Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Tyranny of the Prayer List in a Meeting and Growing Beyond It!

I’m sure you’ve been to prayer meeting like this.

Everyone comes to the prayer meeting and spends the first 30-40 minutes taking about the prayer list. People then pray through the list, after a short reading from Scripture, trying not to miss any request out, with people often praying for 4 or 5 items in one long prayer.

The prayer list is prayed through, but has the heart of God been really touched? In general the answer is no, because (no matter how well-meaning the people are) the focus of the meeting is man, not God.  There may be modest answers to prayer, which, of course, we should praise God for, but this is seen as quite enough.

Most telling of all there is very little, if any, growth in the personal prayer lives of those that attend such a group and the group itself does not grow and change it simply stagnates and becomes more fixed in its ways as those attending grow older and the younger people look elsewhere.  Such a meeting will have the reputation for being an old persons prayer meeting and the younger people will either not go, or go and get frustrated!  Sadly many older people have no other experience in prayer so see no need to change, it is no wonder that prayer meetings are in such a sorry state in so many churches in this land!

The problem with a prayer list is this, it is true they can be a useful servant, but often one becomes a very bad and tyrannical master.  But so often in a meeting it becomes the master, not the servant.

The heart of prayer is relationship and communication with God.

Before you defend your prayer list I have one question.  Do you come to your spouse every day and talk through a shopping list with them, let them say very little or nothing, and talk about nothing else?  I can say with confidence that your answer will be NO!  Well, that is what you are doing to God.  If it not right to do so with your spouse, then it is not right for you personally, or for the church (which is the Bride of Christ) corporately!

I have just spent over 300 words presenting a problem. How a prayer list can take over a meeting and stifle growth, relationship with God, and touching his heart in prayer.

If that is the problem then what is the solution?

There are two ways to deal with a meeting that is a slave to a prayer list, either gradually or radically, but either way it will only work if there is strong leadership in the group.  One thing I have shared a few times on Twitter is that you cannot lead others to grow in prayer unless you have been there yourself, if all you know is praying lists, then that is how you will lead others!

So how can things be changed, here are a few pointers.

  1. The leadership has to change.  This means one of two things, either you need to change and grow in prayer so you can lead others in growth, or you need to step down and let someone else lead who can lead you deeper in prayer and grow you and the rest of the group.
  2. The focus of the group must change.  It must move away from the prayer list, and back onto God.
  3. The prayer list must either be out back in its place as a tool, or got rid of completely, it must no longer be allowed to be the master or you will never grow.
  4. Start seeking God’s Kingdom in prayer – not your own needs and wants.  If you seek the first then the second will follow, but it does not work the other way round!
  5. Use a Biblical prayer as an outline in your prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, or all or part of outlines like those on Kingdom Revival Prayer (Here is an example: Friday, 22nd June 2012 – The Great Commission ).
  6. If going for radical change then you could rebrand the meeting, and change its time and place to make it more suitable for people today.  For example many daytime ladies prayer meeting were started in an era before nursery provision for 3-4 year olds, if they cannot get to that meeting then the time needs to be changed to make it more suitable for them!

Change will be hard at first, but it will be worth it.  You will find that the meeting starts to grow again, even if it has been stagnant for years.  Some may find it very uncomfortable, but they will either grow and adapt or they will go somewhere else to be comfortable!  I know which I would rather do.

Here’s to the adventure of prayer!

Do you have any experience of a list bound prayer meeting?  Or have you grown a meeting to seeking the face of God afresh? I’d love to hear your comments.

Thanks for reading and God Bless, Theresa.

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A Liturgy Based on Psalm 24:3-6.

When I read this part of Psalm 24 it suggested a liturgy with responses to me, like some of the liturgical psalms.  Here is the section from the psalm and then the liturgy, which could be used in corporate prayer, follows (with the responses in bold).  Please feel free to use it!

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.  (Psalm 24:3-6. NRSV)

Lord, we can only keep our hands clean and hearts pure with your help.

Lord, please help us.

Lord, we can only worship you with your help.

Lord, please help us.

Lord, we can only watch our mouths with your help.

Lord, please help us.

Lord, help us to long for your blessing.

Lord, please bless us.

Lord, help us to long for your salvation.

Lord, please save us.

Lord, help us to be a people who seek your face.

Lord, please let your face shine upon us.

Amen.

Day 7. Start – Psalm 62:11-12 (Part 2)

This is the second part of what I am sharing on these verses.  Why did I only share two words?  Because that was all I ended up writing down the first day I studied this, and because I felt it was so true that I decided to blog my first unfinished notes. I also think that those two words say so much, it makes you think even more about the rest of this devotion, at least it does for me!

‘Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.  For you repay to all according to their work.’ (Psalm 62:11-12. NRSV)

God speaks, when he does once is enough.  He does not have to repeat himself.

But how many times do we need to hear what he has said before we really hear it?  That is, before we take it in what he has said and start to act upon it?  To live as if what he has said is true, because it is true!  God cannot lie, we must take him at his word.

God spoke to the psalmist about two attributes of himself, two of the ways God acts simply because of who he is.

