William Boekestein – I Don’t Love to Pray, But I Want To

In 1845 preacher William Walford introduced to the world a new hymn. In the second stanza, he wrote,

“Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer! The joys I feel, the bliss I share, of those whose anxious spirits burn with strong desires for thy return! With such I hasten to the place where God my Savior shows his face and gladly take my station there and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!”

After reading those words some of us might wonder if we’ve ever actually prayed! Let’s be honest: Prayer is not always bliss. We don’t hasten to it gladly. We don’t pray for an hour. We don’t even know what to pray for (Rom. 8:26–27).

We’re not the first people to make these confessions. In the mid-seventeenth century, a group of British church leaders met to develop instructional materials for the Christians under their care. One of the products of that meeting was the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647). This document offers 107 simple and timeless questions and answers (Q/A) about the Christian life. The catechism’s two questions introducing the Lord’s Prayer can help breathe life into our sometimes-arid prayer habits.

To continue reading William Boekestein’s article, click here.

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Colin Smith – Three Practical Steps to Pray Without Ceasing

To “pray without ceasing” means to have our minds always on the things of God, to be in constant communication with him, so that every moment may be as fruitful as possible. How can we learn to “pray without ceasing?” Here are three practical steps.

1. Plan times for prayer.

Striving to have an attitude of prayer can seem overwhelming. To understand and develop the mindset of continual prayer, we must start with developing the habit of intentional prayer.

At meals

If the practice of praying at meals is not something you were taught or do right now, I recommend it as an easy way to pray more. For those of us who follow this practice, it is likely that we quickly thank God for our food and get on with eating. However, being more mindful in our prayer takes little time and can immensely increase the effectiveness of it.

To continue reading Colin Smith’s article, click here.

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Chap Bettis – Three Powerful Questions to Unlock the Heart of Your Teen

I have a hobby you might find unusual. I collect questions.

While some people collect dolls, baseball cards, or antiques, I collect questions. You might wonder why I ever started this; and I’ll tell you: I came to recognize what a powerful teaching tool questions were and how they can really serve as a heart connector.

A quick survey of the gospels reveals that Jesus, our Savior and Teacher, asked 307 questions. He used questions to gather information (“How many loaves do you have?”), to teach (“Whose likeness and image is on this coin?”), and to gain commitment (“Who do you say that I am?”).

Too many times as a parent, I want to lecture my child when in fact a question is a much better tool to teach and to strengthen the relationship.

Realizing the power of questions changed how I communicated with my children. As I interacted with my four teens, I found three questions that powerfully unlocked many fruitful conversations.

To continue reading Chap Bettis’ article, click here.

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Mike Leake – What if Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse?

There is a mandatory question that the nurse at my doctors office always has to ask me. “Have you had feelings of hopelessness or despair in the last two weeks”? When she asked this question to me yesterday I was relieved that she said two weeks ago and not three. Had she said three weeks I’d have had to say, “yes”.

My doctor knows of my bouts of anxiety and depression but apparently my nurse doesn’t. She does, however, know that I’m a minister. And she rather absent-mindedly informed me yesterday that because I’m a minister if I ever answer yes to that question I just need to pray more. I told her it was probably a bit more complicated than that.

But she’s actually not alone in suggesting “more prayer” as a remedy to depression. A recent study shows that prayer is helpful to the anxious only if their view is that God is gracious and loving. But what happens when our view of God becomes so askew that we don’t believe he is gracious and loving?

To continue reading Mike Leake’s article, click here.

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George Swinnock – A Husband’s Prayer

I pray that my love to my wife may be like Christ’s to His church, as well in its goodness as in its greatness; I mean, that my chiefest endeavor may be that she may be sanctified and cleansed and at last be presented to the blessed and beautiful bridegroom, a gracious and glorious spouse without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Oh, how industriously did my Redeemer endeavor His church’s renovation and sanctity! How affectionately doth He beseech her to be holy! How fervently doth He beg of His Father to make her holy! How willingly did He broach His heart and pour out His blood to wash her from her unholiness! How plentifully doth He pour down His Spirit to work her to holiness! His birth was that she might be born again, and born holy; His life was to set her a copy of holiness; His death was to purchase for her a new stock of holiness. He gave Himself for her that He might redeem her from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. His precepts, His prayers, His tears, His blood, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His intercession are all for her holiness and purity. His name is called Jesus because He saves His people, not in, but from, their sins and unholiness. He doth not think Himself [complete] until His body [the church] be in heaven.

To continue reading George Swinnock’s article, click here.

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Tim Challies – When You Pray With Your Children, You Are Teaching Your Children to Pray

Every night my girls want me to pray with them and for them. If I do not tuck them in at night, or if I forget to pray when I do tuck them in, I can be sure that sooner or later I will hear feet coming down the stairs and then the question: “Daddy, will you pray with us?” Sometimes I think they are expressing a good and heartfelt desire and other times I think they are merely being superstitious, as if bad dreams will plague them and every shadow will frighten them if I do not pray. Either way, I never refuse them.

The other night I neglected to pray with them. It was at the end of a long day, I had fulfilled my parenting duties, I had gone off the clock, I wanted some “me time.” And then I heard the footsteps on the stairs. I groaned inwardly. “Daddy, you didn’t pray with us!”

To continue reading Tim Challies’ article, click here.

