Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

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Ten Healthy Ideas – Day 2: The Well of Resentment

December 21, 2013

deep wellHe had married her 22 years before; and now he stood in my office in front of her and said “I don’t love her any more. I want a divorce.” I actually thought he had asked me to be there so he could reconcile with his wife. Why else would he want his counselor there for what he had to say? But no–he wanted me to be a witness to his final declaration.

I couldn’t leave it at that. I had counseled him for several months and never had any idea he was thinking about divorce. So I asked him to go through his train of thought leading up to this decision. He mentioned a number of grievances he had stored over the years. He chronicled a long line of things which hurt him, annoyed him, bothered him and made him angry. He carried a long list with him.

However, he failed to mention a single thing that most people would associate with marital failure. She had not committed adultery, been violent, lied to him, appeared on a Reality T.V. show, hit the children, poisoned his food, withheld sex, had her mother stay for a year or joined a cult. Even though he carried a laundry list of grievances, none of them were that serious.

The biggest problem he carried with him to the end of his marriage was Resentment. Resentment is the idea that someone has done wrong by us and we refuse to let it go until they apologize or give retribution. We can resent someone for a small infraction or a huge sin. It really doesn’t matter how big or small the resentment is, it has the same effect: It sucks the life out of our love.

I tried to convince him to let go of his resentment and move on in his relationship with his wife, but he was not interested. A year later, their divorce was final and their lives in turmoil. I could have saved him a lot of hassle if he had just dealt with this like an adult.

Children cultivate resentments like a farmer grows corn. They can complain if someone gets a bigger portion of dessert. They will whine if someone bumps into them. They don’t like it when their brother looks at them funny. They will hit back when hit and curse back when cursed. But we expect that out of them–they’re children.

If you want to be a mature adult and have meaningful and long-lasting relationships, then resentments have to go. But that’s a lot easier to say than to do. I believe resentment is the most prominent disease known among mankind. We do not let go of them at all and certainly not easily. But I have an exercise that helps.

In the 4th century, there were a group of men and women called the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They lived in the Egyptian desert and taught many people about the deeper ways of living as a Christian. One of these, Abba Poemen, taught a practice called “The Well of Resentment”. (Note: This is a translation…it has been called the Well of Longing and the Well of Bitterness).

He taught his disciples to do the same thing at the end of every day. He said they were to picture themselves coming to the edge of a large and deep well. As they mentally look into this well, they should consider how things went for them that day. Each person was to probe their soul and see if there was anything that happened which caused any resentment. If a person identified resentment, they were to visualize casting that resentment into the well and watch it fall into the depths. Then they were to keep doing this until all resentments were gone. At the end, they should pray the Kyrie Eliason (“Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy on me”).

I have taught hundreds of people to do this the end of every day. I have yet to have someone come to me and tell me it doesn’t work. Rather, I have heard from many that it has revived their love for spouse, parent, child, co-worker, fellow-Christian and others. It is a practice which refuses to allow the little or big resentments from gaining hold. The Well of Resentment is like powerful vitamins which bind to viruses and snuff them out before they get destructive.

Try it for three days and see if it doesn’t begin to change your heart toward others around you.

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You’re the Only One Available

September 2, 2013

For several years, I have started out every morning the same way. As I am taking a shower (though sometimes I do it while sipping tea in my office at the front of the house) I tell God that I am available if God wants to change my day. I then think through the events of that day and see if any of them need adjusting.

Occasionally God chooses to speak to me. On those days, I make alterations to my daily schedule. And it is good.

Several years ago, I spent Sunday night tossing and turning. I wasn’t nervous about anything, but I did have a big weight on my mind. The next day I was going to be playing at one of the most exclusive golf courses in Northern California. As I tried to sleep, I felt like that child who knows Christmas is coming – or the other child who realizes tomorrow is the day for Disneyland. Golf is my Disneyland; it is my Christmas.

