Chris Heinz's Posts (13)

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What I Learned from a Kitchen Worker in Paris

As we go about our work day, we might learn from an uneducated worker named Brother Lawrence. When Brother Lawrence joined a monastery in Paris in the 1600’s, he wasn’t educated enough to become an official clergyman, so he went about serving in the monastery. For the rest of his life, he worked in the kitchen and repaired sandals. But it washow he went about his work that was remarkable.

Brother Lawrence had an extraordinary peace about him, which blanketed him with otherworldly wisdom, and as a result, people came to the monastery to meet with him, the lowly kitchen help. “How to have such lasting peace?” they would ask.

Eventually the letters he wrote to seekers and the conversations he had with them, made their way into a book, which was compiled by the vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris. Later, influential leaders like John Wesley and A.W. Tozer recommended it, and “The Practice Presence of the Presence of God” became a classic in Christian literature.

So what set Brother Lawrence apart from his fellow clergymen and planted within him such riches that even poor and uneducated as he was, he soared to heights seen by but a few men, and became a sage to generations?

Brother Lawrence learned how to practice the presence of God.

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He writes,

It was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.

In other words, there are no strict times of prayer and strict times of work. We do not exit one activity and resume another. Prayer and work should happen concurrently, are inseparable, one the dance step and the other the music. Prayer and work belong together. Brother Lawrence prayed as he worked, or was it that he worked as he prayed? It doesn’t matter…he didn’t separate his life into categories that we so often and easily do.

I wonder if the separations we make, actually separate us from God, when all along God wants to tear down those walls, the walls we build between prayer and work, God and work, God’s work in us and our work for God. How can we be friends of God if we’ve erected such barricades?

There was a moment in Jesus’ ministry when he told his disciples,

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

The disciples weren’t servants anymore; they had become friends. How? By spending enough time with Jesus that he taught them everything he had learned from his Father. How did they spend enough time with him? By going with Jesus from town to town.

The disciples were around for the big ministry moments—the preaching to the crowds, the healing of infirmities, the raising of the dead. But spending time with Jesus was not all crusades and miracles. It included some very common moments—walking from town to town, eating quiet and lowly meals, the minutes before falling asleep with no place to lay your head. Working together.

So what if you connected with God at work? What if you practiced the presence of God at your workplace, and instead of starting prayer and stopping prayer and starting work and stopping work, your works and your prayers were all twisted up in a big ball of twine so that neither could be separated from the other? Would you be a friend of God then?

Just like a lowly kitchen worker from Paris was.

P.S. I write about this type of prayer in Made To Pray.

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The First Thing I Do At Work

I start my work day the same way every day–I pray. And not just any prayer. I pray the same thing every day.

It hasn’t always been like this. Before I would switch on my computer, look at my calendar, check my emails, and do whatever came next. But now I pray to start my day. And I’m so glad I do.

Before I share the prayer, let me mention the difference it’s made for me.

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First Allegiance

Beginning work with prayer reminds me of my first allegiance. One can feel pulled in many directions at work. There can be many people to please. You can feel like you’re losing yourself. But when I pray to start the day, it settles my soul. I know who I belong to. I know who I’m serving. It feels right to give my work day to Christ.

Receiving from God

Starting with prayer also positions me to receive from God. I don’t have to solve problems and save the world all by myself. Prayer enlists heavenly resources. I believe I’m a better employee when I ask God for help. It’s kind of foolish not to. I mean, God created the universe, why not ask God for help? That’s leaving a lot of resources at the door.

Full-time Faith

It also unites my faith with my work. How often am I a Christian? 100% of the time. Praying at work is a way for me to remain active in my faith all the time. But if I left Christ at the door, consider this. A 40-hour work week is about 50% of my waking hours. So if I slough off faith at work, that’s 50% of my week.

Starting my work day with prayer connects me with Christ and invigorates me to tackle anything that comes my way. It’s become a habit I can’t work without.

