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The Prayer Life Of an Above Average Leader


Prayer Life of a Great LeaderI’ve never considered being called average a compliment.  I think it means you’re just as close to the bottom as on top.  I don’t believe that God meant for you to be average.  I don’t think God meant for you to live a so-so or bland, mediocre life.  As a leader, I don’t think God intends for you to be an average leader.  I believe that every human being was designed for excellence, that you’re not one in a million, you’re one in five billion and as the book In Search of Excellencestates, “The average person desires to be excellent in many different ways.”  There is no one else like you in the universe.

As Pastors and Christian leaders, one of the key elements in our pursuit of being an above average leader is having an above average prayer life. I want to share some big lessons from the life of Jabez about the prayer life of an above average leader.

Jabez is a man who literally stood out in a crowd.  There isn’t much written about him in the Bible.  In 1 Chronicles 4, you find a couple of sentences about him in the middle of a bunch of genealogies.  In the middle of 600 names God singles out one man for special recognition.  He stands above average.  He’s like a redwood tree in a forest of Bonzai’s.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 it says, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.  His mother had named him Jabez saying, `I gave birth to him in pain.’  Jabez cries out to God, `O God, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory and keep me from harm so that I would be free from pain.’  And God granted his request.” 

Out of those two obscure verses, we learn that there are three secrets to his life as an above average leader. What can we learn from Jabez?

You Need a Great Ambition

Jabez didn’t want to be ordinary.  He wanted to excel and grow.  In other words, he was a person of vision and dreams.  He wanted something special and something great from his life.  Most of all, he wanted God’s blessing in his life.

A lot of people never achieve the leadership level that they could achieve in life because they just drift through life with no ambition, no master plan, no real purpose, no dream that pulls them along.  It’s what I call haphazard living.  You’ve got to have a dream if you’re going to be a great leader.  And in looking at Jabez’ prayer life we’ll find that his prayers actually came out of his dreams.  When you stop dreaming, you start dying.  If you have no goals, you have no growth.  You were designed by God for great dreams.

You Need a Growing Faith

Jabez had a deep trust and belief in God.  It is obvious from his prayer that he recognized that the source of his blessing was the Lord.  It reminds me of William Carey who said, “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.”  In these two verses, we notice a couple of things about Jabez. If you’re going to live above average, you first need a great ambition and second, you need a growing faith.

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R. Sibbes wrote in Divine Meditations:

“When we go to God by prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all he can”

John Piper

“Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy” 

Richard Foster

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives–altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it.

~ Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True

John Chrysostom

Prayer should be the means by which I, at all times, receive all that I need, and, for this reason, be my daily refuge, my daily consolation, my daily joy, my source of rich and inexhaustible joy in life. 

John Chrysostom

We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate prayer. It surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force and gains its ends in the face of invincible hindrances.

E.M. Bounds

Jim and Lynn JarmanBy Jim Jarman

Converge missionary appointees to Sweden

The year was 1950. The famous revival on the windswept Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides was already underway. It was a revival that began when two elderly sisters fervently prayed. Peggy Smith was 84 and completely blind. Christine, her younger sister by two years, could hardly walk and was bent over double from arthritis.

God had given them a simple promise from Scripture: I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground (Isa. 44:3, KJV).

With a deep burden in their hearts they began praying. Twice a week for many months, they went down on feeble knees at 10:00 at night and did not rise until 3 or 4:00 in the morning. In the midst of their prayers, God gave them a vision of a man they had never met, a man who would be used by God to change the island. The man’s name was Duncan Campbell – and he would be the first to admit the dramatic spiritual change that happened was not because of him.

In his later accounts of this awakening, Campbell would write,

In speaking about the revival in the Hebrides, I would like to make it perfectly clear what I understand to be real revival. When I speak of revival, I am not thinking of high-pressure evangelism. I am not thinking of crusades or of special efforts convened and organized by people. That is not in my mind at all. Revival is far beyond evangelism at its highest level. It is a moving of God whereby the whole community suddenly becomes God-conscious before anyone says a word about God.

Supernatural Movement of God

People on the island were inexplicably drawn to Christ. Without publicity, telephones, or Internet, they were awakened in the middle of the night and drawn to gather in a farmer’s field or at a local parish church. Sometimes they did not make it – and instead simply fell by the side of the road confessing their sins to God. Bars and dance halls shut their doors for good. Starting with the small town of Barvas, the entire Isle of Lewis was turning from darkness to light. Whole towns were being converted to Christ, with the exception of the stubborn little parish of Arnol.

Arnol was defiant in its resistance to the gospel. No one wanted to hear what Duncan Campbell had to say. In fact, the citizenry held opposition meetings to denounce the revival. Campbell and his fellow leaders knew that the only answer was prayer.

