Prayer – Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – Introduction
Back to Basics and Beyond
This year as I hit my 70th birthday, and begin my 40th year in ministry, I have experienced an incredible time of personal renewal. In a sense, it has been a time for a return to basics: feeding myself from the Word, hearing God’s voice, sharing my story, connecting with the body, and rediscovering my passion and excitement in prayer. It feels like both a return to kindergarten and finishing a Master’s degree.
It is my hope and prayer that this book will bring some clari-fication about the nature of prayer, and through some practi-cal exercises help the reader to revitalize and “fan into flame” your own prayer life. Just as swimming cannot be learned in the classroom, so with prayer. One learns to pray by praying.

If you are like me, you may want to hurry through the chap-ters and skip the exercises. Please try to slow yourself down and enjoy the journey.
As I reflect on my experience in prayer over the past 44 years, I find that prayer has at times been filled with passionate ex-citement, and at other times has been dutiful, lifeless and bor-ing. I can testify to “mountain-moving moments of faith” and deadly occasions of doubt. One of my favorite prayers from Scripture is “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mr 9:24 NIV). During my best prayer times, prayer is a natu-ral as breathing. But sometimes it has felt much more like try-ing to breathe under water.
Different methods, models and approaches have served well: (ACTS, Lists, Prayer Journaling, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, Using the Psalms, praying the Jesus prayers). Discipline and method have, too often, transformed themselves into mind and spirit dulling routine.
Out of curiosity I did a search on the Indigo.ca website. The results of book titles on assorted Christian subjects were staggering: Fasting – 68 books; Discipleship – 2,255 books; Evangelism – 2,575 books; Bible Study – 12,196 books; Prayer – 24,621 books.
So, why bother to write another book on Prayer? I am a committed life-long learner and am convinced that the one area where most Christians feel “inadequate” is that of pray-er. The revitalization that has marked my life over the past 5 years can be yours as well. We need to learn to “fan into flame” the fire of prayer. Every fire goes out if we don’t pay attention to it. The priests of the Old Covenant were com-manded: “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continu-ously; it must not go out.” (Le 6:13 NIV). Then how much more should we, as New Covenant priest, be sure to keep the fire burning.
A few questions for reflection.
This is the point where you STOP reading, and reflect. Tak-ing notes in a journal may help. Share your answers with a friend. Make yourself an action plan to “renovate” some of the old prayer habits. Commit yourself to positive change.
1. What is one of the most memorable prayer moments you have had? What made it so memorable? How long ago did it happen? Are there any memorable prayer moments in the last 4 weeks? Describe one… if there are any?
2. Where do you shine most (private prayer, small group prayer, public prayer)? Why do you think that is? Which could use some “renewing”? What steps might you take to improve that area?
Some Questions About Prayer
Prayer can become puzzling. If we are honest, it raises as many questions as it offers answers. Some of those answers and puzzles we will answer through the pages of this book; others you will need to take to the Father; some may remain unanswered this side of Heaven.
1. Why pray? Isn’t God going to do what He wants any-way?
2. Can prayer actually change things?
3. If I don’t pray, would God’s will be frustrated?
4. What other questions do you have about prayer?
Some Great Quotes on Prayer
There are a great number of quotable quotes on prayer. As you read through those below, note one or two that speak to you most. Copy them out, post them where you can see them, write them on the fly-leaf of your Bible, write a song. I leave it to you.
“God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing pray-er.” – John Wesley
“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made a burden” – Corrie ten Boom
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficul-ties.” – Oswald Chambers
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forc-es against evil…. The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon the earth. God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer.” – E. M. Bounds
“Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a “steering wheel” that directs the right path throughout life.” – Unknown
“When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.” – R.A. Torrey
“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” – F.B. Meyer
Teach Us To Pray
Jesus’ disciples knew something of prayer. As Jewish men, they had been taught by their parents the prayers of the faith. But somehow, they saw in Jesus a quality of prayer that made them hunger for more. Their request to Jesus is recorded both by Matthew and by Luke. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disci-ples.” (Lu 11:1 NIV). I have a personal preference for the Luke version. Matthew records “teach us how to pray”. I am not convinced that we need a “how to”, and much as we need to be taught “TO” pray. There are already a great num-ber of HOW TO books on the market, including those on prayer. (I’ll even recommend a few at the end of this book).
Most of my readers will understand that “one-size-fits-all” is never quite true. Because God created me with legs too short for my waist-size, I know the cost of alterations. My prayer is not a model for yours, because you and I are created differ-ently. Friends of mine represent varied approaches to prayer, but they each do pray. This book will share some understand-ing, offer some principles, and provide some exercises to get you to “taste” some new flavours.
At its most simple, prayer is a conversation.
When I teach this concept, I love to do a demonstration showing a one-sided conversation. People so readily recog-nize the difference between dialogue and monologue.
Have you ever listened (perhaps even eaves-dropped) on someone having a phone conversation? You hear one side, and your imagination fills in the blanks of what the other is saying. What happens when someone is sent to “voice mail”? A monologue. What does your prayer time sound like to an eaves-dropper? Dialogue, or monologue?
Television’s Judge Judy says: “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak!” If we are to have a conversation with our Father, what are the most usual ways in which He speaks? Most often God speaks through Scripture, or quietly within our mind.
Exercise:
Pick one or two prayer subjects. Mention them to God and ask for His input, then quietly listen. Read some Scripture (I often go to the Psalms) and listen to God’s answer or direc-tion. Take what you hear and add it to your conversation with God. Keep exploring (back and forth) until you feel the conversation is done. Thank God.