Here’s my daily prayer to start the work day, which takes 1-2 minutes to pray, but reaps great rewards:

"Jesus, thank you for this work day. There are many people without work, and I count it as your favor that you’ve blessed me with this job. Today I want to honor you at my workplace. Give me a clear mind and solid understanding to make wise decisions. Thank you for the people I’ll interact with today. Help me to love them as you love them and see them through your eyes.

“I want to be a good steward of my time. Help me to be productive and remember that if no one else is watching me, you still are. Thank you for the measure of responsibility and influence you’ve given me at work. Help me to use it for your purposes. Thank you for my authorities, who are trusting me with this job. Bless them, grant them guidance, and keep them safe.

“I want to be a peacemaker today, not causing division, strife, or gossip. Help me to walk in peace with others, myself, and you. Instead of becoming anxious about challenges, help me to see them as opportunities to go to you and grow in you. As I work today, may I continue to abide in you. Don’t let my abilities or resources keep me from you because truly apart from you I can do nothing.

Jesus, now to you be all glory and power today and forever, in your name I pray.”

I encourage you to start your work day with prayer. If you want to use this prayer, you can download it now.

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Introducing New Blog at www.PrayerAtWork.com

As the VP of Marketing and Company Chaplain for EnergyCAP, Inc., I have an exciting announcement—today we launched a new blog at www.PrayerAtWork.com with weekly emails to encourage you to connect with God at your workplace.

Nowadays, we’re more connected than ever. We don’t have to be in the same office with coworkers or be face-to-face with clients to communicate with them. Phones, video chat, email, instant message, text, webinar, and wireless internet access are everywhere. Yes, we’re more connected than ever.

But how’s your connection with God at work? Do you keep your relationship with God going at the office or do you drop him off at the door when you come in?

Let me ask this a different way. How often are you a Christian? Consider this: a 40-hour work week is about 50% of your waking hours. So if you slough off your faith at work, that’s 50% of your week. But connecting with God at work helps you remain active in your faith all the time.

The Bible says that God did not spare his own son on your behalf; he gave his only son for your sake. Did God do this so you could pursue him 50% of the time? Did God give only 50% of Jesus for you?

God gave all of his son for all of you so you could have all of God all of the time. This includes your working hours.

Your faith is too important to leave at home, which is why we launched www.PrayerAtWork.com. We will encourage you to connect with God at work intentionally and consistently. You may be saying, “But I don’t have time for that” or “But you don’t know where I work” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Let us help you. Sign up now for email updates:

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Miss Slowpoke and My Prayer for 2015

Yesterday at the grocery store, the woman in front of me was taking a very long time to check out. I looked for a shorter line, but you know how it goes—the longer you’re in one line, the more committed you feel to riding it out. So I did.

Then I got nosy. Why was she taking such a long time? I leaned in while trying to act undercover, and then I realized what the holdup was. Miss Slowpoke was choosing which items to take off her bill. She had gone over her budget.

So methodically she picked up each item, inspected it, and pronounced her judgment:

“Canned mushrooms – Keep”
“Electronic toothbrush – Go”
“Mozzarella cheese – Keep”
“Mustache wax – Go”

And so forth. It was painful. But it got me thinking about God, specifically delighting in God in 2015.

One of my prayers for the New Year is, “God, become my chief delight.” I’m praying this because right now, he’s not. But I’d like him to be.

The Bible says:

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

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When I read verses like these, I feel disconnected from their sentiments. Sure, I’d like to say they describe me, but in truth, they don’t. No, my soul does not pant for God or thirst for him. It doesn’t yearn, it doesn’t faint, my flesh does not cry out for the living God.

Most of the time I just want to watch TV.

And I’m in good company. A 2014 Barna survey revealed that practicing Protestants watch an average of 3.1 hours per day and practicing Catholics watch 3.5 hours per day. PER DAY! EVERY SINGLE DAY! That’s a lot of time.

