Wednesday, 22 August 2012

John Stott Prayer - full version


I know I have posted the following prayer of John Stott before - well part of it - but here is the full version for anyone interested

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day
in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day
I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day
you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.
Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.
Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.
Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

Alternatively here is another version, slightly different:

Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, I worship you as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fasting


The following is from an excellent blog by Jim Spiegel about fasting which is a much neglected spiritual discipline. It has always struck me that nobody bats an eyelid at Jesus' teaching on prayer and giving (Matthew 6) but few take much notice of fasting. And yet Jesus gave equal prominence to all three, assuming that each was something that his disciples would practice. "When you pray...fast...give."

Spiegel reminds us that "in recent years have seen a significant increase of interest among evangelicals in spiritual formation.  Authors such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and John Ortberg have led the way in reminding us that personal sanctification is not properly a passive affair.  Spiritual growth demands intentional practice, active exercise of the spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, worship, study, confession, sacrifice, confession, and frugality.  Each of these disciplines is useful for uniting the believer with God and building moral strength.  When used with the proper devotional attitude—aimed at growing in obedience in response to divine grace rather than to earn God’s favor—the spiritual disciplines are extremely powerful.  However, one of the most powerful disciplines remains tragically underappreciated by Christians today:  fasting.

Historically, fasting has been practiced by the great Christian leaders and theologians, including Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Finney.  Biblical figures including Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Paul, Jesus and his disciples fasted as well."

Yet how many Christians do fast today, especially in our Western culture where overindulgence is a normal way of life! Now more than ever we need to develop self-control.

In his blog Spiegel asks some important questions about fasting:

1. What exactly does fasting involve?

Fasting is the intentional abstinence from food, and possibly drink, for the sake of spiritual growth.  It can be extended to other contexts (e.g., technology, recreation, etc.) and can be applied to particular foods (e.g., meat, coffee, sweets, etc.).

2. Why is fasting important?

Regular fasting:  a) builds moral strength (through the practice of self-control), b) trains us to maintain our focus on God through suffering, c) makes a statement of our moral-spiritual earnestness (especially in combination with prayer), and d) reminds us that our bodily comforts are not what is most important.  All of these benefits serve to make the believer more Christ-like in character, which of course leads to many other blessings.

3. What is a good occasion for fasting?

Some common occasions for fasting include:

a) Seeking God’s forgiveness – Lev. 23:27 (Day of Atonement); 1 Sam. 7:2-6 (Israel’s repentance of idol worship); Jonah 3 (the repentance of Ninevah); Acts 9:1-9 (Paul’s repentance)

b) Seeking God’s counsel or blessing – Acts 13:2-3 (the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas); Acts 14:21-23 (Paul and Barnabas’ commissioning of elders at the churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch)

c) Seeking God’s strength – Matt. 4:1-2 (Jesus fasted when “he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil”); Matt. 17:20 & Mark 9:29 (in some manuscripts Jesus says “this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting”).

But it is wise for Christians to fast even aside from these occasions.  Fasting is powerful for building self-control, and we all need to improve in that area.

4. What about the problem of abuses?

Abuse is no argument.  The distortion of a good thing does not justify our throwing it out.  Sex, prayer, worship, and even religion itself are constantly abused, but we don’t properly reject those things.  However, two concerns deserve special attention:

a) Eating disorders:  Those who have had this problem may be advised to avoid fasting for a time, to do so only with strict accountability, or to practice only selective fasting (e.g. refraining from sweets, meats, or other particular foods).

b) Legalism:  We don’t allow legalistic abuses of the other spiritual disciplines to discourage us from practicing them, nor should we when it comes to fasting.  But we should be on our guard against the legalistic mindset and pride which might ensue, especially if we are unique among our friends in fasting.

5. What approach should I take in learning to fast?

Start with short fasts, one or two meals.  Do this dozens of times before going on to longer fasts.  You might want to begin by fasting once monthly and perhaps increase in frequency to 2-4 times per month.  Many people prefer to pray more often while fasting in order to maintain focus and request spiritual strength.  If you get discouraged as you learn to fast, this is normal.  As with all spiritual disciplines, observable benefits typically emerge only as a cumulative effect of repeated practice."

