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Thoughts on Prayer

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Most of you that follow this blog have figured out that I am something of a throw back to a different time, even a bit old fashioned in some ways. As far as ministry is concerned, I am more closely aligned with those of the past who eschewed the latest fads and techniques in favor of simply proclaiming the word of God.

I can truthfully say that I have never attempted to follow anyone’s prescribed methodology of ministry. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few who have attempted to get me to follow in their footsteps, because there have been.

How well I recall the minister who told me to “just do what I do”. Thankfully, I chose not to do follow his advice because it wasn’t long before that particular individual was never heard from again.

Instead, I have held to the belief that if we pray and seek God He will produce the desired outcome. His desired outcome.

Like many of you, I have learned through the years that whatever is born out of prayer will stand the test of time. Likewise, that which comes from the heart of man will eventually falter no matter how much effort is put into shoring it up.

It is with this background that I approach the subject of prayer in the church. I’m referring to a specific time or season of prayer here, not merely saying a prayer. Perhaps you have heard of such a season referred to as ‘the prayer meeting’, or more simply ‘a time of prayer’.

Many church goers today are unaware that there was a time when the prayer meeting was the single most important meeting of the week. It was given far more emphasis than even the Sunday morning services. It was deemed so important that the great British pastor C.H.Spurgeon had this to say about it:

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a sloth-fullness in prayer”. [1]

This is an incredibly powerful commentary on prayer in the church. Written by Spurgeon well over 100 years ago, it describes perfectly the relationship between God and His church and the effects a lack of prayer has upon her.

God has always called His people to pray. Going all the way back to the 4th chapter of Genesis we are told that after the birth of Enos (grandson of Adam and Eve), men began to call upon the name of the Lord. [2]

This ‘calling upon the Lord’ carried into the New Testament where we find Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. [3]. The record we have of the early church gives us no less than four examples of how prayer should be made “without ceasing”. [4]

Starting to see a pattern here? Sounds like prayer is a really important part of man’s  relationship with his Creator, wouldn’t you agree?

This leads me to a question for us all: how much emphasis is being placed on prayer in our churches? A little? A lot? Hardly any? None? Sadly, I know exactly how I must answer this.

If Spurgeon was right in saying that the church may be gauged by its prayer meetings, what does that say about us today? What does this say about our relationship with our Heavenly Father if we have forsaken prayer?

I was discussing this issue with my wife and we started talking about all of the different metrics the church uses today to determine it’s effectiveness, or success. Things like attendance and offerings seem to be two of the most popular metrics, with ministry involvement and the number of conversions following close behind them.

One item you won’t find on any church’s flow chart however is the % of its congregation that is committed to regular prayer, whether at home or in a scheduled time of corporate prayer at the church. I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself why that is.

The result of what Spurgeon deemed “slothfulness in prayer” is the absence of the greatest church metric there is. I’m speaking of lives that have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Seriously, If we need to count something, why don’t we count something that really matters, like lives forever changed by the power of the gospel?

How hard can that be? Wait…maybe that’s the problem!

I see it all the time, and I’m sure that you do as well. Church services that are filled with hurting, desperate people all filing out at the end of the service exactly as they filed in. Unchanged, unmoved, and unregenerate. And we wonder why so few wish to join us. Why would they?

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. [5] Do you suppose the Apostle Paul was looking into the future to our day when he said those very words?

As I look upon the landscape of the Church today, I see a famine of unprecedented magnitude. To be sure, we have preachers a plenty. And there is certainly no shortage of singers and musicians in God’s house. We have programs designed to meet nearly every need imaginable, yet fail to recognize that we now mirror the church of Laodicea that was “rich and increased with goods”, but did not know she “was poor, and blind, and naked”. [6]

Yet for all of these, the Church is starving to death for the Presence of God. When we do not pray, He will not come. Why would he show up uninvited, even in His own house?

I speak only for myself, but I cannot abide such an environment for even one more Sunday. I can no longer be content with another church service where we repeat the same tired, worn out routine again. I am desperate for the power and the Presence of God!

A form of godliness emanating from a man-centered, manufactured service does nothing for me or anyone else. And how are we to know that it is only a ‘form of godliness’? Because there is no transformation taking place.

If God were in our midst like we pretend that he is, I can assure you that lives would be changed on a regular basis. Needs would be met. Addictions would be broken. Diseases would be instantaneously healed. Marriages would be restored and families reunited. Those who handle the Word of God would cast aside their haughtiness and pride, finding themselves broken and prostrate before Him.

