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Friday, March 30, 2007

Sacred Spaces

Just as every marriage is different, so is every relationship between the believer and their Lord. But in reading the biographies of men and women of God and watching the lives of those around me whom I admire in the Lord, they all have one thing in common. They have a sacred space where they meet with the Lord. I’m not talking about setting aside a time for spending time with Him, but an actual physical space where they go to meet with Jesus.

For Dick Eastman (The Hour That Changes The World) it is a tin hut set aside for the purpose; for Joyce Huggett (Listening To God) it is a room in her home; for Suzannah Wesley (mother of John and Charles) it was simply a chair where she could sit and put her apron over her head so that the children knew she was not to be disturbed.

When I was at Moorlands it was very difficult to find such a space. With 120 students on campus, most sharing rooms, it was almost impossible to find a place that could be used daily. You would think you’d found somewhere, but turn up the following day to find that someone else had beaten you to it. For a while my sacred space was a bus shelter just beyond the college gates!

The value of a personal sacred space, whatever form it takes, is that it becomes a place where it is easier to slip into the Lord’s presence. It becomes infused with all the memories of past experiences with the Lord in prayer. It almost seems sometimes as though He is already waiting for us there when we arrive.

Prayer College Assignment
If you don’t yet have a sacred space, give some thought and consideration to where you might create one. If you do have such a space, ask the Lord if there’s anything you can do to enhance it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Power Of Simple Prayer

The latest magazine from Joyce Meyer Ministries has several articles on prayer. One, entitled "The Power of Simple Prayer" might be of particular interest. Click HERE to open the magazine as a .pdf file. The article is on page 5 of the .pdf file. It takes a few minutes to download, so please be patient!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is The Clock Ticking On Your Prayer Time?

We've compared the idea of church leaders spending a paltry 10 minutes a day in prayer with the concept of consecrating an hour each day for prayer. But is time the most important thing? Certainly, it's not the case that God answers lengthy prayers more willingly than short ones. I personally have found that single word prayers such as, "HELP!" can be particularly effective!

How Long?
We must not get hung up on counting the minutes we spend on our knees. Being a Christian is about having a relationship with the Lord Jesus. We need our moments of personal intimacy with Him which are ours alone, but an equally important part of the relationship is how we live with the Lord outside of the prayer closet.

Abraham's Prayer
Having said that, I want to repeat something I mentioned a few weeks ago when we looked at Abraham pleading with God for the lives of the people of Sodom (Gen 18:20-33). Abraham stood before God and repeatedly asked Him to spare Sodom for the sake of any righteous people living there - will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Abraham seemed to be negotiating with God as he repeated his request time and again, until He agreed He would not destroy Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people. The boldness of Abraham is worthy of consideration, but what I find most fascinating about this passage is that it was not Abraham who ended the conversation. It was God (v33). Only when God had finished with Abraham did Abraham return from the place of prayer.

Rewards of Prayer
So the answer to the question, "how long should I pray?" is not a specific length of time. We should pray until the Lord has finished His dealings with us. There are no gold stars for praying for two hours if all God has to say to us today is, "go and tell your neighbour about me." Equally, we must be wary of rushing away from the Lord’s presence when He has more for us. In our culture it is extremely hard to find space to give the Lord an open ended time. We have responsibilities with work and family that the Lord has given us and which should not be neglected. On most days we will be limited with our time. The Lord knows this and will honour us for giving the time we have. But we can find space sometimes to give extended time to the Lord and the blessings which will flow from that are inexpressible.

A Challenge
As we come to our times of prayer we are accountable to no-one but the Lord. There is no competition here to see who can spend the longest time in prayer. The challenge is for each of us to get our personal devotional life in tune with the Lord’s specific will for us.

Prayer College Assignment Ask the Lord what one thing you can do to improve your personal prayer times and expect an answer.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Couldn't You Even Watch With Me For One Hour?

