Category Archives: Bible prayers

Remi Adeleke, movie star, Navy SEAL and trafficker

remi-adeleke transformersBefore Remi Adeleke was a famous actor, he was a Navy SEAL. And before he was a Navy SEAL, he was a drug dealer in the Bronx.

God brought about an incredible transformation in the life of the “Transformers” star.

Remi’s life spiraled downward after his father died in 1987. He had immigrated to New York from Nigeria with his family when he was five. Without a father’s love and guidance, he was left to himself. He liked movies, but the message to black men was mostly negative.

“It said you’re a young African American young male you need to be a hustler, or you need to be a thug or a player,” he says on an “I am Second” video.

rem adeleke show whats underneathAccordingly, he fell into stealing, running scams and dealing drugs as a young person in the Bronx.

But if movies hastened his journey into the “valley of the shadow of death,” movies also brought him through. When he watched “Bad Boys,” he saw black men who were heroes, not thugs. He began to re-imagine his self-image.

Then he watched “The Rock” by Michael Bay about Navy SEALs that lived heroic lives, running, gunning and saving the day.

“I was just blown away at this portrayal of men who were coming out of the water and going into this place to go sacrifice themselves and save others,” he says. “It really resonated and I thought if I was to ever turn my life around, that’s what I would do.”

remi adelekeA drug deal that went bad provided the spark to turn his life around. At age 19, he joined the military with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. There was one snag to his freshly forged ambition: he didn’t know how to swim.

He worked his bum off through boot camp, learned to swim, and qualified for SEAL training.

“When I wanted something, I would literally run through walls to get it,” he says.

He had reinvented himself, and he loved Remi 2.0.

“There’s not many jobs where you can get paid to jump out of planes and go after bad guys and protect those who couldn’t protect themselves — essentially be that guy who stood in the face of bullies and said not on my watch.”

During cold weather survival training in Alaska in 2008, he found a measure of solitude that caused him to think about his journey. Read the rest of Remi Adeleke Christian.

Flamingos turn pink due to diet

why-flamingos-are-pink

The image you project to the world as a Christian is a matter of your diet. If you feed constantly on negativity and denigration, you won’t project of confidence, joy and victory. You need to feed on the word, not the sewers of the world’ media.

Trivia: Flamingos are born with gray feathers but turn pink because they feast on brine shrimp and blue-green algae, which contain a dye that affects the color of the flamingo.

If you feast on the world’s news, you might turn yellow.

If you feast on Facebook, you might turn green with envy.

Heck, even your “brother” in Christ can constantly tear you down. Don’t let that happen!

But if you feast on prayer and God’s unadulterated Word, you’ll turn radiant like the sun. You’ll project the joy and confidence, the love and humility which naturally draws people to Christ.

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Sometimes the hardest thing is to believe

believeWe pride ourselves on being rational beings, well adjusted to reality. We are scientifically minded, and therefore what is impossible get ruled out. Miracles are a moonshot best avoided.

But miracles prove God, and God is interested in proving Himself to humanity to show humanity His love. So he drops us in impossible quandaries and waits for us to turn to him.

If you can believe, all things are possible for him that believes. — Mark 9:23. Jesus spent more time developing faith, but we Christians spend more time developing personal perfection. Jesus sought faith while we seek programs. Jesus encouraged Peter to walk on water, and the church is busy building boats.

Maybe you’re in financial trouble — believe to tithe. Maybe you have an incurable disease or disorder — believe for healing. Perhaps you don’t dare take on a ministry — believe and do it. Perhaps a long time has passed without any sign of hope — keep believing.

Can Christians dream?

Elon Musk figured it would be better to build his own rockets after the Russians offered to sell him a retro-fitted ICBM for a sky-high price (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the pun is bad). Then Musk — who owns Tesla electric sports cars and is making lithium batteries for your home that charge at night when electricity is cheaper — decided he would still save more money by landing the first stage booster (to be re-used). He almost landed it on a floating barge this month, as you can see from the video.

When I read about the technological advances (Musk is contracting for NASA), I see men and women who dream.

Can Christians dream to do great, unthinkable things for God?

I’m reading the Bible… and you?

I'm reading the BibleThere’s all kinds of great literature around the world. As an English literature undergrad, I personally like Shakespeare best. But none of the literature I’ve ever read compares to the Bible.

It’s all good. The themes have made me a better person, nobler, with refined sentiments. But only the Bible is God’s spoken word to help man get to Heaven.

You can pay attention to the Huffington Post and their brand of recently formulated morality. Or you can base yourself on the formula that has worked for ages, that existed before the foundation of the world.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.

The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.

As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.

Prayer as begging

God's healing

Cristal weeps when she feels God’s power healing her.

Why twice?

In every thing by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known unto God. — Phil 4:6 The synonym for prayer, translated here “supplication” and elsewhere “petition,” is strange for its redundancy.

In Greek it is δέησις (deēsis), which means a need so urgent you turn to begging. You have no other hope. It evokes the utter powerlessness of being prostrated before a potentate who holds your life in his hands. Pleading, nothing more.

Pastor Charlie Forman

Pastor Charlie Forman with Pastor Ludving.

So many times, my prayers cover things I can also cover. These are things I need to get done, I can done. I just want God to help me do them efficiently.

Then there are needs about which I am exasperatingly powerless. About those needs, I tend to get frustrated, get mad, sulk. In fact, if I’m brutally honest about myself, I complain more than I pray.

That seems to me to be what Paul is addressing. Yes, pray, but also plead (supplicate, make petition) to a God who alone can help you. You can trust God for the needs that are completely out of your control.

