how to pray for your church’s leaders

 

Do you have a deliberate, regular plan you work as to how you pray for your church’s shepherds and staff? Or if you’re a church leader, how would you like fellow church members to daily pray for you?

I recently noticed that Thom Rainer relates in his fine book I Am a Church Member (p.51) that he has for many years regularly asked church members to deliberately pray five minutes a day, every day, for their leaders. Imagine every church member praying daily for their church’s leadership. Amen!

But if you were to start praying for shepherds and staff, what would you pray about each day? If you don’t already have a plan, let me suggest a plan I follow whereby I talk to God about seven specific matters regarding our church family’s leaders. To keep it simple and steady, each day of the week has a specific point of focus. Pick up this plan – or let it spark one of your own – and run with it!

  • Sunday – guidance from God’s Spirit and godly influence with people
  • Monday – spiritual development, growth & maturity
  • Tuesday – purity & holiness of life, protection from Satan’s traps, & escape from temptation
  • Wednesday – provision for their physical needs & ways
  • Thursday – discernment, insight, knowledge, tendencies & wisdom
  • Friday – family (marriage, children, extended family & closest friends)
  • Saturday – strength of emotional, mental & physical health

putting skin on the sermon: pray this way

 

Today marks the start of a new series of regular posts here. Starting today, and always on Mondays, I’ll post (1) a brief summation of the gist of my sermon from the previous morning and (2) some random thoughts as to how to apply some aspect of the sermon to daily life.

My sermon yesterday morning was from Luke’s account of Jesus’ answer to the request of one of his disciples to teach them how to pray (Luke 11.1-13). After a look at the “what” of this basic, foundational prayer (the prayer’s five statements – vs.2b-4), we thought about “why” we regularly need to pray such.

For the sake of application, we summed that up with a paraphrase of the prayer with some of the “why” in mind. That paraphrase read: “Father, help me live holy before you. Override my self-seeking agenda. Give me what I need to live another day here for you. Show mercy to me the way I’m merciful to all who wrong me. When I’m distracted and lured from you, don’t leave me that way: arrest my attention and lead me home.”

Now, what can you do with that? Here are seven ways you can put some skin on this sermon:

1. Memorize this prayer our Lord told us to pray in Luke 11.2-4. Use the rendering of your choice, of course, but let me suggest the CEB for its simplicity and clarity here. Learn it so well that you come to say it just as easily and as naturally as you might already be able to quote the KJV’s rendering of The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.9-13.

2. Identify any and all excuses you make for not praying. Write them down. Then set out to kill these excuses. Mercilessly.

3. Make a very simple, but specific plan each week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray. That is, create the skeleton on which you will put some skin.

4. Find and designate a specific place where you’ll often go to pray. Maybe it will be a chair on your back porch. It could be when and where you go to exercise or walk. Perhaps the driver’s seat of your car or a certain room in your apartment would work. The place matters not so much as the fact you have a specific place. After going there regularly for awhile to pray you’ll likely find your mind has become trained to almost naturally kick into, or more easily gravitate toward, prayer.

5. Select one of the five statements of the basic prayer in Luke 11.2b-4 and mull it over, reflecting on it throughout the course of a weekday. Let your heart and head chew on it throughout the day the way you’d chew on a piece of gum. The next day, select a different statement and do the same with it. Throughout each day discuss them with someone or, at the end of each day, jot down some of your ponderings in a journal.

6. Compose a prayer of your own. Write it down, using the basic prayer (vs. 2b-4) as your guide. You’ll likely find you’ll choose your words of prayer much more carefully when you write them down.

7. Brainstorm your own list of ways you could apply this basic prayer in vs. 2b-4 to your everyday actions and habits. Answer this question: “Since Jesus told me to pray this way, I will ____.”

Remember: God’s word is for our life, and our living is for our great God!

LIFE group guide: pray like this

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Oct. 27). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Luke 11.1-13. This sermon is entitled “Pray Like This” and is another installment in the Jesus: Master & Commander series.

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Revelation

These Scriptures formed some of the foundation and structure of the sermon.

Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.’”

He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. And I tell you:

Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.

“Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you 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?” (Luke 11.1-13)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. Tell us when you feel truly loved, be it in being loved by God or by people, either one.

2. Do you have “a certain place” (vs. 1) or “places” where you pray? Tell us about such.

Research

These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. What are five matters in life Jesus holds up as worthy of prayer in vs. 2-4?

