Archives For prayer

Intercessory Prayer, Requests and Gossip

Greg Strand – October 16, 2014 2 Comments

Prayer is vital for living life together in the context of community in a local church. It is a key way in which we bear one another’s burdens . As we engage in intercessory prayer on behalf of others, we are reflecting the present ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ who now, at the right hand of the Father, “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Since this is true, how do we ensure that we are truly engaging in this loving ministry of intercessory prayer and not just using it as a means to remain in the know, or to communicate issues that ought not to be shared, or to gossip?

Matt Mitchell, who serves as pastor at the Lanse EFC, Lanse, PA, wrote his Doctor of Ministry project on a biblical understanding of and response to gossip. Mitchell has multiplied the efforts of this excellent work by publishing the book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue, teaching and writing in various places regarding the content of the book. His desire is to be faithful to the Lord and the teaching of Scripture so that he can serve the body of Christ faithfully.

Mitchell recently had a guest post on The Exchange, Ed Stetzer’s blog, addressing the important and practical issue of Gossip and Prayer Requests. I encourage you to read this post. Though brief, it has much food for thought and teeth for pastoral practice.

Robert George serves as the McCormack Professor of Jurisprudence and the founder and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He also serves as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and drafter of the Manhattan Declaration, along with many other activities.

Recently George was interviewed about “where Christians should be focusing their energies and prayers, why working in the political sphere is important, and whether the culture wars have already been lost.” I include his response to the question, “Where do you believe Christians should be focusing their energies and prayers when it comes to the culture?” George identifies three key areas, and if one is familiar with the Manhattan Declaration it will sound familiar: sanctity of human life, dignity of marriage between a husband and wife, and religious liberty.

I think there are three foundational issues that deserve priority. They’re not the only important issues, nor should they be the exclusive objects of our concern. Yet they deserve priority because they are foundational. They are (1) the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) religious liberty and the rights of conscience.

Unless a person is respected in his fundamental right to life, there is no point in worrying about what his environment will be like, whether the air he breathes will be clean or the water he drinks will be pure. Yes, good stewardship of the environment is important. But even more foundational is the sanctity of human life.

Marriage is also foundational. It’s the fundamental unit of society. The institutions of society, whether they’re economic, political, or legal, whether they’re business firms or courthouses or legislative chambers, all depend on the people who operate within those institutions having at least some significant measure of virtue. Yet none of those institutions can simply issue a command to produce virtuous people. Businesses need workers who show up for work on time, who aren’t drunk or on drugs, who don’t embezzle. But businesses don’t produce virtuous people like that. Courtrooms need jurors who will be honest, who won’t be corrupt, who won’t be subject to bribery. But a judge can’t simply snap his fingers and create such people. If such people are to be produced, they will be produced not by the government, not by the legal system, not by business firms. They’ll be produced by the family, the family based on the marital bond of husband and wife. That’s why marriage has a foundational significance up there with the principle of the fundamental dignity of the human person.

And the same is true of religious liberty. We value all of our liberties: our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, our right to protect ourselves and our families, our right to be free of unwanted governmental intrusions, our right to a trial that’s fair. All those rights are terribly important. But none of them will mean much if the foundational right of freedom of religion and conscience is lost.

Do you agree with George? Where do you agree or disagree? How would you answer this question? If these are the critical issues, how do you go about equipping God’s people to stand for these important matters?

Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts of praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.

The three acts constitute acts of attention: prayer is an act in which I bring myself to attention before God; reading Scripture is an act of attending to God in his speech and action across two millennia in Israel and Christ; spiritual direction is an act of giving attention to what God is doing in the person who happens to be before me at any given moment.

Always it is to God to whom we are paying, or trying to pay, attention. The contexts, though, vary: in prayer the context is myself; in Scripture it is the community of faith in history; in spiritual direction it is the person before me. God is the one to whom we are being primarily attentive in these contexts, but it is never God-in-himself; rather it is God-in-relationship – with me, with his people, with this person.

Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 3-4.

Praying Scripture

Greg Strand – January 3, 2014 Leave a comment

When I served as a pastor in local church ministry, every January I preached on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. Though these are not the only spiritual disciplines, they are two of the foundational God-ordained disciplines that are foundational for spiritual growth. It is true that any spiritual discipline can be undertaken for wrong reasons and with wrong motives. The solution to that is not to avoid the disciplines but to engage in them by the Spirit for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:8).

Yesterday I focused on the discipline of Bible reading, while today the emphasis is on prayer. One of the important things I learned when I was a seminary student at TEDS regarding prayer was the discipline of actually praying Scripture, praying the Word back to God. Furthermore, I also learned the importance of connecting as many of my prayer requests as possible to Scripture so that what I requested was formed and shaped by God and His Word, of learning to desire what God desired. These two emphases of praying have profoundly shaped how I think about and engage in prayer – communion with God the Father, through God the Son, by/in God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18).

Andy Naselli recently wrote a helpful article giving “12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture,” which supports what I write above. I list below the reasons he gives for praying Scripture, while commending the whole article to you.

  1. You should pray Scripture because God’s people in the OT and NT did.

  2. You should pray Scripture because Jesus did.

  3. You should pray Scripture because it glorifies God the Father.

  4. You should pray Scripture because it helps you focus on what is most important.

  5. You should pray Scripture because it helps you focus on praying.

  6. You should pray Scripture because it is entirely truthful.

  7. You should pray Scripture because it helps you pray confidently.

  8. You should pray Scripture because it kindles your affections.

  9. You should pray Scripture because it helps you express yourself appropriately.

  10. You should pray Scripture because it keeps your prayers fresh and specific.

  11. You should pray Scripture because it keeps your prayers in scriptural proportion.

  12. You should pray Scripture because it helps you understand Scripture better.

A few questions of application:

  • What plan do you have in place to nourish your prayer life?
  • How are you intending to grow in prayer in this coming year?
  • What needs to change in your prayers such that they reflect the Scriptures?

A Scripture for Giving Thanks

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

“The General Thanksgiving,” Book of Common Prayer