 

Arrived and blessed in Guatemala

missionary Guatemala

Pastor Isaias came and prayed for a couple to have a child. They had been sterile for a decade. Here’s Salma, who came nine months later.

Shy like a schoolboy, I entered the Christian private school I founded in Guatemala. Would anyone remember me? I was prepared to be seen as a stranger. It had been over a year since I had visited.

Soon the kids crowded me, hugging me, reminding me that I am useful, that this is what I have chosen to live for (not money). Love is my reward.

We are scheduled to preach revival in the coming days, but today was a day of recovery from the red-eye flight. Too anxious to see friends family I had left here when criminals brusquely ended 16 years of missionary work, I rushed off to the school. I am amazed to see miracles in progress. The joy of the kids filled me with joy.

Thank you for praying for miracles in the coming days as we minister the love and power of Christ in this beleaguered Central American nation. Much love to all my friends on the blogosphere.

Why we pray…

Why we pray

Gratitude is born of the struggle, so when God doesn’t answer immediately, He simply is building towards an emotional outpouring. Don’t waver. Keep praying and believing.

The Bible itself encourages us to persevere in prayer. Jesus Himself taught us to not lose heart.

Photo thanks to easybranches.eu

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Be a prayer warrior

prayerwarrior

Prayer: Moses ‘rocked’ until he threw stones

frustration and prayer

Stop striking out in anger and calling people “rebels.” It won’t bring any good. Instead, pray.

Moses brought 40 years of ministry to a depressing demise because he acted out of frustration instead of faith. “Speak to the Rock!” God had told him. “And the waters will gush out for their thirst in this dry desert.”

Instead, Moses struck the Rock with his staff. And he called the people “rebels.” He upbraided them and appropriated the miracle to himself instead of giving God the credit.

As a result, waters came out and the people quenched their thirst. But Moses wasn’t allowed to to into the Promised Land. He was deprived of the crown jewel to complete his ministry. He was cut off from the flourish finish. In short, he was cut short, and 40 years of effective ministry became ineffective.

moses and prayerSuch a disappointing denouement is a high-pitched warning to those of us who want to persevere in ministry. Did he just burn out? Did he stop believing in prayer?

The New Testament identifies the “Rock” as Jesus. Did Moses lash out at God because “one more trial” was a critical mass for him? It is sobering to think. Let’s stick with prayer and faith and avoid frustration.

Dead opossum

opossumMy Suburban struck an opossum the other night. I’m afraid I killed it. As bad as I might feel, there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I barely made out the forms of 4-5 animal shadows crossing the road at night in my headlights. The one I hit was straggling.

It’s not good to straggle behind the group. The Christian straggler makes up excuses to not report for prayer. The straggler seeks entertainment over seeking the Lord. The straggler is loathe to read his Bible, accountability-averse, half-in, not all-in.

straggler

This from Google

The Amalekites attacked “attacked all who were lagging behind” when the Israelites were transversing the desert (Deut. 25:18). The enemy exploited the weak and weary, the undisciplined laggard, the sluggish, because they were the easy target. Ultimately, the people of God defeated the Amalekites, but not without losses.

weak ChristianDo your best to stick with the group. Whatever your church is active in, don’t count yourself among the non-participants. It’s got to be all-in. The trouble with being half-in is you’re half-out.

If you’re a Christian straggler, you could get squished. I’m sure the opossum was not a pretty sight. I didn’t bother to check it out in the morning. It was far from my home. No doubt city workers cleaned up the bacteria-filled mess. If you are a Christian, work at full-speed, keep yourself surrounded by peers who encourage the best of you.

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Fear of… success: Bible prayers

  • Bible prayers
  • Prayers for encouragement
  • Faith to rise above

discouragementFear of failure has a unimagined flip-side: the fear of success. The person who chokes because he’s afraid he’ll blow it comes under a cloud of doom. Ultimately in his decision-making, risk-avoidance becomes success-avoidance.

I know what I’m talking about. I have suffered from it. When I was the hardest-working, most experienced college reporter on the UCLA Daily Bruin, my editors handed me the opportunity of the lifetime, an investigative piece that would establish my reputation. I said I was too busy.

Fear of... success: Bible prayersThe guy who took it catapulted his career. I watched from the stands as a less-experienced reporter took to the field.

shipwrecked faithI have mulled over that decision lots. I have analyzed and psycho-analyzed it.

It’s better to risk humiliation and go out with a blaze than step to the sideline. But the nasty habit of self-brow-beating is no easy task for anyone who has wrestled with the low-self-esteem demon.

Here’s what’s helped me:

  • Prayer
  • Bible reading
  • Church fellowship with encouraging saints
  • Exercise
  • Eating right
  • Trying to learn patience

And this has hurt me:

  • Criticism
  • Competition among friends
  • Envy and jealousy
  • Church dysfunction

2 Cor. 10:5 says, we must bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. For me, it is a struggle. I share these confessions in the hopes that others will be encouraged in similar fights. The enemy of our souls, the devil, wages war against our thoughts. Let’s pray for one another and support one another.

How do I pray? Keep the house united

Civil War ReenactmentsHow do I pray? The importance of unity.

I saw a Civil War battle reenactment in Genesee Country Village and Country Museum near Rochester, New York. Being from the West Coast, I had never seen anything so astounding.

Genesee Village and Country MuseumThe Union troops dislodged the invading Confederates from the village and then re-engaged in the afternoon on the open field. Canons thundered. Plumes of white smoke squirted six feet out of muskets. Soldiers died writhing in acted pain. In the village, there was even a surgeon’s tent where they explained the horrors of a five-minute amputation, necessary to save lives with the bone-shattering musket balls.

