Posts Tagged 'prayer'

The Living Word: The Voice of Thunder

The Voice of Thunder

John 12:16-36

This week, I watched a friend take THREE HOURS to install a navigation system that would help him pilot his boat through the waterways. The complexity of the charts was astounding; the challenge was they were installing software for water navigation IN MY OFFICE. They couldn’t possibly know if the install worked correctly or not – the only way to know is to get out in the water!

To Make Sense of the Current Storm:

* Look For God Sightings ~ John 12:16-19

  • 16 “all this” – the Triumphal Entry
  • 17/19 the crowds were paying attention to what God was doing; the religious people, not so much

* Learn God’s View of Sacrifice ~ John 12:20-27

  • 20/21 the crowds weren’t all Jewish; Jesus draws ALL KINDS
  • 22/23 introduces a private conversation between Jesus & disciples (not to the crowd)
  • 24/25 sacrifice is NECESSARY for God’s work
  • 26 if you’re going to follow Jesus, you must follow his example of sacrifice
  • 27 Jesus didn’t exempt Himself, even though He knew it was difficult

* Listen for God’s Voice Speaking ~ John 12:28-36

  • 28 example of conversational prayer!
  • 29 the crowd heard SOMETHING!
  • 30/33 “now…will be” Jesus begins His sacrifice, His triumph over death & the devil
  • 34 “Son of Man” Jesus tends to use this phrase to refer to His ROLE in God’s work, to specify what He’s doing AS the fulfillment of God’s promise (as opposed to what He does as Rabbi/Teacher/His immediate ministry)

CLOSE: 35/36 Jesus seems to be emphasizing what He’s doing RIGHT THEN (immediate ministry) to help us understand His Messianic ministry. I believe He still does this today: for us to understand what God is doing, we look to the ministry of the Son to help us weather the current storm and hear the voice of God.

Autumn Thoughts: Can We Pray Like Jesus?

Can We Pray Like Jesus?

Mark 14:32-41

During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.
When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ’s commands. Then they came together.
Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, “What did you do then?” “We were just one,” he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.

To Pray Like Jesus, Ask Yourselves

Are We Distressed? ~ Mark 14:32-34

  • 33 Jesus felt overwhelmed. Jesus was troubled. Just because we’re followers of Christ doesn’t guarantee that we’ll always have a wonderful life. Suffering and trouble aren’t exempt from faith.
  • 34 interesting that Jesus both wants his friends close… and yet doesn’t want them with Him in the midst of His prayer. It’s okay for us to want conflicting things WHEN WE’RE CONFLICTED. How can we focus on the response, instead of the circumstance?

Are We Discouraged? ~ Mark 14:35-36

  • 35 Jesus asks what’s possible; He doesn’t want to face what’s coming
  • 36 Jesus knows God COULD change His plan – but defers to it anyway. IMO, toughest prayer to pray ever (and one we daily need to pray)

Are We Determined? ~ Mark 14:37-41

  • 37/38 Jesus is let down by his friends; unsupported
  • 39 Jesus REPEATS His prayer – He keeps asking
  • 40/41 Jesus is resigned to the hour at hand; He submits to God’s Plan (even the unpleasant parts) What are YOU facing? How willing are you to go along with what God plans for you, even though it’s not what you want?

No matter what are YOU facing, no matter how you’re feeling about it, remember: Jesus showed us how to pray IN Distress and Discouragement: with Determination. Let’s make the choice to pray like Jesus when we’re faced with suffering.

Aha Moments: The Ongoing Offering

Aha Moments: The Ongoing Offering

Matthew 6:7-15

Contrast Catholic understanding of Communion as an ongoing offering with our use of the Lord’s Prayer as a repeated model

What Does The Lord’s Prayer Show Us?

Ongoing Offering On Our End ~ Matthew 6:7-8

  • 7 “keep on babbling”=vain repetition; NOT an injunction against repeating prayer, but repeating patterns for sound alone sake; we do NOT practice “magic”, and we do not need a specifically said formula or phrase for prayers to reach God (cf. Luke 18:9-14)
  • 8 NOTICE: Prayer is NOT to “inform” God of your needs. We’re not telling God anything He doesn’t know. We’re OFFERING UP our desires as an ongoing reminder TO US that we need God

Pattern Over Procedure ~ Matthew 6:9-10

  • 9 our MODEL prayer, not Liturgical
  • 10 First Act: Admit God is Holy. Second Act: Submit to HIS will. Both of these are all about GOD, not us. Put God First!

