Antidote for Prayerlessness

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Dave Acree’s full job title is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. He’s passionate about getting more people to engage in spiritual growth. This blog post is the accompaniment to our monthly Prayer Calender, which you may find out more about here.

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LDCatI pro-actively visited the doctor a couple of weeks ago for my annual check-up. Everything’s fine. I’m relieved. Yet most of the times we go to the doctor tend to be reactive in response to something endangering our health. Everything’s not fine and we know we need help if we are to maintain or regain that coveted healthy status.

When Jesus was on the earth the religious establishment of the day had problems with his ministry methodology. He ate and mingled with tax collectors and sinners. “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick,” was Jesus’ answer to their challenge.

It has helped me to think of prayerlessness as a spiritual sickness.

When Jesus’ disciples were struck with PIC (prayer inferiority complex) they went to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray. They knew they needed help and when it came to prayer, Jesus had “doctor” status in their eyes.

In the same way, if prayerlessness is a form of spiritual sickness, we need to go to “doctor” Jesus in order to deal with it. One way to do this is to study the practice of prayer in the life of Jesus and his teachings on prayer. As I have done this I have imagined Jesus writing out the following prescriptive plan:

  1. INTENTIONALLY PRAY: That’s like saying, “Exercise regularly” or “Just do it.” Jesus prayed throughout his life. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12) He modeled individual times of prayer but also called us to group In Luke 11 in response to the request to teach them to pray he gave what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” with the intention that it be prayed as a corporate experience.
  1. BOLDLY ASK: After giving this model prayer to the disciples he told them a parable that taught them to ask the Father for good gifts with shameless audacity. Pray for others; Jesus did. We don’t know what Jesus prayed for all night before choosing the Twelve, but maybe he prayed for them! We know he prayed for Peter, “Simon, Simon Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) Read through John 17 to see how he prayed for the disciples as a group and how he prayed for us who would believe because of them. Pray for your own needs; Jesus did. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
  1. QUIETLY LISTEN: Perhaps in his times of prayer, Jesus was doing as much listening as speaking. “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30); “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16); “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28); “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 49-50) Sometimes what God is saying is drowned out by the noise of our own words.

There is no quick fix for prayerlessness. It’s like taking antibiotics for an infection. If we don’t stay the course and take them all the way to the end, they can’t do their job in the present and may in fact become ineffective for the future.

Don’t settle for prayerlessness. Don’t accept your “Prayer Inferiority Complex” as the norm. Pray like Jesus prayed!

 

Prayer as a Remedy for Forgetfulness

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LDCatWe seem to be living in an epidemic of forgetfulness.

 I find myself getting up from my desk on a mission, marching downstairs to a destination and standing there trying to remember why I came. Or consider my wife Julie and me. We have something that two months hence we are going to need. We put it in a particular place where both of us promise to remember where it is. Two months passing finds us frantically searching with no idea where to look. All of us have forgetting moments. After the frustration we laugh and move on with life.

But what if the object of our forgetfulness is God?

Always looking for fresh ways to spend time with God, I stumbled last fall on a devotional book by Timothy and Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus. The Kellers take you through all 150 psalms in a year. A prayer printed in the January 14 section reads:

“Lord, so many of my problems stem from not remembering you. I forget your wisdom and so I worry. I forget your grace and so I get complacent. I forget your mercy and so I get resentful of others. Help me to remember who you are every moment of the day. Amen.”

Forgetting God wreaks havoc in our lives so what can we do to help us remember him?

The ancient church, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, practiced praying throughout the day what was called, the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Such “breath” praying helps reduce forgetfulness.

Adam S. McHugh in his 2015 book, The Listening Life, put me on to a different breath prayer. Taken from 1 Samuel 3 and the story of God speaking to the boy Samuel, it goes like this: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

“Saying the Samuel prayer almost always causes me to take a deep breath, to slow down and become more attentive to what is taking place around me and in me. I become more aware of God’s presence

 . . . . My prayers become less about what I want and more about living in the presence of God. (McHugh, 84)

As I regularly pray like that throughout the day I forget about myself more and about God less.

I will continue to struggle with remembering names or with what I’m supposed to do where, but I can choose not to forget God. Breath-praying helps me do that and will for you also. Why not give it a try?

Update from Mexico

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It’s always amazing to think about how many different places Christmas is celebrated, and in how many ways. It’s a complicated moment in the history of the church, as it tried to navigate through the excesses and overreactions on all sides.

Perhaps no reflection on Christmas is more complicated than Greg and Shelli’s, missionaries serving with the EFCCM.

Take a look as they celebrate their 15th Christmas in Mexico!

On the Brink of the Next World of Hope

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I so appreciate what World of Hope has accomplished in the last 6 years or so. But one of the challenges I’ve been faced with is to share its story.

Most of us are aware of the pitfalls of so-called prosperity-gospel teaching. There are many nuances to this, but basically it boils down to the belief that God will provide us with what we want to be happy. The reason it’s wrong is because it’s oversimplistic — God doesn’t work how we wish or expect all the time, or give us what we think we want, particularly when it’s not aligned with his will.

The same sort of thing works in communicating, too.

What’s going on in the world is tough to package into small, predictable bursts of story that we can tie off with a flourish. Real life is messier and less linear than that.

We’re in the final stretches of preparation for the next World of Hope, getting ready to launch it again once more this fall.

In Galatians, Paul encourages his readers:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

Working with those who suffer from unimaginable poverty and hardship is a heavy load to carry. If it’s a heavy load for us to carry from here, it’s a huge burden for the people who are living in it day to day. As excited as I am about we as a movement are involved with and accomplishing around the world, it’s important to me that we never lose sight of the need which outstrips our ability. And in that, we also acknowledge that ultimately solving the world’s problems is not a human responsibility.

We are called to offer what we have, and we pray that God will use it to accomplish his purposes in the lives of individuals and communities. While it’s encouraging and even gratifying to be involved in effective, generative ministry around the world, and we should celebrate well what God is doing through our consecrated efforts, let us also remember humility.

Intervention in Nepal

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The level of disruption the earthquake in Nepal has caused is both horrible and sad.

Our partner humanitarian organisation, World Relief Canada, has already begun mobilising to intervene with emergency relief operations and supplies.

Click Here to Donate!

We invite you to direct your giving to this worthy organisation, assisting its personnel to ministry grace and comfort to the survivors of the devastation.

We also request you to pray for the country as its continues its rescue and salvage operation, and contemplates the massive tasks of clean-up and rebuilding.

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