Civil War amputations

A reenactor explains tying off blood vessels.

The Civil War was a horror. More American lives died there than in World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, and Vietnam combined. In it, brother killed brother.

Spectators at Civll War reenactment

My daughter, Rebekah, and I, after the battle.

Rightly, Jesus warned against a house divided against itself. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift — Matt. 5:24 NIV. The need is so pressing to conserve unity that you should interrupt your prayer time to restore fellowship. Disunity blunts prayer’s power. Let not your church become a Civil War. The church is supposed to horrorize Hell’s henchmen. But when we turn on rifles on each other, we become a laughingstock for demons’ delight.

Civil War muskets

My sons, Robert and Hosea, hold Union muskets

Conflict occurs because people wrongly think they must compete against other members of the church for preeminence. It’s a worldly concept of dog-eat-dog, put-others-down-so-I-can-climb-on-top, that should be left in the world.

How do I pray? Keep the house unitedStriving for unity pleases God — and blesses your prayer. You can’t control what people do to you, but you can control how you respond. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — Eph.4:3 NASB. Do all YOU can to preserve oneness.

The Civil War ravaged our nation. May our churches be spared of division. How do I pray? Keep unity.

Erie Canal and the Realm of Possible: Prayers from the Bible

Prayers from the Bible teach us.

Erie Canal

Outmoded by the railroad over 100 years ago, the Erie Canal was reduced to tourism. Today, commercial freight is again using this waterway.

George Washington concluded the Erie Canal would be impossible. But New York Gov. Dewitt (pronounced: Do-It) Clinton thought otherwise and commenced the work. Critics and scorners dubbed it “Clinton’s ditch.”

Erie Canal locks

The system of locks compensate for rising terrain.

In less than a decade they concluded in 1825 the waterway linking settlers and commerce. A marvel of engineering, hydrology and American know-how even today, the Erie Canal upon completion was called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It grew into a 1,000-span of canals that brought produce to markets for decades until trains outmoded them.

Gov. Dewitt (Do-It) thought he could “do it.”

Erie Canal low bridgePrayer is believing that impossible is possible — if you’ll just start “digging” in prayer. The experienced pray-er confounds the experts who forecast failure.

From prayers from the Bible, we learn that Elijah sparked revival over his land, Moses opened the Red Sea, David felled the mighty giant. The faith-filled filled the Bible with their heroics because they chose to put God to the test where scoffers dismissed feasibility.

As Christians, we must learn to pray prayers from the Bible and see change.

Bible prayers: gym hate

  • Bible prayers and motivation.

Sweat haters loathe the treadmill, the Pilates class and weight machines. Because their doctor twisted their arms, they’re at the gym, counting down the minute to the end of the torture session, which they often skip and only do to stave off the heart attack.

I can’t relate: I love the endorphin release of the gym. I’m hooked on the good feel of health. At some point in life, I figured out the tradeoff: you either delight your tongue for a few minutes daily — or your delight your body 24/7.

fat or gymGuess what? I like broccoli too! I’m a salad fanatic.

(Of course I believe in Heaven, but I’m in no hurry to get there — like soda-imbibers. Passing the last days of my life in the hospital does not appeal to me.)

And church captivates me. No, the minutes don’t pass in intolerable boredom (well, most of the time). I’m passionately into everything good for you — and God is good for you!

willpowerSo is prayer good for you. If you eschew prayer in favor of reality T.V., you’re missing out on some good returns available only to those who invest. Not every prayer session is just sweet communion with my Lord. But I keep at it, even when it’s hard, just like the gym or vegetables. I’ll keep praying Bible prayers.

Never futile: Prayers from the Bible

  • Prayers from the Bible
  • How to pray?

How to pray?Jonathan decided to attack the Philistines with only his armor-bearer. Surely, it was folly for one man to attack an entire army alone. I supposed he got bored sitting around doing nothing. He wanted to do something. And his Biblical reasoning worked better than his realistic thinking: The Lord can save with many or with few — 1 Sam. 14:6.

How to pray?

Prayer is an easier investment than getting into your car.

He realized that God is God. The supernatural outflanks the natural, no matter what Westpoint graduates might tell us.

Too often Christians formulate explanations for why prayer doesn’t work. They say things like: Well, you must be holy. (Who is holy but God?) Nix the explanations and keep praying. Don’t look for reasons why prayer seems ineffective. Most of the time, we just need to keep praying and not give up.

Prayer is never futile. Jonathan smote 20 Philistines and sparked panic among the enemies. The rest of Christianitythe Israelite army rushed in to finish off the job. Who would have thought that one man could vanquish an entire army? Who thinks that one man praying can change the course of history?

Be that man. Or woman. Or youth. Or child.

Prayer is never futile. Prayers from the Bible work. How to pray? Believe it’s never ineffective.

Ugly dude gets cute girl: How do I pray?

  • How do I pray?
  • Prayers from the Bible
  • Faith
Dianna Ashcraft

and these are not her brothers. They’re our sons.

My college roommates were incredulous. How did I, the nerdiest, get the hot girlfriend, while they, suave boys all, had no one to hold their hands in the movie theater?

God moves

Lou filming an event at our Christian high school

Twenty years later, my friend Lou rues botany class, where there were gaggles of giggly girls but none would go out on a date with him. Lou’s one of those classy, confidence-full, handsome Latin lovers who usually makes girls swoon. And me? I’m the kind of guy who started yammering about poetry because I’ve run out of other things to say on a date. Today, Dianna is my wife.

It wasn’t the cologne. It was prayer.

