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Prayer

 Prayer is essentially communication with God. And while this is true, it doesn't necessarily have to be verbal. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit prays with us, for us. So we don't need to be "good at prayer", or even use words. Sometimes we may be so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, all we can do is cry tears of happiness. Let that be your prayer. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed with tragedy and sorrow that all we can do is sit in our own pool of tears. Let that be your prayer. Whatever form your prayer takes: eloquence, simplicity, fumbling for words, or simply silence with a heart open to God, God welcomes it.

Cultivating with: Prayer

There are very few hard and fast rules with any of this. Each person is different so each relationship will look different. No two people's relationships with God and those He loves will look exactly the same. But there are a few suggestions that have worked for others. Here are some resources for the "how-to" of the practice. These, together with some of the articles and such linked below, will help to get you started:

PracticingTheWay.org: This link is to their section on prayer. You will likely need to sign up for access, and will need to start a small group of people to engage the practice with to have full access to the videos. But it is well worth it to start a group, and it is best to do a practice with others anyway. As a group you would meet once per week to have a meal together and discuss. The group lasts 4 weeks.

Books:

The Life You've Always Wanted: by John Ortberg. Chapter 6 "Interrupting Heaven: The Practice of Prayer". Keep in mind that a chapter falls within the context of a whole book so it is usually best to read the whole book.

The PAPA Prayer:  by Larry Crabb. This book is to teach one relational method of prayer.

Teach Us to Pray / Prayer Episode 1: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

In this episode, John Mark Comer says a few words about each line of the Lord's Prayer as presented in Luke 11. When he comments on the first line, he mentions that Matthew adds "in heaven" to the line. He then explains that Jesus' hearers at the time would have understood "in heaven" to be the air around them and the sky. It was a term of closeness (Dallas Willard offers more on this in The Divine Conspiracy).

When he talks about how we often feel like God isn't close, how He is somewhere else, he offers this observation:

"I don't think God is the issue. I think that I am the issue... This feeling that most people have of separation from God is a legitimate, valid feeling but I think it is...a mental and emotional illusion created by distraction and by disordered loves. The reality is that there is nowhere where God is not."

The sense that God isn't close is an illusion.

That statement is so true. I have heard the truth often stated that God is near but never considered the fact that this sense we so often have that God is not near is an illusion. When we think that God is not nearby, we are believing a lie.

By the way, while this is true, CS Lewis suggests that sometimes God pulls away the sense of His presence to help us grow. We are meant to co-rule with God in His kingdom, and sometimes that means we need to grow into stepping forward in confidence that God is present and watching over us, even when we do not sense it.

Then he follows that up with another important observation. The primary reason to pray is to be with, and to enjoy, the presence of God. Yes, we may have requests and concerns that we bring to Him, and they are important, but the primary reason that we pray is to spend intentional time with God. So if the words don't come, if we don't know what to say, that doesn't matter. He knows our hearts. We can simply be with Him in a posture of being open-hearted to Him.

He offers 4 of the major concepts that Jesus teaches us about prayer:

1) God is your Dad and He has good intentions toward you

2) He is close by and not far away. There is joy and love and peace awaiting you in the presence of God.

3) The main point is to enjoy God.

4) Your prayers really do make a difference.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Talking With God: Prayer Episode 2: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast hosted by Tyler Staton. Why do we pray? Does prayer make a difference? This episode has some excellent answers and thoughts about prayer and why we do it.

1) Prayer is not just a transaction but mainly about relationship with God. It helps also to orient our point of view to a reliance on God and His infinite ability to provide as opposed to our independence and our very limited ability to provide for ourselves.

2) One guest observes that, as a first generation immigrant to the United States, it seems that we use language primarily for communication, whereas where he came from language was used primarily for communion or connection.

3) At another point in the conversation, they show that asking reveals the level of intimacy (consider in context of prayer). For example, one of them says that he will freely ask his wife at a restaurant "are you going to finish that?" but he would never ask that of friends of his.

4) Prayer actually makes a difference. Quoting Dallas Willard "God's response to our prayers is not a charade. He does not pretend that He is answering our prayer when He is only doing what He was going to do anyway. Our requests really do make a difference in what God does or does not do. The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a spectre that haunts the minds of many who profess to believe in God...It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best."

