Why I try to pray right away

Prayer

“Well, how about we pray right now?” My wife looks at me with a stunned expression as these words come forth. We’re in the car, discussing whether or not it would be possible for us all to go to an event at the end of August, one that is a 14 hour drive away. This, naturally, means a long time in the car, overnights in hotels, and, of course, money. So, right there, in the car, at a stop light, we prayed and asked the Lord to provide the means for us to go to this particular event as a family if it were to be his will.

This has been something I’ve been striving to do more and more frequently of late. But why? Because of some pretty serious conviction that set in while reading William Edgar’s, Countercultural Spirituality: Schaeffer on the Christian LifeIn the book, Edgar shares a question Francis Schaeffer posed to his wife, Edith—one that proved to be a defining moment for them:

What if we woke up one morning and our Bibles were changed? What if all of the promises about prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed from the Bible by God himself, not as the liberals might remove them, by demythologization, but really eliminated from the text? What real difference would it make in our lives? (129)

How would you answer this?

And I don’t mean what is the “right” answer—how would you, the person reading this post at this moment, actually answer it? I suspect, if you’re anything like me, and if you’re anything like so many Christians among us, it might not make that much of a difference at all.

And that’s what got me thinking. Cultivating a healthy prayer life has been one of the most challenging parts of my life as a Christian, and the area of my greatest weakness. It’s not that I don’t believe in the importance of prayer, nor do I disbelieve in God’s working through it. On the contrary. I take the God at his word on this, and I’ve seen him answer prayer powerfully and overtly. And yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, I still struggle with this disconnect and prayerlessness can easily reign in my life if I’m not watchful.

The tough thing about prayer is setting up more rules doesn’t really help. You can’t tell someone to pray more better and expect it to go well. You can’t set up an arbitrary schedule, committing in your heart that you will pray every day for two hours a day when you’ve spent most of the last month praying for barely 10 minutes during a week.  stirring “Pray more harder,” doesn’t really help, nor does scheduling prayer times throughout the day (though I’m not against such things). But something you can do that is helpful is simply to pray when it occurs to you to do so. If someone suggests praying, then pray. If someone asks for prayer, do it right at that moment, do it. It doesn’t have to be deep and profound. It just has to be from the heart.

And this is what I’ve been doing since I read this question from Schaeffer; and as a result, I’ve probably prayed more in the last couple of days than in the last two weeks. Why? Because if we believe in God’s promises about prayer, our lives ought to be shaped by that belief. If we see an ongoing pattern of prayerlessness, then we need to ask what we really believe about this?

If we believe God’s promises about prayer, then we ought to pray. If we are to break out of the grip of prayerlessness, the way to do so is to pray our way out. It’s not easy, but if we believe prayer makes a difference, we ought to pray like it makes a difference.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful?

Sam Allberry:

You won’t find Jesus teaching that your life isn’t worth living if you can’t be fulfilled sexually—that a life without sex is no life at all. You won’t see biblical Christianity insist that our sexual proclivities are so foundational to who we are—and that to fail to affirm such proclivities is to attack people at their core. All this comes not from biblical Christianity but from Western culture’s highly distorted view of what it means to be a human. When an idol fails you, the real culprit turns out to be the person who urged you worship it, not the person who tried to take it away.

On a related note, you should also read Christopher Robins’ response to City Church San Francisco’s announcement regarding their stance on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

God, Make Me a Looker

Lore Ferguson:

This past week my pastor taught on active faith expressed in works. I don’t know that I would have had ears to hear his words quite so well had I not been soaking in the richness of George Muller’s biography for the past few weeks. Multiple times while reading a physical sob rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. It was not wonder at the faith of Muller (though that was there), but wonder at the God in whom he trusted and the gift of faith on which he acted.

Who was St. Patrick?

A great excerpt from Christian History Made Easy:

On Sentimentality and Christian Writing

Ted Kluck:

That said, many people rip Christian writing because of how overtly sentimental it often is. But, I don’t think it’s sentimentality that kills Christian writing as much as it is a propensity for making the message trump the characters in the story. In making the “takeaways” obvious, we kill any shot we had at telling a decent story. Writing is hard enough without having to include an obvious subheading every four lines and having to shoehorn in a Bible verse that was specially harvested (often out of context) to prove my point.

