Monday, February 15, 2010

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The Toll of Our Toiling
John Piper takes an eight-month leave of absence.
Collin Hansen | posted 3/30/2010 09:18AM
Surprise and admiration have characterized the response so far to news that Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper will take an eight-month leave of absence from public ministry between May 1 and December 31, 2010. [...]

Q: “What is the most important thing you do as our Pastor?”

March 29, 2010 by Phil Miglioratti · Leave a Comment 
Q. What is the most important thing you do as our Pastor?
A. In thinking about my response to your question I was tempted to simply go to the duties listed in our Constitution, and offer the one that was on the top of list. Most Pastors have many responsibilities: [...]

Some Down-Time Needed for up-Time!

March 29, 2010 by Phil Miglioratti · Leave a Comment 
1986-June 12- JOURNAL ENTRY_Marilyn and I sat at our Thursday morning (day off) McDonald’s table, eating our Dunkin Donut (coffee from McDonalds).  I confessed my weariness. . . .so tired . . . too many people constantly wanting counsel and advice.  Pastors and wives [...]

More Time ~> More Prayer

March 22, 2010 by Phil Miglioratti · Leave a Comment 
Extended Times of Personal Prayer
“Like flying over the battlefield in a reconnaissance plane, a day of prayer gives opportunity to think of the world from God’s point of view.  Especially when going through some difficulty we need this perspective to sharpen our vision of the unseen and to let the [...]

Prayer is a Glue for Leadership

March 22, 2010 by Phil Miglioratti · Leave a Comment 
A Pastor at Heart, Stay Connected to Your People
Written by Kenneth Gosnell
Erwin McManus, in his book entitled Chasing Daylight says, “The most important moments rarely come at a convenient time. Sometimes you wish that God would check your calendar first. The ironic part is that our schedules get packed with mundane and ordinary, [...]

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Praying Pastors Prayng More?

The Pastor's Typical Work Week

According to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research — "How Protestant Pastors Spend Their Time" — full-time senior pastors tend to work long hours. While the median number of work hours for Protestant pastors is 55, 42 percent work 60 or more hours per typical week.
Half of those surveyed spend five to 14 hours a week preparing their sermons, while nine percent spend 25 hours or more and 7 percent spend less than five hours on their sermons. In comparison, 30 percent of evangelical pastors were found to spend 20 or more hours a week in sermon preparation compared to 20 percent of mainline pastors.
More than 70 percent of pastors spend up to five hours a week in meetings; only 15 percent are in meetings 10 hours or more a week. Meanwhile, half of the senior pastors spend two to six hours on e-mail and other electronic correspondence. And nearly a quarter of the pastors put in six hours or more a week in counseling ministry; the same percentage spends an hour or less counseling others. Nearly half (48%) spend two to five hours a week in visitation.
Time with family rates as a priority for many pastors, but some find alarmingly little opportunity to be with their spouses and children. While 30 percent of the pastors report spending 20-29 hours with their families each week — and 16 percent indicate spending 40 or more hours with them weekly — almost 10 percent say they spend nine hours a week or less with family members.
More than half (52%) spend one to six hours in prayer each week; 5 percent say they spend no time at all in prayer. Fifty-two percent spend two to five hours in personal devotions unrelated to sermon preparation and 14 percent spend an hour or less in personal devotions.
The LifeWay survey was conducted via telephone on 1,002 randomly selected Protestant pastors. Click here for the complete report. [,]

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thoughts on a Praying Life

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
A Praying Life
Connecting with God in a Distracting World
by Paul E. Miller
NavPress, Colorado Springs

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It's intimate and hints at eternity. We don't think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.

Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center.

Consequently, a praying life isn't something you accomplish in a year. It is a journey of a lifetime. The same is true of learning how to love your spouse or a good friend. You never stop learning this side of heaven. There is far too much depth in people to be able to capture love easily. Likewise, there is far too much depth in God to capture prayer easily.

Private, personal prayer is one of the last great bastions of legalism. In order to pray like a child, you might need to unlearn the nonpersonal, nonreal praying that you've been taught.

When Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, he describes both men as praying aloud. Jesus goes on to encourage us to pray in the privacy of our rooms so our out-loud praying doesn't become a verbal show.

Praying out loud can be helpful because it keeps you from getting lost in your head. it makes your thoughts concrete. But it is more than technique; it is also a statement of faith. You are audibly declaring your belief in a God who is alive.

Praying aloud is not a New Testament rule; it is just another way of being real in prayer. Everyone is different. Personally, I've found it hard to pray out loud because I'm so in the habit of praying silently. Still, when I confess a sin aloud, it feels more real. When I hear my own voice admitting that I've done something wrong, I'm surprised by how concrete the sin feels, I've even thought, Oh, I guess that really was wrong. On my way to a social event, I will sometimes pray aloud in the car that I won't fall into sexual lust or people pleasing. This helps me become much more aware of my need. My prayers become more serious.

