The Necessity of Prayer :: 05

•2010-04-12 • 2 Comments

Welcome back to part 5 in my series on E.M. Bounds’ book about “The Necessity of Prayer.”

This week, the chapter of study was on “Prayer and Fervency.”  Fervency could also be thought of as intensity, passion, or fire.  A couple of the key points from the text that I thought were particularly poignant were “fervency helps prayer by creating the right atmosphere for prayer to flourish in” and “Coldness of spirit hinders praying”.  Throughout the chapter, Bounds kept hammering on fire, fire, fire, fire, fire.  It was clear that he believed that prayer without fire was the next best thing to a waste of time.

I think that fire is a particularly interesting word to compare something with.  To me, fire is associated with heat, and that brings to mind a (hopefully) illuminating (forgive the pun) illustration.  Physically speaking,  coldness is simply a lack of heat.  Its not an entity of its own.  We always discuss temperature as if it sort of hovers around the zones we’re comfortable in, generally, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus 60.  But, did you know that the lowest temperature physically possible is just a few hundred degrees below our comfort level (around -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit).  I know that sounds like quite a bit, but, compared with the surface of the sun (around 9,940F), we can see that we’ve got it quite nice.  Then, finally, the interior of the sun is around 24,479,540.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  Yes, thats right…I double checked…nearly 25 MILLION degrees Fahrenheit.

What I’m trying to point out here, is that fervency, like temperature, has no real upper bound.  You can always get more on fire for the Lord.  You can always draw nearer to him. Similar to what Bounds said, Coldness of spirit is likely to indicate the lack of prayer.  I’m convinced now that the more we pray, the more we will find ourselves in possession of these many facets of prayer, regardless of whether we started with them.  If commit to prayer, you will find that you have more faith, that you begin to trust, that you find your desires in line with his, and that you begin to have fire and passion.

What more will come?  What else will we learn?

I don’t know, but I’m beginning to get excited about the possibilities!

The Necessity of Prayer :: 04

•2010-03-04 • Leave a Comment

Welcome back to part 4 in my series on E.M. Bounds’ book about “The Necessity of Prayer.”

This part gets takes us away from the consideration of faith and trust, and focuses us instead on the idea of “Desire.”

The chapter starts out: “Desire is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment.” From here, he goes on give more examples of desire, of what it is, and what it isn’t. But I think the opening lines covered it quite well. To desire something is to want it more than you want other things. It is not a passing fancy, something to which you’d shrug your shoulders and think “oh, well. I guess I can deal without it.”

No, the difference between want and desire is the simple matter of need. If you stand in need of a thing, you’re desire will not diminish over time. You will not suddenly decide that you don’t really mind going without food, or clothing and shelter to protect you from the elements. And, at this need, you will have a strong desire to see the need fulfilled.

Out of this need, this desperation, then, comes intensity of prayer. And, conversely, a lack of intensity was suggested to be a sign of coldness, or worse, lukewarmness! “Lack of heart, and lack of heat are two things he loathes…” I found this idea personally troubling at first. I was thinking, “I have no real desires. I don’t NEED anything at all. I am well provided for. All my family is healthy. I have a job. I have a home. My bills are paid.” And yet, when I pray, I find that, for the most part, my prayers are matter-of-fact, and if not devoid of passion, they are characterized by a lack of passion.

Now, I want to take a moment aside, to relate to any readers who are along with me on this journey. I am learning to “Pray”, where previously, I had only “prayed.” Its arbitrary, perhaps, but the distinction in my own mind is quite clear. Before, I prayed as most do. I would offer up a quick thought, of desire or gratitude, and that would be it. If you were to ask me if I prayed, I’d certainly have said “yes”. But, in the greater context, where a Prayer is supposed to be able to tell a mountain to cast itself into the sea, would I say I “Prayed” ? No. And that is the journey I am now on. I am actively cultivating my prayer life. I have set aside time for it, at the expense of much enjoyed sleep. I have begun to read, and, to write, about the subject. I am also running a ‘study’ concurrent with this series. Everything about what I am doing is pointing the way forward to a different, empowered, future. So, when I mention things about “where I am right now”, I beg you to take them with a grain of salt. I’m not teaching you what I know, but rather, what I myself am yet learning. In time, hopefully, you’ll be able to ask me about my prayers, and I will respond, “they are deeply passionate and modestly effective”, and still be able to look you square in the eye.

