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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.


We “peaceful” Canadians sometimes find it awkward to look at life through the lens of warfare. We see ourselves more as peacekeepers than warmongers. Yet when speaking of prayer, scripture injects it into two theatres of war. Perhaps we should embrace rather than shun the metaphor.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God . . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (see Ephesians 6:10-18)

War Theatre #1 puts prayer into perspective. In prayer we enter the battle between God and the forces of evil. This unseen reality can drive us in many directions, from fearful to skeptical to watchful, but ignoring it should not be an option.

The armor we are encouraged to “put on” suggests some of the areas for this type of warfare praying: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation. The hard part is moving from abstract ideas to real life specifics in our lives and churches.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (see James 4:1-4)

War Theatre #2 makes prayer personal. While the first battle is unseen, this one is internal. It is between wanting God’s things or ours, between asking with God and others in mind or just us, between selfishness and generosity.

All warfare is tough and painful. How bloody are your knees?!


Dave Acree is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This regular column on prayer is designed to accompany the Prayer Calendar.


Those who are familiar with the writings of Jim Collins on leadership and business know what a BHAG is. In his book, Built to Last, he introduces a BHAG as a powerful mechanism to stimulate progress in a company or corporation. BHAGs (pronounced bee-hags) are “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.”

If I were currently writing a book on prayer, I would entitle the book Built to Ask and change the “G” to “R” turning BHAGs into BHARs (pronounced bee-hars): Big Hairy Audacious Requests.

Even in my 70th year of life I’m still learning about prayer. Margaret Feinberg in her book The Sacred Echo, writes:

“If his son asks for bread, what I am asking God for? In all honesty, a lot of crumby prayers. I’d like to think it’s because I’m maturing in my prayer life. I’m offering God more reasonable requests . . . . Or am I just praying it safe?” (page 81)

I have to admit that the phrase “praying it safe” struck home. That’s me, the safe prayer. But there’s even more to it than that. My belief in the sovereignty of God limits my asking. God is going to do what he is going to do no matter what I ask him to do. I don’t really believe that but I pray like I do. I realized that I am hardly asking at all.

So I’m learning to ask. Here are some guiding principles I’m working from.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3, NIV 2011)

After a parable on shameless audacity Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.” (Luke 11:9, NIV 2011)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV 2011)

I have two BHARs going right now. I am praying for two recently met individuals God has laid on my heart, one in Turkey and one in Australia, that God will reveal himself to them and that they will come to know him personally. These BHARs seem to be impossible to me. So I am undergirding them with this incident from the life of Jesus (Mark 10:17-27) and in particular this verse:

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. “ (Mark 10:27)

I challenge you to a BHAR!!

Now for a shameless commercial. Come to Ft. Langley in August to the EFCC National Conference and attend my seminar on “Praying It Risky” to delve more deeply into BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS REQUESTS.

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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?

 


I didn’t feel like praying this week.

Is it safe for me to admit that? I mean I’m the Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst for the EFCC and also serve on the staff of the largest Free Church in Canada. I hope my two earthly bosses don’t read this; they might be less forgiving of my lapse than my heavenly “boss.”

I’ve got excuses of course. I came back from four days away from the office to a “to-do” list that I had little time for. On top of the normal I had to prepare to preach to my “Traditions” congregation and then three of my “flock” died and I had to conduct their funerals. I was drained in every conceivable way.

I did pray, by the way, even though I didn’t feel like doing it; not masterpieces to share with others but more like squawks of desperation and cries for help. Those prayers weren’t deep experiences of fellowship with God, but God heard and calmed my anguished spirit and enabled me to serve. God’s not looking for masterpieces just honest and vulnerable conversation.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26, NIV, 2011) Good to know!

Sometimes you don’t feel like praying. That’s OK! Pray anyway!

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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!