A Prayer for Sri Lanka

“I call out to the LORD…” (Psalm 3:4a)


Yesterday, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka killed over 200 people, targeting three churches during their Easter services. My prayers this week will include our brothers and sisters whose loved ones were martyred while celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Those faithful saints are with Him face-to-face today, but their families and friends remain grieving (although not as the world grieves, see 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Psalm 3 offers a lament lined with hope and may be used as a guide for our prayer for Sri Lanka. I’ve given Psalm 3 in full below. Will you join me in praying for the Church in Sri Lanka this week?

Psalm 3 (NIV)

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

 

Prayer? There’s an app for that…

I just spent five minutes rocking Graham for his afternoon nap. In the past, I would’ve piddled that five minutes away scrolling through my Facebook feed, “liking” things I don’t really like and watching videos of people making neat things out of a bunch of old junk. Granted, sometimes a little veg-out time between other things is good for my brain. However, it might be more beneficial if I spent at least some of those transitional moments during the day in prayer.

Enter PrayerMate. This free app, available on iOS and Android, has really helped me pray for specific things and people in short little conversations with God throughout my day. I created several lists like Family, Church, and My Spiritual Growth. To each list, I added a number of cards. These are people and things to pray about. Some cards are temporary–after I pray through them a set number of times or length of days, they are archived. Others are perpetual, like praying for Corinne. To some cards, I add notes, specific things to pray for that person, or Scriptures to pray for them.

PrayerMate has a number of prayer guides and resources available, so I don’t have to create all this content myself. When I created a prayer card for Corinne, it suggested several things a husband can pray for his wife, including verses and short prayers from a variety of books and prayer guides. I can add whatever I want to her card, and add my own prayers for her as well. For my own spiritual growth, I’m planning to use a daily prayer guide designed for 2019 that guides a conversation with the Lord about where I need to grow and submit to him.

After getting the app set up (which is super easy), it does my favorite thing. When I sit down to rock Graham or have a few minutes between appointments, I can start praying with a swipe. I set mine to randomly pull up five cards from my lists. Just now I swiped and it pulled up a prayer from Matthew 9:38, a prayer to confess sin, a card to pray for my mother-in-law, a card from The Gospel Coalition’s “18 Things to Pray for Your Church,” and a prayer for my next door neighbor. In five minutes, I will have prayed for several things I wouldn’t normally think to pray for on my own.

That’s much better than scrolling through my Facebook feed!

Even though the calendar turns another year this week, we’re only halfway through our year of prayer at LakeView Church. Maybe we’ll turn it into a lifetime of conversations with God! Whether it’s an app like PrayerMate, a reminder on your phone, or the accountability of a good friend, my prayer for you is that you will find time to spend just five more minutes a day talking or listening to God in 2019.

Lord, I Need You

The series on prayer continues with a look at Psalm 16, a prayer of dependence and confidence in God. How can we say that God is our only hope? Why do Christians put all their eggs in God’s basket? Why do we pray: “Lord, I need you”?

Praying for Our Country

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, NIV)

We live in a time and social context in which our country is deeply divided over politics, sexuality, race, religion–you name it, we’ll split over it. We also live in a context in which sin runs rampant. Indeed, Romans 1:18-32 could almost be a description of our society today. Sin wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it appears, and while our nation is floundering, drowning in its own depravity, what are we doing to help?

Let me suggest that rage against those who disagree with us isn’t helpful. Wishing everyone from a particular political party or religious movement would just go away and live somewhere else isn’t going to fix any of the challenges we face. Now more than ever we need to be praying for our nation and its leaders. We need to be the light of the world that Jesus called His disciples (that includes us) to be in Matthew 5:14-16. We need to live righteous, holy lives devoted to our Savior, and we need to pray for those who haven’t yet heard or accepted the good news of Jesus. It is the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in true believers, that will exalt a nation–not its laws, its political views, its tolerance, its social services, or its GDP.

So, let me also suggest that aside from being a living picture of the gospel, a reflection of the Lord to your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers–the most important thing you can do for our country is pray. It doesn’t matter if we view our neighbors as friends or enemies. It doesn’t matter if we see our governing authorities as friends or enemies. If they’re friends, we should pray for them, and if they’re enemies… well, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, too.

