Prayer, Top 10

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor

Originally published September 23, 2016

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Do you pray for your pastor regularly? I hope you do. Being a ministry wife myself, I’ve gotten to know oodles of pastors over the years. The old joke that a pastor only works an hour a week couldn’t be farther from the truth. Ministry is hard. In the midst of the joys it brings, it’s long hours, lots of stress, and dealing with sometimes stubborn (and sometimes downright mean) sheep. In fact, I’ve often said it’s ministry, not the Peace Corps, that’s “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Here are ten ways you can pray for your pastor.

1. Pray that he will excel at his job.
Ask God to help your pastor “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9) This is the Bible’s main job description for pastors. Pray that yours will fulfill it well.

2. Pray that he will be a good Berean.
Pray that God will help your pastor prioritize vetting the theology of anyone he quotes in the sermon, whose reference materials he uses when studying, or whose materials the church is considering using.

3. Pray that God will protect his time.
Weddings, funerals, outreach events, meetings, even fixing the leaky toilet in the men’s room- they all take up a pastor’s most precious commodity: time. And time, particularly uninterrupted time, is what it takes to adequately study and prepare sermons and whatever Bible studies he might teach. Pray that God will provide your pastor with the time he needs (and good time management skills) to attend to study, sermon prep, and all his other pastoral duties.

4. Pray for rest.
There are some pastors out there who are working upwards of 60-80 hours a week, but even a 40 hour week of ministry can be exhausting. Pray that God will help your pastor to get the rest he needs and that he will sleep well.

5. Pray for his areas of pastoral weakness.
Some pastors are really good at preaching but are poor administrators. Some are great at marriage counseling but stink at hospital visits. Pray that God will strengthen your pastor in his areas of ministerial weakness, whatever those might be.

6. Pray for wisdom in difficult church circumstances.
The roof of the sanctuary was damaged in the storm and the church can’t afford to have it fixed. A couple everyone thought was married turns out to be living together and needs to be confronted about their sin. Even if it’s something you don’t know about, your pastor is probably dealing with some sort of difficult church situation. Pray that God will give him the wisdom to make the best and most godly decisions possible and carry them out in a biblical way.

7. Pray for his personal walk with the Lord.
Does your pastor have time to get alone with the Lord for his personal relationship with Christ? Maybe he’s struggling against a particular sin or striving to be more committed to prayer. Pray that God will grow your pastor in Christ as an individual.

8. Pray for his joy.
Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It does the church no good to have a pastor who groans at dealing with his sheep because they’re stiff-necked and contrary. Pray that God will make your pastor’s job a joy by praying for the spiritual health and submission of your church.

9. Pray for your pastor’s family relationships.
Before he’s your pastor, he’s her son, her husband, their brother, their father. Pray that God would help your pastor have the time he needs to spend with his family, and to be a godly husband, father, and loved one.

10. Pray about how you can help your pastor.
Pastors have a lot on their shoulders. Is there any way you could take something off your pastor’s plate and allow him to focus on the things only he can do? Could you fix that leaky toilet, teach that class, fill that volunteer slot, counsel that sister, vet that proposed small group study? Could you at least offer him a word of encouragement on a regular basis? Ask God to show you ways you can help out your pastor.

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Our pastors need our prayers.
What are some other ways we can pray for them?

Politics, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ 7 Ways to Pray During the Trump Administration

Originally published January 20, 2017

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Whether you love it or hate it…

Whether you voted for him or not…

The reality is that Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States today. The election has come and gone. Our part is over.

Or is it?

A lot of people – both those who voted for him and who voted against him – have a lot of concerns about the things Donald Trump might do or say (or Tweet) as President and about the trajectory of the nation over the next four years. Of equal or more concern are some of the actions his opponents have threatened. But does God want Christians sitting around wringing our hands in worry for the duration of the Trump administration?

Nope.

God has told us exactly what He wants us to do with regard to the rulers He has installed in authority over us.

Step 1:

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God wants us to remember that He is the one who places leaders in their positions, and we are to trust His decisions and respect and obey our leaders (unless they command us to do or not do something that conflicts with God’s word – we always submit to God and His word first).

What if the leader is immoral or ungodly? Well consider that when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to pen these words, Paul was living under the rule of Nero, and I think you’ll have your answer. In so far as we are biblically able, Christians are to obey those in authority over us.

Step 2:

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God wants us to pray for all people, but He draws our focus to praying for “kings and all who are in high positions.” Why?

