The Overwhelming Privilege of Prayer

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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.


Last week I was in Istanbul, Turkey standing outside the Hagia Sophia (church/mosque/museum) watching as the imam sang into the microphone the call to prayer. It was picked up by the surrounding mosques until it was a wail across the area. I then walked several hundred meters to the Blue Mosque and observed those of the Muslim faith kneeling with forehead to the ground praying. While for many it was probably an act of devotion, being one of the five pillars of their faith, it also acted as “coinage” in purchasing salvation.  Allah is a pretty distant god with little grace to offer.

A couple of days later in Cappadocia I watched as the “whirling dervishes” (a mystical sect of Islam) “prayed” in a whirling dance where with closed eyes they fell into a trance-like state entering another existence in unity with the world around and “god.” I’m not sure what that was all about but it didn’t feel right.

And then home to Canada to an Angus Reid survey of Canadians and prayer, carried out in March of this year: 20% pray daily; 10% several times a week; and 5% about once a week. 32% never pray and 15% hardly ever. The remaining 19% pray a handful of times or less a month.

What I found interesting was, those who pray daily mostly pray out of gratitude and thanksgiving to God. The rest who pray do so to ask God for something. The more you pray the more thankful you are for what God has already done; the less you pray the more you want God to do.

For us, prayer doesn’t provide leverage for our salvation. There should not be a sense of entitlement in our prayer — that God owes us something or must give us what we ask for. Prayer should be more than a series of perfunctory requests punctuating our days. It should be a time of relational conversation.

I have always been overwhelmed by the privilege of prayer. It’s not just a time to presume upon God’s generosity. Think about it! The Lord of the universe, our Saviour and King, invites us to come running into his throne room, without appointment, and says, “Let’s talk.” I’m never gotten over that and hope I never do! And I hope you don’t either.

Why, then, don’t we take advantage of the privilege more often than we do?

 

MEMO Honoured By Canadian Governor General, Canadian Red Cross

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davep_smIt is always exciting when good things happen in the life of one member of a family. Everyone rejoices with them. Every now and then something GREAT happens, and we all need to celebrate together. This letter is an invitation for you to celebrate with the family.

Dr. Jerome and Maureen Harvey have given relentless leadership to MEMO for many years.  Over 50 containers of medical supplies have been sent to Cuba, El Salvador and Liberia.  Thousands of volunteer hours in Thunder Bay have made this possible.  But it has been the passion and vision of Dr. Harvey that has been the force behind this effort.

In a ceremony in Thunder Bay on March 29th, Dr. Jerome Harvey was honored to receive the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for his commitment, vision and hard work.

(Click this link to read more about the award.)

“The Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recognizes individuals who volunteer their time to help others and to build a smarter and more caring nation. The award also highlights the fine example set by these volunteers, whose compassion and engagement are so much a part of our Canadian character. It allows us to thank them for their contributions and for the positive impact they have had on the lives of others.”

MEMO will also be honoured by the Canadian Red Cross when Dr. Harvey receives the “Power of Humanity” award on May 5th. This award recognizes MEMO’s “relentless and selfless humanitarian efforts within the Thunder Bay community and beyond.”

Dr. Harvey shared this anecdote in a recent email:

When the GG’s secretary phoned me to inform me of the award, she congratulated me. I said,”Don’t send congratulations, send money!” Her very serious response was, “Oh I am sorry sir, we cannot do that.” When I pointed out I was just teasing she finally laughed.

His heartfelt desire is that in receiving this reward there will be increased awareness and support for MEMO and all it continues to accomplish. We all can join with the Harveys and the entire MEMO team in thanking God for the opportunity to share God’s love in such a practical way. May the Glory go to Him!

With gratitude,

Dave Penner (EFCCM Director)

EFCC Conference 2016

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We’re excited to have author and speaker Mark Buchanan joining us as our keynote speaker at Conference 2016!

Risk: In the Right Directions

Please plan on joining us in Fort Langley, BC from August 4-6 2016.

markbConference2016Mark Buchanan and his wife Cheryl live in Calgary, Alberta, where Mark is associate professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose Seminary. They have three young adult children. Educated at UBC and Regent College, Mark is a pastor, teacher, speaker, and the author of seven books as well as the forthcoming novel, David.

He has also written numerous articles for Christianity Today, Faith Today, Leadership Journal, Discipleship Journal, and several other magazines. He enjoys scuba diving, fishing, and motorcycles.

You can find all the Conference details in this pdf.

If you need more accommodation options than the ones provided on the pdf above, please get in touch with us.

Registration is Open!

The early-bird price is $175. (The cut-off is June 30th. After that, registration will be $200.)

We hope to see you there!

 

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?