Switching to a 5 day work week

Justin Buzzard shares some really good stuff here about why he’s made this switch. Pastors and ministry folks, consider it carefully (especially if your “season” of busyness too closely resembles winter in Narnia).

The evolution of the Batman films

This is a really great piece of art:

Batman evolution poster for print

If you’re a fan of such things, be sure to order a print from the artist.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Kindle deals from Crossway are focused on apologetics:

Get all of them, if you can.

Why Jerram Barrs read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows six times in six months

This is really interesting:

HT: Justin Taylor

A Good Prayer before Preaching

Erik Raymond:

Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!

On the word “porn”

Douglas Groothuis encourages us to only use this word for what it actually communicates.

Let’s Bring Conversation Back

Jonathan Parnell:

Conversation has fallen on hard times.

Let’s face it, most of us find talking to strangers to be a rarity. This is our new societal reality. The in-between moments of life — running errands and picking up carry-out — are now filled with checking our mobile devices. We’d rather scroll through our Twitter feed than venture out with the risky words of a bygone era, “Hi, what’s your name?” But more than that, when we actually make plans for conversation apart from business, it can sound more like a threat than an invitation.

Links I like

Links

Save on books on prayer

Just one new Kindle deal that I’ve noticed today, which is Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol 1 by Josh McDowell ($3.99). Over at the Westminster Bookstore, however, you’ll find some great deals on a number of books on prayer:

Why You Should Think Twice Before Badmouthing Obama

Mark Altrogge:

It doesn’t surprise me that people would make these kinds of comments about our president. People have probably said similar things about every president. But what grieves me is when I hear Christians making these kinds of comments about our president, or posting comments like these on Facebook.

Three Reasons Why People Leave Your Church

Erik Reed:

As a staff, we were tired of the revolving door. We were working too hard to reach people only to lose them. So we worked to pinpoint the reasons we were were losing people. We discovered three dominant reasons. These three things are now on our radar. We constantly think about systems, communication, structure, and strategy for fixing these three issues.

A Young Earth

Whether you agree or not, this is an interesting read.

You’re doing Twitter wrong

7 Confidence Boosters in Evangelism

J.A. Medders:

Evangelism is a trust-fall into the power of God. Many say the don’t evangelize because they don’t know enough. Well, no one knows enough to bring on resurrection. Others say they don’t evangelize because they aren’t sure what to say at certain points. And others don’t evangelize because they are nervous.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new deals for you today:

Finally, Zondervan’s put a whole bunch of Lee Strobel’s books on sale for between $1.99 and $2.99, including:

God, Protect My Girls

Tim Challies:

As a dad, I pray for each of my kids just about every day, and I take it as both a joy and responsibility to bring them before the Lord. Praying for the kids is a helpful way of training myself to remember that they are his before they are mine, and that any good they experience will ultimately find its source in God himself. And I believe that prayer works—that God hears a father’s prayers for his children, and that he delights to answer those prayers. One of my most common prayers for my girls is a pray for their protection. Here is how I pray for God to protect them.

Vaccination and the Christian worldview

Scott James:

The discussion of whether or not parents should vaccinate their children has been going on in some circles for years, but recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States have brought the conversation to a fever pitch. As Ross Douthat has recognized, vaccine skepticism occurs on a spectrum and has a wide range of motivating factors. When faced with the various questions that arise from so many different perspectives, the vaccine conversation sometimes sounds more like a cacophony. In the midst of the confusion, Christians should lead the way as those who wisely weigh the evidence and act accordingly for the good of those around them.

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades?

Kevin DeYoung:

We are coming up on a thousand years, and Christians still haven’t made up for the Crusades. No matter how many times Billy Graham makes the most admired list, we’ll still have the Crusades to deal with.  When President Obama encouraged humility in denouncing ISIS today in light of the Crusades from close to a millennium ago, he may have been making a clumsy moral equivalence argument, but he was only voicing what many Americans (and many Christians) have articulated before. Remember the faux confessional booths from way back in the 2000’s when Christians would apologize to non-Christians for the Crusades? If there is one thing in our collective history that we cannot apologize for enough it is the history conjured up by pictures like the one in this post.