  • “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
    Consider the persecution the first century (and every subsequent century to the present day) church faced: Christians fed to lions, immolated, beheaded, quartered, family members tortured, and more. We’re to ask God for the government to allow us to quietly live in peace and pursue godliness.
  • “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” 1 Timothy 2:3 goes on to say. It is good for us to pray for our leaders simply because it is pleasing to God. When you get right down to it, do we really need any other reason to obey God?
  • Because God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” says 1 Timothy 2:4. Even though God doesn’t have to give us a reason to obey Him about praying for our leaders, He chooses to reveal something to us about His nature and character by explaining why He wants us to do so. God’s heart is for all people to know Christ as Savior – including our rulers. God wants to save them because He loves them as individuals made in His image, but He also wants to save them so they will be godly rulers and – bringing us full circle to 1 Timothy 2:2 – so that God’s people will be able to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

So now that we know that God wants us to pray for our President and others “who are in high positions,” and why God wants us to pray for them, what are some of the things we can pray for during the Trump administration?

1. Pray for God to save our unsaved leaders

Lip service to God does not a regenerated believer make. Many people claim to be Christians yet have never repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ. The Bible is clear that those who consistently live in unrepentant sin are not saved. Don’t listen so much to what our leaders say about God, rather watch what they do. If he walks like a heathen and quacks like a heathen, pray for God to save him.

2. Pray for the daily walk of our saved leaders

Can you imagine how hard it must be to live a godly life as one of the few Christians in the political arena? For our leaders who not only talk the talk but are striving to walk the walk, pray that God will give them ample time in His word, in prayer, and in church. Pray that He will enable them to resist temptation to sin. Pray that they will walk uprightly in their day to day lives. Pray that they will seek to honor God in their work and decisions. Pray that God will give them boldness and open doors to share the gospel with others.

3. Pray that God will move all of our leaders to make right decisions

Even if they make those right decisions for the wrong reasons. Even if they meant their decisions for evil. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lordhe turns it wherever he will.” Pray that God will turn our leaders’ hearts to make right decisions.

4. Pray against governmental intrusion and persecution in the lives of Christians

Unfortunately, over the past several years we’ve seen the beginnings of persecution against Christians in the U.S. Christians have been fired and lost their businesses for refusing to provide services for homosexual weddings. Christians are having to comply with government mandates regarding transgender issues and abortion. The government has interfered with private parenting decisions made by Christians. Pray that God would move our leaders to back off and allow Christians to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

5. Pray for the church

It’s very likely that we are in the last days of freedom of religion in the United States. Pray that God would continue to bless the church with that constitutional right. And while we still have it, pray that pastors would boldly preach Christ and Him crucified. Pray that Christians would faithfully love, serve, and attend their churches every week. Pray that the church would properly disciple Christians to live as lights for Christ in the world. Pray that we would send out unprecedented numbers of missionaries. Pray that we will work the works of Him who sent us while it is day; for night is coming, when no one can work.

6. Pray that Christians will share the gospel

This country will not be changed by leaders and legislation. It will only be changed by the Lord. The United States will only become a godly nation if the majority of the people of this nation have had their hearts changed by the gospel. Pray (again, while we are still free to do so) that God will light a fire under those of us who know Him to unabashedly share the gospel everywhere we go, with everyone we meet.

7. Pray that God would protect this nation

From our enemies and from ourselves.

Take some time to pray for our leaders and our country
today and every day.

If you’d like, add your prayer below in the comments.

Basic Training, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

Originally published May 26, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

When I was a little girl, I remember one of my Sunday School teachers saying, “Prayer is just talking to God.” With all the complex, confusing, convoluted, and even conflicting resources out there today on prayer, that sounds rather simplistic to our adult ears, but it’s still the best definition of prayer I’ve ever heard. Prayer is, indeed, simply talking to God.

And, along with studying God’s word and being a faithful member of a local church, it’s one of the three legs of the stool we call sanctification, or growth in Christ. Yet prayer is the leg that tends to be most neglected in our churches, our families, and our personal walk with the Lord.

Why is that? Why don’t we want to sit down and just talk – no frills, no weird machinations, just talk – to the most interesting, powerful, loving, and kind Being in the universe? If you received an invitation to sit down and chat with the President, your favorite celebrity, or a long lost loved one, you’d jump at the chance, right? I would, too. So what is it about our broken brains and hardened hearts that causes us to say, “Nah, not today,” to a simple monologue with our King? Those broken brains have learned some unbiblical things about prayer, and those hardened hearts have some ungodly attitudes toward prayer.

1. We don’t NEED God enough
Western Christians are pretty prosperous and self-sufficient people. We don’t have to cry out to God to provide food so we don’t starve. We have jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to pray that we won’t be arrested for reading our Bibles or going to church, because that’s not happening where we live (yet). Except in the most dire of circumstances, we don’t have to plead with God to heal. We have doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Don’t get me wrong, those are all tremendous blessings, but one of the pitfalls of being blessed is that we start trusting in the blessing rather than trusting in the Blesser. And when that happens, we tend to pray less often and more superficially. Daily prayer is part of our battle to be dependent on God.