2. How do vs. 11-13 serve as further commentary on the point made being in vs. 5-10?

3. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (vs. 13b) This means what?

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. Why would we want/need to pray for God to uphold the holiness of his name (vs. 2)?

2. If we pray God will uphold the holiness of his name (vs. 3) we’re wanting to see _____.

3. What specific things can we do to help answer our own prayers as we pray vs. 2-4?

4. Is “brashnessness” or “persistence” (vs. 8) essential when asking something of God?

5. Vs. 2-4 tells us what to pray. Vs. 5-13 tells us why to pray. However, what are some “whats” of prayer that come to mind when you reflect on vs. 5-13?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting, to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. ID any and all excuses you make for not praying. Kill these excuses, mercilessly.

2. Make a simple, but specific plan for this week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray.

3. Compose your own prayer in writing. Use the exemplary prayer (vs. 2-4) as a guide.

a prayer for all civic leaders and politicians

 

Holy Father, God and King over all creation,

I come to you in the name of the Lord Jesus today, lifting up to you every civic leader and civil servant, every politician and government office holder, in this world.

Praise be to you for so ordering things that there is some semblance of order in this world gone wicked and mad.

Thank you not only for not writing off this part of your creation and allowing this world to descend into total disorder and anarchy, but for relentlessly pursuing it with your great love.

All glory and praise be to you in that you – wonder of wonders! – daily work your infallible will through fallible men and women.

And so may each and every one of these servant leaders know you, Father; truly know you and live for you for with every beat of their heart.

May you not be closed off from their first consideration in all their agreements, ballots, choices, decisions, deliberations, discussions, and votes.

Bring what you would to bear in the life of each of them to the end that they ever seek you foremost, seeking to honor and love you in everything by loving people with your love.

When they pray to you, listen to their prayers and give them the confidence that their prayers are heard by you.

Constantly call to their mind your promises as well the promises they have made to you, for these are ever greater than the promises they have made to others.

Ceaselessly broaden their field of vision, ever educating them to the needs of all the people they serve, and not merely those who like or support them.

May they ever learn, and love to learn, what is holy and good, pure and noble.

As they owe many people favors and kindnesses, ever guide them in the way of doing right, making them incapable of being bought or owned by others.

As they deal with much money often, guard their hearts, and all connected to them, from the love of money.

Shine your light on any and everything within them that even leans toward arrogance, deceit, deception, pettiness, pride, self-reliance, selfishness, or revenge.

Kill within them anything like even a single seed of the party spirit that kills the spirit of so many.

Enable them to recognize every form of subtle trickery, underhandedness, and manipulation, and as they identify such, may they not succumb to such or come to embody it themselves.

Surround them with good counsel, good friends, and good support, lest they find themselves surrounded by those who would seek to do evil to them or through them.

Remove any and all blinders with which others would mask them and summon up within them the vision to see through every unhealthy influence put to them by others.

As they are privy to and entrusted with far more than can ever be revealed to the people they serve, deliver them from being puffed up with such knowledge, along with their constituents in their ignorance.

Protect their hearts from the callousness that can grow from being constantly exposed to the friction and toil of gossip, lies, misrepresentations, misunderstanding, rumors, and slander.

As their families live constantly in the face of the camera and every watching eye, and as even the slightest matters of their loved ones are ever scrutinized and examined, safeguard all from bitterness and cynicism.

Still the tongues of all who mindlessly and heartlessly criticize, judge, and demean these servants of yours, putting within us all instead the ever present reminder to only do to others as we would have them do to us.

Help them to see beyond themselves, their dreams, and personal ambitions, and to perceive instead, your calling as to what you have in mind and would have done.

Shield them from despair and despondency when their good work surely seems in vain or once again goes unappreciated.

Forget not their righteous works and grant a good harvest from every seed of good mercy and true justice that they plant.

Give them a constant awareness of, and sensitivity to, the effects their attitudes and actions have on the most vulnerable in society, and grant them the courage to gladly stand up for such without hesitation, apology, or compromise.

When they are at an impasse with other leaders, may their efforts to work together never cease, growing instead only more sincere and humble, conciliatory and constructive with each passing day.

Pour out on them a steady shower of your discernment and wisdom that they may be quick to forgive of things past and equipped to forge a foundation for better relationships between all in the future.