This episode is jam-packed with so much more.

Listening to God: Prayer Episode 3: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast. Prayer isn't just talking to God. He speaks to us as well. Prayer, in many ways, is simply communication with God (and sometimes isn't even that - see Prayer: Being with God). God speaking to us is not limited just to the written Bible. As they point out in this podcast, when the Bible uses the phrase "the Word of God" it is referring to Jesus Christ. We call the Bible the word of God because it was co-authored by the Holy Spirit. But God is infinite and He knows how to communicate with us so that we can hear Him. But also we need to learn to tune our ear to Him. This podcast gets into some of the manifold ways that God speaks, as well as practices to do to help tune our ears.

Part 2: Finding God in All Things: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. This episode of the podcast walks us through a Prayer of Examen. This is an Ignatian practice from the Jesuit branch of Catholicism. It can be a wonderful way to see God at work, and to train us to look for God at work in and around our lives. John Mark Comer uses Psalm 139:23-24 as a frame of reference for introducing the practice.

I attended a church for a time that viewed anything Catholic with a skeptical eye. Their motives were good - they didn't want to introduce error into their thinking or in the thinking of those who attended their church. But we all have theological errors. Unfortunately, sometimes that meant throwing out the good with the bad. As with anything, including my comments on this site as well as the blogs and podcasts here, take the good and discard the bad. The biggest question we need to ask is do we love God and those He loves (people), and do we seek relationship with Him and to follow Him. The Prayer of Examen is a way we can pursue that relationship with Jesus, and you do not need to be Catholic to practice it. (By the way, we welcome our Catholic brothers and sisters here, it is just that in certain evangelical circles, Catholic practices can be met with some skepticism. I don't feel the same way.)

I like a quote given in here. "You can pray fast, or you can connect with God. Pick one." It is probably more accurate to say that we can pray fast or connect with God as deeply as our souls need. Pick one. A quick prayer connects us with God, just not in the way our souls long for.

Here are the steps in this version of the Examen from this episode:

1) Give thanks / gratitude

* For God's blessings/benefits. (Don't forget the blessing of His presence and friendship.) This is to help us release our desire for control. We get to see life as a gift.

* We learn to see the goodness in our lives. We ask God to help us see the good in our lives.

* We slow down and pay attention to and enjoy the goodness in our lives.

* We learn to move at the speed of God's love.

2) Pray for light.

*Ask God to help us see reality clearly, without the cloudy lenses of the messages of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

3) Review.

* Think over your day for a few minutes. Notice what made you happy, or sad, or anxious, or confident, the wins, the losses, where did you feel close or distant from God. Where was I living in the flow of the Spirit, where was I out of that flow.

4) Repent.

* Confess the times where God's Spirit shows you that you were thinking, fantasizing, or acting outside of the path of God's good life. Times you sinned, were selfish, or lacking faith. Times you turned away from seeking God and tried to secure your own outcome apart from Him. This step may involve offering apology and asking for forgiveness from another person.

5) Renew.

* What changes do you want God to help you make in your life? How are you going to join with God in helping to bring that about?

But keep in mind Richard Foster's advice when it comes to spiritual disciplines, or what we call Practicing With: "Do as you can, not as you can't."

We Never Outgrow Asking: (Prayer) In this link to Renovare.org article by Richard Foster, he reminds us that petitionary prayer is not a lower form of prayer. Would you, as a parent, want your young children to stop coming to you for the things they need? Of course not! More than dependence, petition shows trust and expectation. Jesus taught us petitionary prayer as part of the Lord's Prayer. Yes, adoration, confession, contemplation are all life-giving forms of prayer as well, but they do not stand over and above petitionary prayer. We are invited to partake in all forms of prayer, petition and intercession included. 

This, Too, Is in His Hands: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Corrie Ten Boom. This book is on my Amazon Wishlist but I have yet to read it. I hope that someday I do. Excerpts and stories I have heard from the life of Corrie Ten Boom are powerful. In this short excerpt, Betsie is the hero. Living in Holland when Hitler attacks, shaken from the bombing and the night lit by the resulting fires, Corrie and Betsie pray. Betsie adds prayer for the soldiers bombing them who are caught in the grip of evil. Betsie also interprets Corrie's dream with a wisdom beyond her years. These glimpses of brilliant grace stand in opposition to the darkness moving toward them.

