Friday, December 21, 2012

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Near

In his book, That None Should Parish, Ed Silvoso gives four point focus of prayer from Luke 10 for the lost.  One of those points is praying for miracles to meet the felt needs of the lost person being prayed for.  It comes from Luke 10:9, "Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The Kingdom of God is near you.'"  For the past six months Mary Lynne and I have been praying for a dear couple who we believe are persons of peace (people who are open and receptive to the gospel and could be a gateway to share the gospel with their community).  It all began when I was having dinner with the husband.  Through the meal we talked about many things.  He shared a personal crisis he and his wife was experiencing.  However, there was no open door for me to testify of the goodness of God in my life.  As I drove home I heard the Spirit say in my heart, "Your not praying for him."  So I began to pray regularly for the crisis they were experiencing.  
My friend and his wife are PHD students are the University of Texas at Arlington(UTA).  They are Iranians.  Because they are foreigners the International Office and UTA required proof of their ability to pay for the upcoming fall semester.  However, they had exhausted the funds they had brought with them from Iran and with the US Sanctions on Iran, they were unable to transfer any funds by wire to the US.  If they could not provide proof of funds to pay for the fall semester they would have to return to Iran in six weeks.  So Mary Lynne and I prayed asking our heavenly Father to act in a miraculous way, on their behalf.  Three weeks later we saw them and the wife's comment was, "God is so close to us!"  The husband had received a scholarship for his tuition in the coming year and the wife had received a work visa within a two week period to secure a part time position working with the city of Arlington.  
A few months later, we had dinner with them.  We asked how we could be praying for them.  As it turned out she became pregnant so he felt like he needed a job to provide for the extra expenses of a baby.  She asked us to pray that her parents would be granted tourist visas so they could come and help with the baby.  That evening the wife told Mary Lynne, "It seems as though God hears your prayers more than ours."  Mary Lynne and I prayed.  Immediately her mother received a visa, but her father didn't.  Four weeks later the husband was hired to work part time on a research project.  Then 10 weeks later her father received his visa.
Our friend delivered her baby after a long ordeal in labor.  She had the flu and the baby is overdue by two weeks.  Mary Lynne and I kept asking the Father to strengthen her to deliver a healthy baby.  We prayed for the doctor and her team.  We had been asking the Father to work in a way that will show His goodness and power in their lives.  As we listened to their story about the labor and birth of their little girl a few days later.  She looked at us and said the birthing team (doctor and nurses) were perfect thanks to your prayers.  Once again the Father answered our prayers in the name of Jesus.  We are looking forward to telling them, "The kingdom of heaven is near you!"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A New Way of Looking at the Lord's Prayer

