Friday, December 28, 2007

Psalms and Martin Luther

Moving now from the purpose of prayer, this morning I began reading the section in Leonard Allen's compilation The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer, titled the Psalms as Prayer. Martin Luther, writing in 1528, opens with his views on the Psalter. Here are a few of his insights that I found helpful.

Firstly, Luther points out the great divide from one end of the spectrum to the next. In other words, we see the saints during both the good times as well as in the bad times. You might say it spans both the best of times and the worst of times.

Luther adds: "Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving? On the other hand, where do you find deeper, more sorrowful, more pitiful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation?"

In the end, Luther suggests that the "Psalter is the book of all saints; and everyone, in whatever situation he may be, finds in that situation psalms and words that fit his case, that suit him as if they were put there just for his sake, so that he could not put it better himself, or find or wish for anything better."

And because just about everyone can find psalms and words that fit them, and that seemingly were put there for their sake, the Psalms become that much more valuable to us as we traverse the ups and downs of life.

I know they speak to me and I trust that God's Word will speak to you this day as you read one of the Psalms. Take your pick- there's plenty of them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I can honestly say that I've never golfed, boxed, or even bowled on Christmas - that is until this year. Thanks to some kind-hearted family members we had a chance to do all this and more this Christmas thanks to our recently acquired Nintendo Wii and the accompanying Sports Pack that includes baseball, golf, boxing, bowling, and some tennis as well.

As part of our family gift from Cara's sister Colleen and husband Mike, we were blessed with a gift that we couldn't have afforded any other way. My children (especially Mitch and Josh) will be forever grateful, I'm sure. It's been a little crazy in the house since. As the pictures show, my daughter even enjoys a chance to take out her aggression on a friendly foe and I'm telling you she's got the skills.

My mother-in-law even got in on the action (bowling) and remarked that she hasn't had so much fun on Christmas in a long time! Wow!

As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour this Christmas, it's great to be around family and friends with little or no agenda. It's great to talk, enjoy a meal together. It's even great to work off some of those Holiday pounds with a fresh dose of exercise. As I write this, I think I'm still breathing hard from all the boxing I did earlier in the day. It really is a work out- no joke!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bill Hybels and Prayer

Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, offers the following insights when it comes to the discussion on the point of praying in the first place. In his own words, Hybels says that "to people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption." Still, many of us, and as recent studies have shown, even agnostics and atheists admit to praying when they reach difficult points in their life, are drawn to prayer. Here's why:

First, people are drawn to prayer because most of us understand that the "most intimate communion with God comes only through prayer."

Secondly, people are compelled to prayer because they realize that God's power flows primarily to people who pray.

Simply put, when we work,we work; but when we pray, God works. I don't know about you but I'd much rather have God working on some of the seemingly insurmountable things in my life. I know I can't get through them without his help.

So, know that when we fail to pray and spend time in communion with God, we cut ourselves off from God's prevailing power and ability to do more than we could ever imagine. If you're overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, and generally feeling defeated, there's one quick way to start feeling better immediately - pray and seek God's help.

Despite our inclinations to do it on our own, God never intended for us to live our lives that way. Let God work and let God begin to change your life. That's my prayer...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adoring Prayer

In today's reading from Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), she argues that at the heart of our prayer life should be adoration towards God. While prayer occurs as two movements (towards God and towards people), the "second will only be well done where the first has the central place." As such, adoration, and resultantly not intercession or petition, needs to be at the heart of the life of prayer. Underhill goes on to say the following: "It is only when our hearts are thus actually at rest in God, in peaceful and self-oblivious adoration, that we can hope to show God's attractiveness to others." When praying, her recommendation is that we spend half of our prayer time in this movement of adoration towards God.

Some questions to think about:

How much more impact would our prayers have if we spent more time getting to know God in this manner? How much better would we know God? How much better would we be prepared to deal with the hills and hiccups of life when our prayer life is bathed in adoration? Think on these things...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Richard Foster and Prayer

I've been a big fan of Richard Foster since discovering his timeless classic Celebration of Discipline in my early adult walk as a Christ follower. Here's a few thoughts from Foster about prayer:

"Of all the spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father."

"To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us."

Foster then adds that for those early explorers of the Christian faith, prayer was "no little habit tacked onto the periphery of their lives; it was their lives."