After 2-and-a-half clumsy heartbreaks, this knucklehead finally got it. Give up on my own efforts (to get a girl) and let God do the work! I prayed (fresh with breakup bitterness): God, I don’t want to have anything to do with the girls (Actually, I used a vulgar word: chicks). Just drop from Heaven the one that is for me that I one day I’ll open my door and find her. You know, stork-like. Not exactly Elijah faith-praying or Mary submitting admirably to God’s will, but I stumbled upon a key. The first time I saw Dianna, it was on my doorstep. Revenge of the prayer nerd.

How do I pray?So even with something so personal, so private, so nerve-wracking as finding your life’s soulmate, you CAN pray and wait on God. You can ease up on the duds, going to the gym and tanning salon, and rehearsing cool lines to say. Take off the shades, be yourself, and just pray.

How do I pray? What can we learn from prayers from the Bible? Don’t panic, just talk to God. Trust, relax, wait, seek. Enjoy serving God.

I love Lou. He’s a great friend. And I’m praying for him to find a godly girl who will see all the good qualities that are in him. But he needs to pray that too.

Effective prayer: Iker Casillas teaches

  • Effective prayer
  • Powerful prayer
  • Praying the Bible

Iker CasillasIker Casillas didn’t have to do anything to win! In the boring Italy-Spain Confederations Cup semi-final, Casillas just stood there on the penalty shoot-out that settled a sluggish 0-0 into overtime match. As a matter of fact, Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon didn’t stop a single shot either.

Buffon Casillas

It could have been a spectacular show of goalkeeping prowess, but neither could stop any PK.

On a few penalty shots, Casillas dove. But after one cheeky Italian chipped it straight and center, he apparently decided to stop diving. He just stood there uselessly. The dives were pretty much pointless anyway because both teams drilled home unstoppable PKs. So Spain won 7-6 because Leonardo Bonucci launched his to the moon instead of the net. Here were the world’s two best goalies, and neither made a single save.

The penalty shoot-out reminded me of prayer. We can try. We can dive. But ultimately, the victory has nothing to do with us. Victory comes from above. Effective prayer does more than doing more.

Casillas Confederations CupThat’s why the overworked minister who neglects prayer commits a fatal mistake. He spins his wheels. The lion’s share of the work belongs to God Almighty, and the minister (not almighty) tries to do it.

If you yearn for greater effectiveness, pray more and work less! Pray effective prayers.

How do I pray? Confession

  • How do I pray?
  • Bible prayers
pic per anders lundin

pic per anders lundin

Your most spiritual moment is when you confess your sins to God.

When you achieve virtual sinlessness, you can fall in pride. But when you are broken with having failed God, in that moment your closer to God than ever.

How do I pray? If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness — 1 John 1:9 NIV. Notice that the verse does NOT say that WE are faithful. To the contrary, we are sometimes quite faithless. At that moment, only God is faithful. And He is faithful to His love for us. If our sin displeases him, our confession and repentance is His special delight.

pic per Andrew Doz Photography

pic per Andrew Doz Photography

This is good news for those of us who walk with our feet on the ground. The more you sin, the more grace abounds (disclaimer: no permission to sin.) But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. — Rom. 5:20 NIV. Forgiveness is not just the start of salvation; it is a continuing reality of Christianity.

How do I pray? Prayer should not be only making requests. It is also restoring relationship with God. After we renew right relationship, then we petition God.

Hearing God: How to pray?

How to pray? Bible prayers.

How to pray?People think prayer is talking. It is also listening. Don’t be surprised if God talks back to you. After all, communication, if it is to be communication, is a two-way street.

Three times, young Samuel went to the Priest Eli because the elder called. Three times, Eli told Sammy to go back to bed. He hadn’t called. Then, Eli understood: It was God calling Samuel. This was the beginning of ministry for Samuel. He hadn’t recognized the voice of God because he was unaccustomed (1 Samuel 3).

How to pray? at Bible conference

At Bible conference in Tucson.

Our church just finished a 40 day fast. We didn’t fast all food. We fasted something. Some fasted Facebook. I fasted sugar.

The incredible thing was God spoke. He told to start afresh. He told me to clean the slate. Through the 40 days, He restored relationship with some people in the church. I’m glowing with elation. I want to keep fasting sugar, and keep hearing from God. It has been a time of restoration.

how to pray? breakfast

Breakfast before the Bible conference.

How to pray? When was the last time you heard from God (or maybe never)? Believe it or not, God is actually wanting to talk to you. Can you take a break from the electronic devices long enough to listen?

How to recognize the voice of God?

  • Don’t expect a booming voice.
  • It will never contradict scripture.
  • It will never authorize your sin.
  • It will probably come straight from scripture.
  • The effect will be to align you with His will.
  • God doesn’t foretell the future. He tells you to trust and what to do.

So the next time you bend the knee, slow down the “blah blah blah” for a moment and tune in your ear. How to pray? Happy listening!

After disaster, pray

How to pray? Bible prayers.

thesunJoshua mucked up by not praying . He basically authorized terrorists (Gibeonites) to live among the Israelites by failing to consult God before striking a deal. Lesson: To avoid failure, we ought to pray (the subject of my last post).

2fdc2dbebb2538e0ffc7c7c88dc3a844But I don’t want a downer. Who hasn’t tripped up? According to George Barna, approximately 100% of Americans fail significantly at some point in their life. Actually, I’m lying. That’s not a George Barna statistic. It’s a Rom. 3:23 statistic. And it’s experience. How many times have I failed? At least a zillon. And that’s just counting starting in 2013.

