Category Archives: Prayer

Learning to Pray for an Extended Time

I try to take a half-day each month to pray. I go to a place where I can be alone (or relatively so) and spend four to six hours thinking, praying, and worshiping. Sometimes I take my guitar. Most times, I walk for a few miles and talk to God in the quiet beauty of nature.

I usually begin with a walk and, during this first walk, tell God what I admire about him. Sometimes I will go through the alphabet, finding a word or words for each letter that reflects something of God’s character. He is, for example: able; brilliant; compassionate; determined; and so forth.

Q is difficult, as is Z, and especially X. For X, I am forced to rely on the same word again and again: Xenophilic, someone who loves aliens and strangers.

When I have prepared my heart and mind by remembering who God is and what he is like, I pray for the church – the one of which I am a part but also the local churches and pastors I know and love. I usually do so by praying through Scripture passages. Some of my favorites are Colossians 1:9-12, Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-23, and 3:14-19.

After my prayer walk, I return to read the Scriptures. Sometimes I read other books as well. I take a notebook and jot down ideas – ideas that are frequently helpful to me in relationships and in leadership.

For the past few years, I have used the final prayer time of the day to pray for my own family. I begin by writing down prayer requests. Then I go back over the things I’ve written and talk to God about them. I’ve done this for my wife, our three sons, my two daughters-in-law, and my grandchildren.
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Will God Answer Your Prayers This November?

Tens of millions of people are praying that the Biden/Harris ticket wins the presidential election. Tens of millions of people are praying that the Trump/Pence ticket wins. That means that whoever wins in November, tens of millions of people will be disappointed.

The fact that millions of people can pray for mutually exclusive outcomes is a problem, if not for God, at least for theologians. But it is also a problem for the people doing the praying. They passionately desire a particular result. They genuinely believe their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others – the nation, even the world – hangs on a positive answer to their request.

Yet tens of millions of people will not receive a positive answer to their request. What are they to think? That God has abandoned them? That God does not care; that he is, as the ancient Greeks believed, apathetic about human needs?

Many of us have prayed desperately for something – in my case, healing for a family member – only to be disappointed. What is a person to think then, when the job that was absolutely perfect (or at least urgently needed) falls through or when a son or daughter sinks deeper into self-destructive behaviors?

This is sometimes referred to as the “problem of unanswered prayer,” but I’ve noticed that unanswered prayer is a much bigger problem on some occasions than on others. If my prayer for nice weather for the church picnic goes unanswered, I can say, “Oh, well, the farmers needed the rain more than we needed the sun.” But if my prayer for my child’s survival goes unanswered, I will not say, “Oh, well…”
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Pray for Your Pastor During the Covid-19 Crisis

After the reading of the Gospel, I pray. Today it was a disjointed prayer of submission, adoration, and intercession. As I prayed, I found myself wondering why I have been feeling so anxious. I am not, by nature, an anxious person but the last couple of weeks have been stressful. As I thought about this before the Lord, three particular stressors came to mind.

I find making decisions very stressful when I don’t have sufficient information. During the Covid-19 crisis, I (and tens of thousands of other pastors) have had to make one decision after another: First it was, “Do we cancel in-person services?” Then, how long must we cancel in-person services?

The decisions just keep on coming. How do we communicate during this time? Do we live stream Sunday services? How do Family Ministry, Youth Ministry, Kid’s Min communicate? Do they live stream? How do we care for our most vulnerable population? What about our staff? Will they work from home? Will they have enough to do to occupy their time? Can they afford the time off?

All this is uncharted territory. We do not have the facts, don’t know how long the social distancing measures will be necessary. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The One Who Is Able (Ephesians 3:20-21)

We began the “Powerful Prayer” series eight weeks ago. Each week, we have looked closely into one or the other of the Apostle Paul’s great prayers for the church. What we have seen has been extraordinary. We have had a master of prayer – St. Paul himself – show us why he prayed and what he prayed. Yet our in-depth study of these remarkable prayers will make no difference if it doesn’t inspire us to pray.

If we’ve learned anything, I hope we’ve learned that God expects us to pray for the church, including Lockwood Church. I hope we’ve learned that praying for the church is critical. So, after two months of hearing about praying for the church, are we praying for the church? Have you prayed for Lockwood this week? Have you used what you’ve learned to pray for our church family?

I’ve met people who believe in God but don’t believe in prayer. They think God is going to do what he is going to do, whether we pray or not. That prayer is just a matter of adjusting our attitudes and expectations.

