Pastor Craig continues to lead us through this series on prayer. Here are the notes he published on his blog from Sunday’s sermon.
Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another.
The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin.
If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?!
Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.”
Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard.
Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.”
The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”
Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!
Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline.
Not one word in Scripture is wasted: not one word is redundant or replaceable. When Jesus taught us to pray to a Heavenly Father, He taught us to say, “OUR Father.” That means we are all His children, with His Holy Spirit helping us to grasp this—The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that WE are God’s children. Now if WE are children, then WE are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17).
Did you know that the word saints never appears in the singular in Scripture? No one person is singled out for his or her saintliness. Because we are saintS, praying together to OUR Father, this means accountability. For some people, accountability is a bad word. It seems to them to feel like someone is looking over their shoulder or checking up on them. But Christians should never feel this way! I like how Ken Blanchard defines this: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.”
What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another.
In the context of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, being mutually accountable means:
Power in our prayers—give US today our daily bread. Jesus talks about the power in agreement, and the apostle Paul emphasizes how the Holy Spirit helps believers harmonize in prayer with each other and with God’s will (Matthew 18:19-20; Romans 8:27).
Strengthening of our character—forgive US our debts, as WE also have forgiven our debtors. Jack Hayford points out that, “The believer’s best defense against self-deception is through mutual accountability to one another.” In order for our character to be strengthened, we have to allow others to speak into our lives—even the lovingly painful words (Proverbs 27:17, 6).
Protection from falling to temptation—lead US not into temptation, but deliver US from the evil one. Samson became entangled with a prostitute when he was all by himself; Elijah became depressed when he sent his servant away; David fell into sin when he was alone; Peter denied Christ when all of the other disciples had run away. That’s why the writer of Hebrews counsels us to stick close to our Christian family members (Hebrews 10:21-25).
In an earlier message, I noted that how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray. Coming together and praying together will help us see God better. Just as the angels around the throne are always crying out to each other “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, when we come together we can show our fellow saints what we’ve learned about our holy Father’s love and power. This is both an encouragement to others and allows others to be an encouragement to us too. Then together we can pray more boldly and expect great things in response to our prayer.
Being mutually accountable to the saints in prayer…
… hallows God as our Father
… glorifies Jesus as our Brother
… honors the Spirit as our Helper
God never intended that you would have to walk through life alone. He wants us to share the journey with fellow saints—His family made up of our brothers and sisters. This praying family truly honors God’s name!
When we pray, we approach an All-Loving Father, and we approach an All-Powerful God. I have found that typically people get warmed by the idea of Father and get scared by the idea of God. They say things like: “What if my prayers don’t hallow God’s name? What if He’s mad at me? What if I pray an improper prayer?”
God wants us to come to Him in prayer, so He makes Himself very accessible! The Father is both Father and God; the Son is both Friend and King; the Spirit is both Comforter and Convictor. We get ALL of this in One God.
Charles Spurgeon had this word of encouragement: “If You are my Father, then You love me. If I am Your child, then You will regard me, and poor though my language is, You will not despise it.” Jesus came to earth fully God and fully man, making Him our perfect intermediary (see Job 9:32-35; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). And the Holy Spirit helps interpret our groaning prayers (Romans 8:26-27).
Have you ever noticed that neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor Jesus in the Gospels, nor the apostles in the New Testament ever prayed, “God, if this is Your will please do such-and-such”? They simply prayed. Or more accurately, they prayed so boldly and specifically it almost sounded like a command: “Stand up” or “Be clean” or “Go, your prayer has been answered.”
When you and I are praying to an All-Loving and All-Powerful Father, with Jesus interceding for us, and the Spirit helping us, we too can pray these bold and highly specific prayers.
After all, if you don’t pray specifically and expectantly, how will you know when your prayer is answered?
I find John Piper’s acrostic very helpful in praying these bold and expectant prayers. He calls it APTAT:
A—Admit I can’t do anything without Christ. This hallows His Name.
Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded by saying, “The Lord our God, the Lord is One,” and then saying we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (which fulfills the first four of the Ten Commandments), and then love our neighbor as ourselves (which fulfills the next six of the Commandments).
To live this way, we need to pray this way too! That’s why Jesus taught us a model prayer—which we typically call “The Lord’s Prayer”—in which the first three petitions are for God’s glory (hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done), and the next three petitions are for man’s help (daily bread, forgiveness, victory over temptation).
hagnos is something totally immaculate, blindingly pure, and unapproachable. The apostle Paul said this about God: Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on His way. He’ll show up right on time, His arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, His light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take Him in! Honor to Him, and eternal rule! (1 Timothy 6:15-16)
thalpo means cherished. The same apostle Paul also said that God has given us the right to approach Him as “Abba, Father” or “Daddy, God” (Romans 8:15).
He is both unapproachable and approachable. He is both awful and lovable. He is both Supreme power and Supreme love. He is both Hallowed and Father. He is unique. Since He is unique, we must approach Him uniquely in holy prayer. But we must always approach first and foremost to reverence His holy Name. As Matthew Henry said, “Let Him have the praise of His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.”
Think of His glory in every request you make of Him. Father, may Your holy, righteous name be hallowed and exalted and made famous as You…
… provide my daily bread
… forgive me and help me forgive others
… give me victory over temptations
Let’s not pray prayers that rob God of His glory. Prayers like:
Selfish prayers that are all about me, me, me
Doubtful prayers that aren’t really sure God can help
Little prayers that insult God’s power and His love
Unexpectant prayers that ask God to do something, but we don’t really expect that He will
Let’s be known as people who pray confidently humble prayers. Let’s come to a Father Who is All-Love and to a God Who is All-Powerful—a God Whose power is perfectly balanced by His love, and Whose love is perfectly balanced by His power. May our prayers HALLOW His name!
The more consistently we pray on the ordinary days, the more prepared we will be to pray on the extraordinary days. But some people say, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t know what to ask for.” That ignorance hinders a lot of people—even someone like Peter who not only spent huge amounts of time with Jesus but was with Him when He was in one of His most glorious states (Luke 9:28-33). As Jesus is transfigured before his very eyes, both Mark and Luke say this about the statement Peter blurted out: He did not know what he was saying.
While Peter was still speaking from his ignorance, God the Father gave him (and us) some invaluable advice: “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”
So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus didn’t reprimand them for asking. In fact, He told us how much He wants us to pray and how much His Father wants to answer our prayers (Luke 11:1-13; 12:32).
There is a consistent theme about the “name” of God that permeates all that Jesus teaches about prayer. We see Him instructing us to address our prayer to our “Heavenly Father” and to pray “in My name” (Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:23-24). This doesn’t mean that simply saying, “Dear Heavenly Father” at the beginning of a prayer or “in the name of Jesus, amen” at the end of a prayer makes our prayer magical.
It’s about praying in the character of Jesus, directing our prayer to the only One who can help us, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
To help us do this, we have an invaluable prayer resource preserved for us in the pages of the Bible. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit that lives in a Christian and helps the Christian pray according to God’s will. The same Spirit who inspired the Word can illuminate the Word to us, so we need to get into the Word and let the Holy Spirit get the Word into us!
No matter what you’re going through, you can apply God’s Word to your situation. Look through the prayers of the Psalms, read the prayers of other great saints throughout the Scriptures, check out the prayers the apostles prayed in the New Testament, and even read the prayers of Jesus Himself. Then make those prayers your prayers!
If you let the Holy Spirit show you how the Bible applies to your situation, you will NEVER again be at a loss of how to pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus!
Pastor Craig continued our series on prayer. Here is the recap of Sunday’s message that he posted on his blog.
My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God.
Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything.
He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.”
Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!”
The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things.
Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.
Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presence—he stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting.
In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important.
Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:
As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. Will will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.
Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.
