Thinking Out Loud

May 7, 2017

Making Your Prayers More Specific

Praying the ScripturesI think sometimes our prayers seem to be ineffectual because we don’t really specify what it is we’re asking for. We remember people in prayer, but it’s more like reciting a list than it is standing in the gap on their behalf or interceding, that is, coming between them and God. I picture God wishing we would engage him more on the particulars.

“So Lord, please be with Mike and Darla.”

“I’m always with them; I will never leave them or forsake them.”

“But Lord, just be in their marriage.”

“Their marriage is wholly committed to me.”

“Yes, Lord, but help them to reach out to you.”

“They speak to me as a couple each morning and evening and throughout the day.”

“Well, just be with them this week.”

“What would you like me to do?”

“Well, they’re going through a rough time right now.”

“Yes, what things specifically are you wanting to bring forward.”

“Mike’s job at the warehouse is looking unsure, and Darla’s job ends next week.”

“Okay, that’s a specific.”

“And the kids are really stressing them out.”

“Yes, parenting is like that.”

“And they need to fix the roof this spring and the money’s not there.”

“Yes, and there’s a section over the end that’s going to get worse really soon.”

“Wait, you know that?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then Lord, I pray you’ll send them the money, or someone willing to repair the roof.”

“Isn’t your brother-in-law a roofing contractor?”

“Yes, but he lives three states away and he doesn’t know these people.”

“Well, you’ve ruled out that possibility. Which part of the prayer request do you think I should deal with first?”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“Yes, but what would you do if you were me?”

“I guess I would…”

“…Yes?”

“I guess I pray you’ll help them both realize that there aren’t really any jobs in their field anymore, that technology is shifting and they need to look for a different kind of work.”

“Now that’s a really specific prayer request I can work with.”

“How are you going to answer that one?”

“I’m going to send you to talk to them about the job market.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I guess I’ve got some work to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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August 25, 2016

Intercessory Prayer: A Different Type of Prayer Meeting

Intercessory PrayerWhen I am given books to read, unless it is a proven author, I often wonder how the title will fare in the marketplace. Will it sell? So it was a bit unusual to receive a copy of something with a cover that reads, “Over 600,000 sold.”

Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets is a book I’ve always known about but never had taken the opportunity to crack the pages. Its arrival in my mail this time is because of a re-launch of the title, acquired from Regal Books, by Bethany House, a division of Baker Books. I was a little unclear as to the reason for this. Although the cover changed, the price did not, and in comparing the two versions, the book seems to be entirely the same. The page numbers vary only because of differences in typesetting. Nowhere do we find the words “Revised Edition” or “Updated Edition.” I won’t complain; I wanted to read this!

Dutch Sheets is a rather remarkable individual whose unusual and many times miraculous adventures in prayer are most inspiring. In many ways, the language and tenor of this book make it a very charismatic-friendly title, so similar to other such books I read early in my Christian life.

But the book is strangely cessationist-friendly at the same time, which may account for its sales over the years. Sheets makes it clear that he believes in praying in tongues, but says he will refer throughout the balance of the book to praying in the Spirit. That terminology may still ring of Pentecostalism for many, but it represents an attempt to reach a broader audience.

The book is really half testimonies and half teaching, and the Hebrew and Greek roots of familiar Bible passages are examined. Sheets says that a meeting takes place in prayer as we stand before God on behalf of situations or others in need of God’s intervention. Some of the exhaustive catalog of scripture verses won’t be looked seen in the same way after reading this.

Perhaps in moments of desperate or anxious prayer, we all become a little more Pentecostal; trying to see the hand of God move in the situation which presents itself. We want a miracle. Could it be that there are no cessationists in fox holes?

First published in 1996, this book has endured two decades and is a contemporary classic worthy of my recommendation.


If you think you've seen this title before, you have!

If you think you’ve seen this title before, you have!

The full title is Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth. (Bethany House, 304 page paperback, $14.99 US.) Discussion/reflection questions follow each chapter and there is a short leader’s guide at the back of the book. Also sold separately is a study guide which has also been recently repackaged. A repackaged eight-session DVD is releasing in a few days, with each segment containing 30 minutes of teaching. Finally, a youth edition is also available.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

 

 

July 29, 2016

Specific Prayers for Your Children

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
Psalm 103:13 NIV

praying boy and dogEven if you’re not a parent, you might be a grandparent, Godparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, teacher, Children’s ministry leader, etc. Or perhaps you can use this as a checklist to see how you measure up yourself! This first appeared at Into The King’s Garden by Angel Koerner Bohon. Click the title below to get the source for this and think of someone who has children in their sphere of influence you can send it to. Also remember, if your kids are in their 30s or 40s, it’s not too late to pray these prayers. (The reference in each section alludes strongly to scripture passages you will recognize, but if you want to study them further, copy and paste into BibleGateway.com)

