Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Spiritual Disciplines

Prayer

Martin Luther's Prayer Book

I’m fighting the urge to fill this post with inspirational quotes on prayer. They’re everywhere. It’s a funny thing, but people (myself included!) often seem to be able to write things about prayer a lot better than they are able to actually pray. That’s sad.

It’s also true that it’s very easy to make people feel very guilty very quickly about how little we pray, or how little faith we actually have even when we do pray. I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty about that.

All I want to say is this: I’ve never regretted a moment I’ve spent in prayer.

And that’s saying something. I’ve regretted time I’ve spent with people. I’ve regretted investments I’ve made. I’ve regretted places I’ve gone, things I’ve said, things I’ve thought, and things I’ve wished. I’ve regretted decisions I made for our family and decisions I made for our church. I’ve regretted things in just about every area of my mistake-filled life. But I’ve never regretted praying. Not once.

I’ve never ever met with God and then thought, ‘Boy, that was a waste of time…’ or ‘Now how was that worth it?’ It’s always worth it. It’s never a mistake.

I pray that for however long God gives me on this earth, my life would be one continually filled with an ever-increasing awareness of my dependency on God, leading to an ever-increasing felt-need for prayer, which leads to an ever-increasing quantity and quality of prayer. I know I won’t regret it.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

Why is Our Hunger for God so Weak?

As a church, we have been going through our annual week of prayer this week. It has been a blessed week. But as the week has progressed I have been asking myself, “Why is my hunger for God so weak so much of the time?”

I was convicted when I found this answer from John Piper:

The greatest enemy of the hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4: 19). “the pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things” –these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

–          John Piper, A Hunger for God, 14-15

Praying for Each Other

Wednesday night at GFC we had our monthly meeting for the men and the women. Usually our Wednesday night meetings are times for the whole family, with our kids program in full swing. On the first Wednesday of every month, however, we have a meeting where we aim to build relationships between the men and between the women.

In the past we’ve separated the two groups from the beginning and had separate studies on biblical manhood and womanhood. This year (since September) we’ve mixed it up a little and kept everyone together to study some issues that relate to all of us and how we relate to each other as men and women. These times have been quite beneficial.

This past Wednesday, since Paul was sick and unable to teach, we took a break from teaching and took some extended periods of time to read Scripture publicly and to meditate on the truths that we had read as we responded in song (thanks to Joshua for his extra work!). We sang lots, and read lots of Scripture, which was a tremendous blessing. 

But the part that I just about always find to be the greatest blessing is spending time in corporate prayer. What a blessing to be able to pray with God’s people! What an encouragement to hear them intercede for me and for each other!

Of course, one of the greatest hindrances to praying for your brothers and sisters is simply not knowing how to pray for them. Here is the handout that we used on Wednesday to spur us on to pray biblically. It’s simply a small collection of Paul’s prayers from the New Testament. Reading through passages like this really does help you to realize Paul’s priorities–and what our priorities in prayer should be as well!

I hope this might be of some value to you, as it has been to me: 

How Should I Pray for My Brothers and Sisters?

Spurgeon on Meditation

Good old C.H. Spurgeon had these words to share as he commented on Ps 119.15:

We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.” 

In our day it is trendy to be busy. We think we’re important if we’re the busiest person in any crowd, always in a rush to get on to the next thing. May God give his people grace to make the time to meditate on his word, making it always our priority.

Some Thoughts

It never ceases to amaze me how God works themes into our lives so that we keep learning the same lessons in various places and ways. This past Sunday the preacher was preaching from Romans 13 and the Christian obligation to submit to authority, since authority is established by God. One of the obvious points of application was obeying the speed limit.

While this may or may not prick your conscience, it sure got me thinking. I’ve always just thought of the speed limit as one of those things that no one really intends for you to follow. This Sunday, however, got me thinking about the type of heart that speeds and drives as aggressively as I have been known to from time to time. It’s not just a matter of obeying the letter of the law–it is a heart of rebellion. It’s a heart that wants to control its own destiny. It’s a heart that thinks where I need to go and when I need to be there is more important than where anyone else is going, or anyone else’s safety. That’s not a heart of submission at all–to God or to eathly authority.

Somehow this seems, in my mind anyway, to tie in to this next thought that a brother challenged me with a couple of days ago. Here is a quote from an article by Henri Nouwen:

But in the spiritual life, the word discipline means “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. 

I’ve been working really hard lately at trying to be more disciplined in some little areas of my life, in hopes of reeping fruit in some larger battles within my heart. I’ve been working on a regular bedtime and waketime, developing a few spiritual disciplines that I have let slip, working harder, staying focused, etc. To me that seemed like good discipline; making everything rigid and scheduled, always planning ahead.

But then I read this quote and it got me thinking. What I tend to value is busy-ness and accomplishing tasks, rather than the pursuit and enjoyment of godliness. Often I get so caught up in my Christian chores (devotions, seminary work, church work, etc.) that I forget I’m supposed to be serving and enjoying God. It becomes more about the task than the experience of God, or the glorification of God that the task was intended to accomplish. That’s not discipline. That’s just being a task-driven person.

I suppose these things relate because in both areas I’ve seen God challenging me to slow down. But how do you slow down and not do less? The things that I do are not things that I would like to stop doing (nor is it God-glorifying to quit a course part way through).

Maybe it means I need to take on less. Or maybe it means I need to learn to manage my time better. Maybe it means I need to prioritize more. Whatever it means, I’m grateful that God is patient with me and my painstakingly slow sanctification and my slowness to learn what he desires to teach me.

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