Tag Archives: HolySpirit

Prayer – O When the Saints…

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 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

Pray in the Spirit:

Be inspired, allow heaven to be continually invading your heart and giving utterance to you lips. Allow yourself to get carried away in the Spirit’s prayer and carried along by the spiritual tidal wave of other’s prayer. Luke 6:45, talking about good and evil utterance, states, “for out of the overflow of (your) heart (your) mouth speaks…”

OverflowDon’t always worry about finding the correct words. As we saw in the last post the Holy Spirit may often take us beyond words into longing. Hear what John Bunyan had to say about this:

“The best prayers have often more groans than words.”

On all occasions – the “kairos” moment:

The best way to overcome time is through prayer. We all know Martin Luther’s famous phrase,

“Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” 

The great preacher Spurgeon also learnt the priority of prayer as a means of making the most of every opportunity – redeeming time:

“We think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time.”

In Greek there are two words for time – Chronos, which is the seconds and minutes of a watch, and Kronos, which is the opportunity, the “timeless event” in time. “All occasions” is translated “kairos” here. True prayers live in the kairos moment and are no slaves to clocks and time.

All kinds:

Inspired by the Father’s love may our tongues flow into “all kinds” of prayers. Diversity is the hall-mark of prayer. There are as many ways of praying as there are personalities and cultures. It is always good to be open to learning from others, but the key of prayer is to be able to recognise and develop your own God-given style. Corporate prayer is like arranging a beautiful bouquet of different flowers. Just as the skill of a professional florist can bring beauty from the right arrangement, so the skill of a seasoned prayer leader will bring harmony and strength to the corporate prayer event.

Don’t be afraid of people who pray differently from you. Don’t shut down their utterance. Sometimes people need space and time to learn to pray out loud and refine their words. Initiate long sessions of prayer which allow such apprenticeships. Don’t expect perfection, or theologically correct phraseology, but allow the precious pearl to emerge from the mud of the field.embrance_diversity

Be alert – no hypnosis!

The Greek word used here is “ayrupneo” has its roots in “hypnos” which means sleep, and “a”, which means “out of”, or “no”. No sinking into the land of nod for those who want to pray. I have always been amazed to see how many yawns appear, and how many people begin to sink into the arms of Morpheus during a prayer session. It is a spiritual battle to stay alert! Somnos is the Latin equivalent for sleep. Prayer pushes us to “insomnia,” or as the Muslims say, “Prayer is better than sleep.”

Hypnos, in Greek mythology, had a twin brother called Thanatos which gives us the word “death.” When most of the people are half-asleep or non-engaged in the prayer, you are simply inviting a very deathly spirit into your session. Remember the context of spiritual warfare within which this teaching on prayer is given. “Be Alert!”

Always keep on:

Forsyth said:

“The chief failure of prayer is its cessation.”

You will never finish a marathon if you stop. The very nature of prayer is persistence – not simply a legalistic masochism to get to the end of the session, but a hard-working, painfully sweating, sweet communion with our Bridegroom King. We do not just pray to get stuff, but the very “praying personality” which God is forming in us has untold eternal value in itself. The Bride is indeed, with much faithful perseverance, making herself ready.

For all the saints:

Who are the saints? This is what Pope Francis recently said on his Twitter page.

“To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.”

Our prayers must never remain only mystical words. Beware the aimless strumming of a guitar, or the endless listening to a worship cd for hours on end that sometimes goes by the name of a prayer session. At some point your prayer must connect!

Praying for the saints doesn’t mean a mystical devotion to an old man’s bones or a young man’s singing. It means finding incarnation and communion. 

Prayer needs to be directed to real people and projects. It needs a group of bodies to live in.  It needs your own willing body. It needs a living sacrifice. King David sums up this necessary incarnation in Psalm 109:4 when he says:

“I am a man of prayer.”

Translated  literally he is saying: “I am prayer…”

Prayer needs to incarnate into unreached people groups, language learning, faith sharing, generous giving, servanthood…crucifixion.

saintsYour prayers also need communion. The Apostles creed states that we believe “in the communion of the saints.” This can only be fully grasped in the context of prayer. We ever live in our prayers. Groanings and intercession outlast time and death. We can still be in communion with the prayers of Saint Paul…but also Saint Evan Roberts, and all the other cloud of witnesses who have faithfully, and often anonymously,  prayed throughout the ages.

We are called to pick up the baton of such prayers and carry them forward into our own generation. Longings and dreams for revival, for the awakening of whole people groups. How Hudson Taylor’s groanings for China have been taken up by a whole generation of Chinese now on their way “back to Jerusalem.”

There is indeed a necessary Synergy of intercession – a deep communion with the living prayers of those who have gone, and are going before us.

The every day “koinonia”  of a prayer group’s life is also vitally important for the efficacy of prayer. In Matthew 18:19-20 we read:

” Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

“Symphono” and “Synago” – the sweet music of agreement, and the unity of the gathered, true synergy, genuine communion...