Prayer Training With Tyler Staton: (Prayer) This link is to an episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. The topic here is controversial in some Christian circles. I ask only that you hear him out and decide for yourself. As for me, I agree with Tyler. I do think that prophesy is for today. First a clarification on what prophecy is not: prophecy does not necessarily have to do with the future, though in some cases it might (see the books of the Bible known as the "Prophets" like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc). Now just a clarification as to what prophecy is, which might help alleviate some of the concern if you have any: prophecy is simply a message that God has given to someone, where He wants that someone to deliver the message to someone else, or a group of people. So, for example, God may lay something on your mind and heart to speak with me about. Let's say that it is about my obesity. You feel that God has given you a message that He sees my efforts, and applauds them, but that lately I may be losing hope and starting to let my carefulness about what I eat slip again. You tell me that God says "He loves me, and wants to remind me that He lives in my body, too (as He does with all Christians). He wants the best for us here, and wants to encourage me that there is still hope. Change not only can happen, but in relationship with Him is is virtually certain that it will. Keep hope in the Holy Spirit to empower change in my life." This is also called edification, though edification is not necessarily a message from God to you for me. Edification is simply Godly encouragement in whatever form that may take.

Now it is true that God usually speaks to us directly about us. But sometimes there may be reasons why He enlists the help of someone else:

1) What if the message benefits the one giving it as well? How encouraging would it be if God gave you a message to bring to me and I responded that it really helped me. Wouldn't that further bolster your trust in your ability to hear God speak in your life, that He is including you in His work here on earth?

2) What if the one receiving the message is at a low point and are really questioning their ability to hear God, or to hear Him well? What if they are having difficulty distinguishing His voice from so many other thoughts in their mind? Have you ever been there? I think we all have.

3) Maybe you can then tell the story to other believers, such as Tyler is doing here, leaving out the names of course (unless you get permission from the other person(s) ), leading to an increase of faith and courage to those hearing the story.

There are several reasons why God may choose to work this way.

Tyler calls this prayer. And indeed it is. Prayer is communication with God, and sometimes isn't even that in a concrete sense. Sometimes it is just being with God, in a posture of being open to Him, and allowing our spirit to communicate with the Spirit of God when we may be lacking words to speak. But prayer is essentially any kind of communication, or intentional "with-ness", with God. In the case of prophecy, God communicates a message to you for someone(s) else, then you and God bring that message to the intend party(ies) together.

A word of advice for the one(s) receiving the message: test it to see if it is true and from God. Ultimately, as a Christian, we do have the Holy Spirit living in our bodies, too, and He will provide wisdom when we ask for it. There are times when someone may truly believe that they have a message from God for us, but that they are also truly mistaken. Then there are times when others may say they have such a message but for impure motives, like to manipulate. So test it against what you know to be true from the Bible, maybe ask other trusted believers to pray for you and offer advice.

If you do decide to take the risk of acting on it when you think the Holy Spirit gives you a message for another person, expect to fail at times. Experimenting with learning to hear what is and what is not from God is a part of learning how to determine what is His voice.

Here is that sermon in video form in Vimeo:

Teach Us to Pray Series Part 4: On Earth as It Is In Heaven: (Prayer) This Spotify link is to an episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. When we pray for the good of others, it is called intercessory prayer. We are asking God to act on the behalf of someone or something else, usually that He would do for them what we cannot do. This act helps us to recapture some of the co-rule of earth that God had in mind when He created the earth and then placed mankind on it. We were to rule over the earth together with God for the purpose of caring for it and each other.

When Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, His response was the Lord's prayer. Included in that prayer are the lines "Your kingdom come / Your will be done / On earth as it is in heaven". Inviting God into the lives and situations of others for their good is an invitation for God to act in His good will for them, and invitation to invite heaven to invade earth on their behalf. And you get to do this with Him!