Here’s the takeaway to the bummer story. Joshua owned up to his mistakes and turned them into a winner. When fellow Canaanites realized the Gibeonites had “sold out” to the invading Israelites, they ganged up to lynch them. The Gibeonites, with a contract whose ink wasn’t even dry yet, cashed in on their new alliance and asked the Israelites to defend them. Joshua set aside his smarting and used his smarts: he vanquished all the other Canaanites. The Gibeonites had tricked him, but he used his embarrassment to his advantage.

warriorbowandarrowonhorseGod’s power promptly materialized. Not only did they utterly smash their enemies, the Israelites witnessed the third most extraordinary miracle confounding the laws of nature (#1 Jesus walked on water, #2 Moses separated the Red Sea): On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” — Josh 10:12 NIV.

This gave them time to continue winning the war. The enemies couldn’t escape in the dark of night.

The upshot: prayer turns failures into successes!

Avoid disaster (Pray!)

How do I pray? Prayers from the Bible.

sunBefore utter disaster is Joshua’s prayerlessness. Commanded specifically to NOT make a treaty with the Canaanites, the Israelite prince is quite flattered by the appearance of visitors who — apparently — come from far away to see the marvels of God. Even though he senses a red flag, he falls for their ruse (they wear old clothes in their caravan) and skips the step of prayer in his hurry to sign peace.

But the Israelites didn’t consult the Lord. — Josh. 9:14.

Thanks In My Melon blog

Thanks In My Melon blog

Think of getting all the Canaanites out of the Promised Land like the Homeland Security’s mission to clear America of potential terrorists. How many bomb-exploders do you want lurking in your neighborhood? But once they give their word, the Israelites have no choice but to let the Gibeonites live.

Can’t get motivated to pray? Think about averting disaster. Before you decide, pray. What consequence for not dispossessing the Canaanites of the land? The Israelites themselves were dispossessed of the land centuries later (in the captivities).

How to pray? Surgery and Rehab

How to pray? Bible prayers

Valley Presbyterian Hospital

Rob’s teammate came to visit him.

Is there life after death? Definitely. Is there life BEFORE coffee? Hardly.

LOL! Last week I spent the night in the hospital with my son. He got operated on his torn ACL, a soccer injury. The doctor harvested from his hamstring to reconstruct the ligament. The next day, he was in pain, I was groping for coffee.

Santa Monica United

Through the pain of injury… through the pain of life… we must seek healing. Prayer heals the spiritual and emotional hurts.

Robert is facing six months of rehabilitation before jumping onto the pitch again for Santa Monica United U16 blue.

torn ACL

After the operation

Excuse the pun, but we live in a fallen world. They get injured — both physically and spiritually. Prayer is a spiritual surgery to reconstruct after the damage is done. Continued prayer is the rehabilitation that brings you back to striking strength.

And coffee? Coffee is good for morning prayer. Otherwise, I would be mumbling incoherent drowsiness instead of caffeine-invigorated, forceful, pressing prayers.

 

How to pray?

prayer-motivation

What will it take to get us to pray? Do we need a crisis to remember God?

(Thanks for the original artwork to the Pure Savagery blog!)

Instantaneous answers

  1. How do I pray?
  2. Prayers from the Bible
Unfulfilled expectations lead to frustration

Unfulfilled expectations lead to frustration

This is my wife. Do you remember you prayed for me last June to get married? We got married in August.

I wish ALL of my prayers got answered so quickly. I wish prayer were always so highly effective. This guy recognized me at Bible conference and asked me to pray. I didn’t even know him. He knew me because he had seen my picture in the testimonial reports magazine from previous years.

20120215-073644The vast majority of prayers are answered only after a looooooong time. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, often years, sometimes decades. Failure to understand the nature of prayer accounts for:

  • Christians not praying (they see it as a waste of time because they expect instantaneous results)
  • Backsliders turning away from God (why didn’t God answer my prayer? Maybe you gave up too soon)
  • Atheists  denying the existence of God.
Yeah, when we get bored we take the bear out to play on the trampoline, and you? (Photo thanks to Andy Duann)

Yeah, when we get bored we take the bear out to play on the trampoline, and you? (Photo thanks to Andy Duann)

Sometimes, God flatly denies our petition (and we don’t know why). Other times, we just give up too soon. Occasionally, there’s an instantaneous answer.

Why do we understand intuitively:

  • Schooling takes time and perseverance
  • Athletic training takes time and perseverance
  • Making a marriage work takes time and effort
  • Anything good and worthwhile is a long uphill battle

but when it comes to pray, we assume it must be instantaneous?

 

 

 

Pray sooner

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers

15dd97f58bbe4601e9444631fc7c139aJonah was appalling. He was thrown overboard into a storm-whipped sea. He was gulped down by a huge fish. You would think he’d be praying immediately. Nope, not him. What? Me worry?

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. THEN Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly — Jonah 1:17-2:1 KJV.

THREE DAYS IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH????? and only then it occurs to him to pray?

Raging_Sea__s_by_The_ImmortaloneSometimes people skip prayer, but this takes the grand prize of all the ages.

Do you ignore scoldings for prayer like

  • your dentist reminding you to floss?
  • your doctor telling you to get your weight down?
  • your environmentalist friend telling you to recycle?
  • your mother telling you to write your aunt thanking her for the sweater?
  • your finance-savvy buddy telling you to put more money in savings?
from Be Better Not Bitter blog

from Be Better Not Bitter blog

Yeah, you’re right. I SHOULD do that. And then we don’t. We become dulled to urgency others describe to us for the shoulds of life. I understand putting off prayer like I understand putting off organizing tax documents. It’s not the most exciting way to spend my Saturday.

But only one of these things affects eternity. People get passionate about whatever procrasti-nationmoves their heart and mind. But as a Christian, hopefully God’s cause moves our hearts and minds.