They gathered one evening in a farmhouse and began to pray, earnestly appealing to the promises God had made in the Bible. At midnight, Campbell asked John, the local blacksmith, to pray, which he did for more than two hours. Near the end of his prayer, with his cap in his hand, John looked heavenward and said,

God, do you know that your honor is at stake? You promised to pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground. . . . I stand before You as an empty vessel and I am thirsty – thirsting for Thee and for a manifestation of Thy power. I’m thirsty to see the devil defeated in this parish. I’m thirsty to see this community gripped as You gripped Barvas. I’m longing for revival and, God, You are not doing it! I’m thirsty and You promised to pour water on me. God, Your honor is at stake, and I take it upon myself to challenge You now to fulfill Your covenant engagement.

At that moment, the house shook violently. A jug on the sideboard crashed to the ground and broke. Those who were present said that wave after wave of power swept over the room.

At the same time, the town of Arnol was awakened from its slumber. Lights went on. People came into the streets and started praying. Others knelt where they were and asked God to forgive them. Men carried chairs and women held stools, asking if there was room for them in the church. At 2:00 in the morning, revival came to this last resistant town on the island.

Another Shaking

As I reflect on this historic account, I wonder why my prayers don’t seem to shake much except my own confidence in prayer itself. How can I connect with God in such an intimate way that I can pray with absolute certainty that God has both heard and will answer? Why do I so willingly accept a “No” from God and chalk it up to His all-knowing nature instead of taking the time to understand His heart so that He can respond “Yes” to me?

Am I really that thirsty to know God? Do I want Him to water the dryness of my own heart? Am I willing to acknowledge my own cracked and parched soul?

There is no question that our society needs a shaking from God, a response that manifests His presence and His power, a deliverance that restores communities and nations. But I sense that any outward shaking will be preceded by an inward one that changes the very core of my being.

Before I can challenge God to remember His covenant, it is God’s prerogative to challenge me on the condition of my heart. Does my pulse stay in sync with the rhythm of His? Do I know God’s heartbeat well enough to pray His will so that He can say, “Yes”?

The history of revivalism shows that prevailing prayer precedes all major moves of God’s Spirit. “Lord, do not callous my heart. Callous my knees.” This is my longing as I pray. I hope it’s yours as well.

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31, NIV).

Jim and Lynn Jarman are Converge missionary appointees to Sweden. They will be serving as Team Leaders for Church Plants and Ethnic Groups at New Life Church Stockholm. 

For more information on their ministry or to receive prayer updates, contact them at jarman@europe.com.

by RAY ORTLUND

“Leaving the first kind of fiery darts — enticing and alluring temptations — we now proceed to the second kind, those that fill the Christian with fear.  It is only the power of faith that can quench these fiery darts.

This is Satan’s weapon held in reserve.  When alluring temptations fail, he opens his quiver and shoots these arrows to set the soul on fire, if not with sin then with terror.  When he cannot carry a soul laughing to hell through the deception of pleasurable temptations, he will try to make him go mourning to heaven by this amazing attack.  It is a sure sign that Satan is losing.

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“Christian, when you are dry, go to God…”

~ Charles Spurgeon

The Depression Epidemic

Why we’re more down than ever—and the crucial role churches play in healing.
by Dan G. Blazer
The Depression Epidemic

ILLUSTRATION BY RICK BEERHORST

The church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons.

Virtually everyone has experienced a “down” day, often for no clear reason. We might say we “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” are “out of sorts,” or just “in a funk.” Such polite references are commonplace in America. Yet as familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of a severe depression remain a mystery. We may grasp in part the distress of King David: “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10). But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12). Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it?

What is depression?

First we need to clarify what we are talking about. In order to distinguish severe or “major depression” from everyday blues, the American Psychiatric Association offers the following diagnostic criteria:

Major depression is diagnosed when an adult exhibits one or both of two core symptoms (depressed mood and lack of interest), along with four or more of the following symptoms, for at least two weeks: feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt; diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions; fatigue; psychomotor agitation (cannot sit still) or retardation (just sitting around); insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much); significant decrease or increase in weight or appetite; and recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.

This clinical definition is sterile, however, and fails to capture the unique quality of the severely depressed person’s suffering.

Deep depression is embodied emotional suffering. It is not simply a state of mind or a negative view of life but something that affects our physical being as well. Signs of a severe episode of depression include unfounded negative evaluations of friends, family, and oneself, emotional “pain,” physical problems such as lethargy, difficulty getting one’s thoughts together, and virtually no interest in one’s surroundings. Though most of us know at least an acquaintance who has committed suicide, this tragic act baffles us perhaps as much as it pains us. “I just don’t understand,” we say. The irony is that survivors of serious suicide attempts frequently reflect on those attempts with a similar attitude: “I have no idea what came over me.” The pain and mental dysfunction of major depression are that deep.

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June 2018
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