Monday, April 27, 2009

A bit of humor and a lot of truth. Sam Walter Foss

"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
"And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."
"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said the Reverend Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms,
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no, no, no," said Elder Snow,
"Such posture is too proud;
A man should pray with eyes fast closed,
And head contritely bowed."
"It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointed toward the ground,"
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

"Last year I fell in Hidgin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown.
"With both my heels a stickin' up,
My head a-pointin' down;
An' I made a prayer right then an' there--
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
Was a-standing on my head!"

I just got done reading a book I picked up at the thrift store last week, called "The Exciting Church: Where People Really Pray" by Charlie W. Shedd. The title intrigued me, and it was a quick, but powerful read. The author was the pastor of a small church on Jekyll Island, Georgia, limited in size by the very fact that it was on a small island in a touristy kind of town

Pastor Shedd and the elders on the board of this small church asked themselves, "What do you all think Christ wants this church to be?" Week after week, as they studied and sought the Lord for His direction, they asked more questions like, "Is this the most specific thing Jesus said about his church, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'? I really wonder what would happen if everyone in our congregation was prayed for every day by someone."

Then, as they considered 1 Timothy 2 (Instructions on Worship), especially verse 1, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men," they came to the conclusion that prayer is the first business of the church. The elders & their pastor started on a 30-day journey, creating prayer partners in their small group. They committed to pray for each other daily for 30 days & then evaluate.

Things went well that first month. They decided to switch partners & pray for a different person the next month, and the next month after that. At the end of 3 months of praying, one of the elders (who was originally skeptical of the prayer partner idea) said, "You all know what happened in our family this month. When my wife went to the hospital for her operation, I can't tell you what it meant to know that 'K' and his wife would be praying for her every day. You know what I think? I think we should have everybody in the congregation praying. Why don't we ask them to pray for each other?"

So, they experimented with their congregation, creating prayer partner trios out of families. The pastor & author goes on in the book to explain how the passion and excitement in their church exploded over the next few years. The only contributing factor: the increase in the pray-ing of their church members.

This was such a great reminder to me of what God does when we open our hearts to Him in prayer. Pastor Shedd shows us in this book that "prayer is not first man's trying to get through to God. It is first an opening up on God who is trying to get through to us.....Of course, one kind of prayer is reaching. But the first concept for great prayer is to know that God is already reaching for us."

He continues, "With this insight I saw my ministry in new light. My first job was not to storm heaven's gates for my people. Nor plead for them. Nor beg a reluctant God to bless us with his favors. It was to teach the opening of inner doors with the simple prayer, 'Come in.'"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Only one word.

I knew it had been awhile since I had posted anything on this blog about prayer, but I had no idea just how long until my sister commented on my last post and encouraged me to keep it coming. (Thanks, Jacque!)

To be honest, I've had a rough few months. There has been a lot of illness in my family, and I feel like we're just starting to get back on our feet again. My house is not exactly ship-shape, and I feel like my prayer life isn't back to normal either.

I just love what God does, though. How He uses other real, human people (as opposed to non-real, non-human people? man, am I weird or what?) to bring it all home, back to basics. I re-read my last post since it had been a few months, and was surprised to find that I encouraged myself! I opened up my Bible, knowing I needed to hear something from God, honestly doubting whether I was even in a state of mind to actually receive whatever He might say, and only half-hoping that He would indeed speak to me.

I felt directed to Psalms and opened to a random chapter, 102. I'm going to type it out (verses 1-22), because I want you to experience this with me and see how ONE WORD made all the difference. The dude who wrote this Psalm was just an average, everyday person. An afflicted person who was dealing with all kinds of junk in his life. Kind of like you & me.

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.

All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.


You, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.

For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.

So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

I don't know about you, but something just hit me when I saw the word "But," followed by..."You, O Lord, sit enthroned forever." I know that this was no coincidence, and I just LOVE IT when God speaks to me so clearly in His Word. What a great reminder that I can change my attitude about my circumstances with just one word.

And I loved how the Psalmist said in verse 18: "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord." I thought, "That's ME he's talking about! He wrote this so I would be encouraged."

Moral of today's story & this really long blog post: Don't let the stuff get you down. Let that one word change your life today. Yes, you may be going through a really hard time. Maybe the worst time ever, and you feel that no one else would truly understand what you're dealing with.


I challenge you to use this word when you are praying to the Lord about the circumstances you are facing today.

P.S. If you have trouble bringing yourself out of the pit you've found yourself in, Psalm 103 is an excellent choice.