The National Day of Prayer 2014

NDP-2014-facebook-TLImage-1.00CBToday is the National Day of Prayer.

We are blessed to live in the United States of the America. In fact, God has so smiled on us that it is impossible to count our blessings.

Yet these are critical times. Many good changes are taking place. But there are disturbing trends that mark a deliberate and obvious turn from God.

America is not, and has never been, “a Christian nation.” There is no such thing. The church is a sign, herald, and foretaste of God’s present-but-not-yet kingdom, not any nation.

Yet there was a day when this nation respected God’s authority, embraced God’s truth, and honored God’s name. Unfortunately, those days are rapidly coming to an end. And to turn your back on God is to choose to take a collision course with disaster.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. – Proverbs 14:34

But there is still time. There is still hope. There is still an opportunity for American to experience a spiritual awakening.

How? Only God can do it. The changes we need will not happen through schools, government, business, or media. In a real sense, they are a part of the problem!

Only God can change our nation. And the means by which he will do it is through the prayers of the people of God.

Our nation is in a storm. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope. Let us not be like Jonah, who slept in a storm. Let us arise and call on God to save our nation.

  • Pray for the people in the community you live in.
  • Pray for the children of our land – both the born and the unborn.
  • Pray the truth about sexuality, marriage, and the family will prevail.
  • Pray that our local, state, and national government officials will lead with truth, wisdom, justice, mercy, and righteousness.
  • Pray that God will not remove the hedge of protection from around us.
  • Pray that the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ will be faithfully and boldly proclaimed.
  • Pray for the salvation of the lost through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that the church will be the church
  • Pray that our nation will turn back to God!

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

It happens after prayer! 

Prayer Emphasis Week 2014

This has been Prayer Emphasis Week at the Shiloh Church. Our simple goal is to begin our year in prayer, submitting to God’s will and depending upon power. And it has been a great week!

_MAR0201-SIn past years, we have prepared prayer guides with specific targets to pray for each day. And we had a daily prayer meeting at noon to pray together.

But we have done something different this year. On Sunday, members wrote prayer requests on cards and brought them to the steps around our pulpit. And we left them there, asking members to come throughout the week and spend at least 15 minutes praying for the needs of others. There has been continual flow of members into our main auditorium this week in prayer for others. Praise God!

_MAR0208-X2I can testify that it has been heart-softening to cover the needs of the saints in prayer. And in the process of praying for others, the Lord has ministered to me.

We had one midday prayer meeting at noon on Wednesday, along with our Midweek Worship Service. Of course, I have preached on prayer this week.

Each morning this week, we have also had a live prayer call at 6 AM. I have read one of the Psalms, making a devotional application. And we have spent a few minutes in prayer to start a day together. The calls were only 10 minutes long. But it has been wonderful to pray with and for the saints during these early watches. We will definitely have to find a way to do these calls again in the future!

Tonight (Friday, 1/17), we will have an all-night prayer meeting. The psalms often mention praying to God in the night watches. Jesus spent all night seeking the will of the Father. And throughout church history, devout Christians have set times where they have sacrificed sleep for prayer.

This is our 3rd All-Night Prayer Meeting. It will begin at 10 pm. We will sing praises to God. We will read scripture. At midnight, I will preach. (I call it “The Midnight Special”!) We will also have devotional readings and testimonies. But most of the night will be spent in prayer. We have periods marked to pray for the lost, our church, the city, families, the sick, and the nations. During one hour, we will have prayer stations with specific matters to pray for. Our youth and young adults will even lead an hour.

Thank you, Shiloh, for your participation in Prayer Emphasis Week. I hope your are as strengthened, refreshed, and encouraged as I am.

God is always moving in response to our prayers. And we have great expectations for what God will do in the days, weeks, and months ahead!

It happens after prayer! 

Overcoming Hindrances to Effective Prayer

There are two primary reasons why you should pray.

The first is obedience to duty. That is, we should pray because the word of God commands us to pray. Period.

The second reason why you should pray is more pragmatic: Prayer works! God answers prayer. It pleases God to meet the needs of his children through the means of believing prayer.

But while answered prayer is one of the great motivations to pray; unanswered prayer can discourage your prayer life.

If your prayers are not being answered the way you desire, I recommend that you do two things.

Continue to trust God anyway. God is good, wise, and sovereign. God knows what is best and is worthy of your trust, even when he says no. Secondly, examine yourself.

Here are five hindrances to prayer you should consider as you examine your ways.

Prayerlessness. James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Indeed, the biggest reason many of us are not the beneficiaries of answered prayer is simply because we do not pray. There is much you can do about your situation after you pray. But there is nothing you can do that will make a real difference until you pray.

Unconfessed sin. The psalmist says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18) Now, this is not to say that you have to be perfect to get a prayer through. It means that effective prayer begins with the confession of sin.

