Tag Archives: praying

The power of a whistle

IMG_8992We won because I had the whistle. Coach Mefford and I split reffing duties while playing, but he doesn’t like to carry a whistle. We were winning 5-4, and the other team kept pressing for the equalizer. I was really tired at central defender. It was 12:15, and I had told parents we would be done a noon. Some parents were craning their necks at us as if to say, When are you guys going to be done?

But mostly I wanted to win. So I tweeted the long, plaintive toot that marks the end of the game. That’s how I made sure when we won.

That was the day I learned the power of the whistle. It is authority. It is a way to guarantee your calls are obeyed. Nobody can argue against a whistle.

Such a small thing, but 21 players obeyed and walked to the parking lot to clap out mud from their cleats.

Do you realize the authority you have as a Christian? Humanity lost authority in the Garden of Eden. Then Jesus came to get it back. Incredibly, He gave it back to us. But many Christians don’t use prayer or faith. They let the devil bully them around. There is the whistle, promises in the Bible, hanging around their necks. All you need to do is pinch it, pucker and puff.

Hey, to pray, you don’t have to bow head or knee. You don’t have to fold your hands. You don’t have to shout or break a sweat. You can pray in your head. And God will respond — always. Maybe He doesn’t act WHEN or HOW we want, but He responds in our benefit — invariably.

I always keep a whistle and a prayer handy.

How do I pray? Just do it.

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What’s everywhere?

wash your hands say your prayers cause Jesus and germs are everywhereWash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere.

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Pray Like You Mean It

Pray Like You Mean It

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Hardship

hardship

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How to pray? Feel the power behind you

How to pray?

Holy Cannoli! Prayer’s good!

  • How do I pray?
  • Prayer of faith
  • Bible prayers
purple berries

Cousin Dave with freshly picked raspberries and purple berries, not as tart at the black, rasp or boysenberries. They’re official unscientific name is Royalty Purple Raspberries.

I discovered relatives are wonderful.

Disconnected from my East Rochester relatives by 16 years of missionary work and lack of funds, I haven’t seen them essentially since 1988. Now I have children. I wanted to take my kids to see Niagara Falls.

Genesee Country Village and Museum Civil War reenactmentThey saw much more than just that. They saw a Civil War reenactment battle. They boated down the Erie Canal. They munched purple berries and raspberries fresh from the garden. They drove a John Deere lawn mower. They ate cannolies, Abbot’s frozen custards, and red hots. The list goes on.

Abbott's

Mmm! Abbott’s habit-forming custard ice cream cones

My definition of relative: someone who loves you for no apparent reason and showers blessings down on you. S/he hugs you without having met you before and includes you a wonderful thing called family.

Holy cannoli! Prayer's good!

In front of the American Falls at Niagara

God is our Father, or in New Testament lingo, abba, daddy. When we look up to Him, we are not addressing a bot which indexes unfeelingly our merits and flaws to rank us to see if we deserve an answer. We are not before the stern judge, the contract lawyer, the boss who’s trying to exploit us and intimidate us. We are not before the school teacher who humiliates us publicly, the fake Facebook friend who’s always happy but ultimately uninterested in us.

How do I pray?We are in front of a father. Recently, I found out about a dad who spent $2 million trying to clean up his daughter’s past so she can go on to a bright future. The job’s not done, and he’s still spending. No limits to what he will do for his girl.

God does even more than that for us. Much confusion about prayer can be dismissed simply if we remember that Jesus begins the model prayer: Our Father. The marrow of prayer is love — God’s love. When he doesn’t answer immediately, it’s because He loves us and the delay is better. How do I pray? Know to Whom you’re talking: a loving dad.

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.

How do I pray? Zach’s fall

How do I pray?

how do I pray?

Zach, staying off the left cheek, with his wife, Hillary

Zach plummeted 30-40 feet and missed the deepest part of the Malibu Creek Rock Pool, where only the manliest most insane dare to dive from the top rocks. He thought he broke his tail bone, but it only turned out to be muscle damage.

