01.02.17

5 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Prayer Life by Matt Erickson

lifeway.com

Many of us have a hard time maintaining a vibrant prayer life.

Even when we manage to set aside time to pray, we can still feel like we’re not doing it right:

  • Our minds drift, distracted by worries and a never-ending To-Do list.
  • Our time with God doesn’t always feel relational.
  • We get the sense we’re doing a lot of talking, but not much listening.
  • We might even feel a vague sense of unworthiness, knowing there are areas of our lives where we’re coming up short and imagining God will want us to focus on those very areas.

Obstacles to a Healthy Prayer Life

Priscilla Shirer understands the challenges of prayer, but believes it is the only way we can experience lasting victory in the Christian life.

“The fact is this: Unless prayer is a vital and thriving part of your life, you will never achieve spiritual victory,” she said.

Here are five signs of an unhealthy prayer life.

1. You are too busy for prayer.

From the moment we wake, we are bombarded with tasks that have to happen: everyday burdens that steal away our attention and effort from things that truly matter.

“It’s hurried and our prayers are vague,” Priscilla said. “I’ve begun the discipline of writing down my prayers and posting them. Not only so that I won’t forget to pray, but also because it helps me to be more specific, targeted and strategic in my prayers.”

Try carving out a time in your day where you can relax from the necessities of life and focus on opening your heart to God in prayer. Before you entire this time with God, write down your thoughts in detail and share them with Him.

2. You are distracted.

Your smartphone buzzes. Probably a new email. You hear a crash in the kitchen—it sounds like broken glass. Then …

We are distracted now more than ever. And these seemingly innocent diversions have a negative effect on our communication with God.

Just as writing down our prayers can help us stay more focused, writing down our distracting thoughts can actually help us get them out of our minds, so we can return to praying.

“When something comes to your mind that threatens to take you off course—stop and write it down, or type into your smartphone,” Priscilla said. “This way you can feel confident that you won’t forget about it. Then, get back to the task at hand—prayer. Your list will be there, waiting for you when you are finished.”

3. Your prayers are comfortable.

We live in a culture of comfort where spiritual complacency is a hindrance to prayer, godly living and the advance of the Kingdom. Because of this culture, we have to continually assess where we are. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where am I spiritually?
  • How does my prayer life reflect my relationship with God?
  • What is the focus of my prayer life?

First Peter 5:8 is a wake-up call: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

“The enemy celebrates lethargic Christian living,” Priscilla said. “When we’re yielding to our appetites without putting up much, if any, resistance, he can basically go unchecked, wreaking havoc in the lives of God’s children. Ultimately, he can hamstring the church from achieving the purposes of God.”

4. You are easily discouraged by God’s answers.

“Sometimes waiting on God can be some of the hardest times in our lives,” Priscilla said. “If we will continue to press in, we will find that the journey, that season of stillness and silence, allows us to have more communion and fellowship with God then we would have, had God given us an answer quickly. He is working behind the scenes, not only in our circumstances, but also in our own hearts.”

Waiting is hard. If God answers your prayers with silence, a “No” or a “Not now,” remember that He is always working on your behalf.

5. Your prayer life doesn’t match your public life.

We need to be living with integrity, though not perfection, if we’re to have a vibrant, effective prayer life.

“A key to a successful prayer life is to make sure that we are actually living a life that is in alignment with our prayers,” Priscilla said. “God is not a genie in a bottle who answers whatever our requests are, no matter how we’re living. The prayers of a righteous person are the ones that are powerful and effective.”

“Prayer is not just for fighting spiritual battles,” she said. “Prayer is for knowing God and relating to Him in all of life.”

01.04.16

12 Months of Prayer Ideas for Church Families

Authors Melissa Plowman and Cheryl Stewart are children’s ministers in Wichita Falls, Texas.

http://childrensministry.com/year-of-prayer-ideas-for-church-families/2/

Year of Prayer Ideas for Church Families

January: Special Delivery

Distribute a postcard to each family. A family can be one person. Ask families to write their names and any special prayer requests on their cards. Encourage families to return their cards over several weeks. A “prayer administrator” makes sure every individual or family is represented. If any families haven’t filled out a card because of their absence, the prayer administrator can fill one out on their behalf.