The Spiegel's blog - he writes it with his wife Amy - can be found here 

Prayer and God's will

“Prayer is not a convenient device or imposing our will upon God, or for bending His will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to His. It is by prayer that we seek God’s will, embrace it and align ourselves with it. Every true prayer is a variation on the theme, ‘Your will be done.’ Our Master taught us to say this in the pattern prayer He gave us and added the supreme example of it in Gethsemane”
John Stott, “Letters of John.”

Learning by example

We can learn so much from the lives of others, not to slavishly imitate them, but what their priorities were and the dedication and self-discipline that lies behind their spiritual maturity.

I recently read (in Christianity Today) about the morning routine of John Stott who readers of this blog will gather is one of my great mentors and heroes. Stott began each day with a version of the Trinitarian prayer. The CT writer chronicled the rest of Stott’s morning routine: “There is a small leather notebook, stuffed full of folded papers and pamphlets and held together by a strong rubber band, that travels as a twin with Stott’s Bible. Each morning, having read three chapters of Scripture and meditated prayerfully over them, he pulls out his prayer notebook, takes off the rubber band, and prays for friends, family, ministries, and even strangers.

“Inside the notebook is a daily prayer list that is under constant revision. In minuscule print, the pages are divided into four columns: for evangelism or new converts, for people who have decisions to make, for the sick and bereaved, and for miscellaneous requests.

“Each day he reads through, prays over, and amends these four columns. Beneath the columned pages is a short stack of prayer guides. Stott prays daily through the requests of up to seven different organizations to which he is connected. “Finally, having worked through the various handouts and pamphlets, he comes to an old, well-worn page with a handwritten one-month calendar. Each day has a list of names, some dating back 30 years, some just a few months.

“For Stott, prayer is the rhythm of each day. From the discipline of regular intercession in the morning, to spontaneous prayer at the end of a pastoral visit, to bent knees shortly before bed, each day is marked by simple, unpretentious, direct, and persistent prayer.” From Pottering and Prayer, by John W. Yates III, posted 4/2/2001, Christianity Today.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

John Stott's daily prayer

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” In his address at John Stott’s funeral, Christ Wright said that “It was John’s daily habit every morning on waking up to greet each person of the Holy Trinity with this prayer:

Heavenly Father, I pray that this day
I may live in your presence  and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day
I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day
you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Amen”

In addition I came across this insight into his daily regimen:

5am: study and prayer
8am: a big breakfast
12pm: lunch with housemates and friends
(he was a lifelong celibate and very intentional about fostering community)
1pm: 30 minute nap
(no later than) 10pm: Bed

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Wasting life


"I'm tired of wasting my life, waiting for death, without making my mark on this world….without just giving life a chance at being worthwhile. I have never understood life in general and I think its finally about time to just give up hoping that life isn't as shallow as it become to me... I mean there must be some meaning and I'm starting to believe the harder you search for it the longer it alludes you.
Erik Rhodes actor, porn star. Died aged 30 June 2012 Writing on blog February 2010

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Through a glass darkly

Hope this isn't going to throw too many people out but as you can see i have changed the name of the my blog from 'Thinking Out Loud' to 'Through a glass darkly"'. The main reason is that there are loads of blogs out there using the former name.

Eugene Peterson on prayer - 2


“Don’t despise fixed prayers. Among most Evangelicals, they don’t think fixed prayers are real prayers…You don’t feel like praying? Well, you don’t have to feel like praying. Just pray the Psalms…Fixed prayers have always been important part of the churches life…Mary’s prayer, Simeon’s prayer.

“You’re not in charge of this. You’re not. The Trinity is. Don’t feel embarrassed or second rate if you pray Simeon’s prayer. It’s a pretty good prayer! You won’t do much better on your own.”

Eugene Peterson on prayer 1


“We try to figure out prayer too much…When people would come to me and say, ‘Teach me how to pray,’ what I usually would say is, ‘Meet me at 11 o’clock Sunday morning.’ You want to learn how to pray, you join the people of prayer. Join the community of prayer…Don’t try to make anything happen, don’t try to make anything happen. Just be there. And be there the next Sunday and the next Sunday. This is the laboratory of prayer.

