P.R.A.Y. God’s Word!

I have a prayer idiosyncrasy, which I’ve written about before, where I pray laps around the church sanctuary. I often use the acronym, P.R.A.Y., to guide my prayer at the church.

P.R.A.Y. stands for Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield.

Several months ago, I felt led to ramp up my praying. So, I prayed more laps. In the process, I started writing down a long list of Scriptures, which I pray through periodically. Here is a slightly scaled-down list, which I keep in my Notes app so I can refer to it easily.


P.R.A.Y. God’s Word
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4.2, NLT)

PRAISE

Deuteronomy 7.9 (CEB)
Know now then that the Lord your God is the only true God! He is the faithful God, who keeps the covenant and proves loyal to everyone who loves him and keeps his commands—even to the thousandth generation!

Psalm 50.14-15 (NLT)
14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.

Psalm 59.16 (NLT)
But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.

Psalm 108.1 (NET)
I am determined, O God! I will sing and praise you with my whole heart.

Psalm 111.2 (NET)
The Lord’s deeds are great, eagerly awaited by all who desire them.

Psalm 117 (CEB)
1 Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship him, all you peoples! 2 Because God’s faithful love toward us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!

Psalm 118.24 (NLT)
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 138.8 (CEB)
… Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord! Don’t let go of what your hands have made.

1 Corinthians 15.57 (CEB)
Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

REPENT
Psalm 139.23-24 (NLT)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 51.10 (NLT)
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

ASK
Matthew 6.9-13 (NLT)
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need, 12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Psalm 5.8 (NLT)
Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn.

Psalm 25.4 (NLT)
Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow.

Psalm 27.11 (CEV)
Teach me to follow, Lord, and lead me on the right path.

Psalm 32.8 (NLT)
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

Psalm 37.34 (NLT)
Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you, giving you the land.

Psalm 90.12 (CEV)
Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.

Psalm 143.10 (NLT)
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.

1 Corinthians 2.4 (CEB)
My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

1 Thessalonians 1.5 (CEB)
… our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction …

Ephesians 4.27, 30-32 (CEB)
27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. … 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 3.12 (NET)
And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all …

James 1.5 (NLT)
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Yield
1 Samuel 3.10 (CEB)
“Speak. Your servant is listening.” (Samuel)

Psalm 27.14 (NLT)
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Proverbs 3.5-6 (NET Bible)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.

Matthew 6.130b (NLT)
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Luke 22.42b (NLT)
… I want your will to be done, not mine.

Luke 1.38 (CEB)
I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.

Romans 12.12 (CEB)
Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.

Ephesians 3.20 (CEB)
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us …

1 Thessalonians 5.18 (CEB)
Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


You may have noticed the emphasis on praying for direction and “the right path” in the Ask section, especially in the Psalms. I’ve been collecting and compiling Psalms like these for about twenty years, which I wrote about nearly ten years ago (Prayers for the Journey).

I’m sure this list will continue to evolve and grow over time. What Scriptures do you pray regularly?

A Prayer for the 2016 General Conference of the UMC

The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church takes place May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. General Conference, which takes place every four years, is the top policy-making body in the UMC and is the only church entity that has authority to speak for the entire denomination. General Conference meets every four years to revise the Book of Discipline.

The 2016 General Conference consists of 864 delegates from around the world. Approximately 42% of the delegates are from outside the US, due to tremendous growth in other countries, particularly from Africa.

This is my prayer as General Conference gets underway …

O God, thank you for calling us to be part of this movement for such a time as this! Thank you for all who have gone before us and have spread scriptural holiness across many lands! Without them, we would not be here. Thank you for inviting us to participate in what you are doing in the world, and for loving the world through us!

Thank you for your Word and your Spirit, which have guided and shaped us. Please forgive us for the ways we have missed the mark, and have failed to be an obedient Church. Forgive us for losing sight of your mission and call upon our lives. And, forgive us for the deep divisions that exist in this body!

Please pour out your Spirit upon your Church, and particularly upon General Conference! Your Church needs your wisdom, guidance, and intervention. Please protect all who gather in Portland. Speak to them and speak through them in the decisions they make!

Give the delegates of General Conference hearts for you, for one another, for your Church, and for the world you love. Help the delegates to be faithful to your Word and to the leading of your Spirit. May they honor you through their actions and attitudes, as well as their decisions!

Please squash all personal agendas and plans that hinder the mission of your Church. Please help the delegates to hear your voice and sense your leading at this critical time in the life of the UMC!

