his name. God with skin on. We celebrated this on Christmas. Jesus lived the only sinless life. He became the only sacrifice for mankind sin.  The really good news is that Jesus saves people born bad.

Why is the gospel so important and good? Without it bad news remains. You remain dead in sin. Yet there is no hope for you. The good news. Do you believe it? Only the gospel has power to make something dead become alive. Those that repent of their sin and believe on Jesus will inherit eternal life.  That is good news! It is the greatest news on earth! Do you believe it? Then will you proclaim it? That brings me to the third and final truth before opening your mouth.

Proclaim the gospel boldly without excuse (6:19-20).

Why did Paul ask for prayer for assurance or courage? Did he fear man. Yes. He was human. Fear is a real thing for everyone. Even apostles.

Did you know there are some Muslims who are coming to faith in Christ? It is truth. It is exciting. Right now there are a small group of men who are reading the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. God is giving them faith to believe. One of those men recently came to faith in Christ two months ago. His name is Mark. He grew up the firstborn son in a strict Muslim family. His teacher at secondary school was a Christian from southern Chad. After class that teacher would read his Bible under a tree. Mark was interested and would ask his teacher what he was reading. His teacher would explain that he was reading the Bible and share many stories. Mark wanted to read more of the Bible so the teacher gave him a copy, but his dad took it and burned it.

A few years later, another believer from a Muslim background was passing through his town. They met by a miracle of God and this believer invited Mark to come learn about the Bible at a workshop. He went. There he began hearing the stories of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and more. He asked for his own Bible and was eating it up. When he went back to his village his uncle found his Bible and ripped it up. That didn’t stop his interest.

A few months ago, while talking to my colleague and a member of this church he said, “I believe who Jesus says he is.” He repented of his sin and committed to following Jesus. Immediately, he had some fear. He knew if he were to tell his father he would likely be beaten, imprisoned, or disowned. He hid. Yet the Bible and the Spirit of God kept reminding him that the good news is not something to hide. After much prayer he decided to call his father and tell him he had become a Christian. His father did not take it well. He threatened to catch him and put him on house arrest. He threatened to disown his mother and siblings. He treated to cut off his inheritance. Mark risked a lot. Yet his faith is growing. Pray for Mark to be bold. May his example encourage us to be bold.

Paul says, “I am an ambassador in chains.” Why is he in prison? He proclaimed the good news. People don’t like the good news. Yet in prison, Paul has an opportunity. He has a captive audience. He asks for prayer to be bold to share where he is, even in prison.

You are an ambassador of the King of kings, the Commander of the armies of heaven. Speak as His representative with boldness. Do not be ashamed. Remember the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who do not know the gospel. The good news offends people, especially good people who say good things and do good things.

If everyone likes you and likes your message likely you aren’t sharing the good news. Jesus said to his followers. If you follow me you will be persecuted. Expect persecution. It is the way of a Jesus follower.

Have you heard of the Back to Jerusalem Movement? There are Christians in Chinese. Some 100,000,000 Christians. These Christians are praying to send 100,000 Chinese missionaries from China back to Jerusalem. Along the way they are praying to break the walls of Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Wow! Let’s pray for the Chinese believers. That is bold! May the church be that bold. May I be that bold.

What is your excuse for not being bold? What are you afraid of? What prevents you from sharing the good news? It is good news to you? Do you believe it? Will you begin by praying for an opportunity to share it? Will you pray for your boldness?

Will you pause for a moment, right now, and consider these questions and ask the Spirit of God how you should pray. Then pray. And act.

Advertisements

kneel to appeal

How I wonder, where I wonder
Is a place so far away
A place I wish to stay
And sin never causes sway.

Help me show and don’t say No
To life ever happy
Living without tragedy
And alone designed for me.

Does it exist beyond our bliss
Of reality this afternoon?
My nativity’s evil gloom
And worldly sorrowful tune.

Now is the time to find
Light in darkness’s way.
How beautifully shone today
As knees bend and tongues pray.

The fight is won, glory to the Son
To whom all is given fully
The Sacrifice nailed to a tree
and painfully done for me.

 

Revised from a poem I wrote on October 7, 1999
Source: Philippians 2:1-11

 

a reluctant prayer

Have there been prayers you’ve been reluctant to pray because you don’t know exactly how God will answer?

I know I have.  Today, I share a prayer from a ol’ prof of mine from college.  In the past year he has lost his best friend and soul mate.  In many ways he’s living out the answers to his prayer with a fitting title.  Before reading the prayer, it may help to have the back story from the author himself,

Was looking for a mailing envelope this morning to send a copy of Donna’s death certificate as part of what I hope is the last annuity transfer. Every time I do something like this, as I have said before, it is like erasing her a little at a time. Her name comes off the annuity, and now it’s just my name. All by itself. Looks very wrong, somehow, for it’s always been “Ed and Donna Chesley.” Simply “Ed Chesley” looks to be incomplete–and lonely. At any rate, in the course of looking for that envelope, I ended up looking through some of Donna’s teaching files. These files contained outlines and other material she used in speaking engagements and ladies’ group devotions. Shed quite a few tears, but I was impressed all over again at her spiritual wisdom and insight, presented clearly and simply. She used Chris and myself in one or two of them. She loved to teach kids and share with ladies but never felt she could do a good job or had anything of substance to offer. In that, she was very wrong. Donna was indeed a Proverbs 31 wife and a great servant of Her Lord. I was proud of her then; I am doubly proud now as I read through these notes. I also found in her files a prayer I had written years ago. It is not dated, but according to the material with which it was filed, I wrote it in 1995 or 1996. She must have used it in at least one of her speaking opportunities. Given my present circumstance, I thought I might be bold enough to share this with you. File it under the category “God may take you at your word.”

A Reluctant Prayer

Lord, I want you to be my Lord.

I want you to have all that I think is mine, but what, in fact, belongs to You.

If you need to break my heart by taking whatever I love but should not . . . then break it.

If you need to turn that at which I think I should succeed into failure . . . then make me a failure.