A few weeks ago, finding myself with just 15 minutes to prepare a message I decided to speak on prayer. One of the passages I referred to was Matt 6:36-45. The Lord Jesus is praying in Gethsemane and seeking the support of His disciples who are woefully lacking in their prayers. At the heart of this passage is the Lord's question, "couldn't you even watch with me for one hour?"

I made an off-the-cuff remark about the inability of most of us to spend and hour in prayer. An hour of prayer seems a huge leap from the 10 minutes of prayer I mentioned last week. Most people would baulk at the idea.

There are probably three main reasons why the thought of praying for an hour is just too much for many Christians.

People don't know where in their daily schedule they are going to find an extra hour for anything. But I've discovered something amazing. Our heavenly Father blesses everyone with the same number of hours in the day - 24. Highly productive people such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Billy Graham all have the same amount of time available to them as we do each day. It's just that some people use their time more wisely than others. If you had to find an extra hour in the day to cope with some emergency, you could find it. Here are some ideas for how to find that extra hour. Give up an hour of TV each day; get up an hour earlier; reassess the time you spend on various chores.

Past Experience
Many don't have a positive experience of prayer. Prayer, when it's functioning properly is an intimate relationship between the believer and their Lord. The communication is supposed to be two-way. It's not simply about taking our requests to God, it's also about hearing Him speak to us and enjoying His company. Why is it that some Christians don't have this fulfilling experience in prayer? It's quite simple. It takes time to develop a relationship, and it cannot be done simply by rushing into the throne room with our petitions and then rushing out again. The writer to the Hebrews says, "he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," (Heb 11:6 KJV). God reserves the reward of the experience of His presence to those who are willing to take the time to seek Him out.

Feeling Inadequate
Many people just don't know what on earth they are going to do in prayer for a whole hour. My personal experience is that there have been phases of my Christian life when I found it easy to spend lengthy times in prayer and other periods where prayer has been almost non-existent. I am indebted to the friend who lent me a tape entitled, "The Hour That Changes The World" by Dick Eastman. If you think you can't pray for an hour you need to get hold of the book. It will transform your life. It provides an outline to structure your prayer life. Could you spend 5 minutes a day praising God? Could you pray for others for 5 minutes every day? If you can, then you can spend an hour a day in prayer.

Prayer College Assignment
Get hold of a copy of "The Hour That Changes The World" by clicking on the link below.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Our Greatest Example

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Eph 1:16
10 Minutes A Day?
The first thing to be said, though it may seem rather obvious, is that we need to pray.

I remember reading a survey many years ago in a British Christian magazine. One striking finding stood out so clearly that I remember it still - the average church minister spent less than 10 minutes a day in prayer.

It seems to me to be blindingly obvious that a community pastored by people who can't or won't pray is destined for failure. Where is the commitment to the flock? How can you lead a people in God's plan if you haven't spent time with Him, learning what that plan is? How can you preach God's word to His children if you haven't spent time seeking His heart? How can you teach others to pray if it isn't part of your own experience? If there is no prayer there can be no growth, either in numbers or maturity.

Paul The Pray-er
The apostle Paul knew how to pray. We see it in His letters. The letter to the Ephesians is full of prayer. Paul says he prays for them constantly (1:16). Presumably the other churches to whom he wrote were on his heart and in his prayers too.

Our Greatest Example
But our greatest example is the Lord Jesus.

We know He "often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer" (Lk 5:16), that He was known to get up to pray before dawn (Mk 1:35) or even spend the whole night in prayer (Lk 6:12).

The disciples could see the impact of prayer on Jesus' life and ministry and so asked the Lord to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1). In response He gave them what has become known as the Lord's Prayer.

Jesus showed his followers how to pray by demonstrating prayer in his own life first and then by teaching them. So here at Prayer College we will take the same approach. We will return to the Lord's Prayer later, but we will begin by looking at the example of Jesus. In the meantime, my prayer for you is Ephesians 3:16-19.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Prayer College Assignment
Your homework is to commit to praying this prayer every day this week for someone you know who seems to particularly need to experience the love of God at the moment.