The recipe for a rich prayer time

We had a great time at an “Enough” prayer evening recently. In my preparation for it, a picture came to mind that helped me think about what we were doing and where we are going in our increasingly rich times of prayer.

We were going to pray for some things that are in a sense the bread and butter of church life, and we could pray some bread and butter prayers: “Please God do X, Y, and Z”. And that would be good. But then I remembered the first time I encountered a bun loaf. Sitting in the middle of the tea table it looked like a normal loaf of bread, but when it was sliced, its true nature was revealed. Inside, it was a glorious golden-yellow colour, and it was sweet and spiced and full of dried fruit. Spread with butter it was far richer and more enjoyable than your basic, everyday staple bread.

I’ve been reading the Psalms lately, and it struck me that many of them are not so much bread and butter prayers but bun loaf prayers. In the Psalms, God is giving us a recipe for praying that has a glorious richness to it.

So it got me thinking. What is the recipe for a rich prayer time? What are those ingredients that, when mixed together, transform good “bread and butter prayers” into glorious “bun loaf prayers”?

Here are a few thoughts:

1) Praise
As we heard at Enough, music/worship helps centre us on God and not the problem. Praise and worship with music is a wonderful context for prayer, and in fact, can be prayers themselves. “Praise the Lord oh My soul” (Psalm 103:1), “make music…” (Psalm 98:5).

2) Prophecy
The Psalms are rich in prophetic revelation about Jesus: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10, Psalm 22 …) Prayer is enriched by prophecy as God speaks to us and we respond. Prophecy turns a monologue into a conversation and focuses our praying for maximum effectiveness.  Prophecy can also be an announcing and heralding in what God is about to do, leading us to pray with increased faith and expectation. Basically, God speaks a lot in the Psalms (Psalm 50, Psalm 46:10…).

3) Passion
The Psalms are full of raw emotions: “Every night I flood my bed with tears” (Psalm 6:6). At times, much of the Psalms seems like complaining, but it was heartfelt complaining to God which can be healthy and healing. There is also overflowing joy and delight: “You will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11)

4) Poetry
In the Psalms, there is a rich creativity with language: “as the deer pants for water…” (Palms 42:1). (There is a book on the Psalms with the great title “Poetry on fire”) It’s great to pray with the full range of creativity at our disposal. Praying with music, poetry, actions, and objects can be very powerful. Again, the other night at Enough, Andy did a superb job of helping us pray creatively using a number of prop-filled prayer stations.

5) Prayer to God
As we might expect, much of the Psalms are speaking to God: “Better is one day in your courts…” (Psalm 84:10-12). But not all…

6) Personal pep talks
The psalmist does not just talk to God, he talks to himself: “Why my soul are you downcast, Put your hope in God”? (Psalm 42:5).

7) Public praise and exhortation
There was a wonderful cooperative nature to their praying. They prayed with others, but more than that they talked to each other, exhorting and encouraging one another: “Come let us sing to the Lord….” (Psalm 95:1). Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father” which sounds like several people praying together in some way.

8) Proclamation of truth
The psalmist expressed their feelings, but they also proclaimed the truth about who God was and what he had done: “the Lord watches over … the fatherless” (Psalm 146:9). It’s great to enrich our prayers with scripture and testimonies.

9) Promises
The psalmist commits himself to certain courses of action. He makes promises before God, or at least strong statements of intent: “I will sing to the Lord all my life” (Psalm 104:33).

10) Prohibition
Ok, I may be stretching the P’s at this point, but what I mean by “prohibition” is they spoke strongly to their enemies. They said in effect “Oh, stop”: “Away from me you evil doers” (Psalm 119:115) They issued decrees and commands with authority and power. Like we might say “Enough” to oppression and sickness and injustice: “No!”

 

As we learn to mix these things together under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we are increasingly enjoying gloriously rich and fruitful times of prayer.

 

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Cover Story

I thought I’d show how  I got to the final cover design for my book “Reaching for Healing”.

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The first design was just a standard one from Createspace. The first chapter talked about not being able to see the wood for the trees (ie we may see lots of individual healing miracles in the bible, but miss the overriding principle that God clearly loves making people well).

