Monthly Archives: March 2010

Kevin DeYoung on Congregational Prayer

13 Good thoughts here:

1. Prepare. Some traditions use set prayers. Others rely on extemporaneous prayers. Both have their place. But I believe what our congregations need most are studied prayers. These prayers may or may not be read, but will be thought through ahead of time. Public prayer is often boring because little thought is put into it. There’s no training for it, no effort put it into it. An hour or two is not too long to spend in preparing a long, pastoral prayer.

2. Use forms with freedom. Learn from The Valley of Vision or Hughes Oliphant Old or the Book of Common Prayer. But suit their prayers to your own purposes. The Didache, after laying down set prayers for Communion, also allows “the prophets to give thanks however they wish.”

3. Pray Scripture. Don’t just ask God for what we want. Let him teach us what we should want.

4. Don’t footnote. Spurgeon: “It is not necessary in prayer to string a selection of texts of Scripture together, and quote David, and Daniel, and Job, and Paul, and Peter, and every other body, under the title of ‘thy servant of old.’” The Lord already knows who said everything so don’t tell him again in your prayers.

5. Leave the preaching for the sermon. Don’t exhort. Don’t explain texts. Don’t unpack complex theology. Spurgeon again: “Long prayers either consist of repetitions, or else of unnecessary explanations which God does not require; or else they degenerate into downright preachings, so that there is no difference between the praying and the preaching, except that in the one the minister has his eyes shut, and in the other he keeps them open. It is not necessary in prayer to rehearse the Westminster Assembly’s Catechism.”

6. Share some details of congregational life, but not all. A good shepherd will often mention by name various sheep that need special care. But don’t try to cover every engagement in the last three months or surreptitiously announce the youth retreat in your prayer (“Lord, be with our young people gathering this Friday at 5:00pm with their Bibles and a sleeping bag…”). Spurgeon one more time: “As I have said before, there is no need to make the public prayer a gazette of the week’s events, or a register of the births, deaths, and marriages of your people, but the general moments that have taken place in the congregation should be noted by the minister’s careful heart.”

7. Pray so that others can follow you easily. The goal is edification (1 Cor. 14:17). So don’t let your sentences get too long, too flowery, too ornate. If you write out your prayers, write for the ear not for the eye. On the other hand, don’t use distracting colloquialisms like, “Lord, you’re so sweet.”

8. Keep it relatively brief. Better to be too short than too long. Five minutes is plenty in most North American churches. Seven to ten minutes is possible is you are experienced and have trained your people well.

9. Remember you are praying with and on behalf of others. Use “we” and “our” (like in the Lord’s Prayer). This is not the time to confess your personal sins or recount your personal experiences.

10. Order your prayer. Make sure there is a flow and direction. Don’t get too wordy. Keep a good pace. It often makes sense to work from the inside out, praying first for concerns of the congregation and then moving out to the community, the global church, and the world.

11. Beware of verbal ticks. For example: popping your p’s, smacking your lips, sighing, ums, mindless repetition of the divine name, unnecessary use of the word “just” and “like,” an over-reliance on the phrase “we pray” or “we would pray” instead of simply praying.

12. Show proper reverence, confidence, and emotion. Pray like you mean it, like God is God, and as if he really hears us.

13. Pray before you pray. Ask God for help as you prepare. Ask him for humility and grace as you go up to pray.

Don’t Judge Yourself by the News

This past Sunday, I had the joy and honor to preach on Hosea 4 to the dear saints at Baptist Church of the Redeemer. You can listen to Sunday’s sermon here.

Chapter 4 marks off a new section in the book as God presents his case against his people:

Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

Here’s how I sought to apply this beginning section to someone who might be inclined to excuse themselves from this list that characterized the Northern Kingdom:

Do you watch the news? Often I hear believers talk about the discouragement that they feel when they see the reports of murder, adultery, deception, etc that characterize our country…very much like this list. If you are hear this morning and you are not a Christian, I want to make something very clear this morning…that sort of thing is not really what you should compare yourself to. We tend to, although it’s discouraging, subtly pack ourselves on the back after the news is over because, after all we’re not that bad.

The Bible really doesn’t have a category for the “really bad” sins and the other, more normal ones…In fact it often doesn’t even distinguish between actions and attitudes. For example, we read in Proverbs 27:14 that an inconsiderate word is basically like blasphemy [Proverbs 27:14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.] Jesus tells us that claiming to know God and yet living contrary to his word make us liars [John 8:55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.] When was the last time you saw the headlining story of a newscast be something like, Mr. Smith declared that he hated his boss this week—he has been sentenced to death by lethal injection.” [1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.] Did you see the news last week that talked about a man who was not giving to his local church? He was arrested on charges of theft [Malachi 3:8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.] Thinking about committing adultery; cyber adultery; taking a second look…is ADULTERY [Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.]

Don’t judge yourself by the news, judge yourself by God’s word. You are in great need of a savior. There is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God…but those are the very things that God has provided for you…Jesus perfectly, faithfully obeyed God’s law…he had compassion on his people in dying in their place…and through his life, death, burial and resurrection we have the perfect knowledge of God—he succeeding where we all have failed. Repent of your sins and trust in him today!

Listen to the whole thing here.

A New Kind of Whole Foods, by Brian McLaren, via Jim Hamilton

Jim Hamilton has written a very interesting parable that you must read. What would it look like if Brian McLaren were advocating for a new kind of Whole Foods Store (instead of a New Kind of Christianity)?

Here’s a snip:

Brian McLaren decided to open his own Whole Foods store. He started small, and the business grew. After a struggle through the early years, he had his own storefront with the sign in the parking lot and everything: Whole Foods.

More and more, though, people complained about the high prices, and they were a little disappointed that while the food was supposed to be healthy, it just didn’t taste as good as what they were used to eating. McLaren wrestled with the problems of price, access, taste, and image, and after much turmoil he began to move toward a solution that he was sure would address the issues.

The change didn’t happen all at once, and McLaren didn’t announce what he had decided to do. In fact, there are some indications that this was, we might say, an organic development, a slow transformation. Once it had happened, though, the results are clear for all to see.

Though the sign out front still says Whole Foods, things are very different within. Instead of all that expensive, healthy, tasteless food, inside you can buy what looks and tastes just like fast food burgers and fries. In fact, Brian’s stuff is just like McDonald’s! And now the shelves of the store are stocked with things that people really want to eat, things that people can afford, things that are easier for McLaren to acquire and market, and things that taste just like what we used to eat when we didn’t bother about health food at all. Perfect! Affordable prices and food that tastes great—healthy to boot.

Brian even lets people smoke in his Whole Foods store. Here is a new kind of Whole Foods store we can love. Can you imagine? Here is a place where you can smoke and not feel guilty about needing a nicotine fix, a place you don’t have to worry about having an expensive, destructive addiction.

Brian understands and teaches that people are born with a proclivity to addiction. Some people are hard wired to love cigarettes, and those people who are against smoking just weren’t born with the same kinds of inclinations.

Trust me, it just gets better. Read the whole thing here. Also, be sure to check out the panel discussion on McLaren’s new book at SBTS on Thursday involving Drs. Mohler, Ware, Wellum, Wills and Hamilton.

“Happy to be Me” by Ross King

For more information on Ross, or to buy this cd, click here.