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First Annual Healing Crusade at Kahnawake Pentecostal Church

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Childlike Qualities for Effective Prayer (Part 4)

Part 4 – Childlike Presumptuousness

Children are presumptuousness. They speak and ask as though no barriers or limits exist anywhere. We were all like that before life and experience beat that quality out of us. My brother and I grew up in a family with a stay-at-home Mom and a hard-working blue-collar Dad. There was never a great deal of money, but we had all the basics. We, like most kids, made huge demands and had great expectations when it came to Christmas and birthdays. Even to this day I cannot imagine how our parents managed to pull it off year after year. We asked “outlandishly” because in our own minds there were absolutely no limits.

Little prayers or big prayers? We need to learn to be presumptuous in prayer. Have you ever seen this bumper sticker? “God loves you, but don’t let it go to your head!” Most of us in the Christian family should not even consider that advice. In fact, we need to take the opposite stance. God loves you. You are his specially chosen and loved child, and that should go to your head. It should determine who you are, and how you are, and how you ask. It should infect every moment of your privileged relationship with God. It should impact every prayer you pray.
I go to the movies from time to time with a couple of friends. I love the ad that often comes on for the IMAX…. A movie is playing, and a great explosion rips across the screen. Then, the same scene plays on a laptop screen, with diminished visual impact and sound. Next, it plays again on a mobile phone… very small screen, very small sound. Then the slogan: Go BIG or Go Home. The IMAX screen explodes with a blinding flash, and shock-wave sound. Some movies are ONLY meant for the big screen. That needs to be a slogan for our prayer. Go Big or Go Home. We need to be outrageously presumptuous in our asking.

Scripture repeatedly tells us to Go Big. Ask “anything”; ask as “children” of the King; ask Abba (papa); ask whatever. Are we paupers or rich kids? When I was in seminary there was a young woman there who arrived with little or no cash for personal needs. Inevitably she would need some money, and pray: “Daddy, you own the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). It’s time for you to slaughter one of them and send the cash to your little girl!” Without fail, provision came. We put so many limits that God never requires on our asking.
I read an incredible story in Steve Brown’s book on prayer . During a social gathering, Cardinal Cushing was visiting those in attendance, and saw a five-year old boy. He approached and asked, “What is your name?” The young boy replied, with no sense of ceremony, “My name is Billy. What’s your name?” The Cardinal returned simply, “My name is Richard!”

A month later the Cardinal was celebrating a High Mass at the largest cathedral in Boston. After the service, as all the dignitaries were in the recessional, suddenly Billy stood up on his pew, and called out, “Hi Richard, it’s me Billy!” Can you imagine the humiliation felt by the parents? The Cardinal stopped, waved to Billy to join him, and hand-in-hand they resumed the recessional. Absolute presumptuousness. That is how we are to be with our Father in prayer.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Eph 3:20 Message)
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer 32:17 NIVUS)

We are to ask with childlike presumptuousness. Go BIG or Go HOME! If Cardinal Cushing would stop and take notice of a five-year old, what do you think our Father will do when we ask BIG?

