Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Lord’s Prayer #3 – Jesus’ Prayer (Meeting) Outline

So what is the Lord’s Prayer? 

It is a few things, but let’s start here.  It is true that The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that we can just pray as it is, and as long as it is not just words, being used like a magical incantation (which is what Jesus is referring to in Matthew 6:7-8) then God pays attention to it.  But it is more than that.

It is a prayer outline, this is something that the disciples would have understood, but we seem to have lost.  It is not so much a case of pray with these exact words, but pray in this manner.  In Jesus’ day the teachers (rabbis) often gave their followers patterns for prayer, John had done so and his disciples who then followed Jesus asked him to do the same as we saw in The Lord’s Prayer #1 – ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.

Using Scripture as a prayer outline is not only Biblical, it is also very powerful.  I use Scripture a great deal in my prayer times, and the prayer meeting outlines I write for are all based on Scripture.

This is the greatest prayer meeting outline there is, as it is the one that Jesus himself instituted, though sadly many church prayer meetings are not based on this most amazing prayer outline.

Do you pray The Lord’s Prayer as an outline for you to fill in, or as words for you to say?  How do you pray it when you pray with others? I’d love to hear your views and experiences.

The Lord’s Prayer #2 – A Personal and Corporate Prayer.

Before I look at The Lord’s Prayer itself I will look at what Jesus said around it when he taught it on the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew’s gospel, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches not just The Lord’s Prayer, but surrounds it with teaching about personal and corporate prayer.

This has only just struck me as I am writing this post, and I shall explain what I mean.

The Jews understood that prayer could be personal, you could pray to God on your own, not just in the company of others.  We see this in both the Old and New Testaments, where prayer takes place both on a personal setting, and in a corporate setting.  So Jesus teaching on personal prayer is aimed specifically as the Jewish people as they understood this concept.  We see this in Matthew 6:5-6.

The Gentiles by contrast, especially the Romans who were then occupying Israel, had no concept of personal prayer, prayer to them was always and only a public affair.  So it would be strange to teach about personal prayer by referring to people who had no concept of personal prayer.  Therefore we can safely say that Matthew 6:7-8 is about corporate prayer.

Now you may be saying, ‘Can you back this up from the text itself, not just from the context?’.  Yes, I can.  In Matthew 6:6 Jesus is talking about ‘you’ singular, in the rest of Jesus’ teaching about prayer that is given here is ‘you’ is always in the plural.

The Lord’s Prayer, or more precisely what we can learn about how to pray from it, should be central to both our personal and corporate prayer.  It is both a prayer that we can say as it is, and a prayer outline that we can use in prayer.  It is also more than that, but you will have to wait for the next post to find out what.

What does the Lord’s Prayer mean to you in your personal and corporate prayer?  Have you thought of it only as a personal prayer neglecting its corporate nature? I would love to hear your insights.

Changing times for churches…

In the church in the United Kingdom we are living in a time of great change.

God is on the move in a way that he hasn’t been for a long time, the generations are changing and we are moving ahead into the future God had for us, rather than looking back to a past we see with spectacles that are far too rose-tinted.

We are also living in an age where time constraints on people are changing too.  All children now have free nursery places, others have jobs with variable hours (like my husband) and many have no certain hours especially if they are ‘bank’ staff who are on call if needed to cover other employees.

We live in the 21st century, with all that entails, yet when it comes to most churches calendars they are still firmly in the 20th century!

What do I mean?  Here are a few examples:

  • Ladies meetings that women with children at nursery can’t get to because the time clashes with them dropping off or picking up their preschoolers.
  • Small groups that only meet midweek in the evening that people can’t get to if a member of the family works irregular hours, or shifts.
  • Holding only a limited number of meetings and if people can’t get to them assuming they aren’t committed, or preventing them from serving God because they can’t fit into our time straight-jacket.
  • Not effectively reaching non-Christians because the schedule they keep does not fit into our church’s program.

More so than ever we live in a 24-7 society.  With employers putting ever great time pressure demands on their workforces as the recession bites ever deeper.  They know that their workers would rather keep their jobs and be pushed on hours than lose the job and try for a new one in the open market.

If churches want to reach their own members and grow them in all areas, let alone reach the un-churched, they must change when they are doing activities and having meeting!

If our churches want to be 21st century churches, meeting people where they are, then they must also meet them WHEN they are available!  Some churches do this fantastically, other are trying and still other churches haven’t even realised that this is an issue.

We should not be afraid to have the same type of meeting at different times in the week, even if it means more work for those in leadership (if your church has a healthy leadership structure then it will be easy to spread the load).  We should get away from expecting everyone to come to a few meetings but have more meetings so everyone can come to them, even if only two or three come Jesus will still be there!