But our time is driven by our delight. We do what we desire. Which brings me back to Miss Slowpoke. Today there are so many options for picking and choosing our delights. So many gems catch our fancy, we’ve never had so many options in life—television, tweeting, gaming, taxidermy. But there can only be one chief delight.

Perhaps God hasn’t become that because I haven’t let him. I haven’t turned my time over to him, haven’t waited on him, haven’t stoked my desire for him. Perhaps my view of God is too limited because I don’t expect him to become my heart’s true desire.

So God, become my chief delight. (And may he become yours, and even you, Miss Slowpoke.)

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Give God Your Brokenness

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34.18)

Once there was a man, and he had a broken heart. He heard God was coming to dinner. So he gathered the shards of his scattered heart and taped them together. He hoped the adhesive would hold.

After all, when God comes to dinner, you have to put yourself together (at least he thought).

The man made it through the greeting and the first course. He made it halfway through the second. But it was too much to hide. The man’s hobbled heart wasn’t holding.

So he said, “I have something to tell you. My heart is broken, see.” And he placed the pieces on the table. “You can leave if you want to.”

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God placed his hand on the broken pieces and said, “I knew it was broken. That’s why I came.”

The man began to cry. “But God,” the man said, “Why didn’t you say something?”

“Because,” God said, “you needed to tell me first. That’s how the healing begins.”

And the man began to heal.

Give your broken pieces to God so he can heal you. Lay them out; don’t be ashamed. It’s for healing that he comes near, so he can put the pieces together.

Let’s pray: “God, your word says you’re close to the brokenhearted. I give you my shards and my pieces and ask you to make something beautiful from them.”

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Keep Prayer Simple

The following is from my upcoming book, One-Minute Devotions on Prayer:

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they’ll be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

When teaching about prayer, Jesus instructs us to keep prayer simple. But how easy it is to complicate! We worry about placing the “right” words in the “right” places, saying holy statements that sound good, not praying for too long or too short—oh my, what’s the right amount of time?

And as a result, we stress about prayer like we’re being judged by our performance. But all along, Jesus wants us to keep our prayers simple. He’s not impressed by bigger words, longer prayers, or professional-sounding speech. And he’s not turned off by our ums, uhs or stutters. Why?

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Because Jesus is more interested in you! When I’m with my children, I’m not judging their speech or critiquing the conversation. Instead, I’m listening to them and enjoying my time with them.

Did you ever notice that the better you get to know someone, the simpler the conversation gets? We tend to be more formal with strangers and less formal with our friends and family. Jesus says it’s the pagans—those who don’t know

Jesus—who babble on. But the ones who know him—those he calls family—have no need for complexity.

Let’s pray: “Jesus, thank you that we’re family and prayer can be simple. Help me to relax when I pray and know that most of all, you’re interested in me.”

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7 Things to Pray for Emerging Leaders

I recently participated in the National Prayer Assembly hosted by America’s National Prayer Committee and was asked to lead prayer for emerging leaders. I think of an emerging leader as one whom God is lining up to lead. It’s not a distinction of chronological age, but rather the work of God–children and youth can be emerging leaders as well as older people. It depends on whom God is in the midst of preparing to release into leadership.

We must be praying for these people now. Here are seven things to pray for emerging leaders:

Pray that emerging leaders will have strong relationships with God that produce supernatural work far exceeding what the leaders can accomplish by their own giftedness.
Leaders’ authority and ability to lead comes primarily from a vibrant relationship with God, not from talent, knowledge, or spiritual gifting. Leaders partner with God to accomplish the impossible and aren’t satisfied doing even amazing work that comes from their own hands. They exceed their natural potential by working together with God in accordance with his will. Most of the amazing work done in our world was done on natural ability alone, so imagine what’s possible when we partner with God.

