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Media Review: Centering Prayer

To be able to enter into a transformative relationship with an infinite being, to commune with Him, to hear & be heard– prayer is an incredible gift that God bestows on us.

Prayer is something we can all learn more about as we walk with God. Unfortunately, this video course on “Centering Prayer” is full of statements that blatantly contradict the teachings of the Christian Bible. I’ll share just a few direct quotes:

“We need to be free to serve the needs of the universe”— the last time I checked “the universe” doesn’t have needs. God created the universe to glorify HIM. This is logically on par with saying that I need to be free to serve the needs of my toaster.

“God doesn’t judge us, the beauty of our own soul judges us”— there are so many dozens of passages in the Bible showing God as judge I won’t even bother to elaborate on how wrong this statement is.

“Entering into God’s emptiness”— God is infinite, He is the most FULL being imaginable, it is absolutely bizarre to even use emptiness & God in the same sentence.

Walk with God, and spend focused time with Him daily in prayer. Just don’t use this video to guide you.

Walking with God Through Adversity: Seven Lessons from the Heart of Hannah


The book of 1 Samuel begins with the story of a remarkable woman of God named Hannah.  As I meditated on her life I marveled at her heart towards God.  This woman’s simple faith allowed her to walk with God through her deepest valley.  God placed her story in  Scripture as an example of how a follower of God walks with Him through adversity.  Here are seven lessons we can all learn from the heart of Hannah:

Lesson One: Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty

“the LORD had closed her womb.” (v.5)
The very first thing we learn about Hannah is that she knew ”the Lord had closed her womb.” It’s clear that she and her husband saw her infertility as being under God’s sovereign hand. Without any help from sophisticated theology textbooks or philosophy courses, they were able to see the obvious truth that the being who created the universe must also be the being who orders its every event. Acknowledging God’s control over all our life’s circumstances is the essential first step to a life of walking with Him.

Lesson Two: Affirm God’s Righteousness

Next, we can see that Hannah saw God as righteous.  Even in her deepest distress, she never accused God of being unloving or unjust. There is nothing in her prayers to suggest she cried out, “Why did you do this to me?” Her attitude parallels Job 1:22, where the Bible says that Job never “charged God with wrong.” If the first step of walking with God is to accept that He is in control, the second step must be to affirm Psalm 145:17 that, “the Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.”

Lesson Three: Keep Following in God’s Ways

“So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord”  (v.7)
When confronted with deep soul pain, many people make the choice to walk away from God. Not Hannah. Year after year, she remained faithful to worship Him, even if it meant traveling to Shiloh with another woman who delighted in making her miserable. She could have feigned illness, or could have outright refused to go. Instead, she continued to obey God’s commands year after year after year, fully knowing how hard the road of obedience sometimes was. 

Lesson Four: Go to God With Your Pain

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” (v.10)
Acknowledging God’s sovereignty and righteousness and remaining faithful to Him does not mean we have to stuff away our pain or pretend it doesn’t hurt. God is a loving Father and He both understands our pain and desires that we pour out our heart to Him. Hannah, David, even Jesus in the Garden freely poured out their pain to God.  He always received them, and He will always receive us.  We can freely pour out our heart to God.

Lesson Five: Ask God to Intervene

O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant…” (v. 11)
Trusting that God knows best does not mean we do not ask for our desires. God does not answer to Hannah, “Why are you asking me for a child?” For that matter, can you remember anytime God reprimanded anyone for asking Him for a good thing? No, that is not the way of a loving Father with His children. Part of walking with God is putting our requests before Him every day.

Lesson Six: Trust God With All Your Heart

I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life (v. 11)
Hannah’s vow here is not an example of mere crass bargaining with a deity. No, it is a mighty expression of her faith. Hannah declares to God that she knows that He can open her womb, and that she is more than happy to respond to His grace with her faith in dedicating this still future child to Him.