Here is that sermon in video form in Vimeo:

A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Douglas McKelvey. This excerpt is a prayer. Despite what I have heard some say, there is nothing wrong with praying the words of others. Psalms have served as a prayer aid for children of God through thousands of years. Here, in this prayer, Douglas McKelvey asks God for His good action in times of widespread suffering. Form us to be more compassionate and loving. Help us to grieve well and rightly. Rouse Your Spirit in Your body so that we may be united in Your cause to be Your hands and Your feet and Your heart. Cause our desperate need of You to align our hearts more deeply with Yours; bring us ever closer to You. Remind us that You remain on Your throne and that there is no cause for alarm or panic among us who call ourselves by Your name.

The Role of Temptations: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Thomas a Kempis. Thomas a Kempis provides a few really good points in this excerpt:

1) Temptations can be used to humble us. God does not cause temptations, but He can use them for good. They can show us that none of us are impervious to temptation, and that it is always possible to slip up, and therefore we must be vigilant.

2) I love this "how" advice when we encounter temptation. You will find other ways to resist temptation elsewhere on this site, but the reason this falls under "prayer" is this quote: "We must not despair when we are tempted but, instead, seek God more fervently, asking for his help in this time of tribulation." He refers to temptation as tribulation. And indeed it can be. Part of us wants to engage in sin, sometimes badly. So we need help in those times. And sometimes turning to God includes turning to another Christ follower for help and/or confession. Alcoholics Anonymous knows this and we should follow their lead on this point. As such, Cain was wrong - we are indeed meant to be each others' keepers.

3) Finally, for this third point I want to include a full paragraph that speaks directly into our culture today, even though the material is from the 1300's or 1400's. In direct contrast to what our culture thinks is the path to liberty and peace. The first point also hearkens to AA. The second is a spiritual practice called simplicity. The third point stands in direct opposition to our society's search for fame and power and influence. To the fourth point, John Mark Comer translates Jesus' invitation to "come and die so that we may find life" as presenting two choices:

a) Deny ourselves and follow Jesus

b) Deny Jesus and follow ourselves.

One leads to life; one doesn't.

It turns out "Whatever makes you happy" is no way to live. As opposed to leading to freedom and peace, we find ourselves trapped and afraid. If you don't believe me, just look at the rates of anxiety and depression in our culture.

With all this as the present context, Thomas a Kempis tells us:

"Finally, I want to teach you the way of peace and true liberty. There are four things you must do. First, strive to do another’s will rather than your own. Second, choose always to have less than more. Third, seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important. Fourth, always and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you. The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest."

Connecting with God in the Here and Now: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt from Nathan Foster. This article is a quiet one. But there are a few nice reminders in it.

1) Nathan mentions how God's seeming "absense" to us (when we do not sense His presence, though it is there, or when He seems to be "hiding" from us) is for our own growth.

2) I've also noticed, as Nathan does, that as we grow closer to God, our love of others seems to grow (but of course!).

3) And, as the article is on prayer, how he is learning that prayer is about listening even more than speaking. This reminds me of a person at the church I go to who said that he has had a hard time in prayer as he cannot seem to find the words to pray. As I pondered this, Romans 8:26-27 came to mind (thank You, Holy Spirit) where Paul writes that the Spirit prays with us because we do not know how to pray as we should. I suggested that he simply go to God without expectations of finding words, simply in a posture of being open to God, listening but also wanting to speak. If the words come, they come. If they don't, they don't. The Spirit is there and will pray with you in your wordlessness. There is no pressure to find the right words. Simply spend time with God, open for Him to speak, or to prompting about what to pray for.

Honest Joy, Honest Sorrow: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by David Taylor. Can God handle our unbridled honesty? Larry Crabb said that God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be. I think God wants our honesty. I think He is big enough to handle it. While I do not think it is necessary to find the right words or ways of expressing what we feel or are experiencing - the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers - sometimes it is nice to know what to say. In this piece, David Taylor, I think rightly, says that the Psalms can give us words to express ourselves to God.

Catching a Glimpse of God's Heart: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Richard Foster. Richard Foster uses much prettier language, but we agree on how we see prayer. It is relational. It is invitational, and the invitation is always open. It is wanted by God, longed for, even when I don't. If you see it differently than Richard's vision in this excerpt, or than a Father welcoming His child for a conversation, if it is other than relational, then I invite you to reconsider your view of prayer in light of what Richard has written. You might find yourself wanting it, too.

