01 March 2011

Prayer is good for us... and the world - Part 1

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (James 5:13) Any other response to our troubles is functional atheism. Because the Gospel begins with our utter dependence on God, a church that isn’t praying earnestly is really guilty of hypocrisy. A self-reliant church will, at best, glorify itself and, at worst, it will burn out.

Recognizing our constant drift toward self-reliance, the first emphasis in Summitview’s 2011 Vision is a greater dependence on God as evidenced in our prayer. Specifically, we want to grow in understanding prayer biblically and in praying together. But this emphasis on prayer is not about self-righteous, religious performance. Instead, it flows from our firm belief that God has a mission for the church that is purposely outside of her ability. By design, our cries for God's support are answered in ways that bring us joy (John 16:24) and reveal His greatness to the world (John 14:13 and 15:16). This is the purpose of our redemption:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis added)
Our prayer then, in content and in God’s answer, is for our good and the good of the world.

Beyond Intent
Now nearly everyone agrees that prayer is good and, most believe, it should be a greater part of their lives. It’s what sets prayer apart from the other disciplines: inherently we know we need it and, inherently, our self-sufficiency makes it extremely difficult. To go beyond intent to intentional practice requires overcoming the great inertia of our pride.

The posts over the next couple of days are offered, not as a sure-fired prescription for that effort but, as possible means of grace in what Jude calls “building yourselves up in the most holy faith.”
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 1:20–21)
1) Pray “according to God’s will.”
Being a good Father, God listens to all of our prayers and, being a good Father, He doesn’t answer every one (Luke 11:13). Developing a biblical understanding of what is actually according to God’s will (1 John 5:14) is a great aid in prayer. Many people have fatigued in their requests because they asked for things that God has never promised.
2) Pray through a list.
There is a certain sense of futility in a big, unorganized mess. Our minds can be so cluttered with possible prayers that it can be overwhelming to even begin.

Start with a list. In the battle for our attention, the best weapons are often a pen and paper. Write down what comes to mind. You will see categories emerge within the list (family, work, neighbors, the city, the church, etc). Group your prayers in these categories and assign certain things from each category to each day of the week. This will give you a “well-rounded” list of things to pray every day. I have found that this kind of list allows me to stay on track and the categories themselves will remind me of time-specific things that I can pray for each day.

You can then take these daily lists and throw them on index cards or create a reoccurring appointment for each day in your electronic calendar (Google Cal, iCal, Outlook, etc) including your list in the “Notes” section of the appointment.

I generally work to refresh this list 3-4 times a year. This keeps me engaged and able to adjust to new needs and responsibilities.

(more to come in the next post)


  1. I really like the reminder of our purpose - "...that you may proclaim the excellencies of him". There is a vision for my life.

    As far as a self reliant church, it may be best to burn out and worst to glorify itself. How will that look from the judgement seat?

    Thanks for sharing this brother! I want to grow in this that God would be shown to be great! How am I glorified if I am weak and dependent on God? He is glorified!

  2. Thanks Jesse! It is truly a joy to run a race of eternal significance with you.