Here’s how Pastor Craig kicked off our new series on prayer.
I love football!
The plays that the quarterback calls in the huddle are very creative. It may sound something like this: “soultrain alert 13 trap on 1.” Then after the team breaks the huddle with the play that they just know will be successful, the quarterback may look over the other team’s defense and callout something like, “check” or “sally” or “Omaha.” This is called an “audible” and it’s communicating to the team how they are now going to modify the play that they just called. The quarterback calls this audible because it appears to him that the defense may know what sort of play they were planning to run.
The teams that can adjust better on-the-fly—or call audibles—usually win the game.
None of this happens without lots of practice! Practice builds good habits. Practice helps teams learn from their mistakes and develop even better habits. All of this practicing also requires a good coach overseeing the process, and individual team members who are willing to submit to the coach’s direction and correction.
Have you noticed that there are some Christians who “audible” well? Unexpected things pop up that seem to throw many people off their game plan, but these Christians seem to adapt so easily. Why is that? It’s definitely not because they are wired that way, or have a higher spiritual IQ, or they can think faster. It’s because they’ve practiced good habits, they’ve learned from past experiences which have developed better “audibling” habits, all under the guidance of a perfect Coach.
Jesus told us about the amazing prayers that we would be able to pray, and how the Holy Spirit can be our perfect Coach in this process (John 14:12-17, 26; 16:13-15).
There are some incredible things that happen when we pray consistently, when we pray boldly, and when we pray in the character of Jesus.
John Piper asks, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer?” He answers his own question like this: “Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.”
Successful football teams don’t simply show up on game day and compete successfully. They plan to be successful. They practice and study the coach’s game plan so that they can be ready to audible when necessary. So too for Christians—we can’t just show up for spiritual battle and expect to be successful. We must also practice, and study the game plan laid out in the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He coaches us. That’s the only way we can successfully handle all that life and even the devil throws at us.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share at least three hindrances that I see that can derail our practice of prayer. In the meantime, I want to challenge you—as I’ve challenged myself personally—to think on three questions:
Do I really want to pray effectively?
Am I willing to put in the energy necessary to pray this way?
Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit coach and discipline me in my prayer practice?
If you can, please join me at Calvary Assembly of God on Sunday as we continue our series called Prayer Plan.
“Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.”
The word strategy carries in its definition the idea of the preparation that takes place before the actual engagement begins. A coach’s strategy is worked out on the practice field. A general’s strategy is worked out in the training of his soldiers. A CEO’s strategy is worked out in the board room.
And a Christian’s strategy is worked out in the prayer closet.
Sadly, many Christians fall short in the time of battle simply because they hadn’t trained ahead of time—they didn’t make a plan to pray.
Join us this Sunday as we begin a new series called Prayer Plan where we hope everyone will end up being able to say an enthusiastic “yes” to the question: Are you ready to pray?
Here’s a recap Pastor Craig shared of his Sunday message. If you missed this message, be sure to check out the video below!
If someone asked you what a church is supposed to look like, do you describe steeples and crosses, stained glass windows and big wooden pulpits?
Guess what? The first Church in Jerusalem had none of those things!
Luke the historian describes the church this way: “They studied and prayed together, they ate with each other, they fed the hungry, and they took care of the poor. God performed miracles through them, everyone thought well of them, and people were getting saved every single day” (see Acts 2:42-47). Other historians of the day noted that Christians started the first orphanages, the first feeding programs, the first homes/schools for the blind, and the first medical dispensaries. They described how the Christians changed the cultural understanding of marriage and family, and how they gave dignity to women, children, the elderly, and the sick.
They did this by putting their faith into action, just as Jesus described (see Matthew 25:31-40). James reminds us that this required a deeply personal faith and a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. In fact, James went so far as to say that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough.
Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. We must believe it and live it. We need both faith and works.
