7 Quotes on Prayer by from “Mountain Rain”


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James O Fraser was a missionary to China in the early 20th Century. His story is one of powerful prayer, determined devotion, and sacrificial service. The book Mountain Rain tells the story of his life and ministry and is an incredible testimony that will inspire everyone who reads it not just to pray more but to be more expectant in prayer! I was challenged by James’ passionate prayers and felt that the best way to communicate that would be to share some of his thoughts on prayer. So here are seven excerpts from the book about his view of prayer.

1. On his desire for the Lisu people in China to come to faith

God is leading me onward and I am quite hopeful. I do not intend to be in too much of a hurry, and yet I will cry to God for a blessed work of grace among the Lisu as long as He lends me breath. (95)

2. On asking God what his will is

Do we spend much time waiting upon God to know His will before attempting to embark on His promises? (100)

3. On the Value of Unanswered Prayer

Unanswered prayers have taught me to seek the Lord’s will instead of my own. (101)

4. On Feeling God was asking him to ask in faith.

This is just what God seemed to be saying to me then: “Ask Me properly.” As much as to say, “You have been asking Me to do this for the last four years without ever really believing that I would do it: Now ask in faith.” (104)

5. On Praying “If it be thy will.”

The constant prefixing of “if it be thy will” to our prayers is often a mere subterfuge of unbelief. True submission to God is not inconsistent with…boldness. (107)

6. On the place of prayer in successful work.

Here we see God’s way of success in our work, whatever it may be — a trinity of prayer, faith, and patience. (120)

7. On the primacy of prayer.

I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that prayer should have the first, second and third place and teaching the fourth. (208)

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Fellow-Workers in The Great Harvest: Baxter on Matthew 9:37-38


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest
.”
—Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The harvest is great, the labourers are few; the loiterers and hinderers are many, the souls of men are precious, the misery of sinners is great, and the everlasting misery to which they are near is greater, the joys of heaven are inconceivable, the comfort of a faithful minister is not small, the joy of extensive success will be a full reward. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is no little honour; to subserve the blood-shedding of Christ for men’s salvation is not a light thing.

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—Richard Baxter, in The Reformed Pastor, p. 202.

Do we really believe this? And would we live differently, prioritize different things, and see different outcomes in our lives if so? Hard questions and much-needed exhortation from Baxter to us today.

Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13


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Next up for Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13!

In the ESV, Romans 15:13 says:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Why I pray this verse: In this case I was looking for a verse to pray specifically for my wife, Lauren. Many godly men set the example in my life of having specific verses that they regularly prayed for their wives and for their family. Finding myself young and without wife, I also did not have verses I was praying for my wife. I mean, I didn’t even know who she was yet! But the more I saw these men pray for their wives the more the conviction grew that this was something I wanted to imitate and put into practice. (Sidenote: married folks, if this is something that you aren’t already doing, I could not encourage you enough to start it! It’s been an incredible blessing to have a growing list of verses that I have specifically to pray for Lauren.)

I pray this verse for my wife because it has so much in it that I already see in Lauren both in the present and in our future together: she is hopeful, joyous, a woman full of peace and full of the Spirit. But even the most hopeful of us could stand to have some more hope and we all need the Holy Spirit to be the continual fount of that hope! If we look to anything else for hope, it will (eventually) disappoint. Only God will always be faithful and true. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How I pray this verse: An example of praying this verse would look something like this. “God, you are the source of all our hope. Would you fill Lauren and would you fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by your power we would ABOUND in hope and others would see it, experience our hope in you, and be blessed by it. Would those with no hope see the hope we have and ask how we can be as hopeful as we are and would those whose hope is also in you be encouraged.”

Those of you without spouses can use this to pray for anyone-family, friends, neighbors, yourself, etc. I’ve simply mainly used this in praying for my wife up to this point. But those of you with spouses: feel free to steal this one! Or to start your own list!

What verses do you pray for your spouse or those closest to you?

Praying the Promises: Isaiah 33:2


I have shared before on one method of praying through Scripture as a way to focus your attention during prayer and ground prayer in the soil of the Word. This has been a deeply fruitful and rewarding practice for me and I thought I would share a few verses that are personally meaningful that I use specifically in this way.

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Hence I am beginning a Praying the Promises mini-series here on the blog. I have no idea how many of these I might do (though it will probably be at least three or four more…and maybe more depending on how they go!) but I am excited to share these verses. I pray they will either be directly helpful or at least provide a model to use other Scriptures in this way!

The verse I have chosen to begin with is a more recent addition to the verses I pray through like this: Isaiah 33:2. In the ESV, it reads:

O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.