A few weeks ago I was on a university campus In East Asia.  I was prayer walking with three college students.  I gave them the Lord's Prayer Outline I use as I prayer walk on a campus, at a workplace or in a neighborhood.  The young men's prayers were sincere and heartfelt for the campus in the first 20 minutes of our prayer time.  I prayed through three names of Yahweh.  I was hoping to model for them a new approach to prayer.  I was then led to begin praying Kingdom prayers, asserting the victory of Jesus in His life, death, resurrection and ascension.  Right before I began serving notice to the powers of darkness and calling forth a harvest we paused for a moment.  I explained what we were doing as we were praying through the Lord's Prayer.  
As I view it, praying through the Lord's Prayer is like climbing up and down a mountain.  As we begin praying through the first request, "Hallowed be Your name," we are ascending the mountain.  In praying through the names of Yahweh and appropriating the present ministry of Jesus, we are coming to a place of abiding, oneness, with Christ.  Once we are in that place of abiding in Christ we are at the summit of the mountain and ready to intercede for the Kingdom.  Praying through the themes of the Kingdom is the focus of our intercession through the prayer time.  Once we are finished interceding for the people and ministries Jesus has entrusted to us we descend the mountain.  The focus our of intercession through the rest of the prayer time is righteousness.  We confess our sins.  We forgive those who have offended us.  We seek God's resources to resist the temptations that may confront us.   
It is interesting to me that Jesus speaks of God's provision following His instructions on praying the Lord's Prayer.  He exhorts His followers to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  I want to suggest that as we ascend the mountain praying through the names of Yahweh and appropriating the present ministry of Jesus and then intercede for the Kingdom at the summit, we are seeking first God's Kingdom.  As we descend the mountain, getting right with God and others through forgiveness, and then calling on His resources to overcome the temptations we will face, we are seeking first His righteousness.  Sandwiched in the middle of this twofold focus of prayer, Jesus gave His followers the request "Give us this day our daily bread."  In fulfilling this twofold condition, He promises them their provision, "All these things will be added to you."  As we pray through the first three requests of the Lord's prayer we are seeking first His Kingdom   As we pray through the last three requests of the Lord's Prayer we are seeking first His righteousness.  
One of the young men expressed his appreciation for the structure praying through the Lord's Prayer provides in a prayer walk.  He had never heard a description of the Lord's Prayer in this way.  I was careful to affirm that their prayers in the first twenty minutes of our prayer time was Spirit-led and heart felt.  I didn't want to minimize their prayers.  I was just trying to take them deeper in their experience in prayer.  We continued praying through the themes of, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done."  Our one hour of prayer was finished.  There was a very real sense of God's presence and as anticipation of faith that our Father heard our prayers!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

God Overcomes An Assault On A Kyrgyz Pastor Growing In Prayer

I watched God do a miracle! 
John Eldridge suggests in his book, Waking The Dead, "The devil knows what you could be and fears it."  So he attacks our hearts, seeking to keep us from serving God.  I watched this scenario unfold with Gani, the young Kyrgyz church planter, who was my host and translator last April.  Two weeks after the Kyrgyz trip I received a call from Gani.  He was sobbing with terror.  He and his two daughters, Mariam and Deborah were in a car accident.  Gani was fine, but his daughters had severe head trauma and were in surgery.  Mary Lynne and I prayed in that moment.  We then contacted all of our prayer partners (80 intercessors) from our Kyrgyz trip, requesting they pray for Gani's two little girls.  I called several hours later and heard that they both made it through their surgeries alive, but the Doctors gave Gani no hope that they would live beyond three days.  Searching to make sense of this tragedy Gani asked, "Is this spiritual attack?' 'Why is this happening?"  I told him I didn't know and that this was a time to seek the goodness and power of God.
For two weeks I contacted Gani and updated the Kyrgyz Prayer Team daily.   Thirty days later the girls are home.  After a series of brain scans, Mariam is completely healed.  Deborah's brain and skull has healed well.  The Doctor wants to see her again in August.  There was a little bit of fluid on her brain but there appears to be no physical or mental damage whatsoever with Deborah.  God has healed her through the faithful prayers of the saints!  The Nero-surgeon said that only 7% of people with the severity of head trauma Deborah endured live.  
Greater is He who lives in us than he who lives in the world.  The evil one sees what could be if Gani becomes a man of prayer and the impact it would have on Kyrgyz church and he fears it.  The devil tried to destroy the lives of his two daughters and thereby Gani's heart.  In the end God exalted Himself as the LORD who Heals, Yahweh-rophe!  Gani and his wife Sofia have seen the mighty hand of God at work in their lives and the lives of their daughters. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Lord's Prayer Simplified

