Category Archives: Prayer

Are You Asking God to “Baptize” Your Sin?

images (41)One of my responsibilities at Calvary Bible Church is to order all of our discipleship and counseling resources.  Last week, upon perusing our counselors’ bookshelf, I noticed that we had no resource on the topic of repentance…so I went on the hunt.  My searching led me to a book by C. John Miller called, Repentance: A Daring Call to Real Surrender.  There is much about the book that is good, but chapter 2 is great!  In it, Miller shows the difference between penance and repentance.  One of the characteristics of penance is that it focuses on what people do instead of what God has done.  In other words, through penance (religious duties, acts of kindness, involvement in certain programs, etc.) a person seeks to justify himself before God, in order to put his conscience at ease.  There are many things wrong with this (foremost being that justification only comes through Christ), but one thing Miller points out grabbed me by the scruff of the neck.

He describes the reality that people with a penance mindset will often mask their self-effort with much prayer – pleading with God to help then and even with tears.  Miller calls this “asking God to baptize your sin”.  In essence, when people do this, they are “asking [God] for help so [they] can continue to live a life which is independent of God”, that is, seeking from God “enough grace to be strong in themselves”.

Do you see yourself in this?  I see myself.  Sadly, at times, I have used prayer as means to the end of maintaining a life of self-service and self-justification, wherein I can feel good about doing what I should (praying), while enjoying what I really want (chasing after pet sins and idols of preference).  Engaging in this practice, essentially, is asking God to support our idolatry with his grace.  We think because we’re praying about it that we’re behaving “Christianly”, when we’re actually sharing in the practice of the Pharisees who used “godly” practices for their own selfish goals (Matthew 6:1-4).

Church, let us pursue God-centered joy in repenting of this.  Let us know the bliss of turning away from a heart that sees God as only a means to a heart that sees him as the means and the end.  We exist for him and, in Christ, he gives us all we need to fulfill our purpose.


A Resource for Praying God’s Words Back to Him

Yesterday on Facebook, John Piper highlighted a stellar resource for prayer.  It’s a compilation of approximately 1500 Scripture promises and prayers called Take Words With You by Tim Kerr.  This resource is designed to be used as manual in helping you praise God and plead with God based on what he images (18)has already said in the Bible.

Here’s what Kerr has to say in the Introduction about the importance of praying Scripture:

There are two words that are very powerful when used in prayer.  These words are simply, “you said”.  In Genesis 31:2, God makes a promise to Jacob.  Involved in that promise is one of the most faith-giving promises in Scripture – “I will be with you”.  A promise that means God will do us good and pour out his favor upon us!  Then later, when in deep crises, Jacob cries out to God in prayer and reminds God of his promise to him.  Listen to what he says:

But you said, ‘I will surely do you good’…and Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good.’  (Genesis 32:12, 32:9)

The fuel of an intercessor is the promises of God.  We remind God in prayer of what he has said and call him to be faithful to his word.  Attaching God’s promises to people and situations is the very backbone of all faith-filled praying.

This resource is only $0.99 for the Kindle version.  It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

A Guide to Help Believers Confess Their Sins to God

After preaching Psalm 32 a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking more about how to help people confess their sins to Lord on a regular basis.  It’s true, telling someone they need to confess their sins is overly simplistic.  That statement needs explanation and guidance.  With that end in mind, here are five steps (along with Scripture texts) that I think will help us make this discipline a practice for the glory of God and the joy of our soul:images (16)

1) Read Psalm 32:1-5 to remind yourself of the deep agony of harboring sin and the soaring joy of confessing sin:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

2) Ask God to reveal your sins to you.  Praying through Psalm 139:23-24 will help give form to this prayer:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

3) Then, as you begin to recognize your sins, ask yourself, “When I did that, said that, thought that (or didn’t do that, didn’t say that, didn’t think that), what did I want more than God, and what lie did I believe  instead of believing God’s truth?”  This brings you to the root of your sin, so that your confession isn’t merely superficial.  The more you realize the deep rebellion of your sin, the more you’ll realize the transcendent joys of the gospel.

4) Confess your sins to God without making excuses or making them sound better than they really are.  Remember, if you are a follower of Christ, then God does not hold your sins against you.  Read Psalm 51 to give form to your confession (this is David’s prayer of repentance after committing adultery and murder).

5) To remind yourself of the riches of God’s love for you through his Son, read Romans 8 and praise him for what you encounter there.

When You See Kids Misbehaving at Church

images (15)My college Western Lit. professor called it “the cat cough”.  It’s that sound we make when we’re annoyed with some person or some circumstance.  We furrow our brow, flare our nostrils as if we’ve just smelled something foul, and let out a short, truncated burst of air from our lungs that says more about our mood in that moment than a ten-minute soliloquy.  The cat cough has popularly been followed by the word “whatever” with the younger crowd, but make no mistake, we’ve all let it fly.