As I began to pray regularly for the children, he began to work in their hearts. For example, I began to pray for more humility in my eldest son, John. (As Jill says, "The apple didn't fall far from the tree.") About six months later he came to me and said, "Dad, I've been thinking a lot about humility lately and my lack of it." It didn't take me long to realize I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing.

I'm at my worst when I'm passionate about a new idea. I can drift into selling instead of listening and can easily become dominating. My heart is a dry and weary land. But when I begin to pray, the energy of my life is directed into the life of God and not into changing people's minds...and I shut up!

When someone shares an idea that was originally mine, I want to mention that I first thought of it. I feel unsettled, as if the universe is out of balance. In short, I want to boast. the only way to quiet my soul's desire for prominence is to begin to pray: Apart from you I can do nothing.

I didn't learn continuous prayer; I discovered I was already doing it. I found myself in difficult situations I could not control. All I could do was cry out to my heavenly Father. It happened often enough that it became a habit, creating a rut between my soul and God.

This one-word prayer, Father, is uniquely Jesus' prayer. His first recorded sentence at age twelve is about his father: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). Abba is the first word the prodigal son utters when he returned home. It is the first word of the Lord's Prayer, and it is the first word Jesus prays in Gethsemane. It is his first word on the cross--"Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34)--and one of his last--"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" (Luke 23:46). Father was my first prayer as I began praying continuously, and I find that it is still my most frequent prayer.

We don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; we just need to be poor in spirit. Poverty of spirit makes room for his Spirit. It creates a God-shaped hole in our hearts and offers us a new way to relate to others.

A praying spirit transforms how we look at people. As we walk through the mall, our hearts can tempt us to judge, despise, or lust. We see overweight people, skinny people, teenagers with piercings and tattoos, well-dressed women, security guards, and older people shuffling along. If we are tempted to judge an overweight person, we might pray that he or she loses weight. When we see a teenage girl with a nose ring, we can pray that she would find her community in Christ. When we see a security guard, we might pray for his career. When we pass an older couple shuffling along, we can pray for grace as they age.


"Unceasing prayer" is Paul's most frequent description of how he prayed and of how he wanted the church to pray. This was a real experience for Paul and not a formula. In the twelve times he mentions continuous praying, he seldom says it the same way twice (emphasis added).
  • Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers. (Romans 1:9-10)
  • I give thanks to my God always for you. (I Corinthians 1:4)
  • I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:16)
  • Praying at all times in the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:18)
  • We have not ceased to pray for you. (Colossians 1:9)
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer. (Colossians 4:2)
  • Always struggling on your behalf in his prayers. (Colossians 4:12)
  • Constantly mentioning you in our prayers. (I Thessalonians 1:2)
  • We also thank God constantly for this. (I Thessalonians 2:13)
  • As we pray most earnestly night and day. (I thessalonians 3:10)
  • We always pray for you. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
  • I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. (2 Timothy 1:3)

When Paul tells the young churches to pray, he encourages them in this same pattern of "constant in prayer" (emphasis added):

  • Be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
  • Pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Given Paul's emphasis, it is not surprising to see examples of continual prayer in the early church.

A praying life isn't simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus.

When you pray continuously, moments when you are prone to anxiety can become invitations to drift into prayer. A traffic jam, a slight from a friend, or a pressured deadline can serve as a door to God. You'll find yourself turning off the car radio to be with your Father. You'll wake up at night and discover yourself praying. It will be like breathing.

When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, your realize you are inside God's drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.

To become thankful is to be drawn into the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, into their enjoyment of one another, of life, and of people.

The only way to know how prayer works is to have complete knowledge and control of the past, present, and future. In other words you can figure out how prayer works if you are God.

If you are going to enter this divine dance we call prayer, you have to surrender your desire to be in control, to figure out how prayer works. You've got to let God take the lead. You have to trust.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn't just the Savior of my soul. He's also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. "Asking in Jesus' name" isn't another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

Jesus' seal not only guarantees that my package gets through, but it also transforms the package. Paul says in Romans 8:26, "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

I do not understand prayer. Prayer is deeply personal and deeply mysterious. Adults try to figure out causation. Little children don't. They just ask.

I often find that when God doesn't answer a prayer, he wants to expose something in me. Our prayers don't exist in a world of their own. We are in dialogue with a personal, divine Spirit who wants to shape us as much as he wants to hear us. For God to act unthinkingly with our prayers would be paganism, which says the gods do our will in response to our prayers.

