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?

A Prayer for Christmas and 2016

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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 2016. 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 firmly to 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 2016 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 Evangelism

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Lauren, Sarah, Abby, Ava, Ethan, Jack and Sam are people you have never met and names that mean little to you. They are my grandchildren and mean everything to me. Since the day of their birth I have claimed each of them for Jesus. Almost daily I pray for them toward that end.

Every once in a while my theology kicks in and I wonder whether I can really do that, claim them for Jesus. I believe I can. I’m not sure that I can perfectly mesh together the sovereignty of God (election) and the choices we make, but I think there is reason to pray like this.

Remember the Lighthouse of Prayer movement we were involved with in the EFCC a few years ago? “A lighthouse is a person, family or small group committed to pray for, care for and share Christ with family members, friends, classmates, coworkers and neighbors, especially those who do not know him.” Hopefully some of us are still praying like this for our neighbors: five blessings for five people for five weeks. What if this became a way of life instead of a five-week program? What might happen if we claimed our neighbors for Jesus?

Read these biblical passages and ponder the following:

  1. What about authority to do this? (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:8) Didn’t Jesus transfer some of his authority to his disciples and ultimately to us to make disciples in his name? Might not claiming others for Jesus in prayer be part of this?
  2. Need some motivation? (2 Peter 3:8-9) If God is this passionate about people coming to repentance, shouldn’t we be?
  3. What about some exhortation? (1 Timothy 2:1-4) Such praying is for everyone, ultimately with salvation in mind.
  4. What about expectations? (James 5:16-18) If Elijah could pray and stop the rain, shouldn’t we be able to powerfully pray and claim people for Jesus, expecting some to respond?

I see Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 as an illustration of this. God connects us to people and calls us to respond to them. Cornelius was praying and God connected him to Peter (10:2, 30-31). Peter was praying and God connected him to Cornelius (10:9-10). True, God had to remove some barriers for salvation to happen, but it did.

So, if you are not already doing so, begin to pray for someone, and care for them and speak to them and claim them for Jesus.

Prayer Sweat

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Dave is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This post is an introduction to this month’s Prayer Calendar (More about that here.)

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For those of us who are teachers and preachers there is nothing more uncomfortable than having to urge others to embrace something as part of their life experience when we personally know little about it and seldom practice it; when our teaching is mainly theory with almost no life substance.

That’s where I find myself when it comes to a certain type of prayer modelled in the New Testament. It’s a sweaty type of praying that I rarely have known. My praying tends to follow a “don’t sweat it” philosophy. Prayer happens when it does. Prayer should be “organic”, so much a part of my daily relationship with God that I seldom have to think about it. That equates to little planning needed, less passion realized and certainly no panic.

But how do I explain that to Jesus? “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, NIV 2011) “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, NIV 2011)

And what about Epaphras? “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Colossians 4:12, NIV 2011) That word “wrestling” is from the Greek word, agonizomai, carrying with it the idea of striving, agonizing, labouring, and fighting.

And then there’s Paul. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30, ESV)

I’d like to put off my lack of this kind of praying to personality differences. I’m not wired that way. But in my more lucid moments I know differently.

I’m too competent, or I think I am. Very seldom do I find my back against the wall, unable. There’s always something I can do even when there really isn’t. I’m not as humble as I think I am! I don’t cry out enough. Forgive me, Lord.

Or perhaps even worse, I don’t care enough when it’s only someone else’s problems, not mine.

Your reasons for a lack of prayer sweat might be different than mine. A little soul-searching might be in order, though.

I commend to you the work of praying up a sweat! I hope you’re better at it than I am.

God-Shaped Praying

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“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So wrote A. W. Tozer some 55 years ago. Allow me to add to that with I hope Tozer’s blessing: “What we think about God shapes how we pray.”

Jesus in Luke 11:5-8 presents us with a picture of God as a loving Father who readily gives good gifts to his children. So we, with shameless audacity, should ask for them. With all the needs that seem to flood our lives we grab on to this idea of God and, wow, do we ask! In fact, such asking consumes and almost completely defines our praying. We come to God with a long list of suggestions for what he should do in response to the particular needs of our own lives and the needs of those who make up our spiritual family.

When this view of God is primary to our thinking, our prayers become reactive, seldom moving beyond our immediate need-based requests.

There’s another picture of God that when taken seriously takes us beyond reactive to proactive or even visionary praying. Psalm 23 presents the Lord as our shepherd and in light of that reality, needs move from primary to secondary. In fact, in him we “lack nothing.” Why? Because he is primary. He makes us lie down; he leads us; he guides us along the right paths.

Don’t there need to be more times in our prayer lives that we simply stop asking for things and favours and start seeking and asking for him? “Lord, guide us, lead us. Help us as we plan. Show us where we should go. Show us who we should be.” And don’t we need to pray the same types of things for others? This kind of visionary praying does a lot more listening and surrendering and worshipping than asking and demanding and worrying.

Wasn’t this more the kind of praying the church at Antioch was doing in Acts 13:1-3? Not a bad model to follow!