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How to Deepen Your Prayer Life (Part 3)

In the last 2 posts, I have been talking how we can deepen our prayer life by using the pattern of prayer that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer. Each part of the Lord’s Prayer is a specific area of focus that we can include in our experience of prayer. As I stated in the last post, this is not intended to be a legalistic ritual but rather a guide to help us.

Here’s the diagram we have been using to help guide us in this process:

The Lord's Prayer

We have already looked at Presence, Praise, Purpose and Provision. In this final post on this theme, I’d like to talk about the final two areas. First is Pardon. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

When I transition to this part of the Lord’s prayer, I begin by asking the Lord if there are any sins I need to confess to Him. The Spirit may bring to mind specific incidents from the previous day that I need to confess. As those things come to mind, I bring them to the cross and repent of them.

The second and often more difficult prayer under this section is to ask, “Father, is there anyone I need to forgive?” I then wait to see if the Spirit brings anyone to mind that I am harboring anger towards. If so, I admit that to the Lord and bring that to the cross. That means to choose to let go of our right to hang on to this offense, canceling the debt. We may find ourselves forgiving the same person over and over again for the same offense. That’s okay. It helps keep bitterness from hardening our heart.

The final section of this model prayer is Protection. “Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from the evil one.” Here Jesus is acknowledging the fact that we are in a spiritual battle and we need His help in this battle. In this section, I usually say something like this: “Jesus, I bring the fullness of Your kingdom–Your crucifixion, Your resurrection, Your ascension–against the work of satan and all his emissaries warring against me and my domain (family, church, church staff). I cut off every foul spirit in the name of Jesus, and pray for your blood to cover me today. Deliver me from the evil one.”

At the center of the diagram above is the word “Prompting” which serves as a reminder that prayer is about relationship/communion with God rather than ritual. As we pay attention to the Spirit’s voice throughout our prayer time, we will find that our prayer life is more and more an experience of love and intimacy with God.

I love praying the Lord’s prayer. For me personally, without some model or guide, my prayer life would become fairly me-centric. The Lord’s Prayer enables me to consistently experience various facets of prayer, which I have found to be extremely beneficial. If it helps you, great. If it feels too constrictive or ordered, that’s fine. The most important thing is that we are growing in our experience of intimacy with God in prayer.

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How to Deepen Your Prayer Life (Part Two)

Last post, I began a discussion about how we can deepen our prayer life by using the model prayer Jesus has given us. In the Lord’s Prayer, there are 6 topics Jesus addresses as shown on the following diagram:

 

The Lord's Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who feel this is too regimented, I totally understand. What I have found is that it gives some structure to my prayer life so that I am praying for the things that are on God’s heart–and yet it is also very much about relationship. It is certainly not a legalistic form letter to use when we pray. In fact, notice the center of the hexagon–“Prompting”. In each of the prayer areas, I encourage us to take time to listen to the Spirit’s leading as we are broadly focused on that particular area.

Last time, we talked about how we can begin with “Presence” and then “Praise”. The third section Jesus mentions is  “Purpose”–Your kingdom come, Your will be done.

The focus here is on praying for God’s kingdom to advance. The kingdom of God is the reign or rule of God. As you listen to the Lord, think of areas, situations, or people in which you would love to see the kingdom of God advance. Ask for His kingdom to come in that area. For instance, right now on my heart is a marriage that is struggling. I’m also thinking about my friends in the Middle East who are ministering in a very difficult circumstance. So I might spend some time praying for these situations, that God’s rule and influence would come into these situations. I usually pray for my family, for our church and church staff as well as any other issues or people God lays on my heart.

The fourth area Jesus mentions is “Provision–Give us this day our daily bread.”

In this section, we are focused on our own needs. Notice the significant transition that has taken place. The first three areas of the Lord’s prayer are focused on God–His presence, praise and purpose…which is a powerful reminder that our prayer life is to be about more than simply listing our needs. By beginning the way Jesus does, we are reminder that ultimately prayer is about us fitting into God’s agenda rather than trying to get Him to fit into ours. But once our hearts are tuned into Him, we can then focus on our own needs. Are there burdens you are carrying–worries about finances, strained relationships, physical difficulties? Then ask God to provide in those situations–healing, wisdom, grace. He is our loving Father and He cares about the things are on our hearts–even little things. Come to your Father and open your heart to Him.

