Tag Archives: Prayer

Week of Prayer: Day 6 of 8

We often think of Mexican or Canadian missions. Maybe even the territories. But much of North American missions takes place in the 50 United States. Our cities have millions that need to hear the gospel. Let’s look at one city – Denver.

Denver is not huge. A little over 700,000 reside in the county. But there is only about 1 evangelical church for every 32,000 residents. Wow! A lot of work for those churches.

But missions is more than numbers and statistics. It really is about relationships.

Into Denver we have sent Briana McKinney.

While there is only one evangelical church for every 32,000 people in Denver, Colorado, the ratio of marijuana dispensaries to residents is one for every 2,000. Young professionals and families are moving to Denver from all over the world, but they’re struggling to find real community here. But as #AnnieArmstrong featured missionary Brianna McKinney serves alongside church plants and compassion ministries in Denver, she’s seeing people’s lives change through gospel-centered relationships. Join us on Day 6 of this Week of Prayer, in praying for perseverance for Briana and her team as they share Christ’s love with this city.

For Denver and Dallas and Duncanville and every other city – we are thankful for Briana and every missionary working to reach lives for the gospel.

Week of Prayer: Day 5 of 8

Canada – our dear friends to the north. A land of great diversity and secularism. The need for the proclamation of the gospel is of paramount importance.

Just off the door in St. Catharines is about 400,000 residents and tens of thousands of tourists.

Into this world, we introduce e the Martins.

Nearly 90% of the more than 400,000 residents living in Canada’s Niagara region have no belief
in God. Since planting Sevilla Chapel in 2019, missionaries Steven and Cindy Martins have been strategically and intentionally going door-to-door in the city of St. Catharines. They’ve been sharing the gospel, and people are listening. On Day 5 of the #AnnieArmstrong Week of Prayer, pray for God to continue to open doors and hearts for the gospel in this challenging community.

May we pray, give and go all across North America.

We’ve got

Week of Prayer: Day 3 of 8

Puerto Rico – or “rich port.” Is a small island but it’s the run capital of the world. English is the official language. About 70% is Roman Catholic yet thousands need to hear the true gospel of Jesus.

Into this culture, we introduce Itamar Elizalde.

Economic crisis, devastating hurricanes, relentless earthquakes and, most recently, a world-wide pandemic – the residents of Puerto Rico live in crisis mode. Many have little-to-no hope. It was on a short-term mission trip with her church that God broke Itamar Elizalde’s heart for the island and called her to stay. On Day 3 of the #AnnieArmstrong Week of Prayer, we’re praying for Itamar as she leads mission teams and coordinates with church plants to meet needs and boldly proclaim the message of gospel hope to those who have none.

Every penny. Every dollar given to this mission offering goes directly to work on the mission field. All administration costs are already covered. Wow.

When we reach North America with the gospel, we are reaching the world. As we launch a new season of giving to the #AnnieArmstrong Easter Offering, we’re excited to share the missionaries’ stories and see the generous ways our church family gives this season!

The Picture Says So Much

Mountain tops. Waterfalls. Icy Trails. Colorful trees in the fall. Arches. Cliffs. Canyons. Crevices. Geysers. They all say adventure. They all speak volumes and tug at our outdoor heart. I have mine, and I am sure you have yours.

But each weekend – millions gather around the world to partake of one of the greatest adventures of eternity – spending time with our church family and our Heavenly Father. We sing songs of praise. We list corporate prayer needs. We listen to the pesky announcements (I call ministry opportunities). And of course – God’s Word is shared, expounded, and challenges us.

There are hundreds of types of places to worship. Gothic cathedrals, Hotel ball rooms. old Kroger’s spots, classic wood frame churches, and small brick and steeples to name a few.

But this week – one picture stood out above them all. One picture that said – This is why we are here …

It says to me

  • Parents, bringing your kids to worship is important
  • Don’t just bring them, involve them
  • There is power in prayer – you are talking to the almighty Creator of the Universe
  • Songs and praise are important – but this is too
  • I wish this was what all our worships were about
  • This was taken when we were praying for Ukraine and Russia – WOW!
  • This was taken last Sunday at my church in little ole central VA!