The Role of Faith in Prayer - Talk by Dallas Willard: (Prayer) This link is to episode 52 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. Have you, like me, ever wondered what the prayer of faith is in James 5? In this talk, Dallas Willard defines both prayer and faith. Basically he says prayer is speaking with God about what you two are doing together and faith is believing unto acting as if something is so. He said that you may ask "But what if I pray in faith and pray for the wrong thing?" - to which he answered, "Don't worry, He'll sort it out." "But what if I don't know what to pray for?" to which he answered, after explaining that God is good and wants good, "Find something good and pray for it." Dallas offers practical advice and definitions in his talk on the intersection of prayer and faith. He says we can act in faith when we know that God is here and He is able and He is good.

Liturgy of the Ordinary with Tish Harrison Warren: (Prayer) This link is to episode 70 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. A baptism of the imagination. That is how a friend of Tish Harrison Warren described what she was doing with her book Liturgy of the Ordinary. It wasn't so much about finding transcendent beauty in the ordinary, though that is there for sure, but she says it is more about how God finds us and forms us in our mundane and ordinary lives.

Bridgetown Daily: Gethsemane Prayer: (Prayer) Link to Podbean episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast (It was removed from Spotify and this is where I found it). This short episode is a helpful how-to on presenting to God our feelings and desires without filter. John Mark Comer uses the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as the example and then leads a short prayer exercise to put it into practice. If you have trouble coming to God unfiltered, then this may be helpful.

Prayer: Luminary Interview - Jonathan Tremaine Thomas: (Prayer) Episode of the Rule of Life podcast. There are a few great points in this podcast. Two I want to highlight:

1) "Thoughts and prayers". Some people get upset when we respond to a tragedy or possible injustice with "I'll pray about that." I never understood why. I know we want justice and action, for wrong to be made right, but why do some get angry when we respond with prayer? Jonathan Tremaine Thomas helped me to understand. Sometimes when we don't know what to do, or if we want to say no nicely, or if we just want to get away from something, we say "I'll pray about it." I've done it. I don't do it anymore now that I am aware of it, but I've done it. Some people assume this is what is meant when we say we'll pray about it. And some people don't believe in the power of prayer, but those people may think we're just trying to use it as an excuse. I also think sometimes we do use it as an escape. But we know prayer is real. God is real, and powerful, and good, and wise, so we want Him in the situation. But we also want wrongs to be made right and tragedies to be healed. 

Both people in the interview imply that prayer will lead to additional action on our part. I think they mean prayer will often/sometimes lead to additional action, but not always. There was a battle in Exodus 17. Israel would only win when Moses was praying holding his hands up. The battle went long and Moses couldn't keep his hands up. Aaron and Hur got a rock for Moses to sit on while they held his hands up. It was Moses' job to pray, Aaron and Hur's job to help Moses, and for Joshua to lead the troops into battle. But prayer was a real part of waging the battle. Sometimes that is our role. Sometimes it may be to help. Sometimes it may be to take additional action. But we should always pray.

2) God is real. He is powerful. He is good. He works in creation. He wants to be invited. Jonathan Tremaine Thomas' orientation is to pray. Car won't start? Pray. Faucet leaks? Pray. Find yourself in the middle of a violent protest? Pray. Whatever the situation: pray. I don't do that. My toilet flapper was leaking and I couldn't fix it. I called a repair man. My car has a problem: I call the dealer. Etc. If it is beyond my power or knowledge how to fix, then I pray. I should pray first. God is the smartest One in the room, always. Why wouldn't I want direction from the smartest One in the room? I love his orientation to prayer with expectancy that God will answer in some way. I know that God often won't answer and in those times we make a decision and trust that He is with us. He can tell us when He wants us to, or doesn't want us to, do something.

This is a good listen.

How to Find God in This Moment: (Prayer) Link to an episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. There are a few excellent points mentioned in this podcast episode, which is about being present to God in the here and now. Here and now is really the only place where we can be with and experience God. But we often find ourselves in the future (daydreaming about it or imagining what can be different), or in the past (reliving it or imagining an alternative reality of "what if I made this choice instead of that one"). But God is only here, in the present, because the others are imaginary or are history. Therefore the guest invites us to be present to the presence of Christ in the present: rephrased as "present to the presence in the present".