If you need to frustrate me by withholding the one thing I want most in this life . . . then disappoint me. But please forgive my bitter tears!

If you need to take all the time I have and give it to others . . . then take my time.

If what you need is my foolishness rather than the wisdom of which I am so proud . . . then make me a fool.

If you want in my life the thing I fear most . . . then frighten me. But please hold my hand!

If you know that I need trouble in my life more than comfort . . . then trouble me.

If you want my attention, then take those things that so easily distract me . . . and replace them with Yourself.

Lord, I do not ask for these things because I am noble . . . Oh, no! I will not insult you by saying how much I want these things. You know me better than that–better than anyone, for You know my heart. You know how reluctantly I pray this prayer.

But I know that what you want for me is best . . .so help me to trust you, please!

All I ask is that none of your faithful ones be shamed by me and that you give me the sustaining grace to accept whatever You give or take.

Thank You, Lord, for Your good and perfect intentions toward me.

Amen.

–eac

Used with permission from the author. Image source.

the gospel without borders

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 4.13.44 PM

Gospel and missions, which go together like macaroni and cheese. The gospel is simultaneously at work in us and through us. Inwardly, our desires and motives are being changed as we repent and believe the gospel. As we are moved by Christ’s love in this way, we are compelled to outwardly engage those around us with the same kind of redemptive love. The gospel is active, it’s on a mission, in us and through us.

In Romans 1:8-17, we see Paul’s motivation for gospel ministry. Missionary ministry. Paul is fired up about the global scope of the gospel because God’s fired up about it. This is what I talk about when I speak of missions: “Missions is the activity of God’s people partnering with God’s mission.” Let’s see how this is made practical in Romans 1.

1. THE GOSPEL MISSION BEGINS WITH YOU, THE CHURCH (8-13)

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (v.8)

Who’s the “you” Paul refers to when he says, “I thank my God for all of you”? He’s referring to the Christians in Rome. Although this letter was first to the Christians in Rome, it is also a letter for you. This letter is a gift from God to the church of every generation.

Why is Paul thankful for them? They are spreading their faith to all the world. They are not just expanding their facilities (or home churches); they were expanding the fame of Jesus’ name to the nations.

1.1 THE GOSPEL MISSION THROUGH THE CHURCH IS BIRTHED THROUGH PRAYER (9-11)

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”

Like most letters, including Romans, Paul begins by sharing how he is praying for that church. I love reading Paul’s prayers. He loves the church. He constantly prays for them. He pleads with God to be with them. What Paul understands is that mighty movements of God are birthed through prayer. It’s not about Paul or His mission. It’s about His God and His mission.

Prayer serves to showcase whatever is on your heart; it reflects your passions. If you do not pray consistently and fervently for the nations, pray for workers for the harvest, pray for the reach of the gospel, pray for Christ’s glory to be made known in all the earth, you do not have any reason to believe that those things will happen through you or the church.

When God burdens people to pray for missions, He lights a fire that is not easily extinguished. Churches and their people begin to pray, then to give, and then to go. The first missions endeavor on record emerged from a period of worship, prayer and fasting among the members of the church in Antioch (cf. Acts 13). Christ Himself established prayer as a precedent for missions. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'” (Matt. 9:37–38). Whenever the church joins together to pray for God to send workers, He does.

Prevailing prayer stirs the heart and opens our eyes to see what God sees, to love what He loves and to long for what He longs for. Spending time in the presence of One who loves and pursues the nations cannot help but be contagious.

1.2 THE GOSPEL MISSION THROUGH THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY CALLING (11-13)

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.”

The church is beautiful. It’s beautiful because Jesus is the Groom and we are His Bride. We are incomplete and insufficient without one another. If I am not pouring into the church or allowing the church pour into me, I am forsaking God’s means for my spiritual growth and together we are forsaking our calling (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). Paul longs to pour into the church, but he also longs for it to pour into him. He wants to be mutually encouraged by their faith. Paul wasn’t a super saint. He wasn’t a one-man-show that could function solo.

Serving the nations can be discouraging, lonely and difficult. What Sarah and I miss most about our home church is their fellowship and spiritual nourishment. We miss our small group where we were confronting sin in love. We miss sitting under the pastor’s preaching. We realize how much we need the church, we need their prayers, we need their encouragement, we need their fellowship, we need their nourishment, we need them to ask us the hard questions, and we need them to come with us.

Mission is a community calling. Paul desired a harvest among the Romans. As we go to the nations, you are going to your community. The harvest is not in the pew, it’s beyond your parking lot. Go to it. Missions begins with you, the church, your prayers and your common calling.

2. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS YOUR JOYFUL OBLIGATION (14-15)

“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

An obligation is an action we are bound to by commitment. It’s a word that reminds us of a burden or duty or chore, yet why is Paul eager (joyful as a monkey in a fruit market) to preach the gospel to all people? Remember, Acts 9? Remember how he was changed by the gospel on the road to Damascus? People transformed by the gospel have a joyful obligation to propagate the good news. Paul is under obligation by Christ to preach the gospel to all peoples, not just his people. The gospel mandate to “make disciples of all nations” is our joy. Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

If the gospel is not your joyful obligation refresh yourself with the gospel again. Notice, who is Paul eager to preach the gospel to? Romans. Why Romans? In other words, why is he eager to preach the gospel to Christians? To Paul, the gospel is not just initial saving faith; it’s a call to continue to walk in faith each day. The gospel is not the ABC’s of your faith, it’s the A-Z’s of your faith walk. Everything you do from your spiritual birth to death is rooted in the gospel. That’s why it is your joy it is to preach the gospel to all people, including yourselves again and again each day.

The gospel calls us to action. The gospel cannot be contained within the four walls of the church, but it will not rest until it has reached the four corners of the earth. “My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). This verse stands as the slogan for many missionaries and church planters. To act on the gospel is to obey it and proclaim it until all have heard. It is not enough to cut checks each month to families who are serving around the globe and call it missions. It’s when all the church is going to all the world. That is missions.