Finally, I couldn’t sleep any longer, and I went to my office to pray. But I couldn’t concentrate; all I could think of was the Olympic Club (site of the 2011 U. S. Open Golf Championship). I was going to play there that day. I envisioned every nuance of the course. I had played it many times on Tiger Woods computer golf program.

I gave up on praying and took a shower. During my time in the shower, I asked God if any part of my day needed to be re-arranged.

God answered me. I could not believe the thoughts going through my mind. God wanted me to go down to the State Legislature and pray for the budget impasse. The State of California had been without a budget for several months and God wanted me to forego my golf game and spend the day in prayer.legislature

Three things you should know:

First, I am non-political. I don’t care about budgets

Second, I love golf; and I yearned to play the Olympic Club

Third, I had a choice to say no. God does not force us to serve. We are free to bail out any time we want. God would not strike me dead or cause seeping lesions to form all over my body. I don’t think.

I asked God to explain why I, a golf-loving, politics-hating Canadian was being called to pray over the California State legislature and their “stupid” budget problems.

God’s answer in my mind was strange: “Because you’re available.”

Doesn’t that sound strange to you? There must be thousands of people who are praying for California, for the budget, for politics, for the members of the legislature. At least, I assume there must be. But I was the one available – how is that possible?  Yet, I cannot see why my brain would make this up. And the enemy of my soul never tells me to pray, so I can rule out the thought coming from that quarter.

I was the only one available. I firmly believe that God values our Freedom of Choice so much that some prayers will not get answered unless we accept the offer of partnership in praying.

Because I believe that, I called my golf partner and politely begged off our golf game. He quickly found someone else to go and I went down to the legislature.

The first thing I found is they were not in session! I was there alone. Well, not quite alone. There was one solitary security guard who followed me around as I prayed through various rooms. For instance, I sat in the balcony of the Senate chambers and asked Holy Spirit to show me what to pray. I filled up five pages of my journal with insights from the Spirit as I sat there for a couple of hours praying.

At the end of the prayer time, I looked up and saw the security guard on the other side of the balcony. He was just staring at me. After several moments, he walked over and sat down beside me.

“Are you praying?” he asked.

“Yes” I said softly. “Is that allowed?”

“It is. Can I join you?’

He had asked God that morning to give him a prayer partner to intercede for the Legislature and their budget problems. There were hundreds of thousands of state employees who had not received a full paycheck in months. Various vendors were going bankrupt because the budget had not been passed.

This security guard decided enough was enough. He and I prayed for several more hours. We went outside various offices and Holy Spirit showed us which people would broker the deal that week to end the budget standoff.

Two days later, the very people we prayed for did get together to hash out an agreement on a state budget. It was a monumental thing.

I still don’t care about politics or budgets. But I love knowing that on that day, when the world had better things to do, a security guard and I were the only people in the world God had available to him to change things.

That’s pretty special.

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Lack of Prayer in School – Your Fault!

December 18, 2012

school_prayerAs I listen to the diatribe inflicted on us by well-meaning religious people and politicians, there are several things I can conclude about prayer in schools.

  • Mandated school prayer was probably not effective anyway. The Bible is clear when it tells us not to give in to empty,. repetitive prayers as if God magically answers us because we’re trying. We are told to pray “effectively“, “fervently” and “asking according to the will of God“. The Lord’s Prayer every morning in school does nothing other than teach children to treat God superstitiously.
  • We left the leading of prayer up to people who may not even have believed in God.
  • In the New Testament, prayer was something done with particular focal points, not as rituals, rites and religiosity.

Therefore, it is not the responsibility of schools, governments, civic leaders, military or big business to promote or initiate public prayers. It is the responsible of every God-follower to allow God to use them in prayer. Therefore, I have compiled a list of ten ways YOU can bring prayer into schools. (Note: Though some of these ideas apply more to parents and grand-parents, many of them can be employed by anyone who is a God-follower).

