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 authority...to 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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Living By Prayer

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

LIVING BY PRAYER

O God of the open ear,
Teach me to live by prayer
as well as by providence,
for myself, soul, body, children, family, church;

Give me a heart frameable to thy will;
so might I live in prayer,
and hounour thee,
being kept from evil,known and unknown.

Help me to see the sin that accompanies all I do,
and the good I can distil from everything.
Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring
my will to thine,
and that without this it is folly to pray;

When I try to bring thy will to mine it is
to command Christ,
to be above him, and wiser than he:
this is my sin and pride.

I can only succeed when I pray
according to thy precept and promise,
and to be done with as it pleases thee,
according to thy sovereign will.

When thou commandest me to pray
for pardon, peace, brokenness,
it is because thou wilt give me the thing promised,
for thy glory,
as well as for my good.

Help me not only to desire small things
but with holy boldness to desire great things
for thy people, for myself,
that they and I might live to show thy glory.

Teach me
that it is wisdom for me to pray for all I have,
out of love, willingly, not of necessity;
that I may come to thee at any time,
to lay open my needs acceptably to thee;
that my great sin lies in my not keeping
the savour of thy ways;
that the remembrance of this truth is one way
to the sense of thy presence;
that there is no wrath like the wrath of being
governed by my own lusts for my own ends.

The Valley of Vision
A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions
Edited by Arthur Bennett
The Banner of Truth Trust 1975 (5th printing 2005) Carlisle, PA


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

That Deeper Place


Infuse Volume 4, Issue 2


Video - Jill Briscoe, Author of The Deep Place Where Nobody Goes, on nurturing inner life to hear the Will of God===>Click headline to access . . .

Stewardship to Discipleship: Finding Opportunity in Places Least Expected

Free DVD offer - Serving the Body of Christ by Caring for its Leaders

Ministering to the Ministry

On Being a Servant of God, by Warren Wiersbe, reviewed by Jim Watters, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Donor Engagement

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Got a Prayer Life?


Explore A Praying Life

APrayingLife_water_W.jpg
A Praying Life is an honest look at the difficulties of prayer, unanswered prayers, and successes in prayer. Readers will appreciate Paul Miller's down-to-earth approach and practical nature. Parents will find his family-life experiences especially helpful.


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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time to Go?

.
Dear Pastor,
How is your faith holding up?
Phil

* * *

Phil,
Thank you for asking.

There are those in the church who have questioned the depth of my walk with the Lord and have been willing to suggest that all of the things I have done in the past year and a half were/are my own personal agenda. Those who control the money are on the 'other side' and they're using that to make my life miserable.

As a result, my faith is being tried, tested, and stretched to the limit.

How does a pastor determine when it's time to cut his losses and move on?


* * *

Dear Pastor,
Tough times .. I've walked that path!

Certainly every situation is somewhat unique and the Lord's clear direction is always the most important factor in deciding to move.

I'm sure you have done this (probably 10 times a day) - Simply asking the Lord to give you an inner peace about what he wants you to do. I'm reminded of Robert Schuller's 4 possible answers to prayer:
  1. No - God is unwilling to give us what we ask for so once again ask him to download his desires into your heart
  2. Grow - He wants to use the experience to mature us so ask for help in learning while in the midst of the storm
  3. Slow - He will rescue but be persistent but patient
  4. Go! - The Son has set you free, indeed!
May God give you a confidence and a peace about where he has you!
Phil

* * *

Phil,
Thanks for the sound advice. If a confession is appropriate, I've asked for a solution more than I've asked for peace. In all likelihood I've gotten them backwards.

The truth is, it's so bothersome that at times it's difficult to pray, period. All the more reason to ask for His peace.

* * *

Dear Pastor,
The need for confession can be stirred by the Spirit ... or by the Enemy.

If you've confessed and are forgiven/restored, then further torment can only be from the dark side!

God's kindness lead to repentance. Satan can't counterfeit godly kindness as a motivator, at least not in my book.

Phil


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Inner ~ VIew #68: Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor


Phil Miglioratti of Praying Pastor interviewed Mark Elliott, author of Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor: What Pastors Wish They Could Tell You.” 