Certain countries build barriers and make it hard for Christians to cross borders, but God is there. God is at work. Look at China and read the story of Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man. Or look at the Iron Curtain and read the story of Brother Andrew, The God Smuggler. These are just a few of the stories showing how God busts through man-made barriers. Walls of fear between your neighbor build brick by brick, but those barriers are invisible to God. The gospel sees no barrier or border (i.e. race, status), therefore, you must see no border to the gospel either. The gospel without borders is missions.

The scope of the gospel is global and local. It starts with the border closest to you. The person who butts up to your property. The grumpy guy who is particular about his yard and yells when your dog runs through it. Silent Sally who you barely hear a peep from the apartment across from you. It’s your mission to bring the gospel to your neighbors. It’s your joyful obligation.

Our family parked in Philly for 3-months. It was there we had our daughter Sophia. We lived in a parsonage and we had neighbors that we really wanted to share the gospel. It was a family with teenage children. I knew I should reach out and befriend them. But my sense of “should” had no motivating power. It was law, not gospel. My love was conditional—if we had more in common, if we were here longer, it would be easier. Two-months passed and we made very little contact with our neighbors. Until one day, Sarah was backing out of our driveway and our neighbor was backing out of their driveway too. Our cars collided in the middle of the street. The opportunity to connect with our neighbors appeared suddenly. The majority fault for the accident was our neighbors and they we’re quite ashamed. In the days that followed we were able to have conversations with our neighbors. Sarah especially showed love, kindness, and grace. She even took time one evening before we were about to leave for Quebec to share with them the gospel. It was her joyful obligation with a little help from an accident.

3. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS FUELED BY A PASSION FOR THE GOSPEL (16)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Have you noticed that Paul talks about the gospel constantly? You do not have to guess Paul’s hobbyhorse. If you’re in a conversation with him for one-minute you can bank your bets on him directing the conversation to the gospel. Paul boasts boldly and bountifully in the gospel. It’s his passion. It’s his mission. He has no shame because the gospel has erased all and any shame he had before or after Christ. The gospel has set him free from shame. The gospel might bring shame upon Christians from a sinful world, but it’s message will remove the shame that stains the world.

According to Paul, the gospel is not just something that saves; it is the only thing that saves. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. So without the gospel there is no missions, and missions is not missions without the gospel. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Mission is a label put on many things. We can do a lot of good things that we ought to do (i.e. care for widows, orphans, build homes for habitat, feed starving children, cure aids, etc.) all motivated by a passion for God and compassion for needy people, but is this missions? Let it be known, healthy in hell isn’t our mission. Ministry without the gospel it is not missions. “Missions is the activity of God’s people partnering with God’s mission.” And God’s mission, from before the foundation of the world, has been to redeem a lost and broken world. Paul alludes to this earlier in Romans 1,

”Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:1-6)

If reaching the nations with the gospel is God’s passion, I want it to be my passion too. May our prayer mimic Amy Carmichael who wrote, “Give me the love that leads the way, The faith that nothing can dismay, The hope no disappointments tire, The passion that will burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod: Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

4. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS ROOTED IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD (17)

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

People desperately need hope, they need God’s love and goodness, they need His righteousness; a righteousness that originated in God, was prepared by God before time, is revealed in the gospel of Christ, and is offered to all. Missions is about God giving faith to people who previously had miscued faith and no faith in Christ. The gospel is God’s means to open blind eyes to the beauty of Christ’s righteousness,

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11; cf. Romans 3:21-26)

To recap, missions begins with you, the church, through your prevailing prayers and your community calling. Missions is your joyful obligation. Missions is fueled by a passion for the gospel. And missions is rooted in the righteousness of God. How are you actively partnering locally and globally with God’s mission?

How should I pray?

door-knocker-1

“Jesus was praying.” That’s how Luke 11:1 begins. Honestly I’ve read that many times, but this time it floored me, “The Creator and Rescuer of the world is on His knees praying to God, His Father.” Isn’t that amazing? Notice, Luke doesn’t say how Jesus prayed, how long, where, or what He was praying, it simply says, “Jesus was praying in a certain place.”

Prayer is a discipline that most Christians feel they fall short, me included. You and I are not naturally born prayers. It’s a learned skill. So if I had a question for Jesus, it would be similar to the one His disciple asks, “Lord, can You teach us how to pray?” How does Jesus respond? Does He say, “That’s a silly question. You’ve been with me this long and you don’t know?” No. Does He organize a weekend prayer seminar? No. Jesus’ School of Prayer is ‘show and tell’.

PRAY LIKE JESUS (11:2-4)

Jesus’ prayer here is known as the Lord’s Prayer. It’s quite common. I memorized it during my catechism classes growing up in the Catholic Church. However, you will notice, Luke’s prayer is a lot shorter than Matthew’s prayer. I suppose since Luke wrote his gospel after Matthew, he thought his friend did a fantastic job and just summarizes some of main points of Jesus‘ prayer.

I am not going to spend a lot of time looking at Jesus’ prayer, but I want you to see how He elevates God. Also, I want you to see how He teaches His disciples how to pray. Jesus answers His disciple, “When you pray, say…” (v.2a)

  • “Our Father…” (v.2b), God is Father. The word “Father” here is not formal, it’s intimate. Jesus, like a little child address His loving Father as “Abba” or “Daddy.” It’s the first time this view of God is introduced and Jesus approves and encourages it.
  • “hallowed is Your name” (v.2c), Our Father is holy. God is a magnificent Daddy. He is completely different and glorious compared to everything in the universe. His name is above every name!
  • “Your kingdom come” (v.2d), Our Father is King. Not only is He my Daddy, He is King. He’s the King of kings. My heart’s cry is to be with Him in His kingdom, a place of forever justice, love, and mercy. He offers you room in His palace. His kingdom will never crumble. Our Daddy is King!
  • “Give us each day our daily bread” (v.3), Our Father is generous. Our Daddy cares perfectly for His children. God is not stingy or greedy. He provides everything we need.
  • “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (v.4a), Our Father forgives sin. God justly deals with sin, but He willingly forgives those who come to Him. He forgives spiritual debts because Jesus paid the debt with His blood.
  • “And lead us not into temptation” (v.4b), Our Father leads well. If we hold God’s hand and listen well, He direct us away from dangerous traps of the enemy. We can trust our Daddy (cf. James 1:13).

