Prayer Calendar: Authentic Prayer

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LDCatDave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.


Why does it feel wrong when I don’t say “in Jesus name” at the end of my prayer? In thinking about that, I noticed something for the first time. I only say it in my public praying not in my private prayers. Why is that?

I know the theological reasons for adding the words to the end of a prayer. It is a way of acknowledging that it’s only through the authority of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross that we can approach God. In addition, it is a way of affirming that we believe that what we are praying is what Jesus would pray and is in line with the Father’s will.

If that’s true then why don’t I speak the words in my private praying as I do in public? Could it be that I’m “playing to the crowd” more than praying to the Father? After all, the crowd rather expects it to be there and maybe it’s just become an unneeded habit that’s hard to break!

Jesus did warn us in the Sermon on the Mount not to pray to the crowd to be rewarded or affirmed by them and to not multiply words thinking they will make God sit up and take notice.

Why such ponderings? Because they have caused me to think more deeply about the authenticity of my praying and I would like to challenge you along that line.

I’ve noticed something else about my prayers. Sometimes it seems like in the middle of praying I kind of shift into gear and really pray. I can’t explain it any better than that but it is something that I want more of. It’s a kind of prayer zone where I finally forget everything and everyone else except God and me.

I think it is something like what James tells us about Elijah in James 5:17. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly . . . .” The text actually says that he “prayed with prayer” or “prayed in his prayer.” In the middle of his prayer, he got down to praying. I experience that too rarely. Maybe that’s true of you also.

I call us all to a greater authenticity in prayer where it matters not who is present or listening, where the world fades away and we truly talk to God.

 

Prayer Calendar: Repetitious Prayer

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LDCat

Dave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.

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A good story bears repeating, but not over and over and over again. As I grow older I worry about boring people with my favorite stories, and it doesn’t have to be dementia-driven for that to happen! Many prayers should be repeated over and over again. I pray for my grandchildren like that and for my friends in Turkey and Australia claiming them for Jesus.

In preparing to write this article I looked back over a piece I wrote last year at this time as a prayer for Christmas and 2016. I think it’s worth repeating, so here goes:

“Most of us have moved a long way from being starry-eyed children ripping open presents on either Christmas eve or morn to get at what’s inside. Whatever it is, they think it’s going to make them happy. No, now I’m the grandfather watching the starry-eyed kids hoping that what they find inside WILL make them happy.

Stars have always been associated with hope and promise. Remember this? ‘When you wish upon a star; makes no difference who you are; when you wish upon a star your dreams come true.’ Or what about this one? ‘Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might….’

If I were preaching a Christmas sermon this year I would retell the story of the wise men in Matthew 2:1-12 but turn it on its ear a bit. Normally the focus is on the magi with the application urging us to be like them, always seeking Jesus. ‘Wise men still seek him,’ right? Of course that’s true but I need something more than that this Christmas and throughout 2017. And so does the EFCC.

We need to be like the star pointing and leading people to Jesus.

‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold forth the word of life.’ (Philippians 2:14-16, NIV 2011)

‘Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.’ (Ephesians 6:19, NIV 2011)

‘And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ . . . . Pray that I may proclaim it clearly.’ (Colossians 4:3-4, NIV 2011)

‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ (Luke 10:2, NIV 2011)

I am praying and will continue to pray throughout 2017 that you and your church and the EFCC and all of its churches, ministries and leaders will be like stars holding forth the word of life, pointing and leading people to Jesus.

If you can, will you pray that for me also and join me in praying that for the EFCC?”

Prayer Calendar: Tear Drops of Prayer

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LDCatDave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.

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Tears face mixed reviews in Western culture. Some cry easily while others hardly cry at all. Some see tears as embarrassing and a sign of weakness while others see them as a welcome and healthy release. I’m a middle of the road kind of guy when it comes to crying. Though as I grow older I find that I cry more readily.

In fact, I no longer go to the movie theatre to watch a “tear-jerker”. I envision people around me wondering what’s up with this white-haired old guy quietly sobbing in the corner. So I watch at home instead.

Tears and prayer are often companions in scripture.

“All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears . . . . The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:6, 9)

“When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.” (Acts 20;36-37)

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

Read through Psalm 107. There are four groups of people who “cry out to the Lord.” There are those who are lost and wandering; those who are chained by guilt; those who are experiencing the results of foolish rebellion; and those who are tossed by the storms of life. They all come to the place where they have had enough and “cry out to the Lord in their distress.”

Were there tears involved? Probably; tears of desperation, frustration and even anger. But they were also tears of faith in the Lord. Guess what? The Lord saved them from their distress.

Tears are nothing more than an expression of the emotional depth of our situation, a recognition that we are out of our depth to be able to do anything more with what we are facing.

Sometimes my praying is too detached, too clinical, too perfunctory. You too? Perhaps we need to let go and feel more deeply. We could use a few more tears drops of prayer.

Prayer Calendar: Harvest Prayer

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LDCatDave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.

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It’s harvest time in southern Alberta. Now I’m a city boy who knows little about farms and harvest. I’ve learned a bit from people in churches I have served but not enough to speak with authority. I know it’s hard work and weather dependent and a tense time if little is going the way it needs to go, but I know it can also be rewarding once the crop is in and it’s a good one.

When we think spiritually, prayer and harvest go together; and it’s not just about being thankful to God for the harvest. We should be thankful, but there’s more to it than that.

A couple of biblical pictures come to mind.

The first is from John 4:35 and Luke 10:2. They refer in actual terms to grain harvest but in spiritual terms to soul harvest.

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest . . . . The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

So the first harvest prayer is for a large crop of workers to harvest souls!

The second is from John 15:1-2, 5 and Galatians 5:22-23. They refer in actual terms to fruit harvest but in spiritual terms to character harvest. The Trinity is involved in this harvest and together cause us to live like we really are followers of Jesus Christ.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful . . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing . . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

So the second harvest prayer is for the Father to cultivate us, the Son to give us life and the Spirit to fill us and cause his fruit to ripen in our lives!

So this harvest season, be more than just thankful.

Ask the Lord for harvesters and be willing to be one of them; ask the Trinity for fruit so that others will see Jesus in us.

Prayer Calendar: Prayer as a Weapon of War

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Dave Acree is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This regular column on prayer is designed to accompany the Prayer Calendar.


We “peaceful” Canadians sometimes find it awkward to look at life through the lens of warfare. We see ourselves more as peacekeepers than warmongers. Yet when speaking of prayer, scripture injects it into two theatres of war. Perhaps we should embrace rather than shun the metaphor.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God . . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (see Ephesians 6:10-18)

War Theatre #1 puts prayer into perspective. In prayer we enter the battle between God and the forces of evil. This unseen reality can drive us in many directions, from fearful to skeptical to watchful, but ignoring it should not be an option.

The armor we are encouraged to “put on” suggests some of the areas for this type of warfare praying: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation. The hard part is moving from abstract ideas to real life specifics in our lives and churches.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (see James 4:1-4)

War Theatre #2 makes prayer personal. While the first battle is unseen, this one is internal. It is between wanting God’s things or ours, between asking with God and others in mind or just us, between selfishness and generosity.

All warfare is tough and painful. How bloody are your knees?!