Selfish motives. James states: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). The Lord does not answer selfish prayers. Sure, you can pray about your own needs and desires. But remember that the priority of prayer is God and his glory, not you are your wants.

Broken Fellowship. Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leaven your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). In a real sense, all prayer is corporate prayer, in that God will not talk to you if you refuse to talk to your brother. For instance, 1 Peter 5:7 warns husbands that if we do not live with our wives in an understanding way, our prayers will be hindered.

A lack of faith. James 1:6-7 instructs, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts Is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the win. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Believing prayer is short-circuited when the one who prays doesn’t really believe. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Feel free to comment. 

For more on the subject of prayer, check out It Happens After Prayer. 

A Note of Thanks and Request for Continued Prayer

This has been a difficult week in the life of the Shiloh Church Family.

Last week, one of our faithful and beloved pastors, Mike Rodgers, suddenly transitioned from earth to glory.

Pastor Rodgers’ passing has left our entire congregation with heavy hearts. Mike was a man of God, a loving shepherd, and a spiritual mentor to many in our church. He is already missed. But we are strengthened by the gospel that he preached to us and the hope of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life.

Thank you to all of our friends and well-wishers from around the country who have prayed for the Rodgers family and Shiloh Church this week. Many of you did not have the privilege of meeting Mike. Yet you have reached out to assure that we are in your thoughts and prayers. We greatly appreciate it.

In the morning at 11 AM, we are scheduled to meet as a church family to celebrate the life and legacy of this great man of God.

Please continue to cover us in believing prayer.

Thanks again.

A Prayer Request for an Important Deadline

Today is a pretty special day for me.

I signed contracts this morning to publish my first book.

It has been my prayer to write a work for publication for many years. In fact, this blog was initially started to give me practice in writing.

The Lord has graciously opened the door for me to write a book to be published. And the Lord held it open!

But I need your prayers.

My deadline for submitting the completed manuscript is October 15.

I have more than half of the work complete already. For the most part, I have more rewriting to do than writing.

Please remember this project in your prayers.

I will keep you posted about my progress, completion, and the next stages of publication.

Thanks.

Praying Psalm 127

Eternal and almighty God, who by thy providence dost conduct and govern all creatures in this world, suffer us not to enterprise anything but what is agreeable to thy will and pleasure, that we, altogether discontented with ourselves, may wholly depend upon thy blessing; and that our only care may be that thou mayest be glorified in us and our posterity, through Jesus Christ, thy Son. Amen. - Prayers on the Psalms: From the Scottish Psalter of 1595, p. 131

Why I Pray Before I Preach

I preached my first sermon at the age of eleven.

The first thing I did when I stood up was to pray. No one instructed me to do this. My father never prayed when he stood to preach. And none of the preachers I heard regularly or looked up to prayed at the beginning of the sermons.

For some reason, I did.

I remember a seasoned pastor advising me, “If you haven’t prayed before you stand up to preach, it’s too late. And if you have already prayed, it’s not necessary.”

I couldn’t argue with this logic. Yet I have continued to pray before I read my scripture and begin my sermon. And I still do it to this day.

Let me be clear. This is not a measure of one’s spirituality. Whether a preacher does this is not a moral issue. No one is right or wrong here.

But there are two specific reasons why I pray before I preach.

I need God to help me speak. The call to preach has been a part of the Lord’s sanctifying process in my life. My great sense of neediness in private study and public speaking drive me to God in prayer. And this sense of dependence grows the closer I get to preaching time. I always carry a great deal of anxiety with me to the pulpit. I know what Paul meant when he spoke of preaching with weakness, fear, and trembling (1 Co. 2:3). But when I finish with my pulpit prayer, I am fine. The anxiety immediately goes away. And I am ready to preach. On the other hand, there are times when I have to fight my ego from getting engaged in the preaching moment. Prayer humbles me, clarifies my focus, and sets my heart on the sacred task of proclaiming the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The congregation needs God to help them hear. I believe there is a reason why Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Just because you have ears does not mean you can hear the truth. Hearing is a miracle that is wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I pray that the Lord would cause the good seed of the word to fall on good ground that will bear fruit. I also pray so that the congregation will recognize that the preaching (and hearing) of the word is serious business. And they will be held accountable for what they hear. The sermon is not a performance for the congregation to enjoy. It is to be a mirror that causes them to see themselves as God sees them. I want the congregation to take the message as seriously as I do as I deliver it. Only God can transform an indifferent audience into a waiting congregation that is ready to trust and obey the word of truth.

Do you pray publicly before you preach? Why? Why not?

What I Pray Before I Preach

“Help me to speak your word with faithfulness, clarity, authority, passion, wisdom, humility, and liberty…”

These are words I often pray publicly, as I lead the congregation in prayer before I read my text and begin my sermon.

I do not know when I started praying this prayer. And I don’t remember forming these words intentionally. But they have become a regular part of my prayers.

