Teach us to pray: Part 4

Dear Church Family  Family

Quietening our hearts

“Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them –
    he remains faithful for ever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns for ever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 146

Why does the Psalmist say we should praise God?  Take and turn those things into praise as we come to God.

Keeping Jesus central to life

“8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

‘“the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.”

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’”

Acts 4v8-12

  • Thank God for sending his Son so that we can be forgiven.
  • We live in a world that offers all sorts of other means of ‘salvation’, pray that we would know none of them can save except Jesus alone.
  • Pray for those around you in your family and among your friends who do not yet know that for themselves.
  • Pray that we can be bold in proclaiming this truth in a society which denies it and opposes it.

Praying for our church family:

Pray particularly for the following things:

  • Pray for __________________ that as they grieve they would know God’s comfort and love and the strength they need to support other family members.
  • Remember others grieving for recent loss, especially ______ and ______ and their wider families.
  • Pray for __________ with her ongoing medical and health problems.
  • Pray for __________________ mother and father, for their recovery and general health.
  • Pray for _______ and her ongoing health issues
  • Pray for those who long term health needs: _____________________________________.
  • Why not work through the prayer diary and pray for those you have not seen for a few weeks?
  • For each of these people pray that they would persevere in their trust in Jesus despite hardship.  Pray that they would grow in their faith and that they would know God’s comfort and care, and practically that we as a church would be the means of showing that to them.  Pray to that their faith in suffering and grief may speak powerfully to those around them.

Praying for events:

There are a number of things you could be praying for which are happening this week coming:

  • Assembly at 1.45pm and 3.10pm.  Pray for _____ as he takes both assemblies looking at how we can be forgiven?  Pray that children and teachers here the message and trust Jesus.
  • Fellowship meeting – 7.30pm this evening.  Pray as we gather that we would know God’s will and guidance about the future and be united together as a church family.
  • Friday 9-10.30 Little Fishes.  This launches this week.  Pray for the planning and practicalities of running this in a confined space.  Pray for mums to come and for gospel capable friendships tone built.  Thank God for the use of a space at school.
  • Sunday 10 am we meet to pray.
  • We start a new series in Jeremiah on Sunday morning, pray that God would speak to us through this book.
  • On Sunday afternoon we meet from 4pm looking at James 4v1-12.

Our mission

Everyone of us has a frontline where we are missionaries for Jesus.

  • Pray for those at work or schools, where often sharing the good news of Jesus is fraught with difficulties.  Pray for a lived out faith that makes people stand out and provokes questions.  Pray for those places where it is hard to stand out and be different – be it in workload, attitude to the boss or employees, or the office politics.
  • Pray for those at home, pray that families would come to trust Jesus, be it husbands or wives or children.
  • Pray for our neighbourhoods. Pray that we see our neighbours as a mission field and especially as Christmas approaches we think about how to reach them with the good news of Jesus.

Thanks for your partnership in prayer.

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Teach us to pray: Part 3

Dear Church Familyfollow me footprints

This week we are going to base our prayers on the prayer Jesus taught the disciples:

‘“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,”

  • Take some time to praise God, stop and think about who he is.
  • Amazingly He is our Father, we don’t deserve to be able to approach God and yet in the gospel we learn that by repentance and faith in Jesus we can. This is a staggering gift of intimacy.
  • Remind yourself that the one we come to pray to rules and reigns from heaven right now – why not pause and read Revelation 4 and turn that into prayer.
  • God is holy, he is different from anyone or anything. He deserves to be praised and glorified by all of creation.  Praise him for all he has made and does to sustain our universe.

10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Thank God for revealing his kingdom in Jesus, take some time to reflect on your experience of that and thank him for it.
  • Pray that increasingly the kingdom would be revealed in your life, in our church family, in our communities, in our world.
  • Pray for those in our church family facing illness, operations, recovery, grief, and loss. Pray that God would be at work keeping them, encouraging them, changing them as his kingdom comes in their lives.
  • Pray for other churches you know of: remember BEC, Christchurch Walkley and Spen Valley Church.
  • Why not pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea, the church is heavily persecuted, some 50-70,000 Christians are kept in labour camps, many of the population are starving.  Pray that God would be at work through his people’s tenacious faith and generosity.

 

11 Give us today our daily bread.

  • If God only gave you today what you had prayerfully asked him for yesterday what would you have?
  • Thank God for his blessings you have enjoyed today.
  • Pray for God to give you all you need today in terms of food. But also for clothing, patience, grace, compassion.
  • Pray that you would want just what God knows you need and that he would help you remember that man does not live on bread alone but on the word of God (Deut 8v3).

