Question? “Do you ever feel ineffective in prayer?”
True prayer is really a foundation of true ministry. Without regular, fervent prayer, we may produce much activity, but we won’t see lasting spiritual fruit.
Not only that, but our own spiritual growth is dependent on regular communion with the Lord in prayer.
"The power of religion and godliness lives, thrives or dies as closet [private] prayer lives, thrives or dies. Godliness never rises to a higher pitch than when men keep closest to their closets.”
And yet, if you’re like me, you find yourself often echoing the words of Jesus’ disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). The full verse says, “And it came to pass that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (Luke 11:1)
Recorded in the very verse with the disciples’ request we learn three attributes of Christ’s prayer life:
“…as he was praying…”
That the disciples would find Christ praying is no surprise. Not only did He sometimes spend complete nights in prayer (Luke 6:12) and often rise early to pray (Mark 1:35), but Jesus’ life was a state of continual communication with the Father.
“…in a certain place…”
It seems Jesus had designated places where He would go to pray. Just before Calvary, Judas knew he could find Jesus in the Mount of Olives at the garden where he frequented as a prayer place (Luke 22:39).
We often make excuses for not having a place or a time for prayer yet Jesus found places of solitude where He made time for private prayer.
“…when he ceased…”
Jesus was so engaged in His time of prayer that for the disciples to ask a question would have been an interruption. The way many of us pray, however, is so disengaged that we are constantly letting our own thoughts interrupt us and perhaps thankful for the intermittent distractions coming from our phones.
Jesus was fully involved in prayer. He was bringing definite petitions before the Father. This was no mere ritual—it was real communication. John Bunyan said, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” I’m afraid we too often pray through a list with no real heart engagement in the serious business of prayer.
Constant, private, whole-hearted—do these adjectives describe your prayer life? If not, they should.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” —Hebrews 4:16
“Worrying is not necessarily the best use of our emotional energy and spiritual capacity.”
Leaders worry about stuff. We just do. I don’t mean that wring-your-hands, fretting and get-sick-to-your-stomach kind of worry. But that kind of natural focused concern about things you care about.
Like we “worry” about our kids. Parents care, we just do. We want our kids to be safe, healthy and make good decisions. That’s normal, but … not necessarily the best use of our emotional energy and spiritual capacity.
The bottom line is that worry isn’t helpful or productive, and rarely changes anything.
There are common worries leaders experience such as:
1. Worry about what other people think.
2. Worry about what we can’t control.
3. Worry about finances.
4. Worry about church growth.
5. Worry about opposition or a confrontation.
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
This is your reality checkpoint
In a leadership talk, John Maxwell asked the question, “Why worry?” Here’s what he said:
* 40 % of the things we worry about will never happen.
* 30 % of the things we worry about concerns old decisions that cannot be changed.
* 12 % of the things we worry about centers upon criticisms made by people who feel inferior.
* 10 % of the things we worry about is related to my health, which worsens when I worry.
* 8 % of the things we worry about is legitimate, which can be met head on when you have eliminated senseless worries.
That’s the beginning to winning over worry. Focus on what you can do something about. This leads us to the first step to remedy worry.
If there is nothing you can do about it, let it go. I mean really, let it go. Stop losing sleep over it.
For that small percent of legitimate concerns, do something. Take action! Such as:
* Pick up the phone.
* Make a decision.
* Have the conversation.
* Get some help.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
When we trust God we increase our faith. The devil loves to make us doubt. We are drawn to people of great faith because they offer hope. People will always follow a leader with great faith who offers hope over one who worries.
Get Some Rest.
Sometimes we overcomplicate things. We can overthink stuff and become exhausted. You might just need to take a break. Get some rest. This is a powerful tool to change your perspective. Remember: “When you have done all you can do, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” —Victor Hugo
“What should you do if you expect to find worship hard?"