If you learn to pray like Jesus, your prayers will be intensively Father-focused. Does this align with your perspective on prayer? What aspects of Jesus’ example prayer do you most utilize or neglect?

PRAY LIKE THE SHAMELESS NEIGHBOR (11:5-8)

To illustrate how to pray, Jesus shares two parables and two principles. His first parable fits the eastern context where honor and shame are still very present aspects of culture (vs.5-8). In Jesus day, people would travel, usually on foot, sometimes on the back of an animal. After a long journey, there wasn’t a Motel 6 to keep a light on. There wasn’t texting or telephones to give your friend a heads-up. There wasn’t even a Denny’s to buy a ‘Moon’s Over My Hammy’ at 2:00am. Yet there was an obligation to honor guests hospitality and help neighbors in a pinch. If not, it could bring shame upon you and your house.

I am challenged by this parable, especially since I am on the brink of entering this kind of culture. I am not very neighborly. I can put on a good face, but I’m frustrated by spontaneous interruptions without appointments. I like to hit the hay early, so if someone came to my door at midnight asking for a loaf of bread I would be pretty perturbed. My response might be, “You need some bread? Ok.” (Thinking: “Dude, you just woke up my girls. Couldn’t you have gone to Seven-Eleven?”) “Here you go, enjoy.” (Thinking: “This 4th of July, I am going to buy lots of bottle rockets.”) I suppose this shows my heart. Agh, I am that guy! That ugly neighbor. I am so unlike God, but I want to be! That’s why this challenges me.

What would you do? How would you respond? Of course, you would open the door because you want to know why this guy is so persistent. Isn’t that Jesus’ point? His point is about the shameless neighbor who’s thinking, “Yeah, it’s late, but I’m going to stand here and knock on the door until I get myself a few loaves of bread.” He’s persistent because  he knows eventually his request will be answered. Why? Because ultimately you do care—even though he’s frustrating—you will meet his need. Likewise, Jesus is saying, even if you’re not the most pleasant child of God, even if we’re not having the best intentions or motives, God is loving, gracious, and kind. You can come to Him, day or night, 24/7, because He’s never asleep and He’s never tired and He’s never weary. He’s not unable or incapable or inconvenienced as a normal neighbor would be. You can talk to God anytime about anything and God hears and answers your prayer.

If you pray like the shameless neighbor, your prayers will be persistent and your persistence will prevail (vs.9-10). Jesus says that prayer is about three things: asking, seeking, and knocking. In the Greek, each of those three words are in the present tense, which carries the idea of “keep on” asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep on communicating with God. That’s prayer.

Asking means coming to God in faith and saying, “Dad, I really want…, I need…, please teach me…” Now, some of you are planners, who say, “I don’t need God. I need a plan.” Others of you panic. You don’t make a plan or talk to God, you just freak out. Don’t just make a plan, don’t just panic. Go to the Father and ask. What are you asking God, right now? What haven’t you asked Him?

Seeking means doing something about asking. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I prayed about it, now I’m going to sit here and do nothing.” Often, you pray about things you should be doing anyways. You got to get up and go do something. You got to seek, you got to serve, you got to pursue answers to your request. And if that doesn’t work and it still hasn’t been answered, you just keep banging on the door. You keep knocking. God’s answer will always be: yes, no, or hold on just a moment.

Friday, I heard my daughter Justus asking for me, “Hey, Dad? Dad? Dad? Mom, where’s dad? Where’s dad? What’s dad doing?” She was asking for me. She couldn’t find me. So she started seeking me. I heard her voice. I heard the pitter-patter of her feet on the floor. She looked in every room. She was very persistent, very committed to finding me. “Hey, dad? Where are you?” She came to the very last room in the house that she hadn’t checked, the bathroom. And she came, asking, seeking, knocking. “Dad, are you in there?” She found me. My answer, “I be with you in a moment, baby girl.”

This is the idea Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples. God’s your dad! Ask for Him. Seek Him. Knock on the door. Keep on doing it. Tell Him what you want or need. Bring it all to Him. Bring your Dad your needs, not your greeds. He adores you. He’s not gonna treat you like a stranger. So if you want to understand prayer, look at dads and children.

PRAY LIKE A CHILD WHO TRUST HIS DADDY (11:11-12)

Jesus’ second story is quite interesting (vs.11-12). It’s about a son who comes up to his dad, “Hey, Dad, can we have fish for dinner?” “Sorry, son all out of fish. How about a snake?” That’s weird! “Okay, dad, how about eggs?” “Nope. Have a scorpion.” I don’t know about you, but this dad really weirds me out. He must be off his meds or smoking something strange!

The story is ridiculous and humorous for a reason. Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (v.13a) If you go to your dad, even if he’s a bad dad, and ask for a good thing, he won’t give you a bad thing. Children, do not use this verse as leverage against your dads, we already know we are evil and sinful. We are not perfect, yet we know the Father who is. In fact, this week, I enjoyed one of the sweetest times of prayer with three dad’s. Each of them were praying for their children and pleading with God that the way they father would resemble the way God fathers them. God is a Father. Even if you are not 100% convinced He is good, when you ask God for something do not fear what He will give. Trust that God is a good Father. He isn’t evil. He is not the father of lies (cf. John 8:44). God our Father is good and He give good gifts.

In Luke 11:1, a disciple asks Jesus, “Can you teach us how to pray?” Jesus gives the clincher in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” You see, everything that Jesus has done, His sinless life, His righteousness, His substitutionary death, His resurrection, all of that is given to you, brought to you, applied to you by whom? The Holy Spirit. So apart from the Holy Spirit, all the gifts that the Father has to give are received by the Holy Spirit. This is something Jesus’ disciples would get later (cf. Acts 2).