Yet, for all the times we’ve lamented the Crusades, how many of us know more than two sentences about them? Isn’t it wise to know at least a little something about the Crusades before we borrow them to get an advanced degree in self-recrimination?

If All The Bible Translations Had A Dinner Party

If you don’t at least chuckle at this, well…

Getting the Gospel Right

This is a really good interview with R.C. Sproul.

How to pray for TruthXchange 2015

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This evening, TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank kicks off, and after a long (loooooong) day of travel, I’ve finally made it to the promised land. Or at least, a land without ice and snow (I’m easy to please).

With the fun getting started this evening (if you’re attending, be sure to say hello), I wanted to suggest a few ways you can be praying for us over the next few days:

Wisdom for the speakers. The conference theme, Generational Lies and Timeless Truths, is an important one. There is so much confusion out there among Christians in particular on a host of issues, from sexuality to social justice, and we want our messages to be as helpful as possible to our hearers.

The wellbeing of everyone working behind the scenes. TruthXchange’s staff and volunteers have been working tremendously hard to make this event great. Please be praying for the health and wellbeing of all those people, that they would be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors and they’d have the bandwidth to handle any unexpected surprises (my delay last night was definitely one of those).

The practicality of the messages. We want people to actually be able to do something with what they learn at this event—specifically to be stronger witnesses for the Lord in their every day lives (and I want this as a speaker, too).

The centrality of the gospel. Because of the very nature of the subject matter, it’s easy to skew negative and treat the topics as though everything is going to hell in a handbasket. And while there are many things to be concerned about, we want to focus on the good news, and why the Christian worldview—and more specifically, as a faithful follower of Jesus—is so much better than the alternatives being offered in the culture today. Please pray that each speaker would keep focused on the main thing: Jesus Christ.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And don’t forget these from earlier this week:

Today is also $5 Friday sale at Ligonier. They have a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar?

C. Michael Patton:

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

Lessons from the School of Prayer

An excerpt from D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul:

Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, two sources have largely shaped, and continue to shape, my own prayer life: the Scriptures and more mature Christians.

The less authoritative of these two has been the advice, wisdom, and example of senior saints. I confess I am not a very good student in the school of prayer. Still, devoting [space] to their advice and values may be worthwhile before I turn to the more important and more authoritative of the two sources that have taught me to pray.

Among the lessons more mature Christians have taught me, then, are these.

“Does God Care if Your Favorite Football Team Wins?”

Derek Rishmawy:

How we answer the question, “Does God care a whole lot about the outcome of football games?” reveals much about how we understand God’s love, sovereignty, and care for the world.Some might hear the question and interpret it, “Well, is God rooting for a particular team?” Unless you’re a total fanatic, convinced that God himself favors your home-team, your gut instinct is “probably not.” It seems inconsistent with his universal love for all. Still, in Scripture, God did pick Israel to be his chosen people, and within Israel, he is seen to bestow special grace on various figures, either for particular purposes in redemption or his own good pleasure. God loves all, but he also seems to focus on particulars.

Christ and Pop Culture LIVE: With Real People, In a Real Space, With a Real Audience (We Hope)

If you’re going to TGC, this could be a lot of fun. Am I going to TGC? That remains to be seen. But if I am, I sure hope to be at this.

On the Christian’s anger problem

Aaron Earls:

Too often we seek to baptize our rage and treat our temper as sanctified, when in reality we are merely trying to find a biblical sounding excuse for being a jerk.

So how do you differentiate between man’s anger in James 1 and the ability to be angry without sin in Ephesians 4? I see three questions that we need to ask about each situation in which we feel anger rising in us.

I think we should treat each one as a gate that has to be passed through to before asking the next one. If the answer to only one is negative, then we should question whether or not our anger is biblical.