Virtues to Pray for Your Children

1. Salvation — “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in Grace — “I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love — “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and Integrity — “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-Control — “Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.” (1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word — “May my children grow to find Your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice — “God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7; Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy — “May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, and authority) — “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical Self-Esteem — “Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness — “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage — “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deut. 31:6)

13. Purity — “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness — “Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity — “Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-Loving — “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy — “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thes. 1:6)

18. Perseverance — “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility — “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Titus 3:2)

20. Compassion — “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility — “Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment — “Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives them strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith — “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A Servant’s Heart — “God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope — “May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

26. Willingness and Ability to Work — “Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God — “Lord, please instill in my children a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ one that clings passionately to You.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-Discipline — “Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness — “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

30. Gratitude — “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7)

31. A Heart for Missions — “Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

 

February 26, 2016

Book Makes Praying for the World More Intimate, More Personal

Today I want to recommend a book to you that was not given to me for review nor do I have a copy in front of me as I write this; but it’s one in a book genre that I feel is essential reading for any individual or family who wants to expand their prayer focus farther than their own immediate family and friends; beyond their own city or town.

Brian StillerBrian Stiller is what I would call a Christian statesman, a phrase which I take to mean a person who is both well-versed and widely-traveled and thereby is unusually forthright when it comes to the political,  economic and spiritual conditions and issues in various parts of the world. As Global Ambassador with the World Evangelical Alliance he is also the former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (the Canadian equivalent of NAE) and former President of Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting with Brian at each of these stages and he was gracious enough to allow me to interview him for a magazine when he was at EFC, and there were things he said that day which I can still quote verbatim.

His book, An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Bethany House, 2016, paper) would fall into the same category as the popular Operation World which is an exhaustive index of the countries of the world and the particular challenges each presents in terms of the spread of the gospel.

However, where Operation World is exhaustive, Praying for the World is personal. Brian Stiller shares from his own experiences, having visited the various countries covered in the book. The book is thereby somewhat autobiographical, but I would argue that Stiller’s write-ups for each are both subjective and objective at the same time.

Of the 52 chapters, not every one is about a unique nation:

  • 3 deal with prison ministries
  • 1 is a general perspective
  • 1 is about global prayer initiatives
  • 1 looks at The Pope
  • 1 looks at a religion rather than a nation, in this case Islam
  • 2 repeat a country; Vietnam and Rwanda each have two chapters

By my calculations, that means 43 countries remain; countries that most of us will never visit at all, but in this one book we’re afforded the opportunity to see these nations and their needs through Brian Stiller’s eyes. The 52 chapters may be read in any order, or consulted for reference. 

Each section contains:

  • an overview of that country
  • Brian’s ‘dispatch’ from that nation; the main essay
  • a key Bible verse
  • specific items for prayer
  • a suggested guided prayer

The potential uses for Praying for the World are many, but would include everything from your family prayer time, to giving to your missions committee, to having a copy in your church library.

Brian C Stiller - An Insider's Guide to Praying for the World

 

 

July 23, 2015

The Calvinist and the Altar Call

I don’t want to take a lot of time over-introducing the video segment here, lest I fall into the trap of putting some spin on it; but in this 11-minute clip there is a strange juxtaposition between the revivalism of John Piper’s description of his traveling evangelist father, and the context of the Calvinist audience to whom he is speaking. If your mind and hearts are open, there is a moment of unusual transparency here where we learn as much about the speaker as we do about the place of pleading in the salvation process.

This clip was posted (or re-posted) by Free Gift Media, a new resource I am just being made aware of. To learn more check their Twitter and their website.

May 2, 2015

Making Your Prayers More Specific

This ran here a year ago, but I wanted to return to it in case you missed it. This is a genuine weakness in my own prayer life; we read or speak a ‘laundry list’ to God of names without any qualification of what it is we’re asking. I can almost here God saying, “Yeah, Tom. What about him?”


 

Praying the ScripturesI think sometimes our prayers seem to be ineffectual because we don’t really specify what it is we’re asking for. We remember people in prayer, but it’s more like reciting a list than it is standing in the gap on their behalf or interceding, that is, coming between them and God. I picture God wishing we would engage him more on the particulars.

“So Lord, please be with Mike and Darla.”

“I’m always with them; I will never leave them or forsake them.”

“But Lord, just be in their marriage.”

“Their marriage is wholly committed to me.”

“Yes, Lord, but help them to reach out to you.”

“They speak to me as a couple each morning and evening and throughout the day.”

“Well, just be with them this week.”

“What would you like me to do?”

“Well, they’re going through a rough time right now.”

“Yes, what things specifically are you wanting to bring forward.”