If you pray like a child who trusts his daddy, God’s goodness gets glory and you get the greatest gift. Jesus says the greatest gift of all is the Holy Spirit. That’s huge! This is the big idea of Luke 11:1–13 on how to pray: Jesus says, you pray by asking, seeking, and knocking. Trusting that your Father is a good, holy, generous, forgiving, King. And if you do this, your prayers will be Father-focused, persistent and prevailing, in the power of the Holy Spirit. So what are you waiting for? Let’s pray!

Father God, you are a good Father. Lord Jesus, you’re a good Savior. Holy Spirit, you’re the greatest gift. Please fill me. Please teach me to worship You forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Why does God delay an answer to prayer?

man-praying

Thomas Watson, a Puritan pastor from over 350 years ago, asked in his book, Body of Divinity (pp. 399–400), “Why does God delay an answer to prayer?” In other words, why would God ever keep us asking and seeking and knocking when he could respond sooner? (cf. Luke 11:9-10) He gives four answers :

  1. Because He loves to hear the voice of prayer. “You let the musician play a great while before you throw him down money, because you love to hear this music.”
  2. That He may humble us. We may too easily assume we merit some ready answer, or that He is at our beck and call like a butler, not as sovereign Lord and loving Father.
  3. Because He sees we are not yet fit or ready for the mercy we seek. It may be He has things to put in place—in us or in our church or in the world. There are a million pieces to the puzzle. Some things go first to make a place for the others.
  4. Finally, that the mercy we pray for may be the more prized, and may be sweeter when it comes.

the God who hears

Does God hear when I call on Him in prayer? If I don’t get an answer is God just hard of hearing? Somewhere we’ve acquired an illusion that God as a toothy grinned grandfatherly figure straining to hear through his old-fashion ear horn. This leaves us with an idol-god who is finite and rather creepy when you think about it.

Take a quick glance at Scripture and it will debunk any myth of a God who is decrepit or hard of hearing. Surely He is kind, slow to anger, full of all-consuming joy, spoils His children with indefeasible grace and generosity. But He does not have a cane or have need of hearing aides.

God hears.

Do you realize how important it is that God hears? The God of the universe hears the prayers of all His children (Ps. 65:2; 4:3; Jeremiah 29:12). The gods made with the hands of man cannot hear,[1] but human hands do not make God. He made man. And He made man with a mouth that are able to speak. With the psalmist, use your mouth to joyfully sing, “I love the Lord for He hears my voice” (Ps. 116:1)

Jesus after He raised Lazarus from the dead prayed and thanked God, “I knew that You always hear me” (John 11:41-42). Jesus prayed knowing that He was praying to His Father who listened.

“Because I have listened definitely to one thing from God, it does not follow that I will listen to everything He says. The way in which I show God that I neither love nor respect Him is by the obtuseness of my heart and mind towards what He says. If I love my friend, I intuitively detect what he wants, and Jesus says, “Ye are My friends.” Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not consciously have disobeyed it; but most of us show such disrespect to God that we do not even hear what He says, He might never have spoken.”[2] – Oswald Chambers

God hears more than words.

He knows the motivation behind my words. He sees my words straight through to my heart. He knows what I really want. Now God does meet wants, even needs. He demonstrates over and over His sensitive ears to the cry of the orphan and widow (Exodus 22:23); the plea of the poor (Exodus 22:27); the cry of the needy (Ps. 69:33). However, God does just give me whatever I want whenever I want it. Thankfully.

God has selective hearing.

God is not a passive dad that tunes out His children for no good reason. He hears the prayer of the righteous God-fearer,[3] and often He ignores the cries of the unrighteous sinner.[4] It is not that God is insensitive to the cries of sinners; it’s that sinners are not sensitive towards listening and obeying God. Their judgment is God replicating the treatment they are giving Him.

God has spoken many words, 774,746 to be exact.[5] Start by listening closely to those words. As Jesus said, to each of the believers in the seven churches of Turkey, “He who has ears let him hear.” (cf. Revelation 3-4)

My daughter Justus is 2-years old. She has good ears. Still she has a natural inclination to ignore the authority God has put over her like Charlie Brown listened to his teacher at school. For the most part, she hears the words of her parent’s say and eagerly listens. I want to have eager ears toward my authority, God, like my daughter.

A child’s attitude is “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:10) If you have not cultivated this devotion of hearing, you can only hear God’s voice at certain times; at other times you are taken up with things—things which you say you must do, and you become deaf to Him, you are not living the life of a child. Have you heard God’s voice today, moreover, have you listened to God’s voice today?


[1] Cf. 1 Kings 18:26-27; Psalm 115:6; 135:17; Isaiah 46:7

[2] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).

[3] Cf. Prov. 15:29; Psalm 34:15; 145:19; John 9:31

[4] Cf. Isaiah 59:1-2; cf. Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15; Jeremiah 11:11,14; Ezekiel 8:18; Amos 5:23; John 9:31

[5] This number is a guesstimation taking an average among English Bible translations.

Adoniram Judson’s prayer for you

O God, have mercy on the churches in the United States…continue and perpetuate the heavenly revivals of religion which they have begun to enjoy; and may the time soon come when no church shall dare to sit under the Sabbath and sanctuary privileges without having one of their number to represent them on heathen ground.

Have mercy on the theological seminaries, and hasten the time when one half of all who yearly enter the ministry shall be taken by Thine Holy Spirit, and driven into the wilderness, feeling a sweet necessity laid upon them, and the precious love of Christ and the souls constraining them.

Hear, O Lord, all the prayers which are this day presented in all the monthly concerts throughout the habitable globe, and hasten the millennial glory, for which we are all longing, and praying, and laboring…Come, O our Bridegroom; come, Lord Jesus!

– Adoniram Judson, quoted in J.D. Greear’s Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim, page 141

How should I pray during the church’s search for a new pastor?

