Antidote for Prayerlessness

, , ,

20160323prayercalendar
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.

———————–

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!

 

Week of Prayer

, ,

prayerweekbadge

Dear Partners in the Gospel:

The Apostle Paul was never shy about asking others to pray for him. “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, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20, NIV 2011)

Following Paul’s example, we are asking you to pray for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada, from the local church to the districts, nationally and globally. To help you do that, we are providing this Prayer Guide designed for a week of prayer.

The EFCC leadership will be together in Langley March 6-12 for meetings and prayer. On Thursday, March 10 they will be participating in an all-day time of prayer and fasting for the EFCC. Perhaps you could join them that day in prayer where you are.

Click here to download the PDF Booklet

prayerweekbooklet

Use this guide as you will. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Use it as a church the week of March 6-12 to pray for the EFCC
  2. Use it as individuals that week in March
  3. Use it at a week of your choosing to pray for the EFCC
  4. Use it indefinitely (the requests are not time-sensitive) for ongoing prayer for the EFCC

 

Whatever you do, please pray!

We are counting on your prayers.

Dave Acree

EFCC Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst

The Delusion of Prayerlessness

, ,

Dave Acree is our Prayer Catalyst, eager to see more people to engage in a healthier prayer life. This is the accompaniment to our Prayer Calender, which you may find out more about here.

———————–

DelusionofPrayerlessness
LDCatHave you been touched by it? “PIC”, that is, are you infected with it? “Prayer Inferiority Complex”, does it haunt you in your quiet moments of self-analysis? Are there times when you are dissatisfied with your life experience of prayer? Do you want to pray more; know you should pray more but find yourself praying less?

If so, you are part of a large and growing group of followers of Jesus. It started when Jesus was present on the earth. His disciples saw him pray and knew that they just didn’t measure up. They were struck with PIC. In Luke 11 one of his disciples finally asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” So he taught them what to pray (the Lord’s Prayer) and followed that up with a parable on how to pray (with shameless audacity).

It is possible that those of us who experience PIC are being too hard on ourselves. Maybe our prayer expectations are too high. Do you recall any biblical commands or even teaching on how often to pray? No, biblical teaching and modeling is more concerned with how and what to pray rather than how much.

But there lingers still that nagging sense of prayer inadequacy; that we don’t pray enough; that we are prayer-deficient.

What keeps us from praying? Don Carson in his book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, devotes a chapter to this, listing six excuses for prayerlessness:

  • I am too busy
  • I feel too dry spiritually
  • I feel no need
  • I am too bitter (with God or other people)
  • I am too ashamed
  • I am content with mediocrity

What keeps you from praying?

I’ve thought about what keeps me from praying so I’ll go first. Sheer foolishness is the first cause. “I’m doing just fine, thank you. I don’t need any help, let alone God’s help. I’m pretty much in control of things.” I’m horrified typing those words because I really don’t believe them but when I don’t pray I’m living like I do, living like God doesn’t exist. “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) That makes me a fool when I don’t pray!

That leads to my second cause for not praying. I’m delusional. Being foolish is acting like there is no God; being delusional is trying to take his place, thinking that I’m as good at being “god” as he is. “I can do that myself. I can fix that. I can do anything.” We sometimes call that suffering from delusions of grandeur.

What keeps me from praying is best said by O. Hallesby in his book entitled, Prayer (Augsburg, 1931, 17). “Prayer and helplessness are inseparable. Only he who is helpless can truly pray.” I tend to only pray when I or someone else needs something, something that only God can provide. That doesn’t happen often enough. No wonder I’m prayer-deficient!

That’s my confessional. Again, what keeps you from praying?

Self-analysis is strategic but this next question is the more important one. What are you going to do about it? We’ll tackle that one next month.

Prayer as a Remedy for Forgetfulness

, , ,

12591803_10153606764966263_1736179613_o

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

, ,


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?