When someone's prayers aren't answered, I want to know the back-story. How long did that individual pray? What did God do in that person's heart when he or she prayed? What was Good doing in the situation? Most of us isolate prayer from the rest of what God is doing in our lives, but God doesn't work that way. Prayer doesn't exist in some rarified spiritual world; it is part of the warp and woof of our lives. Praying itself becomes a story.

To correctly discern when God is speaking to us, we need to keep the Word and Spirit together.

Spirit Only people can separate the activity of listening to God from obedience to God's Word. Under the cover of "being led by the Spirit," they can easily do what they want. What they "hear" from God might be masking their self-will. This is emotionalism (a form of Romanticism), which makes feelings absolute.

Word Only people can also separate hearing and obedience by focusing on obedience and ignoring a life fo listening and repentance. Listening to and obeying God are so intertwined iin biblical thought that in the Hebrew they are one word. shamar. Under the cover of being obedient to the Word, Word Only folks can be rigid. we need to guard against rationalism as much as we need to guard against emotionalism.

We need the sharp-edged, absolute character of the Word and the intuitive, personal leading of the Spirit. The Word provids the structure, the vocabulary. The Spirit personalizes it to our life. Keeping the Word and the Spirit together guards us from the danger of God-talk becoming a cover for our own desires and the danger of lives isolated from God.

I woke up in the middle of the night recently with this rather odd question on my mind; How would you love someone without prayer?

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

For Pastors Who Need to Hear from God

christian post

Rick Warren Biography Uncovers Rocky Marriage, Depression

By Michelle A. Vu|Christian Post Reporter

A new unauthorized biography of “America’s pastor” Rick Warren uncovers a marriage with an unconventional beginning and a time of depression that later gave Warren the strength to become who he is today.

Jeffery L. Sheler, religion correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, delves into the world of Warren in his latest book, Prophet of Purpose: The Life of Rick Warren. The book portrays the affable yet confident megachurch pastor who calls presidents and billionaires his friends in a much more vulnerable light.

In a live Web discussion with Christianity Today editor-in-chief David Neff on Wednesday, Sheler talked about the book and his personal thoughts on the man he interviewed and researched for months.

“He (Rick Warren) is probably at this point the most prominent evangelical in terms of the news media,” said Sheler during the Web seminar. The biographer noted that examining Warren’s media appearances would suggest that he is considered the most valid spokesperson for the evangelical movement.

“To that extent and to the extent that he is not identified as part of the old line religious right demonstrates the fact that he has succeeded, certainly to a point, in softening the image of evangelicalism.”

Sheler talked about the “purpose driven” pastor’s childhood hobby of collecting items – such as rocks, shells and coins – that offer a glimpse into how the influential pastor’s mind works. More than collecting, Warren is interested in categorizing the items, Sheler said.

“He now looks back at that part of his life and says, ‘Now as an adult, as a pastor, and a writer, I do the same thing, only now I do it with ideas,’” the journalist recalled Warren saying. “He is always looking at the relationship between things that may not seem obviously related to each other.”===>Click headline to access complete article . . .

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Too Busy to Pray?

Too Busy to Pray?

The Christian form of unceasing prayer may have been preceded by the Psalmist David who wrote, “I have set the Lord always before me” (Ps. 16:8). The Apostle Paul encouraged believers in Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Never has this method of prayer been more appropriate than in our fast-lane lifestyles.

Need a model? In church history, the Celtic people believed that God was with them every moment of the day, so they used short prayers to communicate with God as they performed their chores. Celtic writer, Ester de Waal, explained, “They were the prayers of a people who were so busy from dawn to dusk, from dark to dark, that they had little time for long, formal prayers. Instead throughout the day they did whatever had to be done carefully, giving it their full attention, yet at the same time making it the occasion for prayer.” Next time you are too busy to stop for prayer, try this method.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Two Questions that Relate to Listening in Prayer

>>>Note: A trusted friend and colleague responded to these two questions with much insight that might unclutter your prayer life ...

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Pray Through the Scriptures - Online!

Create Your Personal Online Study Bible FREE

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  • Highlight and tag favorite verses

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  • Search a comprehensive library of study helps and resources including commentaries, concordances, dictionaries and more.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paying Tribute to Small Church Pastors ... Becomes a Prayer Opportunity


OCTOBER 1980-JOURNAL ENTRY~Much reevaluation today. Marilyn and I talked for almost an hour after returning home from the all day LaHaye Seminar. I’ve had to realize a different standard of measuring success for our church. People are leaving again and again to other churches and ministries who have grown and gained from us. It’s still the Lord’s church and I must release it again and again to Him. Marilyn insists I must not count these years a failure, even thought attendance and offerings are down.