Jonah was a prophet, for crying out loud. He more than anybody should’ve known to pray. Why did he take so long to “get it?” How long will we take to “get it?”

A fatal flaw for the Phalanx

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers.
  • Use of prayer.

300px-Phalanx_CIWS_test_fire_-_081107-N-5416W-003Perched on a warship’s side, the U.S. Navy’s potent anti-missile Gatling gun Phalanx CIWS spews out 3,000 armor-piercing tungsten 20mm rounds per minute that down rockets flying at Mach 3 straight towards a ship. Guided by radar and computerized systems, the Phalanx bullets blunt incoming attacks.

DownloadedFileBut when an Argentine warplane fired an Exocet missile against a British warship in the 1982 Falkland War, the powerful Phalanx failed, and the HMS Sheffield was struck and sunk.

What was the “design flaw” of the Phalanx?

In order to work, it had to be turned on.

DownloadedFile-1The Brits, staging a reconquest of the disputed Southern Hemisphere island, had failed to turn on the Phalanx, and consequently the Phalanx failed to defend the ship. It was left on “standby.”

So too, prayer, in order to work effectively, must be turned on. It must be used. We must pray for it to work. Too many Christians leave prayer on “standby” only. And when incoming missiles head towards us at Mach 3, we don’t have time to react.

Prayer is meant to be used, not ignored.

If it’s over, where’s the elation?

  • How do I pray?
  • Faith in prayer
  • Prayers of the Bible

imagesBarcelona won the 2012-13 Spanish league when it wasn’t even playing. It’s nearest competitor, Real Madrid, tied, and, with only  a few games left in the season, no one can reach Barca’s points.

images-1Winning by NOT playing (when your rival ties) is a very undramatic way to seize a crown. But that’s the way the European leagues work: no flourish of playoffs. It’s boring mathematics: whoever has the most points, wins. Now whatever FCB does — even it loses every game 0-20 — it cannot lose the league.

images-2Despite being an avid fan, I’m disappointed. Where’s the flush of excitement of a memorable finale? Where’s the high fives in front of the big screen with pizza with my buddy Adan? In the essence of anti-climax, I read it on Yahoo soccer news. It was over, and I wasn’t even watching the game to relish it (why would I? It wasn’t even my team’s game).

images-3Instead of seeming happy, it’s a let-down. No more tension as a rival threatens a comeback. No more discussing injuries and speculating who will cover what position. No more guessing outcomes, despairing over setbacks.

images-4Christianity is like this: it’s over. Christ won — a long time ago, at the cross. What remains is an unavoidable and boring march towards victory. We can lose the excitement of God’s crushing championship, but we should never forget that He has won. The fact that secularists appear to be winning our nation is much like Iran’s president denying the Holocaust: ludicrous brouhaha.

Go to prayer today with:

  • the sensation of the thrill of victory
  • certainty of the positive outcome for your petitions
  • persistence in securing wins (Barca still wins games, even though they can’t lose the championship losing games). Show our stuff!

American Idol Smasher

  • How do I pray?
  • Bible prayers
Formerly a drug abuser, Edgar Cervantes raps and preaches on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.

Formerly a drug abuser, Edgar Cervantes raps and preaches on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.

While some erect idols, we tear them down. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God — 2 Cor. 10:5 NIV.

L.A.'s skyline

L.A.’s skyline

In Gideon’s day, it was Baal and Ashtoreth that needed to be booted from national psyche. Today it is greed, materialism, pleasure-seeking, alcohol, etc. People resonate with American Idol because its the rags-to-riches, discovered-by-Hollywood storyline.

In all honesty, I’ve never seen an episode of this show that buzzes with our zeitgeist. Nor do I want to. I think, though, I would enthusiastically watch a spoof titled “American Idol Smasher.” But as it stands, no such is likely to materialize outside of your prayer closet.

Far from the crowds, far from the voting, far from the excitement, in your prayer closet and mine history is REALLY made.

 

Prevailing prayer

  • How to pray?
  • Prayers of the Bible
my family, 3 years ago

my family, 3 years ago

A mother prays for her Muslim son-in-law, and he gets saved. A man prays and gets healed of cancer. A church grows in membership and finances and becomes a church-planting church. Why do some people seem to have prevailing prayers?

keystoprayerJPGI don’t believe God has favorites. Nor do I think they’re holier than the rest of us humble folk. God is moved — the New Testament says emphatically — by faith. No one is righteous, it also says emphatically. So what up?

Here’s the scoop. YOU can up your answer percentage — just like them. People who pray successfully — we call them prevailing prayers — all tend to find their success in certain factors:

  • Quality (and to some extent, quantity) time with God.
  • Growing faith through:
  1. Tracking track record of positive results.
  2. Fortifying your heart with ongoing Bible reading, church attendance, praise and testimonies.
  • Persistence. People who prevail in prayer persevere because they believe more in God than in “reality.” They don’t give up ever. When things take a turn for the worst, they don’t hang the prayer shawl; they dig in and intensify the attack.
My daughter on our marching band outreach team more than 3 years ago

My daughter on our marching band outreach team more than 3 years ago

That’s about it. You can massage and adjust certain factors, BUT THERE’S NO MAGIC to it, there’s no “spiritual secret.” You don’t have to buy a best seller written by some slick preacher hyping elusive “keys” to prayer.

Compulsive compilers of lists

how to pray?

Rebekah, the compulsive compiler of lists

My teenage daughter gave me the grocery list yesterday — with just one item.

Rebekah and my wife are passionate about lists. I am passionate about losing lists.

how do I pray?

