Prayer Evangelism

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Lauren, Sarah, Abby, Ava, Ethan, Jack and Sam are people you have never met and names that mean little to you. They are my grandchildren and mean everything to me. Since the day of their birth I have claimed each of them for Jesus. Almost daily I pray for them toward that end.

Every once in a while my theology kicks in and I wonder whether I can really do that, claim them for Jesus. I believe I can. I’m not sure that I can perfectly mesh together the sovereignty of God (election) and the choices we make, but I think there is reason to pray like this.

Remember the Lighthouse of Prayer movement we were involved with in the EFCC a few years ago? “A lighthouse is a person, family or small group committed to pray for, care for and share Christ with family members, friends, classmates, coworkers and neighbors, especially those who do not know him.” Hopefully some of us are still praying like this for our neighbors: five blessings for five people for five weeks. What if this became a way of life instead of a five-week program? What might happen if we claimed our neighbors for Jesus?

Read these biblical passages and ponder the following:

  1. What about authority to do this? (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:8) Didn’t Jesus transfer some of his authority to his disciples and ultimately to us to make disciples in his name? Might not claiming others for Jesus in prayer be part of this?
  2. Need some motivation? (2 Peter 3:8-9) If God is this passionate about people coming to repentance, shouldn’t we be?
  3. What about some exhortation? (1 Timothy 2:1-4) Such praying is for everyone, ultimately with salvation in mind.
  4. What about expectations? (James 5:16-18) If Elijah could pray and stop the rain, shouldn’t we be able to powerfully pray and claim people for Jesus, expecting some to respond?

I see Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 as an illustration of this. God connects us to people and calls us to respond to them. Cornelius was praying and God connected him to Peter (10:2, 30-31). Peter was praying and God connected him to Cornelius (10:9-10). True, God had to remove some barriers for salvation to happen, but it did.

So, if you are not already doing so, begin to pray for someone, and care for them and speak to them and claim them for Jesus.

Prayer Sweat

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Dave is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This post is an introduction to this month’s Prayer Calendar (More about that here.)

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For those of us who are teachers and preachers there is nothing more uncomfortable than having to urge others to embrace something as part of their life experience when we personally know little about it and seldom practice it; when our teaching is mainly theory with almost no life substance.

That’s where I find myself when it comes to a certain type of prayer modelled in the New Testament. It’s a sweaty type of praying that I rarely have known. My praying tends to follow a “don’t sweat it” philosophy. Prayer happens when it does. Prayer should be “organic”, so much a part of my daily relationship with God that I seldom have to think about it. That equates to little planning needed, less passion realized and certainly no panic.

But how do I explain that to Jesus? “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7, NIV 2011) “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, NIV 2011)

And what about Epaphras? “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Colossians 4:12, NIV 2011) That word “wrestling” is from the Greek word, agonizomai, carrying with it the idea of striving, agonizing, labouring, and fighting.

And then there’s Paul. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30, ESV)

I’d like to put off my lack of this kind of praying to personality differences. I’m not wired that way. But in my more lucid moments I know differently.

I’m too competent, or I think I am. Very seldom do I find my back against the wall, unable. There’s always something I can do even when there really isn’t. I’m not as humble as I think I am! I don’t cry out enough. Forgive me, Lord.

Or perhaps even worse, I don’t care enough when it’s only someone else’s problems, not mine.

Your reasons for a lack of prayer sweat might be different than mine. A little soul-searching might be in order, though.

I commend to you the work of praying up a sweat! I hope you’re better at it than I am.

God-Shaped Praying

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“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So wrote A. W. Tozer some 55 years ago. Allow me to add to that with I hope Tozer’s blessing: “What we think about God shapes how we pray.”

Jesus in Luke 11:5-8 presents us with a picture of God as a loving Father who readily gives good gifts to his children. So we, with shameless audacity, should ask for them. With all the needs that seem to flood our lives we grab on to this idea of God and, wow, do we ask! In fact, such asking consumes and almost completely defines our praying. We come to God with a long list of suggestions for what he should do in response to the particular needs of our own lives and the needs of those who make up our spiritual family.

When this view of God is primary to our thinking, our prayers become reactive, seldom moving beyond our immediate need-based requests.

There’s another picture of God that when taken seriously takes us beyond reactive to proactive or even visionary praying. Psalm 23 presents the Lord as our shepherd and in light of that reality, needs move from primary to secondary. In fact, in him we “lack nothing.” Why? Because he is primary. He makes us lie down; he leads us; he guides us along the right paths.

Don’t there need to be more times in our prayer lives that we simply stop asking for things and favours and start seeking and asking for him? “Lord, guide us, lead us. Help us as we plan. Show us where we should go. Show us who we should be.” And don’t we need to pray the same types of things for others? This kind of visionary praying does a lot more listening and surrendering and worshipping than asking and demanding and worrying.

Wasn’t this more the kind of praying the church at Antioch was doing in Acts 13:1-3? Not a bad model to follow!

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.