2. We’re idolaters
My husband’s uncle used to say, “You do what you want to do.” In other words, you spend your time and resources on the things you value most. I’m a Type A personality: workaholic, git ‘er done, ain’t got time to die. One of the reasons I neglect my own prayer time is that I don’t want to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and do nothing but pray. When I operate that way, I’m demonstrating that I don’t want to pray- that I love something else more than I love obeying God and spending time with Him. That’s idolatry.

3. We don’t trust God and His prescribed methods
When we’re in need, when we want to commune with God, when we want to grow in holiness, God’s way is for us to pray. Not climb the highest mountain or offer some amazing sacrifice or fulfill a bunch of items on a checklist- pray. But, to our fleshly hearts, this just doesn’t compute. It’s not enough. We’ve got to conjure up our own efforts and do something worthy of God acting on our behalf. Our hearts don’t trust God enough to simply take Him at His word, bring all of our requests to Him, and believe that He will take care of us. We don’t pray because we don’t trust God to follow through on His Word.

4. “Fervency” in prayer is qualitative, not quantitative
Sometimes we get it into our heads that being “fervent” in prayer means we have to constantly voice that prayer over and over in order to get God to give in and do what we want Him to do. But God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying right this minute for that thing you desperately want, and never pray about it again, and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying your request simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. “Fervency” doesn’t mean repetition. It means an intense trust and dependence on God to do what is right in His eyes in response to your prayer. Sometimes it helps to examine a few good translations side by side:

5. Prayer isn’t a letter to Santa Claus
Back in the stone age of my childhood there used to be this thing called the Sears catalog. It was kind of like Amazon, but on paper. Every year, a few months before Christmas, they would publish their “Wish Book” edition that had all the toys in it. My sister and I would go through that catalog and circle all the things we wanted for Christmas and then hand it back to my parents, hoping that, this year, we’d get everything we asked for (and we asked for practically everything).

If this is how you approach prayer, you’re doing it wrong. God is not looking for you to provide Him with a list of stuff your greedy little heart desires so He can wrap it up in a bow and leave it under your tree. He’s not a wish-fulfillment center.

6. Weird stuff and unbiblical beliefs- knock it off
♦ Prayer is not a two-way conversation. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His all-sufficient Word. Yes, while you’re praying, the Holy Spirit may remind you of Scripture that’s relevant to what you’re praying about, or bring to mind someone you should pray for, or you might think of a way you can help or bless someone, but prayer is not a dialogue. You don’t say your piece and then sit there and wait for God to say something back. That’s often called listening prayer or contemplative prayer, and it’s unbiblical. Likewise soaking prayer, sozo prayer, etc. In fact, if you see the word “prayer” preceded by an adjective not found in Scripture, it’s most likely not biblical.

♦ Prayer doesn’t require any special accessories. You don’t need to draw a circle to stand in, build a “war room,” blow a shofar, stroke a prayer cloth, or lay your hands on a prayer list, picture, object, etc. Scripture doesn’t tell us to do any of these things, and many of them are patently unbiblical.

♦ Prayer is not about you doing something, it’s about humbly beseeching God to do something. Nowhere in Scripture does God say that the purpose of prayer is for us to assert any power over anything through our words. He does not give us the authority to “bind” Satan, demons, or anything else, or “decree” or “declare” anything as though we could make something happen by doing so. These are false and unbiblical teachings of the heretical Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

7. Watch your language
♦ Having a “private prayer language” (speaking in “tongues”) as it is practiced today has zero basis in Scripture. None. When the disciples point blank asked Jesus to teach them to pray, there wasn’t a single “honda shonda” in His instructions, and nothing in Scripture says your prayers will be more meaningful to you or more likely to be heard by God if they’re in gibberish than if they’re in your native, real language.

♦ If you grew up fundie or old school, you might feel like you have to use “King James” lingo when you pray. You don’t. If you want to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when you pray, you can, but you don’t have to. You can use the same vocabulary – respectful and pure speech, of course – you’d use when talking to a friend or loved one.

♦ If you’re tacking the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on to your decreeing and declaring and binding and rebuking as some sort of way to harness the power of God into making your words a reality, you’re taking God’s name in vain because you’re doing the same thing witches and pagans do when they use incantations and cast spells. “In Jesus’ name” isn’t the Christian version of “abracadabra.” To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray that what God wants – not what we want – will be done.

8. It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s about God getting what He wants.
We tend to think of prayer as a means to an end that centers around us. It’s a time to tell God what we want and need and for Him to fulfill those wants and needs, and that’s that. But is that how God thinks about prayer? God tells us to come to Him, to present our requests to Him, ask Him for daily bread, forgiveness, give thanks to Him, and a number of other things. But we also know that He is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what’s best for us, and He does what He pleases. So if God knows better than we do what we need, and if He’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, why bother praying, right?

