5 Tips for Amateur Prayers Like Me

prayer

Lord, teach us to pray…

(Luke 11:1)

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the disciples. I am still learning to pray. The fact is I have more knowledge of prayer than I have substance and practice of prayer.

Just being honest.

Here are 5 suggestions for amateur prayers…like me:

Be respectful – You’re talking to the Creator God. He is worthy of all our praise. He’s the Holy Father. He puts stars in the sky. At the same time, He paints the belly of a Lady Bug. Never take for granted the privilege of prayer.

Be yourself – Along with being respectful, it is important to be who you are. Don’t attempt to make your words pretty as much as you attempt to make your heart pure. Just as you want your children to be respectful, yet still be themselves, I am convinced God wants that for His children. We are told to call Him “Daddy” (Abba). He wants us to fall in the comfy chair of home in His presence.

Be honest – God knows already, yet He loves to hear His children talk. Just like we do as parents. He wants to know what’s on our mind. We can tell Him if we are angry and still be respectful. Speak truthful when talking to God.

Be open to His voice – Spend intentional time listening, with your Bible open. God most often speaks through the already written Word. But He also speaks through the still small voice like the gentle breeze. Over time…and with lots of practice…you’ll begin to know and hear His voice.

Be consistent – Pray as much as you want and need God’s involvement in your life. How much is that? For me, that’s fairly constant. I pray far less than the need I have for Him. Have a daily routine. Start a prayer list. Do it daily. But mostly, do it as a part of lifestyle more than a part of routine. It’s a relationship. And He’s always with you, so take advantage of the closeness you can have through Christ. If you’re sitting at a stop light…pray. If you think of a friend…pray. If you begin to worry…pray. It can be a paragraph, sentence or a couple words. (I’ve prayed “Help me God!” many times.) Don’t overcomplicate it. Just pray. Talk to God. What a privilege that I can encourage you in this way. (Hebrews 4:16)

Of course, all this begins with a simple belief in Christ as your Savior. That is what makes you His child. If you’ve never believed in the One whom lived, died and rose again three days later…begin there.

What tips do you have for us amateur prayers?

How to Pray for and Respond to Oklahoma

disaster_theater

(I borrowed this picture from the Salvation Army website. Since I mentioned them below I hope they won’t mind.)

Yet another tragedy.

There are no words to describe the scenes we are seeing from the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. No words.

So don’t say anything. Just pray.

Please, don’t try to provide answers when people ask why. Don’t pretend you know why. Don’t find some “righteous” sounding reason for the devastation. It’s not helpful.

So don’t say anything. Just pray.

Years ago, when I served as vice mayor of my community, we were hit with a devastating tornado that destroyed much of our downtown. I learned that what we needed most was prayer and resources.

How do you pray?

Pray for emergency workers and relief efforts.
Pray for survivors as they recover.
Pray for those without homes.
Pray for those who have lost loved ones.
Pray for community, state and national leaders who will need to respond.
Pray for donations and resources needed to survive and eventually rebuild.
Pray for the vision that will develop as a result of this tragedy.
Pray for the children who will be afraid at school every time it storms for a while.
Pray for opportunities to share hope with people, in the midst of tragedy.
Pray for the churches and pastors in the areas impacted who will be called upon for hope and help.
Pray for a spirit of cooperation among people who have lost so much.

How do you respond?

Unless you are trained in disaster relief, there’s probably no reason to go now. You won’t be much help. Stay tuned for the calls for help when they come…and there will be many in the days, weeks and months to come. Today you can give. Money. That’s what they need.

Here are a few places you can give now:

Red Cross

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

Salvation Army

Those are usually three of the largest groups who offer support in disasters. There are obviously many others, but make sure you are giving to a reputable group.

Some friends in ministry I trust greatly have started a relief fund for Oklahoma. They are doing it in an easy to track way. Check it out HERE.

Pray and give. It’s the best way to respond to a natural disaster.

10 Signs You May Not Understand Worship

The volume or tempo of the music determines whether you think it’s a worship song.

A slight change in the order of the service makes you think they’ve harmed “worship”.

You think raising hands or not raising hands determines the depth of a person’s worship.

You believe the “proper” length of a “worship” service is dictated by your lunch schedule.

You think worship has to be in a service or part of a programmed event.

Certain instruments keep you from thinking worship is possible.

You think worship is confined to a certain place or a certain time.

The clothes you wear determines the quality of worship…for you AND others.

You think worship always involves music.

Your attempt to worship has more to do with a personal preference than the subject of worship.

Any additions?

How My Personal Prayer Team Is Structured

  • This week I tweeted, “Meeting with my personal prayer team. I’m confident I’ve underestimated their influence in my ministry. Every pastor should have one.”