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How to Deepen Your Prayer Life Part One

I think most people long to have a deeper, richer experience with God in prayer but we don’t really know how to get there. Simply making more time for prayer often leaves us more frustrated as our mind wanders and we struggle to know what to pray about. I have found in my own life a God-given tool that can help us grow in our experience of prayer. It’s simple enough for a child to use and yet deep enough for a mature Christ follower to benefit from.

In Luke 11, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, His response was to teach them a simple and yet specific pattern for prayer. This prayer tool is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Now the mistake many people make is to think that the Lord’s prayer is only a prayer to recite verbatim—as often occurs in church services. While reciting the prayer can be helpful, what radically impacted my prayer life a few years ago was when I began using the Lord’s prayer as a guide for my praying.

In this prayer, there are 6 areas of focus, each of which functions as a spiritual “mile marker”, letting us know where on the “prayer track” we find ourselves. This is not intended to be a legalistic list of topics that must be prayed for, but rather can serve as a guideline to help us develop a healthy and balanced prayer life. For many of us, our prayer life consists of us asking God for things. It’s certainly appropriate to ask God for things in prayer but if that is all our prayer life consists of, we are missing out on a fuller experience with Him. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are given 6 areas of focus—the first three focusing on God, the last three focusing on our need. This pattern can help us avoid getting into a prayer rut that is singularly focused.

Here are the 6 areas of prayer, plus one bonus area:

The Lord's Prayer

When I have a prayer time with the Lord, I frequently use this pattern to guide my praying. So in this and the next few blog posts, I’d like to unpack further what this looks like practically speaking. Let’s look at the first two in the rest of this post.

Presence: “Our Father in heaven”

When I begin my prayer times, I like to spend a few minutes reflecting on and enjoying the Lord’s presence—the reality of Him being my Heavenly Father. I often begin this section by praying something like this: “Father, you are my abba, my daddy. I love you and I rest in Your love for me. Thank you that Your love for me is not dependent upon my performance, my ability, my worthiness but rather is solely based upon Your Son Jesus.” It is wonderful to just sit in that reality for a few moments, not saying anything. Just enjoy this incredible relationship that is yours in Christ.

In this section, I also will often acknowledge, not only His love for me but also His Lordship. He is “in heaven” which speaks of His position as King and Lord of the universe. I may pray something like, “Father, thank you too for your power and your majesty. You are Lord of all. You are in control. I rest in Your power and presence today.”

Praise: “Hallowed be Your Name.”

I then transition to this second section, in which I focus on Jesus. To hallow His name means to honor it as holy. His name represents the fullness of who He is as Savior and Lord. So in this section, I spend a few moments expressing praise to Jesus for who He is. I might pray something like, “Jesus, hallowed by Your name. I praise You for your mercy, your power, your holiness, your life poured out on the cross. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me.”

Next post we will look at Purpose and Provision.

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Spiritual Warfare Resources

This past weekend in our services, we talked about the reality of the spiritual realm and the strategies our enemy uses against us. I mentioned in my message a couple of helpful resources in the midst of our daily battles with demonic influences.

One is a Daily Prayer by John Eldredge. We can pray this prayer regularly as a means of spiritual protection over ourselves and our friendships and family. I love how Biblically rooted this prayer is and also how it helps us learn how to pray with an awareness of our enemy. Here’s the link:

 

http://www.ransomedheart.com/sites/default/files/fileuploads/daily_prayer_regular_4-5-14.pdf

The second resource is a book by Neil Anderson entitled “The Bondage Breaker.” At the back of this book, Anderson provides “The Seven Steps to Freedom”. In these Seven Steps, you walk through a spiritual inventory that can reveals places where the enemy has had access to our lives due to participation in certain activities.

As mentioned in the message, if you feel like you are experiencing demonic oppression and would like a team to pray with you, please contact Christ Community Church at 970-353-1159 and we can explore next steps.