If you had to picture your worship, what would it be?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14 esv

Do Not Settle for An Informed Mind …

Do not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart

Book of the Month – Prayer by Timothy Keller

As mentioned last month, in 2022 I am challenging myself to read at least one book a month on the topic of prayer. And in a world gone mad right now (Ukraine, Inflation, Covid, etc.), Timothy Keller has written a 262 page work that addresses something we all need to understand more and to do more – pray.

In a world of many books on the topic, this 2014 work is one that needs to be the top of a reader’s list to dig into. Books on prayer normally fall into one of three categories – theological, experiential and methodological. Keller tries to balance all three in his very easy to read apologetic style. In his practical approach, Keller does hit all the areas. While there are deeper works on each of the three areas (and he gives some in an appendix), his work hits all three in level for scholars (386 detailed end notes), pastors, and everyday believers. 

In his discussion on the theological approach, Keller uses all three – Biblical, historical, and systematic theology. His insight into Augustine’s, Luther’s and Calvin’s approaches were illuminating.

Keller’s work has five areas: Desiring Prayer, Understanding Prayer, Learning Prayer, Deepening Prayer and Doing Prayer. Each of these areas challenge us. But like the opening quote – Do not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart – he informs the readers and challenges us to engage our heart as he “delves into the many facets of this everyday act.”

Enough of the general – let me get a little specific. One of the chapters that engaged my heart was chapter nine – What is Prayer. This chapter gives broad sweeps and deep thoughts.

What prayer is …

  • Duty and Delight (from a JI Packer work)
  • Responding to the Word of God in conversation
  • A balance of praise, confession thanksgiving, and supplication

What prayer requires – grace, fear and helplessness

What prayer gives – perspective and spiritual reality

Where prayer takes us – self knowledge, trust and surrender

Beyond this chapter, Keller expounds that to do prayer, we should grasp the reality of God’s love (Eph 3:16-19.)

The final section – Doing Prayer – separates Awe, Intimacy, Struggle and Practice of prayer.

The concluding chapter deals with the specific methodology of prayer – how often, staying Biblically grounded, connecting private and corporate prayer, and patterns to prayer. The bullet points and outlines ate excellent starts for a group discussion.

This book makes prayer practical. Though he makes it very practical, it goes beyond practical  and makes it personal and powerful for each reader. 

It could have used some discussion questions and small group guidelines. Fortunately, there are many churches that have used this work and made their own outlines and guides. One example is seen here. (I have not used these, I just Googled and this popped up.)

If I had to sum it up – Keller shares that prayer is an encounter. And his work helps us deepen and appreciate the encounter with the almighty God.

This book is worth the read for everyone.

Post Script: please note, this isn’t so much a scholarly or academic review (been there, done those) … this is a personal review of how this work impacted me as I am receiving my passion for prayer by reading on prayer.

Ukraine – How to Respond – With Help & Prayer

Being Southern Baptist means the world often misunderstands and even mocks you. But they do many things really well. One is their disaster relief ministry. They are some of the first to respond after tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis. They were responding on 9.11.01 immediately after … helping there in so many ways. They hang around too. They are still there in Louisiana after Katrina … helping people rebuild.

Another area they are great is international missions. They care and have people deployed all over the globe.

With Ukraine in crisis … the Baptist are already responding in these two areas. Relief is already started. ALREADY STARTED!

And the mission assets in place help with that too! Below is their press release and their “ways to pray for Ukraine” … you can pray. And if the Lord leads, this is a way to give to really help too.

Give here …

Download the prayer guide here …

Send Relief responds to the Ukraine crisis

By: IMB/Send Relief Staff February 24, 2022

Send Relief, the combined compassion ministry effort of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, is currently working with local Baptist partners in Ukraine to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis. This crisis has been created by the escalated tension mounting around the border between Ukraine and Russia and Russia’s invasion.

