Category Archives: Prayer

Not of this World

I just returned from a community prayer gathering in honor of the National Day of Prayer. What a sweet time of intercession it was. I’ve been to many such events in the past, but this was the best attended, and I believe the most fervent. All chairs were occupied, with many others standing under the pavilion. Ten pastors from evangelical churches across the basin led in prayer for the nation, for military, for education, for families, for law enforcement, and more. Then, I was asked to conclude with a final prayer. Here’s the Scripture I read, along with my prayer…

In 1 Peter 2:9-12, the Apostle Peter wrote these words to the believers scattered as exiles across Asia Minor, and to us today:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Dear Father, these verses are a reminder that we are in the world, but not of the world. Some of us here have stickers emblazoned on our car, “NOTW” – Not of This World. But if we were honest, all too often, we think, and speak, and act, as if this world were our home.

Forgive us, Lord, for growing too comfortable in this place. Cleanse our hearts from the complacency, from the distractions, from the mirage of hopes and dreams we placed in this passing world.

O God, we confess that we have laid up too many treasures on earth rather than treasures in heaven. We have concerned ourselves more with our bank accounts than our heavenly inheritance. More with our physical health than our spiritual well-being.

As the culture rapidly changes, perhaps never before have we felt so out of place. We are like fish out of water. Finally, it’s beginning to sink in that we are Not of This World.

We thank you that from the moment we first trusted in Christ, our citizenship was transferred out of this domain of darkness and into the kingdom of your beloved Son. Heaven is our true home, and here in this land, we are just “passing through.”

We thank you for our adoption as sons and daughters, and recognize that we have far more in common with a Christian in Kenya, a Christian in Korea, a Christian in Khazakstan, than we do with an American who lives next door and spurns the name of Christ.

We know you have left us here for a short time, and we feel the same tension of the Apostle Paul, who said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…I am hard pressed in both directions.”

Thank you for this Town of Yucca Valley and the other communities of the Morongo Basin. We lift up to you our federal government, our state government, and our local government. We pray for our non-profit organizations like the Hi Desert Pregnancy Clinic and the Way Station.

And so, Lord, as long as you keep us here on earth, we will pray, and we will work, and we will serve. We will seek to be righteous, respectful, and upstanding citizens in our community, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Prayer for our Politicians

Last night, I was asked to lead the invocation at our Yucca Valley Town Council. Here’s what I prayed for our political leaders.

Sovereign Lord, If we could gather into one great heap all the leaders of this world — kings and congressman, diplomats and dictators.

If we could merge all the economies of this world – farmyards and football stadiums, stock markets and skyscrapers.

Your Word tells us that the sum total of all the nations would be “like a drop from the bucket, and counted as the dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15).

But “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. ” (Psalm 145:3). The greatness of this nation, and the greatness of our town, come from you.

Thank you for the elected leaders who sit before me tonight. Each of them is a “minister of God for our good” (Rom. 13:1).

Give them clarity of mind, compassion of heart, and conviction of spirit to do what is right even when unpopular.

Let them serve with joy as those who must give an account not only to their constituents, but ultimately, to You.

We pray all of this in the name of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, Amen.

A Prayer for our Government

American_Flag

Tonight I have the privilege of giving the Invocation at our local Town Council meeting. Here’s what I will be praying. Please join me in lifting up our nation and community in prayer…

O God, you are a Father to the fatherless and a Protector of widows.

On this historic election night, we echo the words of the prophet Daniel, who served long ago in the royal palace of Babylon…

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
To whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Almighty God, millions have stepped into the polling booth today, casting their vote and exercising their American right.

We thank you for that privilege and eagerly await the results, knowing full well that YOU are the one who removes kings and sets up kings. You are the architect of history, the invisible hand behind every blessing, the powerful one who can always trump our plans.

Now, as we meet here tonight, we ask that this body would conduct its business with dignity, with fairness, and with compassion for all. You promise to give wisdom to the wise, so we claim that promise now, asking that you would pour out wisdom generously upon us tonight.

To you be all glory. Amen.

Photo credit: Diego Villuendas Pellicero

Does God Answer Prayer from an Unsaved Person?

phoneA friend recently asked me, “Does God answer the prayers of the unsaved (or does He only answer prayers of repentance and conversion)?”

