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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to write the foreword for a book by R. T. Kendall entitled The Lord’s Prayer. I was glad to write it, not only because R. T. is a friend of mine, but also because it is a great book. I went back and adapted it to share some of my thoughts on prayer here at the blog.
We live in a world where communication feels like a pandemic at times. Words, ideas, and even emotions move about with unstoppable velocity. The human race has honed the science and art of transporting our content to one another. But I fear that we are at the mercy of the mediums and are losing our own messages.
A century ago, people communicated through a limited number of methods. Primarily, we spoke to one another. Over the last few decades, all of that has changed. Mobile phones, email, blogging on the Internet, and a myriad of instant messaging options has transformed our communication methods. In the current technology available, Twitter is the most popular form of communication. To participate, you “tweet” your message for the entire world to read via the Internet. But there is one caveat–your message must be less than 140 characters. Even with this required limitation, many people willingly use Twitter as a primary form of communication to give and receive information. Correspondence is occurring more frequently and at a faster pace, but possibly with an atrophying impact.
We dance along a tightrope of increased communication lacking any depth or significance. With such self-imposed limitations placed on our communications to one another, there must be a spiritual consequence. It cannot be denied that in a time when the tools for communication are growing more powerful, our ability to relate is weakening. In speaking more rapidly, we are listening less intently.
But by God’s blessing, there is an answer to such a predicament. He has endowed us with a form of communication which can be ignored by man but never loses its power with God: Prayer. It remains the ever-present answer to our communication weakness. It requires no great skill of oratory. Prayer humbles us before God and emboldens us before man. Prayer can be as short as an Internet instant message or as long as a great work of literature. Whether brief or lengthy, God is awaiting our response to His initiatives through prayer.
One of the great lessons we learn about prayer is that though it is a form of communication between God and His people, it is not merely for communication. Prayer is one of the primary vehicles by which God delivers us into the middle of His plan and purposes. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, it was to show them how to both speak and listen to the Father. Whereas we live in a world where it is easy to make our declarations in a one-way fashion, prayer demands a listening ear as well. Prayer is, after all, not just our opportunity to speak. It is a sacred moment in which to listen as well.
Pastors often hear the question: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”
“If we pray little,
it is probably because
we do not really believe
that prayer accomplishes much at all.”
KEEP YOURSELF PURE (From The Pastor’s Weekly Briefly; Vol. 18, Number 39; September 24, 2010).
I received a call today from a major news service asking for comments about an alleged moral failure of a prominent clergyperson.
Interestingly, the conversation soon turned from the person to the problem. In other words, the reporter wanted to know why so many in the ministry suffer failures. There are a lot of reasons, but let me quote from our booklet, Pastoral Restoration … The Path to Recovery.
“It seems today that the church and its leaders are experiencing a genuine and increasing attack by Satan. Why is this? It might be due to stress or burnout in the lives of clergy, or it could just be carelessness. Whatever it is, it is sin and it must be addressed. What we have found most often is that moral or ethical failure can be partially categorized in three phrases.
1. A lack of accountability and too much power.
2. Unresolved conflict at home.
3. Limited time spent along with God.
“Failure to address any one of these three challenges can lead to great sorrow and ministerial failure.”
As I talk with the clergy around the world, I remind them that our greatest defense is intimacy with God and right relationships at home, at church and with our colleagues. A busy pastor must get adequate rest and encourage honest accountability from one or more of his fellow pastors. Ministry should be meaningful and filled with joy and thanksgiving. For many, these suggestions go unheeded.
And certainly not least, every servant of God must have a vigilant spirit. The Apostle Paul writes, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you” (1 Cor. 15:58) and again, “Keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22).
One last thought: the experience of failure in a leader’s life, whether it is sexual, ethical, financial or of another type, not only affects the fallen leader, but their family and everyone in that person’s sphere of influence. A very high price to pay for a moment or two of selfish gratification.
Please do not be misled. Satan would like to make you another one of his victims.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11).
Be blessed and be a blessing. —HBL
Come as the fire, and purge our hearts
With sacrificial flame;
Let our whole soul and offering be
To our Redeemer’s Name.
“Oh that believers would become eternity conscious! If we could live every moment of every day under the eye of God, if we did every act in the light of the judgment seat, if we sold every article in the light of the judgment seat. If we prayed every prayer in the light of the judgment seat, if we tithed all our possessions in the light of the judgment seat, if we preachers prepared every sermon with one eye on damned humanity and the other on the judgment seat – them we would have a Holy Ghost revival that would shake this earth and that, in no time at all, would liberate millions of precious souls.”