  


Phil ~ At first glance, the title made me think this is a book pastors would want to give to their church members, but as I read through it, I get the impression this book is as much for pastors as it is for those who pray for and care about them. 
 
Mark ~ Absolutely! It is for the WHOLE body of Christ, ALL will benefit from these pages. It will open up a healthy dialogue among church attenders, among pastors, and among laity with pastors. 
 
 
Phil ~ The term "transparency" appears several times in the very first pages of the book - Why? 
 
Mark ~ By and large we Christians are not transparent with one another. We tend to be religious, wear masks, and pretend we have it all together. We put our pastors on pedestals and refuse to let them be human beings. This book is meant to bring us out of our closets and into the light so that we can be set free to be ourselves and walk in the amazing grace of God without fear, insecurity, and judgment. 
 
 


Phil ~ The 16 chapters cover a wide ranger of emotions and circumstances. Talk about: 
 
Mark ~

  • "I'm Not That Sharp" – I’m not near as good as I pretend to be. I’m often faking it until I make it. I’m putting my best foot forward and hoping I don’t trip up in front of others and embarrass myself. We hide behind our pride and air of self-sufficiency when only Christ’s sufficiency can make us sufficient.
  • "I'm Battling Sin" – Who are we fooling to pretend we are with out sin. We just don’t like to talk about it. The Bible tells us to confess our sins with one another in the body of Christ. Most of us don’t because it’s too dangerous. The church body might judge us, condemn us, or use it against us. Sin can’t properly be dealt with until it’s confessed, talked about, admitted too, and brought out into the light of Jesus Christ’s’ grace.
  • "I'm Not Bill, Andy, Rick or Ed" – It’s so easy to get in the trap of comparing ourselves to others or copying our ministries or lifestyles after someone very different than we are. We simply cannot wear another man’s armor. It doesn’t fit who we are. We must be ourselves and be judged against God’s will for our lives not another persons brilliance.
  • "My Best Days Are Behind Me" – We live in a country that pushes us to the ultimate goal of a cushy, lazy retirement. You don’t find retirement in the Bible. Many of God’s saints ministered, worked, and influenced other well into their golden tears. As we get older we have so much experience, wisdom, and expertise to offer. Why quit when you finally got many things figured out? We need to refire rather than retire. Your best days could yet be out in front of you. It’s more about attitude and perspective than age. The new 70 is today’s 50.
  • "I'm Disillusioned By The Ministry" – The ministry can wear on you over the years. People will let you down. Christians don’t always act Christ-like. Mean and nasty thinks happen in churches. Many a pastor has said to themselves, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” If we are not careful bitterness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions can cause the tipping point in our ministry that leads to burnout, quitting, and down right disillusionment with the whole system.

 
 
Phil ~ Though your book is glaringly honest about weakness and even failure, it is really about spiritual development. At the end of each chapter you challenge the reader with self-examination questions they can use to journal, discuss in a small group, or even as a devotional, plus a faith-filled confession and a power prayer. How can these tools benefit pastors struggling with insignificance?  
 
Mark ~ The questions cause us to reflect on the principle with God in prayer, ourselves, and even others in certain settings. Discussing these chapters with fellow pastors helps us to realize we are not alone but even my peers who I respect struggling with feelings of insignificance. Our significance is found in Christ not in our self, success, or how people perceive us on the outside. 
 
 
Phil ~ Agree or disagree: Every pastor needs to develop a through-the-day conversation with Jesus and should seek out the fellowship of a pastors' prayer group as an antidote to being sidelined by discouragement. 
 
Mark ~ AGREE! We must practice the active 24/7 presence of God throughout our day. That’s what relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit in us is all about. God never meant us to go it alone. Jesus had a fellowship of 12, an inner circle of 3, and even a best friend. We need to be regularly involved in open, transparent, authentic, below the surface, face-to-face relationships with our pastoral peers. We need empathetic encouragers, teammates, and cheerleaders in our lives. It can be difficult and even risky at times to try to meet that need with persons in your church. They may not understand or even be able to relate to the needs and challenges unique to pastors. Yet, we can’t make it all by ourselves against all that the enemy of our souls and ministry will bring against us. 
 