Send Relief partners are already on the ground providing emergency food relief, shelter, clothing and more to displaced families. As the situation worsens, Send Relief partners are ready to provide further food relief, meet shelter needs and offer transportation to assist those impacted by this escalating crisis.

“With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, we join all those in Eastern Europe in praying for peace,” IMB President Paul Chitwood said.
“We know that God is sovereign in all situations, and Scripture reminds us that He is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We keep our focus on Him, asking for His protection of the innocent and trusting that His justice will prevail. Pray with us that Jesus Christ would be glorified through the crisis in Eastern Europe, and that Southern Baptists would remain vigilant in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those who are suffering.”

With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, we join all those in Eastern Europe in praying for peace

IMB President Paul Chitwood

Reports continue to indicate that as many as 5 million Ukrainians will be displaced in neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania, and a large number of internally displaced people are beginning to form in Western Ukraine. The greatest needs for these displaced families will include finding access to food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation and hygiene.

Gifts to Send Relief’s Ukraine Crisis Fund are vital to these relief efforts. The best way for Southern Baptists to respond is through prayer and giving.

Send Relief encourages churches and individuals to pray for Ukraine by downloading the Ukraine Prayer Guide:
Pray for:

  • The people of Ukraine. Pray for strength, courage and perseverance as their home is threatened by conflict.
  • Safe passages out of conflict zones for displaced populations.
  • Government officials to lead with wisdom in this tense time.
  • The estimated 4 million displaced people who will be forcibly removed from their homes. Pray that in the face of conflict, they will find psychological, emotional and spiritual healing from this trauma.
  • Soldiers on both sides of this conflict to be safe from harm.
  • Local churches, relief workers and humanitarian aid organizations to care for what could be a massive wave of displaced peoples in Ukraine.
  • Disciples Church in L’viv, Ukraine, and its church plant in Bryukhovychi. Many of the people there are displaced from the East. Pray for peace for these believers as they had hoped this conflict from eight years ago was over and now, they are facing it again.
  • The Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary as it wrestles with how to assist its students in this time of crisis.
  • Ukrainian believers as they seek to be a light in the darkness.
  • Ukrainians who have never heard the gospel to have an opportunity to experience the hope of Jesus

Religious leaders in Ukraine On kneeling together in prayer!

Post Script: pray for Russia and Russians as well. Especially Christians in Russia as they stand for peace in a difficult situation. Pray for wisdom for their leaders. Pray God to open Putin’s eyes. The Russians need God too!

Books on Prayer – January

Get out of Social Media for a couple of minutes. Let me talk books. Paper, glue, ink, binding, cover art and so much more. Okay, maybe books for you are more digital – 1s and 0s that make an artistic splash on iBooks, Kindle, Libby, etc. Or maybe you are like my son, you want it read to you – so Audible, iBooks audio books or whatever platform fits your fancy. Books.

What are you reading? What wonderful wisdom and imagination and artistry and edification and escapism and stories are you diving in to?

Me? I read more than the average person, but not nearly as much as I prefer. But in 2022, I decided to read at least one book a month on prayer. This is over and above other literature tomes I will read – I want a specific monthly challenge on prayer. So here is my insight on January’s. The book is that best seller by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in the messiness of New York City. The title – Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.

Filled with stories of lives changed. Overflowing throughout with a pastor’s burden to see people truly come boldly before the throne with fervent prayers. And it is tapered with the reality that this is not from an entitled snobbery of some pray-ers … but an honest brokenness that allows the Holy Spirit free to “invade the hearts His people!”

Cymbala calls the church to spend less time on revamping music and more time on our knees. It is not a church growth book filled with programs, pithy statements, or church marketing – but it is a story of how God grew Brooklyn Tab through fervent prayers.

I don’t know how anyone can come away from reading the story after story of people’s lives finding forgiveness, restoration and redemption and not be encouraged to pray more.