So, I was concerned about the lack of need in my life, which might drive that passion. What I realize was that there is another side. I HAVE been blessed with (presently) no needs, at least as far as my physical being goes. But, there is another side to me! I have a spiritual being as well, and that part of me does have needs, and, consequently, desires. I am not yet where I sense that I am supposed to be. I am still too much a prisoner of my flesh. I still do the things I don’t wish to do, while letting the ones I do wish, to lay un-touched.

This then, is my source of desire. I can at least have something to ask for.

Finally, on to practical matters of prayer and praying. This week I found two nuggets. With the first, I begin to detect a pattern. Bounds suggests that if we haven’t the desire, we should still pray, but that our prayer ought to be for DESIRE! The second one was this: Pray for things individually and specifically, don’t glom them all into a single hurried utterance.

Until next time….

The Necessity of Prayer :: 03

•2010-02-17 • 1 Comment

Prayer and Trust

In our previous two chapters we’ve been dealing with the idea of Prayer and Faith.  This weeks chapter takes us one step further, and extends from faith, the notion of Trust.  “Trust is faith become absolute…trust is firm belief, faith in full flower.”

As the idea of trust is an extension of faith, so is this chapters ideas and concepts an extension of the previous ones as well.  I didn’t find much in terms of new ground here, but, rather I found re-iterations and emphasizing of thoughts hinted at earlier.  We see again the wheel that is prayer and faith, each one getting strength from the previous turning, and providing increase to those that follow.

However, we also see E.M. Bounds suggests to us that this wheel turns both ways.  Weakness in our faith will spread to weakness in our prayers, and so on.  We read that neglect of a prayer-life is the cause behind most spiritual failures.  When the disciples had failed to cast the devil from an afflicted child, they failed.  Later on, when asked why they had failed, Jesus explained that “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”  They had not yet cultivated their faith deeply enough.

Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer chamber.”  To grow your faith, and eventually, your trust, you must spend time in prayer.  You must believe with out doubt that what you pray for now is given to you now, and not in the future.  We must continually pray that our faith would be increased, and after many failures, much waiting, much praying, and many trials, our doubts will vanish, leaving implicit trust in its stead.

My practical application point for this week is to pray, “Lord, increase my faith,” as I continue to cultivate a prayer-life for myself.  I am motivated to become a ‘great’ pray-er, and for that, I need not only to develop the habit of daily, consistent prayer times, but also to grow in faith, in depth as well as in breadth!

The Necessity of Prayer :: 02

•2010-02-17 • 1 Comment

Where exactly did the time go?  I’m not sure how I got so far behind in this already!  Anyhow, on to chapter 2, “Prayer and Faith (Continued)”.

This weeks’ reading I found to be much more difficult than the previous weeks.  It is not that there was little to glean from the text, but rather that it was harder to identify the significant bits.  Part of that seemed to be due to the semi-random flow of the main points of the chapter, and some, I think, just from the general difficulty of the text itself.

The main points of this chapter were:

  • Faith and Fear & Doubt
  • Faith Clarified
  • Growing Your Faith
  • Main Purpose of Ministry
  • Prayer and Rewards

In chapter 1, I’d found that prayer is a starting point for faith.  As the week went on, and I began to apply what I’d read, I found that my own faith was growing.  In chapter 2, we read that strong faith is the root of strong praying.  We end up with a sort of chicken-or-the-egg dilemma.  To have faith, you must pray, but to pray well and strongly, you must have great faith.

How can we overcome this?  Our prayers are weak, because we do not REALLY believe.  We don’t have an expectation that God is really going to move on our behalf.  Why shouldn’t he, if our prayers are already in line with his will?

What then, of our prayers when we are out of touch with the Fathers’ will?  Allow me to suggest a few things to keep us away from that.  First, pray.  Second, pray. Third, pray.  When you pray, ask God for more faith.  Ask the Holy Spirit to impress divine thoughts on your heart.  Ask to be drawn closer to Him.  But, most of all, just pray.

In time, as our faith is cultivated, and we see that our prayers are being answered, our faith will continue to deepen.  This deepening will continue to reveal more and more of His character to us, which will, in turn, cause our prayers to take on more strength and efficacy!  We find, in the end, that faith and prayer (when practiced together with diligence) grow hand in hand.  And without one or the other, neither can reach much past the hope from which they spring.