Lesson Seven:  Let Your Joy in God Transcend Your Own Desires

Lastly, Hannah’s song of joy in 1 Samuel 2 shows us that her joy in God transcended her own desire to keep her son by her side. There is no hint of regret or misgiving in dedicating her beloved son for the sake of the Kingdom.  She rejoices in God and sings:

My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

May we all strive to have a heart like Hannah that exults in the Lord everyday as we walk with Him.

Twittering with God

One internet fad I have yet to embrace is Twitter.  “Twitter” is a means of people keeping up with other people are doing constantly through the day, by means of people who live their lives attached to the internet and/or mobile phone constantly typing short 1 or 2 sentence updates on what they are doing and then also looking at everyone else’s short updates. 

This morning my brain made one of its many odd connections: twittering and 1 Thessalonians 5:17— “pray without ceasing.”  Many have talked about what Paul meant by that phrase— conversational prayer, always having an attitude of prayer, practicing the presence of God.  It all comes down in some form that Paul encourages us to constantly throughout the day be giving God short little updates:

7:17 ”Stuck in traffic, I really need to get to work on time, help me be patient”

8:20 “Meeting with my manager, help me be calm.”

10:30 “Found out my friend’s Mom is sick, please help her.”

12:00  “Chocolate cake on the buffet, I need strength to say no.”

We’re twittering with God!  And on the flip side, we need to be listening to His twitters back:

6:45  “Take a few minutes, spend some time with me before you jump in the car”

7:18 “I am with you, you will get to work.”

10:25 “Look across at your coworker, she looks troubled, go talk to her.”

11:30 “Remember, I love you.”

Catching on?  Then go for it today, be mindful of God, talk to Him, listen, and “twitter” away!

A Daily Prayer

I received an email today that contained a prayer:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

With the exception of the poetic license of “infinite” possibilities and that “all of us” should be taken to mean “all of us who have been regenerated by Christ” this is a very Scriptural prayer. It’s one you can pray both for yourself and for other Christians. It certainly ministered to me today.

Web Watch: Operation World Online

Operation World Online is an online resource for prayer for the nations and people groups of the world.  It is a colloboration between WEC International, a frontier missions planter, and Global Mapping International, which maintains highly detailed demographic data throughout the world for the benefit of missions.  It’s genesis began with Patrick Johnstone’s landmark book Operation World, and has now expanded to this online presence, CD-ROM, and other support media.

So, what is it?  Operation World divides all the nations and people groups of the world into 365 daily segments, helping you to make missions a daily focus of prayer.  Just go to the Pray Today webpage, and there will be detailed information about a nation to pray for, including the area’s religions, missionaries, demographics, and specific requests and answers to prayer.  So, what are waiting for?  Can you not spare a moment to go to this page and pray for the people of the world?  If you are a follower of Christ, you surely can do nothing less.

Meditation to the Holy Spirit

This is a short prayer based on a passage taken from John Owen’s book Communion With God:

Holy Spirit,
You are infinite love & kindness to me.
You have wonderfully chosen to be my Comforter.
You do this work willingly, freely, & powerfully.
What great things I have received from You!
How often you have comforted my soul.
Can I live one day without you?
I vow to focus on what You want to do within me.
I shall not grieve You by negligence, sin, or foolishness.
I will let Your love constrain me to walk before You
In such a way that will bring You the greatest pleasure,
For I love & treasure You and Your fellowship.

Daily Prayer

Written prayers have been part of the church since the prayers of Jesus were recorded by the apostles.  Because of the warning of Jesus against rote prayers and the abuses of written prayers in the past, many within the evangelical church have little experience with praying written prayers.  There is a danger with written prayers becoming rote, just like there is a danger of singing a hymn and just voicing the words, but that doesn’t stop us from singing hymns.  I believe there is a place for written prayers in our private worship of God, to help focus and communicate clearly what we truly want to say to God.  There are many prayers of ancient saints that can be meaningfully used, but I think it is also a useful spiritual exercise to write out our own, what we personally want to express to God.  It can be just adoration or just petition or a combination.  Here is a written prayer that had its beginning in my prayer life about ten years ago, and has changed and grown as I have.  It’s in my palm pilot for ready access (no, I haven’t memorized it!).  I share it to help perhaps to spark some others to consider writing out what is within their heart to God for their own prayer time:

 

Father,

Holy and righteous,
Strong and just,
Loving and merciful,
Hear my prayer.