I do not pray this out of vain repetition. I pray this because I need the Lord to do the same thing for me every time I stand to preach.

Whether I pray this publicly or privately, these are seven things I want the Lord to do in and through me as I preach.

Faithfulness. I want to obey the divine command to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). This requires that I understand what the text means by what it says. Then I must prepare and present a message that submits to the authorial intent of the text. I want to bring out of the text what’s in the text, rather than imposing my own ideas upon it. I want my thoughts and words to be consistent with sound doctrine.

Clarity. One of the best compliments a person can give me is to say that my preaching is clear. I do not want the listener to be confused about what I am saying. Even if they do not agree with me, I want the explanation of the text and the point of the message to be clear. I also believe that clarity is its own style. There is something attractive about a message that is clear.

Authority. When I began my first pastorate as a teenager, I had no personal authority to draw from. But I quickly learned that truth is truth whether I experience it or not. Several decades later, I am still convinced that the preacher’s ultimate authority is found in the word of God. I want to preach with biblical authority that reflects the fact that the text is the word of God, not the words of man.

Passion. I do not want to preach like a news reporter that is dispassionately reading copy from a teleprompter. I want my preaching to be with a head and heart that have been gripped by the truth. The people in the pew may not believe what I am saying. But I want it to be evident that I believe it. If preaching is “logic on fire,” we should preach with convinced minds and enflamed hearts.

Wisdom. In Colossians 1:28, Paul writes of the priority of proclaiming Christ, warning and teaching every with all wisdom. Wisdom should mark our preaching. Of course, the content of our preaching should reflect the wisdom of God, rather than the foolishness of the world. Likewise, we need wisdom for the presentation of the word. Wisdom will guide us as to what to say and how to say it.

Humility. We are called to preach Jesus and not ourselves (2 Co. 4:5). It is impossible to exalt Christ and exalt self at the same time. We are just friends of the groom, like John the Baptist (John 3:29). We must decrease that Christ may increase (John 3:30). Our job is to preach in such a way that brings the hearer before the living God. Then we are to get out of the way!

Liberty. I recently began to pray this after reading a biography of an influence preacher of the last century. In letters to supporters, he would often ask them to pray that he would have liberty when he preached. That stuck with me. I don’t know how to explain it. But anyone who has been preaching for a while knows what’s it’s like to preach with liberty and what it is to preach without it. So I ask for freedom to preach my heart and convictions to the glory of God.

What do you pray before you preach?

A Minister’s Prayer

O my Lord,

Let not my ministry be approved only by men,

or merely to win the esteem and affections of people;

But do the work of grace in their hearts,

call in thy elect,

seal and edify the regenerate ones,

and command eternal blessings on their souls.

Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;

Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,

that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power;

Cause me and those that hear me

to behold thee here in the light of special faith,

and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;

Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,

and help me to experience the power of they dying love,

for thy blood is balm,

thy presence bliss,

thy smile heaven,

thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.

Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry

and keep me from self-importance;

I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions, infirmities,

as a man, as a minister;

Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labors,

and on the message of salvation given;

Stay with they people,

and may thy presence be their portion and mine.

When I preach to others let not my words

be merely elegant and masterly,

my reasoning polished and refined,

my performance powerless and tasteless,

but may I exalt thee and humble sinners.

O Lord of power and grace,

all hearts are in thy hands,

all events at thy disposal,

Set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

 

The Valley of Vision, pp. 338-39 (Edited by Arthur Bennett, The Banner of the Truth)

 

A Prayer for Joy

O Christ,

All thy ways of mercy tend to and end in my delight.

Thou didst weep, sorrow, suffer that I might rejoice.

For my joy thou hast sent the Comforter, multiplied thy promises, shown me my future happiness, given me a living fountain.

Thou art preparing joy for me and me for joy; I pray for joy, wait for joy, long for joy; give me more than I can hold, desire, or think of.

Measure out to me my times and degrees of joy, at my work, business, duties.

If I weep at night, give me joy in the morning.

Let me rest in the thought of thy love, pardon for my sin, my title to heaven, my future unspotted state.

I am an unworthy recipient of thy grace.

I often disesteem thy blood and slight they love, but can in repentance draw water from the wells of thy joyous forgiveness.

Let my heart leap towards the eternal Sabbath, where the work of redemption, sanctification, preservation, glorification is finished and perfected forever, where thou wilt rejoice over me with joy.

There I no joy like the joy of heaven, for in that state are no sad divisions, unchristian quarrels, contentions, evil designs, weariness, hunger, cold, sadness, sin, suffering, persecution, toils of duty.

O healthy place where none are sick!

O happy land where all are kings!

O holy assembly where all are priests!

How free a state where none are servants except to thee!

Bring me speedily to the land of joy.

The Valley of Vision, pp. 292-93