Prayer Calendar: A Christmas Desire

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The word “Christmas” used to make me shudder. Years ago, I worked as a toy department manager. Christmas shoppers were probably the crankiest people I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t blame them. They were often searching for something elusive and had been to 16 stores already. They were tired, frustrated and about to spend far more money than they desired. I get it! I’d be cranky too!

Over the years, the great gift of Jesus has become the primary thought for me at Christmas. It is amazing how quickly the joy of the season returns when this is the focus. This Christmas season, let’s pray for the hope and joy of Jesus to touch our lives and the lives of those around us.

The frantic search by shoppers could be a metaphor for explaining a misplaced spiritual hunger. Someone once said:

“The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God”.

The sentiment is that we all long for God but tend to settle for cheap substitutes. C.S. Lewis put it this way in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Is that what we do? Like a Christmas shopper frantically searching for the perfect gift but not finding it right away, we settle. We grumpily find a cheap alternative to the full abundant life that we could have in Christ. Our desires are not strong enough, so we don’t go deep enough into relationship for the fullness of Jesus life to be truly ours. If we are honest, I suspect we can all identify.

What about our friends and neighbours? They are also on a journey of desire. They have a deep-rooted longing that could lead them to Jesus. Yet they might not even be shopping in the right store. Many of them have run from store to store, browsing and buying but not being satisfied, and they are on the verge of giving up hope.

We know hope! We know joy! His name is Jesus and He came to be with us!
His desire is to be with all of us so that all can know hope and joy.

May our prayers grow from this.

Click here to download the latest Prayer Calendar!

Prayer Calendar: When the Formula Doesn’t Add Up

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We like formulas. They make life understandable. “A + B + C = D” helps simplify our world. It is orderly and predictable. It is sad however, when we turn prayer into a formulaic exercise. We all do it from time to time, often with good intentions. We have a problem (A) and we add prayer (B) and we appeal for the power of God (C), and then we expect a specific result (D).

We all want prayer to be far more than that. We know prayer is about relationship and conversation. However, I find myself at times defaulting to the formula. You may as well.

As we grow in our prayer lives, is there a way to leave the formulas behind?

Recently I heard someone quote “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. They quoted it as a formula that applied to Canada, today. I will be the first to say we need humble prayers of confession. However, I believe it is a mistake to feel God is obligated to heal Canada if we pray those prayers.

He may, and that would be great, but He may not. This passage is a promise to the Hebrew people, not a current day formula to follow. Yet we sub in the pieces: our country’s current state (A) + humble confession (B) + God’s power (C) = healed Canada (D). This is not an isolated example.

How can we move past these kinds of formulaic prayer?

Let us limit our thoughts to just two basic reminders:

First, we should recognize that not all formulas are bad. This sounds contradictory. However, let me give you two examples: The Lord’s Prayer and the ACTS acrostic (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Both could be considered formulas and if there is no intention in them can turn into ruts; yet they can move us well beyond the A+B+C=D formula.

When we take time to consider what Jesus modelled for us and pray in a similar way, or when we broaden prayer beyond a mere “shopping list” to include declarations of God’s greatness and our thanks, as well as acts of confession, it can expand our prayer life. The key might be our intentionality to broaden prayer.

Second, we could spend more time in conversational prayer. Prayer at its core is a conversation. I know that I really take this for granted at times. I have the opportunity, at any time, on any day, to chat with God almighty. Instead, I often don’t converse because I focus on “my list”. Conversation is a two-way street. Prayer is no different. We share and we listen.

I suspect for us, listening is far harder, yet it could be very beneficial. An interviewer asked Mother Teresa what she said to God in prayer. She responded, “I mostly listen.” That led the interviewer to ask, “When you listen, what does God say?” She answered, “He mostly listens too”.

Could listening move us past the formula?

Do I feel so at home in God’s presence that I am comfortable when both God and I are listening?

How about you?

Pulse Podcast 021: Priesthood of all Believers

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We’ve often heard, and often said the term “priesthood of all believers,” but have we stopped to contemplate what it means? What kind of an audit could we give ourselves for this? And how well would we do on it?

Join us as we give some fresh thought to this subject for the EFCC family.

Here is the preview/teaser version, which you can show at church or with your small group, etc.:

And here it is in audio-only format:

Prayer Calendar: Getting Past Salt and Pepper Prayers

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The other day I was talking with my friend Ron Swanson regarding the way most of us North American Christians pray. He used a phrase that I just can’t get out of my head. He said we often treat prayer like salt and pepper – an add-on, a little seasoning on top of the meal we have made.

Is this really the way we pray?

Sadly, if we are honest, we probably have to admit – yes prayer often feels like salt and pepper. We get busy doing our own stuff, and then perfunctorily sprinkle a little salt and pepper prayer into the mix.

Could we find a way to get past salt and pepper prayers?

I’ll be the first to admit, this is often where I land.

I want to pray. I know I need to pray. I know there is power in prayer. I know prayer moves the heart of God. I know that God desires a deep connection with us through prayer. I know prayer is one of the few practices that Jesus specifically taught his disciples how to do. I know lots about prayer. However, there is a huge difference between knowing lots about prayer and praying. There is even a wide chasm between desiring to have a better prayer life and actually praying. Sadly, I often fail to act on the knowledge and desire that I have. I often fail to pray deeply and passionately. I simply, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on what I am already doing.

If you are like me, you don’t really want to hear one more person give you another guilt trip about prayer. So, I will try and avoid that here. You don’t need to read another book on prayer. We’ve all read several of those, and have been temporarily encouraged; but then have found ourselves struggling along again.

Instead, I’m wondering: Do we need to re-imagine prayer?

Mark Buchanan in his book, Your God is Too Safe, writes a chapter on the loss of imagination. He uses kissing as an example – if you describe a kiss in it’s sheer physical form it almost sounds repugnant. It takes imagination to turn it into something incredible. He talks how we can rip the heart out of a communion service but explaining every last detail. He reminds us that one of the missing ingredients in our faith is imagination.

Is this what we have done to prayer? Taken the heart right out of it because we don’t have the imagination to see it in deeper, bolder, and more mysterious ways? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to go on a journey of re-imagination.

So, let’s imagine prayer as:

  • listening
  • breathing
  • food
  • life-blood
  • war
  • visiting the King
  • surgery
  • hanging out with our best friend
  • 911
  • I have several more, but you add your metaphor here

At some point, these metaphors all break down. However, could they also breathe fresh life into the old bones of our prayer lives? It’s worth a try!

To see the latest prayer calendar, click here.

Pulse Podcast 020: The Supreme Court’s Ruling on TWU’s Law School

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We’re not really a current events podcast, but we thought this was of sufficient importance and interest to engage with it.

The Supreme Court’s decision on TWU’s Law School has implications for the church and for religious education institutions in Canada.

We’re just not sure what they are specifically.

If you’d like to reach out and dialogue with us on this, you can engage us on:

Here is the preview version you can share in more time-sensitive venues:

And here is the audio version: