When You Think You Have Surrendered It All

Phil 3I have been struggling lately in prayer and not able to pinpoint the problem.

There’s not always a problem just because you don’t feel a certain way in prayer. The lack of emotion in your prayer time is not always a reliable indicator of how your prayer time is going. Think about it: My connection to those closest to me does not disappear just because I have a day where I don’t feel emotionally close to them or am distracted by the details of life. Genuine love and intimacy persist through such temporary things. But after a while, if things don’t get back to normal, it is wise to prayerfully examine your own heart and thinking.

In my case, I️ have been suspecting that the problem was distraction. Not phones ringing, or interruptions, but, in this case, a competing distraction.

This particular distraction is noble, useful, and, in my case, done for upright reasons. Yet, because it is something I️ also happen to enjoy immensely, it can be a distraction.

I️ have been praying for a few weeks now, asking the Lord to show me what He would have me do about this noble distraction. I feel that He gave me Philippians 3:7-8 (which you can see in context in the attached graphic).

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.As a result, I am examining the distraction in light of what really matters. Will He teach me to pursue this noble activity in a different way or give it up altogether? If He has me to give it up, what will have me do instead? Perhaps it is the doing that is the problem! We will see. For now, I am still wrestling but I understand the struggle now and will continue to pray about it until He wins!

Can You Put It Into Words?

Somewhere along the way congregations began worshiping through applause. I don’t mean clapping of hands in the Spirit as a personal expression of praise, victory, etc. I mean, as an audience, expressing appreciation (presumably to God and not the singer, etc.) through corporate applause.

According to Eusebius in his Church History, various pastors wrote an epistle reprimanding the activities and behaviour of Paul of Samosota saying that “he rubukes and insults those who do not applaud, and shake their handkerchiefs as in the theaters.”(Book VII, Chapter XXX, par. 9)

My own sense of the modern origin of this is that it began to arise in the average local Pentecostal church in imitation of what its congregants were seeing on the television when they would watch Jim Bakker and PTL, or Jimmy Swaggart in his big preaching campaigns. I assume that the applause in those settings was a natural byproduct of what a large audience does when it collectively experiences something that it likes, enjoys, or approves of. (For a lengthy treatment of the history of applause go here) All I know is that when I was a child it was not common for congregations to applaud in a way that it is today. 

Here’s why I am bringing this up in the first place. I am in no way saying congregations shouldn’t applaud great points in sermons, etc. But my concern is that applause is a praise and worship shortcut. It relieves me of the need to say anything specific or intentional about the awesomeness of God. This applies to those in The Daily Prayer Project in that one of the comments I am beginning to hear a lot is “What do I say while I am pursuing intimacy with God?”

We have for too long assumed that God only wants us so that He can put us to work. In response to that erroneous idea, we have only pursued intimacy to the level of trying to cultivate obedience. But intimacy with God is not, in its deepest places, about doing something for God but is rather about being with God in the deepest places of our soul.

Let me end this beginning discussion of intimacy by asserting this: There is praise where we say great things about and to God. There is worship where we move beyond praise to surrender. Then there is the pursuit of intimacy. Think on all of this for awhile.

 

For Those Who Struggle to Pray

Do you find prayer to be a difficult habit to maintain? Maybe the word “habit” bothers you. The bottom line is we know that prayer is the means by which we can maintain an ever-deepening love relationship with Jesus Christ.

The book Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer was written to help people discover how they too can learn how to cultivate a meaningful, dynamic, daily habit of prayer. But, it’s not just a book! It is a plan! That’s what this website is all about. Here’s how it works…

Step 1

Find a few friends (preferably at least four plus yourself but no more than eight) who also struggle with prayer in one way or another and read the book together. (You can purchase the book through Amazon in paperback or for the Kindle and soon in an audio book. You can also purchase it directly from Issachar Imprints. Or, if you are on Long Island, you can purchase it at the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle offices. For more information about the book, its author, or to read an excerpt, click here!)

Step 2

Meet once a week for five weeks to honestly answer the questions based on the guidelines laid out in Chapter 4 and the weekly assignments in APPENDIX 2, and to encourage one another.

Step 3

Repeat as needed. I love teaching this class because it helps me to stay sharp in my prayer life!

You can get started right now by clicking here!