In short, my answer was no — God does not answer prayer from an unsaved person. Here’s why.

Access to God is only possible through Jesus Christ our high priest and mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Hebrews 4:15-16 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

No high priest, no access to God. No access to God, no answered prayer. Those who do not know Christ or possess His Spirit cannot possibly fellowship with God in prayer (Eph. 6:18).

Even for believers, when there is unconfessed sin or selfish motives, prayer becomes powerless. The psalmist writes, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18; cf. 1 Pet. 3:7; James 4:3). If that is true of a believer, how much more for an unbeliever who is still under God’s wrath (John 3:36).

So I believe the first prayer God hears and answers is when a person “calls upon the name of the Lord” in repentance and faith (Acts 2:21). He delights to hear the bleating of a lost sheep and is swift to come to our rescue.

In times of crisis (such as this very day thirteen years ago on 9/11) people do seem to have an instinct to cry out to a higher power for help. Perhaps this is due to God’s law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14) mixed with a bit of superstition. But these prayers only make it to God when they are made humbly in the name of His Son Jesus, beginning with a cry for forgiveness and eternal life.

Sadly, all other prayer — no matter how sincere — is just idolatry to a god of their own imagination (Ps. 115:3-8).

Photo credit: Curtis Perry

Teach Us to Pray

Image

As Jesus whispered “Amen” and opened his eyes, his disciples were already standing there with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

There are many topics we need to cover in leadership development, but prayer is one of the most critical. Apparently, John the Baptist taught his followers to pray, and now Jesus’ disciples want a piece of the action too. Are we modeling prayer to our people? Are we teaching them how to pray, and giving them opportunities to practice this spiritual discipline?

More broadly, this story reveals five essential elements of discipleship. All leadership development must be…

  • Didactic. A disciple (Gk. mathetes) is fundamentally a “student” or “follower.” A learner must hear and grasp content. He must be taught. Jesus granted his disciples’ request by teaching them information. He took words and ideas and organized them into logical sentences and paragraphs to convey truth. We must do the same, with structure and order to what we teach our disciples.
  • Relational. Discipleship is more than just transmitting information. It involves people, and must be in the context of loving relationships. It was only after spending time with Jesus and seeing him pray that his disciples even thought to ask the question “teach us to pray.” They spent much time eating together, talking together, doing ministry together, and seeing how a biblical worldview operates in the milieu of everyday life. Likewise, we must be selective with our time and make sure we are accessible to those we are equipping.
  • Conversational. I love the question-and-answer format of this passage in Luke 11. Sure, there are extended sermons in the Gospels and Acts, but much of the teaching of the New Testament was in the form of dialogue. Jesus talked with his disciples, not just at them. He asked them questions and invited them to do the same. (Cf. Paul’s method in Acts 17:2, 17). A good mentor will look for teachable moments and learn to draw out even the quietest students through intentional conversations.
  • Practical. When the disciples asked “teach us to pray,” they weren’t saying, “teach us the importance of prayer.” They knew that already. They were begging Jesus to teach them how to pray. They wanted practical help in the labor of prayer. And that is precisely what Jesus gave them: specific instructions in the kind of balanced prayer that God answers.
  • Patient. A student will rarely master content the first time around. It can take days, weeks, or even years, to understand and put into practice what was taught. This is due to a variety of reasons including the process of human memory, frequent distractions, and just plain hardheartedness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples had the perfect opportunity to apply Christ’s teaching on prayer, yet instead they were “sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Nevertheless, a short time later, we find these same men gathered together, “devoted to … prayers” (Acts 2:42). Yes! They were finally getting it! By the time we get to the epistles of John and Peter, we discover beautiful examples of bold prayer in the Spirit (1 Peter 1:3-5; 5:10-11; 1 John 5:14). Teaching requires patience, lest we grow discouraged by the early failures of our learners. But in the end, we can expect steady and marked progress. A disciple, when he is fully trained, will become like his teacher (Lk. 6:40).

Question: Who has been an example and inspiration to you in prayer? What lessons did you learn? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

Related posts:

Photo credit: graur razvan ionut