 Why I pray this verse: I was reading through Isaiah for my Old Testament Introduction class last year when I stumbled across this verse. It stood out to me because of some difficulties my family was going through at that time. Without even knowing it, I was looking for a way to express the helplessness and lack of ability I was feeling in my circumstances.

What I love about this verse is that it is an excellent way to begin a specific prayer for help. Praying this verse at the beginning of a request for provision, strength, wisdom, or myriad other topics begins the prayer on a solid foot and helps segue into that next thought. Now, especially when I’m praying for my family, this is one of my go-to verses to begin a prayer with.

How I pray this verse: An example of what this might look like is: “O LORD, please be gracious to me. I wait for you. Please be my strength (in Hebrew, being someone’s “arm” is a metaphor for being their strength or deliverance) every morning, not just when I think that I need you, and be my salvation in the time of trouble. Lord, I’m struggling with…

And that’s it! Now here’s where I put in my plug for Scripture memory. Can you pray this by looking it up in the Bible and praying after you find it? Of course! But how much better to know this or a verse like it intimately and be able to pray it wherever you go? And immediately in response to whatever circumstance comes your way!

I once heard someone define Scripture memory as “a way to give the Holy Spirit a vocabulary to speak to our heart.” While that’s true, I also believe Scripture memory is a way to give us a vocabulary to speak back to God.

So there you have it: the first verse in Praying the Promises.

What verse(s) do you use regularly in your times of prayer?

5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Home” by Marilynne Robinson


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First with Gilead and now with Home, Marilynne Robinson has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors. I might say a bit more about the book in a future upcoming post, so for now I’ll limit myself to blatantly copying an idea for a blog post I’ve seen elsewhere: sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book.

  1. “There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand….If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace.” p. 45
  2. “It expresses the will of God to sustain us in this flesh, in this life. Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” p. 102
  3. “Prayer, you know, you open up your thoughts, and then you can get a clear look at them. No point trying to hide anything. There is a great benefit in anything the Lord asks of us, especially in prayer.” p. 132
  4. “I suspect Scottishness is another name for predestination. It explains everything, more or less.” p. 135
  5. “It is in family that we most often feel the grace of God, His faithfulness. Yes.” p. 183

Who is one of your favorite authors that you’ve been (re?)reading recently? Or a recent discovery you’ve made?

Pray for the Drought (Or What Jonathan Edwards Might Say to Current Californians)


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If you have not heard, California is in the midst of a terrible drought. This is the fourth year of the current drought and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better. The snowpack is at an all-time low, reservoirs and rivers are steadily dropping, and water rationing seems to be on the horizon.

As Christians, what should our response to this kind of situation be? I think that we are right to pray about this and ask God to miraculously intervene. After all, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18, ESV). It is a good thing to pray about our physical world and for our physical needs.

But I think that we should additionally let the physical conditions of the world prompt us to remember the spiritual conditions too. The people who are physically thirsty here in California are spiritually thirsty as well. When we pray for God to pour out rain on our land, will we pray for God to also pour out his Spirit on our people?

In a sermon titled “Praying for the Spirit,” Jonathan Edwards says much the same thing (but better than I could ever phrase it!):

If rain be withheld and there be a drought, everybody is concerned. It is spoken of and lamented how the grass withers, and how the corn dies, and what a poor crop there is like to be; and there is, it may be, a great deal of praying for rain. But there may be a spiritual drought year after year, and not only in their crop, but no harvest at all in spiritual respects. Souls may be generally withering and drying up. And God is not very earnestly sought to, not because God is not as ready to bestow these blessings as the other–for he is, as has been shown, more ready to bestow them…[we must] seek them with vastly greater earnestness and diligence than we do temporal things, they being infinitely more necessary for us and will be so much more profitable to us.”

To clarify, I do not mean to take away from the seriousness of the current physical drought in California. It is a worsening situation that has an incredible direct and indirect impact on millions of people’s lives. But what I do mean to do is bring to our attention how concerned we are for the spiritual climate here in California (and elsewhere). May the lack of rain remind us to pray for the Spirit to be poured out and may the lack of the Spirit remind us to pray for the rains to come and be poured out too. And ultimately, may we simply be reminded to pray.

To Delay to Pray is to Fail to Pray


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“Guard yourselves against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, ‘Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.'”

-Martin Luther

I’ve been too guilty of this sort of thinking lately. “I’ll pray in a bit…just one more news article or funny video.” But the sad reality is that if I delay to pray, 99% of the time I fail to pray! May we guard ourselves vigilantly and dedicate ourselves to worthwhile endeavors instead of distractions that have little value in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it’s good to be informed or entertained…but consider praying first and then doing whatever else is on your plate. Will you regret watching fewer youtube videos today or failing to communicate with your Father?