If nothing else, may these words from Foster serve as a reminder that we too need to make prayer the main business of our lives. To pray is to change and I want to be changed and live the transformed life. How about you?

Shall we pray...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Purpose of Prayer

I've been reading from a book on prayer that brings together a compilation of different writers - both old and new. In case you're interested, the name of the book is titled, The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer and was compiled by Leonard Allen. As I read this, my intent is to share random thoughts, quotes, and other helpful expressions as I encounter them. I trust that this will prove beneficial to you the reader as it has been for me.

Today, I have a couple of quotes and thoughts from Ole Hallesby (1879-1961), the Norwegian Lutheran pastor whose most famous work is Prayer and Temperament and the Christian Faith.

In answering the question, Why should we pray?, Hallesby makes this statement: "When he grants our prayers it's because He loves us. When He does not, it is also because he loves us." I think this is extremely helpful to those of us that get all bent out of shape when God is seemingly quiet and our prayers are unanswered. This reminds me of the Methodist mantra, "God is good all the time, all the time God is good."

So, regardless of what you may or may not be experiencing, know that God loves you deeply. In the words of one of my favorite all time songs, "Don't Stop Believing," but keep praying knowing that God has an intense desire to hear from you more and more.

Friday, December 14, 2007

30 Minute Meals

This past Monday night, my wife and I embarked on a new journey of sorts - putting together a meal for the entire family in 30 minutes.

The week before, our kids were having a fund-raiser at the local Barnes and Noble. Because of this, we bought some books to give as Christmas presents and also thought that it would be nice to purchase a book for ourselves as well. Because I'm a big fan of Rachel Ray, I had to have one of her 30 Minute Cookbooks. After all, when you have a family the size of ours, who wouldn't want to be able to put together a meal in 30 minutes.

Now understand I'm not a cook but I know I can follow directions (at least when I take the time to read them). However, making a meal completely from scratch is a bit challenging. For one, finding all the ingredients is a chore. Being someone that normally stays out of the kitchen, I had to wait until Cara made it home before I could gather all of the ingredients necessary. Then there is the language barrier. Let's just say that Rachel uses some words that I've never heard of before. Then there was the dicing, slicing, shredding, and peeling that needed to be done. Needless to say, there was no finishing this meal in the 30 minutes I had hoped for. I got started at 4:30 that afternoon and the meal was complete and ready for consumption at 6:30. So, the name for my new cookbook will be titled "How to make a 30 Minute Meal in 2 Hours."

Thankfully, the story has a good ending. The meatballs we made were huge and very delicious. Despite my son Zachary's admission that they looked "disgusting," he actually tried them and promptly declared them "delicious." Hearing that made the two hours in the kitchen worth the wait. The next time we try one of Rachel's 30 Minute Meals, we'll attempt to break the 2 hour barrier. I'll keep you posted...

Friday, December 07, 2007

How's Your Prayer Life

It's often been said that by looking at a person's checkbook, you can tell what kind of things that person values and holds out as important. I think the same could be said about how we spend our time.

In doing some strategic reading for a series on prayer that I'd like to do at some point in the late spring or early summer, I was reminded how easy it is to forget about the importance of prayer in one's life. Jim Cymbala, in his book Breakthrough Prayer says that one of the major ways that Satan has his way with us is by keeping us out of God's Word on a regular basis and keeping our prayer life mostly non-existent. It's Satan that makes us feel busier than we really are and it's Satan that creates as many barriers throughout our day in order to keep us from spending time with God. However, if we truly valued prayer and it's significance for our lives, we wouldn't let Satan have his way with us.

Prayer is so powerful and reading God's Word is so beneficial to our spiritual well-being that we shouldn't take it lightly. I, like most of you, know how hard it is to get into God's Word on a regular basis. I am challenged by time constraints and a busy life. However, if we knew how powerful prayer could be in our lives, would we be so complacent? And this complacency can be directly attributed to Satan. He knows that prayer works, that it makes a difference. He knows that prayer can move mountains. This is why he makes it so difficult for us to spend quality time with him. In light of this, please take five minutes right now and pray. Pray for a desire to know God more intimately. Pray that God would remove those barriers that keep you from coming to him on a consistent basis. If an apple a day can keep the doctor away, perhaps our daily prayer walk with God can keep Satan away as well.