Why We Don’t Pray

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We’ve been talking about the spiritual discipline of prayer in class.  So I asked the question,

“Why don’t we pray?”  The replies were interesting:

  •  We feel like there’s not “enough time”
  •  We don’t understand why it matters/how it works
  • We have no sense of history (our own, or of God’s interaction with man)
  •  We lack discipline – we are lazy!
  • It’s awkward
  • We make it too complicated
  • We want to do it perfectly
  • We don’t know how to listen
  • We have too many distractions
  • Our prayer list is too long
  • We don’t know how to start

Let me start with this simple encouragement:

Understand that prayer is important.  It is a command.  It is something Jesus did, and instructed His followers to do.  To not make time for prayer is a sin.

You don’t have to understand exactly how it works to do it!  You drive your car every day, but can you explain how the engine works?  You microwave food every day, but can you explain the science behind it?

If you are willing to admit to yourself that you don’t pray much because you don’t see the need for it… then take the time to study prayer in the scriptures.  Ask God to show you why it matters.  Ask Him to help you realize how important it is, especially relative to all the other things you waste time doing during the day.

Start with some of these passages:

Matthew 7:7-11 Ask and will receive, God gives good gifts

John 16:24  Ask and will receive

Ephesians 3:20     God can do more than we dream

Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer frees us from anxiety

I Thessalonians 5:17  Command – pray continually

Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16 Jesus’ example

Luke 18    Why persistent prayer matters

I Samuel 12:23  Sin to fail to pray for others

James 5:16-18  Elijah, persistent prayer is significant

2 Kings 20:1-6 Prayer appears to change God’s plan

Jeremiah 33:3  God’s answers reveal hidden things

John 15:7  Condition – remain in word and in Jesus

1 John 3:21-22   Condition – living obedient life

1 John 5:14-15  Condition – ask according to God’s will

James 4:3 Hindrance – wrong motives

Psalm 66:18   Hindrance – keeping sin in heart

You must first come to a place where you understand that prayer matters – and then we’ll talk about making  time for prayer and using your prayer time efficiently and effectively.

Enoch Walked

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The sermon series at church this month is titled “Running the Race”. It has paralleled my readings in Britt Merrick’s “Big God” very nicely. I though Merrick’s piece on Enoch was especially good:

Enoch

Voluntary. Steady progress. Finding a good pace so that you don’t sprint ahead of God and then wear yourself out. Not being “dragged by God” – LOL – but surrendered and engaged. Love the imagery!

We Are So Weak

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Ray Comfort tells a story in one of his books that goes like this: A man leaned over to a woman seated next to him and asked, ‘Would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?’ The woman answered, ‘I would think about it.’ He then asked, ‘Would you go to bed with me for one dollar?’ She widened her eyes and said indignantly, ‘What kind of woman do you think I am!’ He replied, ‘We’ve already established that. Now we’re just negotiating the price.

Ladies, every day of our lives Satan is trying to “negotiate the price” of our moral and spiritual compromise, and he’s banking on succeeding with his negotiations.

Why? Because he already knows our flesh is weak. He already knows what lines and excuses work on us. He already knows we’re not inclined to “count the cost” when pain, loss, financial challenges or adverse circumstances enter the sphere of our lives.

Satan already knows we’re inclined to worldliness because he knows we find cultivating holiness boring, tedious or just downright unenjoyable. He already knows we’d rather watch some titillating TV show, catch up on everyone’s FB posts, read a juicy new novel on our Kindle or play Candy Crush – anything – rather than reading our Bible, praying for people, doing Bible study or memorizing God’s Word.

He already knows going the “extra mile” is hard for us because we’re not naturally disposed to sacrificially serving people, forgiving offenses, giving our money away, or renouncing our “fun” bad habits and immoral behavior.

So, never forget that Satan is always trying to wicker a deal to negotiate your price, unless, of course, you decide from the get-go that you cannot be bought.

*Guest blog by Susie Walther, http://www.thewellbible study.org

The One Thing

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What ONE THING could you do this next year that would really change your life?

Is there ONE THING that God is calling you to do?  That you need to do?  That you must do?!

Did you know that there are some things that can actually KILL you if you don’t change them in your life?

That ONE THING is different for every one of us.  What is God talking to you about?

Do you need to break a habit?  Get out of debt?  Get out of a relationship?  Or restore a relationship?  Get some exercise? Lose some weight?  Quit smoking?  Quit drinking?  Go to counseling? Sleep more?  Spend more time with your kids?  Get a job?  Quit a job?  Read your Bible daily?

Ask God what is the ONE THING He wants you to do this next year.

Then DO IT.  Don’t get distracted.  Don’t get sidetracked.  Keep at it.  Stay on the narrow path.  Tell someone else and ask them to hold you accountable.  12 months from now you be so glad.  And so will everyone else in your family.

* Andy Stanley did a fantastic 40 minute video called “This One Thing” that we watched in our small group last week.  I highly recommend it.  You can watch it here:  This One Thing

Are You A Mature Christian?