OCTOBER 2002-REFLECTION- I wish to pay tribute to leaders who serve smaller congregations. To those without paid staff, may I say you are exactly where our Lord was when He walked the face of the earth. He spent the last three years of is life with twelve men. Interruptions were His ministry. Likewise, alone time with the Father was high priority.

Many are asking the same question that plagued me twenty-two years ago. I am told that 80% of local congregations in the U.S. are made up of less than 125 people. (Written in 2002) Does size and offering mean success or failure? Not by our Lord’s standard of measure.

Success is not the key, faithfulness is.

The call to ministry has everything to do with who we are. To serve Christ is the greatest work in the entire world. How I thank the Lord for those who have answered that call! To you, near and far, may God give you the capacity to stand for truth in a world gone crazy! Marilyn once reminded me, “God is adequate regardless of my appearance, performance or status.” Find your passion and pursue it with full heart and mind!


SAYING YES TO GOD-bob and marilyn yawberg- Vol. X # 17 / ( Rewritten 9/16/09)

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Strengthen Your Soul For Leading

>>>Note: Click on the headline to access the compilation of quotes, take time to read through each section then stop and ray as the Spirit leads ...

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry

Ruth Haley Barton

InterVarsity Press, 2008, 228 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3513-3

To order this book click here.

Barton is cofounder and president of The Transforming Center, a ministry to pastors and Christian leaders. She has served on the pastoral staff of several churches and is a trained spiritual director and retreat leader. She is the author of four additional books. The author draws heavily on lessons from the life of Moses -- whose whole life can be viewed through the lens of his private encounters with God-- to help us experience God in the middle of leadership.

"Strengthening the soul of our leadership is an invitation that begins, continues and ends with seeking God in the crucible of ministry. It is an invitation to stay connected with our own soul--that very private place where God's Spirit and my spirit dwell together in union--and to lead from that place." (210)

1. When Leaders Lose Their Souls

"So how is it with your soul?" (24)

"Spiritual leadership emerges from our willingness to stay involved with our own soul--that place where God's Spirit is at work stirring up our deepest questions and longings to draw us deeper into relationship with him." (25)

"The temptation to compromise basic Christian values--love, community, truth-telling, confession and reconciliation, silent listening and waiting on God for discernment--for the sake of expedience is very great." (27)

"…those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves." (29)

"The discipline of solitude is a key discipline for all those who seek after God." (31) This is in contrast to the activities and experiences of leadership that can be very addicting.

2. What Lies Beneath

"A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what's going on inside him- or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good." (38, quoting Parker Palmer, "Leading from Within")

"Solitude will do its good work whether we know what we are doing or not." "One of the primary functions of solitude is to settle into ourselves in God's presence." (41) "Most of what happens in solitude is happening under the surface, and God is doing it." (42)===>Click headline to access complete listing . . .

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stressed? Read this, then exhale in prayer ...


A lecturer when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked
'How heavy is this glass of water?'

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, 'The absolute weight doesn't matter.

It depends on how long you try to hold it.

If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.
If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.
In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.'

He continued,
'And that's the way it is with stress management.
If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later,
As the burden becomes increasingly heavy,
We won't be able to carry on. '

'As with the glass of water,
You have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.
When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.'

'So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down.
Don't carry it home.
You can pick it up tomorrow.
Whatever burdens you 're carrying now,
Let them down for a moment if you can.'

So, my friend, Put down anything that may be a burden to you right now.
Don't pick it up again until after you've rested a while.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Holy Spirit ... In You!

The Message

The Friend
Expanded Passage: John 13-15

John 14:15-17
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take Him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see Him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know Him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!”

Because this passage is about the Holy Spirit, ask Him to guide you in a prayerful reading of it. Make your reading a prayer in itself.

The Holy Spirit is the most neglected personhood of God. We often treat the Spirit like a tagalong part of the Trinity. Yet Jesus promises to leave his disciples (and us as his followers) with this important Friend. Is it hard for you to imagine that the Holy Spirit is offered to you as a friend? Why or why not?

What does it mean to have the Holy Spirit in you and guiding you throughout your day, as this passage says: “But you know Him already because He has been staying with you, and will even be in you”? Is it comforting? Discomforting? Frustrating? Hard to comprehend? Awe-inspiring? How can you grow today in awareness that the Friend lives in you?

Ask the Holy Spirit, your Friend, to remind you of his presence. Pray the words of this Scripture, asking him to “make everything plain to you” (verse 26) and reminding you of all things that Jesus told the disciples (and you).

As you drive, walk, work, study, and interact with others today, call on your Friend for his guidance with the thoughts you think, the words you speak, and the decisions you make.

Taken from The Message//REMIX: Solo by Eugene H. Peterson

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why Are Pastors Reluctant to Lead in Prayer?

