Effective, Fervent Prayer

19 10 2016

questionAs I thought about this post my mind went back to all the stuff God did in Louisville (at the Empower America Conference) over the past week. Trying to extract one thing from all the events that took place is difficult. Yet the more I thought about it the more my mind came back to one thing…prayer.

I guess you could say that this writing started at our church’s Surge Conference. Let’s flash back to that for a moment. On Monday night Pastor Daniel Bracken reminded us of the importance, well really the necessity, of prayer. If that wasn’t enough of a reminder about how important prayer is we listened to Dr. Morocco as he spent time on the same subject just two weeks later. To top all of this off Dr. Cho mentioned that while it’s not easy to pray like we need to – and should be – it’s necessary.

As I began to piece together what God was trying to tell me I was reminded of a verse that we frequently quote. It’s found in James 5:16. The last half of this verse reads like this, “…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” When I looked up the word used for effective it gave interesting results. It actually is the entire phrase ‘effective, fervent’ that’s translated together. It comes from the Greek word ‘energeō’. It’s where we get our English word energy. Hmmm…effective, fervent prayers…in that context it’s an interesting statement.

I am convinced now, more than ever, that the way in which we experience the presence of God is directly proportionate to our prayers. Let me say that again. I am convinced now, more than ever, that the way in which we experience the presence of God is directly proportionate to our prayers. How can that be? We don’t see that played out in the Bible…do we? Let’s take a look and see.

Elijah walked into the throne room of Ahab and declared that there would be no rain until he said so and it happened. Roughly three years later he declares that there will be rain after defeating the false prophets on the mountain. But…the call for rain was different. Let’s look…

“And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. (1 Kings 18:41-42 NIV)”

Wait…he prayed again? Wasn’t the first prayer enough? I don’t believe so. The prayers for the first word didn’t apply to calling down rain. Let’s look further:

““Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ (1 Kings 18:43-44 NIV)”

What we see in this passage is an example of the effective, fervent prayer that James is talking about. Remember the word it’s translated from? Energy. Elijah didn’t pray a ‘bedtime’ prayer and leave. He stayed until the work was done. Then it was just a matter of seeing it happen.Too much of today’s church is filled with short, fast food prayers. We pray for 10 minutes and wonder why the miracles don’t happen. It’s because we haven’t done the work.

expect-a-miracleMy grandfather has been a minister for over 50 years. He now lives in West Virginia. I called my mom the other day to check something that was on my mind. I asked her how much time Papa (as we affectionately call him) spent in prayer every day. “He didn’t have a set time that he prayed during the day,” she said. “But almost every day he would be up at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning to pray and study. There were a lot of nights, when your dad was working graveyard at 7-11, that he would come over and say hello just before going over to the office to pray and study. Then he would just finish out his day after he was through.” She went on to say that most days his office hours were from around 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. These were the hours he was in the office AFTER praying and studying through the night. I saw my grandpa do phenomenal things for God. Miracles were performed in his life personally and I believe it’s because he did the work.

Pastor Bracken said it. Dr. Morocco said it. Dr. Cho said it. And so have many other mighty men of God throughout time. Most importantly…God said it. So if He did…maybe we should listen. It’s time we rolled up our sleeves and got to work praying.

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Worth The Wait

5 11 2013

I hate waiting. Well…most of the time I do. We live in a ‘give it to me now’ culture where everything seems to be instant. Technology is speeding along and whisking us away in its wake. We have On Demand video, instant mac-and-cheese, and drive through convenience stores. Amazon lets you shop for anything you want without leaving your home. Walmart is installing self-checkout lines so you don’t have to wait in the checkout line. No one likes to wait for anything any more.

Image credit: media.getmein.com

My kids are the epitome of not waiting. They ask me something and my response is, “Let me think about it.” Five minutes later they’re asking if I have made up my mind. They don’t want to wait!

On the other hand it seems like all God does is make us wait. Why can’t God figure it out? Why can’t He see that’s not how it’s done anymore. We don’t wait. We want what we want and we want it NOW! But is that the best thing for us? Not always. There are times when waiting is best. Waiting for a baby to be born is best. Waiting for cookies to bake is best. Waiting for the dough to rise is best. It’s not easy…but it’s best.

No one gives us a better example of waiting than David. The Psalms are packed with instances where he was in the middle of something and called out to God…and waited.

  • In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3 — NIV)
  • Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15 — NIV)
  • I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1 — NIV)

We need to take a lesson from our kids. We make them wait for things that we place into their lives. It teaches them appreciation for things. It teaches them patience and hard work. It builds character. All the things we learned about parenting we have received from our Heavenly Father. He is trying to instill the very same things in us.

I get it…we don’t like it. On the other hand if we got everything we wanted when we wanted it there would be no trust in Almighty God to provide for us. We would not have the realization that what we wanted was not good for us at the time. The lessons that we needed to learn before receiving the blessing would not be learned and the point would be missed.