What about you?  How does your church deal with living in a 24-7 society?  Do you work difficult hours?  What are your insights, I’d love to hear them!

Praying Scripture #1 – Prayers For All Seasons

When you pray, what do you pray in all the different seasons of life?

Prayer is simply how we talk and communicate with God.  If we look at it that way then to pray without ceasing is not difficult as all we are doing is including God in all our thoughts.  This means that God wants to know about all we think and do, and all that we are involved in.

What guidelines do we have about how to pray, both in our prayer times and during the rest of the day?  We have guidelines in the Bible.  We can see how to pray from seeing how others have prayed before us, and it may surprise some of us the variety of prayer in the Bible.  I’m not giving references on purpose, you will learn much more if you find examples for yourself.

We see prayers of praise and worship, and prayers of thanksgiving.  Prayers that ask God the difficult questions of life, and prayers of frustration.  Prayers asking for vindication, and prayers that ask God to act justly and rightly.  Prayers of faith, and prayers asked out of doubt and uncertainty.  Prayers that God answers, and prayers that he doesn’t.  It is all there, written down for us to see and read, and most of all for us to pray!

From the Bible we can see that God responds to all prayer (though not always how we hope him to) except for one type which he hates.  The prayer that God hates is that of the hypocrites, the religious actors.  We all pray like them at times, we try to make something more palatable to God when he already knows the whole truth.  Some people have it down to a fine art, but God will not be misled or mocked.

God wants to hear all you can say, but there is another thing that I advise you not to do.  Do not blame God!  Complain at him, yes!  Tell him it’s not fair, yes! Blame him, no!  If you do you will only have to repent of it later and say sorry for laying at God’s door what you should be attributing to either the world, the flesh or the devil.

If you don’t know how to pray, look how others have prayed that have gone before you.  There are prayers for all seasons in the Bible, look for the ones most relevant to you in whatever season you are in and try basing your own prayer upon them.  You may be surprised at what you find, and surprised at how God changes you by applying that Scripture to your own life as you bring it to him in prayer.

Heavenly Father, help me to incorporate scripture in my prayers, and as I pray your Word and submit myself to it, change me and grow me in whatever season of life I am in. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Lord’s Prayer #1 – ‘Lord, teach us to pray’

He [Jesus] was praying in a certain place , and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1.

In this introductory post of this series on The Lord’s Prayer, or The Disciples’ Prayer as some would rather call it, I am looking a verse from how Luke introduces it in his gospel.  For the rest of the time I will be using the prayer outline as it is given in Matthew’s gospel during the Sermon on the Mount.

The first thing that springs to mind is who asked Jesus to teach them to pray as the disciple who asked said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’.  This says to me that the disciple who asked was one of the two of John’s disciples that Jesus had called.  Why?  Because he knew not only that John had taught his disciples to pray, but it would imply how he taught them to pray.  One of the two was Andrew, Peter’s brother, and we don’t know who the other was (see John 1:35-42).  Whoever it was, I’m glad they asked!

The second thing that stands out to me is that Jesus is basically repeating the prayer outline here that he taught on the Sermon on the Mount.  We should not be surprised that Jesus taught things more than once!  All really good teachers know that repetition is important in helping people to remember things.  I am quite sure that Jesus taught things over and over again.  Not because he needed to say them more than once, but because the disciples needed to hear them more than once!

The third thing I noticed is how Jesus taught about prayer.  This is something I know for myself.  You cannot lead others in prayer in ways that you do not pray yourself.  Prayer cannot just be taught in a book or on paper, it must also be modelled.  We see that here.  Jesus had just been praying, with the disciples near enough to see him, if not hear him.  It was only after this that one of the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray.

This is incredibly important.  You and I can only learn to pray directly from Jesus in our own prayer times, and by watching and observing other Christians in prayer, either in their personal prayer times, or in corporate prayer.  We can get ‘stuck’ in our own prayer lives, and in corporate prayer if we do not take this to heart.  We will only grow and get ‘unstuck’ if we ask Jesus to teach us more about prayer which he will do either directly or through others.

The two disciples that had followed John the Baptist had got so far in their prayer lives from the teaching and discipleship they had received from him.  The disciple who asked Jesus to teach them to pray saw that there was more to prayer that Jesus knew and modelled, and so wanted to learn more from him.

Do you want to grow in prayer?  I know I do! 

Why don’t you come on this journey with me, as I lead where Jesus has already led me!  I want to hear your insights about prayer along the way, as I am sure that you will be able to teach me things from your own walk with the Lord.  Let’s challenge and inspire each other, so that we can grow in our prayer lives.

Here’s to prayer, the greatest adventure!