Prayer Calendar: Ritualistic Prayer

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The word “ritual” doesn’t play well in a Free Church tradition. I hesitated even using it but couldn’t shake it loose. I use it with this definition, “a customarily repeated often formal act or series of acts.”

Why the negative connotation?

Maybe it’s because we associate ritual with churches of questionable beliefs, or maybe we think that praying something over and over again causes it to lose its freshness or even meaning. Maybe it’s because of the throw away world in which we live. With diminishing attention spans, we’re easily bored. Use something for a while and then on to the next thing. Instead of change being an important part of life, it has become so much the fabric of our lives that repetition won’t be tolerated. Whatever the reason, “ritual” is in need of a new press agent!

In the midst of our complex and ever-changing world, I find myself longing for simplicity. Ritualistic prayer is one of the ways in which I find it.

Let me explain.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them what we call the “Lord’s Prayer”, to be repeated or recited regularly. In Jesus time on earth the Jews prayed repeated prayers three times a day, a practice that Jesus himself may have followed.

Before I preached last Sunday, I publically prayed two prayers, one for myself and one for the congregation. This is my “ritual” every time I preach.

  • “Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (from Psalm 19)
  • “Speak Lord, for your servants are listening.” (from Samuel)

I start off almost every day with three ritualistic prayers with our triune God in heart and mind.

  • “Heavenly Father, I pray that this day I will love you with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength and that I will love my neighbour as myself.”
  • Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I will take up my cross and follow you.”
  • “Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Why do this?

  • It’s meditative; it causes us to think deeply about scripture and where it connects with life. Notice that all of these prayers are directly from scripture.
  • It’s focusing; it causes us to focus on God and what he wants.
  • It’s centering; it causes us to center attention on what is important and best in the midst of life’s complexity.

Pulse Podcast 017: Why People Stop Believing

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In this episode, we’re joined by Paul Chamberlain, a professor at ACTS and TWU. We’re talking about his new book: Why People Stop Believing. It’s an insightful piece, with first-hand accounts of people who have left their faith, sometimes at great personal cost.

We invite you to get a copy for this book for yourself: Click here!

Here is the full-length podcast in video form:

Here is the teaser/preview version, for your church or group:

And here is the audio version:

National Mission Project: Picturing What God is Doing in Quebec

I have a confession – My name is Neil and I am an Albertan.

Some of my fellow Albertans hold that claim up proudly and I understand, empathize, and often agree with them. However, there is this distinct red streak running across the back of many of our necks. That redneck mentality plays out in a variety of ways. One of them – we don’t always play well with others. When it comes to Quebec, well…oil and water probably have a better chance of mixing.

So, you may find it ironic that one of the deep desires of my heart is to see God at work in significant ways in the province of Quebec. I have felt this way for a long time now. It’s amazing what God’s love can do to break down our perceived prejudices and divisions. I have prayed, thought about, and even planned in regards to how this burden that I have for Quebec and my position as EFCC National Mission Director impact each other.

Francois Bergeron has helped me a great deal, to understand a bit of the need of Quebec and also to grow my love for the people of Quebec.

If you don’t already know Francois, let me introduce you to him.

Francois is a chalk artist and evangelist who lives and works in Quebec, sharing his love of Jesus with the people there. Because of his particular medium/message he has access to places that most evangelists would not, places like schools, etc.

Francois has done a chalk art presentation at a couple of EFCC conferences. If you were not there to see them, you missed something incredible. It was many years ago, that I first heard Francois speak about the need in Quebec. The statistic he put forward at that time rocked me – 0.4% of the population of Quebec is evangelical Christian.

That’s right, less than half of one percent.

It really is one of the most needy mission fields in the world. And it’s in our own country, not somewhere across an ocean. I believe we often perceive the needs of countries across the ocean as much greater than our own, hence the ability to miss opportunities much closer.

Francois is one of our EFCC missionaries. He has his own charity – Gospel Art Productions; but has always wanted to work in relationship with the EFCC, and continues to do so. His heart for Quebec is much larger than mine will ever be. He loves his people, his province; and desperately wants to see more people come to know Jesus, and more churches planted there. To that end, Francois has embarked on what might be one of his most ambitious tours yet. He has a whole new show complete with TV advertising that he wants to do in hundreds of places across Quebec, and even outside of the province.

I want to share his video with you.

I hope that will help you understand a bit more about Francois, the work he is doing, and the opportunity that we have to partner with him as he connects with people that you and I have very little chance of ever connecting with. If God lays Francois and Quebec on your hearts, please pray! I would also encourage you to consider supporting Francois as he shares the story of Jesus on this tour.

You can support the Bergeron family in this outreach by donating to their project page!

Pulse Podcast 014: Tearfund

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We at the EFCC have had a decades-long relationship with World Relief Canada. That continues on with their new name, Tearfund Canada. This name brings them into clear alignment with a massive global relief and development partnership. Tearfund has operations that span the globe, and intervenes directly when disasters hit.

Follow along as Neil and Brad get a taste (literally!) of what Tearfund is doing around the world.

 

Here is a handy shortened version that you could play in your church (or small group, etc.):

 

And here is the audio-only version:

The Pulse: A Resolution You Can Keep

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Dwight is our Stewardship Catalyst. He connects with donors directly to help raise money the EFCC needs to fund its operations, and he helps people develop awareness of, and skills in, financial stewardship.

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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them? I remember reading that over 90% of people who make a New Year’s resolution will break it within the first month.

I have a New Year’s resolution for you to consider. Have you made your will, or have you recently updated it? Statisticians tell us that 50% of Canadians do not have a will. And even more alarming is that that same percentage also applies to Christians!

What’s the value of having a will and making sure it is up to date?

Let me suggest 3 benefits:

  1. Peace of Mind: If the Lord calls you home tonight, you know that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, not the government.
  2. Provision: Your family, your church, the ministries you supported, the charities you gave to, will all benefit as to your directive and no one else.
  3. Protection: You want to make sure your assets will be protected to provide the maximum benefit to your family and loved ones.

The Evangelical Free Church of Canada has entered into an arrangement with Abundance Canada to assist our churches and people in the whole area of wills and estate planning. They have representatives across Canada who will come to your church and conduct “gift and estate planning” seminars. They will also meet individually with people to answer questions and help get everything ready and in order before going to meet with a lawyer. More and more churches across our denomination are availing themselves of this opportunity.

The feedback has been extremely positive!

On a personal level, both Bill and Deb Taylor and my wife Joanne and I have recently done this. We were both pleased and impressed! These reps are personal, professional, and are there to assist in any way they can. And they will come to your church free of charge!

Not sure about making a New Year’s resolution? I encourage you to consider either updating your will or making it for the first time! Read over the 3 benefits listed above. It’s all gain with no pain!

Check out the Abundance Canada website. Or contact me (via Home Office).

Wishing you a healthy and blessed New Year!