Prayer as Defined by Tim Keller


The following chart is from Tim Keller's book "Prayer"-I thought I'd share it as a helpful guide in defining specific aspects of what prayer is as well as a preview for the book (as it is a summary of what he teaches in the book itself). Enjoy!

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I’d love to know if anyone has thoughts, pushback, questions, or just really liked it. Anything stand out, for good or for not so good reasons? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Our Father (“Riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer)


A specific example Tim Keller passes on in Prayer of how to transition from reading and meditating on the Word to free-form praying comes from Martin Luther, who

…suggests that after meditating on the Scripture, you should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalizing each one using your own needs and concerns.
-from Prayer p. 93

Keller uses the phrase “Spiritually ‘Riffing’ on the Lord’s Prayer” (which might be my favorite phrase of his ever, for various reasons haha) to describe the process. He suggests that this is a beneficial way to both provide structure to your initial prayers to help focus flighty minds like mine. To be very honest, distracting thoughts have often keep me from beginning or completing times I’ve set aside for prayer and have discouraged me in past pursuits of deeper prayer.

As such, I’ve found this to be an immensely helpful tool to add to my “spiritual tool belt” as it were-and it’s so simple! Who among us doesn’t already know at least most of some version (ESV, KJV, NIV, or a combination) of the Lord’s Prayer by heart? [Incidentally, this is an excellent example of the power memorization of the Word has to impact the other spiritual disciplines.] And who among us couldn’t benefit from implementing the model Jesus gave his disciples in answer to their request to teach them to pray?

Now neither Keller nor Luther (nor I!) are suggesting that this is something you must do every time you pray. To turn this into a law or requirement or “the” way to pray is to miss the point. Instead, it’s offered as a helpful tool. May we avail ourselves of it and other similar tools in our daily prayers.

Bonus Content:

Hillsong Worship’s latest cd has a song based on the Lord’s Prayer. There are plenty of other songs based on it, but I enjoyed listening to this one and thought I’d share it 🙂

Best Book of 2014: Prayer by Tim Keller


In a previous post I promised a review of “Prayer” by Tim Keller, so here it is! But I couldn’t just review it without also listing it as the “Best” book of 2014. A quick definition of what I mean by that: not only was it well written, researched, presented, etc. It was also the most personally impactful book of the year. I enjoyed many other books I’ve read this year, but I was transformed by Keller’s book and for that reason it captures this spot for 2014.

91wDmVN6shLKeller’s newest book “Prayer” is stunning. In the introduction he states that books on prayer seldom “combine the theological, experiential, and methodological all under one cover” (1) and states that he intends to cover all three. A bold aim! And yet he accomplishes it skillfully and excellently.

The book’s structure is fairly simple: Keller moves from the abstract to the concrete, beginning with why we should pray (Desiring Prayer) and moving to what prayer is (Understanding Prayer) and then to practicing prayer (Learning Prayer), growing in prayer (Deepening Prayer) and practical suggestions and ideas for prayer (Doing Prayer).

Throughout the book Keller leads the reader to previous giants of the faith: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, etc. He passes on their insights and teaching on prayer in a summarized and readable (*cough* Owen *cough*) manner, providing access to their works to many who might not otherwise have been able to read them.

An annotated bibliography gives the reader dozens of “next steps” in learning about prayer and the extensive footnotes reflect a level of mastery by Keller of the current and ancient material on prayer that is simply astounding.

So the book has something for everyone. If you have no idea where to begin with prayer, if you are looking for a deepening of your prayer life, or if you are looking for a way to ignite a passion for prayer that you either never have had or have lost, this is the book for you. If someone asked me what the ONE book on prayer is that they needed to read or to give as a resource for someone else, this would be my immediate and excited recommendation.

A final note is that this book has genuinely (already!) changed my prayer life. As someone who tends to live in the realm of the mind, thoughts, facts, and information, prayer has always been a struggle and a weak point where I’ve desired but rarely achieved growth. The methods and the teachings Keller presents in the book have been helpful, but above all else his insistence that prayer is something that must engage the mind AND capture the heart has been incredibly impactful! This book has already been (prayer-)life-changing and I’m sure the insights gleaned and lessons learned will continue to bear fruit in my life and the lives of countless others.

This is my book of the year for 2014, is Keller’s best book so far, and would get six out of five stars if I were able to give it. However you can, get a copy of this book and read it soon!