I pray not so much that you will preserve this Church, but that you will empower and equip us to fulfill your mission. I pray that we will, as Wesley pleaded, “hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” As Jesus prayed, “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6.10, NLT).

“Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us” (Ephesians 3.20, CEB). Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer! Amen.

Paul & Silas Were Pot-Stirrers!

I’ve said before, Leaders are Pot-Stirrers. I’ve also listed 3 Ways Leaders Stir the Pot.

First-century church leaders were clearly pot-stirrers. In Acts 16-17, there’s a story that describes how Paul and Silas were pot-stirrers.

“These people are causing an uproar in our city” (Acts 16.20, CEB) … “These people who have been disturbing the peace throughout the empire”; other translations say, they have “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17.6, CEB).

Paul and Silas were pot-stirrers, holy troublemakers!

Of course, people can also be unholy troublemakers. That’s the case with the mobs in the story: “some thugs … formed a mob and started a riot in the city … This provoked the crowd and the city officials even more” (Acts 16.5,8, CEB). “The Jews from Thessalonica learned that Paul also proclaimed God’s word in Beroea, so they went there too and were upsetting and disturbing the crowds” (Acts 16.13, CEB).

If we want to be used by God to change the world, we must be holy pot-stirrers!

One of the best ways Christ-following leaders stir the pot is through prayer. Pot-stirring prayers include asking the Holy Spirit to CONVICT people of their sin and to CONVINCE them about the truth of the Gospel. As that happens, we, too, will turn the world upside down!

Stay Humble, Stay Hungry, and Stay in Tune With God!

When I pray some or all of our Core Prayers at Centre Grove, I often add the challenge to stay humble, stay hungry, and stay in tune with God!

I’ve written about the need to stay humble and stay hungry before. We must stay humble, knowing that we can do nothing apart from God. We must stay hungry, drawing closer and closer to God. We must also stay in tune with God!

I love the note in Acts that says, “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia” (Acts 16.6, CEB). God was able to guide them—and prevent them—because they were in tune with God!

If we ever stop being humble or hungry or in tune with God, we’re in big trouble. And, God’s work in us and through us will be hindered. We must stay humble, stay hungry, and stay in tune with God!

Centre Grove’s Core Prayers

Some churches have a Core Purpose. Some have Core Values. Perhaps churches should also have Core Prayers!

After writing my post on (personal) Core Prayers awhile back, it struck me that Centre Grove UMC has (community) Core Prayers. I included them in that post, but here they are again …

We didn’t intend to develop a list of core prayers, but these have stuck over the years. The list may never be complete. In fact, I wonder if “God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us!” should be a core prayer, because it is absolutely essential that we receive God’s power and favor, and live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We want our ministry to be done with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power!

I like the idea of having a few prayers that stick so people know what’s important to God’s work among us, and pray them!

Jesus said …

I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. (Matthew 18.19, CEB)

What other prayers might be core prayers for the church?

Every Stronghold Must Come Down!

We sang many songs in worship at Centre Grove on Sunday. Some words from “Victor’s Crown” really resonated with me …

Every high thing must come down. Every stronghold shall be broken!

We don’t want anything to prevent us from experiencing and accomplishing all that God desires!

There are spiritual forces at work. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 …

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6.10-13, NLT)

We have spiritual enemies. They are not flesh and blood. Rather, they are “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world.” They are “mighty powers in this dark world” and “evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

But, God is greater than our enemy. Jesus told Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16.18, NLT). Paul writes, “Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10.4, CEB).

If we want to be victorious, we must be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We must “put on all of God’s armor.” We must stay connected to Jesus and “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5.17, CEB)!

If we do those things, “we (will) win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us” (Romans 8.37, CEB).

Yesterday was a pretty intense day at Centre Grove. We have a sense that some strongholds did indeed come down. If so, I truly look forward to what God will do next, in us and through us!

Please pray for us!

Core Prayers

Are there certain things you find yourself praying over and over, such as when you pray for yourself, your family, and your ministry?

I do. I have a list of some things I pray regularly. These have become some of my core prayers.

I’m sure there is no perfect list of core prayers, and I’m sure it varies from person to person and situation to situation. That said, here are some of my core prayers.