I worship You, Father, & I love You.
Father, I love to draw near to You,
to gaze on Your glory, to commune with You, to receive Your love & joy.

Father, Increase my thirst for You,
Inflame my passion for You .
Let me see Your glory & beauty
And treasure it above all else.
Let the fire of my love for You burn white hot with ever-increasing heat.
Let it burn away all the dross in my heart and stoke the furnace of my strength and devotion.

Father, protect me from treasuring or desiring anything above You.
Father,
incline my heart,
open my heart,
unite my heart,
satisfy my heart.
Fill me with Your love & joy.
I abandon myself to You.

Father, thank You for creating me.
Father, thank You for loving me.
Father, thank You for choosing me
to be a son, a saint, a steward, a sage,  a soldier, a servant & a shepherd for Your kingdom.   Father, thank You for singing over me with delight.  Today, help me live as Your son to bring You glory.

Jesus, I love You.
Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to save & set me free from sin.
Jesus, thank You for clothing me
with Your perfect righteousness.
Jesus, You are the true vine,
and I am Your  branch– I want to abide in You as You abide in me.
Jesus, You are my shepherd.

Jesus, I want to be your doulos more than anything else in the world. Every gift, every desire, everything I have
I lay at your feet. Jesus, help me to know You clearer,  love You deeper, and follow You closer today .  Jesus, protect me from letting guilt, frustration or discouragement distract me from Your Presence.

Spirit, I love You. Thank You for regenerating, indwelling, teaching, comforting. Thank You I’m not alone.
Spirit, I am Your temple.
Fill me, deeply, fully, powerfully.
I want Your strength and wisdom
and not my own.
I want You like a fountain to be pouring out of my deepest being.

Spirit, search me and know me.
Show me my flesh—the pride,
the lust, the self-centeredness.
Spirit, I repent.  Forgive me of my sins. Help me crucify, reject, abandon, mortify this flesh today.  Cleanse me, renew me.
Bathe me in Your Presence.
Immerse me in You.

Help me to grow strong & solid
Like a mighty tree firmly planted
By Your living waters,
able to stand against the storms,
Giving shelter to those under me.
Help me to be the man You have intended—humble, honest, brave, selfless, holy, strong, trustworthy, passionate, patient, wise, and deep.

Help me to accept everything
that You bring to me today–
gratitude in blessing, longsuffering in trial, as from Your hand.  Let me redeem every moment today as precious. Father, I trust You. You know best what You need for the kingdom & what will mold me into the man You want me to become.

Father, thank You for my body
and the health You have granted me.
Thank You for the knowledge, skills & ministry You have entrusted to me. Help me use them for Your glory.
Thank You for Gail my wife,
Andrew, Lily, and Michael.
Help me to lead them, bless them,
& care for them today.

May I be sober & vigilant against the enemy. May I gird myself with truth, put on the breastplate of
righteousness & the shoes of the gospel. May I always hold firm the shield of faith, knowing I am protected by the helmet of salvation. May I wield the sword of the Spirit as a warrior for You.

May I worship, work, & rest in Your presence every moment this day.
Let the words of my mouth,
the meditations of my heart,
every thought and deed,
Be acceptable and well pleasing in Your sight, O Lord,
my strength and my Redeemer.
With the passion & wisdom of Christ,
I now move into Your world.

Fullness

I’ve increasingly appreciated written prayers over the years, both of my own composing and those from men who walked with God in the past.  Here’s one from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers.  There is so much truth compacted in so few words.  Read it, carefully, meditating on each phrase, and in so make it your prayer to God.

Heavenly Father,
Thou hast revealed to me myself as a mass of sin,
And thyself as the fullness of goodness
With strength enough to succor me,
Wisdom enough to guide me,
Mercy enough to quicken me,
Love enough to satisfy me.

