Prayer Calendar: Atmospheric Praying

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Dave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. He writes this post as a kick-off to the Prayer Calendar for July/August. (More about the Prayer Calendar here.)

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I was recently in Italy where two different experiences reminded me of the importance of physical context in praying.

The first was in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The chapel is not as large as pictures lead you to believe and when hundreds of people crowd into it the noise level assaults your senses. You want to talk with whomever is with you about the frescoes and paintings you are seeing.

That doesn’t fit the desired decorum for the chapel, so periodically one of the Vatican guards will take to the microphone and loudly proclaim, “Shhh; Silenzio!” And for a few brief moments the loud din becomes a quiet hum, but then very quickly returns to an even louder roar.

It struck me that that’s the atmosphere of most of my praying. I lead a busy, noisy life and take to heart Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” squeezing prayer into the moment by moment flow of my existence. I’m the main director and periodically allow God some quick moments especially when things are out of my control. I talk to him when I need him.

The second was in the basilica in Assisi where Saint Francis is buried. We entered the church early on a Sunday morning hoping to hear the monks singing and chanting. No monks appeared but I encountered something quite unexpected, silence. Only a handful of people were there praying. The silence was so real you could almost reach out and touch it. Nothing to hurry to and no noise to distract, I talked to God because I wanted to. I realized how much I missed him.

I’m reminded of Elijah on Mount Horeb needing to hear from God. He heard him not in the loud and spectacular but in a quiet whisper. It’s hard to hear a whisper in a “Sistine Chapel-like” atmosphere.

And then there’s Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” In the Vulgate the Latin word for “be still” is vacate. Simon Tugwell explains. “God invites us to take a holiday (vacation), to stop being God for a while, and let him be God.”

I need more vacations like that!! So where do you find yourself most often, in the Sistine Chapel or the basilica in Assisi when it comes to prayer atmosphere? Allow me to recommend Assisi.

Prayer Calendar: Cracking the Prayer Ceiling

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LDCatTrue confession time: haven’t you sometimes wondered if prayer isn’t a waste of time? Blame it on one of those “dark night of the soul” moments or on the harried pressure of your tension-filled life if you must assign blame, but haven’t you at some time had to deal with that spiritually-errant, all too human question of whether prayer makes any difference at all to your life?

There are probably several reasons why this unwanted question might surface, but allow me to just suggest two. The first is practical. It’s hard to have a serious conversation with someone who isn’t physically present. It sometimes seems like the words prayed just bounce off the ceiling. The second is theological. What do you say to someone who knows what you are going to say before you say it and knows what he will do before you ask? That God is omniscient and sovereign is not the problem but such sovereignty does at times seem to make prayer unnecessary.

Think about the Apostle Paul and prayer. He shows no indication of wrestling with such doubts. Paul prayed. Because of his Jewish heritage I can see him praying at regular assigned times of the day and I can see him praying as he bends over the tent he is making. Just go to the beginning verses of most of his letters to see his love for the people he wrote to and his prayers for them.

Paul asked others to pray for him. Check out the beginning verses of Colossians 4 and the ending verses of Ephesians 6 to see some of the things they were to pray for. No, Paul knew that prayer does make a difference and so should we.

Paul believed God acts in response to prayer. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (2 Corinthians 1:10-11, NIV 2011) “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:19, NIV 2011) In both circumstances Paul believed he was delivered from physical harm through the prayers of his friends.

Perhaps James wasn’t just speaking in hyperbole when he wrote, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV 2011)

That’s what breaks through the prayer ceiling.

See more about the Prayer Calendar by clicking here.

Often Forgotten, Ever Crucial

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Each month, we point attention to the EFCC Prayer Calendar (details here). This is a compilation of small praise reports and prayer requests from throughout the EFCC and EFCCM; every day there’s something specific to pray for. We’ve asked Dave Acree, the EFCC Prayer Catalyst, to accompany each Prayer Calendar with a short devotional to better help us all focus on the meanings and intentions of prayer.

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LDCatBehind every prayer request a need lurks, and needs come in all shapes and sizes across a spectrum from mellow desire to anxious desperation.

In Philippians 4 Paul reveals a prayer process that moves us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God” (vs 6). Oops! Left something out, didn’t we? It’s almost an afterthought and easy to forget: “with thanksgiving.” Way too often our needs become so urgent and large they overshadow the only one that can really do anything about them!

Thanksgiving brings perspective. When we are thankful to and for God, who He is and what He has already done, and what He might and will do, anxiety has a better chance of melting into peace.

Philippians 4 is not a “one-off.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “pray continually” and then in the same breath to “give thanks in all circumstances.” How’s that for a seemingly impossible assignment?

Paul practiced what he preached. “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Romans 1:8). Check out 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4 and note the context to identify Paul’s thanksgiving. Now, practice what Paul preached.

Partner each request with thanksgiving!

The EFCC Speaks: What is the Purpose of Prayer? (Updated)

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This post is a collaborative experiment. We’ve asked contributors throughout the EFCC movement for their input on the purpose of prayer. We’re posting the answers anonymously, and mostly unedited.

If these ideas resonate with you, or if you would like to add your own thoughts, please do so in the comments below!

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Weary of post-calamity reactive prayer, I have been interceding pre-emptively, proactively, tactically, and preventatively.

 

Our Father Who is in heaven hallowed be your name: Acknowledgement
Your kingdom come your will be done: Submission
Yours is the kingdom and the glory forever and ever amen: Glorifying
In a word: Worship

 

Participation in God’s providence.

 

To call home!

 

I believe that the purpose of prayer is to draw near to God, to be strengthened in our relationship with Him and build up the body of Christ.

 

For me the purpose of prayer is to keep me from being self-focused. Lately I’ve come to realize that there’s a difference between having Jesus in my life and having Jesus’s life in me. It’s vine-and-branch stuff, and prayer is a critical part of what connects me to the vine.

 

Prayer it the difference between a concert and a worship service. It shows there is a different audience than just the one we see.

 

To communicate and build relationship with our Father.

 

Prayer is a part of loving and worshipping God.

 

Prayer is essential to have a relationship with God. It is also a sign that we trust and have Faith that God cares for our every need.

 

To align our hearts with the heart of God.

 

The purpose of prayer is to find a way to respond to all that God has done.

 

Prayer is my relationship link with God, sometimes asking; sometimes thanking; sometimes praising; always listening.

 

To me, the purpose of prayer is survival.
Paul says that we live and move and have our being in God (Acts 17:28).
So I need to stay connected to my life source.
The purpose of prayer is survival.