The guest (Roger Bretherton) points out that when we feel like God is elsewhere, it is often us, not Him, that is elsewhere.

John Ortberg later brings up Dallas Willard's statement that God can only bless us where we are at, not where we wish we were. I have read Larry Crabb and he has a similar statement that God only meets us where we are at, and not where we pretend to be. Bottom line: if we want to be with God, we need to be present where we are at. This, of course, does not mean that we do not consider our past or plan for our future, only that we do so with an anchor in the present. Here, John speaks to how he often imagines a Hallmark Christmas that he'll enjoy with his family and how he will be warm and wonderful and funny as he helps to create magical memories to last a lifetime with his family. But then he isn't that person but this person; this person who is short-tempered and sour. He doesn't have that family but this one. Not that magical moment but this awkward one. God is found in this, not in that. This exists. That doesn't. God is here, not there. If we faithlessly discard this moment because it is not that moment, then we are discarding the opportunity of being present with God in this moment. That moment doesn't exist, this one does.

 

Brilliant observations!!!

Here it is on YouTube:

How to Deal with Uncertainty: (Prayer) Link to an episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. I link this for one reason: the answer he gives on how to deal with uncertainty. This is from a series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

We live in a world of uncertain circumstances. Accidents happen. The wrong people get elected into office. The right people get elected then turn into the wrong people. Businesses get bought by other businesses. Layoffs occur. Gas prices go up and down. Inflation, stagflation. Our money loses value due to inflation, and gains value in the stock market before it loses it again. Friends stick by us and friends betray us. We just never know how life will go. We live a life of uncertain circumstances. But there is one certainty we have: the Way, the Truth, and the Life - Jesus Christ (the whole Trinity, really).

So the answer? Uncertainty is a certainty. Embrace it. Don't bother seeking certainty in circumstances. Seek the One certainty instead, God the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount (though John Ortberg ties it to the first beatitude):

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:31–34 (NASB)

Here it is on YouTube:

Unanswered Prayer / Prayer Episode 3: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

The best teaching I have ever heard on unanswered prayer. Bar none. It explains that the reasons some prayers are answered and others are not are complex in nature. He gives fifteen reasons, not an exhaustive list, why prayers are not answered. These fifteen are broken down into three categories:

1) God's world

2) God's will

3) God's war

His observations are from a book by Pete Greig called God on Mute.

A few points to highlight:

1) "In Jesus' name" is not a magic incantation to get what you want. Even though Jesus says that whatever we pray for in His name will be given, it has more to do with an alignment of our desires with God's desires. 

2) There are multiple wills at work. God has designed us with a will of our own and He doesn't want to override our wills. He gave us freedom of choice on purpose. But those we pray for also have freedom of choice.

3) If God simply answered all of our prayers in the way we wanted them answered, then our relationship with Him would almost certainly devolve into a master and magic genie relationship instead of a father and child relationship.

4) Sometimes God wants something even better for us. Many of us know this because if we look back at our prayers, we are likely thankful that there were prayers that God did not answer yes to.

And there are 11 more solid reasons given for why some of our prayers are nor answered.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Unanswered Prayer Part 2: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

While John Mark Comer's sermon dealt more with the reasons why a percentage of prayers go unanswered, here Tyler Staton's sermon deals more with the emotional and mental weight of unanswered prayer and what we do in light of it. How do we sit in the disappointment and sometimes devastation of tragedy that we prayed so hard to be rescued from? When God can do something but chooses not to, does He even care?

He tells the story of a woman in his church who suffered a devastating loss of a loved one, a young mother with a one year old son. Her counselor asked an insightful question: "What answer could God provide you that would be satisfactory to you that would answer for her death?" The truth is there isn't one. Job plead his case before God in the book of Job yet God offered no answer. What answer could He give that would be satisfactory for why His children died and for why he is suffering such physical pain? In those cases, God offers us His presence. He sits with us in the pain. He gives us Himself.

