Tonight on Woodside Plymouth's online prayer event (embeded above) I mentioned some specific books to help you grow in your understanding and application of prayer. I have listed them here in one place to help you find them. I've separated them into two categories, "Books on Prayer" and "Praying Scripture." I have found each of these books instrumental in my own walk and growth in "answering God" and aligning better with him in prayer. Also be sure to check out the #PrayFirst Journal that Woodside produced to help you begin this year growing in prayer.
A New Year is upon us and we are already in the midst of the first week. Usually, at the beginning of the year we spend some time casting vision for the year ahead as well as preparing for greater gospel outreach and influence in the community. Perhaps you spend a little time evaluating your life and making some commitments or resolutions towards things you would like to change in the new year.
As we begin this new year we wanted to do something a little different. Instead of aiming ourselves at a vision or a particular trajectory we wanted to take the first several weeks of the year to aim ourselves at the Lord. We wanted to come before him with humility, seeking his direction and aim for our lives and for our church. We want to come before God in prayer and seek his face for our good and the good of our city. Like the first church in Acts 4 that went to God in prayer asking for greater boldness to share the good news of Jesus, we too want to be in the presence of God asking for his supply of grace to us so the gospel will advance. To put it another way, we want to use God's means, under God's power to accomplish what only God can accomplish. The means of connecting with God's power to accomplish what only God can accomplish is the means of prayer and fasting.
So let me ask you, what are you asking God to accomplish in your life, in your family, in the church, in the world that only he can accomplish. For many of us, myself included, our prayers are too small and too weak. We ask God for little things, which he is inclined to provide for us, but we rarely ask God for the things that only he can do. Again, I ask, what are you asking God to accomplish that only he can do?
Let me encourage you to take some time today and consider some God-sized things that you have been neglecting to pray for. It may be for the salvation of a family member that is very far from God. It could be for the removal of a besetting sin that you so deeply long for God to free you from. I am praying for some things that are beyond my grasp as a husband, father, and pastor in 2017. I don't want to settle for prayers that just get me through the day. I believe in the power of God and the bigness of God and the goodness of God to do all that he has purposed in this world and through prayer I want to seek first his kingdom in my life, at Woodside Plymouth, and among the nations for the sake of his glory. I want to pray big this year.
I also want you to "pray big" this year. I want to encourage you to go before God with big requests, big needs, big ambitions for his glory, and ask God with courage for the great things he can do in the world. John Knox was a pastor in Scotland who has inspired me this way. He prayed to God for his country, that his fellow Scots would turn to Christ and be saved. He prayed to the Lord and said, "give me Scotland, or I die!" Could you pray that for your workplace or neighborhood? Would you pray that with me for Plymouth/Canton/Westland/Northville/Livonia/Ann Arbor?
I'd love to share with you in your prayers as well and invite you to join us in prayer over the next few weeks. As the church gathers for Revival Prayer on Sunday, January 8 and 15 at 5pm we will pray together as a church for the big things that we long to see God accomplish in our church and in the world. Please join us for those times of prayers. Additionally, join me on Facebook Live (just follow the Woodside Plymouth page) on Thursday the 5th and 12th as I lead us in Evening Prayer at 9pm. If you have specific requests that you would like me to pray for please reply to this email and I will pray for you and those requests online.
As the "father of modern missions", William Carey was so given to say, "expect great things from God, attempt great things for God!"Let's expect and ask through prayer and then attempt as we obey him in all our lives. I am praying big for you this year.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)
2015 is almost in the rear view mirror. I can hardly believe it, but I am very thankful for what a great year it was for our family. At the end of the year I am often reflecting on the year that was and what God did in my life over the past 365 days. But I also like to take some time to look ahead and prepare for the year ahead. Now I am not one to make a lot of "New Years Resolutions" often because I don't get far into January, occasionally February, without finding myself in failure in those areas.