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Lore Ferguson:

Here is what I know about looking:

When I was young, rebellious and caustic, rolling my eyes at my parents at age 10 and sneering at them by age 15, they would say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and I felt seen, exposed.

I knew I was already seen and exposed, but I felt it. I felt it when I saw their disappointment or disapproval or anger at me. When I saw it in their eyes. I felt that. I felt every weight and every sin and every bit of my flesh rolled up and held in their parental gaze. And I looked away. I could not hold that look for long, my sin was too great, their anger too heavy.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Heroes of the Christian Faith teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500-1620 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by various authors (ePub and MOBI)
  • The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

And finally, be sure to check out this great deal on a new curriculum for middle schoolers at the Westminster Bookstore.

Jesus and Scripture

Andrew Wilson:

Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.

Today I stopped being afraid of the social media mob

Really appreciated this piece by Matthew Paul Turner.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

David Murray, continuing his series reading through Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now:

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision.

7 ways handwriting can save your brain

This is really interesting (HT: Aaron Earls)

All I really want

Red Rubber Studios did a great job on this new music video for Deni Gauthier:

What to Do When We’re Prayerless

Jon Bloom:

If prayer is the native language of faith and we’re struggling with prayerlessness, then the first thing we need to do is look for a faith problem. There’s a faith breakdown somewhere and until we get that fixed, our problem will remain.

How do we fix this?

 

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Several volumes from Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series are on sale for $3.99 each:

Want to get a sense of the series? Get Theologians on the Christian Life: On the Church for free. Also on sale:

And finally, four volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series are $2.99 each:

What kids around the world eat for breakfast

This is pretty interesting.

Making The Church A Safe Place For Mental Illness

Stephen Altrogge:

In some churches, there’s this weird taboo surrounding mental illness. Nobody ever talks about it or acknowledges that it’s real. If a guy is sunk into depression, we say he’s, “Going through a rough patch,” or, “Having a tough time,” or we don’t say anything at all. If someone has cancer, we pray that God will heal her. If someone has back surgery, we make meals for him. But when it comes to mental illness, we don’t know what to say or do. Everyone knows something is wrong but nobody actually talks about it.

Don’t fall prey to the Facebook hoax

Remember friends, the only one who looks silly is you. And all the people who copy and paste what you post.

5 Reasons to Pray for Other Churches

Eric Bancroft:

Most evangelical churches that are faithful to preach the gospel are eager to do God’s work. While they represent this in a variety of ways, it usually includes baseline expectations of evangelism and discipleship. They organize their meetings, hire their staff, train their volunteers, structure their programs, and build their buildings with these intentions in mind. If they have been at it for any length of time and God has blessed their labor, they have seen fruit. Lives have been impacted. Homes have been changed. Relationships have been deepened.

parsons-old kind of heretic

“Saying you’re a new kind of Christian with a new kind of Christianity is basically saying you’re an old kind of heretic.”
—Burk Parsons—

Links I like

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Book deals for Christian readers

First, here’s a look at a whole bunch of Kindle deals:

Christian Audio’s free audiobook for January is Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening. January’s free book for Logos Bible Software is The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Genesis by Herbert Edward Ryle. You can also get A.T. Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch for 99¢.

Finally, in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier, you’ll find a bunch of great resources, including:

  • Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Themes from Hebrews teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

Predictions for 2015

Jonathan Howe has a few interesting ones here. I’m skeptical of the last one, though.

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

It’s a new year, and that means lots of you have made resolutions, set goals, or planned ahead about what you’ll read this year. Of course the hardest part of any resolution or plan is following through. That’s why you should consider Goodreads. It’s not just another social media site; it’s a wonderful tool for any reader to discover new books and mark progress. Here are four features of Goodreads to help you meet your 2015 reading goals.

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

There is a reason why the Lord said what he said in Luke 10:3.  Some people are wolf-ish.  They will never accept a minister of the gospel, because they do not love the Lord of the gospel.  They join our churches.  They even become leaders.  But their nature within is wolf-ish – hungry, cunning, attacking.

Some pastors reading this post are encircled by wolves.  My brother, here are three things to remember right now.