From C.S. Lewis' "The Magician's Nephew" from the Chronicles of Narnia series (which if you haven't read, I highly recommend the series):

“But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?'

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

'My son, my son,' said Aslan. 'I know. Grief is great.”

As for what to do in the face of unanswered prayer, Jesus invites us to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. But, when unanswered prayer is of the devastating variety, we may need others to help keep us on the path. Therefore part of the answer about what to do lies in remaining in Christian community.

Here is the sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Intercessory Prayer / Prayer Episode 2: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

In this episode John Mark takes on why we request things of God if He knows what we need anyway.

He says, "God's original intent was for free intelligent, creative human beings to collaborate with Him on running the world."

The main point of this podcast is that the reason we pray requests, the reason we ask for God to do something, is that it actually does make a difference. He made us to rule with Him in this world. Praying requests is one way that we do that in collaboration with God.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Doubt in Faith with Carolyn Arends: (Prayer) This link is to episode 26 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. Carolyn Arends has a number of great insights into experiencing doubt in our walk with God. She points out that it is possible that not everyone experiences doubt, perhaps as a gift of the Spirit, so do not think of people who do not experience doubt as less deep in their faith or thinking (which would admittedly be a temptation of mine). She points out, though, also correctly, that doubt isn't necessarily bad, and in fact is often good. Doubt allows us to consider our faith more deeply or can lead us to a larger view of God. Further, she talks about being persistent in prayer during a time of doubt, even if the prayer is just "where are You?" because lack of communication kills a relationship. She also reminds us that sometimes things need to be spoken in prayer, or to other believers, or both, to remove some of the weight of them, including our doubts. God invites us to bring our doubts to Him - it is good for our relationship.

Doubt: (Prayer) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Have you ever felt guilt or shame for having doubts about God or doubts about your faith? One of the best things that ever happened to me was going through serious doubt about God in my late teens. You may be thinking, "Wait. What?" Yep - I came within a hair's breadth of turning away from God completely, suffered severe depression and had decided to take my own life, and it was one of the best things that I ever experienced. Why? Because I came out of it on the other side more rooted in my faith and more confident in God than I think would have been possible for me had I not gone through it. Of course I have some minor misgivings from time to time like most people, but I believe my faith is strong (and if not, God is), and I am thankful for it. James covers a lot on this episode - the disciples didn't originally believe the women when they reported that Jesus was not in the tomb, Thomas' doubts about Jesus' resurrection, the fact that Job, Ecclesiastes, and many Psalms deal with doubt - but there is even more. Peter's denials were because of doubt (things weren't going the way he had imagined they would), Abraham and Sarai doubted that God would provide a male heir, Moses doubted that he could speak to Pharaoh, Gideon doubted his capacity as a warrior, the disciples doubted they could feed the multitudes who had come to hear Jesus (twice), Paul doubted that Jesus was the Messiah, even the name Israel means something like "he who strives with, or wrestles, God". Doubt is all over the Bible...and God still takes particular pleasure in working with the doubters. So if you, or anyone else, gives you a hard time for doubting, know that you are in excellent company. (One important note: I am not referring to an obstinate, or proud, doubt. Only to genuine doubt and questioning. James also makes this point in the episode.)

Fixed-Hour Prayer / Prayer Episode 4: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

As essentially all of John Mark Comer's teaching podcast episodes, this one is also great. There is one thing I want to highlight in this one, however. At around the 30-minute mark, he mentions a possible reason why we might find prayer stale. And that is because we do not bring our full and honest selves with our full and honest truth about where we are and how we feel and what we want to God. We clean it up and sterilize it to what we think is proper or what God might want to hear. Stop it. God knows the truth anyway, and He wants our honesty and for us to bring our full selves to Him. Later he gets into lament Psalms and how they can teach us to pray bringing our full selves to God in openness and honesty. Pray this way.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Part 4: Midday: Pray for the Lost : (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

I love this idea: a small break in the middle of the day to pray for a person, or a few people, in your life who do not have a relationship with Jesus, that they would be found by Him. The decision is theirs, but we can still pray for them, that God would present Himself to them in such a way that they would recognize and be apt to accept. It is a practice I want to learn. I set a recurring alarm on my phone to help me remember until it is habit.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Lecture: Prayer & Paradise : (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

