Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Makes a Good Prayer Meeting?

If you have never been to a bad prayer meeting, you need to get out more.  There is a reason why prayer meetings are going extinct.

But if you have never been to a good prayer meeting, you have missed something beautiful.  Your loss is more tragic than going through life never seeing a rainbow.

An easy way to evaluate a prayer meeting is to ask yourself afterwards, "Would my time have been better spent praying in private, than in this meeting?"  If you answer yes, the meeting was bad.  (Or you have no taste for the joys of Christianity and are probably not a Christian.) 

Generally, prayer meetings are bad because they fall into one or more of the following ditches:
  1. Coldness (apathy, lethargy, passionlessness, dryness)
  2. Weirdness (there are a lot of goofy spiritual ideas out there)
  3. Talking to men instead of God (preaching, gossiping, visiting, but not actually praying!)
  4. Organ recital (focusing on a litany of physical ailments and needs rather than gospel advancement)
  5. Loquaciousness (when one person hogs the floor)
The participants in our local Saeed prayer gathering
I was reminded of this when today's local prayer vigil for Saeed Abedini turned out to be the best prayer meeting I have been to in several years, avoiding all the ditches I just described.  I gave only three instructions:
  1. Try to keep your prayers below 2 minutes.  You can always pray again after someone else has had a turn.
  2. Try to base your prayers on Scripture.
  3. Don't talk about the prayer needs, just pray for them.
But simply giving good instructions does not create a good prayer meeting.  What does?  Why was today's prayer time so good?

I'm still pondering that question myself.  But I may have one small piece of the answer.  It seems more than coincidental to me that the best prayer meeting I have ever been in was also one dedicated to praying for the persecuted church.  And, when I speak of praying about persecution, I don't mean simply "God, make it stop and get me out of it!"

So many of the Psalms lend themselves directly to praying for the persecuted.  Paul's personal prayer requests often relate to persecution.  And, two of the most powerful prayer meetings in Acts (chapter 4 and chapter 12) were in response to persecution.

This reminds me of John Piper's words: "The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believers is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom."

Tell me your thoughts.  What can we do to see good prayer meetings more often?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How Do You Find God's Will?

We make choices every day.  Some of them are small: when should I eat? Others are big: should I move to another city?
Christians are slaves of Jesus.  We are not free to do everything.  When a Christian makes a choice, he does not ask “What do I want?”  He asks, “What does Jesus want?”  A Christian wants to obey Jesus always, in big choices and small choices.
But how do we know what Jesus wants?  The Bible tells us clearly about some things.  We know that Jesus wants us to honor our parents, to share our possessions with needy Christians, and to avoid sexual immorality.  We know this because the Bible tells us.
But we have many decisions that the Bible does not directly talk about.  Should you marry this person or that person?  Should you plant rice or beans?  Should you wear red clothes or white clothes today?
Christians want to please Jesus in every decision.  But if the Bible does not tell us, how do we know what to do?
Some Christians say, “If the Bible does not tell me, I will just follow my heart.”  By that they mean, “I will choose the path that makes me feel happy, or peaceful, or confident.”  But sometimes God wants us to do things that are frightening or uncomfortable.  We cannot rely on our emotions to lead us.
Other Christians say, “I will wait for a sign from God.”  They want God to give them a dream, a vision, a prophecy, a visit from an angel, a “fleece” like Gideon’s, or some circumstances that point them toward the right decision.  But even the devil can do miracles and send dreams.  Islam was started because a man listened to an angel.  So although God may use a sign to lead us, we cannot rely on signs.
Other Christians say, “We find the right path by thinking carefully.  God gave us minds, and we must use them to make wise choices.”  But the Bible says, “Do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).  Many times in the Bible God told people to do things that seem crazy to our minds.
So if we cannot trust our feelings, our minds, or even supernatural signs to show us the right path, how can we find it?
Let’s look at Psalm 25.  David is in danger from enemies (v. 2).  He needs to know what to do.  So he prays.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
  1. David seeks guidance from outside.  He needs more than his own feelings or intelligence for direction.
  2. David seeks guidance from God, not from other people.  The Bible says it is good to get advice from mature Christians (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 20:18, 24:6, etc).  But here we see that we can fully trust only God Himself.  David is dependent on God.  If God doesn’t lead him, David is doomed.  He has no other way to get direction.  
  3. Before David asks God to lead him (in verse 5), he asks God to teach him about God’s ways.  Before he says, “Show me the paths I should go in” he says, “Show me the paths that You go in”.  He wants to learn about the decisions that God makes, not just the decisions that he should make.  This is SO important.  David wants a relationship with God, he wants to know God, not just information from God.

    In the US, many people use GPS to navigate when they are driving their cars.  Their phones speak to them and tell them, “Turn right, go 50 meters, stop, move to the left” etc.  God is not a GPS for your life.  God is your Father.  Your Father does not want you to be a puppet or a robot.  He wants to reproduce His character in you.

    David wants to learn about God’s paths, to see the decisions God has made, so that David will have a heart like God’s heart.  Then David will make the right choices.  He will choose good things because he loves the same things God loves.  He will not need an angel or a dream to show him the way.  He will know the right choice because he knows God.  
Now look at verse 7:
Do not remember the sins of my youth
or my acts of rebellion;
in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me
because of Your goodness, Lord.

And verse 11:
Because of Your name, Lord,
forgive my sin, for it is great.

David is confessing his sin to God.  David asks God to forgive him for past times when David did not follow God.  We cannot refuse to follow God in some of our decisions, and seek His directions for other decisions.  We must repent of past sins before God will give us any guidance for the future.  

God does not guide everyone.  David tells us the kind of people whom God will lead.  Verse 8:
The Lord is good and upright;
therefore He shows sinners the way.

Isn’t this good news?  God is so good.  Even though we are sinners, He will teach us.  If God only helped perfect people, we would be lost forever!

Verse 9:
He leads the humble in what is right
and teaches them His way.
To be led by God, we must be humble.  God resists the proud but gives grace, including direction, to the humble.  Proud people think they already know the answer.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
This is my favorite verse in this Psalm.  It is a wonderful promise.  If you fear the Lord, He will show you what to do.  And that’s not all He’ll do for you:
13 His soul will abide in prosperity,
And his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He reveals His covenant to them.
Let me summarize what we have learned.  (The following is adapted from Led by the Spirit by Jim Elliff.)
  1. Repent for any sins you have not already confessed to God.  Trust in Jesus as the One who died so that you could be forgiven, and become God’s child.  (1 John 1:6-9)
  2. Pray for wisdom.  Do not doubt that God will show you the right thing to do.  (James 1:5)
  3. Seek to know God more than His answers.
  4. Examine your heart.  Is your main desire to do what God wants?  Or do you have a secret bias?  Seek to be willing to do whatever God wants.  Many people miss God’s direction because there are some things they do not want to do.
  5. Carefully examine the Bible to see if it gives any guidance.  Try to find out not only what God permits and does not permit, but also what God likes, what is dear to His heart.
  6. Write down your options.  Then list the benefits and dangers of each option.  Then examine the Bible to see if it says anything about these issues.  The Bible contains a lot more guidance than we expect.  
  7. When helpful, ask for advice from mature, godly, wise people.
  8. Act in faith to do whatever appears to be the wisest possible choice.  God can stop you if He wants.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Free Christian Shirt!

My evangelistic shirts are finally printed and available as both polos and tees. You can purchase them online at Would you like to get one for free? This video will tell you how!