"The devil does not have to destroy a pastor;
he simply
needs to distract a pastor."

Why Church Leaders Remain in Their Prayer Closets

In my book Fresh Encounters, I wrote extensively about these issues based on my own struggle in prayer and conversations with many pastoral colleagues. As I see it, our reluctance to lead our churches in prayer is rooted in the eight following factors:

Rugged individualism – Perhaps the defining characteristic of Western Civilization is rugged individualism. Professor and Pastor Gene Getz notes that our “lens” of individualism causes us to re-interpret the prayer commands in the New Testament, making them individual in application when they were really given in a community context in the early churches, and applied accordingly. Today, we can easily conclude that it is sufficient simply to pray in an individual setting.

Closet Confusion – We have misunderstood the meaning of the place of prayer in Matthew 6 where Jesus is giving group instructions to His disciples about their prayer lives.===>Click headline for complete article . . .

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Sing Your Prayer

Psalm 42:8 (Contemporary English Version)

8Every day, you are kind,

and at night

you give me a song

as my prayer to you,

the living LORD God.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are We Praying With the Wrong Question?

JOURNAL ENTRY~November 11, 1989-Thoughts are beginning to come about messages I’m to give on prayer. It will be a call to know the mind of Christ. It must be more than mere technique, or setting certain hours, time or place. I believe often we do not pray aright, but ask in the flesh, setting our own agendas, totally overlooking God’s purpose for suffering and seeming misfortune.

The Lord may have more to accomplish through death . . . we must learn to look at others’ suffering through the eyes of Jesus, where is the cross in our praying? What about self denial? Glorifying the Lord? Where is the authentic surrender to our King which marks us as disciples and followers, not successful affluent achievers? Beware of telling those who suffer “if you had the faith you would be healed” or just as bad, “God doesn’t heal today, that ended with the first century.” Where is Jesus between the two extremes, commanding the Father to do our will or denying His power to accomplish His will?

Satan counterfeits and takes in many. Christ refuses to deal in the counterfeit. I think of Francis Schaffer dying of cancer and Corrie Ten Boom being personally delivered from prison. We need to pray for “wellness” which includes an acceptance of our mortality and eventual death. One can be sick to death in body but at peace in spirit.


REFLECTION~March 14, 2002-John tells the story of the man born blind. “His disciples asked, ‘Rabbi, who sinned; this man or his parents, causing him to be blind?’ Jesus said, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent Me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:1-4, The Message)

Suffering has many purposes, and as Jesus clarifies, is not necessarily the result of sin. In this case “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (9:3b NASB) Before we tell the Lord what we think He should do, we need to ask. We need to continue asking for His will and purpose in any given situation. As Jesus later prayed, “yet not what I will but what You will.” (Mark 14:36b NASB)

Blessings- bob and marilyn yawberg-SAYING YES TO GOD- Pastors In Prayer- Vol. III #8

(Reflection first written in 2002- Vol. X # 15

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Come of of the Closet!

"Just as you cannot lead the church in the ministry of the word simply from a desk, neither can you lead a church in prayer simply from a closet.
"Pastors Coming Out of the Closet"

Recently I conducted a Renewal Weekend at a large mid-western church. The pastor is an educated, articulate leader known for his preaching acumen. He even writes books to help preachers create effective sermons.

After the final service of the weekend (a Sunday evening worship-based prayer experience) he stood before his church with tears and offered two observations. First, he stated that he had not experienced the presence of God in such a powerful way since his early days in ministry where revival broke out in the church where he served on staff. Indeed, it was a powerful evening of worship and heart-felt prayer.

His second observation was incredibly insightful. He said to his congregation, “Over the years I’ve told you that the corporate prayer level of our church will never rise above our personal prayer lives.” He continued, “Tonight I want to correct that statement. I have concluded that our personal prayer lives will never rise above our corporate prayer experience because this is how we all learn to pray – in community. And I am resolved to lead you in that experience that we might truly become a house of prayer.”

You could conclude that this courageous pastor decided to come out of his prayer closet and start leading his people in the actual experience of prayer. That decision has been a big victory for him, for his congregation, and for Christ-honoring ministry in that community.

Toward a Consistent View of Leadership

Of course, it is an essential and wonderful thing that many pastors prioritize personal time in prayer. However, far too few come to the conviction of this pastor in the firm understanding that they must lead their people in prayer by example while modeling prayer in community experience. In reality, they are adopting a view of leadership that leaves their people far short of Christ’s ideal for the church.

Let me illustrate. Imagine a pastor named Charlie. He claims to have a deep conviction about the importance of the Bible in his life and ministry. He speaks highly of the Scriptures in personal conversations and writes compellingly about it in his philosophy of ministry. He claims to have a strong personal regimen of Bible reading and study.

