Category Archives: Prayer

Our Ministry Vision … Ten Years Later

In September 2007, I took a few deacons up to the mountains of Idyllwild on a Prayer and Strategic Planning Retreat. We had no elders at the time, so these men were essentially my partners as shepherds and overseers of the local church.

This was a difficult season for our church. Attendance had dwindled down to about 50 people, and we were running a $2,000 monthly deficit. Some were afraid the church would have to close its doors.

During our weekend sitting on those musty couches in the mountain air, we discussed ministry and prayed for the future of our church. We also used the SWOT method to do some strategic planning (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and laid out a long-term vision for the ministry. It was too early to share some of these ambitious goals with the whole congregation, so early on, they were just desires of our heart, expressed through prayer.

I was going through some old files the other day, and came across the notes from that meeting. Now, exactly ten years later, I’m overwhelmed to see God’s goodness and the fruit of those prayers. With nearly every item on our list, the Lord either met or exceeded our expectations.

Goal: Be using present facility at full potential or already in new building across the street.

Ten Years Later: Our auditorium has reached full capacity, and we are in the process of renovations and expansions.

Goal: Deeper exposition of God’s Word at all levels, in all classes and worship services.

Ten Years Later: God has given our church a hunger for God’s word, and continues to grow me as an expositor. We have studied together the Gospel of John, 1 Corinthians, Titus, Ecclesiastes, 1 John, the Gospel of Mark, and now Romans. In addition to our online podcast, the Lord recently opened a door for us to broadcast our sermons on the local radio station Z107.7 every Sunday morning at 8:30.

Goal: Possible classical school.

Ten Years Later: This is the one item on our list that received very little attention. But we are blessed to see many more families and children attending our services.

Goal: Possible Bible institute of some kind, equipping pastors and lay people.

Ten Years Later: The Lord has given us a strategic partnership with California Baptist University to train up young men going into pastoral ministry. We also have a growing list of members who moved on to pursue seminary and vocational ministry.

Goal: That we would radiate Christ, His Gospel, His love, and His book; that there would be an energy, vitality, joy, and excitement, that would be noticeable to others.

Ten Years Later: We continue to be a work in progress, but many people have visited the church and say it is one of the most loving, friendly churches they have ever attended.

Goal: A growing influence on our Inland Empire Association, on other local churches, and on pastors.

Ten Years Later: By God’s grace, I have served on several denominational boards and committees, and was given the opportunity to preside over the Pastor’s Conference several years ago.

Goal: A plurality of elders providing leadership while still retaining some level of congregational involvement; begin to move toward biblical pattern of church polity.

Ten Years Later: In 2015, our church voted unanimously to adopt a biblical polity that involved a plurality of elders. These men are both good friends and wise counselors, and I cannot begin to measure their love for the body of Christ, or the joy of doing ministry together.

What will our ministry look ten years from now? Only the Lord knows! But may we never forget the power of prayer, or the vital role of patience in gospel ministry.

Not of This World

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I just returned from a community prayer gathering in honor of the National Day of Prayer. What a sweet time of intercession it was. I’ve been to many such events in the past, but this was the best attended, and I believe the most fervent. All chairs were occupied, with many others standing under the pavilion. Ten pastors from evangelical churches across the basin led in prayer for the nation, for military, for education, for families, for law enforcement, and more. Then, I was asked to conclude with a final prayer. Here’s the Scripture I read, along with my prayer…

In 1 Peter 2:9-12, the Apostle Peter wrote these words to the believers scattered as exiles across Asia Minor, and to us today:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Dear Father, these verses are a reminder that we are in the world, but not of the world. Some of us here have stickers emblazoned on our car, “NOTW” – Not of This World. But if we were honest, all too often, we think, and speak, and act, as if this world were our home.

Forgive us, Lord, for growing too comfortable in this place. Cleanse our hearts from the complacency, from the distractions, from the mirage of hopes and dreams we placed in this passing world.

O God, we confess that we have laid up too many treasures on earth rather than treasures in heaven. We have concerned ourselves more with our bank accounts than our heavenly inheritance. More with our physical health than our spiritual well-being.

As the culture rapidly changes, perhaps never before have we felt so out of place. We are like fish out of water. Finally, it’s beginning to sink in that we are Not of This World.

We thank you that from the moment we first trusted in Christ, our citizenship was transferred out of this domain of darkness and into the kingdom of your beloved Son. Heaven is our true home, and here in this land, we are just “passing through.”

We thank you for our adoption as sons and daughters, and recognize that we have far more in common with a Christian in Kenya, a Christian in Korea, a Christian in Khazakstan, than we do with an American who lives next door and spurns the name of Christ.

We know you have left us here for a short time, and we feel the same tension of the Apostle Paul, who said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…I am hard pressed in both directions.”

Thank you for this Town of Yucca Valley and the other communities of the Morongo Basin. We lift up to you our federal government, our state government, and our local government. We pray for our non-profit organizations like the Hi Desert Pregnancy Clinic and the Way Station.