His freakishly swollen left buttock has been quite a novelty for teasing friends and family. Apparently Zach unembarrassedly bares butt for all interested gawkers to see and even photograph. I demurred.

no fear

On Thursday, Zach daredevil-dove at the Malibu Creek Rock Pool

We thanked God today for the miracle. He could have broken his back and been paralyzed.

Zach is an enigma to me. He’s equal parts bravado tough guy (he played football for UCLA) and compassionate nice guy. There’s not a dare he would skip or a rebellious punk he wouldn’t empathize with. For the last six years, he’s performed the unlauded labor of church cleaning for no pay, even though it deprives him of sleep and his wife. Cleaning starts at 5 a.m. He speaks of the “cleaning greats” at the Lighthouse Church, the men who taught him how to tame the wild beast of ubiquitous dirt when our K-12 kicks in.

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

After the plunge.

I am intrigued by Zach. I want to be like him. He seems to me to be a Christian ideal. Like Zach, we must be tough. We must withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and remain faithful to God. Like Zach, we must be compassionate. Without empathy, we’re shrill Pharisees. We must feel the hurt of so many millions who have been defrauded by the promises of sin.

Prayer must be tough enough to persevere. It must come from compassion and empathy. Can we feel people’s pain as God does? How do I pray? With toughness and with compassion.

How to pray? Thrills seekers

How to pray?

thrills seekers

Whee!

All of a sudden, my friend, Zach, fell from the sky like a bolt. We were at the Malibu Creek Rock Pool where kids dive off the rocks into the waters below. But he hadn’t warned me he was going to fling himself from the highest perch — 30-40 feet up. When I saw him appear in the sky, my heart leapt.

I guess he knows what he’s doing, I said to myself. His head bobbed up in the water, and he swam to the side. It was my first time at the pond, and I watched in horror as other kids lunged from lesser heights. I’m a chicken for such thrills-seeking.

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

Ouch!

Zach, a 25-year-old former UCLA football player, hit a rock. He clambered out of the lake in pain. He had broken his tail bone in the depths of the pool. (UPDATE: Either prayer healed him or he didn’t break the bone, doctor now says! PTL! Just swollen.)

Not everyone likes this brand of fun. But as human beings, we gravitate toward excitement. Some like the thrill of a pay raise. Others, a business venture. Others, work out hard at the gym to turn eyes in the restaurant.

How to pray? Thrills seekers

Jenny flung herself from a lower perch. Still, it struck fear in my heart.

Actually a hardened prayer warrior is not a bored person. He likes thrills too! His thrills, though, derive from answers to prayer. It may takes months or years, but when you see a person change (get off drugs, improve their marriage, whatever), there’s an interior thrill of knowing you affected positively the course of human affairs. This is how to pray.

high diveMaybe you’re not interested in waiting months for an answer to prayers. Maybe you like weeks of bed rest instead.

Maybe my friend Zach will be praying a lot these days — because he won’t be doing too much else.

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.

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.

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?”

If a spring stops springing…

Students from the Lighthouse Christian Academy

Students from the Lighthouse Christian Academy

The Dead Sea is its name because it has no outlet. All minerals and salt remain. Water evaporates, but there is drain off. The resulting salt content kills virtually all life — no fish.

My awesome colleague, Tawnie Black, who gave up a high-paying, prestigious teaching job to help kids at the Lighthouse.

My awesome colleague, Tawnie Black, who gave up a high-paying, prestigious teaching job to help kids at the Lighthouse.

As a Christian, you are not designed to retain only. You must have an outflow of all you have learned in Christ, the love, the forgiveness, the good news. You can’t clam up. You must serve and give to others the blessings God has lavished on you.

More LCA students. Don't think Wyatt, at right, is mean. He just likes to make funny faces.

More LCA students. Don’t think Wyatt, at right, is mean. He just likes to make funny faces.

If you bottle up the blessing, it will go rank (and I’m not talking about ranking with Google). It will spoil, sour, self-corrupt, go bad. Enjoy the blessings, but pass on the blessings. There can be no such thing as a selfish Christian. It simply does not exist.