Yet, the pattern of this leadership demonstrates an actual contradiction. In his public ministry Charlie is apathetic about the existence of Bible studies in his church. He never teaches people how to study the Bible. He seldom leads any Bible studies with others. When he does on those rare occasions, he seems uncomfortable and half-hearted.

In spite of Charlie’s verbal assent about the benefit of the Bible, he makes minimal references to the Scriptures when the church gathers. He rarely invests any substantive amount of time teaching the Bible to his congregation in corporate worship on Sundays. Instead, he tells stories and packs the services with an abundance of music, drama, and interesting anecdotes about current events.

Any church worth their salt would be grieved about the contradiction of Pastor Charlie’s words. They would wonder about his real commitment to the centrality of the Scriptures. While Charlie might talk a good talk, he obviously is failing to lead his church in the love for and understanding of the Bible.

In fact, the real commodity by which we judge any pastor’s commitment to the Scriptures is TIME. This includes time spent personally in the Word but ALSO time given to teaching and experiencing the power of applied truth in the corporate gatherings. If he does not give time to the Bible, we rightfully conclude he does not really value it.

Leading from the Closet Does Not Work

When it comes to prayer, many pastors live in the same contradictory gray twilight as Charlie. Somehow flowery words about prayer and claims of “doing business with God” in “the closet” suffice, while the church starves for leadership, never really learning how to pray. Jesus grieves because His house does not become a house of prayer. The Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2 indicating that the church should FIRST be a place of prayer are essentially ignored – because no one is leading the church in that direction. The commands to pray, given in the New Testament, are largely ignored in the community experience of the church.

In my travels, I see this so often. Many respected and godly leaders purport to have a strong prayer life – in private. However, they appear to have little conviction about modeling prayer and leading their people into life-changing experiences of prayer (we will talk about the reasons later). Of course, these pastors never lead powerful, praying churches because it is impossible to POINT the way in prayer. One must LEAD the way in prayer.

Just as you cannot lead the church in the ministry of the word simply from a desk, neither can you lead a church in prayer simply from a closet. In Acts 6:4 the early leaders were committed to engaging collectively and leading the church in BOTH prayer and the ministry of the word. Today, like those leaders, pastors must come out of their private closets and provide bold, biblical, and consistent leadership.

Why Church Leaders Hide in their Prayer Closets

Let me say clearly that the value of private prayer is beyond measure. Responsible pastors seek the Lord individually and regularly intercede for others. Yet, too many good pastors seem content with leaving their prayer impact at the closet door. Why is this?

In my book Fresh Encounters, I wrote extensively about this challenge – based on my own struggle in prayer and conversations with many pastoral colleagues. In summary, our reluctance to lead our churches in prayer is rooted in the following factors:
1. Rugged individualism
2. Closet confusion
3. Limited vision
4. Inadequate training
5. Cultural pushback
6. Personal defeat
7. Spiritual distraction
8. Fear of intimacy
In next week’s e-devotion we will elaborate on each of these eight factors and encourage your heart with some truths about the blessings that occur when pastors come out of their prayer closets to lead their people in biblical, balanced prayer.
In the meantime, pray for your pastor today. Pray that the Lord will draw him close to His heart and teach him more about the joys of seeking God’s face. Pray that, in His time, the Lord will help him see the calling to lead the church in regular and life-giving experiences of prayer. In the meantime, keep a loving and supportive attitude and look for opportunities to make a difference on your knees in your own church. The Lord will bless you as you support your leadership and pray for their growth in Christ.
Copyright © 2009 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
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Friday, July 31, 2009

For Your Next Devoted-to-Praying Morning . . .

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers

Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

ISBN: 978-0-8308-3622-2
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Daring to Draw Near

John White

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Daring to Draw Near

John White

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Experiencing Healing Prayer

Rick Richardson

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The Folly of Prayer

Matt Woodley

ISBN: 978-0-8308-3712-0
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The God Who Hears

W. Bingham Hunter

ISBN: 978-0-87784-604-8
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The Heart of Racial Justice

Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson

ISBN: 978-0-8308-3269-9
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How Can I Pray When I'm Sick?

Douglas Connelly

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The Joy of Listening to God

Joyce Huggett

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Learning to Pray Through the Psalms

James W. Sire

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Trouble Praying?

The Same Problems in Prayer as They
from Joe McKeever

One of the lies of the enemy is that you are different, that others are more spiritual than you and find spiritual disciplines easy.

You're the only one with these problems in prayer.

Others get up in the morning eager to spend an hour with the Lord in prayer; you're the only one who has to drag yourself over to a chair and open the Bible and force yourself to pray.