My prayer for the week is that we will all remember to pray for the people who make up our nation, even the ones we don’t like.

The Best Part of Knowing Jesus

What is the best part of knowing Jesus? Some might say forgiveness. Others, freedom from addiction. Still others would say it’s the peace and joy they’ve found in Christ. And most would probably say the promise of eternal life is the best part of knowing Jesus. While all those things are true and good, Luke 10:38-42 shows us what the best part of knowing Jesus truly is.

Never Let Go

“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13, NIV).

As I sat down to read through Proverbs 4, I asked the Lord, “What do You have for me in this chapter this morning?” He replied directly (which is pretty rare for me), It’s not for you. Pray this for your sons.

I read through the chapter a couple times to get a sense for its flow and meaning and then prayed through each verse, putting in the names of Asher, Jack, Elliot, and Graham. What a beautiful prayer for my boys, and what a great lesson that God loves my children and has specific things He wants me to pray for them! Too often I get into a rut with my prayers for my family, and this was a reminder to use God’s words more often when I pray for them.

As I prayed through these verses, I noticed something I’d missed in previous readings (sometimes praying a passage brings new insight). Five times in this one chapter we’re instructed not to forget, forsake, or let go of wisdom, instruction, understanding, etc. I love to learn new things, have new experiences, go on new adventures, and explore new places. Sometimes in my passion for discovery, I get frustrated with rehashing what I “already know.”

But through directing me to pray for my boys, God also reminded me that sometimes I don’t need to learn something new, I need to hold onto what I already know. And, here’s the kicker, knowing is of no value if we don’t apply it to our lives. Maybe it’s not a fresh revelation I need; maybe I need to apply the revelation I already have received. It’s our fallen human nature to loosen our grip on God’s instruction over time, to lose our focus and stray to the right or to the left. Sometimes we need to be reminded to live according to the Word we’ve been given. My prayer for this week is that God will show you where you can you refocus your heart on His Word, and renew your commitment to live it out every day.


Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

It is in Vain

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
(Psalm 127:1–2, ESV)

I get up fairly early to spend with the Lord each day (I actually have a standing appointment with God on my calendar, but I’m a geek and that’s another blog). This morning I was thinking about the busy week ahead, all the things on my list to do. And I thought, Maybe this morning instead of reading the Psalms with God I’ll get a jumpstart on sermon prep for the week. God knows how much I have to do this week and He’ll understand.

As I was thinking this, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I decided to spend my time with God, but not in Psalms. I would generate a reading plan about the Holy Spirit and start reading through those passages as my “devotional” time. Even while I was trying to make a deal with the Holy Spirit, I realized that if this was my plan I would end up spending my entire “devotional” time researching reading plans, rather than meeting with God in His Word. Plus, researching Holy Spirit reading plans is one of the tasks on my to do list for the week.

I felt pretty strongly that God wanted me to keep my meeting with Him in the Psalms, and the Psalm for today is Psalm 127. I read through the Psalm a few times (it’s only five verses) and was listening to what God might be saying. I got hung up on verse 2 and the way different English Bibles translate it in different ways, so I read it in Hebrew and was thinking about the various translation options when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit turned a light bulb on in my head.

Here I had been trying to convince myself to skip my meeting with God so that I could rise up early and work ahead on my week. But unless the LORD builds the house, the builders work in vain, and unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen work in vain… And God couldn’t have spoken any more clearly to me: “It is in vain that you rise up early (v. 2). Unless the LORD shepherds the church, the pastor works in vain! Getting up early to work won’t work unless God is the One working. So if I’m going to get up early, I might as well enjoy a cup of coffee with my Lord and let Him empower my work later.

As God so patiently spent time with me and brought that to my attention, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was no condemnation in His conviction, and I could feel His smile when  I finally got what He was saying to me this morning. My prayer for you this week is that you’ll remember to spend time with God in the midst of the busy-ness of life.