One day in prayer I was telling God how ready I was to move into the next phase of ministry. I was earnest and sincere. God’s answer was plain. “No you’re not. If you move now you will not survive it.” I didn’t realize how right He was until years later when I was in the middle of a ‘church firestorm’. As the senior pastor it was my responsibility to deal with it. Had God not made me wait and develop things that were needed I would not have gotten through it.

shine-through

God is not making us wait to torture us. He is developing in us what is needed to shine for Him. He hears every prayer, every request, everything that we ask. Sometimes He makes us wait for the good things. In those times, though, we need to be like David. We wait patiently for the Lord because he ALWAYS hears our cry and when He answers…it will be worth the wait.





Some Small Things Aren’t Good

25 10 2013

Bugs…I have seen a lot of them. They have ranged from the smallest of gnats to scorpions and spiders. But that’s not what this post is about. Not really. There’s another bug that I have been exposed to. Having spent 14 years in a technical career as a network administrator I have seen my share of software bugs too. They are ‘glitches’ in the programming that cause the program to not work correctly or crash all together. All of these things are small when compared to other things on the planet. But we can’t discount that they can cause issues to be dealt with.

smallNot long ago I posted about small but not-so-insignificant things. Just like the small, good things in life, there can be small, bad things that adversely effect us. If we’re not careful they can creep in and destroy something that we have taken great care to build. A failed greeting by a friend at church can turn into hurt, anger, and bitterness before we know it. One misunderstanding can destroy friendships that have lasted for years. One ear turned toward gossip can poison the perspective of even the most loyal people. All of these things are small in comparison to some of the things we have all seen…but they are no less destructive if not dealt with.

Not long ago my niece (Madison) started complaining about her hip hurting. It appeared to be a sprained muscle but a visit to the doctor was warranted. After multiple visits, including one to children’s Hospital in St. Louis, the diagnosis was a hairline fracture. There was a crack in her hip that was smaller than a hair follicle. This was causing all the discomfort.Because of that small crack in the bone Madie was confined to a wheelchair for 4 weeks. Thankfully it healed and she is doing fine. Yet the impression on me was made. Some small things aren’t good for you.

One small drop in a pool can cause ripples to reverberate throughout the entire thing. One missed screw can cause a machine to fail or worse. Those small things, while not entirely harmful, can set off a chain of events that can cause serious damage. One missed prayer time may not be a huge thing…but it can lead to more and more if not dealt with. One slip in our time in God’s Word can lead to our not being armed and ready to do battle when necessary. All by themselves these events are small but add them together and the weak spot becomes a target for the enemy to launch an all out assault.

surrenderSo…what do we do about the little things? That can be easy and hard all at the same time. The basic thing is to keep up on the beneficial little things. Prayer and Bible reading are as essential to our spiritual life as food and water are to our body. One day missed won’t kill us but it can significantly weaken us. David put it this way, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.(Psalm 119:111 — NIV)” He also said, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.(Psalm 27:8 — NIV)”

Finally we need to learn to keep our guard up. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.(Proverbs 4:23 — NIV)” In my martial arts classes one thing we are constantly told is to keep our hands up. This is because if we don’t we get punched in the head. We need to learn to keep our hands up; not to block the enemy but in surrender to the Father. And when we do that we can guard against the little things that could do us great harm.





A Conversation With God

6 06 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer. Mostly about how I pray. The conclusion that I have come up with is that it really needs to change. I’m not saying that I’m praying for anything out of the ordinary. Quite the contrary in fact. The things I’m praying for are totally normal. I bring the emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial needs to God all the time. That’s what I’m supposed to do…right? But lately I find that something is missing.

What God is starting to show me is that bringing my needs to Him is good. His Word tells me to do just that. In fact we quote the verses all the time. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6 — NIV)” We love to bring our stuff to God because He tells us to. We “…cast all our cares on Him…” and He wants us to do that. But is there more? Can prayer be more than listing the things we need to God? Shouldn’t we strive to know Him through the prayers we pray?

When I was a kid my Sunday School teacher (usually my grandmother — affectionately known as “MawMaw”) said that prayer is talking with God. It’s a conversation. And conversations shouldn’t be one-sided. When we pray we need to allow time to hear what He is saying to us in the conversation. No other conversation that we have is this way. So why should it be any different with God?

I am reminded of Elijah when he ran from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. At one point there is a gale force wind, boulder shattering earthquake, and blazing wildfire. But the Bible says that God was not in any of them. It then says, “…And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:12 — NIV)” When Elijah heard it he covered his face with his cloak because he knew he was in the presence of God. That’s the thing that we need to hear. We like to see the huge things that God does. But we also need to hear the whisper. A whisper is meant for only the person close enough to hear. And I think that’s what’s missing in many prayers around the world. We shout our prayers to God and fail to get close enough to hear the whisper.

So I challenge you to make your prayers into conversations. Present your requests to God. But also take the time to hear the whispers of God as he speaks to your heart. And I promise that if you do…it will change your prayer time, and your life, forever.








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