I was doing a Discovery Bible Study with a young man I was discipling.  He chose to follow Jesus in December 2011.  I wanted to introduce Him to Jesus' teachings on prayer so I facilitated a Discovery Bible Study with him in Matthew 6:5-15.  To my amazement I watched the Spirit reveal truth to him and saw the Lord's prayer through new eyes.  In the Discovery Bible Study model we ask the question, "What do you learn about God in this passage?"  My friend looked at, "Your Kingdom come Your will be done," and said, "God is a king."  He looked at, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one," and said, "God is a guide."  All of a sudden I realized that the Lord's prayer is just that simple.  I don't believe that Jesus ever intended the prayer outline He taught His followers to be quoted by rote.  Jesus was giving His followers an outline to pray through.  After reading Larry Lea's book, Could You Not Tarry For One Hour, I began praying through Larry Leas's outline of praying through the Lord's prayer.  Through the years I have expanded an outline for the Lord's prayer I use as a guide to pray for ministry events for years.  It is very a detailed and thorough approach to praying through the Lord's prayer.  It is overwhelming for a new followers of Christ to get their arms around such a complex approach to prayer.  Looking at Jesus' teaching through my disciple's eyes I saw that each request in the Lord's prayer reveals an aspect of the person and character of God as an object of our prayer.  So I am suggesting that when believers pray through the Lord's prayer they pray one statement or request at a time and then declare who God is.  You are king!  Then ask Him to establish His Kingdom.  You are a guide!  Then ask Him to guide them into a lifestyle of righteousness.  So here is what it looks like:
Our Father who is in heaven,
You are my Father!
Enter into a time of prayer and intercession for the Kingdom by affirming the Father's love for you.
Hallowed be Your Name, 
You are Yahweh!
Prepare yourself to intercede for the Kingdom by allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal within your heart, your sense of need for God in order to accomplish the work He has given you to do.  Confessing your sin, inadequacies and weakness, surrender your life to Jesus.  Ask Jesus to set Himself a part as Yahweh and appropriate His present ministry in your life so that you may abide in the Vine, Jesus, and bear fruit for the Kingdom.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,
You are the king!
Listen to the Spirit for what the Father is doing and by the power of the Holy Spirit call on the resources of heaven to war against the powers of darkness that the Kingdom of God may be established in your life and ministry.  In this way intercede for those the Father is entrusting to you.
Give us this day our daily bread,
You are a provider!
Turn your attention to God's provision in your life for today.  Declare the character of God as a provider, remind Him for His promises to provide and ask for His provision to meet your needs.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,
You are forgiver!
Begin considering the day that is a head of you.  Ask the Spirit to search your heart and convict you of your sin.  Confess your sin to your heavenly Father and allow Him to cleanse you and forgive your sin.  Ask the Spirit to search your heart and bring to mind those whom you resentful and bitter towards that you may forgive and release them.  
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
You are a guide and You are deliverer!
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal the nature of your struggle with sin (world, flesh and devil).  Seek the leadership of the Father, appropriating His provision to overcome the temptations you will face today in your battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.  Call upon His resources to set you free from the bondage of sin today.  
I asked three young adults that my wife and I are discipling to use this simple outline of the Lord's prayer for their prayer time.  They found that it took them to a deeper time of prayer. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A New Way Of Thinking About Prayer

When some pastors and Christian leaders hear the word, "prayer," many different thoughts come to mind.  For some, thoughts of shame flood their minds like, "I can't get up that early to pray" or, "I feel lazy when I pray."  For others it's thoughts of frustration, "No one comes to the prayer meeting and when they do come all they want to do is pray for the sick."  Still others have a sense of defeat.  "I am weak in prayer." or, "Prayer doesn't work."  I have learned through the years that when I speak of prayer pastors and Christian leaders often may imagine something completely different then what I am suggesting.
"I am weak in prayer."  This was the answer to my inquiry of my host and translator to tell me about his life of prayer.  To be honest, I was a little frustrated by his comment.  It was his way of closing the door on any further discussion about prayer.  What I later discovered is that the Kyrgyz believer's view of prayer is one of daily 4:30am prayer meetings.  When the church gathers to pray everyone stands and prays aloud at the same time for 60 to 90 minutes.  This model of prayer has had a great impact for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in some cultures.  But the Kyrgyz night owls struggle to rise in the early mornings to lead prayer their prayer gatherings.   
Conversations about prayer invoke shame and guilt within the life of Kyrgyz pastors because this   early morning perspective of prayer.  As I taught about Prayer Efforts, the Spirit of God began to set these pastors and Christian leaders free to embrace a whole new model of prayer.  With a new excitement several pastors shared with me what they had learned and what the Spirit was leading them to do.  They had a new sense of joy and hope as they thought about prayer.  By the way, my host and translator is now praying daily with his wife for his family and fasting one day a week for their needs.  He too has a new sense of optimism and joy in prayer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Praying For Heaven's Resources