1. Pray for your search committee.

  • Pray for patience. Pray that the committee would wait upon God’s timing. Pray that your search committee will have the mind of Christ and agree.
  • Much of the process is subjective. Personal opinions and preferences are involved. Differences can divide. Ask that the search committee would heed Paul’s advice for unity, having the humble attitude of Jesus Christ [Philippians 2:1-12].
  • Pray for wisdom to choose the right man. Pray the search committee will renew their minds in the Bible so that they can have Word-centered wisdom [Romans 12:1-2].
  • Pray for discipline for your search committee and other church leaders. The search process will require a great deal of follow-through on the parts of individuals.

2. Pray for your next pastor.

  • Pray that God would increase his passion for the Word of God.
  • Pray that God would give him a love for you church and the strength to leave his current position.
  • Pray that he would begin new relationships at your church in the right way.
  • Pray that God would prepare him to shepherd your church through the trials and blessings he has faced and currently faces.
  • Pray for his family.

3. Pray for your church.

  • Pray for patience. The search process can go longer than expected. It is hard work for those doing the search process. Pray for trust in the leadership.
  • Pray that your church would learn to place a high priority on the Word of God, the glory of Christ, and a love for His church. It is easy to gravitate towards personality, programs, or an ideal when calling a new pastor. Pray we focus on what matters: a man who loves Christ, His Word, and His church. Pray the new pastor will be a man of Christ-like character.
  • Pray that your church would not react to your previous pastor. You will not get a pastor like your old one, nor should you expect to. Pray he will be loved by your church.

Adapted from When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search. By Chris Brauns. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL. 2011. Pgs. 28-31.

your prayers prove you believe God is sovereign

People pray recognizing God’s sovereignty when they pray. When on your knees you know that you are not in control of the results of your prayers. Even if you deny God’s sovereignty and only embrace human responsibility, you still believe God is sovereign when you pray.

Here are three specific prayers followers of Christ pray that prove you believe God is sovereign:

1. You simply pray. Why do you pray? You pray because you either want something that you cannot have in your own strength or want to show your appreciation to God for what you have been given.

2. You give thanks to God for your salvation. You realize deep down that God is entirely responsible for the faith that drew you to your Savior.

3. You pray for the salvation of others. When you pray for the unsaved, you assume that it is God who brings them to faith.

Prayer, therefore proves that you believe God is sovereign. Indeed, God is in control and you pray because you know you are not.

If you want to know more about your prayers, the sovereignty of God, and evangelism read, J.I Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. IVP Books, Downers Grove, IL. 1961.

how to pray for your church

As a pastor, I can relate to Pastor Paul as he writes to the Ephesians. I love the church. I love the church God has called me to pastor. I am so encouraged by the people’s faithfulness and hunger for truth. I think about them often in my prayers. How should we pray for our church? In Ephesians 3:14-21, we are given a peek into the heart of Paul’s prayer for the church.

Paul begins his prayer on his knees [v.14]. There are many different ways to pray—you can pray standing up, arms raised high, flat on your face, or on your knees. Praying on your knees is the most common way we often think of praying. What is the significance of praying on your knees? Bowing to our knees is a symbol of humility to God’s authority. It is a sign of reverence [cf. Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. Kneeling is the outward appearance of the inward affection. Paul in essence is bowing before his Father the Creator and name Giver.[1]

When we think about our churches it is easy to complain about what is not happening according to our expectations, but praying wish lists to God for your church are not helpful for you or your church. As Paul prays for the church he mentions three things: He prays that the power of God over that goes beyond what they can think, that the love of God for that goes beyond what they can think, and that they give God glory that He can go beyond what we can think.

1. Supernatural Strength [Ephesians 3:16-17a]

The first request for the church is for the power of God. How great is the power of God? God’s power is unfathomable. It is glorious [cf. Romans 6:4; Colossians 1:11]. Now if God were to pour all of His power into you, do you think you could stand the strain? Those who come face-to-face with the power of God are never the same.

God’s power doesn’t want to co-dwell with anyone or anything in our hearts. He wants Christ only to fit in the temple He has established within His believers. The believer’s life is like a house, through which God goes from room to room. In the library [mind], He catalogs the useless and worthless images and knowledge. In the dining room, He replaces our worldly appetite with spiritual hunger and thirst. In the living room, He challenges our worldly companions and activities. In the garage, He rummages through all the clutter. In the closet, He sheds light on the hidden sins. He desires to dwell in the entire house. Only when He had cleaned every room, closet, and corner of sin can He be at home.[2] Are there rooms you would rather God not see? What room needs the most renovation?

Prayer for the power of God is important so that the church does not waver from its commitment to Christ. If Christ has taken up residence in our hearts He has the authority to establish His rule over all that we are and do.[3] At times He will renovate the dwelling place for the purpose of cleanliness and Christlikeness.

2. Limitless Love [vs.17b-19]

The second request Paul pray’s for the church is that they know the immensity and incomprehensibility of God’s love. God’s love secures and anchors the believer in Christ. Love is the soil in which believers are rooted and will grow [rf. agriculture], the foundation upon which they are established [rf. Architecture; Colossians 1:23].[4]

Why is love so important? Without love the church has no real motivation to serve God and one another [cf. 1 Corinthians 13]. Without love you cannot grasp the greatness of God [cf. Romans 8:35-39]. What does ‘width, length, depth, and height’ indicate about God’s love? When I think about knowing the love of Christ I think of explorers charting new lands or a pioneer divers plumbing the depths of the sea. However, when I chart and plumb the love of God I do not reach an end or run out of discoveries. I will spend an eternity discovering the vast territory of Christ’s limitless love. His love surpasses knowledge. That does not give me an excuse for not trying to understand God, it just cannot be understood over a cup of coffee.