12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

  • Confess your sins, take time to honestly lay them out before God. Ask God’s forgiveness for the times when you have listened to your old master and not lived out the life of freedom from slavery to sin we were saved for.
  • Pray for those who have sinned against you, ask that God would enable you to forgive them, and to have an attitude that is ready to forgive even if they have yet to repent and ask forgiveness.
  • Pray that being quick to forgive and to repent would characterise us as a church family.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

  • Pray that God would graciously help you spot temptations siren voice and flee from it.
  • Read James 1v9-18 and pray that God would help you by his Spirit to know yourself and your temptations and fight them by trusting in his unchanging goodness.
  • Pray for God to protect the church from sin, and that it would be a place where we are increasingly concerned with one another’s growth in the gospel as we help one another fight sin.

Amen

Teach us to Pray: Part 2

Here’s a second example of the prayers we’ve been using as a congregation:

Dear Church Familypraying_hands.jpg

For the next few weeks we will be using some of the Psalms and other parts of scripture as a guide for our prayers:

Quieting our hearts

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 150

Stop and consider the attributes the Psalmist calls us to join with him in praising God for.  This is the God we can come to in prayer as children to a Father.  As you do so why not echo this prayer:

O Lord our God,

Grant me the grace to desire you with my whole heart;

That so desiring, I may seek and find you;

And so finding, may love you;

And so loving, may hate those sins from which you have delivered me;

Through Jesus Christ my Lord

Amen.’

St Anselm c.1109

Keeping Jesus central to life

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1v15-20

  • Praise God for sending his Son, the very firstborn over all creation. The one in whom all things were created to earth as a man.
  • Praise God that he is now the head of the church, and is reconciling and will reconcile all things to himself at the cross.
  • Pray for the sheer majesty and supremacy of Jesus to be a comfort for those in our fellowship who are struggling with various problems, illnesses and concerns.

Confession

“[Jesus] went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.

Mark 7v20-23.

Take some time to consider what is coming out of your heart.  Weigh your thoughts and your words as well as your actions.  What does it reveal about your heart, your desires and longings. Bring them now to God in confession. If there are any areas where you struggle to repent ask God to help you by the Spirit to feel the weight of your sin. 

Praying for yourself

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”

Pray that God would be at work by his Spirit in your heart and life to make these more and more apparent in you.

Praying for others

Pray for Grace church to be increasingly marked by:

  • A growing love for God
  • A growth in the fruit of the Spirit made manifest in practical love and care for one another.
  • A growing confidence in our faith and the gospel so that we share it with others.

Conclusion

“Now this I know:
the Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

Psalm 20v6-8

Al

praying_hands.jpg

Teach us to pray: how do we do that?

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That was the question the disciples asked Jesus and which people have been asking ever since.  I’ve met very few Christians who feel they have an adequate prayer life and most of the prayer warriors I’ve known have learnt how to pray like that through a lifetime of committed wrestling in prayer and to pray.  But how do we teach people to pray?  How do we help new believers both from within our church culture and from without pray?

That was something we discussed at an elders meeting some time ago.  We decided to try a weekly prayer bulletin that was sent to everyone in church with scriptures to base prayers on, varying from week to week in it’s structure and content.  Our aim was to help provide some structure on prayer, to help people model their prayers on God’s word, and to unite the church in praying for things we care about.

Aware that it’s been helpful for some I thought I’d share a few over the next few days, not because they are perfect or even good but just because I think this an area we as churches need to be helping our members in.  The prayers reflect our local context and circumstances at the time so I’ve taken out the names of individuals or families but left in the general contents to give you a general idea.

Church Family

For the next few weeks we will be using some of the Psalms and other parts of scripture as a guide for our prayers:

Quietening our hearts

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100

Stop and think about who it is we are coming to speak to; he is God; Father, Son and Spirit, he made us, he shepherds us with loving care and a goal in mind. Spend some time simply praising God for who he is, praise his name and all that stands for in terms of his character and actions, the way he has helped, guided, sustained, and saved you.

Keeping Jesus central to life

“‘How long has he been like this?’ [Jesus asked the boy’s father] ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

‘“If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’

Mark 9v21-27

  • Where are we prone to doubt Jesus can act? Are there areas of life where we have stopped bothering to pray because we aren’t sure Jesus can or will act there?
  • Echo this father’s prayer ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’.
  • Pray for those in our fellowship who are doubting Jesus love and care or may doubt it because of the situations and circumstances they face. Pray that they would persevere in their faith.
  • Pray that as a fellowship we can encourage and spur one another on to faith.