 
Phil ~ Some pastors have wisely recruited a prayer team for support and protection. How can this book assist those who pray diligently for their pastor? 
 
Mark ~ This book will give intercessors that “whats” to pray about. These pages will give you specific challenges, discouragements, enemies, and destructive thought patterns to pray over your pastor and his family. 
 
 
Phil ~ How is "I refuse to quit!" the first step toward strength and freedom? 
 
Mark ~ God has called us to faithfulness not success. If we will be faithful, hang on to God, and keep doing our best in God’s strength then God will take care of any success we may enjoy. Not quitting gives God the chance to show up in times of weakness and display His strength, wisdom, and love in our lives and ministries. Not quitting means God has to show up. We become a trophy of His grace shed abroad in our lives. If you decide to refuse to quit no matter what…then that is a decision you don’t even have to entertain unless you get a “thus sayeth the Lord.? That frees you up to keep putting one foot in front of another for another day and to find your source of strength outside yourself. Remember: the battle doesn’t belong to you but to the Lord. 
 
 
Phil ~ Mark, please write a prayer struggling pastors can pray with you . . .
 

Mark - Dear Father God, 

I am weak but you are strong. I am inconsistent but you never change. I am a sinner and you are my righteousness. I’m all about the destination but you are all about the journey. You have called me and are faithful to fulfill your ministry call and spiritual development in me. Therefore, I give you my sin, struggles, weaknesses, problems, and fears. I lay them at your feet. I am weary and heavily burdened. I come to you for rest, refreshing, and renewal. Give me a fresh measure of your joy that is my inner strength. I thank you God that your mercies for me are new every morning. I choose today to walk in your renewable strength, powerful presence, and jubilant joy. Thank you Jesus for being my all-in-all whenever I feel so down-and-out. The battle around me belongs to you so each day I gratefully deliver them in prayer to your capable hands. Thanks you for taking such good care of all that could burden me. Amen 
 

Bonus Cut ~ Dick Hardy Podcast Interview 5/5/2009 

Subject:  Why in the world did Mark Elliott write “Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor: What Pastors Wish They Could Tell You?” 

This book really came out of a real God-moment experience that I had in Indianapolis in 2007 that released me to write this timely book. Secondarily, ‘Confessions’ came out of my own painful experiences in 27 years of full-time ministry and yet not giving up when I surely felt to do so.  

I’ve read stats from Barna and Focus on the Family that says, “80% of pastors quit the ministry in their first five years” and that “1,200 ministers leave the ministry each month.” My heart beats for hurting pastors and their families. Who ministers to the pastor today? Where does the minister go for help?  

I believe this book will help bring hope, encouragement, strength, and renewal to pastors who will then begin to open up and talk transparently with their peers and begin then to truly support one another rather than compete against them behind their lone-ranger masks. 

Specifically in the past 5 years God has used some very painful incidents to birth this book to be of help to others in the body of Christ…whether in thepulpit or in the pew. We have a plateaued American church because we have plateaued people and plateaued pastors who all desperately need a spiritualrefreshing from God. This is a book about hope, faithfulness, and integrity.  

1. Critics might say the title sounds like you are really insecure?

What do you say? 

The title might be construed by some to be negative in nature but the book is actually very positive, faith-filled and encouraging! Am I insecure? SURE! Aren’t we all too some degree and in differing areas? I believe our insecurity is a byproduct of the fall of man from God and into sin. The insecurity in us all is due to our sin nature which separates us from God.  

The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus came to bridge that gap and become our security. This book is all about slaying the dragon of insecurity, sin, evil, and bitterness so that we can be free to live our life to the fullest extent in God’s will and His incredible journey He has planned for us. 

2. Is this book kind of a downer?

This book is far from being a downer. This is about getting back up when you get knocked down. This book is about  

3. How will this book help a pastor? 

This book will help pastors to become more confident, secure, and encouraged to tackle all that life brings across their paths. This book will open updialogue between pastors with their peers. ‘Confessions’ will build a pack of pastoral finishers rather than quitters. 