And so, Lord, as long as you keep us here on earth, we will pray, and we will work, and we will serve. We will seek to be righteous, respectful, and upstanding citizens in our community, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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A Prayer for our Politicians

FlagsLast night, I was asked to lead the invocation at our Yucca Valley Town Council. Here’s what I prayed for our political leaders.

Sovereign Lord, If we could gather into one great heap all the leaders of this world — kings and congressman, diplomats and dictators.

If we could merge all the economies of this world – farmyards and football stadiums, stock markets and skyscrapers.

Your Word tells us that the sum total of all the nations would be “like a drop from the bucket, and counted as the dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15).

But “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. ” (Psalm 145:3). The greatness of this nation, and the greatness of our town, come from you.

Thank you for the elected leaders who sit before me tonight. Each of them is a “minister of God for our good” (Rom. 13:1).

Give them clarity of mind, compassion of heart, and conviction of spirit to do what is right even when unpopular.

Let them serve with joy as those who must give an account not only to their constituents, but ultimately, to You.

We pray all of this in the name of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, Amen.

Photo credit: Elentari 86

Town Council Prayer

Earlier this month, I was invited by the Town Clerk to give the opening invocation at our Yucca Valley Town Council meeting.

I’m so thankful our local council still recognize the first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion, and the benefit of asking God’s blessing to begin their meetings.

Here was my prayer for our community. I hope it will serve as a model for others who may have the opportunity to lead in public prayer…

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Dear Lord,

Many of us lost cell phone reception earlier today, but we’re thankful the phone line to heaven remains open 24 hours a day. You invite us to come boldly before the throne of grace through your Son Jesus. We have a direct line to our Creator King, and we thank you for that privilege.

Tonight is a wonderful example of the democratic process. We praise you that we live in a country where we can exercise our American rights – electing our representatives, keeping them accountable, and even expressing our opinions in a civil and respectful manner. Preside over this meeting and let wise decisions be made in the interests of all.

We pause also tonight to think of the servicemen and women scattered across the globe, giving up comforts of a soft bed, air conditioning, and being close to family so they can protect our freedom. Let them dwell tonight in the shelter of the Most High.

To you alone be glory, majesty, and dominion, before all time and forevermore. Amen.

A Prayer for our Government

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Tonight I have the privilege of giving the Invocation at our local Town Council meeting. Here’s what I will be praying. Please join me in lifting up our nation and community in prayer…

O God, you are a Father to the fatherless and a Protector of widows.

On this historic election night, we echo the words of the prophet Daniel, who served long ago in the royal palace of Babylon…

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
To whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Almighty God, millions have stepped into the polling booth today, casting their vote and exercising their American right.

We thank you for that privilege and eagerly await the results, knowing full well that YOU are the one who removes kings and sets up kings. You are the architect of history, the invisible hand behind every blessing, the powerful one who can always trump our plans.

Now, as we meet here tonight, we ask that this body would conduct its business with dignity, with fairness, and with compassion for all. You promise to give wisdom to the wise, so we claim that promise now, asking that you would pour out wisdom generously upon us tonight.

To you be all glory. Amen.

Photo credit: Diego Villuendas Pellicero

Does God Answer Prayer from an Unsaved Person?

phoneA friend recently asked me, “Does God answer the prayers of the unsaved (or does He only answer prayers of repentance and conversion)?”

In short, my answer was no — God does not answer prayer from an unsaved person. Here’s why.

Access to God is only possible through Jesus Christ our high priest and mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Hebrews 4:15-16 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

No high priest, no access to God. No access to God, no answered prayer. Those who do not know Christ or possess His Spirit cannot possibly fellowship with God in prayer (Eph. 6:18).

Even for believers, when there is unconfessed sin or selfish motives, prayer becomes powerless. The psalmist writes, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18; cf. 1 Pet. 3:7; James 4:3). If that is true of a believer, how much more for an unbeliever who is still under God’s wrath (John 3:36).

So I believe the first prayer God hears and answers is when a person “calls upon the name of the Lord” in repentance and faith (Acts 2:21). He delights to hear the bleating of a lost sheep and is swift to come to our rescue.

In times of crisis (such as this very day thirteen years ago on 9/11) people do seem to have an instinct to cry out to a higher power for help. Perhaps this is due to God’s law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14) mixed with a bit of superstition. But these prayers only make it to God when they are made humbly in the name of His Son Jesus, beginning with a cry for forgiveness and eternal life.

Sadly, all other prayer — no matter how sincere — is just idolatry to a god of their own imagination (Ps. 115:3-8).

Photo credit: Curtis Perry

Teach Us to Pray

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As Jesus whispered “Amen” and opened his eyes, his disciples were already standing there with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

There are many topics we need to cover in leadership development, but prayer is one of the most critical. Apparently, John the Baptist taught his followers to pray, and now Jesus’ disciples want a piece of the action too. Are we modeling prayer to our people? Are we teaching them how to pray, and giving them opportunities to practice this spiritual discipline?