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

Every Christian wants a deeper life of prayer in this new year. Who, after the close of one year, looks back over the time in his closet and thinks, “Yeah, I’d better cut back on all the praying this next twelve months”? We all want to grow, to enjoy richer fellowship with God — the question, though, comes down to how we think it will happen. Might it mean that we pray more consistently? Absolutely. Might it mean that we intercede more for others? Most likely. Might it mean that our petitions are more passionate? Maybe, depending on what we mean by passionate praying.

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

When I started to read Richard Sibbes for this undertaking, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The way he used English was quite foreign! I had actually not read him before when I began, which made this pretty interesting. I had no preconceived ideas or biases for or against him. After reading his work for a full year, I came away with a few reflections.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

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There’s no shortage of good books on prayer. Martin Luther’s Simple Way to Pray, Answers to Prayer by George Müller, CH Spurgeon’s The Pastor in Prayer, A Call to Pray by J.C. Ryle… These are some of the finest books on prayer I’ve read, and Christians would be doing themselves a disservice in not reading them.

While there are many wonderful classic books on prayer, I’ve noticed a severe lack of good modern books on the subject. Most modern books tend to fall into a couple of categories: wicked and stupid. The wicked ones accuse people who pray things like “if it’s Your will” of being cowards who are afraid to pray boldly. The stupid ones encourage us to pray like pagans.

And then Tim Keller went and wrote a book on prayer. Keller, “wicked,” and “stupid,” are words that do not belong together. And he only further proves this in Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Theology before practice

Keller offers us something different with Prayer—he doesn’t jump straight into the mechanics, but instead begins by helping readers understand prayer. He puts developing a right theology of prayer ahead of principles for its practice. This is important because most of us (likely) don’t have an articulated theology of prayer that goes beyond “I pray because I’m supposed to.”

While that’s true, there’s significantly more to it than that. Prayer, Keller explains, is both an instinct and a spiritual gift. “As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God… As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started” (50). So, on an instinctual level, the “I’m supposed to” is correct—we just don’t understand why. This instinct is why prayer is a nearly universal phenomenon; regardless of their specific beliefs, nearly all humans have a concept of prayer, though the forms and purposes differ drastically.

But in describing prayer as a gift of the Spirit, Keller wants us to understand that prayer is both a conversation and encounter with God. It’s not “plunging into the abyss of unknowing and a state of wordless unconsciousness,” but something tethered to God’s Word, the place from which we learn of and hear from God. Thus, “if the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps as slowly as a child learns to speak” (55).

Keller’s continual emphasis on keeping prayer connected to the Bible is important, and something sorely lacking today. What he doesn’t advocate for is a type of rote “just pray what the Bible says,” but to pray through the Scriptures as Luther encourages in his teaching on the subject. To let the Word guide and shape our prayers.

Leaning on the wisdom of the past

Perhaps what I enjoy most about Prayer—beyond the simple, practical principles provided—is the fact that Keller doesn’t attempt to be original (which is what gets us all into so much trouble). Instead, he leans heavily on the wisdom of those who have gone before us—Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Owen, Edwards, Torrey, and, more recently, Lewis, Clowney, and Packer (with a dash of the Westminster Catechism thrown in for good measure).

Could one ask for better influences?

This is where the book’s strong emphasis on being tethered to the Word in prayer comes from. Augustine, the Reformers, the Puritans, and faithful modern saints understood this better than many of us do today. We tend to give a verbal hat tip, whereas they see the Scriptures as vitally important to our prayer life. Luther advocates for a spiritual riffing off of the Word in prayer—taking the words of, say, the Lord’s Prayer and making them our own. Calvin encourages us to hold a joyful fear of God in prayer; to always be reverential in our stance toward Him and pursue humility as we pray. And Clowney likewise suggests “prayer involves an honesty that has no real parallel in human relationships” (135)

We repeatedly come to this conclusion throughout the book: if prayer is both an instinct and a gift, we need to pray in light of what God has said about Himself—and about us.