Offering As Exchange ~ Matthew 6:11-13

  • 11 “daily” gives translators fits: it’s a uniquely Bible word that doesn’t really appear in ancient literature. Think of daily bread as “Just-In-Time inventory”; we depend upon God for our daily supply
  • 12 we give up OWING as we give up BEING OWED; want to be set free? Stop holding onto what binds you
  • 13 “temptation”=God doesn’t tempt: He allows us to experience testing situations (cf. James 1:13-15)

Matthew 6:14-15 – all about equity: AS (dependent upon) we forgive, we are forgiven. If we do not let go of our RIGHT TO JUSTICE, we have no right to ask for mercy from God. I’d rather have God’s infinite mercy rather than my limited sense of justice!

Prayer Practicum: Contemplative Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Contemplative Prayer Sermon Audio Here

John 15:1-10

THIS IS ABIDING: Joining With Jesus

John 15:1-10 our Big Idea from this text is in verses 4&5: “remain in me” – what does it mean to “remain” in Jesus? The tense in the Greek is CONSTATIVE: a Solemn Command “Make this your top priority” Jesus wants to MAKE SURE we understand the importance, the GRAVITY of His command to remain or abide in him. And like gravity, this is pulling at us ALL THE TIME.

James 4:8: Come near to God and he will come near to you.

~ God doesn’t change; when we approach, He comes into focus

John 17:21: that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

~ Unity with God is the goal; more of Him, less of us

SO: How Do We Abide In Christ?

Two Active Preparations

  1. Loving the Lord: Zephaniah 3:17: The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
    ~ RECEIVE God’s Love for you – you are worth it BECAUSE God has chosen you!
    In Proverbs 8:17: I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
    ~ Give God Love – Love Him Back
  2. Purifying the heart: Psalms 24:3-4: Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
    ~ Just like a lover will spurn all others to declare dedication to their loved one, so we must let go of anything that stands in the way of our love for God. God wants and deserves first place in our lives.

Two Passive Preparations

  1. Still the Soul: Psalms 131:2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
    ~ We surrender to Christ’s control, and let Him calm the Spirit within us.
  2. Listen for the Whisper: Jeremiah 30:21: Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me, for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the LORD.
    ~ Who is doing the drawing? The Lord!
    ~ Who is engaging in the process? WE ARE

Just like a plant grafting being changed from the inside out, THAT is what God does in us… but remember, the process takes TIME. We can’t rush it, but we can recognize what’s happening, and lean into it.

Prayer Practicum: Unceasing Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Unceasing Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Ephesians 6:18-20

New Yankee Workshop-Norm Abram had every tool; Dick Proenneke had a few hand tools, and made every other tool he needed. What tools do we use in prayer? Our challenge is to

Expand Our Prayer Toolbox With

Breath Prayer

  • Luke 18:13 is the example of the most well known “breath prayer”
  • Not formal, not fancy, but definitely got the job done.
  • In Psalm 130:1, the first verse reveals a gut-level response to life:
  • Ever feel like you’re so far lost, you won’t possibly find your way out? Cry out for help!
  • SW: Think of short phrases that you “send up as a flare” prayer; Resolve to use them!

Presence Prayer

Brother Lawrence, wrote, “the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD.”

  • Galatians 1:10 ~ When we serve, we remind ourselves: THIS IS FOR GOD.
  • Ephesians 6:5-6 ~ As we serve, we think of God’s presence, and we PRAY IN RESPONSE

“As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.” ~ Brother Lawrence

  • If we were able to offer everything we did, no matter the context, as an offering to God, how would that affect our prayer life?

Steps Into Unceasing Prayer

  • The first step is outward discipline. A concert musician might make their performance seem effortless, but consider how much time was spent practicing scales. Ask yourself: what concrete disciplines could you use to commune with God in prayer?
  • The next step is mental discipline. What examples do you see in Psalm 119:9-16?
  • The third step is “splanchna” – gut-level change.
  • Consider Colossians 3:12 as an ongoing example for us ~

We MAKE THE CHOICE what we will “put on” in prayer. And we make this choice EVERY DAY.