More broadly, this story reveals five essential elements of discipleship. All leadership development must be…

  • Didactic. A disciple (Gk. mathetes) is fundamentally a “student” or “follower.” A learner must hear and grasp content. He must be taught. Jesus granted his disciples’ request by teaching them information. He took words and ideas and organized them into logical sentences and paragraphs to convey truth. We must do the same, with structure and order to what we teach our disciples.
  • Relational. Discipleship is more than just transmitting information. It involves people, and must be in the context of loving relationships. It was only after spending time with Jesus and seeing him pray that his disciples even thought to ask the question “teach us to pray.” They spent much time eating together, talking together, doing ministry together, and seeing how a biblical worldview operates in the milieu of everyday life. Likewise, we must be selective with our time and make sure we are accessible to those we are equipping.
  • Conversational. I love the question-and-answer format of this passage in Luke 11. Sure, there are extended sermons in the Gospels and Acts, but much of the teaching of the New Testament was in the form of dialogue. Jesus talked with his disciples, not just at them. He asked them questions and invited them to do the same. (Cf. Paul’s method in Acts 17:2, 17). A good mentor will look for teachable moments and learn to draw out even the quietest students through intentional conversations.
  • Practical. When the disciples asked “teach us to pray,” they weren’t saying, “teach us the importance of prayer.” They knew that already. They were begging Jesus to teach them how to pray. They wanted practical help in the labor of prayer. And that is precisely what Jesus gave them: specific instructions in the kind of balanced prayer that God answers.
  • Patient. A student will rarely master content the first time around. It can take days, weeks, or even years, to understand and put into practice what was taught. This is due to a variety of reasons including the process of human memory, frequent distractions, and just plain hardheartedness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples had the perfect opportunity to apply Christ’s teaching on prayer, yet instead they were “sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Nevertheless, a short time later, we find these same men gathered together, “devoted to … prayers” (Acts 2:42). Yes! They were finally getting it! By the time we get to the epistles of John and Peter, we discover beautiful examples of bold prayer in the Spirit (1 Peter 1:3-5; 5:10-11; 1 John 5:14). Teaching requires patience, lest we grow discouraged by the early failures of our learners. But in the end, we can expect steady and marked progress. A disciple, when he is fully trained, will become like his teacher (Lk. 6:40).

Question: Who has been an example and inspiration to you in prayer? What lessons did you learn? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

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An Election Day Prayer

Our church prayed this prayer together on Sunday, November 4, in preparation for Tuesday’s election…

You are King of Kings, and You are Lord of Lords.
Your Name O God is matchless.
You are the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

You are in charge of the galaxies that swirl around our universe
and You are in charge of the tiniest molecules and atoms.

God, we know that all of our days hang in your balance.
We know that kings are raised up by You, and that other kings are torn down.

Lord, we are blessed and we are thankful today to live in a free country.
We have the privilege — unlike the majority of this world —
We have the privilege to cast our vote for
Who will be the next President of the United States
And to elect leaders over our Congress, our State legislature,
Our local Town Council, judges, and police force.

We have the privilege and duty to share our voice.

But we know that you are the One who is ultimately in charge,
So we come humbly this morning before You.
You are so great, and we are so small.
We are thankful for this country,
And we pray that You would keep Your hand upon us.

Father, You tell us in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for our leaders —
To pray for our kings and all of those who are in authority
That we would be able to live a peaceful and quiet life
So that the Word of God can spread

We pray Lord that You would preserve the peace and
The religious freedom that we have in this country.
We feel that the days are evil, and that the time may come where
We will be persecuted for gathering like we are this morning.
We pray that that would not be the case,
And we pray for all of our brothers and sisters scattered across the world
Who already face those kinds of difficult choices of where and when to meet to worship You.

God, we commit America to You.
We pray that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray that You would give us hearts of compassion for the needy,
Hearts of jealousy for Your name.
We pray that the laws and leaders of this land would defend justice,
And love mercy, and walk humbly in the sight of God.

God, we pray that You would show Your grace,
And Your favor, and Your kindness
And that You would do what is most needed:
That You would bring revival in this land
Lord, cause an awakening, perhaps through this hurricane,
Perhaps through other crises in people’s lives.

Lord, these are dark, dark days. We need only turn on the television
To be reminded how sinful and desperately wicked we are.
We don’t deserve Your love, but You have been so patient with us.
We pray You would bring a spiritual awakening to our land.
Let it start right here in Yucca Valley, California
And through other evangelical churches
And through disaster relief efforts going on right now.

Lord, heal our land. We pray for Your name to be glorified.
We pray for Your will to be done.
We pray that whatever the results, that we would rest in Your sovereignty.
Help us be careful, because we know people will be watching how we react this week.

Help us never to damage our witness.
We’re concerned first and foremost that people come to know Jesus.
You left us on this earth not to have a perfect government now.
You left us here to share the gospel with those who still are lost.

So we pray O Lord that You would guard our hearts and minds.
Knit us together to trust in You.
And we pray Lord that Your will would be done.
We surrender to it.

We pray in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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