Pray that emerging leaders will be students of God’s word so they can discern God’s will, stay free from deception, and not be swayed by cultural shifts.
The leader is a student of the Bible who studies it often to stay grounded in God’s ways. Without a firm foundation, the leader can be deceived and in turn deceive followers. Therefore, the leader is committed to being shaped by God’s word so he can discern God’s will. As the culture continues to shift away from biblical values, it’s vital to stay grounded in God’s word.

Pray that emerging leaders will value character more than results.
The leader has a deep, godly character and good reputation. The fruit of the Spirit is evident in his life. He values the development of character over the attainment of results. He is beyond accusation of immoral behavior and surrounds himself with accountable relationships to protect personal integrity. It’s an easy temptation for leaders to value what they’re doing more than who they’re becoming.

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Pray that emerging leaders will be devoted to personal and corporate prayer.
Not just giving lip service to prayer, the leader is devoted to personal and corporate prayer. He prays through decisions to seek God’s guidance and friendship and prays with others on a regular basis. Prayer is not practiced as an “obligation” or “best practice,” but as a passionate desire of a sincere heart. Prayer is the root of your relationship with God, so a strong prayer life will yield a strong life in God.

Pray that emerging leaders will be committed to marriage and family before work and ministry.
If leaders are married and have children, they’re committed to building strong marriages and families before work and ministry. Their spouses feel like they’re the most important person in their life. They raise children to love God. And they encourage others to do the same. Disintegration of marriage and family is a battle that leaders must overcome.

Pray that emerging leaders will be able to lead from faith and sight.
Leaders are called to live by faith, which is what they don’t yet see manifested. At the same time, they have to work from sight, which is the current manifested reality. They motivate others to see the future vision, but work well with what they have now. Leaders can lead from both realms. We need leaders who can see by faith, but practically can lead until what was faith becomes sight.

Pray that emerging leaders will build a successful team and use technology well.
Leaders who can build successful teams accomplish better work than on their own. They know their strengths and weaknesses and enlist others to fill in the gaps. Leaders aren’t just interested in finishing the project, but building up the people involved. They also have a good handle on technology and rather than being mastered by it, can master it. As online accessibility, information, and technology increases, an independent spirit in leaders can stifle teamwork.

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“The will of the one who sent us is that we be the one who was sent. What we do is meant to be lived out of the context of discovering and becoming the person we are.” (Robert Benson, Between the Dreaming and the Coming True)

Mount Nittany is the highest place in our city. When I look across the valley from up there, I see homes, businesses, and schools; I see bars, streets, and stadiums; and I see cars on the highway and planes in the sky. And I wonder about the peoples’ lives.

How many want something more? How many go to church, but sit quietly in their pews, have given up on reaching their neighbors, and simply work their jobs and go home to watch television? They don’t go beyond their own lives and their families.

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But in faith I see something more—I see city-wide pray-ers. Even if they don’t yet see themselves that way. But that’s why I see it in faith. Faith enables us to believe while we wait for the reality to manifest.

Now imagine identifying the spiritual strongholds of a city, say loneliness or poverty. According to Ed Silvoso in That None Shall Perish, a spiritual stronghold is “a mind-set impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as unchangeable, situations that we know are contrary to the Will of God.” Strongholds are spiritual in origin but have natural consequences. A stronghold of loneliness might cause binge drinking or sexual promiscuity, for example.

When individual pray-ers in a city learn their best prayer types and begin to practice them with authority, they grow in their walk with God. Not only that, they begin to talk with God about their neighbors and begin walking through open doors to minister to them. But not only that, when people join prayers for the city, they confront strongholds with great force and agreement and reestablish the city on God.

People from all over the city come together, praying in their particular voices. There are thanksgiving pray-ers and warfare pray-ers and intercessors. The Bible is prayed and so is praise and also confession, all united in agreement prayer. This is a true concert of prayer!

Before they learned their prayer types, they never saw themselves as city pray-ers. They were living their solitary lives in boredom and frustration, wanting to be part of something more but not knowing how or what. But now they take their place in bringing God’s kingdom to the city. And when the city is changed, the nation can be changed and the ends of the earth. How does this happen? By one prayer at a time, and one person at a time.