Everyone can do this…
if a young kid is hungry, get involved with feeding them
if an elderly lady in your neighborhood needs a friend, stop by for coffee
if a neighbor is sick and can’t cover their usual tasks, mow their lawn
if a high school student can’t go to homecoming because she can’t afford the dress, take her shopping and buy the dress for her
if someone has an extended hospital stay, collect their mail and water their plants
if no one is visiting them in the hospital, go sit with them for a while
Jesus said, “When you do this for others, you are really doing it for Me.”
Luke didn’t say, “Every day the Christians were preaching.” He says, “Every day the Christians were serving. And then every day God was adding to their number people who were being saved.”
Your faith in action speaks a sermon louder and more convincingly than any sermon ever could.
How will you show your neighbors the love of Jesus this week?
I have the high privilege of being able to shepherd Calvary Assembly of God. It’s a privilege and responsibility I take as a charge from God, and the Scripture makes it clear that those who have been given such a stewardship must use it in a God-glorifying way.
Just one way I can use such stewardship is in the weekly sermons I prepare for our church family. I faithfully study and pray to get God’s mind on the topics that we need to grow in Him. Below is a brief overview of each of the series of messages I shared in 2018, along with links to the weekly recaps I post after delivering each message.
The Prayers Of David—The life of David is an open book for us. One of the unique things about David’s life is that we get to read both the historical narrative of his life, and his diary-like thoughts recorded in his psalms, songs, and prayers in the Book of Psalms. David’s prayers are gut-level honest and full of raw emotion. His prayers are also very helpful for anyone who desires to be as close to God as David was, to be one God describes as “a man after my own heart, who will do everything I want him to do.”
Come And See—Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview, all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them! Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves. I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words: Come and see.
A.L.I.V.E.—It is the foundational claim of Christianity: Christ died on a Cross and was raised back to life.It is also the claim many skeptics of Christianity find so difficult to process. This series explores evidence for for the resurrection of Jesus in each of the five letters of “ALIVE.” These messages are specifically designed for those skeptical of the claims of Christianity. The evidence won’t be a bunch of “churchy” platitudes, but court-room-level evidence that will attempt to make the case for what Christians believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s Favor—What if I were to tell you that God is for you? What if I were to tell you that God wantsto bless you? What if I were to tell you that God’s favor is constantly pursuing you? Well, here’s me telling you that it’s all true! Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence? Knowing God’s favor is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross!
What Is Church?—All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived.Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
Selah—The word Selahappears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our new summer series. Throughout the Psalms, Selahappears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang.
Aliens And Strangers—Christians are not citizens of Planet Earth. Our citizenship is in a place called Heaven, and yet we are traveling on Earth during our present lifetime. So the question is: How is a citizen of Heaven supposed to act while visiting Earth? The Apostle Peter was one of the most active disciples of Jesus. During Christ’s first visit to Earth, Peter is recorded as speaking more than all of the other disciples combined. And not surprisingly, Jesus speaks more words directly to Peter than He does to all of the other 11 disciples combined. Peter got a lot of training! With that background, Peter gives us invaluable instructions in his first letter to the church. He calls Christians things like: strangers in the world, chosen people, peculiar people, and aliens and strangers in the world.He tells us travelers not only howto behave while traveling on Earth, but whywe should travel in a God-honoring way.
I ♥My Church—If you lived in the early first century AD—and if the donkey carts had bumper stickers—I’ll bet that you would have seen “I My Church” bumper stickers on everything the early Christians owned. Both the Bible and historians of that day talked about the positive societal changes that Christians were making in their communities, and how every place they lived and worshipped got better. Why not today? Why not in your community?
Shalom—God makes a promise in Isaiahabout His perfect peace being made available to His people. Ahhh, who wouldn’t want God’s perfect peace?! Sadly, many people actually block God’s peace from coming into their hearts. You see, God’s peace is always there, but there are things we humans frequently do that keeps us from experiencingHis perfect peace. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which is a word packed with rich meaning! There are things God-loving people can do to keep shalom at the center of their lives, and I want to share these things with you.
The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.