Contemplating God

By: Scott Armstrong

Almost all of my life I have struggled with prayer.  I am not talking about “arrow prayers” or praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17) throughout the day.  I tend to do a lot of that, and it has been meaningful to see how God is at work in the mundane of every task or relationship.

I wrestle more with the focused times of intercession.  Sometimes I have viewed those times as items on the to-do list, and other times I have found myself so distracted that I can hardly maintain a decent stream of thought – let alone conversation – with God.  It is all quite embarrassing for a person who has been a Christian for 38 years and happens to be a missionary as well.

The two things that have recently given me hope are accountability (praying with someone else, namely my wife or kids) and using praise music to reflect and worship.  I am growing in my understanding of prayer, and starting to enjoy it, thanks be to God.

Kallistos Ware, bishop in the Orthodox Church, http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-prayer/tells this story: There was an old man who used to spend hours in church each day, and his friends said to him, ‘What are you doing during all that time?’ And he said, ‘I’m praying,’ and they said, ‘Oh, you must have a great many things you need to ask God for.’ With some indignation he said, ‘I’m not asking God for anything.’ ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘well, what are you doing all that time in church?’ And he replied, ‘I just sit and look at God and God sits and looks at me.’”

My best times of prayer have been when I lay my “list” to the side and begin to contemplate God.  The requests are still shared, but the process becomes more of knowing – and being known by – Him.

In Luke 11, Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock incessantly (v.9-10).  However, he also identifies the best response to our prayer not as economic prosperity, physical healing, or the changing of our circumstances (things we often pray for), but rather his very presence:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 13).

Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Friar, puts it this way: “The answer to prayer is always the same – it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Amen.  Come, Holy Spirit.  Help me to pray.  Help me to know You abundantly and to be known fully by You.

 

Step One: Intentional Prayer

This is the first step in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Prayer begins with the church planter or the mother church when they discover God is guiding them to plant a church in a particular place. Pray for:

  • Local leaders who will participate in the project
  • A strategy
  • The people you hope to win to Christ
  • The material resources you will need
  • Community leaders
  • Permits and approvals you will need

Prayer will become one of the disciplines of growth for the new disciples.  It will become a daily part of their new lives.

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We must persist in prayer with expectant hearts (Col. 4:2-4), expecting God to bring receptive individuals and to guide us in what we will say.  In that way we will be sure it is NOT human strategies that guide our ministry, but rather the Holy Spirit.  This approach establishes a pattern of dependence on the Holy Spirit essential for success in following the steps in our strategy as founders of the new church (Zechariah 4:6).

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit will come to be our guide when we allow him to direct our methods and most effective tools.  Sometimes we do not have access to sufficient funds to purchase materials, but the Holy Spirit’s help will be fundamental in giving creative ideas to the church planter or cell group leader.

For example, we use a map to pray for the city. We put our hands on it and ask God to direct us to the place ready to receive the Word. Later, we pray while we walk the streets of some hidden place.  Many times, the response of a family that will open their home to the church has come first in the streets where we begin to pray.

Principle:

Prayer must be modeled by the church planter, not only taught.

***In the next article we will continue with Step 2. 

 

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Lord, Teach us to Pray

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. He said to them, When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:1-4)

By Emily Armstrong

I think that we can all agree that Jesus was a pretty excellent teacher.  After all, he always had hundreds or thousands of people following him, hanging on his every word.  He told lots of good stories and lived out exactly what he taught.  This teacher was also a prayer warrior, and I think it was wise of the disciples to ask the best teacher ever to teach them how to pray (v. 1). Can you imagine getting lessons in prayer from Jesus?!?  Prayer is simply an act of talking to God, and Jesus couldn’t get enough of it.

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Why is it so hard for us to pray?  I think it’s because we still think there is only one way to do it – locking yourself in your dark closet and pouring your heart out to God for at least an hour every day.  At this point in my life, I don’t even have an hour to sit down and eat lunch, let alone lock myself in a dark closet.  I’ve found that having short times of prayer with God throughout the day has helped me remain consistent in my prayer life.  Almost every day I have one main time of prayer, when I journal my thoughts, dreams, hopes, requests.  This is my really focused time of prayer, and I’ve found that sitting down with my journal and pen really helps me block out the other distractions around me.  BUT, I don’t just leave my prayer life once the journal is closed.  All throughout the day, if I think about something that I need to pray about, I’ll stop and pray a 30 second prayer.  Keeping prayer as a constant staple at all hours has helped me to keep focused on God throughout the day.

If you need to establish a better prayer life, the best thing to do is start small.  Give God a few minutes every day and pretty soon you’ll start to realize that you can’t get enough of it – just like Jesus.

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong.  

Seek Peace for the City

By Claudia Cruz Martinez

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5,7

29171.jpgI have missionary friends who live in Mexico, and none of them have thought about changing their citizenship.   They are officially temporary residents.  They’ve built houses and planted fruit trees on the properties where they live.  Their children study at the schools in their cities. Societal and political problems affect them, even though they are not Mexican.  They wish that the cities were safer, that there would be less trash, that the roads would be in better shape, and that there would be less delinquency and corruption.  I have never seen them close their eyes to the social problems of this country, and I have never seen them indifferent to its needs.  They have always felt like one of us, but they know that Mexico is only their temporary residency.  It does not mean that they are anxiously awaiting a chance to return to their countries, but they are certain that God could take them to another country or send them back to their own nation.

God spoke his word through Jeremiah to a people who had been exiled from Jerusalem and taken as captives to Babylon. His advice was that they do everything necessary to live as residents because they would be there for a long time (70 years, according to Jer. 29:10 and Jer. 25:15). On top of that, they should seek peace for Babylon and intercede for the nation, because their own well-being depended on the security of Babylon.

As Christians, we know that we are foreigners on this earth, and that our presence here is temporary.  Still, we enjoy life, and make an effort to live in a way that reflects the eternal.  We cannot close our eyes to the needs of people around us.  We must not be indifferent to caring for creation, since God designed this place for us.  We cannot act as if we do not care for the hundreds of missing people, or the countless robberies and murders.  We must not be indifferent! If the city is unsafe, we also feel unsafe.

Wherever we live, we must long to see people reconciled to God. Jeremiah’s counsel is for us today as well: we must intercede and seek peace for our city.

*Claudia Cruz serves as the youth pastor in the Betania Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is also the Global Mission Coordinator for the Mexico Field.

Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019

From February 24 to March 2, 2019, Nazarenes will be interceding for different requests! Join us in prayer!

And as you pray throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, remember that God is present and active! Our prayer requests simply encourage us to join Him in His redemptive purposes in the world. Pray faithfully! Pray passionately!

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Too often, when we pass through troubled and challenging times, we forget all that we have enjoyed by God’s good grace, and turn our focus inward, thinking only of our own present trials. When facing our troubled or uncertain times, turn our focus to others who “have no hope, and are without God in this world,” and those who are seeking to bring hope, and point to the God of hope and peace.

Remember our missionaries and the work of the church throughout the year in prayer. Many are often facing challenging times in the places in which they serve. They seek to be peacemakers and agents of transformation. They need your support through intercession.

Throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, we are partners together with God through prayer!

Click the following link to download the prayer guide: Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019