‘Power’ – God is omnipotent – all-powerful.  This is not just a theoretical, distant statement about God relating to the creation (no matter how amazing) or anything else.  But power that we can know experientially, it is to be real, felt and touched in our lives.  This amazing power belongs to God, we may live and move in it, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not ours to control or to in any way own.

Balancing and complementing God’s power is the second attribute.

‘Steadfast love’ – God is a covenant keeping God.  As Christians we live under the New Covenant, the psalmist wrote under the Old Covenant.  God is a covenant keeping God, and his love and faithfulness are tied inseparably to this fact.  This has both personal and corporate implications.  We can know that ‘steadfast love’ not because we choose him, but because he chose to put himself into a covenant relationship with us.

Again the onus is on him, it is he who implemented and established the covenants not us!  In the OT God initiated the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.  In the New Testament ‘God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8).

It is all of him and none of us, which we always need to keep in mind.  He is God and we are mere humans!  Let’s keep things in perspective!!!

Father God, I thank you that you speak to us and I ask that you will help me to hear the first time, but if I miss it then help me to hear you the second time! I thank you and praise you that you are all-powerful, and that you love us with a steadfast, covenant love.  Help me to keep things in perspective and to give the glory to you. I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Day 7. Start – Psalm 62:11-12 (Part 1)

‘Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.  For you repay to all according to their work.’ (Psalm 62:11-12. NRSV)

God speaks.

Psalm 62:10

‘Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.’  (Psalm 62:10. NRSV)

Do your possessions own you, or do you own them?

If the first is true then extortion and robbery will seem OK after a time as your heart is consumed by the love of money.

If you, on the other hand, own your possessions then your heart will not be touched by them even if your riches increase.  After all everything you have is actually a gift from God, so you are really in stewardship of it rather than in ownership of it.

Let’s not live our lives based on a false ‘confidence’ or on ‘vain hope’.  Let’s live our lives based on confidence in his provision and hope in him alone.  If our heart is set on riches then our heart is set on earthly, temporal things.  If our heart is set on God then it is set on heavenly, eternal things and on the Creator of all things.

Father God, keep my heart free from the love of money and possessions.  So that I might be free to worship you with my whole heart, and to give glory to you for all that you have given me.  In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Psalm 62:9

‘Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.’ Psalm 62:9.

Our lives are transitory.  They are fleeting.  They are worthless.

The ordinary people are like ‘a breath’, the rich and powerful minority are worse, they ‘are a delusion’.  Perhaps because they are deluded that they originated that wealth and power, not that God gave it to them or allowed them to have it!

On the balances, both are found wanting, ‘they are together lighter than a breath’.  Of ourselves we are found wanting, we are so transitory that nothing is left of us when we are gone.

If, on the other hand, we know Christ then we will be weighed in him who is more precious than gold. And we will have an eternal legacy beyond much more than we could imagine.

A simple life lived in Jesus is eternally precious, but a life without Jesus a mere breath or delusion.  Which do you choose?

Lord Jesus, outside of you I have no worth and live a transitory, fleeting life.  Help me to want to be found in you in everything I do, so that I may have a legacy that is eternal.  In your name, Amen.

Day 3. Initiate – I Am A Christian Communicator & Prayer Specialist.

I am a Christian Communicator & Prayer Specialist.

I am writing this for Day 3 of 15 Habits of Great Writers.  On Day 3 we are getting personal, if we haven’t already by saying that we are all writers.

What am I? Well for starters I am a Christian.  It is an integral part of who I am, and I hope comes through in all that I do whether overtly Christian or not.

What am I? Am I an author? Am I a blogger?  Am I a tweep?  I would say that I am a communicator, in that I do not want to limit myself to any one platform, or type of media.  People have different learning styles, and to engage with everyone I will need to engage as many of their senses as possible, and some people will only learn by doing what they are learning.

All forms of communication are equally valid, technology in itself is generally neutral (there are some exceptions), it can be used for good or for ill.  How can I use Twitter or a blog to share my life and my faith?  And how can I use the internet as a tool for growing prayer in the Kingdom of God.  This is journey I am still exploring, and leads me onto my last statement about myself.

I would class myself as a prayer specialist.  What do I mean by this? I mean that for me prayer is at the heart of who and what I am.  My longing is for Christians and the church, personally and corporately, to grow in prayer, as the two go hand in hand.

I do not see a church in all its facets, I see it through one lens, that of prayer.  If you ask a youthworker you would think the most important thing in church life would be the youthwork or lack thereof, and it would be quite rightly so as that is their area of responsibility and calling.  That is how I am with prayer.  I long to see churches grow in their prayer-lives and turn their prayer outwards with them advancing in Kingdom focused prayer, then they will find that God meets all their other needs as well.

Well, ‘That’s me’ to quote the title of an Abba song.  You can take me or leave me, that is up to you, but I am me.  I will not apologise for what I am, as that is what God has made me.  I am still growing, and I will only worry if ever I feel that I no longer need to grow.  Until then I am on a journey, a pilgrimage to a better place because of my relationship with the Author and Creator of all things, with God himself.

To God be the Glory! Amen!