Simple Strategies for Prayer

Last night I taught our youth group about prayer. The focus of the lesson was in the Bible book of James chapter 5, but I ended with a simple “How to Pray” section of my own. I used one simple method with them but would like to share a couple more with everyone.

1. The PRAY method

This is a simple and easy way to expand your prayer life. It will get you focus on four specific topics:
P for Praise
R for Repentance
A for Asking for Others
Y for Yourself
Just walk through each of these primary areas while you pray. Praise God for what he has done in your life and in the word. Then open up about your sins and the power you need to change. Third, you ask for the needs of others. This one is good to keep a list or some even keep a journal. Finally, you present the requests for your life.

2. The ACTS method

This is very similar to the first with minor variations
A for Adoration
C for Confession
T for Thanksgiving
S for Supplication
You start by praising God for his work in your life, move to confessing sin, follow that with thanking God for what he has already done. The end is a big word that basically means “asking.” This can be asking for other people along with asking for your own needs.

3. The Circles Method

This is one that I use often. I start with praying for myself. Then I pray for those closest to me like my spouse and my children. Next, I move out to my Church. Then to extended relationships and finally with people I do not know. Finally, I praise God and what he has done and what he will do. I am basically working a circle out from myself till I reach God.

For most people, prayer is an intimidating task. Where do we start? What do we say? I encourage you to take one of these simple forms and try it in your life. Before long a couple of minutes of prayer will grow into extended times with God.

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Knowing People in a Growing Church

There have been a large number of new faces around our Church lately. It often leads to a statement like, “I just don’t know everyone.” I understand the sentiment when we see people and we want to connect to them as a believer, but I also know the harm.

I believe most people want to “know about” people far more than they want to “know” people. The Church is to be a place where people really get to know one another on a deeply personal level. We need relationships with people who know what makes us laugh and what makes us cry. They are connected to us in a way that gives support and encouragement to our spiritual journey. It is far more than just knowing our name and a few things about us.

So how do we get those kinds of relationships in a Church with all these new people?

1. Pray and Be Aware – I know this sounds simple, but it is still the best answer. Ask God to help you to connect with other people. Then look around at who he has brought into your life. This might be a coworker or the person who sits next to you during Church. Ask and then seek.

2. Walk Slowly Through the Crowd – If you run in late and leave in a rush, you will never connect to people. Give yourself time to talk and visit with anyone you can.

3. Share Your Name, Ask their Name and Work to Remember – I admit that this is tough for me. I am getting a little better. I really try to say their name at least twice and then connect it to something memorable. I think, “John and he has a new wife.” Then the next time you see them say their name and ask about their new wife.

4. Invite, Invite, Invite. Invite people out to eat, over to your house, to a ball game. Invite people into your life.

5. Serve Beside Someone – This is often overlooked. If you spend an hour in the nursery with someone, you usually get to know them. Spend an hour or two doing anything and you get to know the people serving with you.

These are simple little ways to connect. There are dozens more and maybe you have something to share with all of us that we can learn from. These are ways to open the door to new relationships.

Here is what I know: You need to connect deeply with other believers. You need to know at least one person and rarely will anyone have more than 12 people. Forget trying to know everyone in the Church. It will only make you frustrated. Focus on knowing a few people deeply. Be nice to everyone and get connected to someone.

A Christmas Shoebox

Last night was a culmination of a six month project for Adrian Christian Church. For years the Church I serve has done shoeboxes for Christmas through Samaritan’s Purse for Operation Christmas Child. Last spring I had the idea of connecting it to our Vacation Bible School. Lists were typed and the kids were told and the second week of July we started collecting and organizing material at VBS. Then we presented the opportunity to help to the congregation. Money and gifts came in and they were organized and prepared. Next, we had 18 people show up to help pack the boxes about a month ago. Finally, my assistant and I loaded up the boxes in my van and dropped off 100 fully packed boxes. The Church paid the $7 a box to ship them and the project was complete. Well, it will not be totally complete till Christmas. The video below will show you what will happen from here. Thanks to everyone for your donations, time and prayers. May God bless you all. (And if you would like to help lead this project next year, please let me know)

When In Doubt, Pray

I was recently a part of a religious ceremony that involved several different speakers. After each one gave their devotion or read their assigned scripture there was a moment of pause. Then they each looked around not sure what was going to happen next. In that moment each one did the exact same thing, each one prayed. All total there were four prayers in a matter of 15 minutes.

To people who do not go to Church this may have seemed odd, but to people who frequent religious functions, this might seem normal. In fact, I was once instructed by a professor that if you are ever unsure of what is going to happen next in a program then just pause and pray. He said that this action would focus our thoughts, calm our nerves and get you ready for the next thing.

Watching these men each pause and pray reminded me of those words of instructions years ago. Can I also say that those instructions are valid for anyone at anytime? When you are unsure what is going to happen next, just pause and pray. It will focus your thoughts, calm your nerves and get your ready for the next thing.

It doesn’t matter whether you lead religious activities of not. When in doubt about the future, pray.