“Mike’s job at the warehouse is looking unsure, and Darla’s job ends next week.”

“Okay, that’s a specific.”

“And the kids are really stressing them out.”

“Yes, parenting is like that.”

“And they need to fix the roof this spring and the money’s not there.”

“Yes, and there’s a section over the end that’s going to get worse really soon.”

“Wait, you know that?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then Lord, I pray you’ll send them the money, or someone willing to repair the roof.”

“Isn’t your brother-in-law a roofing contractor?”

“Yes, but he lives three states away and he doesn’t know these people.”

“Well, you’ve ruled out that possibility, haven’t you? Which part of the prayer request do you think I should deal with first?”

“Isn’t that your responsibility?”

“Yes, but what would you do if you were me?”

“I guess I would…”

“…Yes?”

“I guess I pray you’ll help them both realize that there aren’t really any jobs in their field anymore, that technology is shifting and they need to look for a different kind of work.”

“Now that’s a really specific prayer request I can work with.”

“How are you going to answer that one?”

“I’m going to send you to talk to them about the job market.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I guess I’ve got some work to do… In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 


 

May 16, 2014

Praying Specifically

Praying the ScripturesI think sometimes our prayers seem to be ineffectual because we don’t really specify what it is we’re asking for. We remember people in prayer, but it’s more like reciting a list than it is standing in the gap on their behalf or interceding, that is, coming between them and God. I picture God wishing we would engage him more on the particulars.

“So Lord, please be with Mike and Darla.”

“I’m always with them; I will never leave them or forsake them.”

“But Lord, just be in their marriage.”

“Their marriage is wholly committed to me.”

“Yes, Lord, but help them to reach out to you.”

“They speak to me as a couple each morning and evening and throughout the day.”

“Well, just be with them this week.”

“What would you like me to do?”

“Well, they’re going through a rough time right now.”

“Yes, what things specifically are you wanting to bring forward.”

“Mike’s job at the warehouse is looking unsure, and Darla’s job ends next week.”

“Okay, that’s a specific.”

“And the kids are really stressing them out.”

“Yes, parenting is like that.”

“And they need to fix the roof this spring and the money’s not there.”

“Yes, and there’s a section over the end that’s going to get worse really soon.”

“Wait, you know that?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then Lord, I pray you’ll send them the money, or someone willing to repair the roof.”

“Isn’t your brother-in-law a roofing contractor?”

“Yes, but he lives three states away and he doesn’t know these people.”

“Well, you’ve ruled out that possibility. Which part of the prayer request do you think I should deal with first?”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“Yes, but what would you do if you were me?”

“I guess I would…”

“…Yes?”

“I guess I pray you’ll help them both realize that there aren’t really any jobs in their field anymore, that technology is shifting and they need to look for a different kind of work.”

“Now that’s a really specific prayer request I can work with.”

“How are you going to answer that one?”

“I’m going to send you to talk to them about the job market.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I guess I’ve got some work to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

November 25, 2013

What If It’s Not All About You?

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:16 am

Someone else is prayingWhat if?

What if all those times you said you got “an answer to a prayer you haven’t prayed yet;” it wasn’t just that God had met a need before you voiced it, but rather, it was that someone else was praying for you. Someone you know well, or maybe know only superficially. Or someone who knows you, but you don’t know them at all?

What if prayer moves the hand of God more than we, or any theologian ever realized, but we don’t give God the credit because it’s hard for us to believe that out there are people who are the ‘pray-ers’; that out there are people who care about us?

What if people you sometimes are short with, who you sometimes criticize, who you sometimes don’t return their calls, or emails or texts are actually a major, central force in your life through intercession?

What if?

November 12, 2013

Dear God: I’d Like to Order a Medium Pizza

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:01 am

This appeared Sunday at Christianity 201…

Fast Food Prayer RequestsSo I pick up the phone and I call the number of the Chinese Food restaurant around the block, and I tell them I’d like to order:

  • dinner for four
  • two extra egg rolls
  • an order of chicken fried rice

I give my name and tell them I’ll come by to pick it up in 30 minutes. And then I hang up.

I have no idea who took my order. I have no idea if they’re busy or if I’m the first customer of the day. I don’t really know if the person who I will be served by is even the same person I just talked to. And honestly, in a busy world, I usually don’t care.

Are our prayers to God any different? People talk about having a “laundry list” of prayer requests, but I prefer to think in terms of ordering Chinese food or a pizza.

Phil 4:19 (NLT) And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

God wants us to bring our needs to Him. He loves it when we ask. He wants us to keep the conversation going. He wants us to be in relationship with Him. He promises to meet us in the area of provision.