Personal & Family

  • Wisdom
  • Love
  • Health
  • Peace & Protection
  • Strength & Energy

Leadership & Ministry

  • Wisdom & Knowledge (“Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of yours without your help.” 2 Chronicles 1.10, CEB)
  • Clean Hands & Pure Heart
  • Courage
  • Clear Vision
  • Passion & Energy
  • Patience & Persistence
  • Fruit & Joy
  • Change & Transformation
  • Favor & Power

For more on praying for leadership and ministry, see A Prayer for Transformational Leadership.

On favor and power, especially for preaching, I often pray Acts 4.29 and a prayer based on some of Paul’s words …

“Lord, … enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence.” (Acts 4.29, CEB)

“Lord, please let my message and my preaching be presented, not with wise convincing words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power and with deep conviction … so that people’s faith won’t depend on human wisdom but on the power of God (based on 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 and 1 Thessalonians 1.5), for ‘God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power” (1 Corinthians 4.20).

During the course of my leadership at Centre Grove (almost 7 years, so far), four prayers have become part of our church culture …

What are some of your core prayers, for yourself and your family, and for your leadership and ministry?

What If We Prayed Before We Complained?

A few years ago, I wrote a post on The Balancing Act by Bishop Robert Schnase. Recently, I’ve been thinking about something Bishop Schnase wrote.

Bishop Schanse relayed a conversation he had with a woman, who thought churches should do a better job of caring for pastors. Bishop Schnase writes …

She said that she did not think anyone should ever be allowed to complain about a pastor unless that person was also in constant prayer for the pastor. We should all desire our pastors to succeed, to fulfill their mission, to be strong and whole and healthy, and so we should pray for them, their families, their work, and their ministry. Imagine if every time we felt annoyed, discouraged, or disappointed by a pastor, we prayed for them with even greater eagerness and sincerity. Imagine if we felt as much or more an obligation to pray for a pastor as we feel to criticize or correct a pastor.

This is important because when complaining comes from selfishness, it tears down, but when it comes from a place of prayer, it can build up.

But, it doesn’t apply only to pastors. It applies to everyone and everything in the church–every ministry, every leader, every person.

What if the whole church operated this way toward everyone and everything in the church? What if we prayed before we complained?

A Prayer for Transformational Leadership

On July 1, 2009, the beginning of our second year in Clearfield, I wrote a prayer in my journal for our ministries. Though the prayer has been revised over the years, it has stuck with me ever since (in fact, I posted an earlier version of it in 2011).

A few months ago, the Clearfield Cluster of United Methodist Churches had responsibility for planning and leading worship for a district pastors’ gathering. As part of the worship, I led a responsive prayer based on the 2009-prayer.

This continues to be my prayer for Joleen’s and my ministries, and I invite you to pray it as well.

A Prayer for Transformational Leadership

O God, give us clean hands and pure hearts, hearts like yours. Break our hearts for what breaks yours!

Give us strength. Be our Rock, our firm foundation. Provide us with the spiritual grounding we need for the journey ahead. As we build our lives on Christ the solid rock, develop your character in us!

Give us favor with the people you call us to reach and the people you call us to be in ministry with, especially the leaders and influencers in our churches!

Give us wisdom to lead well, and discernment to sift through all of the distractions in order to focus on the things you call us to be about!

Give us patience and persistence to stay the course in the midst of the challenges and obstacles that will arise during the slow-going work of transformation!

Fill us with passion and energy that will sustain us for the long haul! Give us courage to do what’s difficult. Help us to follow you even when it’s hard!

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and cause us to bear much fruit! Do something unpredictable and uncontrollable. Please use us to make your name great!

Through your leadership in our lives, expressed and lived out in the places we serve, create communities of faith that will be fully engaged in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! Amen.

Pray for The United Methodist Church!

If you’ve been following church-related news lately, you know The United Methodist Church is in turmoil. Some are even calling for schism, seeing no way out of the current mess.

The best thing we can do, though, at this point, is PRAY.

That’s what the Aldersgate Covenant is planning to do. They have called a gathering for May 16-17, 2014, which will take place at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. (I’m not able to attend; I keep hoping some or all of it will be webcast!)

I wrote in 2011, What The United Methodist Church Needs is nothing short of an awakening by the Holy Spirit. As I noted, John Wesley said …

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

Wesley seems to indicate that survival of the organization isn’t the most important thing; being faithful to God and staying connected to God is.

I’m grateful for the UMC and I’m hopeful that God will revive us and make us a movement again. Here are a few posts I’ve written in recent years that come to mind …

What are your prayers for the UMC?