I received numerous replies asking me questions about the specifics of who this group is, what they do, how often we meet, etc. I thought it as worthy of a post.

Years ago when I was a layperson, a group of my prayer partners formed our own pastoral prayer team. We would pray during the church services and make appointments with church staff members to pray for them. It was a great marker in my spiritual growth and it seemed to be valued by the ministers.

When I became a pastor myself, knowing the importance of prayer, I decided to be intentional in soliciting people to pray for the church and my ministry. I have done this various ways. I’ve emailed individuals and groups with specific prayer requests. I’ve had Sunday morning meetings before church and recruited a few people to pray during each service. I’ve had a few men that I met with in accountability/prayer groups.

In the past couple of years, I started something new. It’s become my preferred model, simply because it’s intentional, it’s highly functional with my schedule, and I’ve seen the results of prayer working in my ministry.

Here is my current prayer team approach:

I personally recruited 7 people in the church who meet with me regularly. (I wasn’t attempting to get to a Biblical number. It’s just the way it worked. My goal would be for this group to never be larger than 10 or so, simply so we can function well as a group when we meet. Much larger and we would lose the intimacy of the group we have now.)

We meet every 6 weeks to 2 months, as my schedule allows. My assistant sets these meetings up for me at my request.

My part of the meetings last less than 1 hour.

I come to the meetings with a list of things to pray for, and hand it out to them as a prayer list.

  • Some to do with church
  • Some with staff (I don’t share names or specifics, but generalities)
  • Some personal (I don’t share highly intimate things. I have men in my life to share those things, but I do share requests personal to me and my family, that may or may not have anything to do with the church.)
  • In regards to the church, some items are general and some specific, but I rarely, if ever, use names associated with the requests. This is not as much about individual prayer needs within the church. We have a separate prayer team for those needs. This group is my personal prayer support group, so items within the church are more centered towards things I personally lead, opportunities or initiatives I feel God is guiding us towards, or personal issues of concern I have within the church, my family or with me.

I talk through each item on the list and allow them to ask me questions about them.

I pray for them.

I leave and let them pray together as long as they want.

They take the list home and continue to pray until we have another meeting.

We begin each new meeting reviewing any carryover items on the list to update the group on prayer results.

Who is on this prayer team?

  • People I have personally recruited. (In the church I’m moving to pastor, I’m in the process now of gathering those names. Since I don’t know the people, I’m relying on several other people I do know to help me with a group of names.)
  • People I can trust to hold a confidence (This is of utmost importance to me and I’ve never had a “leak” from this process yet.)
  • People I believe are fervent in prayer, and they would be doing so whether I asked them to or not
  • People who are humble, not looking for any spotlight or attention
  • People I would go to personally to request prayer aside from this group (You probably could name those people in your church now)

These people are often not on any other team or committee in the church. They aren’t necessarily eloquent of speech. They are simply people of prayer. This is not a committee or team where members rotate on or off after a term of service. These are prayer warriors. As long as they are willing to serve, and are functioning within the request of confidentiality, they remain in the group.

What’s the benefit?

Do you have to ask?

Seriously, just this week, I gave them a very personal prayer request of something I was asking God to do. Within 30 minutes of our meeting, I had an answer to the prayer request. I emailed them to let them know.

Months before God began stirring my heart towards a change in ministry assignment, I had asked this group to pray for our staff. I knew several were receiving requests to consider other positions. I asked them to pray for our staff to be wise and discerning of God’s direction in our lives. I didn’t know at the time that I would be the one God would deal with next. It was out of my realm of possibilities to take another church at this time, but this group was already praying for the possibility. I’m convinced their prayers have aided in making this transition process so incredibly smooth.

God still answers the prayers of His people.

You don’t have to do it my way, but if you’re a pastor, you need people you can trust praying for you in every area of your life. Yes, you need your entire church praying for you. I’m for more corporate prayer. I believe, however, that you need a smaller group around you to share more personal requests. When we look at the model of Jesus, He seemed to have that prayer support structure within the disciples, even calling a few of them frequently away from the 12 to meet with him in more private settings.

How do you organize people to pray for you?

When You Don’t Want to Get Out of Bed

Do you ever have days when you just don’t want to get out of bed?

I’m not talking about the days you wake up and wish you could hit the snooze button a few more times. I’m not referring to days when you didn’t get enough sleep because you stayed up too late watching David Letterman. Those days are normal. For some they happen everyday.

I’m talking about the days when you don’t want to get out of bed, because you don’t think you can face the world outside the covers. I’m talking about days when it hurts to think about facing life.

Do you ever have days like that?

Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve had seasons where facing the day seems unbearable. It can last a day, a week, or months at a time. I’ve spoken about this before, but I went through a mini-depression a few years ago. My boys were leaving home, my father and Cheryl’s father died, and the stress of ministry was greater than ever. Some days it was all I could do to put on my pastor smile and keep going.

At times, the stress of life can cause a person to wish they didn’t have to face another day. In a world of constant changes, uncertainty, fear, trials and steady burnout, keeping your chin up and continuing to smile can often be a challenge. Has that ever been your story?

I wish we were better as a church and a society of realizing those times are natural, allowing people to be honest about them, and helping people through them rather than looking down on them because of their inner struggles. Even godly, people of extreme faith have times when they fell all is hopeless. (Read about Elijah and Paul for a couple of good Biblical examples.)

What do you do on days like that?

After years of experience, both personal and walking with others, here are a few suggestions for those times:

Get up and do something – No, you may not feel like it, but doing nothing during times of depression, mild or otherwise, almost never solves the problem. You may not be able to do what you need to do, and you certainly may need rest, but continuing a vegetative state of existence is not the right answer. Discipline yourself to get out of bed, be around people, and stay active.

Do the best you know how today – You may not be at 100%. You may only be 20% today. Okay, perhaps you only have 1% to give today. That’s okay. Give that. Do the best you can do today and don’t feel guilty about not doing all you normally would do. My guess is there’s probably something you can still do that will bring value to the people around you…yet another reason to get out of bed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – This may mean professional help and don’t be ashamed of that. Most of us need professional counseling at some point in our life. But, also soak up energy from others for a season. It’s okay to need others. In fact, that’s one primary purpose of the body of Christ. We are to bear with one another during tougher times of life. Chances are you’ve been there for others when they needed help. Now let others be there for you. (Note: Relying on others should not be an excuse to ignore the other principles here. You still have personal responsibilities and ignoring them will not help you, but only enable you to continue in your current condition.)

Prepare and build – This is a time to practice healthy discipline, get consistent rest, exercise, eat healthfully, and prepare mentally and physically for a day when you feel better about your surroundings. Watch for the healing moments, the days when a smile comes easier and for the door of opportunities to open, which encourage you. Those are good days and you should be even more productive on those days. You’ll be able to celebrate your progress and, when repeated over time, it will help lift your spirits. God does heal when we submit our pain to Him. In these seasons, you’ll also learn to recognize the signs that a period like this is coming again. Store up that wisdom and experience to help others and yourself in other similar seasons of life.

Wait and listen – God will use these times of desperation to build you more into His heart and character. This should be a time of constant prayer, crying out to God for help. Many of the Psalms were written during times like this in the Psalmist’s life. Read a few of them. Don’t make drastic decisions during these days as you wait for God to speak clearly again.

Have you been there?

You may now want to read my post “God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear“.

Have you ever wished you could stay in bed and not face another day? Are you there now?

What steps have you taken to heal from times like these? What or who helped you the most?

Share your story so it will help others.

Getting Gut Honest with God

I love the story in Judges 6 where God called Gideon to save the Israelites from the land of Midian. Gideon was the weakest of his clan from the weakest clan, yet God chose to use him for a powerful leadership role for God’s people. You might read the story again HERE.

Consider a small part of Gideon’s conversation with angel of the Lord:

(I’ve embellished the story a bit to illustrate the way I view the story. My embellishment is in parenthesis.)

“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”

“Well, please sir…(I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but) if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? …

…And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us…”

Imagine the scene. An angel shows up, which was usually a pretty scary part of the story, but instead of reacting in surprise, Gideon respectfully questions where God has been lately. He’s not disrespectful, but he is gut honest with the concerns he has with God.

Do you ever wonder where God is when life seems to be falling apart?

Do you ever question God’s involvement when He seems to be nowhere around?

Do you ever think things may never improve?

Gideon had those type questions, and he didn’t cover them up with phony praise, he let his concerns be known.

Yet God’s angel didn’t curse Gideon. Instead, God used Gideon, in spite of his doubts and fears.

“The Lord said to him, but I will be with you…” Judges 6:16 God simply pointed Gideon back to the faith he originally had in Him. That was not the end of Gideon’s fear or questioning, but it was the beginning of his journey back to complete faith.

Perhaps instead of continuing in our own doubts and fears, you and I should get gut honest with God. Maybe we should tell Him how we really feel. I’m not suggesting we become flippant towards a Holy God. That’s never a good idea. I’m suggesting we be honest with the God who already knows our heart and allow Him to restore our faith and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That often begins when we become real with God with who we are, who we are not, and who He is.

God uses people who are willing to humbly surrender their insufficiencies; their doubts and fears, to His sufficiency.

By the way, He knows your heart because He made your heart.

How are you at being honest with God?