Others pray smoothly and eloquently and always know what to say; you're the only one who stumbles along haltingly as though you were just learning to speak or were trying on a foreign tongue.

Others never are plagued by doubt and offer up these magnificent sacrifices of praise and intercession that Heaven welcomes, values as jewels, and immediately rewards; you're the only person who
fights back the doubts as you pray and wonders whether the whole business is accomplishing anything.

Others see answers to their prayers as a matter of routine; you're the only one who doesn't.

Way wrong. Not so at all.

Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

The fact of the matter is that those holy people you admire a lot for their piety and resent a little for their religiosity fight the same battles you do. They encounter the same temptations, struggle with the same difficulties, and know the same doubts about prayer's effectiveness.

You're not so different.

You're definitely not fighting battles in your walk with the Lord others have not faced, or more likely, are struggling with at this very moment.

In my yesterday's reading, I came across reminders of this from two of the Christian faith's heroes, Elisabeth Elliot and C. S. Lewis.

Continued at:

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Read this, then pray ...

Honest Inventory
When you boot up a computer, it often rapidly goes through a number of self-tests to make sure everything is working properly. Leaders, too, need to give themselves self-tests - honest, rigorous inventories of their character. King David recognized this. In Psalm 139 he celebrated God's intimate knowledge of even the smallest detail of his life.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:1:4, 23:24

In Business Terms ...
Historians continue to puzzle over one of the great mysteries of history: how to explain the sixteenth century. In 1560 two institutions dominated Europe, neither of which had existed twenty-five years earlier. The north was dominated by the Calvinist movement, the south by the Jesuit order. In 1534 Ignatius Loyola gathered the nucleus of his new order and took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1536 John Calvin arrived in Geneva. Twenty-five years later, Europe had been changed. Nothing in the history of the world can compare with the rapid growth and effectiveness of these institutions. How do you explain it? Both were, by 1560, large
institutions, each involving thousands of ordinary people, most of them working alone. Many worked under great pressure and danger, yet there were practically no defections. Very few bad apples. What was the secret? Now we understand it. Both Calvin and Loyola taught a similar spiritual discipline: that whenever one does anything in a key activity (they were usually spiritual activities, but not entirely), one writes it down, and then one keeps track of what happens. This feedback, whether it's a Calvinist examination of conscience or the Jesuit spiritual exercise, is the way you quickly find out what you're good at. And you find out what your bad habits are that inhibit full yield. Peter Drucker

Something to Think About:
It is when we face ourselves and face Christ, that we are lost in wonder, love, and praise. We need to rediscover the almost lost discipline of self-examination; and then a reawakened sense of sin will beget a reawakened sense of wonder. - Andrew Murray

© 2009 LifeWay Christian Resources
One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paths for Praying

book cover
Longing for God
Seven Paths of Christian Devotion
Richard J. Foster & Gayle D. Beebe
InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2009
===>Click headline for more information or to order this book . . .
Prayer is the other primary vehicle for learning about God. Like his teacher Evagrius, Cassian [Conferences] emphasizes that it is impossible to enjoy uninterrupted communication with God if we are distracted. But what distracts us? Not just one temptation but five elements lead us astray: the concerns of the body, worldly thoughts that invade our mind, anger, lack of true humility and memories that rise up at the most inopportune times.
Our ability to pray develops as our life progresses. In a unique and honest examination, Cassian describes how prayer differs according to the purity of our soul. He concludes this conference by providing a definition of the four dominant types of prayer and then an extended treatment of the Lord's Prayer that outlines exactly how we should pray and what our expectations regarding prayer should be.
The four types of prayer are supplication, petition, intercession and thanksgiving. Essentially, supplication and petition are the lowest level, intercession is the middle level and thanksgiving is the highest level, where we rise above earthly concerns and see the world and our life as God does. The Lord's Prayer follows a seven-step pattern that demonstrates the ascent of our soul to God.
The Seven-Step Pattern of the Lord's Prayer
  • recognition of God
  • recognition that we exist in God's kingdom
  • knowing that God's will governs all
  • knowing God provides for our every need
  • learning to forgive as God forgives
  • overcoming temptation
  • recognizing that God's kingdom, power and righteousness deliver us from evil
Path One: The Right Ordering of our Love for God
Because it is fundamental to human nature to love and seek love, the central purpose of our life with God is learning to love in such a way that all of our heart's longings are satisfied. Right loving of God orders all the other loves common to human existence.
Path Two: The Spiritual Life as Journey
To see the spiritual life as journey is to recognize that every step we take in life requires reflection and discernment if we are to see God's role in it.
Path Three: The Recovery of Knowledge of God Lost in the Fall
Each one of us has a longing to know that we belong to God. To understand this part of our Christian life, we need to consider the spiritual life as the recovery of knowledge of God lost in the Fall.
Path Four: Intimacy with Jesus Christ
Across the long expanse of Christian history and culture, the effort to imitate Christ has played a primary role in the cultivation of the highest ideals and understandings of the Christian life.
Path Five: The Right Ordering of our Experiences of God
However impressive teachings about God's love may be, if divine grace were never experienced, these teachings would remain a mere abstraction. Our experiences of God confirm the validity of our life with him.
Path Six: Action and Contemplation
The nature of the spiritual path is never simply action or contemplation but a discovery of the balance that exists between the two.
Path Seven: Divine Ascent
Buried beneath the history of the church are sterling examples of a threefold way of divine ascent, of a deep, inward transformation that comes about as a result of the purifying of the heart (purgation), the enlightening of the mind (illumination) and the perfecting of the soul (union).