I thought of the cat cough yesterday when I read a paragraph in John MacArthur’s book, The Master’s Plan for the Church yesterday.  In it MacArthur writes, “The families of a church should uphold each other.”  This is a statement that resonates with me because the weight of parenting has left me with a clear realization of how much I need other people who love God to also love my kids and help me point them to Jesus.  But this realization does not mean that I, myself, have always done a good job of doing that with our church members’ kids.

Later in the paragraph, MacArthur asks the question, “What is your reaction when you see unruly children?”  Sadly, for me, I have let the cat cough expel from my lungs on far too many occasions.  This response is a proud, un-Christ-like response that shames me to admit, but what should I do instead?  What should I put on after I’ve put off proud, self-righteousness?  After reminding myself of my great need and Christ’s sacrifice to provide for that need, I think MacArthur’s next question gives us a good answer: “Do you pray for them?”

Do we pray for those children and their parents?  Do we pray for the salvation of those kids?  Do we pray for their parents to have wisdom and balance in the way they approach disobedience?  Do we pray for them?  And I don’t mean in a falsely humble way like the Pharisee in the temple in Luke 18:9-14.  I mean praying like a person who recognizes that we are all dependent on the grace of God and if not for his kindness we would all be sunk.  Church, if the families in our churches are going to uphold each other, then we should start with prayer.

When Your Kids Aren’t Paying Attention During Prayer Time…

images (9)What happens when we bow our heads to pray with our kids?  As we’re expressing our hearts to God, what are they doing?  We may stress to them the importance of praying along with Daddy or Mommy in their hearts, being still, keeping their eyes closed, and staying quiet, but how much of that are they really doing?

The reality for them is that prayer time is a time when their parents aren’t talking to them.  You’re not giving them instruction or asking them questions, so more often than not (at least for my kids) this means giving some semblance of quiet and control for thirty seconds whilst traveling to another world in their own imaginations.

I want my kids to understand that they need God and I want them to understand what it is they need from him, so where does that leave me when I’m pretty sure they’re not listening to a word of what I’m bringing to the ears of God?  It’s simple, and I don’t know why I haven’t been doing it before now: I just tell my kids what I’m going to pray before I actually pray.  This way I’ve got their attention and they begin to see the wide expanse of ways in which we need God (both spiritual and physical).

Discipleship Through Prayer

imagesBy God’s grace, we are working to create a culture of discipleship at Calvary Bible Church.  We believe discipleship is something that takes place not just within the formal programs and ministries of the church, but also informally, as people eat together in homes, talk over coffee, serve alongside each other, and work to meet each other’s needs.

One of the ways we encourage this is by exhorting the body to pray for each other with each other, so that prayers are being prayed for people while the one praying is standing right next to them.  How is this part of the discipleship process?  There are a few different reasons why we do this.  First, we believe that God answers prayers, and second, we know how easy it is to tell someone you’ll pray for them and then forget.  But I think there is another element to this that is particularly important to discipleship.  When you hear another person pray you are getting a glimpse into their relationship with God and this can be instructive, moving, convicting, encouraging, and downright inspiring.

I learned how to pray by hearing others pray, and in fact, I’m still learning how to pray by hearing others pray.  Perhaps, more than any other experience I have with Christians, hearing them pray draws me nearer to God.  Why?  I think it’s because a person’s prayers gives flesh bones and to their theology.  I hear what they truly believe; what promises they’re clinging to, what attributes of God they are banking on, and what facets of the gospel they are cherishing.  When I hear a person pray I understand more how doctrine should translate into my communion with God.

Isn’t this what see in the Psalms over and over again?  God lets us gaze into the heart of a man as he stands with sure footing on his theology to praise and plead with his God, as with David in Psalm 4:1:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O Church, you may think that you have no significant ministry to other believers because you do not serve formally in a ministry program. Or you may think that the most significant things you do in ministry are the things you do that have an official title attached to them.  Please do not neglect to pray for people out loud in their presence as a means of discipleship.  It is more valuable than you think.

A Prayer for Your Pastor(s)

Last week Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog post titled, How Can I Tell If I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry?    In it he gives ten questions for a man to ponder as he considers whether the Lord would have him serve in this way.  I read the post hoping that it would be a good resource to give to young Christian men wrestling with their future, but found that it offered a question my mind has returned to many times over the last few imagesdays:

 Do I still want to be a pastor if I never write a book, never speak at a conference, and never have a big church?

My church is sending me to lead a church plant next year in another community near ours and this question was extremely timely.  While my answer to this question is “yes”, my sinful heart does feel the allure of such things.  Please pray that whatever happens in this ministry God has given me, I will desire to simply be faithful to my Savior and faithful to his people all my days.

I plead with you to pray this prayer for your pastor(s) as well.  Pray that Christ will forever be the allure of our hearts!

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