Why I Take Fridays Off

A preacher’s schedule may be unlike any other in the world. Every Sunday is a big day for preachers like me. I have primarily worked all week for this one day. I pray, I preach, I teach, I fellowship and often I have meetings. Sunday is usually exhausting for most preachers.

As a result, many pastors take Monday off. Actually I used to do this myself. It gave me a day to rest and get ready for the rest of the week. The problem was that I usually came away from Sunday with a “to-do list” of items that I needed to get done quickly. Soon Monday morning became a time to get just a few more things done before I could relax. But then again, I never relaxed because I knew that Sunday was coming and I needed another sermon and lesson.

Lately I have been taking Fridays as my day off. This has worked much better for me. This allows me to do several things –

1. I am able to keep the ball rolling from Sunday. All of the thoughts I had on Sunday morning can be addressed on Monday and not forgotten.

2. I rest better when the work is done. By Friday everything I need to do for Sunday is done. Thursday night I sleep the best out of any day.

3. It builds in an extra day in case of an emergency. If, Lord forbid, an accident happens during the week, like my son breaking his ankle in four places this year, I am able to flex my day off to another day and then I can work on Friday to get everything done. This helps me to relax.

4. Occasionally I get a day off with my kids. Frequently the school gives my children a day off and very often it is on Friday. It is wonderful to get extra time with my family.

5. Frequently I get two days off in a row. Saturdays are hit and miss. Sometimes I have meetings, sometimes weddings and funerals, and sometimes I just need to do some final prep work for Sunday. Quite often I get to take two days off and enjoy a time to refresh and relax.

These may not seem like a big deal to you, but they are to this preacher. Throughout my ministry I have run into people on Friday and they ask, “Are you not working today?” The answer is simply, “Nope, and I love it.” I enjoy it so much that I encourage all of the Church staff to do the same.

Oh yeah, I wrote this yesterday and scheduled it to post today. Right now I am outside enjoying the day. If you need anything, I will see you Sunday.

What in the World Are You?

To the lady in the scrubs at Wal-Mart last night I want to say something. You look like you are educated and apparently work in some kind of medical field. It makes me sad that when you walked by my cart while I was checking out that you threw your trash in the clothes hamper that was in my cart. A few feet away was a trash can and you were going to walk directly by one on your way out the door. Instead you decided to throw your trash into my newly purchased item, which really looks nothing like a trash can. I want you to know that I think people like you are really what is wrong with the world.

Now it might help you to know that I was with my wife at Wal-mart last night as part of her job. She was purchasing some needed supplies for some ladies who live in an assisted living home. Our cart load of items were not for us and the money we were spending was not even ours. We were simply doing a job and I was trying to help my wife.

To the lady that saw her and walked over and dug out the trash and took it to the can for me. I want you to know that you are what is right with the world.

I admit, at first you freaked me out as you walked over to my cart and stuck your arm down in our laundry basket as we were checking out. You did not say anything and appeared a little angry. When you emerged with the trash and took it over to the trashcan I was a little shocked. I am sure you are a very nice person, but your clothes were very worn and you looked like you had been working hard at manual labor all day. Despite how the situation initially appeared, I appreciate your thoughtfulness at what the other lady had done. Thanks for not thinking you are the center of the universe and everyone and everything else is at your disposal.

Last night I saw two kinds of people in a matter of minutes. One self-absorbed and oblivious to other people. One thoughtful and kind and trying to lend a helping hand. At a quick glance someone might have guessed the opposite to be true of each of them. And yet, the seemly educated women, who had a full load of purchases, felt the need to throw her trash in my stuff. All the while the lady who looked worn was kind and took the trash out of my life. All I was left to wonder was, which kind of person am I?

Why Worry?

My social media has been alive today in light of yesterday’s election. Everyone seems to feel like they need to share thier point of view about what is going on in our country. There are people who are convinced that this is the beginning of the end of the USA and there are other people who believe it is a great step forward as a country. If I had to describe the biggest feeling among my friends, it would be worry. There is a sense of anxiety over the future. The prevailing attitude is, “We don’t know what this means, but it could be scary.” I have a relative who has been listing several negative possible outcomes with our new president. She is very afraid of what tomorrow holds.

Interestingly enough, Jesus does address days like this in a very straightforward way. In the story of Jesus as told by one of his followers named Luke, Jesus says this in Luke 12:25-26, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (26) Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

In a similar passage from one of Jesus followers named Matthew he says this in Matthew 6:33, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

In both cases Jesus affirms that there are moments in life where we will be filled with worry. There are times that try men’s souls and in those moments we will want to expect the worst possible outcome. We will then play those horrible scenarios over and over in our head until we can’t sleep at night.

In the context Jesus gives us another option. Instead of focusing our attention on the scary future inside our own mind, why don’t we seek God and his kingdom.

Worry doesn’t change anything. It can’t add an hour to our lives. It can’t stop the trouble that is coming tomorrow. It can’t do anything but drain today of all its possibilities.

Worry is the exact opposite of trust. If we trust God in his sovereign leadership then we have no need to worry. Trust in the Lord and leave your anxiety at his throne. He will take care of you today and tomorrow.