We say things like that because we think the point of prayer is to get God to do what we want Him to do. But it’s not. The point of prayer is for God to get us to do what He wants us to do. He wants us to pray, not because He needs a “honey do” list, but because coming back to Him time and time again in prayer teaches us to depend on Him and trust Him. It strengthens our understanding of His power and sovereignty. It grows us in humility and submission. It conforms our will and our wants to His. It reminds us of our sin and the cross. It keeps us from taking God’s blessings for granted as we thank and praise Him. It helps us to want what God wants more than what we want.

Ultimately, prayer is not about what we want God to do for us. It’s about what He wants to do in us. So bow your head and close your eyes and make that daily time communing with the Lord your highest priority. God working through prayer to conform you to the image of Christ? That’s not something you want to say, “Nah, not today,” to.


Additional Resources

Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

Prayer

Praying the ABC’s of Jesus

A few weeks ago, I came across this lovely little article at Tim Challies’ blog, and it reminded me of something I have been meaning to share with y’all.

Do you ever have trouble falling asleep at night? Knowing what to pray? Leading your children in prayer? Expanding your vocabulary? Helping your children with their vocabulary words from school? Here’s something that can help in all of those areas, but, above all, it can draw you closer to Christ as you worship and commune with Him.

I don’t think it’s technically insomnia, but I have frequently had trouble falling asleep at night for as long as I can remember. It’s just hard for me to mentally settle down and turn my brain off. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve looked for little mental tricks and games to help lull my brain into unconsciousness. Counting. Spelling. Imagery. Sleep apps. (Right now what seems to work best is reciting in my head whatever passage of Scripture I’m working on memorizing.)

One of the things that has worked well for me is a little mental “game” I call “Praying the ABC’s of Jesus.” It’s a simple recitation of God’s names and attributes in alphabetical order. Here’s an example of what it might sound like:

Lord, You are Amazing.

You are my source of Blessing.

You are Creator.

You are my Delight.

From Everlasting to Everlasting, you are God.

You are my Father.

You are the Giver of life.

You are Holy.

You are Immanuel.

Thank you for being Just.

You are King of Kings…

…and Lord of Lords.

You are the Mighty One of Israel.

You are the Name above all names.

You are Omniscient.

You are the Prince of Peace.

You Quiet my soul.

You are Righteous.

You are my Sabbath rest.

You are Truth.

You are beyond all Understanding.

You reign Victorious over all.

Wondrous are your mighty works.

You are Xenodochial.

You are Yahweh.

You are Zealous for the glory of your Name.

This is also a great, simple way to start off your regular daily prayer time, or lead your children in prayer, as you take time to savor and meditate on each descriptor of God and His nature.

Now you might have to “cheat” a little on letters like Q and X. I usually say, “You are Quite lovely, awesome, beautiful, etc…the Quintessential judge, provider, etc.” or use an “ex-” word for X (eXcellent, eXceedingly gracious, etc.). But you can also build your vocabulary (not to mention your Scrabble score!) by searching out words that begin with those letters. I found the word xenodochial (“friendly to strangers”) by Googling “English adjectives starting with the letter X”. Just make sure the word is reverent and supported by Scripture.

You can also be on the lookout for words you can use as you study your Bible, and if your child has a vocabulary list to work on every week, you can integrate any of those words that would be biblically appropriate.

Good night and sweet dreams!

Mailbag, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?

Originally published August 1, 2016

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What is contemplative prayer, and is it biblical?

Contemplative prayer, often called centering prayer, (and connected to sozo prayer and soaking prayer) is very much like a “Christianized” transcendental meditation (similar to New Age or Buddhist meditation). You are supposed to sit quietly, empty your mind, and repeat a biblical word or phrase over and over until you begin “hearing from God.”

Is this a biblical form of prayer? No, and it is also very dangerous. Many who have come out of this practice and churches or organizations which promote it (the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, and Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, are major proponents) report that contemplative prayer is much like being hypnotized and that it was an open door for demonic opression and even possession.

Our beliefs and worship practices are to be drawn from Scripture, and nowhere in Scripture are we told to pray like this. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He did not tell them to empty their minds and repeat a mantra. He said,

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Matthew 6:7-13

Jesus taught us to talk to God using intelligible words, worshiping Him, repenting and seeking His forgiveness, and asking Him to provide for our needs. It is not His desire that we mimic a pagan form of meditation.


Additional Resources:

What is Contemplative Prayer? at Got Questions

What is Centering Prayer? at Got Questions

Contemplative Prayer at Berean Research

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer at Sola Sisters

IHOP is Dangerous: Stephanie’s Testimony


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.