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She’s at it again: * Guest blog by Susie Walther, http://www.thewellbiblestudy.org

 

Would you say that you are a mature Christian?

Why would you consider yourself “mature” in your faith?

Susie writes, “I recently attended a Verge conference, and one of the speakers cited some recent statistics from the Barna Group regarding women in the church.

She said that 74% of Christian women consider themselves mature in their faith.

But the Barna poll also revealed that less than 25% of those same women actually shared the gospel, helped the needy, valued volunteering/serving or gave financially to support ministry, and that only 13% viewed their main role in life as being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So, that really begs the question – exactly what do these women mean when they say they’re “mature?”

Obviously, Christian maturity for them has little to do with being a disciple, which would involve spending time with Jesus through the Christian disciplines of daily quiet time and prayer, and intentional involvement in the Great Commission. Maturity for these women did not include the pro-active sharing of their faith, serving others intentionally, helping the world around them or giving generously out of their monetary means.

So, again I have to ask, what the heck do these women mean when they call themselves “mature???”

Are they defining maturity as time in grade – you know, “I’ve been a Christian for 10 or 50 years…so I’m mature” or “I’ve attended church all my life, so I’m mature?” Are they the ones who “read through the Bible once?” Are they dubbing themselves mature because they’re uber-involved in their kids’ lives or they home school, eat organic foods, run marathons and are nice people? Is maturity to them volunteering once a year on a missions trip or helping with VBS, attending a Bible study, listening to Christian radio, and reading Our Daily Bread when they can?

Whatever the case, we should be absolutely alarmed because we are a generation of Christian women who consider ourselves “mature in Christ” who don’t live like we need the Gospel and certainly aren’t living our lives to advance the Kingdom of God.

Righteous King of Heaven, wake us up from our slumber and show us the peril of our deception!”

So I ask you again, “Are you mature in your faith?”

What evidence of maturity can you point to in your life?

Phases of Parenting

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Imagine dividing up parenting into phases.  Andy Stanley* has suggested this breakdown:

Ages 1-5  Discipline

Ages 5-12 Training

Ages 12-18 Coaching

Ages 18+ Friendship

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks.  I have a 12-year-old middle schooler.  It’s crazy how suddenly she “grew up”.  It’s clearly a new phase of parenting.  We are shifting from “Mom decides” to “You decide with the help and influence of Mom”.  And on what basis is she making decisions?  On the basis of all the training I have provided (or not provided!) in the last 10 years.  Eeeekk.

Here are a few other bits of wisdom for the coaching years:

– If you fail to discipline and train your kids when they are young, then it’s too late.  You cannot suddenly add discipline when they are teenagers.  Doing so provokes rebellion and communication breakdown.

– You cannot “be friends” with your middle schooler.  You are the coach.  Coach is not the same as friend.

– “Don’t freak out.”  This is your mantra as long as you have teens in your house.  Don’t freak out.  Be calm.  If you freak out they will stop talking to you.  Don’t shut down the communication.  Leave them open to coaching.

– Say “Oh no, that’s terrible!  What are we going to do about that?”  See how you can use your words to communicate that you understand the drama and that you are on their side?  Then let them work out a solution.  Practice encouraging from the sidelines, not charging out into the middle of the field to sort things out.

– Remember that the most important things are not the urgent things.  (True for much of life!)  Do not allow seemingly urgent issues and activities replace the important things…

– Sometimes you say “no” to good things (sports, ministry, whatever) in order to invest more in your kids and have time with them.

– Don’t lie.  Don’t let them lie either.

– Teach them to honor their mother.

– Let them fail when the stakes are low.

– Help them see how their faith intersects three important things: 1. Decision making, 2. Relationships, and 3. School.  You can do this partly by talking all the time, everywhere, in a natural fashion about how your faith affects your thinking processes too.

– And finally remember that “Later is Longer”.  You have only a few short years of parenting, but you will be friends with your kids for 60 or more years.  Make the hard decisions now.  It’s ok to cry for a night.  Later is longer.  Always.

*Our Wednesday night dinner/small group has really enjoyed Andy Stanley’s “Future Family” series.  Session 5 he co-taught with his wife and they discussed parenting. http://www.northpoint.org/messages/future-family

On Discipline and Repentance

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A few of my favorite quotes from “Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted”, homework from week 3, with Priscilla Shirer:

“Adversity is redemptive, not punitive.”

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:10-11

On the heart:

“Whether or not Jonah knew God was never the concern.  Clearly he was well acquainted with God.  He could discern the leading of God.  Yet Jonah had a problem agreeing with God and changing his mind, attitude, and actions to comply with God.  His heart was out of alignment with the heart of God.”

On repentance:

“Jonah still did not desire to go to Ninevah… Repentance doesn’t necessarily require that your feelings have changed about what God is asking you to do… Repentance means that you are willing, despite those feelings, to put it aside and stop travelling the wrong way.  True repentance requires a change in direction.”