This week’s post is a little different. I often use this blog to share what God is teaching me after having time to reflect on what I taught during a sermon or other lesson. But this week, most of what I learned happened beforehand. I do believe this post may encourage a few (or many) people, and thus I share it. The post is ultimately about prayer, and how our church spent a day praying. At the end of the post, I share two very different views of prayer based upon Psalm 23.
At our church this past week we had a day of prayer. I have been a part of “prayer days” before, but only on the side of the participant, not the leader. That is, I have participated in praying during “my slot,” but planning and coordinating it was different. Furthermore, in the past, I do not recall it being done on a Sunday. And if it was on a Sunday, I am certain the morning service was not build around prayer. But that is what we did this past week.
Honestly, I do not know why I have not led our church to do this before now. I chose this emphasis last year and selected this past Sunday for the date because of the date (July 14, or 7/14) and the call to prayer that God gives His people in 2 Chronicles 7.14. So, we had signups for praying in 30-minute increments throughout the day, but I also built our times together around prayer.
The individual times of prayer were for our church. Of course, anyone could pray for anything they chose, but the guide I developed brought attention to helping our church fulfill our strategy, to pray for me in a few matters generally (for which I rarely ask), and for our upcoming Renewal (if you are familiar with the idea of a revival, that is effectively what the Renewal will be). I spent four segments of the day praying for these items, and I assure you I was impacted. I share a few thoughts below.
Corporately, during our regular time of worship (10:30 am – 11:45 am), we read Scripture and prayed with a few songs interspersed (with the songs focusing on us preparing our hearts, being about prayer, or about the God to whom we direct our prayers). But we did not have a sermon or any real time of teaching. As the pastor, I did lead us in moving through specific moments of prayer by focusing our hearts on God, on confession, and on specific points of prayer, but more time was spent in prayer than on any other part of the service.
That evening, we gathered again, and focused our prayer on giving thanks to God by reading, reflecting, then praying through the parts of Psalm 23. I broke out the Psalm two different ways which I will share below. Each person then was free to pray as they desired through the various parts (or on anything else). We then read nine different prayers of thanksgiving that Paul wrote related to those in the churches to whom he wrote. That prompted us to pray for those in our lives – past and present – for whom we are thankful, particularly as it relates to leading us to faith and helping us walk along the path we have been given.
Overall it was a great day and I have heard many positive comments. Again, I cannot say why I have not led our church to do this before now, but we will do it again. Will this type of day become regular? Maybe, maybe not. And I do realize the day was awkward, if not uncomfortable for some in our worship service time, but the reality is that if we cannot be comfortable or are anxious about talking to God, then we need to check ourselves. I realize most everyone believes they fail to pray as they ought (I am very guilty of this – not just thinking it is so, but truly not praying as I should), but perhaps it is because we misunderstand that prayer is simply talking with God (not to God, with God). Prayer is not a formula, it does not require special (i.e. perfect) words; it simply requires us talking to God and taking time to listen as well.
It was a great day. And one that we will plan to do again.
Personally, the day revealed how much our church needs to be renewed. Why? Because it revealed how much the church’s pastor needs to be renewed. I have to LEAD. I have to lead myself, my family, this church, the students I teach, and PTC (the mission organization I lead). To be most effective in leading, I need to take some time to gain some clarity. I believe my upcoming trip to Kenya will give me some time to do that, but I might need to take a day retreat as well with nothing more than a Bible, a pen, and paper. I do not feel tethered to electronics, and yet I use my phone or laptop most every day for much of each day. But if I leave the technology behind, I can do the Deep Work like Cal Newport recommends. I know God is stirring something within me, and it is time for me to spend the necessary time to draw that out more fully – and clearly. Whatever it is, I can only find it through prayer – and this week was a great reminder of that!
The following is the information I provided for our evening time of corporate prayer. I am certain I either found this idea in (or was inspired by) Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life, but I cannot find it right now. So, I have given credit where I think credit is due, even if I cannot cite the page.
Thanksgiving from Psalm 23:
- Having a shepherd
- Not being in want
- Being made comfortable
- Having a good place to lie down
- Being led away from trouble
- Having still, quiet water to drink
- Being restored
- Being guided along the right path
- His name is worthy
- Not having to fear evil
- He is with us
- Finding comfort from His protective tools
- Having a table prepared for us
- Being anointed
- Having an overflowing cup
- Dwelling in God’s house forever
On the other hand, if we completely remove any reference to the Shepherd and what He does/will do, then the prayer becomes the most selfish prayer one could imagine.
My, I shall be in want.
Me, me, my soul.
Me, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear evil.
Me, me, me in the presence of mine enemies.
My head, my cup, me all the days of my life, I.