“the saints go marching in!”

 

 

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Prayer – The “Aunty Nelly” factor…

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“You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.” Henri Nouwen

Aunty NellyMany years ago, as a young boy, I was dragged along by my parents to the Sunday afternoon tea ritual with my Aunty Nelly.  Numbed and damagedly bored by the conversation I would inwardly groan as the pointing finger of my Aunt rose in my direction.

“Why is he so big” she would say. Such a question simply opened up a black hole of despair in my vulnerable brain, but my Dad came to the rescue.

“He is big, because he eats lots of bread pudding…”

Arriving home after the ordeal, I looked up to my Dad and asked,

“Am I really big because of bread pudding?”

“No son,” he replied,

“The bread pudding was for your Aunty Nelly…You are big because I love you. It’s my loving that make’s you grow.”

With that he knelt down, gave me a hug and planted a big kiss on my forehead.

That lesson has stayed with me for decades. If you want to grow big, if you want to learn to pray, you must know that you are loved! It is not the “bread pudding” of quick fix, legalistic formulas and Christian jargon that will strengthen your spiritual muscle, but a simple surrendering to an intimate relation with your heavenly Father.

Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry, models this prayer and life principle for us.

 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

When you pray, heaven opens and the Holy Spirit descends.Jesus being baptized

Prayer also begins a dialogue – it releases the voice of the Father carried on the wings of a dove. Hearing this voice is the basic essential for building a prayer life. Hear His voice speaking to you now, calming the storm of pain and suffering or invading the mundane monotony of yet another prayerless day.

“You are my son/daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

We all become heroes when we know we are loved.

Allow the kiss of the Holy Spirit to settle on your forehead, and let Him strengthen you for prayer. Don’t worry if you do not know what to pray in the beginning – such weakness is actually a great asset!

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26

Do you sometimes “groan” inwardly as you watch the news or see the madness of life around you? Do deep sighs nestle in your breast as you contemplate your own limits to living? Interpret the breath of God into such pain and find a prayer that even the greatest poet cannot pen.

Great groaners can become great prayers.

As you carry the longing up your own particular mountain of prayer, remember to hear the all sustaining voice that leads you upward.

In your pain and doubt you cry, “Do you love me, do you really love me?”

Choose to hear the “yes”

 

Good to go…

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How do you handle space? Empty Spaces

Absence always poses a challenge to us, and mostly we try to avoid it or fill it up with any rubbish to hand. The promise of twelve more “spaces” every New Year rings out over the world…Resolutions are made, and agendas filled…but do we really know how to deal correctly with such opportunity?

Jesus final words to his disciples in John 16 are all about preparing his people to accept absence and space in the right way.

“But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away.” v.7

Parting is indeed, “such sweet sorrow”. But where is the sweetness in absence? What do I fill the gaps with?

“Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”v.7

Like the disciples, we must learn the art of waiting on the Counselor, our friend of truth, the Holy Spirit. When He comes, He will fill up 2 major spaces – one in me and the other in the environment around and before me. He brings both personal illumination and general conviction.

Presence of Holy SpiritJesus explained the external work by talking about how the Holy Spirit of truth would work as an ally to our endeavours, convicting the world of “sin”, “righteousness” and “judgement.” We never have to fill all the “ministry space” ourselves. We simply need to recognise the opportunities He has prepared. Do you indeed have faith that He has gone ahead into your own very situation and environment? Do you expect Him to work and are you waiting on the spaces to seize the amazing opportunity?

Theologians have rightly debated and studied the conviction statements and come to a vast array of insightful conclusions. However, the key is not just in the correctness of interpretation but in the revelation of the fact that we have a Holy Counselor who goes ahead of us into the world to prepare the scenario for our lives, and in the practical experience of this. We also need to vastly expand the horizon of “sin”, righteousness” and “judgement” to see far more involved than just religious doctrine. He goes ahead, in true “misseo dei”, to prepare a way, build the scenery and guarantee answer. His vibrant life is pulsating through history, infusing the future and preparing the answer to our divine dreams, both in the humble stables and glittering palaces of this world. Holiness wins!

He is also filling my inner space…there are at least three consequences of such filling.

1.      “…he will guide you into all truth.”v.13

Without question this includes revealed knowledge from the Scriptures, but “all” seems to promise a journey into the fullest realm of veracity. Honest relationships, encountering the Creator in the truth and beauty of His works, discerning the creative cries of truth in art, literature and the world’s cultures.

Jesus, the way, the life and the truth, is waiting to be discovered.

2.      “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” v.23

The very best thing we can do with space is to fill it with prayer. Space is the womb of prayer.praying_man

Prayer is the gift of the Counselor to us. His indwelling presence expresses Himself in the glorious groaning that words cannot always encompass. Prayer is unlimited influence with God. It is the confidence of provision, a key to heaven which unlocks the door to a smiling Father ever willing to give good gifts to His children.