“’O Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth.’ The Pleiades and Orion sing your praise. Sparrows and chickadees mimic their song. All creation seems in harmony with you, the Master Conductor. All, that is, except me. Why? Why do I alone want to sing my own melody? I certainly am a stubborn creature. Forgive me.
I do desire to come into harmony with you more fully and more often. I do desire a fellowship that is constant and sustaining. Please nurture this desire of mine, which seems so small and tentative right now. May I someday become like the trees, which are ‘planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not whither. In all they do, they prosper.’ For Jesus’ sake. –Amen.”1


1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 129

Prayer Practicum: Covenant Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Covenant Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Galatians 3:15-20

In a contract, we exchange promises; in a covenant, we give OURSELVES to each other; God GAVE Himself for us (John 1:1, 14), and we are to give ourselves to God (Romans 12:1). Let’s look at four aspects of

Our Response-Abilities in Covenant Prayer

We Respond in Obedience ~

  • John 13:36-38 – Not just promises
  • Peter makes promises; how does that play out?
  • Instead, 1 Peter 1:2 tells us we have been chosen for obedience
  • 2 John 1:6 ~ Christian love IS to walk in obedience to Christ
  • So What? Jer. 29:12 God WANTS us to pray; when we pray, we obey

We Respond with Time ~

  • Acts 3:1 – notice the reference to the TIME of prayer
  • Psalm 5:1-3 – What time do you see here?
  • 1 Thes. 5:17 – challenge to pray always
  • So What? make and keep regular appointments with God in prayer

We Respond With a Place ~

  • Acts 16:13-16 – a formal place of prayer; how formal is YOURS?
  • 1 Kings 8:27-29 – How does this “place” affect prayer?
  • Matthew 14:23 – How does Jesus’ example affect ours?
  • So What? the LOCATION doesn’t matter; Pick a place to pray!

We Respond With Heart Preparation ~

  • Habakkuk 2:20 – how do we prepare for God’s presence?
  • Psalm 103:1 – how does this interact with Hab. 2:20?
  • So What? ask yourself: are you “all in” in prayer? what’s holding you back?

“Blessed Savior, I pace back and forth at the altar of commitment. I really do want a fixed habit of prayer. At least, that is what I want right now. I’m not sure if that is what I will want two weeks from now. I do know that without some kind of consistent communion with you I will not know holy obedience. So, as best I can, I promise to set aside time regularly for prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. Strengthen me in this covenant. Help me to so delight in your presence that I will want to come home to you often. In your name and for your sake I make this covenant. Amen.”1


1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 77

Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Formation Prayer Sermon Audio Here

Phil. 2:12-13

“The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son. This process of transformation is the sole focus of Formation Prayer.1

God’s Sculpting Of Our Lives Includes

Pursuing and Being Pursued ~ Phil. 2:12-13

  • v12 “work out your salvation” {work to finish}
    carry arm full of wood – “you got it? Yeah, I got it from here”
  • v13 “God works IN you” 1) to WILL {emotionally desire} 2) to ACT {energize; same as “works”}

Picking out Our Part ~ 1 Tim. 4:7-10

  • v7 train yourself – this takes work
  • v8 it’s worth it, both short term and long term
  • v9/10 Hope is important ingredient; reason to keep going

Peering Into The Abyss ~ Gal. 2:19-21

  • v20 live our lives by faith in Jesus
  • v21 depend upon God’s grace

God started the process; we’re supposed to be an ACTIVE part of it too! Faith that Jesus can live our lives WITH us, and make them BETTER (John 10:10b) is what happens when we decided to live by God’s grace instead of only our ability.

“Dear Lord Jesus, in my better moments I want nothing more than to be like you. But there are other moments…. Help me to see how good conformity to your way really is. In my seeking for you may I be found by you. I love you, Lord. Amen.2

1. Richard Foster, Prayer, the Heart’s True Home, pg. 57
2. Ibid., pg. 66

Prayer Practicum: Simple Prayer

Prayer Practicum: Simple Prayer Sermon Audio Here
Click here to play the file

Mark 9:14-29

In seminary, I took a class on Prayer. We used a number of materials, but I was inspired by the book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster. Our Wednesday night small group looked at this book at the end of last year, and I thought it would be helpful to prepare for the approaching Advent season by considering a number of aspects of prayer.