A spring is known for what it gives. So too a Christian is only a Christian if he is like Christ, who gave the utmost. We must give finances for His work, time for service, and prayer for advancing the kingdom.

It is thought that Sodom and Gomorrah are buried under the Dead Sea. Not a good fate for a Christian. Our lifeblood is to share, give, and be unselfish.

Brighten your worldview

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers
Guatemala mission

The church I left behind and now is being worked by Pastor Steven Fernandez

Sometimes Christians adhere to Elijah’s perspective: I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too — 1 Kings 19:10 NIV. Our outlook is bleak, and we whine annoyingly at “sinners.”

So what is God’s worldview? God saw all that he had made, and it was very good — Gen. 1:31 NIV. Now, sinners are bad because they’re sinners. But why are Christians downers? Honestly, I don’t blame a lot of sinners for not wanting to convert to Christianity based on what I see in my brothers and sisters. If that’s joy, then who needs it?

church in Guatemala

People are true riches

If we truly believe God wins in the end, then we should have a victorious, joyous attitude always. We should pray with confidence, not with woe.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty — Psm 91:1 KJV. We need to dwell on God and NOT dwell on the bad things that drag us down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things — Phl. 4:8 NIV.

When you go to prayer, don’t bring your rants. Knowing God will convert the sinner, heal the sick, provide for the needy, turn the tide of evil, pray with this mindset.

Why the DMV is such a great place!

Time for prayerBecause the interminable lines give you time to pray.

What you need for prayer is NOT money, nor talent, nor poetic words, nor theological profundity. What you need is time.

And that’s what the Department of Motor Vehicles gives you lots and lots and lots while you wait only to find out that you’re in the wrong line or that you don’t have some obscure piece of paper and you’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Also good for prayer:

  • bank lines
  • mechanic shop
  • dry cleaning lines
  • meetings! (Let the boss drone on about what he thinks is important. In your head, pray.)
  • airports and flights

Distractions to prayerTime-robbers include:

  • cell phone
  • TV
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter (Why don’t you tweet God instead?)
  • did I say “cell phone?”

These are just some of multitudinous ways of distracting yourself from what is truly important: prayer. Money is not the most precious resource; time is. God really appreciates all the time you make for Him!

 

 

Can’t fathom passion?

DownloadedFileI can understand the terrorists.

I have felt their passion. I have risked my life for God. But the difference is they believe killing people pleases Allah. They need to get to know Jesus.

All this goes to show what an intellectual fraud the “comparative religion” folks have perpetrated. Maybe they should study “contrastative religion.” We are told that the older Boston bomber became more “devout,” then this.

imagesAs I become more devout as a Christian, I give of myself. I sacrifice. I love. I pray. I evangelize. I give money to the needy. I don’t kill.

Actually, atheists are all highly intelligent people, so their failing to discern between religious and economic motives behind so-called “Christian wars” is more willful than accidental.

Christ called his followers to lay down their lives. To turn the other cheek. Those who have taken up arms in the name of Christ are following their own folly, not Jesus. Yes, Popes asked for Crusades, but the guys who actually did the fighting were mercenaries seeking fame and fortune.

God calls us to carry our cross, not arms.

God calls us to carry our cross, not arms.

Again, it is willful neglect, not genuine, to fail to discern the clear demarcation between Old Testament and New. Christ, being the conclusion of God’s progressive revelation of salvation in the Bible, represents the maximum expression of God’s plan, the finality. Thus, several Old Testament norms go outmoded and are replaced by Christ’s law of love.  Ethical conduct is reaffirmed; such things as temple rituals, sacrificing animals, and violence are suppressed. I can understand a simpleton failing to grasp this, but not a smart guy who’s academically honest.

It is with great heaviness I write: We Christians bear much responsibility for the evil surge in our world. We have become lightweights, neglecting prayer in favor of “our best life now.” Let’s pray for Boston.

And let’s pray for the gospel to advance in all the world.

Great in the sight of God is the prayer warrior

This is my buddy, Vincent. He's just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

This is my buddy, Vincent. He’s just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

A Christian who doesn’t amount to much in this world should be glad, for he is great in the sight of God. — James 1:9 Living Bible.