What I do like to do, and what I want to encourage you to consider this year, is to make a specific plan to grow in my relationship with Christ. I have to have a map of sorts laid out before I get to January 1st so that I know the terrain that I want to cover and the method in which I want to pursue engaging and connecting in God's Word. So I make a Scripture plan each year to help me walk through and with God in the Word, and in prayer.
I'd like to encourage you to do the same this year. It doesn't have to be an elaborate or incredibly complex plan. Just make a plan! Making a plan at least gets a direction in front of you for reading and praying. It gives you a trajectory to plod and pray and grow. Now, there are all kinds of great plans out there and certainly we have plenty of technology available to us today to help us track our progress in those plans. Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition has compiled a helpful "FAQ" of reading plans and locations to download or print them. Go for it! Find one and use it. Another helpful resource, for those who are technologically inclined is the YouVersion Bible App. There are all kinds of different reading plans included in this app, ranging from a few weeks, to a month, to all year. Again, pick a plan and set your course for the year ahead.
I know how hard it can be to make this a regular pattern, and many Christians -- myself included -- have struggled with this sort of thing year after year. Let me share a little bit of my personal strategy for this in the next year so that you can be instructed, and perhaps join me in this pursuit.
First of all I have a set course of reading based on the M'Cheyne Reading Plan. It goes through the entire Old Testament once in a year, and the New Testament twice. I will read through essentially four chapters each day, this takes me about 20 minutes or so. As I read I also want to spend some time in meditation and prayer each morning. So I've picked up Timothy Keller's devotional book The Songs of Jesus which includes reading a Psalm, or a portion of a Psalm each day and then some comments on it with a prayer. I have picked up a prayer pattern of Adoration/Confession/Supplication so I will reflect on the Psalm and through meditation on it pray in those three categories, usually writing and journaling those prayers. Between my Bible reading and prayer this usually takes my allotted hour in the morning.
Again, my encouragement to you is to read and pray. Create and cultivate a routine of listening to God in his Word and responding to him in prayer. Growth in our relationship with anyone means time with them, knowing them. So it is with our God. Let's make 2016 a year to grow in knowing God! I am eager to grow and walk with you and Christ together. I will see you Sunday.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” (Psalm 3:3–4, ESV)
What we believe about God will reveal itself in how we approach God. For some the emphasis of their belief in God is that he is so great, so huge, so powerful that his concern or interest in our lives is really minimal. God is so holy and different that the only thing he really sees about me is my failure and sin and so that just makes him grumpy that I’m such a rebel. Stated another way, God is so transcendent and perfect that I am just an annoyance to him because I am so finite and sinful.
The other side of the spectrum is that God is so loving, so compassionate, so merciful and kind that I can cozy up to him like my best buddy and have snuggle-time with friend Jesus. God exists to make me feel good about myself and boost my self-esteem and therefore I can just go to him and he will give me everything I could every want or desire. God is so close that he doesn’t demand or challenge me in any way because he wouldn’t want to offend me.
On the one hand people who see God’s transcendence without seeing his nearness miss the goodness of the gospel that Christ became a man and loved us. He drew near and befriended us as sinners. Those who only see the greatness of God have a hard time praying because they feel like he is Judge and Executioner before he is Father. On the other hand those who see God only as near and close and lovey-dovey fail to see the goodness of the gospel that Christ died to satisfy the rightful wrath of God upon my sin and he died to bring justice and righteousness. Prayer for a person on this side of the spectrum falls into emotional request without awe, confession, and adoration.
The Psalmist calls us to pray. “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me. (Psalm 3:4). But he call us to pray to a God who is great and glorious as well as good and gracious. He describes God as “a shield about me” — a powerful protector, as well as a God who is “my glory.” These descriptions speak of God’s transcendence. Who can protect, who can be another’s glory? Only a greater one.
And yet the Psalmist speaks of God’s nearness as well. He is the “lifter of my head” (v. 4).