Maybe, just maybe what is needed is a return to the ‘Old Paths’ where “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” [7will once again become the battle cry of the redeemed.

Who can tell if the Lord will reveal himself anew if only we would call upon Him in earnest and sincere prayer?

Actually, I believe that that is precisely what he is waiting on.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

[1] Spurgeon at His Best(Grand Rapids:Baker)

[2] Genesis 4:26

[3] Luke 11

[4] Acts 12:5, Romans 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:17, 2 Tim. 1:3

[5] 2 Tim. 3:5

[6] Revelation 3:17

[7] 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 

Pearls from the Princess

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Recently my Princess and I were discussing how important it is to remain teachable regardless of ones age or position in life. You probably know someone who has convinced themselves that they have ‘arrived’, and that they no longer need to work on improving themselves. Fun people to be around. NOT

Often these kinds of people feel that there are no areas in their life that are in need of God’s help or attention. In their minds it is enough for them to say “I got this”, meaning that they alone are in complete control over every circumstance in their life.

In actuality however, these are dangerous people. They are a danger to themselves and a danger to others. More often than not they are controlling and manipulative. They work tirelessly to build themselves up while neglecting others. Every thing they do points back to themselves instead of towards others.

No where are such people more of a threat than in the Church. That is because one does not expect to find such an attitude among the redeemed, as church has always been thought of as a safe haven. God’s house, or so we have been taught, is a refuge from the evil that is so pervasive in this world.

It is precisely this mindset that enables such dangerous people to hide in plain sight, blending in with the rest of God’s sheep. This is how sexual predators in the church get away with their deviant crimes for so long. It’s also how deceptive and manipulative individuals are able to exercise dominion over unsuspecting people.

These are described by the Apostle Paul as “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away”! [1]

Conversely, people that remain teachable understand that they may have several short-comings. Perfection is not a part of their vocabulary. They are not self-reliant but rely upon the Lord to help them get those areas under control. Far from “having arrived”,  they know that they are a work in progress.

Through prayer and the study of God’s word they see that He is doing a work in their heart. Yes, it is a life-long process, but they are able to see progress nonetheless. The important thing is that they remain humble, not lifting themselves up with a prideful, arrogant spirit. [2]

Two very different types of people; those who remain humble and teachable and those who have convinced themselves that they “have arrived”and thus are in command of their destiny.

I have worked with and for both types in my lifetime, in the church as well as the corporate world. At some point in my life I am certain that I was both of those people. Just as certain is the fact that I much preferred one over the other.

I know that who I am today is not who I once was. In His own good timing, the Lord has a way of weeding out the hinderances to our spiritual growth if we will allow him to do so. And yes, that includes things, circumstances, and even people.

Having the choice of the two, I know the type of person I desire to be. I want to be the teachable, malleable, humble vessel that God chooses to work through.

There’s an old saying that says “you’re never too old to learn”. This saying should come with a disclaimer however that says “as long as you’re teachable”.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Timothy 3:5

[2] Proverbs 16:18

 

Playing With Fire

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It seems that everywhere you turn today people are mocking God with a greater intensity and frequency. Surely the fear of God has disappeared from the hearts and minds of untold millions of people who curse His name as easily as they curse at a dog.

This is not surprising however. After all, the Apostle Peter clearly warns us that in the last days will come “scoffers, walking after their own lusts”.  [1]

The Apostle Paul also goes to great lengths to warn the church of impending disaster, when in the last days the world would fall headlong into apostasy. In his 2nd Epistle to Timothy, he lists a multitude of dangerous and ungodly character traits that would be manifested in the hearts of unbelievers at that time.

When you see people described as “lovers of their own selves, blasphemers, fierce, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness” etc…, you can be assured that these people are playing with fire.   [2]

As we see these days closing in on us, I am so very thankful that in His mercy God saw me in my wretched condition and pulled me out of the miry clay. How many of us can identify with this beloved Psalm?

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.   Psalm 40:2

Contrast these words of hope and restoration with the solemn warning from Hebrews about those who live their lives in outright rejection of God.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  [3]

To fall into the hands of the living God speaks to another part of God’s nature that unregenerate men choose to ignore. They would rather live their lives in any manner they wish, believing that in the end everyone gets in to heaven.

But that is not what is going to happen when we come to the end of our days. If we have not received Christ as our Lord and Savior, it will be a fearful thing because once we take our final breath, we are immediately confronted with this living God.

And that, dear readers, is playing with fire.

Ron

[1] 2nd Peter 3:3

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:1-5

[3] Hebrews 10:31