I’ve been tripping out on this verse lately. I guess I’ve been knocked down a few rungs. I used to the general pastor in Guatemala, with four churches under my jurisdiction. Now I’m one of approx. 50 kabillion assisting pastors, and I hardly ever get a chance to preach.

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T... well, it's old, but not a classic).

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T… well, it’s old, but not a classic).

I used to be founder and principal of the Guatemalan church’s school. Now, I’m a teacher kicked around by students. Yes, it’s been time to eat humble pie.

But while I have “descended” in worldly status, I have “ascended” with God. I have more time to pray. I have time to write (being too busy to write was my black eye neglected gift for eons). I have more time to pray.

Leanna is one of my nice students. She's also very funny. She wasn't feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn't have to answer any questions in Spanish class -- hence the post-it on her forehead "Be nice to the sick girl. Don't ask her questions."

Leanna is one of my nice students. She’s also very funny. She wasn’t feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn’t have to answer any questions in Spanish class — hence the post-it on her forehead “Be nice to the sick girl. Don’t ask her questions.”

Did I say that I have more time to pray? That is special. The “lowly” brother isn’t “lowly” to God. He can work anonymously and accomplish a lot more than the church’s showmen. He can pray.

So really, what I said was a lie: I haven’t been knocked down rungs. I’ve been catapulted into new dimensions of ministry with God. Never scorn the ministry of prayer. Kick things up into high gear — pray!

Restore the passion: prayer and service

Staying in prayer is key to staying in leadership. How to pray? Pray with faith. Prayers in the Bible.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

To watch those kids jog during the soccer game made me disgusted! How do they expect to win if they won’t run? If they only play half-hearted?

Then, I saw myself on the field. I was jogging.

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

A fairly steady stream of withering criticism took the wind out of my sails. When I returned to my sponsoring church after 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala, I threw myself into ministry. Then I started cutting back — why give my ALL when ALL I got was negative feedback? God spoke to me through a State Cup Cal South tournament. Instead of running, I was jogging. How did I expect to win?

I cut the oranges for the kids' halftime.

I cut the oranges for the kids’ halftime.

Handling criticism is no piece of cake. Making transition from head pastor to just one of the guys has not been easy either.

I wanted those kids to run with everything they had. Who cares if they were losing? Who cares if they made mistakes? Who cares if the coach screamed at them? Run — for the love of the game — run! Don’t give up.

It’s pretty easy to see others’ faults. But when I saw my own faults reflected in those kids, it was horrifying. I’ve got to run — for Jesus (not for detractors). Thank You, Jesus, for helping restore me to the intense servant I always was. Forgive me for becoming a mechanical, half-hearted servant. Thank You for showing me to renew my passion for service.

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

You’re supposed to injure the other team

On every other day of his life, he's been fantastic.

On every other day of his life, he’s been fantastic.

Teacher Edwin was a NICE guy, a fabulous teacher and a sensational soccer player. I was happy he was on my team in Guatemala on the day of staff bonding! (Good thing the accountant was on the other team. His accounting was straight but his ball-kicking, crooked.)

In a midfield confusion on a header challenge, Edwin came back down to earth with all of his weight squarely on my left toe. The toe nail cracked. I crumpled.

A soccer field to envy.

A soccer field to envy.

“Edwin! You’re supposed to injure the OTHER team,” I yelled, writhing on the ground. “You’re not supposed to injure me.”

Prayer is about injuring the other team. There are actually people in the church who think their gifting is criticizing others. But no, the gifts, according to 1 Cor. 12:8-10, are:

  • word of wisdom
  • word of knowledge
  • faith
  • healing
  • miracles
  • prophecy
  • discernment
  • tongues
  • interpretation of tongues

Whatever those are, there is clearly no gift of criticism. When you criticize, you help out the Accuser of the Brethren (the devil, according to Rev. 12:10). Hey, let the devil do the accusing, and let’s not do it for him! When you criticize, you injure your own teammate.

You’re supposed to injure the other team. I’m taking medicine now — seven years later — for it.

