toward application: prayer for self

Matter: “Aside from forgiveness, how ought I to pray for myself? I need guidance.”

Means: A friend of mine, Timothy Archer, has addressed this very matter extremely well. Reproduced below is his prayer. Pray like this for it reflects the fruit we long to bear in abundance, the fruit of God’s Spirit.

My Father, through Your Holy Spirit, in Your Son’s name, I ask …

… help me choose love rather than resentment,
… help me choose joy over bitterness,
… help me live peace in a world of turmoil,
… help me to be patient with others as You are patient with me,
… help me to be known for kindness not harshness,
… help me to seek goodness not success,
… help me be faithful to You above all,
… help me to be gentle, especially with those who disagree with me,
… help me practice self-control, letting You control me.

May Your Spirit produce His fruit in me.


toward application / prayer block

Matter: “You’ve heard of writer’s block. I often feel like I have a mental block when it comes to prayer.”

Means: Reverse the flow of your thoughts and call in some reinforcements. That is, instead of trying to mentally “come up with something,” let your body’s physical senses “bring you something.” As for the reinforcements, summon up some imagination and creativity. Be unafraid to “play” a bit with how you pray.

Try this: close your your eyes and concentrate solely on identifying all the sounds you hear. Let each of those individual sounds serve as prompts for subjects or trajectories of prayer for you to explore.

For example, as I sit outside I can often hear the sounds of traffic. That prompts me to pray for the variety of people in those vehicles. That can lead me to pray with thankfulness to our Father for all of the occupants of those vehicles, for their being given the gift of life and the privilege of another day. That can stimulate me to ask God for the safety of them all as they interact on the road. And how about all of the households of which they are a part? May truly healthy and happy attitudes and relationships flourish in those families and in the lives of all the people whom they are connected. Etc., etc., etc.

Practice such “extension of awareness” with all of the other sounds you identify. Do you hear a bird? Let such prompt you in prayer regarding the witness of, and praise to, God by all of the natural world/creation. Do you hear a siren or a life-flight helicopter? Allow such to lead your mind to pray for first-responders of all kinds, everywhere, and all whom they seek to aid.

Have fun and build in some imagination, too. (Incidentally, this is a great way to include children in your prayers, for they are often naturally-inclined toward such.) For example, let each barking dog you hear stir you to talk with God about all the complainers you know in life … as well as about your own wrestling with “barking” and complaining that you give and/or receive. (To prompt a child with you, ask them, “What do you think that dog is saying with their barking?”) Tie memories of specific, relevant Scriptures in with your prayers (e.g. – Philippians 2.14-15).

All of this works for all of your other physical senses, of course (i.e. – sight, smell, taste, touch). Vary your surroundings and work through your senses. You will likely find what you pray about, and how you pray, refreshed and revitalized.

IMMERSE – Feb. 2019 reading schedule

IMMERSE is the name of the three-year, five-day-per-week, church-wide Bible reading that the church I preach with is engaged in right now. As of today, we have completed the first two weeks of IMMERSE. We’ve now got the story of Christ fixed in our mind via the longest book in the New Testament, Luke’s Gospel. We’re now set to read volume two of Luke’s two-volume work, Acts.

Following is this month’s reading schedule (February). The page #’s match the paperback edition of ‘Messiah’ in the IMMERSE series. The location #’s match the eBook version of the same (e.g. – if you use Kindle).

  • Feb. 1 (Fri.) – Luke 22.1-24.53 (pp.52-59; loc.1661-1830)
    Feb. 2 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 3 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 4 (Mon.) – Acts 1.1-4.4 (pp.61-66; loc.1833-1948)
    Feb. 5 (Tues.) – Acts 4.5-6.7 (pp.66-70; loc.1948-2027)
    Feb. 6 (Wed.) – Acts 6.8-9.31 (pp.70-77; loc.2027-2171)
    Feb. 7 (Thur.) – Acts 9.32-12.24 (pp.77-82; loc.2171-2281)
    Feb. 8 (Fri.) – Acts 12.25-16.5 (pp.82-89; loc.2281-2416)
    Feb. 9 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 10 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 11 (Mon.) – Acts 16.6-19.20 (pp.89-94; loc.2416-2537)
    Feb. 12 (Tues.) – Acts 19.21-23.35 (pp.95-103; loc.2537-2704)
    Feb. 13 (Wed.) – Acts 24.1-28.31 (pp.103-110; loc.2704-2874)
    Feb. 14 (Thur.) – 1 Thes.1.1-5.28 (pp.111-117; loc.2877-2997)
    Feb. 15 (Fri.) – 2 Thes. 1.1-3.18 (pp.119-123; loc.3002-3067)
    Feb. 16 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 17 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 18 (Mon.) – 1 Cor. 1.1-2.16 (pp.125-129; loc.3078-3161)
    Feb. 19 (Tues.) – 1 Cor. 3.1-7.24 (pp.129-135; loc.3161-3282)
    Feb. 20 (Wed.) – 1 Cor. 7.25-12.31 (pp.135-142; loc.3282-3433)
    Feb. 21 (Thur.) – 1 Cor. 13.1-16.24 (pp.142-148; loc.3433-3569)
    Feb. 22 (Fri.) – 2 Cor. 1.1-7.16 (pp.149-158; loc.3575-3750)
    Feb. 23 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 24 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 25 (Mon.) – 2 Cor. 8.1-13.14 (pp.158-164; loc.3760-3895)
    Feb. 26 (Tues.) – Gal. 1.1-2.21 (pp.165-169; loc.3900-3977)
    Feb. 27 (Wed.) – Gal. 3.1-6.18 (pp.169-175; loc.3987-4093)
    Feb. 28 (Thur.) – Rom. 1.1-5.11  (pp.177-185; loc.4101-4272)

toward application / why pray

Matter: “If God knows me, why pray? I rarely see things change anyway.”