But in the model prayer Jesus gave The Twelve, this type of request was only a small part of a bigger prayer picture. The prayer consists of three requests toward God Himself:

  • that His name be honored and reverenced
  • that His will be accomplished
  • the bringing about of His kingdom to earth

And then toward ourselves:

  • for our basic provisions
  • for us to live in, practice, and be agents of grace and mercy
  • for us to be protected from evil, and the temptation to evil

Now, you could say that if each of these is equal that mean each should form 1/6th of our prayer time, or that each one constitutes 17%. (I don’t think we need to be that literal.) Others might argue that in the Hebrew mindset, where there is a list, things are presented in an order of importance. (Some might say the first thing is doubly important.) In a proportionate percentage guide, that might look like this:

  • 28%
  • 24%
  • 18%
  • 14%
  • 10%
  • 6%

I don’t for a minute believe it works that way. The point is, that we don’t spend 70% on concerns that would fit the patter of prayer toward God, in fact we don’t even spend 51% (using the 17% figure above) or 50%. We tend to spend all our prayer time on ourselves. That a lot more than the 17% that would put things in proportion.

And we often want our order ready for pickup in 30 minutes.

But interestingly enough, God promises us that if we put him first we might need to spend so much time concerned with health and material provision requests. You find that in a familiar verse in Matthew 6, provided you incorporate the context of a previous verse:

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [i.e. 31..What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’] will be given to you as well.

Do people who honor God in their prayer life get everything they feel they need? I have two answers for that. First of all, if they spend less time preoccupied with provision for needs, it is less of a priority, less of an obsession for them. This in itself will give them greater contentment with what they have. Second, I’ve always believed that ‘the desires of the righteous are righteous desires.” So in a way, the answer is ‘yes.’

Now for the hard part: Lately we’ve had a number of people voice prayer requests that are not prayers for ourselves. We have friends who need a healing touch. We have friends who need jobs. We have friends whose marriage is in trouble. We’ve sensed — and commented to others — that our prayer list has gotten very long lately.

So surely, this does not apply to altruistic prayers like we’ve been praying, right?

Wrong!

I think the principle still applies. I need to be challenged to spend more time working on the part of the model prayer that concerns thoughts toward God. I need to begin my prayer in worship and reverence. I need to pray for the extension and raising of God’s Kingdom. I need to spend more time praying for God’s will to be done on the earth.

A ‘laundry list’ is a ‘laundry list’ no matter how you frame it. God wants my prayer life to be so much more, even when I feel that bringing needs on behalf of others.

If it looks like a take-out order, and it sounds like a take-out order, it’s probably a take-out order. God wants me to spend time with him beyond voicing specific need-based prayer concerns.

God, help me to spend more time letting you know that I love you, and that I am in awe of your greatness and majesty and dominion. Help me to be more concerned that Your Will be carried out on the earth. Make my desire that You build your kingdom.

June 7, 2013

Never Give Up, Never Surrender Praying

With apologies for borrowing the Galaxy Quest title, this is actually a rather serious article which appeared here a year ago under the title When Faith Meets Finality.

I have to be honest. I am the type of person who doesn’t radiate a lot optimism when it comes to my own personal prayer requests, but when it comes to your prayer concerns, I believe in the limitless power of God to do anything — absolutely anything — even when the doctors, business consultants and marriage counselors have said there is no room for hope.

I’ve also encouraged my kids to pray and to ever be trying to enlarge our prayer circle beyond our own immediate family needs, which frequently means they are praying for people they have never met, or as is the case today, a person who I had never met.

She was the wife of a sales rep of a guy who calls on our store representing a large Christian publishing company. When we first met seven years ago, she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So we prayed in a parking lot that day, and have been praying for her healing ever since. She fought long and hard and at one point seemed to triumph over the disease, but then it returned. And then it spread.

However, this did not temper the language with which I interceded. Like I said, I believe in the limitless possibilities of what can happen when people pray.

Until the day my wife phoned me to say an email had arrived announcing she had passed away.

For several minutes I was silent.

Faith met finality. Her battle with cancer was over.

Still, without trying to spin the outcome we had not longed for, I believe I can say that in some measure the prayers of myself and others were answered, for although some would argue that our wrestling with God simply dragged on the process, in those seven years her two children — now in their early teens — got to spend more time with her, to receive her values, to have a more solid memory of the sound of her voice, to be held, and to be loved.

Do these outcomes shatter my faith? Hardly. It’s still there. God could raise her from the dead if He chose to, and I have heard stories where people prayed just that. Were they in denial? I don’t think so; I think there are other ways to manifest denial than by proclaiming the possibilities of miracles.

I believe we should just keep praying, right up to the last possible moment. If anything, this just increases my faith for the next need that is brought to our attention.

As to my recurrent weakness in coming boldly to God’s throne for my own needs, I simply offer this today: You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

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