———- Leonard Ravenhill
For some time now, I have felt the Lord prompting me to establish this page to allow you the opportunity to commit to praying for the United States. God is in complete control of the events that shape our country.
I am convinced that the Lord has a plan to bring people in this country back to Him. I believe that renewal and revival are both possible in the United States. The fields are ripe for harvest, and if we will truly come back to God, He will hear our prayers and answer. He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. We are to pray that God will do what is necessary to bring people back to Him and also bring unbelievers to accept His gift of salvation.
“I am ready to burn out for God. I am ready to endure any hardship if by any means I might save some. The longing of my heart is to make known my glorious Redeemer to those who never heard.”
If you can’t ask God to make you a success at what you’re doing, you should be doing something else.
You can learn a lot about a person by the kind of prayer he prays. For instance, a selfish prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Have you ever heard a prayer that sounds like a Christmas list – I want this, and I want that? Some people try to impress you with their prayers, yet they come off as arrogant and prideful.
For leaders, there’s a model prayer in the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah. Remember Nehemiah? When he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, he prayed for four months.
This was not just a casual prayer. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, you should study the book of Nehemiah – particularly this prayer.
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:
1. Base your request on God’s character
Pray like you know God will answer you: “I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!”
Nehemiah approaches God and says, “God, I want you to do something back over in Jerusalem. Verse 5 says, “O Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his command.” Nehemiah said three things about God:
- 1. You’re great – that’s God’s position.
2. You’re awesome – that shows his power.
3. You keep your promises – God’s covenant.
The first thing Nehemiah did was to acknowledge who God is. That’s what praise is. Acknowledge who God is and his greatness. He starts off by getting the right perspective. In starting to have answered prayer, say, “God, I want you to answer because of who you are. You’ve given us all of these things, these promises. You are a faithful God, a loving God, a merciful God” – all these things the Bible tells us he is. You base your request on God’s character.
2. Confess the sin in my life.
After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. He says, “We’ve sinned.” Look at how many times he uses the word “I” and “we.” He says “I confess … myself … my father’s house … we have acted wickedly … we have not obeyed.” It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault they went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when this happened 70 years earlier. He was most likely born in captivity. Yet he is including himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem.”
There is personal confession and there is national confession. This is something we don’t know anything about. We don’t have a corporate sense in America today. We are very individualistic. We’re taught to confess my sins. When was the last time you confessed the sins of the nation? Or the sins of your family? Or your church? Or your friends? Our society has taught us we’re only responsible for ourselves. And that’s just not true! You are your brother’s keeper. We are all in this together.
Leaders accept the blame but losers pass the buck. If you want to be a leader, you accept the blame, and share the credit. Losers are always accusers and excusers. They’re always making excuses why things didn’t or couldn’t happen. It’s always somebody else’s fault. Leaders accept the blame.
3. Claim the promises of God.
Nehemiah is praying to the Lord and saying, “I want you to remember what you told your servant Moses.” Can you imagine saying, “remember” to God? He’s reminding God what he had said in the past. God, you warned us through Moses that if we were unfaithful we would loose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you’d give it back to us. All through the Bible you find God’s people reminding God about what he said he wants to do. David did it. Abraham did it. Moses did it. All the prophets did it. “God, I want to remind you of one of Your promises …” Then they’d share it.
Does God have to be reminded?
Does he forget what he’s promised?
Then why do we do this?
Because it helps us remember what God has promised. Nothing pleases God more that when you remind God of one of his promises.
Do kids ever forget a promise?
So you have to be very careful about making them. The Bible says we’re imperfect fathers, and if we imperfect fathers know that we need to fulfill our promises to our kids, how much more does a perfect Father, a heavenly Father, intend to keep the promises he’s made in his Word.
4. Be very specific in what I ask for.
If you want specific answers to prayer you need to make specific requests. If you make general prayers, how will you know if they are answered?
Nehemiah is not hesitant to pray for success. He’s very bold in his praying. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, make me successful!” If you haven’t, why haven’t you? What is the alternative? A failure? There is nothing wrong with praying for success if what you’re doing is ultimately for the glory of God. Pray boldly. Pray that God will make you successful in life for the glory of God. That’s what Nehemiah did. This is a valid prayer. Give me success!
If you can’t ask God to make you a success at what you’re doing, you should be doing something else. God doesn’t want you to waste your life.
Copyright © 2010 Rick Warren