“The Psalms, you realize, are all common prayers. Congregational prayers. They might have started out with just one person praying, but very soon they got into the common life of Israel. This privatization of prayer is a huge mistake. It puts too much of a burden on you. It robs you of the reality of the community of heaven. One of the greatest books of the Bible about prayer is Revelation. It’s all about common prayer…I think it’s at least two thirds of Revelation is about worship. It’s all about what you do when you get together with God’s people.

“This takes a great burden off of you. ‘Why am I so terrible at prayer?’ Well, maybe you are, but your friends are not….[This common outlook] of prayer is essential if we’re going to have a robust prayer life."

Q - Leadership website

I came across this interesting website which is aimed at Christian leaders. Its called Q Ideas and the link is here. The rational behind the organisation is explained here:

"Q was created as a place where church and cultural leaders could come together to collaborate and explore ideas about how the Gospel can be expressed within our cultural context. Our method of learning is simple: exposure, conversation and collaboration. We didn’t want to create just another conference, but instead, make an intentional effort to platform the best and the brightest ideas that are shaping our world and interact with them."

Prayer to the Holy Spirit


Breathe in me, Holy Spirit,
that I may think what is holy.
Move me, Holy Spirit,
that I may do what is holy.
Attract me, Holy Spirit,
that I may love what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may guard what is holy.
Guard me, Holy Spirit,
that I may keep what is holy.
St. Augustine

Friday, 3 August 2012

Wondering at the incarnation

“Do not be astonished if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man, but rather: wonder that God wrote the Law for men, and has spoken to us through his own Son.”
St. Anthony of Egypt

John Cassian on prayer


Prayer changes at every moment in proportion to the degree of purity in the soul and in accordance with the extent to which the soul is moved either by outside influence or of itself. Certainly the same kind of prayers cannot be uttered continuously by by any one person. A lively person prays one way. A person brought down by the weight of gloom or despair prays another. One prays another way when the life of the spirit is flourishing, and another way when pushed down by the mass of temptation. One prays differently, depending on whether one is seeking the gift of some grace or virtue or the removal of some sinful vice. The prayer is different once again when one is sorrowing at the thought of hell and the fear of future judgement, or when one is fired by hope and longing for future blessedness, when one is in need or peril, in peace or tranquility, when one is flooded with the light of heavenly mysteries or when one is hemmed in by aridity in virtue and staleness in one's thinking. (p. 107)

We need to be especially careful to follow the gospel precept which instructs us to go into our room and to shut the door so that we may pray to our Father. And this is how we can do it.

We pray in our room whenever we withdraw our hearts completely from the tumult and the noise of our thoughts and our worries and when secretly and intimately we offer our prayers to the Lord.

We pray with the door shut when without opening our mouths and in perfect silence we offer our petitions to the One who pays no attention to words but who looks hard at our hearts.

We pray in secret when in our hearts alone and in our recollected spirits we address God and reveal our wishes only to Him and in such a way that the hostile powers themselves have no inkling of their nature. Hence we must pray in utter silence, not simply in order that our whispers and our cries do not prove both a distraction to our brothers standing nearby and a nuisance to them when they themselves are praying but also so as to ensure that the thrust of our pleading be hidden from our enemies who are especially lying in wait to attack us during our prayers. In this way we shall fulfill the command "Keep your mouth shut from the one who sleeps on your breast" (Mi 7:5).

The reason why our prayers ought to be frequent and brief is in case the enemy, who is out to trap us, should slip a distraction to us if ever we are long-drawn-out. There lies true sacrifice. "The sacrifice which God wants is a contrite heart" (Ps 50:19). This indeed is the saving oblation, the pure offering, the sacrifice of justification, the sacrifice of praise. These are the real and rich thank offerings, the fat holocausts offered up by contrite and humble hearts. If we offer them to God in the way and with zeal which I have mentioned we can be sure to be heard and we can sing: "Let my prayer rise up like incense before your face and my hands like the evening offering" (Ps 140:2). (p. 123-124).
John Cassian from The Institutes and The Conferences

Embodying the word

"A camel needs but a small amount of food. It saves it until it comes to a stable, where it regurgitates it and chews it until it seeps into its flesh and bones. A horse, on the other hand, needs a lot of food. It eats constantly and immediately loses what it has eaten. Therefore, let us not be like a horse, constantly reciting the word of God yet without embodying it. Let us follow the example of the camel, retaining every word of Holy Scripture we recite until we have embodied it."