Finally, I am finding (so far) that each week has shown me a specific idea, concept, or method that I can apply directly and personally to my own prayer life.  In chapter 1, I found that the idea of praying for today’s needs had taken hold of me.  In chapter 2, it was that we should pray deliberately, for specific things.  As we ask, so shall our answer be.  If we ask God for things in specific, rather than in the general sense, he will reward our prayers with specific answers!

The Necessity of Prayer :: 01

•2010-01-31 • Leave a Comment

Prayer and Faithprayer

This post begins a series covering E.M. Bounds’ book, “The Necessity of Prayer”.   I am personally expecting great personal growth as I read and, more importantly, really dig in, cut apart, work with, and hopefully absorb, the material in this text.

Here are some highlights of things in this chapter that I found to be particularly key.

  • Prayer IS Faith
  • Only God can move mountains, but prayer and faith move God.
  • Faith is the foundation on which other things are to be built
  • The path to Godliness (2Peter) : Faith-> Virtue -> Knowledge -> Temperance -> Patience -> Godliness …. of all this, faith is the root, not works, nor gifts, nor virtue.
  • Faith is kept alive by prayer, and every step taken–in the adding of grace to grace–is accompanied by prayer
  • Faith is obedient, faith acts, yet, faith is called upon
  • Obedience helps faith, and faith helps obedience
  • Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer is not immediately honored.  It accepts delay as the privilege to show its mettle.
  • Delay is often the Test of faith, as well as the strength of faith.
  • Faith gathers strength by waiting and praying.
  • God may have to do many things, antecedent to giving the final Answer–Things which are essential to the prayor.
  • Faith in Christ is the basis of all praying and working, and all praying is done in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • If implicit obedience to Christ is the inspiration and force of every movement in my life, then He can safely commit the praying to my will and pledge himself, by an obligation as profound as his own nature that whatsoever is asked shall be granted.
  • True prayers are born of present trials and present needs
  • The present is ours, but the future belongs to God.

Wow!  that is just a lot of Great Stuff!  I’m expectant that the entire book is going to be like this.  There are going to be so many things that could be addressed each week, that I’m not even going to try to cover it all.

So, where to start with this week?  This is the first chapter in a book about the necessity of prayer.  Why should we pray?  Really?  What’s the point of it all?   Are we just mumbling at the sky, hoping our wishes get granted once in a while, or is there more to it than that?

Obviously, the author believes that there is quite a bit more to it, seeing as he wrote not only this book in particular, but nearly ten books on prayer.  Some day I’ll write up a little bio on him, in between chapters.  He’s an interesting fellow.

Also obvious, is that I believe that there is more to it than wish granting, or I’d not be wasting my own time here, putting down my own useless ramblings about words cast into the sky.  No, I think that prayer is central to my faith, and, simultaneously, I recognize that I am not where I want to be with it.  I want to improve.  I want to grow, to take my prayers to the next level.

That said, lets cover some of the bullets above.

“Faith is the foundation on which other things are to be built” — On my own personal road toward Sanctification and Godliness, the root, the first step on my journey is going to be taken in simple faith.  As “prayer is faith“, one of the ways I can continue on my path is to step out in prayer.  But, what happens when the road gets rough, and I weary of the struggle?  “Faith is kept alive by prayer, and every step taken is accompanied by prayer.

The other major theme of this chapter was dealing with the delays in prayer.  Often, a prayer is lifted up to heaven, and, it seems, there is no answer, no response, from the Throne.  Whats going on?  Whats the hold up?   As it turns out, there are actually good reasons for these delays.

In particular, God may have certain plans for Himself, His Kingdom, or even you, which have components and requirements which might need some work getting into the proper alignment.  Bounds recalls to us the story of Lazarus’ death, where it was known the man was ill, and prayers for his healing were brought directly to Jesus.  But, for reasons of the Kingdom, and the Fathers’ Glory, Lazarus was allowed to die, so that the Christs’ authority over the grave would be made clear to all.

In another story, we were reminded of the time when Jacob prayed to God that his brother Esau would be pacified, and not wish to kill him any longer.  As the story unfolds, we can see that this prayers’ answer (and fulfillment) was delayed nearly 20 years.  God had a great deal of work to do on Jacob, before he could work on Esau, and cause the brothers to be reconciled to each other.