City-wide prayer is strengthened and widened when individual pray-ers find their best prayer types and join them on behalf of the city.

It may be by faith, but when I look across the city, I see the people of God, a spiritual house, a royal priesthood. I see prayers on their hearts, waiting to be prayed. I see angels at attention, waiting to be dispatched. I see miracles on hold, waiting to be performed. They’re all across the city, just waiting to be released.

They’re waiting for the ones who were sent to become the ones they are.

Find your own best prayer types through Made To Pray.

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That Time I Drove Into A Ditch

I’ve done some stupid things while visiting my in-laws.

The first time I met Jean and Jeannine, I broke their door, their vacuum cleaner, and dropped their camera in the snow. That night I asked Jean for Colette’s hand in marriage. He answered, “I think you should wait longer.” (By longer, I think he meant forever). Sorry Jean.

At my in-laws house, I’ve caused false 911 calls, fallen off motorcycles, and gotten sick on bike rides, but this one tops them all.

At a recent visit, we hugged goodbye and were off. Colette’s parents live on a main road and we had to stop at a store first, which meant we would pass by their house on the way out. We did our shopping and settled into our long drive.

But as we neared their house, Jeannine was standing by the road. Oh that’s nice, she’s waiving goodbye. Wait, she’s not waiving goodbye, she’s waiving to stop, she has something in her hand. So I hit the brakes and pulled over to the shoulder. And into a ditch.

The back tire lifted off the ground as we sat nose deep in the neighbor’s yard. My daughter started to cry. My boys froze in silence. Colette, well, let’s not say what Colette did.

We were five minutes into a ten-hour drive and daddy had driven into a ditch. Now that’s a stupid thing to do.

Here’s another stupid thing – ignoring prayer because you’re busy in ministry. (I’ve done this stupid thing, too). Your wheels get turning and everything’s going so well, so you stop praying. But prayer is where ministry is made. Now by ministry, I mean the work you do to glorify God.

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In the Bible, prayer is central to ministry. Jesus prayed before choosing the Twelve. Who would the twelve disciples become? The founding members of the Church that became a worldwide, enduring movement. The Apostle Paul went on his missionary trip as a result of prayer. What difference did Paul make? He wrote most of the New Testament and catalyzed the church planting movement. So this is true—Jesus and Paul’s first ministry was prayer.

While prayer is God’s work in you, prayer is your chief work. It’s easy to make ministry the chief work, but this is backward. Instead, prayer is where ministry is made.

Until you treat prayer as your main ministry, your activities will only be fractionally as powerful and successful as their potential. You may accomplish much on your own, but what if you’re settling for a shadow of what God intends?

So don’t promise God to people, but only give them you. Birth your ministry in prayer and sustain it by prayer. That’s a way to avoid being stupid.

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The Mistake Pastors Make About Prayer

I’ve been around churches, ministries, and Christian conferences for most of my life, and I’ve had many awesome leaders in that time. One quality was pretty consistent among my leaders—dedication to prayer. They wanted to pray and they wanted us to pray. For that, I’m grateful.

However, there’s one fundamental mistake many of them made about prayer—they challenged us to pray without training us how to pray. And during certain seasons, they called us to pray even more, but didn’t help us to pray more.

The teaching about why we should pray wasn’t met with teaching about how to pray. We tackled the “why” of prayer without tackling the “how” of prayer.

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This is like telling your sixteen year-old daughter, “Just drive more” instead of first teaching her how to drive.

She won’t become a lifetime driver without instruction. Your teen doesn’t primarily need to hear all the good and sensible reasons why driving is a good idea—she needs to learn how to drive, and let that experience teach her why.

One day Jesus was praying while his disciples were nearby. When Jesus finished, one of them said, “LORD, teach us to pray.”

So Jesus began to teach them, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11)

Did Jesus start with why they should pray? No, Jesus began with how to pray. The disciples had been around Jesus long enough to know that prayer was important, and at a disciple’s request, Jesus taught them how to pray.

