On the Sabbath Jesus rested the Tomb, we keep watch, anxiously awaiting his resurrection. These prayers, ordered according to the traditional hours of the Church, help us to watch and wait.Continue Reading...
Archives For Prayer
Though it’s a natural human response to crisis, Prayer is a difficult, misunderstood discipline. We can use Prayer to order our day, to escape the tyranny of the urgent.Continue Reading...
Ever wish prayer was easier? You’re in luck! Introducing the new Prayer Hotline! A simple way to organize your prayers!Continue Reading...
Gathering weekly to worship is how Christians recenter our lives on Jesus as our King. We reorder ourselves around God on the throne.Continue Reading...
Francis began by considering how easily leaders are distracted in the present moment. He asked if he was the only person there who had trouble staying with people in the moment. He’s certainly not; this is something we all struggle with. He observed that
If we can’t be present with people, how much harder is it to be present with God?
Catalyst asked Francis to speak on “God’s presence matters”. This is an understatement. Really, nothing else matters. Jesus said,
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5 (NRS)
If I’m connected to Jesus, then I will bear fruit. If not, then I can do nothing.
Francis asked us to consider the Psalmist’s request in Psalm 27:4:
One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. – Psalm 27:4 (NRS)
Francis asked us a convicting question:
If I had a transcript of my prayers in the last month, what would l be praying for over and over? Would it be to dwell with God?
If we don’t seek God consistently in our devotional life, how much less do we rely on God in the midst of crisis? Francis explored a situation in which David was in crisis (1 Samuel 30:1-6). He noted that rather than respond, David waited on God. He “strengthened himself in the LORD”. Is that how we respond in crisis?
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. – Hebrews 5:7 (NRS)
God heard Jesus’ prayers because of his reverence. Similarly, according to Francis, God only hears our prayers if we are holy. Francis asks if we are present enough in our prayer lives that God hears us?
This section of Francis’ talk was highly problematic. He reduced God to a fertility deity: if you do the right things, God will answer your prayers. Disturbingly, he flipped this in his message: my prayers get answered, therefore I am very connected with God.
That may or may not be true for Francis. I hope it is true. But I know plenty of people who are plenty holy and their prayers aren’t answered. At least not with the resounding Yes Francis implied. I wanted to hear some qualification in his talk. Some encouragement for those people who are pursuing God but feeling abandoned. Some admission that prayer isn’t a magic incantation that lets you bend God to your will. I’m sure he doesn’t believe that’s how prayer works, but this particular talk was thick with legalism.
Francis ended with some stories of his own ministries. He challenged me to consider how I design ministries that totally fail without the Holy Spirit.
My takeaway: Do I rely on God for success in my ministry, or do I depend on myself? How fully am I dwelling with God?
Some churches offer an unqualified YES as a response. The so-called Prosperity Gospel Churches, the Name It And Claim It theologies, have garnered tons of attention both in the traditional media and on the internet. In its crudest form, the Prosperity Gospel teaches that God wants you to experience wealth prosperity now, that all you have to do is believe, to “name” what you want and “claim” it – believe that it will happen – in Jesus’ name. Prosperity Gospel preachers point to Jesus’ words in John, like the verse above and this one:
You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. — John 14:13 (NLT)
Critics of the Prosperity Gospel are quick to point out, however, that even the most cursory tour of the Scriptures reveal that those who follow God most closely were often the least prosperous. Following God does not guarantee wealth and prosperity. So what do we make of those promises?Continue Reading...
If you’re anything like me, prayer is more often than not a challenge. I’ve tried a lot of different stuff, but no matter what, I can’t seem to capture that perfect pray-for-seven-hours super Christian technique I hear so many people I admire talk about. I’m lucky to maintain a good five solid minutes of concentration. As a result, I end up feeling guilty (I’m a pastor, after all!) and sometimes rather worthless.
If you can relate, then pick up Ken Wilson’s Mystically Wired. Using well-documented research on how the brain works, Ken argues that our brains are actually wired to pray. All it takes is a little training. With tons of great real-life examples drawn from his years of ministry and personal exploration, Ken paints a compelling, inviting picture of what a real and engaging life of prayer can be.
But the best part is his confession: he is me.
He started out the same as I did, and his journey to powerful prayer was awkward, intimidating and confusing. He relates his journey with humility and humor, and as I read I kept thinking “I can really do this. It’s not hard, just different!” And that’s probably the best part of Mystically Wired: it’s so stinking practical. After he explains why prayer works the way it does on your brain, Ken lays out easy-to-apply methods to get started and plenty of encouragement to keep you going. He talks about how hard it’s going to be, the thoughts and feelings you’ll have as you move forward and how to chart your progress.
This is really more of a manual to keep with you and refer back to than it is a one-time read.
By drawing from the best science and the best mystics in Christian tradition, Mystically Wired also becomes a subtle critique of a Modernist faith that leaves no room for mystical experiences with God, like Ken’s moving fireside conversation with Jesus. I’m very thankful for this book, and excited to implement Ken’s suggestions and see where my prayer life goes! But, per his advice, I’m starting with five minutes, not five hours.
Bottom Line: If you’ve wanted to learn to pray but have no idea where to begin, this is the book for you. It’s simple, accessible and practical.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”