Confession

Take some time to ask forgiveness for those places in life and times when our Christians lives have been all talk and no actions. Now read Romans 12v1-2 and pray that God would be at work to change you:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Praying for others

  • Pray for those being baptised this weekend: ____________.
  • Pray for those who have had to delay being baptised for the moment but are planning to be baptised in the future.
  • Pray for our young people. Pray that the books they received on Sunday would spur them on to want to know and live for Jesus.
  • Pray for them to come to faith for themselves.
  • Pray for them to stand at school where some of the things they are taught directly contradict the Bible’s teaching.
  • Pray for Impact and those leading it: ______________.

Praying for the day

Use Paul’s words to either think through the day ahead or review the day ending. Ask God’s help and wisdom in each and every situation you will face.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4v8-9

Amen

I’d love to hear how you encourage and teach your congregations to pray, as we want to do so more and more.

Contextualisation: the problem, the solution or something else?

We all contextualise.  We do it everyday.  It’s in the way we present things, the words we use, the events we put on, prioritise and attend.  It’s in the way we dress appropriately to the occasion and situation.  We do it often without thinking.use-me  And contextualisation is not an evil thing in and of itself.  Contextualisation is a good thing when it enables us to make others comfortable, and welcome them appropriately.  You contextualised this morning when you decided not to wear your swimming costume (be that bikini, costume, trunks, budgie smugglers or mankini) to the office or to take the kids to school, and the rest of us are so glad that you did!  You stopped and thought ‘What is appropriate’?  We do it in our conversations trying to convey our ideas accurately to others by putting it into terms they understand.

And we naturally and rightly do it in our churches.  Our churches inhabit a place in space and time and we need to adjust to that – not in terms of what we teach because God’s word is eternally true, but in terms of how we present it.  The presenting issues of our society change over time, from generation to generation and we need to answer those questions to remove the barriers to the gospel so we can show how the gospel addresses the questions and desires of everyone in every age because we are all united in being created for a common goal.

But we also contextualise in other ways.  We contextualise in the way we order our service, in the welcome we give, in the songs we sing, the way we preach and teach, the nature of our midweek meetings, the other events we put on, and even in terms of the sins we address and how we address them.  I’m not going to get into whether we have contextualised rightly or are a generation behind because that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open now.  It is not necessarily wrong to contextualise, in fact it is absolutely necessary and why in the NT there is no one template for a church, but it can become so.

When our contextualisation becomes inflexible culture that is wrong.  When it become exclusive, a barrier that is wrong.  Think about Jonah, Jonah has an inflexible context in which he thinks God operates – God only operates among the Jews, or he should.  And so Jonah will not go to Nineveh.  Jonah has assumed the context and way in which he has seen God work is the only context and way in which God works.

Sometimes our churches are like Jonah – this is the way God works, this is the way church looks, discipleship is, evangelistic courses run, we do outreach etc…  But in doing so we are spiritually abandoning our Nineveh’s.

I’ve had this bought home to me recently.  The area where we are based was, when we planted, a needy area in every term imaginable.  And so we worked hard to contextualise – we listened to those in other situations with more experience than us and to the community, we learnt and we adapted what we did.  But in God’s providence what has happened?  The area in which we’re based has changed, a raft of 3-5 bedroom homes have been built.  The people on the school run have changed.  In a small area we now have all the classes and class divides you would normally expect in a small town.

Part of me, let me be honest and confess, thought well there are loads of network middle class churches who can reach them so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.  But God has been clear that that isn’t right.  God’s picture of his church is of people from every possible distinction united in the gospel declaring his glory.  If I settle for multi-cultural church but not people from all classes I am doing God’s glory a disservice.  I am dishonouring God.  The glory of our church is not in the numbers (there aren’t many) but in the different backgrounds united in the gospel

And so again we begin learning, listening and thinking about reforming.  What will it mean to be a church that reaches everyone from every background?  How do we ensure we don’t favour some?  That we don’t swing to extremes?  That we don’t over contextualise or settle for one form of contextualisation?

We don’t have answers yet.  We keep trying different things.  But I am convinced only the gospel has to power to unite these people, to overcome the class prejudice, the snobbery, real, inverse and imagined, the chips on shoulders which everyone has, and the media facilitated prejudgements which all make.  And so contextualisation can be the problem, it can be the cause, but it is also part of the solution provided we contextualise for all so that we might become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might see some come to saving faith in Jesus.

It begins by thinking about who the all are.  Not who are the majority or just who are the minority but who are the all and then resolving to listen to and reach all.

Why bother blogging?

Why blog?  That’s the question.  If there is no end to the writing of books how much more is that true of the posting of thoughts on a blog?  So why blog?  Because it helps me think myself clear, it helps to share the struggles and joys of ministry.  I’ve always found it to be a great way to stimulating thinking and discover fresh angles on something,  Here’s hoping this blog contributes to that especially in the area of church planting, pastoring, and following Jesus.