Rebekah’s discipler in list compiling, my wife, Dianna

My wife grew up in a household where her mother put up stickies on cabinet doors, on walls, on regular doors, on the refrigerator. There were reminders to leave your shoes outside, turn off lights, take vitamins. When we got married, I threw these out when Dianna started posting them up. Tacky stickies.

Don’t get me wrong. I have my agenda with lists of things to do. But the loose papers? I lose them. Usually I go to the store (yes, I buy the groceries) reciting the 8 – 9 essential items and buy the things that strike my fancy. Haha! What a strategy! More often than not, I forget 5 – 6 of the essential items. Nevertheless, I’m stubbornly opposed to lists.

Michael Ashcraft

Me, the list-hater. I guess you could say I’m often listless. No, I’m not a cowboy, but I do steal people’s hats for pictures when I can.

Which is why I looked at the list yesterday and asked Rebekah, “Why?” Why a list with only one item. Seriously?

I lost the list and remembered to buy the item: canned refried beans. Hooray!

There is only one important list: my prayer journal. (Chances are, you’re in it because I pray for my followers by name — though I need to update it! If you want me to pray for you, just comment at the end of this post, and I’ll make sure you enter the list.)

Forgetting groceries is annoying. But forgetting to pray is a question of Heaven and Hell. So I don’t want to miss anyone or anything.

Which demonstrates a point: Do we pay more attention to our grocery lists or our prayer lists?

Crossing borders

Crossing bordersWe hit the Honduran-Nicaraguan border at 5:30 a.m. We had been warned: the Nicaragua border officials would try to exact a bribe.

Crossing BordersSure enough. Our marching band instruments weren’t listed on a document stating their purpose was performance. Thus, the officials said, it was assumed they were merchandise and would have to pay tax. At this time I had been a Central American missionary for 14 years and was familiar enough with political corruption to not get outraged. I also knew how to game it.

Crossing bordersPlaying dumb, I pretended that the officials weren’t sincerely sure that we constituted a marching band heading to Managua to outreach. I gave the order for band members to grab their instruments and assemble in formation “for a demonstration.” Border officials hadn’t expected this. But at 5:30 a.m., neighbors weren’t going to want to wake up to banging bass drums and blaring trumpet.

Lighthouse Christian Academy marching band

Since returning to the States in 2011, we have formed a marching band for local July 4th parades. Unfortunately, kids have too much Nintendo, and not many want to get involved.

It took just one song for red-faced border officers to growl at me (still playing dumb) about some law prohibiting trumpet blowing on the border. “Get out of here!” they muttered through their teeth. I was later told that people who don’t want to capitulate to bribe-seekers usually have to wait hours to wear down the bordermen’s patience. It hadn’t taken us but minutes to slide through like a duck into water.

The pastors who were with us on the evangelistic team were impressed. But the key was to NOT panic, to have a quiet confidence that we WILL get over the border without any hitch, and that I could find the right words and actions to help the process.

There is a lesson for prayer here. When it SEEMS like we’re getting a “no” from God, keep patiently praying with CONFIDENCE. That is faith. Of course, God is not a corrupt border official (neither is He the unjust judge of Luke 18:6, but He compares Himself to such to make a point).

  1. Don’t panic. Don’t start thinking God doesn’t want to give you the desired answer.
  2. Keep your cool.
  3. Remain believing, confident of the answer, expecting His goodness.
  4. Don’t use vain repetitions but seek new expressions of your love for Him and your desire to see such-and-such an answer given.
  5. Keep at it until you’ve gotten the answer.

You’ll probably think less of my “spirituality” for saying this, but it’s hard not to chuckle at those border officials. I joined their poker game and laid out the winning hand.

It’s hard not to enjoy the wonderous miracles granted by God to His patient servant who prevails in prayer.

Maybe you need to cross a “border” in your life. Remain confident and pray calmly.

Pray for pastors

  • How to pray?
  • Prayers of the Bible
Pastor Steven Fernandez

At left, Pastor Steven Fernandez. His first pastor, George Neos, at right, when he went to visit him.

Pastor Steven Fernandez had just broken the hinge on his car door. He was driving home with it roped up, and the cable for the clutch snapped, leaving him stalled in traffic — late at night, on the dangerous streets of Guatemala City. With some natives helping, he managed to get the Fiat home only to find a screw in one of his tires. Sigh!

Iglesia La Puerta

This is what we live for — and what we go through so much for. Pray for pastors!

Pastor Steven took over the Guatemalan work after I left the country. Unaccustomed to such Third World ailments common on the mission field, he is grappling with things he never experienced in America. Alas, poverty.

Missionaries

Cars are always breaking down for missionaries and pastors.

I remember passing through  these kinds of nightmares. Roofs drip like a waterfall during thunderstorms. Water doesn’t come out of the faucet for weeks at a time. Power outages mean you keep candles handy (I preached through a power outage once holding a candle close to my notes!) Ah! The adventures of being a missionary! All this reminiscing is making me yearn to go back!

Missionaries

Pastor Steven says — correctly — that when the devil’s attacks intensifies, revival is just around the corner.

Amid hand-wringing and nostalgia, one thing is clear: All pastors need our prayers. As church-goers, we forget that pastors are even more in Satan’s gunsights than us. It’s typical for pastors to face hardships of finances, of family and of car breakdowns. We need to sustain them with prayer!

Don’t complain about some ill-spoken word from your pastor (he’s human too!). Pray for him. Pray for revival, for his family, for his checkbook, for his car. Remember what the Bible says: And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matt. 10:42 NIV.

If giving a cup of water nets reward, how much more so if you give him a cappuccino pray for him!