Perhaps you have struggled in praying lately, and perhaps that has more to do with your view of God than it does your schedule or ability or anything else. You are either viewing God as a great threat to your life, or a broken ATM machine that isn’t giving you the feel-goods you think you deserve. We struggle in prayer because we don’t see God rightly.
I think this is why Jesus invites and encourages us to pray to “Our Father in Heaven.” He tells us that when we pray we speak to God in terms that are both transcendent and close. As I had time to spend with my dad last week I was reminded of times when my dad corrected me, challenged me, and even disciplined me. It was all for my good. I also remember the times he encouraged, befriended, and was close to me. Good earthly fathers reflect the nearness and transcendence of our Heavenly Father to their children.
The Father gifts to us himself, so that we could come and pray to him. We are invited to go to our Heavenly Father and receive much grace in our time of need. I want to encourage you to draw near to God. To see him as great and glorious as well as good and gracious. Will you pray? Will you seek the face of the one who answers from his holy hill? Will you look to the one who sustains you? Or will you go at it on your own this week? Seek the Lord, call upon his name!
I am praying with you and for you.
This week we will conclude the Exile series in 1 Peter by looking at how we might endure together in the midst of a hostile world. The sermon text is 1 Peter 5:1-11. We’ve also created a playlist on Spotify so you can hear beforehand the songs we will be singing:
- Only King Forever
- This Is Our God
- Came To My Rescue
- Revelation Song
- Lamb of God
We’ve also been recording the sermons so if you miss any of them in this series you can listen to them on our SoundCloud page.
A Sweet Reminder
We have just a little over a week before our Trunk or Treat event on Oct 24. I hope you are planning on being part of the fun and festivities that day. We’re still asking everyone to bring candy to fill be able to give out to the kids that come to each car. Last Sunday our students and a missional community distributed five-hundred door hangers into the surrounding neighborhood to invite our community to join with us. I am praying that we can build some great relationships and see lives changed by the grace of God. If you haven’t already please bring some bagged candy this Sunday and drop it off in the “Trunk or Treat” container.
Also, ladies Saturday is the Mug & Muffin at 10am at our campus. For you men I expect to see you eat my go-kart dust at our “Grand Prix” up at JD Racing in Novi on Saturday night at 7pm. Both events are going to be a great time of building relationships, laughing, and sharing life together. I hope you will be part of the shared-life together.
I am praying that the Lord will be the one to sustain and satisfy you with himself this week. Please let me know how I can pray more specifically.
At the beginning of this year I posted a hymn that would by my singular prayer appropriate to anchor me as I looked forward; “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah!” I was pretty anxious but also excited about the year that lay ahead and was eager to trust the Lord for wherever he was going to guide me. Little did I know what 2014 would hold.
Frankly, it was the most difficult year of my life, even beyond all my our family went through with mom's illness. The pressure, assaults, and trials of this last year leave me eager to be done with it. I feel no sorrow that 2014 is over. In fact, just the opposite. “Good riddance!” Yet that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been faithful, and that he has not been wise in leading me in the way in which he did. It just wouldn’t have chosen the path I was taken on at all.
In His wisdom, I have seen the truths of this hymn unravel throughout the year. The Bread of Heaven has fed me and sustained me through the trials. The Strong Deliver has been my strength and shield. The defeater of death and hell has lead me safe so far.
If anything is true of 2014 it is that I have been safe in the Lord’s leading. He has guided me and done it for his glory, and my good. The truth of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” is that is the one who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, so we have nothing to fear. He will guide, care, protect, and love all those who trust in him. Whatever may come from his sovereign hand, we can trust his wisdom. I will continue to robustly affirm and sing this song as a way of issuing “songs of praises” to the one who is so great and so kind.
I do not look fondly back at 2014, but I see the evidence of a God who has safely guided me through the troubled waters. I'm praying for green pastures and still waters in 2015, but whatever the case ahead he will guide me well.