Prayer - E.M.Bounds


The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable; praying, that is, with the total concentration of the faculties. The great mass of worldly men and of learned men are absolutely incapable of prayer. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Bishop Wilson says: In H. Martyn's journal the spirit of prayer, the time he devoted to the duty, and his fervor in it are the first things which strike me."

Payson wore the hard-wood boards into grooves where his knees pressed so often and so long. His biographer says: "His continuing instant in prayer, be his circumstances what they might, is the most noticeable fact in his history, and points out the duty of all who would rival his eminency. To his ardent and persevering prayers must no doubt be ascribed in a great measure his distinguished and almost uninterrupted success."

The Marquis DeRenty, to whom Christ was most precious, ordered his servant to call him from his devotions at the end of half an hour. The servant at the time saw his face through an aperture. It was marked with such holiness that he hated to arouse him. His lips were moving, but he was perfectly silent. He waited until three half hours had passed; then he called to him, when he arose from his knees, saying that the half hour was so short when he was communing with Christ.

Brainerd said: "I love to be alone in my cottage, where I can spend much time in prayer."

William Bramwell is famous in Methodist annals for personal holiness and for his wonderful success in preaching and for the marvelous answers to his prayers. For hours at a time he would pray. He almost lived on his knees. He went over his circuits like a flame of fire. The fire was kindled by the time he spent in prayer. He often spent as much as four hours in a single season of prayer in retirement.

Bishop Andrewes spent the greatest part of five hours every day in prayer and devotion.

Sir Henry Havelock always spent the first two hours of each day alone with God. If the encampment was struck at 6 A.M., he would rise at four.

Earl Cairns rose daily at six o'clock to secure an hour and a half for the study of the Bible and for prayer, before conducting family worship at a quarter to eight.

Dr. Judson's success in prayer is attributable to the fact that he gave much time to prayer. He says on this point: "Arrange thy affairs, if possible, so that thou canst leisurely devote two or three hours every day not merely to devotional exercises but to the very act of secret prayer and communion with God. Endeavor seven times a day to withdraw from business and company and lift up thy soul to God in private retirement. Begin the day by rising after midnight and devoting some time amid the silence and darkness of the night to this sacred work. Let the hour of opening dawn find thee at the same work. Let the hours of nine, twelve, three, six, and nine at night witness the same. Be resolute in his cause. Make all practicable sacrifices to maintain it. Consider that thy time is short, and that business and company must not be allowed to rob thee of thy God." Impossible, say we, fanatical directions! Dr. Judson impressed an empire for Christ and laid the foundations of God's kingdom with imperishable granite in the heart of Burmah. He was successful, one of the few men who mightily impressed the world for Christ. Many men of greater gifts and genius and learning than he have made no such impression; their religious work is like footsteps in the sands, but he has engraven his work on the adamant. The secret of its profundity and endurance is found in the fact that he gave time to prayer. He kept the iron red-hot with prayer, and God's skill fashioned it with enduring power. No man can do a great and enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer, and no man can be a man of prayer who does not give much time to praying.

Is it true that prayer is simply the compliance with habit, dull and mechanical? A petty performance into which we are trained till tameness, shortness, superficiality are its chief elements? "Is it true that prayer is, as is assumed, little else than the half-passive play of sentiment which flows languidly on through the minutes or hours of easy reverie?" Canon Liddon continues: "Let those who have really prayed give the answer. They sometimes describe prayer with the patriarch Jacob as a wrestling together with an Unseen Power which may last, not unfrequently in an earnest life, late into the night hours, or even to the break of day. Sometimes they refer to common intercession with St. Paul as a concerted struggle. They have, when praying, their eyes fixed on the Great Intercessor in Gethsemane, upon the drops of blood which fall to the ground in that agony of resignation and sacrifice. Importunity is of the essence of successful prayer. Importunity means not dreaminess but sustained work. It is through prayer especially that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. It was a saying of the late Bishop Hamilton that "No man is likely to do much good in prayer who does not begin by looking upon it in the light of a work to be prepared for and persevered in with all the earnestness which we bring to bear upon subjects which are in our opinion at once most interesting and most necessary."
E.M.Bounds: Power through prayer

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Can I be a Christian without going to church?