Yes, we need a theology of prayer that emphasizes why we pray. But often leaders fall short in raising up praying people because they set a vision for prayer without setting a school for prayer. They challenge without equipping, they tell instead of train.

So when it comes to prayer, most leaders concentrate on the why and neglect thehow, then they wonder why more people don’t attend their prayer meetings. But it’s time the how of prayer takes its place beside the why of prayer.

If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to put prayer training in place. I guarantee it’ll enhance the life of your church or ministry. If you’re part of a church or ministry, start requesting prayer training or seek your own out. If we approached the how of prayer, I think we’d all be grateful.

PS: If you’re looking for a practical way to train people in how to pray, check out Made To Pray: How To Find Your Best Prayer Types. Use promotional codehowtopray to receive a discount.

PPS: I’m available to help your church or ministry move to the next level of prayer. Contact me to get the conversation going.

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12 Different Types of Prayer

When I discovered different ways to pray, I was really excited. Prayer had become stale and stagnant to me, an obligation not an inspiration.

This discovery opened up the heavens. I don’t know if I so much found them as they found me. They were in the Bible the entire time. I just needed eyes to see them.

What does this mean?

  • There are lots of possibilities for prayer.
  • We don’t have to pray like other people.
  • We can find the prayer types that work best for us.
  • We can pray our own prayers.

This is what I saw.

When you read the letters of the apostle Paul, you see that he’s exceedingly thankful. Time and again, Paul begins his letters with thanksgiving:

  • “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Romans 1:8).
  • “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
  • “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).

Of the thirteen letters that are normally attributed to Paul, he’s thankful in ten of them. But if you read other biblical writers, they don’t sound the same.

Instead of thanks, David offers praise:

  • “O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
  • “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2).
  • “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1–2).

And instead of offering praise, Joshua prays God’s Word. His instructions for bringing the Israelites to the Promised Land were,

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you maybe be careful to do everything written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)

And with these new eyes, I saw 12 different types of prayer.

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Here are 12 different types of prayer and a step to begin finding your best prayer types.

Agreement
Definition: Multiple believers agreeing on earth with what heaven is saying
Bible character: Acts church
Verse: Matthew 18:19-20

Confession
Definition: Acknowledging your sin to God, and then celebrating the forgiveness you have received
Bible character: David
Verse: Psalm 51:2-3

Fellowship
Definition: Spending time with God in an activity that is not traditionally sacred or prayerful
Bible character: Adam and Eve
Verse: Genesis 3:8

Intercession
Definition: God leading you to pray for the needs of a person, place, or cause
Bible character: Anna
Verse: Luke 2:37

Listening
Definition: Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening for him
Bible character: Mary of Bethany
Verse: Psalm 46:10

Petition
Definition: Seeing a need and praying for it
Bible character: Leper and centurion
Verse: Luke 11:9

Praise
Definition: Declaring the truth about who God is, what he has done, or what he has promised to do
Bible character: Peter
Verse: Psalm 150:6

Praying the Bible
Definition: Praying the words of the Bible as your prayer
Bible character: Joshua
Verse: Joshua 1:8

Praying in Tongues
Definition: Praying in a personal spiritual language that edifies you and your relationship with God
Bible character: Paul
Verse: 1 Corinthians 14:14

Prophetic
Definition: Receiving a message from God for someone else
Bible character: Jeremiah
Verse: Jeremiah 1:7

Thanksgiving
Definition: Offering thanks to God
Bible character: Paul
Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Warfare
Definition: Confronting the kingdom of Satan with the weapons of God’s kingdom
Bible character: The seventy-two others
Verse: Ephesians 6:12

Find your best prayer types at www.MadeToPray.com.

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A Vision for Prayer

Although he was the Son of God, Jesus had a clear vision for prayer.