A group of people engaging the possibilities of their corporate space together in prayer may be another way of seeing the beauty of the Bride as she makes herself ready.

And last but not least…

3.      “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.”

God is longing to enlarge the space of our inner tent. He wants to give us “heart enlargement” so that we can indeed capture a large enough vision of what He is willing and able to do in the world.

His law of faithful provision already covers most of our “tiny” prayers, and He is almost daring us to come up with a prayer that is worthy of an all-powerful, all loving God. Can we expand our vision and expectancy to encompass the generous immensity of our King? Or will we, like Israel in Isaiah 49:6, frustrate Him with our “too small things.”?

“Ask of me!” pleads God, “And I will give you nations!” (Psalm 2:8)

In my early innocent days of mission, our young team would be encouraged to pray “Wild prayers!” Big, crazy, God sized prayers, beyond all we could hope or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) Years have cast the insipid shadow of reason over that chaste simplicity, but I am longing that as I start a new season in 2013 the Counselor will woo me back to a walk on the wild side. I think I should be asking for 50 people to be added to our new little church endeavour in our first year – will you join me in this “crazy” prayer?

Wildness brings joy!

“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” v.24

“We are straightened in our own hearts, not in God.” A.B. Bruce

So expect an illumination of truth, prevailing prayer and enlarged vision for all your spaces…and your joy will be complete.

Ineffective and unproductive?

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Are we making a difference? Are all the hours of prayer, evangelism and preaching, coupled with the billions of dollars faithfully given in tithes worldwide having any real impact on the world?

save_the_worldWe can now take that risky journey from the royal “we” to the singular. Are you making a difference? Does your “personal relationship with Jesus” bear fruit?

I have to confess that one of my greatest fears is to become ineffective and unproductive in my Christian walk. Challenged by a global paradigm shift in mission and ecclesiology I am constantly asking myself the above questions.

Well, before dragging you down into the pit of my own introspection, I better say how thankful I was to get the beginnings of an answer while meditating on the first chapter of 2 Peter.

“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” v.8

I’m probably not going to be able to answer some of the “action” questions so dear to my heart, but “these qualities” seem to go a long way in laying a foundation of simply “being” fruitful.

So what are these qualities?

Well it all begins with “divine power.” v.3 – an encounter with the Holy Spirit, a personal Pentecost. We get the words “dynamo” and “dynamite” from the Greek word “dunamis” used here for power. You need to be operating from your own internal power source of the Holy Spirit. Human effort will not be enough. You need the kind of explosive breakthrough that only an encounter with God can bring.explosive-material-sign-3

This power gives us “everything we need for life and godliness.” So, if there is absolutely one thing you really need, it has to be a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit who will make the life of Jesus real to us. We are called to “participate (koinonos) in the divine nature”, and, sharing together in the only true life that exists, we escape the entropy of the world, entering into never-ending vitality.

We then get a list of things to do to be effective in verses 5-7.

“Make every effort!”- As our Western Protestant Christian culture has so overloaded the “free grace” equation, it may come as a shock to some to realise that, even though you may be saved by faith, you still need to make an effort – spontaneous, anointed and joyous, to be effective.

“…add to your faith (pistis) goodness” (arête – valour, excellence). It is great to have faith, but it needs to be switched on by courageous acts of excellence.

“and to goodness knowledge” (gnosis). The classic song says “The greatest thing in all my life is knowing you,” and true intimacy in our relationship with God is an essential for growth. Knowing God will also lead us to a greater knowing of those around us. “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20

self-control-motivational-poster-21653“…and to knowledge, self-control” (egkrateia – a strong grip). It is time to get a grip on your life! Is the screen stronger than you? Do tongues and tempers run wild or are they tamed?

“…and to self-control, perseverance” (hypomore – to stay under, remain). Hang on in there! Beyond the miracles Paul named perseverance as being one of his major apostolic qualities. In the parable of the sower, it is the perseverance that produces the fruit. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15

“…and to perseverance godliness” (eusebeia – well reverent). I’m old enough to remember Manchester United winning the European cup against Benfica. The star player for the Portuguese side was a guy called Eusebio! The “star quality” of a God seeker needs to emanate from your life! My ambition is to become the Right Reverend Robert Reeve!

eusebio1“…and to godliness, brotherly kindness.” You’ll have to work for the Greek. Think of an American state, a cheese spread and a song by Bruce Springsteen. “Philadelphia” Like the cheese, we need to spread this around! There is nothing more powerful than a group of people who love one another – that is why we are constantly needing to arm ourselves against the enfeebling power of division.

“and to brotherly kindness, love” (agape – sacrificial love). Love is not just a feeling it is an act of the will. We attain to the “divine nature” – “God is love. Whosoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

So, here we have seven steps to fruitfulness. Apply them in your life’s walk and confirm your Christian identity. “…be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”

And a final, encouraging promise.

“For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome (does that imply there is also a “poor” welcome?) into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” v.10-11