Forgive them of their deliberate sins, as well as all unintentional slights to you or harm to any creature or aspect of creation.

Amen.

a prayer with Syria in mind

 

God, my Father, hear me in the name of your Son, my Lord, Jesus.

My heart bleeds for the people of Syria; all of them.

The young and the old.

The bitter and the blessed.

The innocent and the guilty.

The orphans and the widows.

The Muslims and the Christians.

 The powerful and the powerless.

The grieving and those who are yet to grieve.

Father, stop this bloodshed.

Humble the proud and lift up those who think like you.

Break the unending cycle of violence and kick-start mercy.

Soften the hearts that are hardened and the minds that are clouded.

Prevent escalation of enmity and enlighten all who seek holy answers to anger.

Give the leaders of the nations your wisdom and the peoples of the nations hope.

Defeat now those you would have defeated and deliver those you would have delivered.

Raise up active, courageous people of peace and cast down those who work destruction and death.

So none would perish before they seek you and find you.

Amen.

when WBC comes to town

 

Here in Baytown this morning a memorial service is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at the First Baptist Church for Keith E. Grace. Keith died earlier this month in Paktia Province, Afghanistan.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has made notice of his death on their homepage and might be represented at Keith’s memorial service. If you think you’re unfamiliar with WBC, think of children holding signs saying “God Hates Fags” and I’m confident you’ll know who I’m talking about. (sigh)

So, how are we to pray with these matters in mind?

May we pray:

With adoration and praise for the living God who powerfully and unceasingly loves and cares for all of his creation.

With confession that there are none righteous, no not one, and so, we all are utterly and totally dependent on the grace and mercy of God.

With thanksgiving for the amazing, unceasing privilege we are given of audience with God our King in the name of Jesus, the Christ, in prayer.

With solicitation for God’s comfort to rest on all who suffer and grieve an unspeakable loss in the death of a loved one.

With a plea that godly discernment and spiritual wisdom, real restraint and complete self-control – in all thoughts, words, and actions – would envelop all who take part in, or have some connection with, today’s gathering.

With an appeal for enlightenment in divine guidance in the true way of Christ and that every terrible misunderstanding or false teaching taught in Christ’s name would pass away, repented of by any and all who embrace and proclaim them.

With petition that all forms of hatred and violence toward all human beings, beings made in God’s image, would cease, and that the true love of God would flow freely, unhindered, through us all to each other.

With humble request that every form of pride would perish from among us all, putting ourselves at the head of the line as the chiefest of sinners.

pondering prayer: it’s about your trajectory, not your track record

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Feb. 10). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning. This sermon is part two in the Pondering Prayer series and is entitled It’s About Your Trajectory, Not Your Track Record. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.

Aim

To explore some of the most commonly misunderstood or mystifying aspects of prayer.

Word

• Jonah … cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant. When word of it reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, stripped himself of his robe, covered himself with mourning clothes, and sat in ashes. Then he announced, “In Nineveh, by decree of the king and his officials: Neither human nor animal, cattle nor flock, will taste anything! No grazing and no drinking water! Let humans and animals alike put on mourning clothes, and let them call upon God forcefully! And let all persons stop their evil behavior and the violence that’s under their control!” He thought, Who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish. God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it. (Jonah 3.4-10)

• When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him … One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus … said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23.33a,42-43)

• We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. (John 9.31)

• There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius … He and his whole household were pious, Gentile God-worshippers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish people and prayed to God constantly. One day … he clearly saw an angel from God in a vision. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Startled, he … replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said, “Your prayers and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to God.” (Acts 10.1-4)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Which is better, your hearing or your listening? Explain.

2. I refuse to listen to anyone who ________.

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. “The people of Nineveh” (Jonah 4) weren’t Jewish? How is it God responded to them?

2. We’re all sinners so, what kind of sinners does God not hear (John 9.31)?

3. List what those in the texts above did (or stopped doing) that fortified their prayers.

4. Having read all of the texts above, what one word comes to mind that best describes what all the people mentioned in those texts that God heard had in common?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. How does it make you feel to know God hears the prayers of all who seek him?

2. What can believers do to could encourage those yet to believe to talk to God?

3. What do believers do that discourages those yet to believe from talking to God?

4. Which would you rather God know you for: your track record or where you are now?