Terbinafine is fine

No, I'm not going to upload a picture of my yellow toe. You should be glad. It's gross.

No, I’m not going to upload a picture of my yellow toe. You should be glad. It’s not the most attractive thing. The lady is my better half.

I have to take this medicine for 3 months. Maybe 6.

Apparently, it won’t knock out quicker the fungus that turned my toe nail (excuse me, this is not for the squeamish) yellow.

My son Hosea.

My son Hosea.

If a medicine needs to treat consistently over a period of time to fully eradicate the infection, why do we expect prayers to revolutionize our lives instantly?

Compared to some of the infections in our souls, the toe fungus is a simple matter. It makes sense to me that we need to treat consistently and over a prolonged period some of the troubles besetting our hearts. Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come quickly.

It’s nice to see my toe turning flesh color again! It’s also nice to see my heart becoming less of a stone. For my heart, I’ve been praying for 33 years (not always consistently). Be patient with me. Jesus is not done yet.

Stay calm and keep praying.

‘All authority’ includes finances

With Gary Case, missionary extraordinaire, when he was on a layover at LAX. He's now in Japan pioneering a church

With Gary Case, missionary extraordinaire, when he was on a layover at LAX. He’s now in Japan pioneering a church

When you spearhead a ministry, the devil will resist you even with the rent. As a missionary paying a mortgage with a small church, I prayed a lot for finances. I discovered reading the Bible some incredible verses to pray. Here’s one:

Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen planted three churches in Africa during 20 years.

Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen planted three churches in Africa during 20 years.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, resurrected Jesus said in Matt 28:18. Typically, we Christians think of His authority over demons, over sin, over sickness, etc. We forget that “all” includes finances. He has authority to send finances.

My purpose, unlike so many other American Christian pastors, is NOT for you to pray for luxury. It is for you to NOT quit ministry because finances are

fellowship after church

fellowship after church

scarce. Don’t close the doors to your church just because you’re on a shoe-string budget. Instead, keep performing fruitful ministry and simply pray for God’s provision.

It seems people in America get twisted about praying for finances. Some think God doesn’t attend such matters. Others think it’s wrong. (Well, yes, greed is sin.) But when you have lived the day-to-day anxiety of will-we-make-it?, then you understand how praying for finances brings more than just peace of mind. It brings answers.

Leftovers!

You’ll like these leftovers! They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over — Luke 9:17 NIV.

The most overlooked detail is the leftovers. Five thousand men were fed with only five loaves and two fish. But don’t miss the detail that they wound up with more at the end of the meal than what they started with. In mathematics: 12 baskets > 5 loaves + 2 fish.

That’s God’s provision — more than enough. He gives you for the journey afterward. We marvel at the 5,000 fed; we tend to miss to cache of grub to be stored away in the refrigerator.

When you pray for finances today for your ministry, pray for enough for your needs and then some leftovers for future needs! That’s the kind of God we serve!

Believe a little more

Release your faith!

This is the only human part.

If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us, says the father of a boy tormented by a demon.

‘If you can’? replies Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.

To this light rebuke for lack of faith, the father quickly and wisely reacts: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Mark 9:22-24 (NIV and paraphrase).

Pursue faith

The man is teetering on the brink of success or failure, healing or continued sickness. The great challenge for him — his only participation in the arrangement since God is going to do all the rest — is to believe just a little bit more.

We have little to do as Christians. We do nothing but accept Jesus to be saved; we don’t earn it by good works. We do nothing but pray to receive miracles. We don’t earn them.

Just a drop more of faith

Virtually our only effort is to muster faith, to stir ourselves up to belief, to convince ourselves that God’s word is right and our reality is wrong. More faith.

This is the only human part. Because the other part — the actual performing of the miracle — that’s God part. Can I believe just a little bit more today?

Not big nor difficult

For God, it’s…

Whether big or small, any miracle is equally easy for God. Just because your petition is “big” or “difficult” doesn’t mean it is any harder for God. Since he is all powerful, nothing is beyond His capabilities.