Some have said Cymbala’s work de-prioritizes the preached Word – overshadowing proclaiming the Gospel with prayer. But maybe we’ve so emphasized preaching (even to a rock star mentality) that we miss the power of what prayer can and should be in the church’s life. I don’t see this as a worship war issue as much as a balance issue. Yes, Pentecost was preaching – but they spent 10 days praying before hand.

Prayer is not something we should feel we ‘ought’ to do. Prayer is something we should be ‘driven’ to do.

Cymbala challenges us that the prayer meeting will be the “barometer of the church” – it is the prayer meetings that will gauge the strength and health of the church. In churches across the nation, hundreds show up for preaching, but how many for prayer meetings? For Brooklyn Tab, it’s the opposite. Prayers meetings are the time to gather!

Our nation is not short on preaching, books, studies, conferences … not that anything is wrong with Bible centered, Christ honoring works … but I would say we lack the passion to call upon the Lord and cry out for Him to open up the heavens and show His presence and His power.

Prayer is not something we should feel we ‘ought’ to do. Prayer is something we should be ‘driven’ to do. It’s a privilege, a delight, and an awesome event when we come boldly before the throne.

My copy of the work is dog eared, underlined, marked up, and maybe a tear stain or two. I desire to pray, but I too often yield to distraction, delay, and discouragement. This work reminds me God is still at work.

Cymbala ends the book with this thought …

War, Huh, What is Good For?

War. Russia. Ukraine. NATO. China. War planes over Taiwan. Missiles over UAE. Intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea. European military buildups. WWIII.

We read the headlines like these things are teasers from an upcoming movie. Like they are political shouting matches just to garner support for either your side or the other side … but not really headed anywhere. Like they are nothing but click bait to get you to a news or opinion website.

War. Russia. Ukraine. WWIII.

In many ways, this seems eerily familiar to about six years ago when exact same headlines were everywhere concerning the scenario surrounding Crimea. 

Photo from Pinterest

I’m not a political scientist or international relations expert; but I do read the articles, listen to the news broadcasts, and mostly … know the Bible. We are a world in conflict. People are messed up. Wars will happen. Wars and rumors of wars will be more numerous as Jesus’ return gets closer. Should we fear? Should we respond? Stockpiling food, ammunition, end of world stuff. Should we ignore? See it as just saber rattling and political postering? 

And in the little community of rural Virginia … these things are so far away, dealing with people and communities that have little to do with me, and are repeated headlines in national papers that few hear, read or care about.

So, I pondered the situation …

  • Ukraine was for a couple centuries a part of Russia and it may be again. Many Ukrainians speak Russian. And though I desire an independent and free Ukraine, I’m under no illusion that Putin doesn’t want it back for political, economic and militaristic reasons.
  • I realize no matter what’s going on, God is the One always in charge. That doesn’t mean rainbows and paradise on earth (yet), But it does mean He is in control and none of this is outside of His sovereign rule. Yet, we are not to just sit back and be uninvolved.
  • Making God your stronghold doesn’t prevent attacks by our enemies. David writes in Psalm 27 … Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. Knowing He is in control and is our stronghold gives me grace and power to experience in the direst of circumstances.
  • Next, these articles may talk of nations as the players, but it’s not the land that concerns me. It’s the people. The little dots on the map represents individuals. Thousands have died in recent conflicts. Millions have been displaced. And if war happens, it will be our young men and women who will feel the impact. Don’t just think of economic or border impact …or inconvenience due to shortages … or higher prices. This is about human lives … sons, mothers, families.
  • So we should be praying for these people. Pray for peace. Pray God will redeem the violence and unrest to draw more people to Him.
  • Many of these people in Eastern Europe are Christians. Most of Russia is part the Orthodox Church. But there’s a big difference between being on the rolls (90% of Russia) and being involved (10% attend). Claiming to follow the Prince of Peace is not the same as actually following Him. And though human political powers are at play, it is a spiritual warfare going on (Eph 6). Evangelicals have gone into hiding. Pentecostals of Ukraine and Russia have been labeled undesirable by the government. Don’t let the governments declarations of religious liberty fool you. Persecution and suppression is happening. The area of Donbas has experienced major religious persecution since 2014.
  • This is spiritual warfare.
Photo from The Sun

My big responses…

Trust. Keep trusting the one in charge (and I don’t mean the White House).

