Tag Archives: Prayer

The Convergence

God is working in our lives and world, but we are liable to miss it because we are expecting something else: something obvious, something “religious,” something extraordinary. But in Samuel we learn that God works through the mundane events of life, its pleasures and its pains. Continue reading

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A Three-Point Sermon (in Nine Words)

In Romans 12:12, the Apostle Paul writes: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” There is a wonderful three-point sermon in those nine words.[1] Point one: there is a great future ahead of us, so be joyful in hope. Point two: there are great difficulties surrounding us, so be patient in affliction. And point three: there is a great God above us, so be faithful in prayer. Continue reading

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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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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)

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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The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Part II)

You’re reading a novel in which the main character has a fantastical experience which changes him. From that time on, whenever he shakes hands with someone, he can see what that person will be in twenty, thirty, even forty years.

He meets a handsome young man who is brilliantly successful – straight A’s in college, captain of the basketball team, with acceptance letters from Harvard Business and other top graduate schools. But when he shakes his hand, he can see that alcoholism will destroy his life, his wife will leave him at 35, take the kids, and he’ll be dead by 50.

He is amazed to see how people’s lives turn out, some beautifully and some tragically. Then he meets and shakes hands with … you. Continue reading

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Prayer for Your Love Life

I’ve often asked myself what must happen for someone to discern what is best in a given situation. Is it best to take this job or stay with the one I’ve got? Should we move to a larger house or continue making do? Shall we retire or should keep working for a few more years? How can we discern what’s good from what’s best?

When we ask: “What must happen in order to discern what is best?” we’re assuming that discernment is primarily a procedural thing, as if discernment is just a matter of following the right steps. I’ve come to think there is a prior and more important question: “What kind of people do we need to be to discern what is best?” The Apostle Paul’s surprising answer to that question is: We have to be people with a healthy love life.

That love life – what Paul elsewhere calls “a life of love” – is critical to godly discernment. And that’s what Paul prays for in Philippians 1:9-11: that his dear friends’ “love will abound … so that [they] will be able to discern what is best…”

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