No magical formula: HOW to pray

IMG_2444And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words — Matt. 6:7 NASB.

It seems clear enough to me that there is no right way to pray, no right words, no right syntax. God looks at the heart. As a matter of fact, Rom. 8:28 suggests that “groaning” can be prayer. I’d say God definitely looks at the heart and understands even the unspoken. So there’s no “aberacadabra.” Your attitude is what counts.

Some kids at my church.

Some kids at my church.

I remember when I was in junior high, we said the pledge of allegiance every day. Truthfully, I mouthed the words from memory without weighing their significance. It was perfunctory, a civic ritual void of civic feeling. Maybe you said the pledge with burning passion everyday. I wish I could say that of myself. It was more like playing a recording.

So prayer ought to be with the burning passion. If you repeat “the Lord’s prayer,” savor its every word. Otherwise, dissect it, understand it completely like a Shakespearian sonnet, and follow it’s patterns with original prayers. In my next post, I’ll give you a quick dissection of the Lord’s prayer, which I personally use more as a example than a magical formula.

So why do we pray anyhow?

How to pray? A series on prayers of the Bible.

Prayer is like beauty, nearly impossible to explain but marvelous to experience.

Prayer is like beauty, nearly impossible to explain but marvelous to experience. Photo Tumblr

WHY do we pray? There are two things I must say about this question.

1) For me, there is no satisfactory answer. For years now, I’ve meditated answers from renowned Bible teachers and theologians — and all the answers come up short. I tend to agree with the atheists: if God is omniscient and infinitely benevolent, then why do we need to pray?

stunningflowers2) The second part is critical. The effect of not finding an adequate answer to the question WHY is… disaster: we stop praying. If you ask why too much, you will conclude there ought to be no need for prayer. Regardless of the “soundness” of reasoning, stopping praying is soundly adverse.

241857442458513822_YDtvMSC3_bGod doesn’t bother to explain the WHY of prayer. He simply commands us to pray. And the weight of scriptural evidence implies that certain blessings won’t happen if we don’t pray. I’m not denying God’s unquestioned sovereignty. There’s an uncomfortable tension here that I’m comfortable with. I may never resolve the WHY, but I have decided to never abandon the WHAT*.

Just pray. Don’t look for explanations any more than you would look for an explanation of falling in love. Scientists try to reduce romance to hormones, to evolutionary theory, to getting the best mate in order to pass on genes — oh brother! talk about deficient and boring reasoning. I’ve noticed that atheists don’t stop falling in love just because there’s no adequate explanation.

From Susan's Poetic Blogosphere.

From Susan’s Poetic Blogosphere.

Prayer is falling in love with Jesus. It’s your relationship with Him. It also accomplishes powerful things in the universe. But you don’t get your every whim. You trust God to exercise His discretion. When you align your prayers with the Bible, you can be confident that He will answer (that is faith). When it doesn’t seem like His answer is best, we can trust that He will not defraud us.

*It is my experience in 33 years of Christianity that the theologians who are strong on emphasizing God’s sovereignty, don’t pray. While they are right about His sovereignty, they are wrong to disobey the Bible’s admonition to pray.

Effective, substantial prayers

rocket19How do I pray effectively? Can prayers of the Bible teach me?

It can feel useless. But faith is a solider (more solid) base than what might you think. Now faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen — Heb. 11:1 KJV (caps mine).

The KJV’s word “substance” is hypostasis, which is translated elsewhere “confidence.” It’s a foundation,  a basis.  Words uttered with faith are not wispy sounds that disappear into thin air. Their sound waves may die, but their essence moves angels into action. God spoke, and the world was created. He made us in His image — with the ability to speak into existence things that are not.

Jesse Rentaria, of Hesperia, CA, was told his cancer wouldn't give him many more months of life. But today he is cancer-free.

Jesse Rentaria, of Hesperia, CA, was told his cancer wouldn’t give him many more months of life. But today he is cancer-free.

With the strident monotony of blah-blah-blah bombarding us continually from the television, the radio, the internet, we can forget that words CAN have meaning and impact. Don’t compare prayer to the media’s drivel.

Prayer activates — like the propulsion of a rocket launch. Prayer unlocks — like a password. Prayer smashes down strongholds, builds up Cities of God. It is quicker than a Google search, more effective than the U.S. military taking on North Korea. It moves unseen behind enemy lines and converts to Christianity its sworn enemies (like Paul).

The Bible says faith can move mountains. We have so many more metaphors today.

Heaven is listening — pray

How do I pray? Prayers of the Bible. Grow in faith.

Coach Ray instructs my son, Hosea, on soccer attacking.

Coach Ray instructs my son, Hosea, on soccer attacking.

The Faith Hall of Fame is Hebrews 11. It’s exciting to read how :

  • Noah prepared the ark for 100 years
  • Abraham held out for a son until he was 100 years old
  • Moses started ministry at 80 years old
  • Rahab got out of prostitution and helped the spies
  • David killed Goliath with a slingshot

Through faith they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection — Heb. 11:33-35 NIV.

IMG_2382

Love those shiny new cleats!

Better than 007, than Die Hard, than Brave Heart (ok, yeah, I’m not that young). The inspiration of Hebrews 11 makes you want to go out and call down fire from Heaven or face off with Jezabel or Pharoah or Planned (un)Parenthood.

How about this? Let it inspire you to the uninspiring task of simply taking to your knees right there in your home — and praying with faith. It may not be a cinematographic moment with rapturous surround sound, but praying with faith today is huge heroics for God. The audience in Heaven is listening.

Pray prayers that make a difference:

1) finances
2) healing
3) salvation
4) revival