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Childlike Qualities for Effective Prayer

Part 3 – Childlike Trust
Young children are most often at risk, because they trust. Parents and life in general, teach them to NOT trust everyone. What a moment when I got pulled over on the highway for traveling faster than the posted speed limit. My son, like a little parrot in the back seat, kept saying: “Dad, we don’t trust people we don’t know except for doctors and policemen, because they’re nice!” I’m not sure how “nice” the policeman was, but the incident underlines the natural “trust” that children have.

The family was visiting friends at their cottage on the lake. It seemed like all of the relatives had turned up on the same Saturday. There was a diving board at the end of the quay. The older teenagers were having an amazing time launching themselves into the lake with assorted flips and flops. I made the mistake of telling them that when I was their ages I could do all sorts of dives and flips. The challenge was launched, and I prepared to offer the best I could muster – a mighty run, and super-human leap, and the most miserable fail. I had barely recovered, sputtering and spitting, when I heard a scream from shore. My five-year old, a non-swimmer, with no floaties, no life vest, was bounding down the quay toward the diving board. Without any hesitation, he leaped. After all, Dad was in the water to catch him. Childlike trust! “Lord, teach me trust like that!”

Our ability to trust rests on our knowledge of the character, and competence of the one to be trusted. I am a “dentist-o-phobe”. For the last 39 years, I have had the same dentist. He is the only one I trust inside my mouth. I know him, and he knows me. Obviously, this trust has grown through the years.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Ps 62:8 NIV)

How do you feel about throwing yourself into the deep waters of life, trusting God to be there to catch you? How do you feel about trusting God, as Father. Far too many of us have come from dysfunctional families, but God is the ultimate Father, who asks us to trust where we cannot see, to obey where obedience is terrifying, to allow Him to be light in our darkness, and relief in our pain.

For the past few months I have been praying the Psalms. Most recently, I have become very attached to Psalm 13. It is so blatantly honest – questions, doubts, fears, but in the end a commitment to trust.

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Ps 13:1-6 NIVUS)

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Childlike Qualities for Effective Prayer (2)

Part 2- Childlike Helplessness

helplessOne of the childlike qualities that will make prayer effective is the recognition of our “helplessness”. Most of us have grown up in an environment which has taught us to be autonomous, and ruggedly self-sufficient. How many times have I heard myself say: “It is time to put on your big boy pants.”? The more I experience prayer, the more I begin to see just how little I control. I didn’t control where or when I was born, the parents I was allotted, or any of the circumstances which played a part in my becoming who I am today.

When my children were young they depended on me, and their mother, for everything: shelter, food, clothing, medicine, you name it. As life has gone on, and now my children are adults, I have had to relearn the lesson again. I had recently taught on our helplessness and God’s sufficiency in prayer, and was sharing prayer requests. As the words stumbled out of my mouth, I realized I was trying to be the savior in a setting where only God could move. I hate the feeling of helplessness. Admittedly, at times God will use us as a part of His solution. But it remains that we are most effective in prayer when we have come to the place of helplessness.

Lincoln said during the Civil War that he got on his knees in prayer, simply because there was nothing else he could do. Recently, along with yours truly, a few friends at Church have found themselves in situations where they would love to rescue their children, but we each have been confronted with our own helplessness.
Children don’t bring any power to the throne of God. We need to come as children recognizing our helplessness and His sufficiency. Scripture records how God spoke to Paul, and I can only assume that faced with his own absolute helplessness, he struggled with God’s declaration: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (1 Cor. 12:9)

Yesterday I was faced with some devastating information from one of my children. I struggled and fought against my helplessness, and finally after a sleepless night, gave in. Only God… only God.
I can pray… when my child cannot, I can and will pray to the God who ALONE is sufficient. As I prayed this morning, God directed me to Psalm 142, which I prayed on my son’s behalf. I stand in the gap, knowing I am helpless, knowing the he is not in the place where he can pray for himself, and I pray this Psalm.

Why not try it yourself, immediately?