It seems strange to pray for knowledge of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Equally as strange is that Paul pray’s that the church be filled with the fullness of God. What we know is that they are already share in the fullness of God at salvation [cf. 1:23; Colossians 1:19; 2:9-10]. The believers in the church simply grow in the fullness of God. They are to become what they already are—that they may become all that God wants them to be in Christ.[5]

3. Give Glory to God [vs.20-21]

As Paul meditates upon the greatness of Gods power and limitless love he is moved to give God praise.[6] Praise is often the result of meditating upon what we know about God. This is called doxology—a study of glory—praise based on doctrine. Paul is moved to praise God because He is able to do more than we can think, ask or imagine [v.20]. In other words, you cannot ask from God too much because Gods gifts exceed our capacity. Paul cannot help but give praise to God.

When you shout out the words, “Glory to God,” it’s like a football team carrying their coach off the field on their shoulders or a standing ovation to a beautiful performance. There is in the heart of every person a longing to give glory. We are wired to worship. We worship anything from rockstars to athletes to hot wheels. The main reason people do not worship God is that He is not as real to them as other things they admire. Is God real to you? Do you admire Him? Do you give Him glory?

Think of the most popular and powerful people you know. Google says Lebron James, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, the Kardasian’s, or Obama. Historically, Google says Obama,  Julius Cesar, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great or Martin Luther King. As John Piper says, “The most admirable of men are only meteors on the sky of history—they last about a third of a second and then are gone. But God is like the sun. And generation after generation He rises and never fades in His glory.”

The arena of glory to God today is in the church. The church is the stadium and amphitheater of the God’s glory and the main character and hero of the divine drama is Jesus Christ. The mystery hidden for ages in God is “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” [3:10] The church reflects Gods glory to the world.

In conclusion, as you pray for your church pray for the power and love of God by giving God glory that He can go beyond what you can think. God can do more in and through your church than you can think or imagine. The church of Christ is a beautiful anthem praising the greatness of God. He is using your church even with its personal flaws to display His perfect glory.

Here are some practical ways to pray for your church:

  1. Call your pastor and ask how you can pray for the church.
  2. Get with other members of your church and pray for your church.
  3. Write a prayer for your church.

[1] God gave people names [Gen.35:26; 1 Sam.25:25] and He gives His creation names [Ps.147:4; Is.40:26].

[2] Adapted from Robert Munger’s, My Heart Christ’s Home, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1954.

[3] L. Morris, Expository Thoughts on the Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 104.

[4] Stott, 135; and Lincoln, 207. (Cf. REB: ‘With deep roots and firm foundations’)

[5] D.A. Carson, Spiritual Reformation, 195.

[6] Cf. Phil.1:19; 4:19; Col.1:9-14; 1 Thess.3:12; 1 Cor.1:5

prayer and the power of God

“God I know I have not studied like I should for this test, but by some miracle help me to pass.”

“Father, I want to ring my sisters neck. If she says that one more time I will explode. Make her stop.”

“Father it would be really nice if you could come through with giving me this before I die.”

We are all guilty of making prayer a cosmic shopping list or a desperate 911 call to God to come to the rescue in our crisis. God is not Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Magic Genie, EMT or an Easy Button. Every wish is not granted or guaranteed. Would you march into your boss’s office or call on your parents for the things you ask of God?

Prayer is an amazing privilege. We can treat prayer like a broken gadget that hasn’t work for years, which we pawned off for chump change. Instead of praying, it has been substituted by worried wishes or momentary freak out. Seldom do people pray.

Prompted to Pray [Ephesians 1:15-16]

What prompts Paul to pray? What two things did He hear about the believers within Ephesus? Paul observes how the Ephesian believers are living out their faith in Christ with one another. There is nothing more excited than hearing about people they know love God and others. Nothing fires your parents, friends, or pastor up like living your faith out loud for all to hear. What do others hear about you?

Your upward relationship [“faith in Christ”] with God is also seen in your outward relationship [“love towards all believers”] with other believers.

This is How to Pray for Each Other [Ephesians 1:17-19]

Paul prays that God would give believers “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Even though believers inherit all the spiritual blessings upon salvation, it is not assumed that they cease needing to grow in wisdom and understanding of God. If Warren Buffet or Bill Gates gave you everything they own would that mean you would cease to learn about life? God does not give believer’s omnipotence or omniscience, nor will He ever. Throughout eternity we will be learning and growing in our understanding of God. Paul prays that we would keep praising and thanking God for all His spiritual blessings. As one commentator says,

God has already been praised for having lavished his grace upon us with all wisdom and understanding by making known to us the mystery of his will [vs.8-9]. Now the apostle takes up this language and asks that his readers may be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him [i.e. God] better. [1]

I find it interesting that Paul does not pray that they would have more spiritual blessings or fresh ones. He understands that they already have all the spiritual blessings in Christ. People today are obsessed with the notion of receiving additional blessings. Some pray to God, “Father bless me.” It is as if we say to God, “These spiritual blessings in Christ aren’t enough. Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need.” We have equated blessing with an excess of material possessions, emotional happiness, health and wealth, and lack of suffering. That is spoiled rotten Christianity. You should not crave or pray for more spiritual blessings, you have all you need and more in Christ. Be thankful.

Many believers have heard the message of the gospel various times in various ways. The gospel has become common, and what becomes can become callus or cocky. We can become like a collegiate math major who has forgotten the joy of elementary building blocks like 1 + 1. To which the student replies, “Yeah, give me something I don’t know.” What does Paul pray as a cure for the common spiritual callousness? He desires them to know “the hope to which God has called them,” “the rich inheritance,” which He possesses in them, and “the immeasurable greatness of His power” by which He energizes them. Each is an aspect of the mighty salvation, which has been championed for you in Christ. Paul is overwhelmed by the glory of salvation and He wants you to be too, therefore that is his prayer for you.

Plugged into the Power of God [Ephesians 1:20-23]

Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power. How is God’s power immeasurably great? Paul’s prayer exalts the supremacy of God’s power, which is shown particularly in Christ’s resurrection and current position of authority [“seated at God’s right hand”] over all things. Since God has superior power there is no longer any reason for the readers to fear.