Serve. During this time, I will continue to serve God. Caring for people. Sharing the Good News. Building Disciples. 

Pray. Pray for people. Pray for wisdom in our leaders. Pray with expectation that peace and salvations and great work of the Spirit can and will come to pass. Our prayers are powerful not because they are OUR prayers. They are powerful because of the ONE to whom we pray. As Jim Denison puts it …

So the next time you pray, whether it be for the Ukraine or some other issue, remember who you’re talking to and speak with the confidence that can only come from the knowledge that the one listening is able to accomplish things larger than you could ever imagine.

Jim Denison

A Song, An Episode, A Statement

Sometimes a song just hits you. You may have heard it multiple times and enjoyed it, but then … a moment, a setting, a circumstance makes the songs just delve into the depths of one’s soul.

Monday, I shared about Not I, But Through Christ in Me (Read that here – only after you finish this article LOL). But this week, it’s another tune that God used.

The artist shares the story behind the tune’s writing. She called Paul Duncan to come over and help – but she just wasn’t in the moment. Tired. Fried. Not feeling it. She shared a little and basically felt she could offer no more – so she left. Upon her return, her team and Duncan had put the basis of the song together. She normally felt she needed to be the strong one, the one holding others up – but this time, her team held her up.

There is more to the story. They recorded it in 2019. But just before the mastering process, she called the producer and said she wanted to redo it. This is not an easy decision and expected her producer to balk. But they redid it and the song came out with more emotion, more depth, more impact.

Then … 2020 hit. Covid. Cancelled concert tours. A year of waiting. The lyrics now meant so much more.

This song’s meaning came alive. Who knew that God would use this song in such a way.

HITTING MY LIFE … This week – in the middle of me binging and catching up on the show 9-1-1 (since so many in my church family are firefighters) – In season 5, episode 9 … Defend in Place … this song was used at one of the most dramatic and emotional moments. Lives on the line, frontline personnel not yielding, fire, drama, angst, hurt. The show did a remarkable twist – outside the burning hospital, Angela Bassett’s character asks the hurting wife of a husband … a husband who was still in surgery … surgery in the burning building … to pray – yes pray. The scene shows them holding hands, and others joining in. The size of the group praying grows … and this song was playing.

It’s a healing song, a hymn for those in pain. It’s personal and private … and yet it’s corporate and family.

The song … Hold On To Me
The Artist … Lauren Daigle

Watch it Here


Lyrics …

When the best of me is barely breathin’
When I'm not somebody I believe in
Hold on to me

When I miss the light the night has stolen
When I'm slammin’ all the doors you've opened
Hold on to me
Hold on to me

Hold on to me when it's too dark to see you
When I am sure I have reached the end
Hold on to me when I forget I need you
When I let go, hold me again

When I don't feel like I'm worth defending
When I'm tired of all my pretending 
Hold on to me

When I start to break in desperation 
Underneath the weight of expectation 
Hold on to me
Hold on to me

Hold on to me when it's too dark to see you (I'll hold on)
When I'm sure I have reached the end 
Hold on to me when I forget I need you (I'll hold on) 
When I let go hold me again

I could rest here in your arms forever
‘Cause I know nobody love me better 
Hold on to me
Hold on to me

Now, I get it doesn’t refer to Jesus directly – and can even be considered a love song. But what of this episode draws people to hear more of Lauren Daigle’s singing and hear clearly about Jesus? What if this episode and song drive people to pray? What if you realize you need to hold on to Jesus that much more? For me – I rest in His arms forever!.

Articles upon which this is based: CCM MagazineFREE CCM

Call to Pray

Pray when you feel like it. Pray when you don’t feel like it. Pray ‘till you feel like it. – Stephen Olford

So many things we could do in the 1440 minutes you have today. But little can be more important that prayer. Will you pray?