Mail a postcard to church members so each family has a different family to pray for during the month of January.

February: A Heart for Prayer

Have the children decorate pink and red construction paper hearts. Then write the names of your church families on the backs of the hearts-one name per heart. Suspend the hearts from your church foyer ceiling.

Ask every family to take a heart and pray for that specific family during February. Recruit a crew who’s willing to pray for more than one person in case some paper hearts remain.

March: Leave Your Burden

Cut out a large cross from foamboard, and display it in a visible area in your church building. During the last week of February, distribute sticky notes to church members–adults and children. Ask each person to write a burden to give to God on the note. People can do this anonymously. Encourage church members to attach the notes to the cross. It’s a good idea to attach a few notes ahead of time to encourage participation. Each individual can take home one of the notes and pray all month for that burden to be lifted from the person who’s carrying it. Allow time at the end of the month for people to tell about answers to prayer.

April: Handle With Prayer

For each family or child, you’ll need six plastic eggs and half an egg carton with spots for six eggs.

Paint the halved egg cartons. Use a permanent marker to write “Fragile: Handle with Prayer” on each carton top.

Photocopy family names from your church’s phone directory or pictorial directory. Add the names of those not listed in the directory. Cut apart the names, and put one family name in each plastic egg. You can also simply write the name of each family on a paper slip.

Give each family six eggs in a carton and encourage them to pray for a family each day.

May: Flower Power Prayer

Give a long-stemmed rose to each family. Encourage them to choose one person or family to pray for through the month of May. They can deliver the flower and ask for any specific prayer requests.

June: Rockin’ Prayer

Collect enough small rocks for every child to have one. Then give a rock to each child to carry around in a pocket during the month of June. The rock is a reminder of Jesus, our rock, and it can remind them to talk to Jesus daily.

July: Pop! Pop! Pop! Prayers

You’ll need one empty 20-ounce soft drink bottle per family, plastic disposable plates, a fine-tip permanent marker, glitter or Mylar confetti, corn syrup, water, and scissors.

Have families create this fun prayer reminder craft together by following these steps.

1. Cut six half-inch ovals from the plastic plates.

2. Write “Family,” “Neighbors,” “Church,” “Our Government,” “World Crisis,” and “Peace” on six different ovals. Then put the ovals into a bottle.

3. Add a teaspoon of glitter to the bottle

4. Fill the bottle three-fourths full of corn syrup and top with water. Tighten the lid on the bottle.

Encourage families to shake the bottle every day during the month of July and pray for the item that comes up first.

August: Schooltime Prayers

Print labels with “Pray for Our Children’s Education.” Attach the labels to school supply boxes and give them to church members. During the month of August, families can pray for education issues or people associated with schools when they buy school supplies to put in the boxes. When school starts, donate the supplies and boxes to a local school for children who may not have school supplies.

September: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Give each family a white pillowcase and fabric pen. Encourage families to pray for a different person each night for bedtime. Then have them write the person’s name on the pillowcase.

October: Leafing It to God

Pour prepared plaster of Paris into a medium-size bucket. While the plaster is still wet, place a tree branch in the center of the bucket to create a self-standing tree. Write the names of children on fall-colored construction paper leaves, and tape the leaves to the tree branch. Have children select a leaf and pray for that person during October.

November: Make a Clean Sweep

Purchase tiny whisk brooms at a craft store or print whisk broom images on card stock. Add a label with the words “Make a Clean Sweep.” Attach a self-adhesive magnet to each one so they can be placed on refrigerators. Distribute these as a reminder to pray for inner cleanliness as the Advent season approaches.

December: Family Advent Calendar

Print December calendars with the name of a family or individual in each square. If your group is smaller than 31 people, repeat names. If your group is larger than 31 people, put more than one name in each square. Copy a second blank calendar sheet on red or green paper. Use an X-Acto knife to cut three sides of each calendar square, but don’t fold any squares back. Glue around the outer edges of the blank sheets and place them over the name sheets. Show the kids how to fold back each window, revealing a different family to pray for each day in December. cm

01.04.16

15 Ways to Fill Your Ministry With Prayer

http://childrensministry.com/articles/let-us-pray/6/

Use these 15 ways to fill your ministry with prayer–just as the disciples asked Jesus when he taught them the Lord’s Prayer: “Teach us to pray.” 

“God is great, God is good. And we thank him for our food. Amen.”

Great lives of faith have taken root in simple encounters with God such as this. These initial concrete experiences of prayer enable even little children to recognize the presence of God. The rhyme and meter of traditional childhood prayer serve the important function of teaching very young children who God is and how we relate to him.

As kids learn more about their great God, though, their conversations with him can move away from these rhyming tools into rich, full expressions of their hearts. By modeling a prayerful heart and being a kid-friendly prayer guide, you can help children build a loving relationship with their God.

Just as kids learn to swim in a pool instead of on dry land, they learn to pray in the presence of people who pray rather than on their own. These ideas will help you create a climate that’ll bless and encourage kids’ prayer lives.  Continue reading

11.23.15

A Few Tips to Help Teenagers (Creatively) Build a Prayer Habit by Andy Blanks

http://youthministry360.com/blog/tips-to-help-teenagers-creatively-build-prayer-habits/

Over the years, I’ve found it’s always been somewhat of a struggle to help students develop the discipline of consistent prayer. Helping lead teenagers to carve out the time to pray on a regular basis isn’t easy. Heck, this is an area even I struggle with, and I’m sure I’m not alone. In our fast-paced world, doing the work to build a prayer habit is a little counter-cultural.

Which makes it even more important to do what we can to help students be succesful in this area of their spiritual lives.

Over the years, I’ve found that if I can give students a “hook” of some sort, it makes it easier to help them learn how to pray. These are just a few things I’ve done (or known of others doing) that have worked for me. Maybe they will help you, as well.

Texting Students’ Names To Each Other

This one ain’t rocket science. A few years ago I had 5 guys in a group. Each guy was assigned a different day of the week, as in, “Monday is John’s day.” On Monday I’d send a text to each guy reminding him to pray for John. Then Tuesday it was the next guy’s day.

String Bracelet

Years ago, we had a student who was dealing with a significant health issue. We wanted to pray for this guy, so we tied a simple piece of thread around our wrists like a bracelet. The bracelet was to remind us to pray for this student. Just a way of reminding students to constantly be in prayer.

Texting Prayer Requests Mid-Week

Pick a day halfway between your last meeting and your next one. Send a text or Facebook message reminding guys of the prayer requests you shared in your last meeting.

Rock In Your Pocket

Yup. I said aquarium rocks, though it could be any cool looking object small enough to fit in your students’ pockets. With one group I had, I gave them all these little purplish glass-looking rocks used to put in the bottom of an aquarium. I told them to carry it in their pockets for a week. I asked them to say a prayer of some sort (prayer of praise, prayer for someone in our group, prayer for their family, etc.) every time they were aware of the rock. We didn’t do it for longer than a week, but the idea was simply to get them in the habit of praying throughout the day.

Verse Cards

I once printed off Ephesians 6:18 on a piece of cardstock. I put it on a cool background and printed it in color. We did a short discussion on the verse, then I cut the cardstock into 6 squares (one for me and each student in the group). I encouraged the guys to put the card on their rear view mirror or dashboard and when they saw it to remember to pray. Again, similar to the previous two. Just a simple visual key.

Phone Alarm

I actually haven’t done this, but have a friend who has and it seemed to work. Have students think of a time each day where they would have a few minutes to pray. Instruct them to set their phone alarms to go off at that time. Then, give them some instructions on how to pray, maybe a different emphasis each day of the week.

These are some of the more effective ways I’ve tried through the years to help students develop the habit of prayer. (I’ve tried others that didn’t work as well. Maybe that’s another blog post????)

If you have a second, share a tip or “hook” you’ve used before that’s been successful in helping students remember to be in prayer.

07.02.14

A Prayer for the Nation  by Mark Tullos

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/a-prayer-for-the-nation?intcmp=LWMain-Article1-prayer-nation-20140630

This Fourth of July as you celebrate the freedom you enjoy as an American, pause to pray for our nation and its leaders. Following is a Scripture passage and suggested prayer to guide you in your petition.

“Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh — the people He has chosen to be His own possession! The LORD looks down from heaven; He observes everyone. He gazes on all the inhabitants of the earth from His dwelling place. He alone shapes their hearts; He considers all their works. A king is not saved by a large army; a warrior will not be delivered by great strength” (Psalm 33:12-16).

Father,
Through trials and tears, through victories and challenges, you have guided this nation. We pray today for your hand to guide us. Your Word has said, to whom much is given, much will be required. O Father, how you have blessed us! Our soil can feed the world. Our strength can secure justice. Our dreams can heal nations. But without You, we can do nothing.

We pray that we’ll never forget the price that was paid, the foundation that was laid, and the blessing we enjoy in this land of plenty. Give us hearts that seek to heal. We pray for strong churches in the United States that can and will do infinitely more than any law, bill or platform could ever do. May our hope be even greater than our heritage.

We confess our utter helplessness to impact the world eternally without the work of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we ask you Lord, for a spiritual awakening that gives life to our land. Call us once again in this time of great challenge to honor you with great vigor. Teach us how to love one another. Help us to see injustice and right it. Help us to see their pain and with Your heart, heal them. Help us to see hopelessness and like the Samaritan, sacrifice, respond, heal, and restore.

May we say to a world ravaged by disease, starvation and discord: “Rise up! Take heart!” Teach us how to have an unquenchable passion for your mission. Show us how to stop violent intentions with radical love. Lord, we look forward to the day when our swords will be beaten into plowshares. When your kingdom will come and your will shall be done in America as it is in heaven. Give us the bread of reconciliation and the cleansing water of forgiveness. For Yours is the kingdom, power and glory, forever!

In Jesus Name, Amen.

08.27.13

5 Ways To View And Relate To Students   by Aaron Crumbey

http://www.morethandodgeball.com/general-ministry/5-ways-to-view-and-relate-to-students-like-jesus/

Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse. In the three years He spent in ministry everything He did pointed to the fact that it’s all about relationships.

So here are 5 things I’ve learned from Jesus concerning viewing and relating to students.

View students in light of their potential. Jesus always looked passed people’s present circumstances and looked at who they had the potential to become.  Jesus looked pass the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and saw his potential. Jesus looked passed the lifestyle of the women at the well and saw her potential. We should do the same. Who they are today doesn’t have to be who they are tomorrow.

Make time to talk. Jesus was never too busy for a conversation. I like the fact that Jesus didn’t come to earth doing ministry from a fire breathing chariot because I can’t do that. Instead, He came doing ministry through relationships one conversation at a time. I’ve gotta make time to talk to students. Allow the programs and events to be the vessel to great life changing, life healing conversations.

Focus on who they have the potential to be and not on who they use to be. Jesus never dwelled on the past. Jesus paints a great picture of this with the disciples. He was always moving people to the life they had the potential to live. Students need someone speaking into their life words that moves them toward their potential. The more they dwell on the past, the more they will live in the past. Students need to know that there is a better life then the one that they are living, and that they can have this better life.

Challenge their faith. Jesus was always challenging the disciples to do what they thought was impossible. He was building their faith in Him. Challenging students to do things they think are impossible without God, increases their faith in God. Growth comes when we are stretched in our thinking and in our view of who God is. So stretch them by challenging them in their walk with God.

Pray for them. I love how Jesus never said “I’ll be praying for you”. He just prayed right there on the spot for those in need. This is something I’ve definitely tried to model. I’ve learned that when it comes to praying, students will totally follow your lead. So don’t wait, pray with them right there. I had a student who was having surgery. I randomly ran into her and her mother and some friends two days earlier. Once she told me about the surgery I asked if I could pray for her.  She said “of course” and so I pulled everyone together to pray. It almost brought her mom to tears that we were all praying for her daughter. It also felt good to just be bold and pray. We don’t have to confine God’s power to just move in the four walls of the church. He’s everywhere. So let’s minister like He’s everywhere.

08.20.13

Why We Pray

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2007-08-30-Why-We-Pray/

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen (Romans 15:30-33).

Rather than pretend he was doing fine, Paul bares his soul and begs for help from his friends. As we look at this request from the standpoint of the 21st century, three lasting truths emerge.

I. Prayer Involves Agony.

When Paul says “strive together with me,” he uses a Greek word from which we get the English word “agony.” Join me in my agony. What a thought that is. Prayer is agony. But someone says, “I thought prayer was supposed to be fun.” Who told you that? The Bible nowhere calls prayer “fun.” Prayer isn’t fun; it’s hard work. And true prayer is agony of the soul. Prayer is wrestling with God, it is striving in the realm of the spirit, it is spiritual warfare against principalities and powers and the forces of evil all around us.

When was the last time you agonized in prayer?

When was the last time you wrestled in prayer?

When was the last time you shed tears in prayer?

Continue reading

08.07.13

What is God’s Calling on Your Life?   by Richard Stearns

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24

My belief is that every follower of Christ, regardless of who they are and what they might be doing currently, was meant to participate in this kingdom work; in other words, we have all been called into this mission of Christ. We all have the same general assignment, but our specific roles within it will be unique to us as individuals and will take into account our gifts and talents, experience, assets, physical location, and our connections.

As I have traveled around the world telling my own story of calling, I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me to ask how they can find God’s calling on their lives.

This is a very serious and personal matter for each of us as followers of Christ, and I certainly don’t have the corner on how someone else can discern God’s calling. But I do think there are some helpful steps, derived from Scripture, that can bring greater clarity to this universal longing.

Six Ways to find God’s Calling on Your Life:

1. Commit Continue reading

03.11.13

How to Hear From God Through BIble Devotions   by Bruce Chant                            To see the original article click here.

Four simple things to look at and consider as we read a passage of Scripture.

L – LOOK into the Scripture

As you read highlight what the Holy Spirit impresses upon you personally. What strikes you out of the passage you have read? Which verse or verse stand out?

I – INSPIRED by what?

What is that inspires you or speaks to you out of these verses. Take a minute to fashion that understanding into your own words.

F – FORM a life response

If God has spoken to you personally out of a bible text, what is He wanting you to do in response to it? In other words, write down how you will apply this to your life.

E – ENGAGE in Prayer

Out of this word and your response / application, take it to God in prayer. Acknowledge your need for God and for Him to work to accomplish what it is He is speaking to you about.

As you read your daily bible passage, consider these four points and journal your reflections. What you have in your writings is what you are hearing God say to you. It is not all God might be saying to you, but it is a great start!

 

01.31.13

Student CBS Classes:

Last week, God taught me a big lesson about the importance of leading the worship at Teen CBS, and I wanted to quickly share it with you.

Last Sunday, I was honestly thinking about not doing the worship for Monday because I’d been sick the week before and my voice wasn’t up to par. I prayed about it and I felt God telling me to stop worrying about it – that I really needed to do the worship for some reason. So Sunday night, I asked God to lead me to the three songs He wanted me to do.  I took out my stack of worship songs and felt totally overwhelmed, but as usual, God gave me the three songs within a matter of minutes. One of the songs, “I Will Lift my Eyes,” was a song that I had never done before for Teen CBS. I re-learned it, squeaking my way through it with my congested voice, and felt that it was strong enough to do, although my voice still wasn’t all there.

I made it through the songs at Teen CBS the next night, wondering afterwards if it was awkward that I had to drink water between each of the songs and if anyone noticed that my voice was a little scratchy. Thoughts that were clearly from God Himself, right?

Our core group went well after worship and the talk.  I still can’t believe the things that teens these days are faced with.  One girl in particular was dealing with something truly devastating, and we all prayed over the situation.  It was still a good night with our girls, and we left encouraged.

When I got home, I checked Facebook to see if one girl had posted any updates about her mom.  I didn’t see anything, but I noticed something else that brought tears to my eyes.  Another girl in our group posted some of the lyrics to “I Will Lift My Eyes,” the second song I sang that night.

God, my God, I cry out

Your beloved needs You now.

God be near, calm my fear

And take my doubt.

Continue reading