For their lay persons the book will help them better understand how to encourage and pray for their pastors. The book could do wonders when read and used in a small group format with the provided SG questions with a leadership/deacon board, pastoral staff group, or even intercessory prayer groups who pray for their pastors. 

http://docmarkelliott.com


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A Dangerous Text to Pray


For pastors . . .

(Letters of John Newton)

"He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord."
Colossians 4:7

Dear fellow pastor,
You have desired a good work--may the Lord give you the desires of your heart. May He give you . . .
the wisdom of Daniel,
the meekness of Moses,
the courage of Joshua,
the zeal of Paul, and
that self-abasement and humility which Job and Isaiah felt--when they not only had heard of Him by the hearing of the ear--but when they saw His glory, and abhorred themselves in dust and ashes!

May you be taught of God--for none teaches like Him--and come forth an able minister of the New Covenant, well instructed rightly to divide and faithfully to distribute the Word of truth.

In the school of Christ, you will have to learn some lessons which are not very pleasant to flesh and blood. You must learn to labor, to run, to fight, to wrestle--and many other hard exercises--some of which will try your strength, and others your patience.

You know the common expression, 'a jack of all trades'. I am sure a minister had need be such a one:
a brave soldier,
an alert watchman,
a caring shepherd,
a hardworking farmer,
a skillful builder,
a wise counselor,
a competent physician,
and a loving nurse.

But do not be discouraged--you have a wonderful and a gracious Master, who does not only give instructions--but power and ability! He engages that His grace shall be sufficient, at all times and in all circumstances, for those who simply give themselves up to His teaching and His service.

"Be an example to all believers . . .
in what you teach,
in the way you live,
in your love, your faith, and your purity."
1 Timothy 4:12


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Poetic Prayer Prompts



SRR_cover_300dpi.jpg

Sunday Rhymes & Reasons
by Greg Asimakoupoulos
Published June 5, 2009
268 pages, $14.95

Sunday Rhymes and Reasons is a compilation of inspirational poetry by America's pastor/poet laureate, Greg Asimakoupoulos. In this, his third volume of poetry, Pastor Greg paints word pictures that portray both the struggle and fulfillment that define a life of faith. His repertoire of rhymes celebrate rite-of-passage occasions like birth, baptism, marriage and death as well as the major holidays of the church and culture. It is a volume that illustrates the poet's love of words and of popular culture. The author dips his brush into a paint box of hubris, humor and honesty.

"Gloria and I have been encouraged by word pictures from Greg's pen that have celebrated both our ministry and God's presence in our world." – Bill Gaither, Gospel music composer/performer

"Gifted poet Greg Asimakoupoulos is a dear friend of our family. His poetry blesses, comforts, entertains, and provides inspiration for every season of life." – Natalie Grant, singer/songwriter/recording artist


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10 Minutes with the Man of Prayer


10 Minutes a Day with Jesus, Jim Reapsome, 978-0-8010-1307-2




Jesus, Man of Prayer

Luke 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; Matthew 6:9–13; 26:36–44


Anticipating an earthly kingdom, the disciples of Jesus wanted action. But Jesus knew that his kingdom was not of this world and he relied on prayer for daily guidance. Finally, one day the disciples asked him to teach them to pray.

  Jesus had grown up in a religious culture of prayer. Some of it was hypocritical, but a godly remnant of Jews prayed with faith in their hearts. They pleaded with God for Messiah to come. Jesus knew the heart’s cry of these people.

  The entire Jewish tradition of prayer covered every detail of life. The Old Testament stories frequently include prayers in a multitude of circumstances. Many of the Psalms are prayers, reflecting a deep piety among the Jews. The people prayed often, not just for the sacrifices on feast days as prescribed by Moses. By the time of Jesus, however, prayer seems to have become part of the legalistic framework by which one sought to earn God’s favor and blessing.

  Jesus radically transformed both the spirit and content of prayer. Most dramatically, he addressed God as Father. When he prayed, “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), he thrust aside obligatory, rote prayers. Prayer became the heart’s reflection of a personal relationship with God, whose name the Jews would not say.