This isn't the kind of thing I usually include on these pages. But I know, at least for me, that I cannot hear this message enough. This is a lecture from a Bible scholar, so it needs one's attention with one's thinking cap affixed, but it is also beautiful. It is a wonderful reminder that in our very midst is another reality that goes by often unnoticed. God is near. God is here. God is spirit, so He lives in the spiritual realm among us. But He has also chosen to enter His creation, our home, and evidences of His presence abound, and we can notice them when we pay attention.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

How to Intercede Like Jesus: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org article by Jan Johnson. This article is about praying beyond the circumstance (though for it as well) and into praying that the person may find connection to the life of God through the circumstance. There is an incredibly insightful comment about Jesus' prayer for Peter when He confronts him about his coming denial, which has profound implications about what God wants for us. These insights alone make the article a great read.

Turning Your Thoughts Into Prayers: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org article by Jan Johnson. Do you know about breath prayers? They are tiny prayers that last as long as taking a breath, often a phrase or a short sentence, or even just one word. They can be used to remind us of the presence of Jesus (like if we just pray "You are here"), if we or a loved one is in crisis ("Help!"), to change our attitude in a given situation ("help me listen to hear his heart"), or other reasons. This article helps a little on ideas how to employ them.

When I was working a very busy job, I would go through entire days without even acknowledging the presence of God at work. At the end of the day I would go home disheartened with myself and ask God for help to get better at acknowledging Him. That help came in the thought of setting my alarm three times per day to remind me to stop, take a moment or three, and acknowledge God and offer to Him whatever was in my heart at the moment. I would often do this at my desk, eyes closed, head bowed, palms up. I worked in an open environment where coworkers and clients were all around. At first I was pretty self-conscious about it, but when no one looked at me weirdly, I grew more confident. I didn't take much time, I had a job to do after all, but still it was enough to remind me that I am never doing this life, or this job, alone, reliant on just my own skill.

Being With God / Prayer Episode 4: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast. We often think of prayer as talking to God. And that is certainly one way to engage in prayer. But it isn't necessary. Prayer is being with God, being open in communication. It can include talking to God, listening for God's voice, or being intentionally present with God with no agenda at all simply focusing on Him. This episode talks about some of the latter as well as simple prayer practices.

The Best Gift: (Prayer) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode James gives us a prayer practice to use for the people in our lives that require extra grace: the difficult coworker, the black sheep of the family, the rebelling teenager, etc. It invites us to remember to bring the love of Christ and to see the other person as one whom God values greatly.

Session 3 of the 2019 Holy Spirit Conference: (Prayer) Link to episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. This episode is on hope as it relates to disappointment. The speaker is not encouraging us to ignore our feelings of disappointment. Feel them. But don't get stuck there. People who know Christ are called to a life of hope, and making disappointment and ally can rob us of living in hope. There is a prayer exercise toward the end of the episode that is designed to help us release our disappointments to God so that we can live into the hope that He offers.

Breath Prayer: (Prayer) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode James gives us a prayer practice to use to turn our mind to, or to center our attention upon, God. It helps to make us more aware of His presence. It is a very short prayer that can be utilized when we only have a few seconds or a few minutes of down time, or can be used to begin a longer intentional time with God. Here James Bryan Smith explains what a breath prayer is as well as provides practical how-to tips for using breath prayers.

How to Pray While Drowning in Doubt: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Tish Harrison Warren. In the church traditions that I have experienced, common prayer may not have been shunned exactly, but it certainly wasn't encouraged. Pray someone else's prayer? Isn't that cheating? At minimum it isn't genuine, right? But there is something about agreeing with prayer that has been carefully considered and carefully worded that can kind of buoy us in prayer at times. Many people find this practice to richly connect them with God. This may be a practice that is helpful for you. Here are two examples. The first the prayer of John Wesley each morning, and the second a part of the Anglican Prayer of Compline referenced in the article:

I am no longer my own but yours,

put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing,

put me to suffering;

Let me be exalted for you or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty;

let me have all things,

let me have nothing;

I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the Covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

(Amen)

***

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suf­fer­ing, pity the afflict­ed, shield the joy­ous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

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