Prayer Calendar: Unselfish 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.


If you took note of all your prayers in a given week and analyzed them, what would your prayer life look like? Would your praying be more God-focused, other-focused or self-focused?

Few of us want to be characterized as selfish, about anything. Think about it. “Selfish” is different from “self-focused.” The difference is in degree. If we are mostly focused on ourselves with little thought for others, we move towards selfishness.

With that in mind, what about your praying? Might you be a selfish pray-er? Are your prayers almost always focused on your own needs with little thought for God or others?

Let’s be clear, a call for unselfish prayer is not a call for selfless prayer. We are to bring our needs and requests to the Lord. Also, let’s be cautious about setting up a hierarchy of priorities; something like God first, others second, and me last. Realities of life and circumstances will often reveal the shortcomings of such a system.

I am calling all of us to unselfish prayer.

Here is what I mean. Two words sharing the letter “f” make up the word “selfish.” I am suggesting that we move away from a focus on “self” to a focus on “fish.” Remember what Jesus said to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19. “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.” (NLT) I am calling us to go fishing with our prayers, to pray people to Jesus.

Ask God to place some people on your heart. They can be neighbours, friends, family, anybody. Wait until you sense that God is pointing them out to you.

Begin to pray for them. Ask God to be present in their lives and to reveal himself to them. Never give up on them. Keep praying, expecting God to work in his timing.

Care for them. Love them; become involved in their lives where possible. Treat them as people you love not projects to be saved.

Share with them. Live Jesus before them and be ready to speak the Gospel when it’s time.

I currently have ten people that I pray for and involve myself in their lives. What about you? Any yet? As you would say in the children’s card game, “Go fish!”

 

Prayer Calendar: Prayer Enemy #1?

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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.


We Christians tend to chew up the word “busy” and spit it out as if it’s something evil. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths. In our moments of dissatisfaction with prayer, we often name busyness as the cause. In fact, we treat it as prayer enemy #1.

But is busyness getting a bum rap? Is it really the end-all of prayer problems? Is busyness the cause of prayerlessness?

Dallas Willard makes a distinction between being busy and being hurried as described by John Ortberg. (Soul Keeping, Zondervan, 2014, 134)

“Being busy is an outward condition, a condition of the body. It occurs when we have many things to do. Busy-ness is inevitable in modern culture. . . . There are limits to how much busy-ness we can tolerate, so we wisely find ways to slow down whenever we can. . . . Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. I am unable to occupy this present moment.”

Being busy reminds me that I need God; being hurried causes me to be unavailable to God.

When I read the Gospels it seems fair to describe Jesus within his context as being a busy person. The externals of his life shaped his busyness. Yet he was never hurried. He was constantly in tune with the Father and intentionally set aside times to be fully present with him.

Procrastination is to put off intentionally and habitually the doing of something that should be done. Hurriedness expresses itself in procrastination. What happens on the inside not the outside makes the difference, causes the disconnection and confliction in our prayer lives, and keeps us from prayer.

Too busy to pray? No, too busy not to pray!

Prayer Calendar: Nitty Gritty 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.


Is one kind of prayer more important than another? Does God pay more attention to some prayers than others? Should that even be a concern?

With what kind of praying are you most comfortable?

Let’s create two categories to consider. Call the first, spiritual praying. This is a general type of prayer for the spiritual welfare and growth of someone, not easily measurable as to results and no ending point in sight.

Paul often started his letters to churches with such prayer. For instance, he prayed for the church in Philippi that “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” How do you measure if or when this has happened? How do you know if your prayers have made any difference?

Call the second, earthy praying. Perhaps you have heard the anecdotal story of the little boy sitting in a worship service with his parents. He was whiney and fidgety. Finally, his father had enough, put him over his shoulder and began to walk out. Knowing what was coming, the boy shouted out to the congregation, “Pray for me!” This is a getting down to “brass tacks” or the “nitty gritty” type of prayer.

At the end of his letter to the church in Rome Paul asked for such prayer from his readers. “Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there.” That’s the kind of prayer we can sink our teeth into! It’s specific, measurable and down to earth.

So which does God pay more attention to, spiritual or earthy praying? That, really, is a bogus question. Both are heard by the Father. Which are you more comfortable praying? Probably the latter, but both should be part of our prayer regimen.

Perhaps the answer is to get down to the nitty gritty in both types of prayer, to know what we are asking of the Father and to tenaciously keep at it for as long as the need exists.

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?”