There are times when I pray with parents for their struggling teenage or adult children I hear what seems to be a manipulation of God.  One request after another is full of petitions, asking God to change their behavior.  "Holy Father, I pray that they will repent and surrender their lives to Jesus."  "Father, I pray that they will read your word and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit."  It is as though they are trying to control their son or daughter's behavior through a third party, God.  
If I were in a twelve step group with these dear folks I would share out my own experience, strength and hope that I am powerless to change people.  I would go on to say that God does not do anything against someone's will.  But God is a power greater than us.  He offers His heavenly resources to intervene on behalf of those we love as we pray for them.  Prayer is not a manipulation of others through God!  Our prayers may be full of scripture, but if we are asking God to change their behavior we attempting to manipulate them through God.  God will not answer those kinds of prayers.
So what are God's heavenly resources?  The Father sends His angels to minister and protect when we ask.  "Father God, send your angels to protect them." He gives us the ministry of the Holy Spirit who gives revelation and empowers and so much more.  "Father, give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that they may know you better."  The blood of the Lamb is available to redeem from sin.  "Holy Father, redeem them by the blood of the Lamb."  In His present ministry at the right hand of the Father, Jesus defends, perfects and so much more.  "Gracious Father, I pray that Jesus will be the perfecter of their faith as they endure the hardships of life."  The Father sanctifies through the word of truth.  "Father, sanctify them in the truth.  Your word is truth."  The word of God is full of promises the Father wants to fulfill on behalf of those we are praying for.  
These are the requests God wants to answer!  When we pray this way we are not manipulating our children through God!  We are calling on God to be faithful to fulfill His promises.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Persistent Asking, Seeking and Knocking

Now, when my prayers go unanswered and I am tempted to resent those on my prayer list, I seek the face of the Lord Jesus. I began listening. The Holy Spirit shows me what Jesus is doing and He gives me new insights into how to pray. There is a relationship between asking, seeking and knocking in prayer. I find myself seeking intimacy with the Lord Jesus when I began to feel emotions of resentment. The Spirit of God gives me new insights into how to pray, as I wait and listen. The negative cycle of defeat in prayer is broken. I begin experiencing answers to prayer more regularly, as the Spirit leads me to pray persistently. Through the years, the Lord has taught me that:
  1. Asking - is making requests of the Father for the things we need.
  2. Seeking - is pursuing oneness/intimacy with Jesus and the Father and listening for what God is saying and doing.
  3. Knocking - is interceding for the transformation of a life, a family, a church, a city or a nation.
There is a relationship between all three of these kinds of prayer that ebbs and flows from one to the other as the Spirit leads. In 2 Corinthians 12:8, Paul says that, “...three times [he] pleaded with the Lord,” to take away a thorn in the flesh. This is the Apostle Paul writing these words while in Ephesus. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul in Ephesus, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and they were cured and the evil spirits left them. Yet, God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh from him. Paul prayed three times. He may have pleaded with God three times in one season of prayer or in three separate seasons of prayer. We don’t know how long of a period he prayed. It could have been for one hour or one day or seven days or even forty days. The Scriptures don’t make it clear. I believe Paul asked the Father to heal him during one season of prayer. When he didn’t get healed, he sought the Lord’s face to understand what He was doing. Not receiving any new insight, the Apostle entered into a second season of prayer. When there was no answer to his pleading with God, Paul sought the face of the Lord in a new way to hear what He was doing. Hearing no word from the Father, Paul entered into a third season of petition for his own healing. When that season of prayer was over, the Apostle sought the Lord’s face for a third time. It was at that time the Lord spoke to him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” In this example of Paul, we observe the relationship between the three natures of prayer in persistent asking, seeking, and knocking.