Awe, intimacy, and struggle

All that being said, prayer is not “easy.” There are seasons when I have a very strong and healthy prayer life, but often it feels perfunctory and powerless. Often my own sinfulness, stubbornness, and even some insecurity are the cause. When the weight of the world feels as though its pressing down, it’s difficult to even know where to begin. When prayer feels forced and feeble, it’s hard to muster up the power to continually pursue it.

And yet, this is what God desires of us. He wants us to embrace the struggle. because “prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer” (32).

As I read this book, I continually found myself surprised by how much I needed to underline; it’s rare to find a page in my copy where I don’t have a note, squiggle or marking of some sort because I was confronted or challenged by what I’d just read. And yet, I did not walk away from the book disheartened.

Keller’s message, far from the pray more harder of so many of the “wicked” and “stupid” books available today, challenges us, but reminds us of the grace of God. This is what I believe those struggle in their prayer life desperately need. They don’t need another book to beat them up. They need encouragement and guidance. This is what Prayer offers. It is rich in its theology, winsome in its approach and wise in its application. There may be few good modern books on prayer, but Prayer is one of them—and among the finest I’ve read of any era.


Title: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Comfort for the persecuted

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…the persecutor is in God’s hands. He cannot do more than God lets him, and if God permits him to annoy, you may cheerfully bear it. Next, remember, if you keep your conscience clear it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale. Rough answers outside need not trouble you while within there is the answer of a good conscience towards God. Injure your conscience and you lose that consolation; preserve it from evil and you must be happy. Remember that by patiently enduring and persevering you will have fellowship with the grandest spirits that ever lived. You cannot be a martyr and wear the blood-red crown in these days, but you can at least suffer as far as you are called to do: grace enabling you, you may have a share in the martyr’s honors. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Remember, too, that if you have extraordinary troubles Jesus will be doubly near to you. This is the greatest comfort of all, for in all your afflictions he is afflicted. You will find his presence in the ordinances to be very delightful. Those stolen waters which he gives you in secret fellowship are very choice, those morsels which you get by stealth, how sweet they are! The old covenantors said they never worshipped God with so much joy as in the glens and among the hills when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them. The living is very refreshing to the Lord’s hunted harts. His bosom is very soft and warm for those who are rejected of all men for his sake. He has a marvellous way of unveiling his face to those whose faces are covered with shame because of their love to him. Oh, be content, dear friends, to watch with your Lord.

Charles Spurgeon, A Word For the Persecuted

What my daughter reminded me about prayer

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Last night had one of those moments when I could clearly see the Holy Spirit at work. It wasn’t while I was reading my Bible, or during my own prayer time… it was at the dinner table. We sat down to have our delicious meal—leftover chili, lovingly prepared by Emily—and Abigail asked if she could pray tonight.

As cool as that was, it wasn’t where I saw the Spirit at work. It was in her prayer, a simple, honest, word between her and God. And as she prayed for our leftover chili that God provided, and that we would have a good night’s sleep so we could have fun and learn at the homeschool co-op, she also asked God to help me teach the older kids well.

Listening to her pray, I was reminded of three things:

1. We often make prayer more complicated than we need to. Her’s was so uncomplicated, but it felt weighty to listen and pray alongside her. This is an important reminder for me: that prayer doesn’t have to be complex. We don’t always have to deliberately hit all the marks of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and petition. A simple prayer is just as powerful as a more complicated (or, rather, thorough) one.

2. I need to ask my family for prayer more often. After we finished praying, I was quick to thank Abigail for praying for me without having been asked, but I also confessed to her and to the family that this is something I really need to do more often. While I don’t need to introduce concepts or situations too complex for my children too understand, I can still ask for prayer. More than that, I want to do this more to help them understand that asking for prayer is a good thing. There’s nothing that is keeping me from asking, I just need to do it.

3. We are always modelling prayer to our children. Abigail rarely asks to take the lead in our family prayers. For her, that was pretty bold. And hearing her prayer reminded me of my own. I’m not particularly profound in prayer. I stumble over my words. I repeat myself occasionally. I have moments where I’m searching for what to say at all. And Abigail’s prayer had hints of those same things. She’s seen what’s been modelled, and is doing as her parents do.

We trust God when we trust His Word

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I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.