The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ prayer life. One particular night after he started his public ministry, Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people. But he went alone up the mountain and spent the whole night in prayer. The next morning, he acted upon the result of his prayer time—he chose twelve from among the multitude to be his close disciples (Luke 6:12).

Luke 9:18 says Jesus prayed in private. Luke 9:28 says that Jesus took three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—up a mountain in order to pray. And in Luke 11:1, Jesus was praying near his disciples and after he finished, one of them said, “LORD, teach us to pray.” This disciple had observed Jesus’ vision for prayer and wanted to grow in prayer.

In his classic book about spiritual disciplines called Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives.” Do you have a vision for prayer? Would you be the one disciple who says, “LORD, teach us to pray?”

Learning to pray begins with a clear vision for prayer. Here are four helpful ways to think about prayer:

Prayer is the root of your relationship with God.
The heart of a person’s relationship with God is his or her prayer life. Says Foster, “Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.” Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re closely connected with God. Have you ever known a man and woman who were married on paper, but not really connected in relationship? They were legally married, but didn’t function relationally as married people.

The same can happen with God. You may have already confessed to God your sinfulness and asked Jesus to be your Savior. In that moment, you were justified—made right—in God’s eyes. The blood of Jesus bought you for God and you became a child of God. This, like marriage, was a legal transaction, but like marriage, the legal position doesn’t guarantee intimacy. Intimacy has to be built; intimacy has to grow. Prayer is a primary way to build intimacy with God, which is why prayer is the root of your relationship with him.

Prayer is a means of God’s grace.
Foster writes, “Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.” You can see how important prayer is to spiritual development. If you avoid prayer, you cut yourself off from the central flow that is meant to transform you. God didn’t bring you into his kingdom to leave you the same. He loves you as you are, but he has great plans for you, bigger plans than you can imagine. And he didn’t save you so you could pine away for a castle in the clouds. Eternal life began the day you started following Jesus; eternal life began on this earth.

So then, prayer is God’s chief work in you. God’s grace is a combination of his blessing and power. It is God’s grace that changes you so you are not the person you once were. You have grown in love and patience and kindness because of God’s grace chipping and adding, removing and filling in. And it is God’s blessing that has bestowed goodness and gifts upon you so they are too many to count, and if you were able to see them all stacked up, you would be forever overwhelmed. Prayer is a means of God’s grace.

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Prayer is your loving place.
Prayer is God’s most consistent place to love you. What you need is not more knowledge of God’s love, but more encounters with God’s love. You can understand the love of God with your mind, but until you experience God’s love with your heart, you won’t really comprehend it. Consider the orphan. You can adopt him, give him a home, and everyday tell him you love him. But just because you say it doesn’t mean he knows it.

He won’t know he’s loved until he feels he’s loved. Until love captures his heart and kneads its way through, defying firmly-rooted ideas that he deserved to be abandoned or he’s unworthy of love. Regardless of how many times you profess love, it’s like a banging gong or clanging cymbal until he himself feels loved. And that comes only through experience. Prayer is the encounter with God that enables you to feel loved by him. Prayer is where God loves you.

Prayer is where ministry is made.
Prayer is where ministry is made. You see this pattern in the Bible. Jesus prayed before choosing the Twelve. Who would these disciples become? The founding members of the Church that became a worldwide, enduring movement. The Apostle Paul went on his first missionary trip as a result of prayer. What difference did Paul make? He wrote most of the New Testament and catalyzed the church planting movement. Jesus and Paul’s first ministry was prayer.

While prayer is God’s work in you, prayer is your chief work. It’s easy to make ministry the chief work, but this is backward. Instead, prayer is where ministry is made. Until you treat prayer as your main ministry, your activities will only be fractionally as powerful and successful as their potential. You may accomplish much on your own, but what if you’re settling for a shadow of what God intends? Your ideas and abilities aren’t big enough. Don’t promise God to people, but only give them you. Give them God and you, which will come through prayer. Prayer is where ministry is made.

If Jesus had a vision for prayer, maybe we should too.

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