It's been tweeted, posted, and spoken millions of times since Sunday's tragic shooting in central Florida.
Our thoughts and prayers are with . . .
Pray for the victims and families . . .
By Monday, I thought to myself, "Have I really prayed? What do I even pray for?" Horrific tragedy leaves us speechless. So we default to cliches and bumper sticker slogans. "Thoughts and prayers" is one of those lines.
If I'm going to say it, I better be willing to do it. And not just a personal meditation or thoughtless batch of words. Prayer isn't a conjuring of good vibes. It is a pleading cry to the living God of the entire universe.
Here are 12 things to specifically pray for:
I know you don't pray much. When you do, you struggle.
You’re not sure what to say.
You pray before bed and fall asleep.
You start praying and then you’re distracted by a squirrel, a cloud, the TV, a thought.
As we struggle to pray we ask, “Why pray at all?”
From “Our” to “Amen” the Lord's Prayer is 70 words. Jesus prefaced this prayer in Matthew 6:5-8. Not only does he tell us why we ought to pray, but ways we shouldn't. Here are three misuses of prayer, and three reasons to pray vigorously.
If you live in St. Louis, MO, you missed church today. Because everyone freaks out about snow in this town. So here's the lowdown on today's sermon in our "Follow the Way" series. Get the message here. Mail your offering in tomorrow :)
I'm pretty sure that you have mistreated prayer at some point. You've treated prayer as:
"Practice what you preach." I have a hard time preaching things I don't practice. I've been devoting myself to a deepened prayer life in 2014. I preached on this in February, as I highlighted the priority of prayer in spiritual movements. Since then, I have devoted the first Thursday of the month to what we call "Frontline Prayer" - an intentional, corporate prayer gathering.
Help keep this pastor accountable to what he preaches. If you are local in St. Louis, MO, I challenge you to wake up early on Thursday morning, May 1st and join me in our church sanctuary from 7:00-7:30AM. If this is physically impossible for you, join me remotely from wherever you are (your bed, your kitchen, your cubicle at work, etc.). If you're praying with me on Thursday morning, let me know.
If remote, here are some things you can pray for:
It's tempting to see the church simply an organization, similar to a business, a non-profit, an alumni association, or a club. Is the church just another association of like-minded people? Is it simply an organization whose commodity is religious goods and services, and whose clientele are "spiritual people"? The distinction between an organization and a movement is critical. While the church does possess organization, it is first and foremost a movement - God's great movement in Christ among his people.
What are the marks of a movement that make the church more than just another organization? Over three weeks, I'm preaching on three characteristics that distinguish her from the average organization. Prayer. Unity. Gospel-centrism. Here are 5 notes on how prayer is an absolutely critical component of the church's movement.
In a recent Twitter Q&A, Pastor Tim Keller was asked, "Why do you think young Christian adults struggle most deeply with God as a personal reality in their lives?" Keller responded, "It is easier to Tweet than pray." There is only slight irony in the fact that he tweeted this response.
In 2014, I'm giving renewed focus to my prayer life. Not as a duty or obligation, but out of a desire to trust God more fully. I find it so hard to focus. My life is filled with inordinate amounts of noise and distraction. Even in a quiet moment, the nuerons in my brain are scheming. Technology appears to have shortened our attention span and ability to focus. With social media, we're always thinking about what to say instead of listening to what's being said.
Guiding my prayer life at this time is I Samuel 3:10 when young Samuel is awoken by a mysterious voice he thinks is his mentor, Eli. "Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening." He surrenders. He opens his eardrums and heart.
The older I get, the harder my hearing is. I'm weary of meaningless words. Speak, Lord. I'm listening.
Prayer is a conflict and wrestling with God, not simply sunning one's self in God. There is no reality without wrestling . . . Serious prayer is not a sweet devotion at the day's dawn or close, but an ingredient of the day's work.
Peter Taylor Forsyth
"Prayer is not an occasional activity; it is a lifestyle."
Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). This can be mistaken for a pious activity best left for the spiritual elite. But he was not addressing a handful of all-stars in an esoteric class. He was addressing a young, Gentile church in Roman Macedonia; not the clergy or the monastery. Prayer is an act of faith. In prayer, we use words to entrust every moment and circumstance to a God who has the ability to hear and to respond. Obligatory mealtime and bedtime prayers are a start, but not the fulness.
If we believe in this God, when should we not pray? How shall we sprinkle every hour with such words of trust? Mumbled or screamed, whispered or cried, thought or muttered. Intersperse the day's work with conversation that calls upon the Lord who holds every day.
Come, O Lord. Break into the mundane routines of my day. Let my work not be in vain, but make it your work. In Jesus' name. Amen.
O Lord, there has been much work done in the past year. May last year’s work not be in vain, but bear fruit into other new years. May last year’s labor be a foundation for the coming year’s work. We know that we work in the corner of a much larger house, a house that is being constructed year after year. A house whose completion date is not known to us, but only to You, the Master Foreman, as you work all things for good.
O Lord, let not this past year be wasted. May our work mean something for future times. It’s not that we did something that You couldn’t - only that You said we could. And we are grateful You let us participate in Your work.
O Lord, may last year’s work prove faithful and true, not because we are exceptionally extraordinary, but because your grace allowed us to be. The grace that made our labor true is the same grace that set us to work in the first place. And it’s the same grace that drew us into the house to begin with. By this grace we labor on into another year. And may this coming year’s work not be in vain. Amen.
As a father, there is little else that can warm your affections like your child calling, "Daddy!" It's interesting that the shortest prayer in Scripture is "Abba, Father." (Rom. 8:15; Galatians 4:6). And when asked how to pray, Jesus began, "Our Father . . ."
I've been in a recent season of dryness in terms of my prayer life. I'm just finding it hard to focus. I have found myself returning to the simplest, most childlike prayer in the book, "Abba, Father, Amen." When I don't know what to say or how to say it, I simply call in his direction and shout his name.