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

In My Distress

“I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (Psalm 120:1, NIV)

How is your prayer life? Mine has gone through many seasons alternating between fervent, regular, intimate prayer and periods of dryness where I feel like God doesn’t answer or I just plain don’t pray. One thing’s for sure, though, when I’m in a rough patch in life, my prayer habits tend to improve. Funny how distress often causes us to remember God! O that we would call on the Lord when times are good, and not just when trouble heads our way!

This hasn’t always been the pattern in my life. A few years ago, when Asher was a baby, he was pretty sick and had to go to the ER. Even though I was a pastor who counseled people to call on the Lord in times of trouble, it didn’t occur to me to apply that counsel to my own life. We got to the hospital, checked in, and were waiting for the doctor. Corinne asked me if I would pray for Asher, and I immediately recognized the Holy Spirit speaking through my bride: Are you going to ask for My help or try to muscle through this on your own?

The truth that God walks through our distress with us, giving us the strength to endure, fell from my head to my heart. I had learned it, but I didn’t know it–does that make sense? It took a little distress in my life for God to teach me that lesson.

One of my favorite things about God is that He answers us when we call on Him. He walks through life with us. He helps us when we’re weak and calms us when we’re afraid. He celebrates with us when things go well, and encourages us when they don’t. My prayer for this week is that you will call on the Lord and He will answer you, whether you’re in distress or delight.


Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

Reading the Bible in 4 Steps

Most evangelical Christians believe that reading the Bible is of utmost importance. Yet, the Bible is a somewhat intimidating book to read. For one thing, it’s enormous. For another, the Bible was written by over 40 human authors over a period of 1400 years. There’s a lot of cultural-historical contexts we don’t see behind the pages of God’s Word. This week, I want to share with you a relatively simple way to approach the Bible devotionally.

This method is an ancient one known as lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”), and it’s been practiced by Christians for over 1,000 years. I personally use lectio divina in my devotional reading, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great way to meet God in His Word and listen to Him speak to you through what you’re reading in Scripture. It’s not, however, the best way to do in-depth Bible study. It’s not inductive or based on precepts. It most likely won’t point you to the author’s original intent. I wouldn’t claim that the things I hear God speak during my devotional reading are universally applicable or that I’ve discovered the true meaning of the passage, and I don’t use lectio divina as a method of preparing for a sermon. It’s just what I do to spend time with God in His Word.

Lectio divina is traditionally based on four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). It actually has a preparation step as well, of praying that God will speak and give you ears to hear what He says through His Word.

Lectio (reading). Read the passage slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. Look for patterns, repetition, and words or phrases that seem to grab your attention. I like to read it aloud, if possible, and try to imagine how the human author would’ve spoken these words. Once you’ve read through it initially, reread it even more slowly. Pause where something seems to catch your heart and think about what’s being said.

Meditatio (mediation). Whatever part of the text seemed to stand out, that seemed to speak directly to you, might be something the Holy Spirit wants you to focus on. Go back and read the passage a third time, looking for how your phrase, sentence, or verse fits into the rest of the section. Stop and think deeply about why the Holy Spirit brought these words from this text to your attention. How might they apply to your life? As you meditate, what else comes to mind? Who else comes to mind? Is there a specific action you need to do (or stop doing)? A belief you need to change? A person you need to pray for or reach out to?

Oratio (prayer). Talk to God about what you read in His Word. Talk to Him just like you would talk to a friend sitting across the table over coffee. How does the passage make you feel? What challenges you? What excites you? What don’t you understand? What do you grasp more now that you’ve read–about God, life, yourself, etc.? Can you pray the Scripture back to God? Personally, I like to summarize my prayer in a couple paragraphs in a journal.

Contemplatio (contemplation). Ask God to speak back to you, and read the passage one more time with a listening heart, then be quiet and sit in silence before the Lord. Just be with God, aware of His presence, enjoying an intimate moment with Him. Over time, this silent communion with God will become one of the most (probably the most) meaningful moments of your day. During this time, resolve to do whatever God tells you to do–to put into practice what He has spoken to you through His Word.

I’ve found that these four simple steps have guided my devotional time with God, and helped me to develop a conversational relationship with God that has led to a truly personal connection with the Creator of the Universe. That connection is something I cannot live without. My prayer for you this week is that you would find the same thing as you approach the Lord in prayer and Scripture!


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash