For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Reflective Praying for the Church - A Key Strategy

One of the key and often hidden components of a healthy church is prayer. Prayer often seems ineffective, yet it is the most effective thing that we can do because it releases the power of the God. None of us has the ability to create spiritual life. We can organize, persuade, entertain, and to a hundred other things that will attract a crowd. The crowd might even be enthusiastic and call themselves a church, but only God can create spiritual life and vitality. Prayer puts us in a position to be used by him. Prayer unleashes his power in our midst.

The Bible is full of promises and examples of answered prayer that should motivate us to pray.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  - 1 John 5:14-15 (ESV) 
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  - John 15:7-8 (ESV).

Combining these two verses unlocks a secret for effective prayer. I call it "reflective praying" and use the acronym "RARE" to explain it.

Read - Read a short passage of Scripture. A paragraph is enough. While this isn't "study time", you want to make sure that you understand the context. You will find that you want to pray systematically and strategically through books of the Bible.

Agree - Verbalize agreement with the passage of Scripture. How this is done will vary depending upon the passage. If it is a passage that describes who Jesus is, then pray a prayer of worship and agreement: "Yes, Jesus, you are the Creator of everything that exists! It all was created by you and for you. Praise you!" (Colossians 1:15). If it is a command or direction, then thank him for the guidance and agree that his ways are good: "Lord, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, love and unity are good! This is what I want in my life." (Ephesians 4:2-3). As we read the word, God himself is speaking and it is important that we respond in agreement.

Reveal - Pray for greater revelation and understanding of the passage to be given. Ephesians 1:16-17 is a prayer that we need to turn often. We have only a surface knowledge of Jesus and his ways. There is always more to be understanding to be had and the Spirit will teach us if we ask him (John 16:12-15).

Enable - Pray for the power of the Spirit to enable obedience to its truth. Set your heart to follow the truth revealed in the passage. This typically follows easily because you have already prayed in agreement to it. However, we need the power of the Spirit to live it out. We are dependent upon him, so ask for his strength to help you live a life of love-filled obedience.

Using this method of prayer lines us up with the heart of God. It gives us confidence that we are praying according to his will. We become junior partners with him as we pray for his will to be done on earth.

We can use this method to pray for our church. The Bible specifically addressed issues related to the church. This is especially true of the epistles, which are letters written to churches for their instruction and edification. Because they reveal the will of God for the church, using them as a guide supercharges our prayers.

Here's some examples:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7(Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)
"Lord, how awesome you are! Before the foundation the world you chose us to be holy and blameless before you. You planned our adoption before the sun, moon, and stars were even in existence! And through our relationship with Jesus every spiritual blessing possible has been given to us for our good and for your glory. 
"Spirit, teach us the truths of this passage. Reveal what it means. Enable our minds to grasp the depths of its truth. We are standing ankle-deep in the blessings that you have for us. Take us deeper. We often feel alone and insignificant. Help us grasp how significant we are to you.
"May these truths transform us. May we continually be blessing and glorifying you for your plan and your provision for us. Help our lives to reflect these truths. Motivate us to teach them to others and to encourage fellow believers to plunge into the depths of your blessings for us."

1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)


"Lord, your ways are so good! This is what we want for our church. We want to be worthy of the calling we have received from you. We want all of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Teach us what our calling is. Show us how to walk in true humility and remove all the pride from our lives. Reveal how we can be more gentle and patient with one another. Forgive me for times that I have been impatient with others or ignored their obvious needs. Give us the unity that comes from your Spirit. Show us the ugliness of divisiveness and discord. May we be one even as you are one. 
Lord, this is beyond our ability to do, so I ask for a deep work of your Spirit in our midst. Empower us to follow in your footsteps and to live a life of love towards you and one another. Jesus, right now I commit myself to walk in humility and gentleness. Teach me this week. Help me to grow in this area for your glory."

This method of reflective praying has transformed my praying for the church. I challenge you to try it. Take an epistle a pray it back to the Lord for your church. Take your time. It might take a month  or more to get through a smaller epistle, but you and your church will be changed!

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