To me, this was an amazing chapter.  I really got a lot out of it.  Its great to just know that the delays in what we pray for aren’t capricious and whimsical, but that they actually serve a purpose.  However, in the moment, it might be difficult to understand why your prayers aren’t being answered.  I think, all we can do at that point is just keep praying, until we hear from God that it is not his will, or we see that prayers fulfillment.

What do you think?  What points above do you find personally compelling?  Drop me a line and let me know?

Taking My Prayer-Life to the Next Level

•2010-01-26 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting with a friend for a few hours late in the evening while he picked our brains about prayer.  The Lovely Wife and I did our best to clear the waters where we could, and to otherwise confirm to him that he’s already got a certain aspect of prayer right.

Prayer and the Prayer Life is a crazy difficult topic, and yet, only as difficult as you wish it to be.  At the root of it all, Prayer is communication with God.  Just a simple conversation.  Formulas and Rituals are not necessary (though sometimes helpful).  Just come to Him with an open heart.  He will hear you.

We sent him away with these main points to consider:

  1. Development of a Prayer Life is a life-long endeavor, on par with sanctification.
  2. There is always another level of intensity, something else to do or to learn, where prayer is concerned.

Now, I’m not a great man of prayer.  So while I recognize the general truth of the points above, I’ve not personally put them into practice.  However, I want to change this about myself.  I wish to take my Prayer Life to the next level, and maybe the one after that.  And so on.

So, part of my plan for improving this part of me, is to read some books on prayer.  I have a copy of several of the writings of E.M. Bounds, a man who has written much on prayer, who has also ‘done’ what he’s written about.  Its my intention to periodically tackle one of his chapters, and then to come here and write up my thoughts as I begin to make these new ideas part of me.

Sunday Set List : 2010-01-24

•2010-01-25 • 3 Comments

I’ve decided to attempt to be more faithful with this blog, and to that end, one of the things I’m going to do regularly, is comment on my excursions into the realms of leading worship at Promise.

Leading worship is such an odd blessing for me.  First off, I’m really quite a shy person, and the idea of any kind of public speaking is–at the least–moderately terrifying.  Secondly, while I’ve got a passion for worship music, I’ve not really been blessed with amazing talent to go along with my passion.  I’ve been singing since I was a child, and to be honest, I am a bit proud of my voice.  I know its not a super-amazing-get-that-dude-a-recording-contract-now kind of voice, but its certainly an above average one. 

Instrumentally, however, I find myself woefully inadequate.  I am improving, no question, but its such an agonizingly slow process, that, at times, it feels like I’m really just wasting time; time that could be put much better use with some other endeavor.  The problem is that I really enjoy playing my guitar, and that I’d feel a good bit of loss if I were to give it up.

As for the Set List on Sunday, here is what we went with:

  1. Not to us
  2. Love the Lord
  3. From the Inside Out
  4. Knowing you
  5. Wonderful, Merciful Savior
  6. I love you Lord

I’m not really sure how the set went.  I never did get the monitors set up well enough so that I could tell what was going on.  All the vocals sounded rather flat and muted to me, but after service, I questioned a few people about the sound, and they didn’t hint at any sound quality issues.  So, I’m hopeful, at least, that it was just a monitor issue.

One problem that always seems to come up to bite me and my vocal key selections is the time of day in which I’m first practicing and getting my selections made.  The quality and consistency of my vocal appears to change quite a bit as the day progresses.  My range is considerably shorter in the mornings (both on the low side, and the high) than it is later in the day, when I’m usually practicing!  Then, on Sunday Morning, I’m often surprised that a song I was quite able to sing only 12 hours before is now beyond my capabilities.  What this suggests is that I need to do a better job with my vocal warm-up.  I’ve got a handful of routines for this, but I admit, I’m embarrassed to do them in a public setting, or even in front of my family.

So, all in all, a pretty good set.  There’s a lot of room for growth and improvement yet, but, I’m willing to make progress and learn and grow into this, as long as the church is content to let me.

If you would pray for me, I would ask you to join me as I ask for two things.  First would be that I would grow in skill and capability and confidence with regard to my guitar playing.  Second would be that I have long prayed for a mentor to aid me in the first.  Someone to stretch and challenge me, to disciple me, to encourage me, to befriend me, and to chasten me.

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