Sep 16, 2009

Surrendering in Prayer

In my lifetime I suppose I 've prayed for about everything imaginable--people, pets and medical procedures as well as life, death and the suffering in between. And if I know my God the way I think I do, I'm confident he never tires of hearing his childrens' prayers. But I've been recently challenged by a little book titled Praying Like Paul. (Actually, I'm a little envious of the class that is studying through this book right now; wish I could participate.)

Author Jonathan Graf writes a simple, profound book in which he simply highlights almost 30 of the Apostle Paul's prayers as recorded in his letters. He does this under four categories: knowing and praising God; spiritual growth through suffering; the ministry of the gospel; and praying for other believers. Here's what strikes me most--while Paul certainly prayed for people and churches in a variety of settings about a variety of issues, his prayers tend to focus on big themes. God's praise and glory, gratitude for God's work in Christ, the preaching of the gospel, that people become Christ and Spirit formed, etc.

Now I plan to continue praying for specific people, circumstances of health, wealth and suffering, needs, family and so on. But I want to pray more about the big themes like kingdom, peace, the lost. Of his own prayer walk, Graf writes:

"I began being struck more and more by the prayers of Paul...(who) had people with huge problems under his care, people who were facing life-and-death situations. Yet in all his recorded prayers, nowhere do I see that he prayed for specific answers to everyday situations. (Yes, he prayed for himself, that his 'thorn in the flesh' would be removed. But remember, God said, 'no,' so he stopped praying about that.) Don't get me wrong. I would be surprised if Paul didn't pray for some specific things for people he knew, so I am not saying we should never pray for specific answers. But, since all of Paul's recorded prayers were in a different vein, I wonder if a majority of our prayers for ourselves and people shouldn't be of the same kind."

Next time I pray, I want to place my personal requests for specific things in the greater context of the kingdom and the honor of God. I'm just wondering what difference that might make.


Sep 11, 2009

Surrender Week

Many things in this world call for our attention. Some draw us closer to the heart of God and challenge us to become more tomorrow than we are today. Others distract us and lure us away from what can be most important. Everything around us leads us to live busy lives. So it can be even more important for us to surrender all that we are and all that we do to God.

Next Sunday we will begin an intentional week of surrender. Terrell will start us off on the 20th by challenging us to prayerfully pursue surrender in all areas of life. As a church family, we will cover 36 hours in prayer from Friday evening the 25th to Sunday morning, the 27th. We will then have a special service that morning and conclude our surrender week together with a prayer walk Sunday night.

We hope you will commit to being intentionally involved throughout the week as together we offer our lives, our families, our church, and our communities in surrender to God.


Sep 3, 2009


Slow down just a minute. Pause. Listen. What do you hear? Can you hear the AC unit? A clock? Traffic? The TV? Kids? It's hard to get away from noise. I remember one day back in 1983 when I spent an entire day, long before sunrise and long after sunset, in the woods alone. I saw no humans, heard no voices and was too far from a road to hear traffic. But it's not too often I get to spend a whole day in the Missouri foothills. Otherwise, noise fills my life. Why, just this week one of my neighbors has been building a new driveway and the trucks have rolled in at 6 a.m. One morning a jack hammer was thumping away at 6:10, yes, A.M.

I think all of us would do well to find a little solitude. I know it's hard to do. And some have even been critical of solitude since it appears to be more of a withdrawal from than engagement of the marketplace. Yet, I fear we may be so engaged in the marketplace sometimes that we fail to regroup. At its worst, solitude is selfish. At its best, however, solitude is not escapism; it is essential preparation for service. It is being quiet to make sure your divine signals are correct. Some of the greatest biblical heroes spent time in the dessert (Moses, Elijah, John, Jesus, Paul). But they were not escaping; they were preparing.

Could you consider planning a day sometime when you get off alone somewhere (anywhere) simply to pray, read and write about spiritual matters. Surely we occasionally find time to spend an entire day with someone we love; I know we did when we were dating. What difference might it make in our spiritual formation if we spent an entire day with God? What if we began right now making a list of the things we'd like to talk about with God? Do you think that might excite God?

I'm not talking about spending a day navelgazing. I'm talking about a day of spiritual solitude, when I use of my mouth to speak to God only and my spiritual ears to listen to Him alone. Sound appealing? Sound easy? I wonder if it just might be possible that constant noise reflects spiritual laziness whereas periodic solitude and quiet reflect spiritual passion and maturity. Maybe it's time to be lazy for one day so that our spiritual journey isn't quite so hazy.