Means: Turn the lens around; you’re looking at things through the wrong end. You’re making prayer out to be about “changing things” and for that to occur when you want it to happen.

Now God often does change matters in response to our prayers. In ways we can see. Sometimes even exactly the way, and when, we’d want it. But, such must not ever be our total expectation from, or our take on, the purpose of prayer.

It is imperative for us to see prayer primarily as a means by which God changes us, not merely our situations. Prayer wasn’t made for our merely getting what we want and our deliverance, so much as it was made for our exercise in becoming what he wants and our development. (Read that last sentence again, slowly and thoughtfully.) Prayer is about growing in our relationship with, and our reliance on, God our Savior, not about us and our surroundings. Prayer is not about reaping what we want. Prayer is about belonging to God in every way, come what may.

God is infinitely more than the granter of our wishes. He is our Sovereign, not our slave. He must be enough for us; his grace sufficient for us. This is what he wants you to grow to see and become. He is to be our all in all. He knows us, and our true needs, far better than we do. If he changes things, let those things be in us. If he changes anything else, that will be good and gravy and grace. His will be done.

So … turn the lens around. You need to picture prayer, God, and yourself differently.

toward application / prayer

With this post, I want to start a random, but regular series that speaks straight to the heart of applying faith in our life. Think: practical, ministerial advice on common matters. Not comprehensive answers, of course, but concise, clear, and candid footholds for your climb.
Matter: “I don’t feel like praying. I don’t have the words.
Means: Make an appointment with God. Set a specific time you’ll meet with him each day. Keep the appointment; put it in granite. Guard that time! Even if you only sit in silence before him, your mindful presence before him is prayer.
Keep a brief, written/typed list, or journal, of people and matters you want to pray about. Visit that list early in the day, every day. Writing it down is the first step to working it up. just reviewing it gets you halfway there in prayer.
Silently pray a single sentence prayer in your head as you converse/relate with people throughout the day. Ask a blessing on them. Thank God for something. Let what’s happening in them, or what you observe about them, prompt word prayer for them and yourself.

sermon notes – Luke 12.32-34

I typically do not type or write out my sermons ahead of time in manuscript form; I just imprint them in my mind. However, this morning’s sermon was an exception. Here’s what I carried with me into the pulpit today.

that’s the Spirit: it’s what you give
Sun.; January 27, 2019; 10:30 a.m.
Driving south on Thompson Rd. from I-10 – just before I came to Daniel’s Meat Market – my eyes were drawn to a huge billboard nearby. It was an advertisement for whiskey. Not just any whiskey, you understand, but Crown Royal. It says:

“It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”

Now drink that in! For it sounds an awful lot like what our Lord says to us! “It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”

Our Lord preached proverbial wisdom: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It simply cannot be any other way: inevitably, our heart is about we you treasure. It cannot be otherwise. One gives witness to the other.

Our Lord preached that if our heart is after God’s heart, that is, that it treasures what God treasures, our actions will show. And since what God treasures is people, then if God is our treasure, we will be rich in blessing people. That is his program, and so will be our life’s program. As our Lord put it: “Sell your possessions, and give alms.” Taking good care of people and our heart is no small thing. The application of what Jesus said can be a fearsome thing indeed!

And that is why our Lord, the Prince of Peace, preached peace and promise to us as he did: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Where’s that found? You can read it for yourself from the same book we’ve been reading this past week as a church family, Luke’s Gospel (Lk. 12.32-34, to be specific). Luke’s entire Gospel can be well summed up with these words:

“It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”

For no writing in the NT speaks more frequently or more fervently about our attitude toward, and our actions with, money and possessions, than Luke’s Gospel. The subject is specifically noted often. Here are five examples. Hear them all with these words in mind:

“It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”

• Lk. 3.11-14 – when people approached John the Baptist as to how they should respond in light of his preaching, all of his answers involved how they handled money – [crowds in general:] “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise. …” [tax collectors:] “… collect no more than the amount prescribed for you …” [soldiers:] “Do not extort money from anyone … and be satisfied with your wages.” [They were all challenged to consider: “It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”]

• Lk. 5.28 – When our Lord called Matthew (aka: Levi), Levi “got up, left everything, and followed him.” [“It’s not what I have; it’s what I give.”]

• Lk. 8.1-3 – Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and others sustained Jesus/his disciples “out of their resources.” [“It’s not what I have; it’s what I give.”]

• Lk. 19.1-10 – when Zacchaeus stood and announced his fruits of repentance to our Lord, he said: “‘Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’” [He was about: “It’s not what I have; it’s what I give.”]

• Lk. 21.1-4 – and when “Jesus saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins and he said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all.’” [She was thinking: “It’s not what I have; it’s what I give.”]

That’s the Spirit! Surely Luke would have smiled at that sign if he had been in the car with me and seen that billboard. This much is certain: our Lord does. I know because he gave it all, and still does, for you and me.

Are you taking good care of your heart? Is God’s program – people – your program? Is how you give in any and every way, in any and every place, geared to bless people, and so praise and love the God who made them, and you? Does your heart rest in his promise of his ruling care over your life? Do you need to give up some things, or embrace some things afresh in your heart? Think about your treasure.

Well, that’s what this time of invitation is for – for you to carefully and deeply consider Christ and his good news, namely:

“It’s not what you have; it’s what you give.”