Question: Can I be a Christian without going to church?

Answer: Yes, it is as possible as being:
A student who will not go to school.
A soldier who will not join an army.
A citizen who does not pay taxes or vote.
A salesman with no customers.
An explorer with no base camp.
A seaman on a ship without a crew.
A business man on a deserted island.
An author without readers.
A tuba player without an orchestra.
A parent without a family.
A football player without a team.
A politician who is a hermit.
A scientist who does not share his findings.
A bee without a hive.

So, yes indeed, you can be a Christian without going to church. But why would you want to do that?
Thanks to: http://calvarybiblefellowshipmass.org

Extreme righteousness Matthew 5:20—24


Jesus’ statement here in Matthew 5:20 would have filled Jesus' hearers with utter dismay: “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  verse 20

It would have been hard enough if Jesus said that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you had to reach the same standard of righteousness as the scribes and Pharisees. But to exceed it! That was asking too much.

You see in terms of spiritual perfection—especially in keeping the commandments and the Law—the scribes and Pharisees were top of the league. They were gold medal winners every time! You just have to look at some of the biblical examples of what kind of people the Pharisees were. For example in Luke 18:9-14: the Pharisee in the Temple first says what he does not do: he is not like other men—immediately that sets himself apart - and he doesn't steal, do evil or commit adultery; and what he does do: he fasts twice a week, and gives a tenth of everything he owns, all this aside from his regular worship, his study of the Law, his prayer each day - probably seven times (Psalm 119:164) and a host of other religious disciplines.

He clearly was very serious about his faith and devoted every waking hour to it.

So for Jesus to tell the poor ordinary folk—especially those who had to work all hours to make a living and had little time for religious practices—that what the Pharisees and scribes were doing was not enough, he appears to be saying “don’t even bother trying because if they have failed you have no chance!” But that doesn't really square with the Jesus we know in the Gospels, so what was Jesus trying to do/say here?

1. Only perfect righteousness is enough for a perfect God.
In the book of Habakkuk the prophet says of God: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, you cannot tolerate wrong.” Hab 1:13 We see this at the moment of Jesus’ death when “he became sin who had no sin” (2 Cor 5:21) took on himself the sin of the world so that God had to look away causing Jesus to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Matthew 27:45-50

Heaven is a sin free environment. Only those who are purified from sin—who are totally righteous can enter.

2. No one is/can be perfectly righteous no matter how good or religious they are.
Paul—as a former Pharisee—sees this and writes to the Roman Christians, quoting from the Old Testament Psalms (14: 2-3):  “There is no one who does good, not even one.“ Rom 3:10. And later 3:23: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  In other words no one is completely righteous or perfect. All are tainted in some way by imperfection & sin.

3. The only way we can enter the Kingdom of heaven then is on the basis
of God’s righteousness not our own.
This is what Paul, who saw the bankrupt-ness of his own attempt at righteousness come to nothing discovered one day on the road to Damascus. Writing to the Philippians he first writes out a long list of the things he was/did as a Pharisee (Phil 3:4-6). And then continues to completely dismiss it all : “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

What does Jesus say in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.
There are two errors we can fall into here:
One is to feel you are too good—rich in Spirit;
Or too bad—unable to reach the right standard, not good enough for God.
To both and all Jesus says “come to me” put your faith in me and have my righteousness.
In the words of a well known hymn:
There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin,

he only could unlock the gate
of heaven and let us in.

Thanks, but no thanks!

We had a wonderful day yesterday starting with the awards ceremony where Ruth, our youngest child, received her degree - a 2:1- after thre...