Tag Archives: prayer

Unleashing the Spirit of Peace…Through Prayer

Tuesday Re-mix –

“To often we treat prayer as the preparation for the work of the church…do you not see, prayer IS the work of the church.” Oswald Chambers

Two true stories from my ministry:

1.  “God, I’ve got this one…I’ll check with you on the next one.” I had not yet really started a ministry.  I was a lawyer, a seminar speaker, and somewhat of a Bible teacher.  As a negotiator, I had been involved in hundreds of secular mediations, and I had only just begun experimenting with mediation in the church.  I received a call from a minister friend who needed a mediation done at a small church he knew.  The pastor was in trouble and the church leadership was dividing.  I asked how many people this included and he told me about a dozen or so.  I told him to get them all together on a Saturday morning and I would fly out, mediate with them for a half-day or so, and take care of it.

Yes, I really did say that.  Looking back on it, I can’t believe the arrogance.  I had been in all these mediations, most of which had resulted in resolutions, and I genuinely thought to myself, “How hard can this be?”  There was no prayer involved, other than the obligatory prayer at the beginning of the Saturday meeting.  I showed up, began the mediation, and the whole thing fell apart within a couple of hours.  A church was all but destroyed and a man’s ministry was ended.  My own lack of any Spiritual preparation or focus was the reason.

2.  “God, I cannot do this without you.” I was speaking to a congregation about some severe conflict in their church.  It was actually just one stage of a full-blown intervention involving a

We Don’t Believe in Prayer

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“Some claim that it was on June 17, 1963, that the end began. That was the day prayer was removed from public schools. Christians argued about this date as if everything was fine on Tuesday and then fell apart on Wednesday. I am certainly not saying that this was not a sad day for followers of Christ; but this assessment is not only naive, it is indicative of our disconnection to the real crisis. The crisis did not begin when prayer was removed from public schools but when we stopped praying. Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force

Amen, Erwin!

Some years ago, the United State Supreme Court was considering a school prayer case arising out of my home state of Texas. It involved a prayer given over the intercom at a football game one Friday night. I happened to be consulting with a church which had become very politically active in the media “campaign” to keep our “rights” to pray over the intercom at football games. This was a church where a few hundred people would attend worship services on Sunday morning. I went to their regularly scheduled Wednesday night prayer meeting one week, expecting to get a taste of their fervor for prayer. I was surprised to find only a couple dozen people there…a crowd I was assured was pretty standard for their weekly prayer meeting.

What is wrong with that picture?

prayerHere is the truth. Here in America, the church has demonstrated a great deal more passion about its rights to pray at football games and schools than its belief in the power of prayer in the first place. Let’s face it, if we the church really believed …

Worrying or Praying, Praying or Worrying

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the fifth in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Do I need to come up with a poignant illustration to remind you that these are anxious times in our country and in the world?  No, I didn’t think so.  And for church leaders, it rarely gets more anxious than when there is divisive conflict going on in our church…particularly when it seems to be swirling around us personally and our leadership.

Indeed, I have been in many churches where worry and anxiety are the normal state…if they happen to stumble on a season with nothing to worry about, they somehow feel stagnant and they honestly do not know what to do.  In our “I want it all and I want it now” culture, anxiety has become the new normal.

worrycropHere is what Paul understood about worry: it is a behavioral pattern.  Like abusive conduct or overeating or road rage or fingernail biting, worry is simply a behavioral pattern…one which can be broken with the type of “renewing of the mind” of which scripture speaks.  Changing a behavioral pattern just requires changing our perspective, i.e., how we see the thing.  It also helps a great deal to replace the wrong behavior with a right behavior.  In this case, it means replacing worry with prayer.

I have had “Gethsemane moments” in my prayer life, moments when I thought the anguish would overcome me and …

Merry Christmas, Gabriel…Uh, Could I See Some ID?

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18a

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

Studying Luke 1 last week and this week. Last week was Zechariah. This week is Mary. But the one constant character in both lessons is Gabriel, the angel. The other element common to both stories is the reactions to Gabriel. Both Mary and Zechariah asked the same question: “But, how?” But Gabriel’s response to that reaction was very different in each story.

Let’s not play word games here, and let’s not split hairs over how their reactions are actually different. If you were writing the story yourself and wanted their reactions to read the same way, you couldn’t write it any differently than Luke did. Their reactions to Gabriel were remarkably similar. Both of them asked the same question, showing the same concern for whether Gabriel really had all his facts straight. We can engage in all kinds of speculation about their respective hearts (i.e., perhaps Mary’s question was truly one of wonder, while Zechariah’s was one of doubt, etc.), but that is just speculation on our part. We cannot judge a person’s heart. No, in order to explain Gabriel’s very different response to each of them and their respective questions, we need not engage in questions of the heart. We can find a much easier critical distinction between Zechariah and Mary: Zechariah was a priest.

Zechariah was a Spiritual leader among God’s people and was doing a Spiritual thing in the most Spiritual of all places when Gabriel appeared. What kind of sad commentary is it that, upon entering the place where God abides, doing a thing God …


Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

O.K. I admit that I sometimes struggle with staying positive. I’ve been looking over some of my recent posts and I’m realizing I’ve been pretty hard on the American church. I confess that, when I look across its landscape, my eyes are foremost drawn toward broken relationships and other things that are not right. I suspect that is part of the peacemaker’s “gift package”.

So today we will celebrate some ways we are often getting it right. Today we will recognize that there are some communities of believers in the Western church who really are experiencing the awe of God daily and, from a peacemaker’s point of view, are teaching and practicing Biblical interpersonal relationships both inside and outside the walls of the church. Today we take our focus off what is wrong and put it squarely on what is right, what is deserving of a pat on the back and an “attaboy” (or an “attachurch” in this case). Here are some churches for whom I stand and applaud:

The People-focused church. While the debate rages on about being inward-focused versus being outward-focused (evangelism versus discipleship, attractional versus missional, etc.–whatever labels you want to put on the argument) there are local communities of believers who have decided to be people-focused…whether those people are found inside the church or outside. That was Jesus, wasn’t it? He was focused on the people inside his circle of disciples and He was focused on those outside it as well. He didn’t choose one or the other. He chose both. He was utterly passionate about people. There are churches I know who are like that–it is their culture. Their leaders have taught them to see through …