George Whitefield: Pray for Others, As Well As Yourself

It is every Christian’s duty to pray for others, as well as for himself.

Now prayer is a duty founded on natural religion; the very heathens never neglected it, though many Christian heathens amongst us do; and it is so essential to Christianity, that you might as reasonably expect to find a living man without breath, as a true Christian without the spirit of prayer and supplication.

Thus, no sooner was St. Paul converted, but “behold he prayeth,” saith the Lord Almighty. And thus will it be with every child of God, as soon as he becomes such: prayer being truly called the natural cry of the new-born soul.

For in the heart of every true believer there is a heavenly tendency, a divine attraction, which as sensibly draws him to converse with God, as the lodestone attracts the needle.

A deep sense of their own weakness, and of Christ’s fullness; a strong conviction of their natural corruption, and of the necessity of renewing grace; will not let them rest from crying day and night to their Almighty Redeemer, that the divine image, which they lost in Adam, may through his all-powerful mediation, and the sanctifying operation of his blessed spirit, be begun, carried on, and fully perfected both in their souls and bodies.

Thus earnest, thus importunate, are all sincere Christians in praying for themselves: but then, not having so lively, lasting, and deep a sense of the wants of their Christian brethren, they are for the most part too remiss and defective in their prayers for them.

Whereas, was the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and did we love our neighbor in that manner, in which the Son of God our savior loved us, and according to his command and example, we could not but be as importunate for their spiritual and temporal welfare, as for our own; and as earnestly desire and endeavor that others should share in the benefits of the death and passion of Jesus Christ, as we ourselves.

Let not any one think, that this is an uncommon degree of charity; an high pitch of perfection, to which not everyone can attain. For, if we are all commanded to “love our neighbor (that is every man) even as ourselves,” nay to “lay down our lives for the brethren;” then, it is the duty of all to pray for their neighbors as much as for themselves, and by all possible acts and expressions of love and affection towards them, at all times, to show their readiness even to lay down their lives for them, if ever it should please God to call them to it.

Our blessed Savior, as “he hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps” in everything else, so hath he more especially in this: for in that divine, that perfect and inimitable prayer (recorded in the 17th of St. John) which he put up just before his passion, we find but few petitions for his own, though many for his disciples welfare: and in that perfect form which he has been pleased to prescribe us, we are taught to say, not MY, but “OUR Father,” thereby to put us in mind, that, whenever we approach the throne of grace, we ought to pray not for ourselves alone, but for all our brethren in Christ.

George Whitefield, from his sermon Intercession every Christian’s Duty

Battling Sin is Hard, Let's Play a Game Instead

We’re working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard in my Friday morning men’s group. The book is inspired by and takes its cues from two of Puritan Bible teacher John Owen’s works on the mortification of sin. The book itself is incredibly challenging… and more than a little bit convicting.

Here’s a passage from chapter four, which we’re studying this week:

Which is easier: to sit with a bucket of butter-soaked popcorn and watch Tom Cruise on the big screen for two hours, or to kneel and pray for five minutes? Tom Cruise wins hands down, because there is literally no competition. What the flesh hates is God, so it resists anything that smacks of God—especially communion with him. the flesh can curl up by your side and watch mindless movies all night long. But let even the barest thought of meditations flutter into your mind, and the flesh goes to Red Alert. Before you get past “Our Father,” your eyes, which were glued to the screen, now sag in sleepiness, and your attention, which was so fixed on the plot, now zips around the universe faster than the Starship Enterprise. [p. 46]

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. Whether I’m trying to pray, read my Bible, write a blog post or an article, work on my Systematic Theology certificate… I get incredibly distracted. Even now, as I’ve been typing this I’ve started yawning and getting drowsy.

But I guarantee that if I stop and check my Twitter feed or play a game on my iPhone, I’ll be just fine.

Because the flesh loves those things.

But it hates anything that makes me think about God.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do,” wrote Paul (Gal. 5:17). If this is true, then we must oppose the desires of the flesh and pursue godliness.

Because our natural selves want nothing more than to see each of us enslaved to sin.

Got any practical tips on how you’ve been doing this lately?

If I Skip It Today…

skip-today

Some days, it’s hard to get motivated to write. Today has been one of those days. (Incidentally, this can be especially frustrating when it’s what you do for a living.)

I really dislike it when I don’t feel inspired or motivated; days when I’m not really sure if I’ve got anything relevant to say (although I’m sure some would question whether I ever have anything relevant to say).

Days like these, it’s really tempting to just skip it and veg out (or catch up on my reading).

But it’s also these dry moments that help me develop discipline as a writer.

It’s easy to check out and do something else. But it’s harder to stick with it, sharpen your skills and increase your understanding of your craft.

In some ways, it’s like developing a regular habit of reading the Bible. Follow me down this rabbit trail, for a moment… [Read more...]

The 30 Minute Challenge

30-minute

When I was a kid, I always loved to read. In reading, I found some of my moments of greatest joy.

And honestly, I was, and continue to be a voracious reader.

This weekend while we were in Grand Bend with my in-laws, we were talking about books. Emily had mentioned that while I was away I had something like four or five show up in the mail from blogger review programs and contests. My mother-in-law, Mary, asked a great question:

How on earth do you actually find the time to read as much as you do?

I love the questions my mother-in-law asks. They always get me to think, and I greatly appreciate that.

Here’s the answer: I try to set aside at least 30-45 minutes a day to read.

The average person reads between 250 and 300 words per minute (although figures vary), which works out to roughly 3/4 to one page each minute. That said, I don’t (usually) keep track of the number of pages read, just my time. I do have a lot of things on the go with family, work, writing, and study, that it can be overwhelming to try to add anything into my days. [Read more...]

Everyday Theology: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Continuing to look at some of the more common ideas we have about, or relating to in some way, God, we get to this saying:

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

The saying, a common one used in arguments surrounding corporal punishment of children, is an adaptation of several of the sayings in the book of Proverbs, notably:

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die (Prov. 23:13)

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Prov. 13:24)

From Reacting to Overreacting

Frequently, this adage is used to advocate for corporal punishment, in the form of spanking. However, there are some that would suggest that it advocates for the abuse of children. To use this saying, or any other, as justification for child abuse goes far beyond the bounds of its original meaning, and is a notion that must be rejected, whether you are for or against spanking as a parent.

It is never acceptable for any parent to shame, berate, or belittle their child.

For the Christian, we are never given permission to punish our children. You will not find an example of this for us to follow anywhere in the Bible.

The example and command we are given is to constantly and consistently discipline our children, just as God disciplines His. [Read more...]