1 A [maskil] of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Ps 142:1-7 NIV)

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Childlike Qualities for Effective Prayer

Part 1- Introduction For several months now I have been studying and teaching about prayer. During this time, I have found that my prayer life has been refreshed, and revitalized. My consistent prayer has been: “Lord, teach me to pray!” … Continue reading

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Transfiguration

I was digging through my personal archives and found these words I wrote in 1996. They are as TRUE today as they were then.

I came – unwilling
An anguished victim of the demon, “Fear”.
I feared the loneliness,
the haunting memories,
my pain,
my shame,
Yet found Him there —
And loneliness transfigured becomes solitude.
And I no longer fear
the dark night of the soul,
For I will find Him there.

I came — unwilling
An anguished victim of the demon, “Fear”.
I feared the healing:
“For far too long I’ve lived with my infirmity,
It’s easier to limp than be made whole.”
Yet found Him there —
And infirmity transfigured becomes ministry.
For I would be a healer
in this wounded, broken world.
And He is there.

I came — unwilling
An anguished victim of the demon, “Fear”.
I feared, there would be no more hiding:
From God,
From self,
From friends.
He found me there,
and showed me love,
my self,
my sin.
His love transfigures and redeems me
No longer must I hide from those I love.
For He is here.

I go — unwilling:
For I would build three booths and tarry there
On this the mount of my transfiguration.
I hear you, Lord,
and I obey.
To the valley I return,
For there are others there
Who know not that their demons
Are undone,
And dissipate like shadows
In but one sweet, blessed encounter with the Son
For He is there.
For He is there.

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A Foolish Question? NOT!!!

As a coach, I am vitally aware of the fact that we are not always clear about what we really want. I have seen many conversations start out in one direction, then suddenly clarity comes, and the real subject show up. One of my favorite stories from the New Testament has Jesus responding to the cries of a blind man. He say: “What do you want me to do for you?” Could there be a more foolish question? Remember, “Assumption is the lowest form of knowledge!” Perhaps Jesus’ question was not so foolish after all.

Recently I was in a prayer meeting with our Church in Kahnawake. We went around the circle, each sharing a personal request, and praying one for another. As I knew beforehand how we were going to proceed during prayer time, my request was ready in my mind. Each shared, each was prayed for, then finally someone asked me what my request was. I started out with a rather bleak picture of my current cash flow, and shared my request. “I needed a part-time job, at a certain pay rate, with flexible hours”. The more I shared the less clear I became. Finally I blurted out: “I don’t really want or need a job! What I really want is for God to open a few new ministry doors for me.” I realized as I spoke that I was having some “trust issues” with God.

Now I know what I want. I’m glad I got to experience that “foolish” question from Jesus: “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

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Making Space for Your Soul

I remember the story of an adventurer in Africa who was on a long trek with a number of African bearers. The bearers were able to carry heavy burdens and travel for days with little need for physical rest. About 3 hours into the trek, the bearers set their loads down, and found a place to sit quietly in the shade. Somewhat surprised, the adventurer asked why the bearers had stopped so soon. The reply: “We’re waiting for our spirits to catch up to us!”

When was the last time you really stopped, disconnected completely from noise, busyness, and technology to allow your spirit to catch up?

Recently I’ve been reading: Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. She wrsolitude-acceptanceites:

Most of us are not very good at sitting with longing and desire – our own or someone else’s. It feels tender. It feels vulnerable. It feels out of control. It is a place where one human being can fix or fill another, nor can we fix of fill ourselves. It is a place where only God will do.

As I prepare for the New Year unfolding before me, more than ever I am sensing that God wants desperately to spend time with me… undisturbed time. I’m planning a quiet retreat… no technology, no noise, no entertainment, no distractions. I’m excited. I’m terrified.

More to follow:….

PS: Thanks to Dominique Ourlin for suggesting this book.

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The Salvation Army comes to Kahnawake

SalArmyThe Salvation Army is coming to Kahnawake.

  • Not the band. Not the Christmas kettles.
  • Not the Thrift Store or Food Bank.

Retired officers, Lieut.-Colonels Gilbert and Marilyn St-Onge will be special guest at Kahnawake Pentecostal Church, this Family 002_editedSunday, August 31st at 10:30 am. Pastor Dave, also a retired officer, will attempt to fit into his uniform for the occasion.

Join us.

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