  Jesus also changed the practice of prayer. He did not limit prayer to formal times of worship or to special events. He knew and said that the temple was a house of prayer, but many times he went off by himself into the hills to pray, to commune with his heavenly Father. For Jesus, prayer was a vital element in making God’s power available to people in need.

  The four Gospels depict Jesus as a man of prayer in a host of circumstances. Not only did he give his disciples a model prayer, he also prayed for them and with them.

  It is not difficult to summarize the reasons Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed when unbelieving people confronted him. After his lengthy teaching session with his disciples, Jesus prayed. His longest recorded prayer (John 17) occurred when he faced separation from his disciples. With the cross looming before him, he prayed in Gethsemane. Hanging on the cross between two thieves, Jesus prayed. At the end, as his life ebbed away, he prayed.

  Whatever else we may gain from his example, we cannot overestimate the priority Jesus gave to communion with his Father. Prayer sustained him in his daily routine of doing good and engaging critics.

  If we follow Jesus, we will pursue persistent, disciplined, prevailing prayer. Difficult as it is to find the time and place to pray, we cannot hope to become more like Jesus if we do not pray. Prayer must saturate the family circle. It must encompass church, community, and worldwide needs. Without it, we are empty vessels, driven to and fro by our culture.

To think about

  • • How did Jesus revolutionize prayer?
  • • What is your greatest hindrance to consistent prayer?

Heavenly Father, how good of you to desire to hear my prayers. Fill me with intensity in praise, thanksgiving, and intercession for others.

10 Minutes a Day with Jesus: Growing in Your Love for the Savior by Jim Reapsome - Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2008. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. ===>Click headline to purchase book @ BakerPublishingGroup.com


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Good Read for Your Next Personal Retreat




The Attentive Life


book coverThe Attentive Life

Discerning God's Presence in All Things

Leighton Ford

InterVarsity Press, 2008, 225 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3516-4

To order this book click here.


Leighton Ford, brother-in-law to Billy Graham, served as an evangelist with the Billy Graham Association for many years. He heads Leighton Ford Ministries which helps young leaders worldwide to lead more like Jesus. The book is about learning to pay attention to the 'hours' of our lives, whether of a single day or the stages of our lives. The author describes some of the steppingstones--key people, events and life stages--that God has used in his own life.

"The deepest longing I have is to come home to my own heart…to bring my real self before the real God, to be changed into his true image, to become all that God has made me to be." (flyleaf)

An Introduction

"My work has largely focused on evangelism--'making friends for God'…. But now is a time to pay more attention to my own heart, to deepen my own friendship with God…." (10)

"We should all be explorers, always, in all things." "Each of us is part of a Greater Story, and behind our stories is a Storyteller calling us home." "I believe all our stories are of longing and of looking." (11)

"Often we keep ourselves busy and distracted because we fear that if we slow down and are still, we may look inside and find nothing there." (12) "I need to learn both to be still and to go (or grow) deeper." "…this life stage requires not so much doing for God as paying attention to what God is doing." (13)

1. Paying Attention - The Hours of Our Lives.

This books looks at the hours of our lives, either hours of the day or the seasons of life. It follows the Benedictine prayer hours: Vigils (about 3 a.m.), Lauds (beginning of the day), Prime (start of the work day), Terce (mid-morning), Sext (midday), None (mid-afternoon), Vespers (evening comes), and Compline (end of the day).

The attentive life is the contemplative life, meaning putting together or connecting the dots, including both the passing of time and the times of turning points. Attentiveness is difficult because we are distractible people in a distracting world. (23) We often miss God's "signs" because we are busy with stuff. (24) Attentiveness is opening ourselves to what we are being shown or told. (25)

During our darkest hours God often gets our attention and teaches us to pay attention. But He does not force his attentions on us. (34-5) "The opportunity which God sends does not wake up him who is sleeping." (39 quoting a Senegalese proverb)

God calls us to see God in all things and all things in God. (41)

Love is focused attention. Attentiveness is a gift and a discipline. "But the gift must be nurtured through the spiritual discipline of discernment, a kind of 'eye-washing' in which we welcome the things that bring transparency and avoid those things that dull our vision." (43)