The reason why “small” miracles seem “easier” is a matter of us — not God. WE believe because it is small. We DON’T believe because it is “big.” But the size of the miracle is irrelevant to Supreme Power.

Let’s move some mountains!

Therefore I tell you, WHATEVER you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours — Mark 11:24 NIV (caps mine). Not every saying of Jesus appears in all the Gospels, but this one features throughout — and it even gets repeated in some of the Gospels. It’s as if God really wanted to underline the truth that WHATEVER or ANYTHING is possible for Him.

So today, pray and believe.

‘Perhaps today’

No two words hold more inspiration. They hang inside the prayer room at my church. Laconic but powerful: At any point, the answer will come, maybe even today.

If you knew that your long-awaited-for request were to be answered today, how earnestly, joyfully, expectantly would you pray? Do it.

Even if the answer DOESN’T come today, if you pray like it will, it MAY come today. “Perhaps today” fires up faith, and faith moves God.

If there have been tomes written on faith, this is faith’s haiku: Perhaps today. No more need be said.

As fast as a speeding train

The railroad company built a shield out the back of the car to lengthen the slipstream.

Charles Murphy became  the first man to ride a mile in a minute on a bicycle in 1899. He did so by laying wood planks between rails on Long Island and riding in the slipstream behind a speeding train. He proved his boast: the greatest limitation for the cyclist was not athleticism but wind resistance.

On the carpet of wooden planks laid for the event

Having completed the feat, Murphy was clasped and dragged from his still-moving bike into the back of the racing train. “I lay motionless, face down, on the platform. I was all in. I was half-carried to a cot at the end of the car; the roar of the train was challenged by hysterical yells. Grown men hugged and kissed each other. One man fainted and another went into hysterics, while I remained speechless on my back, ashen in colour and sore all over.”

It was a grand moment for cycling. Also, it was heyday for physics. By defeating wind drag, the cyclist could go faster and faster and faster.

Here’s a metaphor: prayer eliminates barriers, resistance, drag and other natural and human constraints on the man of God. The more you pray, the faster your ministry goes. It took Murphy and the Long Island Railroad a while to set up optimal conditions for the exposition record-breaking ride. But once they did, glory was won in less than 60 seconds. You may need time to set up “optimal conditions” in prayer that will flash in revival quickly.

When you reap what you didn’t sow

Money is a problem for us, not for God. We quote to our kids that money doesn’t grow on trees or appear out of thin air. But for God it does. He can make money appear from nowhere.

I harvest crops I didn’t plant and gather crops I didn’t cultivate. — Matt. 25:26. Many know God as the “God of the Harvest.” But do you know that He is also the “God of the Harvest that He did not Cultivate” and the “God of the Harvest You did not Cultivate.”

He can bring a windfall at any time — usually just in time (it always seems late). The word “windfall” is derived from the Middle Ages, when peasants were forbidden to chop wood for cooking. When a wind whipped up, it often blew down the necessary firewood. It was called a “windfall.”

God’s Wind, his Holy Spirit, will blow finances your way. Just pray. God’s harvest of unknown origins will be reaped into your barn. Just pray. Don’t chafe under the mounting bills. Trust and keep working for souls.

Unlocking Heaven’s riches

How to unlock the unlimited riches of Heaven for my ministry? Theologically, it is simply a matter of asking. But then there are other factors: perseverance, attitude, seeking God. To get it all right can feel like picking a safe.

By no means are we stealing from God. But sometimes our immaturity gets in the way. Sometimes, selfishness, wrong motives, capriciousness, unforgiveness and an evil host of other reasons block that instant answer we desperately want. Some people seem to get answers easier than others, some get more money than others. It’s as if they know the combination to the safe.

I don’t aim to explain — or even know — all the answers here. I shoot only to encourage. Continue praying. Strive to line up all your attitudes and motives with the Word of God. Persist day after day. These are correct.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. — Rom. 8:27 NIV.

Yes! We are weak! Sometimes, we don’t know how to pray!

In this verse, pentecostal commentators see the groanings as “tongues.” Others say they are just groanings. Whatever the case, you ought to practice your interpretation. What is clear is that we do not always know how to pray, and the Spirit is there to help us.