Thou has shown me that because thou art mine
I can live by thy life,
Be strong in thy strength,
Be guided by thy wisdom;
and so I can pitch my thoughts and heart in thee.

This is the exchange of wonderful love—
for me to have thee for myself,
and for thee to have me, and to give me thyself.

There is in thee all fullness of the good I need,
And the fullness of all grace to draw me to thyself.
Who else could never have come.

But having come, I must cleave to thee,
Be knit to thee,
Always seek thee.

There is none all good as thou art:
With thee I can live without other things,
For thou art God all-sufficent,
And the glory, peace, rest, joy of the world
Is a creaturely, perishing thing in comparision with thee.

Help me to know that he who hopes for nothing but thee,
And for all things only for thee, hopes truly,
And that I must place all my happiness in holiness,
If I hope to be filled with all grace.

Convince me that I can have no peace at death,
Nor hope that I should go to Christ,
Unless I intend to do his will
And have his fullness while I live.

Praying on the Armor

A great spiritual warfare prayer that my pastor passed along to me…

Dear Lord,
I want to thank You for assuring me of victory today if I will but follow Your battle plan.
So by faith I claim victory over (list whatever sins you battle with most).
By faith I put on the belt of truth.
The truth about You, Lord—that You know everything about me.
You know my strengths and weaknesses.
You know my breaking point and what I am able to bear.
The truth about me is that I am a new creature in Christ and I have been set free from the power of sin.
The truth is You have a purpose for me this day—someone to encourage, to share with someone to love.

By faith I put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Through this I guard my heart and emotions.
I will not allow my heart to attach itself to anything that is impure.
I will not allow my emotions to rule in my decisions.
I will live today by what is true, by what is in Your word, not by the way I feel.

I put on the sandals of the gospel of peace.
I am available to You.
Send me where You will.
Guide me to those who are in need.
Use me to solve conflicts wherever they may arise.
Make me a calming presence in every circumstance in which You place me.
Help me to leave footprints of Your peace everywhere I go.

I now take up the shield of faith.
My faith is in You and You alone.
Apart from You I can do nothing.
With You I can do all things.
No temptaion that comes my way can penetrate Your protecting hand.
I will not be afraid.

When I am tempted I will claim my victory ahead of time.
I know there are fiery darts headed my way even as I pray.
You already know what they are and have provided the way of escape.
Help my faith to become great faith.

I also put on the helmet of Salvation.
Satan bombards my mind day and night with evil thoughts, doubt and discouragement.
I choose to dwell on thoughts of You and Your wonderful gift to me.
Help me to think of the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and the things which are virtuous.

Lastly, I take up the sword to the Spirit.
It is strong and powerful and able to defeat the devil even in his strongest attack.
So I take up the sword that is able to defend me in time of attack, comfort me in time of sorrow, teach me in time of meditation, and prevail against the power of the enemy.

So Lord I go now rejoicing that You have chosen me to represent You to this lost and dying world. May others see Jesus in me, and may Satan and his hosts shudder as Your power is made manifest in me.
In Jesus name I pray—Amen.

The Throne Room

My soul is empty.

I have tried to fill it with many things of the world, but all in vain.  The emptiness just seems to grow larger, and swallows all of my life.

Exhausted, drained, defeated, and still empty, I turn and I realize there is only one that can truly fill my soul.

God.

Holy beyond comprehension, seated on His throne, reigning over all the universe.

But how can I?  How can I even approach such a God?  I am not worthy to be in His presence.  I have sinned so many times against Him.  I am rotten to the core, a rebel deserving of death.  I am clothed in filthy rags.  No way, no way I can go to God.

But then a voice calls to me, and says, “Come, come, to the feast. You have been washed with the blood of Christ.  You have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  Your Father wants to see you.”

And I look, and my filth has been washed away, I am clothed with a white robe.  I don’t deserve this.

I walk into the throne room.  I fall to the floor, weeping, “Father, I am not worthy.”

He smiles, and says, “Come, the feast is ready.  Eat, drink. Let your heart be healed.”