PLUNGE into Prayer: Just As We Are ~ Mark 9:14-19

  • v17 brought my son TO YOU
  • v18 disciples couldn’t help
    • we often try do deal with stuff on our own first… only after it doesn’t work do we finally take the problem to God

The well-known theologian Charles Hodge wrote about his early years at Princeton: “It was my privilege to be the pupil-assistant of Professor Joseph Henry, the illustrious scientist. When, for the first time, electric signals were sent from point to point, the earth itself being used for the return current, Professor Henry put me at one end of the circuit, while he stood directing the experiments at the other. I can well remember the wonderful care with which he arranged them. Very often, when the testing moment came, he would raise his hand in adoring reverence and call upon me to uncover my head and worship in silence. He would say, ‘Because God is here, I am about to ask Him a question.’”

SoWhat? set your heart at rest by recognizing God’s presence – you’re not alone {1 John 3:19-20}

The PROBLEM in Prayer: Beginning Where We Are ~ Mark 9:20-24

  • v20/22 boy in the midst of trouble; doesn’t wait to “clean up” before going to Jesus
  • v23/24 our lack of faith is a lack of trust;
    • we don’t want to admit that WE aren’t in control, even though we never are

Money magazine reported in its January 1997 issue that a group of people were asked which is longer, the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal, and then asked how certain they were that their answer was correct. Among those who were 60% certain, half of them got the answer right–meaning that this group was only a little too sure. But among those who were 90% certain, only 65% got the answer right, meaning that this group was 25% too sure.

SoWhat? continually converse with Christ – choose to connect {1 Thes. 5:16-18}

The POINT of Prayer: Conversion of the Heart ~ Mark 9:25-29

  • v28 The disciples didn’t believe like the father did (v24); Jesus had given them authority. But he had not given it to them apart from God. They needed to rely on God, to know without a doubt the truth that Jesus later expressed, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

The story goes that one time when Bill Moyers was a special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, he was asked to say grace before a meal in the family quarters of the White House. As Moyers began praying softly, the President interrupted him with “Speak up, Bill! Speak up!” The former Baptist minister from east Texas stopped in mid-sentence and without looking up replied steadily, “I wasn’t addressing you, Mr. President.”

SoWhat? to see God at work in us, we must focus on Jesus {2 Cor. 4:6}

Prayer isn’t about saying fancy terms, or being spiritually impressive; God wants to connect with us just as we are, right in the moment… so we can be more like Jesus.

NOTE: all blockquotes are sourced from 10,000 Sermon Illustrations by Galaxie Software; Biblical Studies Press, (c)2002

The JV Team: Ever Heard of Hur?

The JV Team: Ever Heard of Hur? Sermon Audio Here

Ex. 17:8-13 / 1 Tim.2:1-8

Hur held up Moses in prayer; who are you holding up?

Holding Up the Actions of Belief

Join Together in Prayer
Ex. 17:8-13~ Aaron & Hur support Moses; who do you support?

  • v10 Aaron is Moses’ brother; Hur is a trusted man who helped lead (Ex. 24.14), maybe even Moses’ brother-in-law by marriage to Miriam
  • Notice: the Staff is NOT magic (God works through the Ordinary)
  • Notice: Moses is NOT superhuman (God uses everyday people)
  • Notice: Moses is NOT alone (God stood before him to provide; Aaron/Hur stood beside him to support)
  • It is not Magic or SuperPowers that win the day here: it is an act of faith by simple trusting people

Stand Together In Faith
1 Tim.2:1-8~ Timothy to teach the Gospel; first thing first: prayer

  • v1 We’ve been given the challenge that Moses enacted: to stand before God and bring our concerns to Him.
  • WHY? God knows already! But our simple act of faith in prayer makes a difference; and when we band together, like Aaron & Hur did with Moses, something extra happens
  • (cf. Mat. 18:18-20 – two+ gathered in My name, I am there w/ them)
  • v2 topic of prayer: pray for authorities. WHAT? That they would listen to God
  • v5/7 Jesus stands before God, and intercedes for us all; Jesus does it, Moses did it, Paul did it; it’s OUR turn to stand in for each other

vs 8: when we lift up holy hands, we’re lifting up one another before God. We following in the footsteps of Paul, Hur, and Jesus.