One cannot calculate or measure the power of God in kilowatts, amps, volts, or energy waves. It does matter how many pounds He could lift on the bench press or putdowns He would have in an arm wrestling competition. God’s power is immeasurable. In other words, He is omnipotent. By the word of His power He created all things and holds them together, and by His power He raised Jesus and gave authority over all things then, now and forevermore [cf. Colossians 1:15-20]. God has given Christ as head over all things for the church. God’s power in Christ is available for those who believe [v.19], and Christ’s rule over the universe is for their benefit [v.22].

The power of God that we are plugged into brings an immense amount of comfort. I do not have to struggle in my sin anymore; in Christ, I am free. I do not have to worry or fear the future. I don’t have to fear the bully at school. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will lose my job or home. I don’t have to lose sleep about the safety of my children. God is powerful. Christ is seated high on the throne. He is in control.

Prayer is a mighty vehicle for the believer to praise God and encourage the saints. When considering our salvation we cannot help but pray that others would hear how great is our God. Probably some of the people God has burden you to pray for are members of your family or close friends. Why not share together what you have been praying with them?


Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 131.

lessons learned from my first year of marriage

1. Marriage is sanctifying. God has used Sarah in many wonderful ways to chisel away at my insensitive parts and sinful flaws. Marriage has been molding me a like a clay model muddied and re-imaged by the Masters hands into the image of Christ [1 Peter 3:1-7].

2. Deal with conflict ASAP. By dealing with anger and communicating clearly as soon as possible resolution and restoration come quickly.

3. Create healthy and happenin’ habits:

  • Every week have a date night. Turn the phones off. Guard with care.
  • Have weekly sabbath rest.
  • Pray together daily.
  • Keep in contact with good friends.

4. Shoot for a forever honeymoon. Before marriage we got good advice, “If you live in obedience to Christ you will have a forever honeymoon.”

5. Remember your first love. Sarah and I love God first. There are times when we are jealous [in a good way] of our love for God. Only God is truly faithful [Psalm 145:7].

6. Laugh at yourself and each other. We make a habit of watching America’s Funniest Videos each morning before heading out the door. Laughing together helps you stick together.

7. Build something together.
This year we have grown a garden and done some fun art projects together. The illustration of building fits the picture of a growing marriage.

8. Do something you don’t like. I hate doing the dishes, but they got to get done. I find the most loving thing I can do is do the dishes with my delightful wife.

9. Talk-walks. We take weekly walks in the parks, through the neighborhood or downtown. Not only is it fresh air and fitness, but great times to talk together.

10. Pray, pray, and pray some more. I have a hard time talking to God if I am having a hard time talking to Sarah. Prayer is our most intimate moments within marriage [thanks to the words of wisdom in Bob & Elva Jean Lilly].

prayer for Chile

This is a prayer for all the people of Chile follow the aftermath of an earthquake that rocked their country:

My great I AM,

Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being

with whom one day is as a thousand years,

and a thousand years as one day,

A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds,

And the fall of empires,

Feels no variableness,

But is glorious in destruction.

May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives;

That, while all creatures are broken reeds,

Empty cisterns,

Fading flowers,

Withering grass,

He is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity,

From distractions,

From uncertainties of the present state,

To an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen,

And is only an opportunity for unsefulness;

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time,

To awake at every call to charity and piety,

So that I may feed the hungry,

Clothe the naked,

Instruct the ignorant,

Reclaim the vicious,

Forgive the offender,

Diffuse the gospel,

Show neighborly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,

Dependence on myself,

Mortification,

Crucifixion,

Prayer.

A Puritan Prayer taken from The Valley of Vision [104]

pray for Leonard

pray for Leonard
and his family

While in the Congo I met a pastor, Leonard. He has been in Bukavu for 6 months waiting for work and a means to get back to his wife and children who where many kilometers away. He made a special visit to see Sarah and me. In the conversation, which Sarah translated, he asked if we could take his three sons. With big eyes his sons were sitting quiet, listening. Sarah, translated the message to me with the addition of, “Be careful how you nod.”

The Congo is a different kind of place. You see, Leonard thought he can not provide for his children and in desperation they will be better off with these Americans he barely knows. How would you respond? Our response was simple. No. We explained to him that it would be impossible to take his children. What Leonard’s children need to see their father’s struggle of faith and these difficult times will be fruitful to his family. I promise Leonard my prayers and ask that you would pray too.

Pray that his children would see their fathers faithfulness.
Pray for work and the provisions of God.
Pray that he would trust God to provide all of his needs.
Pray that God would be made famous through his example.

a prayer of thanks for the DR

Early Sunday morning we got back into town. We are tired.

I didn’t want to leave the ministry in the Dominican Republic. Personally, I wanted to adopt at least 5 kids from the villages or orphanages we visited. I am so proud of our team for the spiritual initiative and giftedness they pour out on this mission. The fruit was immediate in their lives and ours. God is glorified. May we repeat more of the same here on our home turf.

Father,

thank You for the opportunity to  glorify Your name in the Dominican Republic.

thank You protect us and keep us safe as we flew, during Kiko’s bus driving, and walking around the various villages.

thank You for the strength empowered within us as we did new things in a strange place.

thank You for opening up the floodgates for you glory to shine through us.

thank You for using us as lights of your Sons grace.

thank You for Your love and allowing us to show Your love to the unlovable.

thank You for bring our team together as One.

thank You for using our hands to touch minister to Your orphans, and allowing Your love flow through us.

thank You for spiritual nourishment and immediate fruit the people we feed, clothed and played with in the sugar cane villages.

thank You for the spiritual healing those we sought to nurse in the medical clinic.

thank You for the numerous souls redeemed through our drama “Tired” and Your gospel message.

thank You for being the center of our worship.

thank You for humbling my prideful heart from the joyful poverty of the people we met.

thank You for my new friend Kiko [thank You for rescuing him and giving him a passionate heart]

thank You for creating a beautiful island with beautiful people.

Amen.