It happens. Even believers struggle sometimes with worshiping. Life gets hard. Problems get in the way. We go to church, but leave our heart at home. What should you do if you expect to find worship hard?
1. Be honest with God. He already knows your struggle. He’s big enough to handle your questions … and even your complaints. Admit your battle to worship even as you go to the worship service.
2. Don’t back away from the people of God. Avoiding church is not the answer when we don’t feel like worshiping. That disobedience will only compound the problem.
3. Evaluate your own life. Sometimes our own sin is the problem. If you know that sin’s in the way of your worship, confess it. Get real with yourself and with God.
4. Confess your feelings to somebody. We’ve all been where you are today. Find somebody who can pray with you from experience—and out of a position of victory.
5. Remember that God’s carried you through in the past. You, too, have probably been here before. The same God that restored your worship in the past can do it again.
6. Ask God to give you a new song, and patiently trust Him to do it. That’s what David did in Psalm 40:1-3. Follow his lead.
7. Think future tense. Worship is tougher when we’re focused on present-tense difficulties. Don’t ignore your struggles, but keep in mind that God’s already on the other side of them. He—and His people—win the war.
8. Quietly let others worship around you. This idea is tied to #2 above. Join with the people of God, and let them worship on your behalf. As they experience God, you might surprisingly want to join them.
9. Do love for God even if you don’t feel love. Love is intentional obedience, even when our heart is in a wrestling match. Sing the worship songs anyway. Listen for a single word from God in the sermon. Let your heart catch up with your head.
10. Thank God for worship. Even if you don’t fully experience God this weekend in worship, be sure to thank Him for the opportunity you have to gather with His people and focus on Him. Billions of people will have no such opportunity
God is not a cosmic genie who promises to answer every request if we just believe strongly enough in His power.
I get a little impatient with super-spiritual saints who leave the impression that they have a deeper grasp of prayer than most. Such folks teach that if other believers just understood God’s Word better—or had more faith in prayer—God would answer all their requests. They would never suffer illness or poverty again.
Such leaders seem to ignore the fact that Jesus was poor and the Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in the flesh throughout his life. Paul prayed for God to remove the pain, but the Lord did not answer this petition.
There are qualifiers. Someone once said that God answers prayer in one of four ways:
4) “You’ve got to be kidding Me!”
The following are seven biblical reasons why God doesn’t answer our prayers as we request:
1. Unconfessed sin.
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)
2. An unforgiving spirit.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)
3. An unbelieving heart.
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6-8)
4. Improper motives.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
5. An alienated marriage relationship.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7)
6. An anemic effort.
“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (Acts 12:5) “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” (James 5:17)
7. The sovereignty of God.
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16)
Trust and obey.
These principles are on my mind because of the death of Kristen Sauder, a woman from an article I read about recently. The article stated that thousands of Christians prayed for Kristen to be healed of cancer. They not only prayed, they fasted and prayed. The elders anointed her with oil and prayed.
While Kristen lived a few months longer than doctors projected, her condition continued to deteriorate. She died at age 45. Seemingly unanswered prayers left many perplexed as to why God doesn’t always answer in the affirmative. Considering the number of righteous people who prayed with intensity and with pure motives for her recovery, I can only conclude this was not God’s will. That may not make sense to us, but God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).
Job challenged God’s fairness and asked why so many horrible things happened to him when he had lived a righteous life. God finally responded by asking Job where he was at the dawn of creation or if Job could explain the formation of a baby in the womb. God didn’t give any clear answers. He just reminded Job that He was God and Job should trust Him to work things out in the end.
The Lord Jesus provided ample evidence of His love by coming to earth and suffering and dying for our sins. He gave us proof of His power by rising from the dead. So we have good reason to believe that “all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God doesn’t promise that all our prayers will be answered just as we express them. He does promise that He hears our prayers and in the end all will be made right. In the meantime, ours is not to understand or explain, but to trust and to wait. This is a lesson every church leader should be teaching to members of the flock.