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Prayer: 1 Word in English; A Bunch in Hebrew & Greek

Prayer Between Friends
Cultivating our friendship with God
Earl F. Palmer
Fleming H. Revell Company, Tarrytown, New York 1991

At this time a group of Jewish rabbis translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, because the majority of the Jews in Palestine and throughout the Mediterranean basin needed to have their Scriptures in the language commonly in use throughout the world. The Greek text these scholars produced is known as the Septuagint because, according to tradition, seventy rabbis became involved in the work.

The Septuagint had a profound effect on the New Testament Greek vocabulary. For example, the classical Greek word for "pray" at that time, euchomai, literally meant "to strike a bargain" with deity and described making a religious vow or a request acceptable to the gods of Greek mythology. This limited understanding served the purpose well in places like Job 22:27 (italics mine). "You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows," and the translator of Malachi 1:14 also used euchomai, "Cursed be the cheat who has a male in the flock and vows to give it..." (italics mine).

But when the Septuagint rabbis wanted to more fully translate the rich meaning of the Old Testament word for "pray," they had to coin a new word, proseuchomai. The prefix pros means "to" or "toward." Adding the prefix to the classical word shifted the focus of the meaning away from the act of praying toward the One to whom we pray. In this way euchomai is reduced in status to the rank of a mild synonym, except where it is used in its generic sense of "vow."

The New Testament writers carefully followed the lead of the Septuagint rabbis. For example, they used the classical term in Acts 18:18, where Luke speaks of Paul cutting his hair because "he was under a vow." However, the word used overwhelmingly for "pray" in the New Testament is proseuchomai. "Pray toward" is the intent of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, " 'When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then in the way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name....' " (Matthew 6:7-9).

In addition other Greek words are joined together to describe the same five kinds of prayer found in the Old Testament vocabulary. First, there are the praise words. Chara means "rejoice," as in Paul's instructions to the Christians at Philippi, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). And eucharisteo, translated "thanksgiving," is used when Paul says to the Philippian Christians, "I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:3). This word has a robust, songlike character to it, very much like the song words of the Old testament Hebrew.

Two asking words for prayer appear throughout the New Testament. Aiteo means "to want something, to ask." This is the word Jesus gave to his disciples when he said, " 'On that day you will ask in my name....' " (John 16:26). An even stronger verb, erotao, means to ask or beg. This word was used by the Greek visitors who told Philip, " 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus' " (John 12:21). Paul used this word in the deeply moving prayer narrative about his thorn in the flesh, "Three times I appealed to the Lord about this..." (2Corinthians 12:8)

The Greek prayer word krazo literally means "to cry" and conveys the idea of crying for help. The Apostle Paul uses this word in writing to the Roman Christians, "...When we cry 'Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15, 16). And the same "Abba! Father!" cry re-echoes in Paul's letter to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 4:6).

The Greek prayer word proskuneo also strongly echoes the Old Testament. It means "to bow" and is used in a decisive way in the fourth Gospel, where it is translated by the English word "worship": "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him" (John 4:23).

We'll mention two more words that are used for prayer. Epikaleo means "to call and express confession." This appears in the story of Ananias of Damascus, when the Lord told him about Saul of Tarsus, who was on Straight Street, waiting for deliverance from the blindness that had struck him when the Lord spoke to him on the Damascus road. In response to the Lord's instructions, Ananias said, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has bind all who invoke ["who call upon," epikaleo] your name" (Acts 9:13, 14). Finally, we have deomai, which is used to express specific prayer requests. Paul uses this word in writing to the Christians at Philippi, "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).

As we observed in our examination of the Old Testament prayer words, vocabulary has no life of its own, apart from its use in sentences and paragraphs. If we are to understand what prayer means in the Bible, we must watch the words as they connect with life. When we see people pray and when we listen closely to our Lord as he teaches his followers about prayer, we will learn the meaning of prayer and understand it as the language of our friendship with him.

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