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I moved from Createspace mainly because it was based in the USA and so postage costs for proofs were too much plus they took far too long to arrive. Lulu has been great and really easy to use. Even when I was sent some rather badly printed and damaged books the customer support was excellent and more than made up for it. Here is the cover design I used for my first Lulu book. It’s more fruity than the last one.

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I quite liked it but the feedback was that it looked dated so I had another go. A friend got me off to a good start with the lettering which I pretty much kept the same in every design:

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As you can see I had changed the sub-title at this point to be more in line with the main idea in the book and less academic. Feedback on design was that it looked like alien hands, which once mentioned, it definitely does.

My next attempt was a bit impressionistic. It is made up of hands and a cross but I thought it was a bit like a crystal and not a strong enough stand out image.

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Next one kept the background but had a hand reaching for Jesus’ hem. Looks a bit creepy though doesn’t it? Plus it’s even more wishy-washy than the last one.

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Another simpler reaching hand. As you can see I was finding it hard to completely ditch the impressionistic hands and triangle background:

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The feedback was that the hand was a bit strange/not quite right so I tried something different and a bit more bold and colourful:

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I liked it but the red hands looked a bit like they had been skinned. It also looked a bit too much like a primary school textbook, so I tried blue again. Only later on did I find out blue was often associated with healing (Apparently Jesus tassels on his garment would have been blue).

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It was better but still didn’t look stylish, bold and simple enough so tried this:

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It was the best so far but I was having lots of discussions about whether the sub-title should be blue or black.

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I preferred blue. Others liked black best. The problem was solved by someone suggesting that I move the strap line up and Bingo! The winning design. Now I see them all together its the best by a long way.  Thank you everyone for lots of honest feedback! It helped me keep coming up with new ideas.

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I guess I could have kept going (at one point I was designing a new cover or version every evening) but this one is good enough for now. All the different source images are public domain too which is handy.

Here is the print version at lulu and here is the ebook. It’s on goodreads and you can also get it at Amazon as print or ebook.

How great is our God

Been enjoying this song recently. Here are a few versions:

 

 

 

One day, there will be countless millions, billions even, standing before the throne of God, singing songs like this. Stirred up by the perfect knowledge of God’s goodness and grace in Christ, wave upon wave of worship will build out among the vast sea of saved souls. It will rise and swell, then role in and break upon the Lord Jesus: the lion and the lamb. We will be caught up in the eternal moment with hearts swelling with love and adoration.

 

 

Pinocchio vs Frozen

Ben Shapiro contrasts Pinocchio “probably the greatest animated film ever made” with Frozen.

 

Pinocchio was about becoming a real boy by taking responsibility and making sound moral choices: He declares:

            I want do do right

The central belter in Frozen proudly belted out is:

            No right, no wrong, no rules, I’m free

 

The message of Frozen (or at least that one song): do what you feel.

The message of Pinocchio: Resit temptation ie

the wrong things which seem right at the time.

Here is the Morality piece of the God puzzle.

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God addict

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“For someone addicted to porn, the intensity of craving as measured in an MRI scan is more than twice that of someone addicted to crack cocaine….just out of interest, if you put someone else in the machine and ask them to worship God, the same area of the brain will light up. “As the dear pants after water so my soul longs after you”.

I would like to suggest to you that we are designed, deliberately by God to have an overwhelming insatiable uncontrollable desire for intimacy and connection with him. We were built for that relationship and we are actually physically designed for it. It should be the case that if we have been away form him for a while, not talking to him, haven’t been praying to him, ….we should be utterly overwhelmed with a desire for him… the brain is like a muscle, it changes at it is used…it takes 9 years for it to go back to the way it was…”  Michael Ramsdon

 

 

The origin of evil

 

Where did the first evil desire come from in a good and perfect world?

O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Isaiah 63:17 (ESV)

Just heard Piper speak on this verse this am. Very sobering.

 

Our desire for good has its source in God. If God, for whatever reason, withdraws his presence, we are left in darkness without even the desire for good. God does not create evil, or evil desires. He is the source of only good, but he can withhold his presence in such a way that evil (the absence of good) exists. Piper is only tentatively guessing and feeling for a solution to the problem of where Satan’s first evil desire came from. It’s a mystery but this verse does shed some light on it I think. If our capacity for right desires is completely dependent on God’s gracious presence moment by moment, how much more should we watch our hearts that we do not intentionally pull away form him.