In other words, God wants us to get to the answer even more than we do (though it may not seem like it!). So get the Holy Spirit to help you. If you’re going to “make off” with Heaven’s wealth, you’re going to have to find the right combination!

Prayer is rest

Let us LABOUR therefore to enter into that REST –– Heb. 4:11 KJV (caps mine). On the surface, this verse contradicts itself. On the one hand, there is labor (note the English spelling); on the other, rest. Instead of “labor,” the NIV says “make every effort” and the English Standard Version, “strive.”

Rest is no small theme in the Book of Hebrews. It receives more than an incidental mention. The author compares the Old Testament Sabbath rest to Christianity, in that we are no longer doing “works” toward salvation (i.e. no circumcision, no sacrifices). As Christians, we “rest” in salvation because we just receive it by believing. But he warns us against lack of belief, because in the desert some failed to enter the rest of the Promised Land.

Prayer is not worry. It is not labor. It is ceasing from labors and allowing God to do the labor. It is ceasing from worry and purposely deciding to live by faith. A diagram might be more exact: we have worry –> so we pray –> as faith fills us in prayer, we rest with quiet confidence that God will do what we cannot. No longer feverishly agitated, we calmly go about our daily labors, trusting that God will bring the breakthrough we cannot order ourselves through our own cleverness or hard work.

It is easy to fall back into worry. That is why we must constantly oblige our nervous minds to return to faith — and thus rest — in the Lord. So prayer is rest, but not laziness. Being unconcerned about life is not what I’m talking about either.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. — 1 Pet. 5:7 NIV.

Aaron’s high point

About the only thing good that Aaron did was stop a plague with incense, a symbol of prayer.

So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. — Num. 16:47-48 NIV.

Not too much else would make him a hero. (Remember how he made a golden calf idol?) But here, he has a good entry on his resume: a frantic scramble in an emergency rescue. The prayer warrior frequently must marshal emergency prayers to offset a judgement, bring about repentance, set up a move of God.

This is Aaron’s high point. Let it inspire you to immediately effective prayers.

Sowing and reaping

 

Nothing good will come from prayerlessness. But prayerfulness cannot fail but bring only good. The reason? The law of sowing and reaping.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. —
Gal. 6:7 NIV.

Most often, this verse is applied negatively, that is, as a warning against sin. You will accrue some bad consequences, a curse, if you persist in willful sin. But the positive applies too. If you practice Bible study, church attendance, etc., then you cannot fail to attain blessings.

If you sow prayers, then you WILL UNFAILINGLY reap answers.

Don’t give up prematurely on farming. It takes work, time, care. It wouldn’t be wise to walk away from the crop before it grows to maturity. A harvest on an actual farm has its established growth period (months for quick-turn-around crops, years in the case of some fruit trees). But we don’t know the maturation date of most of our prayer requests; only God knows that. So hang in there and don’t abandon the harvest! Keep praying!

 

Fury from Heaven

When a tornado touches down on terra, it’s power is microbial compared to the fury from Heaven when you simply pray.

Sabotage on faith

The devil is constantly sabotaging your faith. In war, sabotage means attacking infrastructure to disrupt and derail normal operations. Industries are blown up. Communication lines are cut. Transport is bombed. Satan’s constant barrage on your mind and life will kill your faith — if you let it.

Such is the story of Elymas. Paul testified to Sergius Paulus, a proconsul on Paphos Island. But his counselor resisted the evangelization. Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. — Acts 13:8. Paul rebuked the sorcerer, and God blinded him. Subsequently, Sergius Paulus believed.

Elymas is alive and well today. He circles like a tiger looking for the opportunity to strike and slay your faith.

What is surprising in verse 6. There we see this witch masqueraded under the name “Bar-Jesus,” which means “Son of Jesus.” It is possible he had heard about Jesus’ powers and used this name to bloat his reputation. But in truth, he was a Satanist.

What does this mean for us today? It means that some of the very people who call themselves Christians will be those who undermine your faith. Make your faith grow in the Word and in prayer. And be careful about advice given that sabotages faith.