2. The Birthing Hour - Time Before Time

"When we are sleep deprived, it is difficult to pay attention: to God, others and ourselves." Sleep is a spiritual exercise, "because we are not just spiritual beings. We are embodied spirits." It is an expression of trust, admitting that we are not God and we can leave the universe in his care. (60-1)

3. Daybreak - The Hour of Beginnings

"The first reality of day is that at dawn (and long before) God is paying attention to us. He creates each new day of our life as a gift." (65)

"Almost inevitably our image of God is intertwined with the first influences on our lives, especially those of our family members…." (67)

4. Prime Time - Our Root System

"What is the root system of my life? Is it deep and wide and long and strong enough to withstand the pressures of each day?" (83)

"The great irony of our wired age of communication is that many of our children are growing up information rich and imagination poor--and so are many adults." (84) Have I lost the sense of imaginative wonder? Am I too preoccupied with running to what is next? (85)

Abiding is a summons to stick with him on the way, wherever it leads. "Inwardly, it is a ceaseless orientation toward Jesus, a constant looking to him, listening for his voice, seeking his ways." (88, quoting David Rensberger) "It helps me to think of 'abiding' as a continual conversation in which I listen for God's voice and speak back to him." (92)

"Prime should be the time of listening first not to my needs and wants but to Jesus' words and directions." (93)

5. Active Life - A Slower Pace in a Faster World

"We live in an age of continuous partial attention." (99, quoting Linda Stone)

Terce is the marker of midmorning, time for a break. In life, Terce is the time of discovering our mission and becoming involved in job, church and community. (100)

"In a world where there is a wealth of information, there is often a poverty of attention." (101, quoting Ken Mehlman) We are in a state of overload. "The assumption now is that you're always in…. And when you are always in, you are always on. And when you are always on, what are you most like? A computer server." (102, quoting Thomas Friedman)

"Perhaps in a faster world we could use a slower church--or at least churches that help us to slow down and pay attention." (104) Perhaps those in the fast world can learn from those in the slow world. There is a connection between our speed and the health of our spirit. (105)

Regarding the teaching of Martha and Mary, we all have parts of both in us and we are to pay attention to both action and contemplation. (107)

"Hurry is the great enemy of the life of the spirit." "I suppose that most of us live more like tourists rushing to keep up with an itinerary than pilgrims drinking in the lands we are passing through. We all, clergy and laity, get chewed up and distracted. Most of us, if we are honest, are latter-day Marthas who deep inside are longing for some Mary time. And what is the secret to living in such a world and time? …the secret is not at the circumference (merely reducing our activities) but at the center (refocusing our heart)." (109-10)

"If the imagination of our heart is to be clear and pure, then we must allow space and time for the eyes of our heart to see through, under and beyond appearances, to answer the lure of the deep." (110)

"Attentiveness is much more than our attempt to see and understand; it is a species of faith, an open and receptive trust that God has much to reveal to us when we pay attention. Some things reveal themselves, yield themselves, only to attentive waiting." (111)

"Spirituality is all about seeing. It is becoming aware of realities in which we are immersed but of which we are unaware. …Spiritual vision requires learning to notice the presence of God within and around us." (111, quoting Juliet Benner)

6. The Noonday Demon - Our Distractible Selves

We can think of high noon as the midpoint of our life, college days, family life, vocation or project--when life tends to weigh us down.

"Distraction is not always a bane. It can be a blessing when distractions are 'divine interruptions' by which God gets our attention to turn us in a new direction." (116) To pay attention and learn from a distraction can be a strength. Many Bible characters had a life change because of a distraction, e.g. Moses' Burning Bush. (117)

Do we suffer from SADD, spiritual attention deficit disorder? (119) We may be in spiritual disarray because of fatigue, a soul-weary apathy, anxiety, fear, or sin. These may be veils that keep us from paying attention. (119-124)

"We keep on hurrying and staying busy and chattering because we are afraid that if we did slow down, stop working, get still long enough to listen deeply, we might have to face our mortality and humanness and give up trying to run our lives like little gods." (125)