 

 

 

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103 Year Old Wisdom

 

The other day I attended an engagement shower for some friends and had the privilege of visiting with one of my favorite people in the world—a 103 year old woman named Katie.
We only visited for a few minutes but I was so impacted by her attitude and her perspective on life. I came away with three life lessons:
• Life Lesson #1: We never “retire” from ministry. Until our last breath, we are called to be ambassadors for Jesus.
Katie didn’t talk about her aches and pains and limitations. Instead, she talked about how she was praying for the people who live around her at the nursing home, especially those who don’t know Jesus. Here she is, 103 years old, and yet still demonstrating a missional heart towards people around her.

• Life Lesson #2: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take opportunities to laugh and have fun.
In the course of our conversation, Katie mentioned a party that she had recently attended at the nursing facility. She explained how the party organizers were handing out silly hats for people to wear. Not being a person to sit on the side lines, she got a hat, even though it was a bit too big. At one point, she looked over at another woman who was not participating, and this woman gave the “loco” hand gesture to indicate she thought Katie was crazy. Katie’s comment was classic: “I’m not sure who was more crazy. Me for participating or her for not!”

• Life Lesson #3: Take the initiative to exercise. You’ll feel better….and perhaps live to 103!
One other thing Katie mentioned to me in our conversation. She said they get her up walking once a day….but she didn’t feel like that was enough. So she goes out on her own and exercises 3 times a day by walking through the halls of the facility.
Thanks Katie for inspiring me!

Spiritual Warfare Prayer and Declaration

This past weekend, I encouraged us as a church to face our fears using the resources God has given us. Those resources, as described in 2 Timothy 1:7 are “power, love and a sound mind.” To face our fears with power involves realizing our fears are sometimes rooted in a spiritual attack. Here’s a prayer you can use when/if you sense that your fear may be rooted in a spirit of fear:

Heavenly Father, I renounce any hold that a spirit of fear has had on my life. I bring the cross of Christ—His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension—against the work of the enemy.  I cut off every foul spirit that has been harassing me. I command them to leave in the name of Jesus. I claim the blood of Jesus over my life,  over my family, over my church.

For an extended spiritual warfare prayer to pray, I encourage you to follow this link to John Eldredge’s “Daily Prayer”. http://www.ransomedheart.com/sites/default/files/fileuploads/daily_prayer_regular_4-5-14.pdf

We also talked about the importance of a sound mind when facing our fears. By that, I mean that we are to focus our minds on God’s character and His promises to us. One practice to help in this regard is that of declaring out loud promises and truths found in God’s Word. Here are the promises and truths we declared out loud together in church this weekend:

I declare my faith in Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead that I may have life.

I declare that His life is now my life. His power– the same power that raised Christ from the dead– lives in me.

I declare that nothing can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. I belong to Him forever.

 I declare that nothing can thwart God’s good purposes and plans for me. My God is absolutely faithful.

 I declare that God’s perfect love is driving out my fear. Fear will not rule my life. I am strong and courageous because Jesus lives in me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 We declare God’s blessings upon our church. We will follow Jesus together, trusting Him to do above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

 

 

Fasting Thoughts

So proud of how many Christ Community Church people are fasting some or all of this week, in response to the ‪#‎ccconething‬ challenge offered last week. It’s so awesome to seek God together in this way.

I’ve been reminded yesterday and today of how hard fasting is. I suddenly realize how important food is in my life…and it’s hard to give that up! In the midst of the difficulty of this, I remembered this morning a phrase Paul uses in Philippians 3:10. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone talk much about this phrase. But in it, Paul says that he wants to “know Christ and….the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” That word “fellowship” means participation in. Huh. Paul considered it a privilege to share in, to participate in, Christ’s sufferings.

What struck me this morning as I thought about facing another day of fasting was this thought: In a small way, I am sharing in the suffering of Christ. I am choosing Him over something that I really want to do. Honestly, in our society, I’m not sure we deny ourselves very often of things. We have so much. We are used to having what we want when we want it. By fasting, we are choosing to say no to a desire, for the purpose of stoking a greater desire–that of love for Jesus.

So if you are feeling frustrated or discouraged about how hard this fasting thing is, be encouraged. You are choosing suffering for Jesus’ sake. It is in the difficulty of the fast that we find the true power of the fast–learning to seek Jesus over any thing else in our life.

Praying for you!