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Michael Boling – Four Keys to a Consistent and Purposeful Prayer Life

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about prayer, examining my own prayer life or admittedly the lack of one over the past few months. Part of this examination process has involved wondering what makes some people such prayer warriors and devoted to prayer while others seems to treat prayer as a pre-meal exercise or a quick barrage of words prior to falling asleep. Scripture presents three key truths concerning prayer: 1) It is an essential part of the Christian walk; 2) We have a model of how to pray outlined in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Just do it. There is really nothing fancy about praying. No formula to follow like some sort of Harry Potter spell or charm. We are simply told that prayer is vital, that we should pray that God’s will be done, and we are to pray without ceasing.

So what keeps us from praying on a consistent basis? What are the barriers to pouring out our hearts to the God who so desires to hear from us even though He already knows what we will say and what we need? I think there are three key barriers to prayer:

1) Pride. Yes that ugly enemy called pride tops the list. When it comes to prayer, the issue of pride rears its ugly head when we think we know all things and can go it alone in this thing called life. The finite human far too often believes they have sufficient wisdom to give it a go, not realizing that such a perception is about as false as the day is long. The spirit of pride declares that sufficiency can be found within self. How does Scripture respond to such a perspective of life? We are told such truth as “Prides comes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18) and “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Notice where pride leads and where wisdom is found. Pride leads to destruction and wisdom comes from God.

2) Business/Laziness. Both business and laziness are related barriers to prayer. With all the demands of life to include work, home, church, and hobbies to name a few, prayer gets shuffled to the back burner of the daily priority list if it even makes the list at all. Even when we have time in our schedule to pray, taking a nap on the couch or watching that final game of the playoffs takes priority over spending time in relational conversation with God.

3) Embarrassment/Timidity. How many of us decline saying a prayer before a meal in public? I will raise my hand. The question is why? It is truly out of an attitude of being embarrassed to bow your head and give thanks to God who provided the means by which you can partake of that meal. We are far too worried about what others might think about us saying a prayer of thanksgiving. Related to embarrassment is the attitude of timidity, the feeling like you are not eloquent enough with your words to say anything worthwhile which leads to saying nothing at all. Neither approach is correct.

How do we do battle against these three issues so these barriers to a consistent and purposeful prayer life can be demolished? Let me provide four methods:

1) Humility. Since Scripture says that “pride leads to destruction” (Prov. 16:18) and “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5), then we must grasp the reality that pride is not the answer and that wisdom comes from somewhere outside of ourselves. I am reminded of King Solomon who asked for wisdom from God above all else. Charles Spurgeon once rightly declared “Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God.”

2) Do not let business or laziness become an excuse. Martin Luther once stated, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Jesus often went to a quiet place in the morning to spend time in prayer with his Father. Scripture exhorts us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray without ceasing.” Thus, regardless of how much we feel must be crammed into our daily schedules, nothing should rise to such a level of importance that we do not take time to spend with our heavenly Father in prayer. Furthermore, we can always be in a spirit of prayer, conversing with God throughout the day. With that said, devoted and consistent time spent in the prayer closet is also a must.

3) Do not fear what man might say. The great preacher Leonard Ravenhill once stated, “A man who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by men.” In all honesty, who cares what people think if you bow your head and say a prayer before your meal in public? After all, Jesus did say “whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33) Strong words for certain and to a large degree, being embarrassed to pray in public before a meal can certainly be construed as falling dangerously close to that disowning category. Now mind you we are not to make a big show of praying to draw attention to ourselves. Engaging in that type of prayer is warned against in Matthew 6:7 as something the heathen do – the old Pharisaical approach. We should bow our heads, give thanks from a thankful heart, and partake of the meal. Who knows what seed might be planted in the hearts of those who observe that activity.

4) Just do it. Charles Spurgeon once commented that “True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” If you’re afraid you’re lacking in eloquence or that you have nothing worthy of saying, put that attitude away from you. Jesus provided a simple model for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. What is most interesting about that model prayer is it is a conversation between man and his God. It covers all the basics of life such as God’s will taking place, provision being given, forgiveness towards those who have wronged us, protection from the enemy, and giving glory to God. If you’re struggling with your prayer life, follow the keep it simple method. Have a conversation with God. He knows your heart and He already knows what you are going to say but He longs to hear it anyway. “A single groan” is the best place to start.

Prayer must be a part of our lives all day and every day. If you have been struggling with your prayer life, I trust this post will be of some help. If anything, remember this one truth – Just do it. Engage in prayer, exercise that spiritual muscle, and cast your cares upon God for He truly cares for you.

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William Gurnall – Prayer and Thanksgiving

“Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6

Prayer the sign of life. What is prayer — but the breathing forth of that grace which is breathed into the soul by the Holy Spirit? When God breathed into man the breath of life, he became a living soul. Just so, when God breathes into the creature the breath of spiritual life — he becomes a praying soul: “Behold, he prays,” says God of Paul to Ananias (Acts 9:11). Praying is the same to the new creature, as crying to the natural babe. The child is not learned by art to cry — but by nature — it comes into the world crying. Praying is not a lesson got by forms and rules — but flowing from principles of new life.

Prayer and reality. Prayer is an act in which we have immediately to do with the great God, to whom we approach in prayer. It is too sacred a duty to be performed between sleeping and waking, with a heavy eye or a drowsy heart — this God complained of: “There is none that calls upon Your name, that stirs up himself to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7). He counts it no prayer, where the heart is not stirred up and awake. Our behavior in prayer has an universal influence upon all the passages of our whole life. As a man is in prayer — so he is likely to be in all the rest; if he is careless in praying — then he is negligent in hearing, and loose in his walking. Prayer is the channel, in which the stream of divine grace, blessing, and comfort — runs from God into the heart; dam up the channel — and the stream is stopped.

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