A reminder: "Do one thing at a time, slow down, take time to breathe, to pray, to remember what has just happened with gratitude (or regret), to prepare my heart and mind for what comes next instead of rushing ahead with an overstuffed mind. Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry." (130)

"In some seasons of our lives, we are more active, more outwardly focused, more driven. Hopefully as we grow older, there are seasons in which we become more reflective, moving from an action mode to a wisdom mode--assuming we have learned some wisdom from our actions, both good and bad." (139)

7. When Shadows Come - Darkness Comes Early

"None (pronounced with a long "o") marks mid- to late-afternoon time, as the sun begins its descent and shadows start to lengthen." "With None we encounter the reality that things don't last forever. The lengthening shadows remind us of endings, but as the day wanes we also pay more attention to the things that endure." (141, quoting David Steindl-Rast)

"What must I let go? What should I hold more closely? And to what could I reach out more hopefully?" (143) Life begins to cave in and losses begin to mount up. "We begin to lose very precious things, and clouds hover over what we have always taken for granted: health, relationships, job." (143)

"The true religions of America are optimism and denial." (143, quoting Kathleen Norris)

"I'm trying to learn to pay attention, to pause and ask: What makes these tears come?" (145)

"There are many deaths that we die throughout our life, suggests Rolheiser: the death of our youth, of our spiritual and psychological wholeness, our dreams and our honeymoons…. Yet these many deaths, some small, some huge, may be God's way of bringing transformation and new life." (146) "…we must allow our spirit time--time to grieve the old, to be prepared to let go and receive the gift of the Spirit that we need for our new life." (147)

The dark times are often those of greatest growing and strengthening. "What were your own darknesses and what did God reveal about himself in each of these? What gifts did he give?" Make your own list, naming if you can, the gifts you have received, the light that has reached you through those darknesses." "God can transform both darkness into light and burden into blessing." (149)

8. Lighting the Lamps - The House with Golden Windows

Vespers celebrates the lighting of the lamps as evening descends. (163)

There is a universal longing for home in almost every human heart. (165) "In the seasons of our life, afternoons are the autumn, the season of midlife when the curve of our energy begins to drop. Afternoon is also a time to rest and enjoy the fullness of what life has to offer, as well as to let go of regrets over what may have passed us by. Yet it is a time not of retreat but of renewal, a time to explore and develop new and overlooked parts of ourselves." (166) "This is most especially the time to make fresh room for God in our heart." (167)

The prayer of an old saint:

"I give Thee thanks, O Lord. Evening draws nigh: make it bright. For as day has its evening, so has life. The evening of life is old age, and old age is fast overtaking me: make it bright…. Let the fast-coming close of my life be believing, acceptable, sinless, fearless: and, if it please thee, painless. And let me outstrip the night, doing, with all my might, some good work." (169)

We seem to have a "holy longing" and "the desire that fuels our restlessness is at its core a longing for the God who made us for himself." (172) "My soul is a strange mix of gratitude and restlessness. I want--need--to be at rest in the goodness of God." (174) God has put in our hearts a sense of eternity, a foretaste of the next life. (177)

9. Grandfather Time - When Evening Comes

"Compline is the hour that signifies completion." "Compline completes the circle of the day…connecting the end of the day with the end of life itself." "Darkness comes often as a threat, but it can also be a grace." (183)

"As a day or a life come to a close, our most heartfelt questions may be Am I safe? Am I loved? Do I have a true home in this universe?" (183)

We now "seek to discern the hidden wholeness of our lives…and pay attention not so much to the ending as to the End…not so much to the way our life closes as to the purpose for which we were sent in the first place,…our True End." (190)

"The end of our lifelong journey and quest…involves a profound transformation, the emergence of our true self, so that in becoming like Christ we most truly become ourselves…." (193)

Two questions before sleep: "Where did I sense God most today? Where did I miss him?" (197)

"The destination is Christlikeness. The wonder is not only that we will be like him but that when we are like him we will most truly be ourselves." (203)

To order this book click here.

Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.

David

David Mays, The Mission Exchange (formerly EFMA)

DMays@TheMissionExchange.org

www.TheMissionExchange.org

www.davidmays.org

Helping leaders fulfill their roles in the Great Commission



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