Archives for : Spiritual Disciplines

Extraordinary Prayer


Pastors Oasis this year was excellent and we were challenged to seek through prayer an extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God that produces extraordinary results.  Bill Eliff and Todd West did a wonderful job of reminding us of the need to cry out to God in desperation.  Without God and His power in our ministries everything can and will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Bill Eliff asked, “How in the world do we think we can build the church if we are not interceding with the head of the church?”

Is your prayer life ordinary or is it extraordinary!  The one thing Nehemiah did night and day for over four months was the only thing that could save his nation; he prayed!  We talk about prayer often but how often do we pray?  We talk about fervent prayer but how often do we pray fervently?  We talk about praying without ceasing but how often do we pray unceasing, unrelenting, and unending prayers?  We often say we have not because we ask not but how often have we asked with desperation?

Todd West chllenged us with the need for a time of retreat in our lives.  We need to to place a self-imposed time into the regular rhythm of our lives to break away every so often for a focused time of prayer.  We should divert daily, withdraw weekly, measure monthly, and quartine ourselves quarterly.  Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!”  Psalm 27:14 says,  “Wait for the Lord; be strong  and courageous. Wait for the Lord.”

What is a prayer retreat?  In our Dynamic Church Planting International training a prayer retreat is defined as, “A time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.”  Let’s examine this definition, one phrase at a time.

  • First, “A time you set aside.”  A personal prayer retreat must be a time that you intentionally schedule and then not allow anything to keep you from having. We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important.

Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? I consider the time that I schedule for my personal prayer retreats the most important time that I will invest in any given year.  If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat. Other responsibilities will suck up all your time. Satan wants to keep you from enjoying this sweet fellowship with God. He loves for you fill your schedule with everything but a block of time to experience the Lord.

  • Second, “to go away.”  You must determine a good location.  Make sure that you “go away” for your personal prayer retreat. Trying to “retreat” at home or at the office will be frustrating. There are too many distractions in these places. We need to go away in order to focus on being with the Lord.  We live down in the valley—the valley of our everyday lives, where it’s too noisy to hear God very well. In the valley we have too much to do, too many people to talk with, too many problems, too much time pressure.

We need to leave this valley of noise and pressure, and get away to the quiet of God’s presence.  Why?

  • Third; “to be alone with God.”  You must free yourself of all distractions.  This is the essence of a prayer retreat… to be alone with God. In the intimacy of fellowship, your relationship with the Lord will be renewed. You will experience Him. And then you’ll ask Him what He wants to do in your personal life, in your family, and in your ministry. Usually, I find that God wants to work in all three areas during most prayer retreats.

Get alone with God and let him reveal what he wants to share with you.  Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as “thinking in the presence of God.”  When you plan a retreat consider having at least four sessions focusing on this acronym for pray (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) out of the Model Prayer.

  • Praise Him!  “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  Use the Psalms, praise music, and count your blessings.  Write in your journal the multiple blessings of the Lord.
  • Repent of your sin!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Spend time focusing on your sin and ask God to reveal any impure motives you may have in your heart.
  • Ask!  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Now that you have spent time in praise and repentance you begin to make your requests known unto Him.
  • Yield to Him!  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  There must be total surrender to His leading and direction.

When entering a prayer retreat ask the Lord to guide you to a particular passage in the scriptures to focus on.  Remember, He speaks to us through His word and we must always be asking ourselves two questions.  What is He saying? And what does He want us to do about it?  As you read the scripture He has led you to being looking for a sin to confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim!  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When will you plan your prayer retreat?


God's Presence



    My good friend, Rob Hager, planted Jacob’s Well in Plano, IL several years ago based on a core value, “because there is a better way.” Their vision statement found on their website, states: “To constantly learn of, live out and lead others to God’s ‘better way’ as we live together in biblical community of His truth, with His love and through His grace for His glory.”  In 2015 may all of us pursue a “better way.”

     Rob goes on to explain their vision statement: “God’s ‘better way’ is a life lived on His truth, with His love through His grace for His glory in a biblical community.  We are convinced that absolute truth exists and it is God and His reality as revealed in His inspired Word.  Only as we truly know and embrace His truth in each area of our lives can we be set free to live the best possible life.  We believe this truth must be presented to others as we ‘show and tell’ them in the context of love.”

     “Without love, our presentation of His truth is nothing more than disturbing noise that distracts or repels them from His good news.  We believe the pursuit of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment is, like salvation itself, impossible apart from the empowerment of His grace through His Spirit.  Likewise, we believe that truth, even in love, without an element of grace is incomplete.”

     “God did not just declare the truth of the world’s evil, and in spite of that, choose to love the world, He did something to redeem it.  And so we believe that as we submit, surrender and sync our lives…deny ourselves, abide in Him, walk in Him, crucify ourselves He will empower us to follow Him, bear much fruit in Him and Jesus Himself will in a sense live through us.”  Jacob’s Well was founded, organized, and exists today because God does have a “better way.”

     The book of Ecclesiastes speaks of a “better way” and Hebrews speaks of a “better covenant.”  This better covenant is made possible because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As we read Hebrews 8-9 we see it compares the old covenant with the new.  You could sum up the old covenant in three words and they would be, “you do it.”  The new covenant can also be summed up in three words, “Jesus did it.”  His “better way” has made the old covenant obsolete. 

     The believers were not convinced that the new covenant was better/superior so the writer of Hebrews was assuring them not to feel bad about losing the practices and rituals of the old covenant but to realize that Jesus is better.  We are told that He is better than the angels, Moses, the temple, inferior animal sacrifices, and the priestly order.  The old covenant focused on a building while the new covenant focuses on the heart.  It is a better covenant because now every follower can have a close personal relationship with the Lord.  Presence is greater than performance!

     One of my goals for 2015 is to focus on His presence in my life more than on my performance.  This new covenant is about an intimate relationship with Christ where we walk with Him, abide with Him, and fellowship with Him.  The Holy Spirit now works inside of every believer.  Psalms 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.”

     Because the new covenant is a better way, our challenge is to focus more on His presence in our lives than on planning or performing.  The question then must be asked:  How do we do that?

·        Have a daily quiet time with the Lord.

·        Remember, it is about relationship NOT just checking off your daily Bible reading.

·        Be persistent in your prayer life, knowing that God does hear and answer us.

·        Realize every day will be a challenge to think God’s way (Romans 12:2).

·        Ask God to change you!!!

·        Live by faith because it’s not by trying harder but by trusting Him.

·        The only faith that appropriates is the faith that causes you to ask God for what you need.

     We must make sure that we pursue His presence in our lives, in our families, and in our churches.  His presence is manifested through our invitation for Him to be in control of our lives. My prayer in 2015 is that we will stop trying harder and start trusting Him more.  Planning is good, programs can meet needs, and working hard is admirable but unless the Lord builds the house we labor in vain.

     Healthy churches and maturing Christians realize that presence is greater than performance!