But I don’t believe that. I agree with Henry Emerson Fosdick, who said: “Now if God has left some things contingent on man’s thinking and working, why may he not have left some things contingent on man’s praying? The testimony of the great souls is a clear affirmative to this: some things never without thinking; some things never without working; some things never without praying! Prayer is one of the three forms of man’s cooperation with God.” Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The One Who Is Able (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Covid-19 has people feeling more than a little nervous. Karen went to the store today and came home without some things she intended to purchase – panicky shoppers had cleaned out the shelves. Gratefully, we still have the staples—co ffee and fruit snacks.

History is full of scary times: famines, plagues, and wars. Some of you can still remember the sleepless nights and anxiety you suffered during the Second World War. I was a boy during the height of the Cold War, when our school had occasional “bomb drills.” It was scary stuff. For many of us, 9/11 seems like only yesterday.

History is full of scary times but behind history is a strong, loving God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. When times are at their darkest, that’s when the people who know God shine the brightest. Every crisis is an opportunity for salvation history to leap forward, as the church courageously trusts God and treats people with sacrificial love.

In Ephesians 3:20-21, the Apostle Paul describes our God as “him who is able.” He is able during a crisis. He is able during a pandemic. He “is able to do immeasurably more that we can ask or imagine, according to his power…” That power is already at work among us to accomplish great things. Let’s work with it. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity this crisis affords to trust God and love people.
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Powerful Prayers: To Know the Unknowable

(Ephesians 3:16-19) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: To Know the Unknowable (Ephesians 3:16-19)

http://lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening Time:25:19) George Hood of Naperville, Illinois, a 62-year-old former Marine, just set the endurance record for holding a plank. The plank, an isometric exercise which strengthens the abdominal muscles, is like a pushup, except one rests on one’s … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Make Yourself at Home

Why pray? Or, to be more specific, why do you pray? To be more specific still, why do you pray for other people – friends, family, your kingdom comrades from Lockwood or other churches? We often talk about what to pray but seldom talk about why to pray.

I suspect – I know this is true of me – that we usually pray because we are aware of a need, of discomfort, or of danger. We pray when we see a threat to someone’s health or security or faith. And when we are unaware of a threat, we don’t think to pray.

That we don’t think to pray when things are going well betrays a faulty understanding of prayer and probably a false belief: that God left us here to muddle through and keep ourselves intact in the process. When that becomes more than we can manage, then it’s time to pray.

But do you see what this reveals about our view of God? We think he’s like the butler in a Jeeves novel – the smartest, most capable person around – who (for some reason) has nothing better to do in life than to get us out of scrapes and make us comfortable. But to think that is to misconstrue our purpose here and God’s, his role and ours.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t think of God as if he were “our Jeeves in heaven.” It’s not that he doesn’t want us to pray about our need—he tells us to do just that: to present our requests to God. But most of Paul’s prayers in the Bible don’t seem to come out of a sense of discomfort or fear or even need. They come out of a readiness to join God in what he is doing. That’s different than a readiness for God to join us in what we’re doing. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Make Yourself at Home (Ephesians 2:14-19)

Our culture talks a lot about empowering people: women, children, minorities, workers, gays, the transgendered, and, lately, even white men (though it’s usually white men talking about empowering white men.) Our society has a thing about power: it worships it. God doesn’t want us to worship power, but he does want us to use it.

When our culture empowers a person or a group of people, it divides them from other people. That’s how cultural power works: it raises some up by forcing others down. God’s power is not like that. It doesn’t divide. It unites. God’s power does not enable people to get their way. It enables them to walk together with others in God’s way. God’s power does not provoke resentment; it generates love.

Hold onto this thought: God wants to empower you. God, said C. S. Lewis, “seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye.” He empowers us. But why? What does God want to accomplish by empowering us?

The answer to that question is what this sermon seeks to address–and that answer is full of hope. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (His Incomparably Great Power for Us Who Believe)

Paul longs for Christians to know, to the full extent of their mind’s ability, the supreme greatness of God’s power. He knows that when the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens people’s eyes to God’s surpassing power, it changes them. It gives rise to reverence in them, what the ancients called “the fear of the Lord,” and makes them passionate worshipers. As our knowledge and experience of God’s power grows, the fear of failure, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of privation is extinguished. Knowing the power of God sets people free to try, to give, to enjoy, to love. We need to know, to the very limits of our ability, the power that God possesses.

This power, Paul says, is “for us who believe” or “for us the believing.” Do you think that is an accurate description of you? John the believing. Dawn the believing. Ethan the believing. Emily the believing. Not everyone is in position to take advantage of the power Paul is talking about. It is for the believing.

That begs the question, doesn’t it? What are “the believing” believing? In my experience, many people who confess belief in God have little more than a blur or smear of religious thoughts – some quite pagan – about a God who is generally nice and will look after us, and take us to heaven when we die. Would Paul recognize those folks as “the believing”? Continue reading

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