Pastoral Prayer from Psalm 138

from Psalm 138

from Psalm 138

Pastoral Prayer (Psalm 138)

Lord, once again, it is our privilege to come before You and pray… and in those times when we just don’t know what words to say in prayer, we thank You that we’re able to turn to the Psalms, and pray Your word back to You.

We let the Psalms inform us; we let them fill our hearts and reflect our state. So, from Psalm 138 I read and I pray:

1I will praise You, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing Your praise.

I read those words, Lord, and I’m reminded of that little g “gods” in quotes, and I think of all the things that vie for attention in my life, that try to replace You.

It’s our honor and privilege to come before You in prayer, even over those things. When I feel that siren song to stay online for just a little bit longer; or to feed that personal addiction a little bit stronger; I can come to You and pray instead. I can even pray through it, Lord.

2I will bow down toward Your holy temple and will praise Your name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

Amen! Lord, I so agree with the Psalmist here that Your name and Your word trump everything. And when I get concerned about this life, and the issues that I face, and the information with which I’m being bombarded, I can once again reflect on Your name and Your word… and recognize that no matter what happens now, You win! I might walk through times of frustration in the the struggles of life, but at the end, You win! Thank You for that.

3When I called, You answered me; You made me bold and stouthearted. 6Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar…

and I have to admit, there’s times when I get proud enough to try to drown You out. I don’t want my boldness and my strength to come from me, because that’s that’s fallen stuff, broken stuff… so God, I ask that You forgive me for my sin, for my pride, for my tendency to try to stand on my own and do it my way, and that just doesn’t work.

And yet, You lovingly and consistently and faithfully call us back to You. You forgive us; You restore us; and we’re so grateful.

7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes, with Your right hand You save me.

8The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever– do not abandon the works of Your hands.

So Lord, right now, we pray for those people who are in the midst of trouble. Your word says that You are the preserver of life, and so we pray– we lift up those who are struggling with physical illness. Of course we ask that You would be the healer; that You, Jehovah Rapha, would reach down and miraculously restore to perfect health those who are in sickness. Sometimes You do this, and we give You all the praise and glory, and it’s a huge shot in the arm for our faith.

And yet sometimes, You don’t. We don’t know why. If there were some formula that we could pray consistently, and make You intervene the way we want You to intervene every time, of course we’d pray it!

But that’s not how You work. You use this whole process of sickness and health and healing and even death to draw us closer to Yourself; that we would give You glory in all circumstances. So, Lord, we pray a very conflicted prayer: we ask You to heal. We have faith that You can; we see from Your word that You do; in fact, we’ve seen in our lives that You do, but You don’t always answer our prayer the same way — so we ask for healing and we also pray that Your will would be done.

In the midst of all of this, no matter how You answer, remind us that You do not abandon the works of Your hands. You are always there, always faithful; for this, we thank You.

4May all the kings of the earth praise You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth.
5May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great.

We thank You, Lord that all things are subject to You. We pray for the leaders of our world; we pray especially for those who would be the leaders of our country, and Lord, through this din of political noise that so often rises, we ask that You would speak to them. May You prompt them, may You remind them that the leaders of this country are supposed to be kind and compassionate.

Strong, yes, but not hateful. Bold leaders, yes, but not leading us into foolish choices that only build their administration. Lord, our founding forefathers, while they may not have been as Evangelical as some of us would like, recognized Your hand at work in the founding of this nation. God, we would ask that Your hand would be seen again; that You would move Your people to rise up and be called by Your name, and to take their stand in the ballot box.

Not to vote for any one particular candidate, but to vote as You would have them vote; that we would bathe this whole election process in prayer, recognizing that You are King over a country who has no King. May we realize that You need to be present as we choose a president.

In all things, we look to You; we ask for Your help, and we thank You for how You will respond in Jesus name. You taught us to pray together this prayer of recognition of kingdom and surrender; hear us as we pray, Our Father…

Pastor Ed Backell

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