1. Know the name of the teachers at your nearest school and pray for them individually. This is especially true if you have children attending that school. Ask God what you should pray; don’t just offer a generic “Lord, bless this teacher”.

2. Pray for students you know personally at that school. Pray for safety, freedom from bullying, disease and injury. Pray they will know the right choices and will make them when they are called upon to do so.

3. Get together with others – parents, concerned citizens, friends – to pray for specific schools. As with every item on this list, stay away from praying generically. God will show you what to pray by laying burdens on your heart.

4. Have prayer walks around the campus (remember, you have to have permission to go on campus in most districts). Pray for God’s presence to fill that place. (Note: Several friends of mine and I did this recently and were allowed on campus by the principal. He reports that the incidence of violence and drug use went down after we prayed).

5. Volunteer on Campus. Pray for God to give you burdens for individual students you may meet. My wife and I did this several years ago at our daughter’s school. Through prayer, I was able to befriend a young man who always dressed in black and had no friends. Over a six month period, I prayed for him every week. By the end of the school year, he was making friends and no longer wore black. I know my prayers made a difference. He could very well have grown up to be like one of the Columbine kids.

6. Pray for the Principal, Vice-principals, counselors, nurse, custodians, librarians and other technical staff that they will view their job with optimism and not with an eye toward their paycheck only. Pray they also will have a positive impact on the students.

7. Attend school board meetings. Get there early and pray for a spirit of unity and creativity. The School Board sets policies that change the lives of thousands. Yet so few God-followers attend unless they have a problem they want to address. We had a sticky situation in our school district some years ago. They wanted to close one of the schools. There were times people almost came to blows because of the intensity of their emotions. Another believer and I started going to the meetings early and praying for God’s presence to fill the room. From the first meeting we did that, there was a much greater spirit of cooperation.

8. Go to the shopping centers/stores nearby the campus and pray that kids going there after school will not be inundated by drug dealers. Go to the same location and pray that God, by his justice and mercy, will ensure all dealers at those locations are arrested or move out of the area. Several principals have told me they are more worried about what happens immediately after school in nearby stores than what happens during class.

9. Learn the names of the students in your kids’ classes and ask Holy Spirit to give you revelation on how to pray for them. I got to know many of the students in my kids’ classes and even ended up having prophetic messages in prayer for them. Several of them came to me for counseling and I was able to bring truth to their lives.

10. Make the first question when your kids get home from school, “Tell me about the people in your class” instead of “tell me how you did on the test”. Someone devoted to prayer will look for this kind of information as fuel to get their prayers started.

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They Hijacked The Intercessory Prayer Movement

March 30, 2012

This will be a hard essay to write for two reasons:

1. I prefer not to “name names” when it comes to doctrinal error and lapses in moral judgment. I do not like the so-called “heresy hunter” approach to correcting the Body of Christ and I won’t stoop to it.

2. I love intercessory prayer and after reading this essay, you may be inclined to think I don’t.

First, my credentials for this subject. I have been involved in many, many prayer meetings. I have been on the board of two prayer schools, many prayer gatherings and have spoken on more than a dozen occasions to national audiences on the subject of Intercessory prayer. I have participated in prayer marches, prayer walks, prayer journeys, watchnights of prayer, prayer vigils, prayer “burdens”, deliverance prayer sessions, fasting and praying, Schools of Intercession, Youth With a Mission weeks on Intercession, days of prayer, weeks of prayer, prayer months and 40 day journeys of prayer. I don’t list these to impress anyone. I can think of a half dozen people immediately who are more committed to Intercessory Prayer than I am. But I want you to know I am not a newcomer to Intercessory Prayer.

Intercessory Prayer is defined by two parameters: First, it is prayer offered on behalf of someone else to God. Second, it is a prayer that often has many different parts, each of which must be prayed through before the final answer can be given. Therefore, a person should listen to God first and receive guidance from God when praying. God will only answer if the intercessory prayer lines up with God’s will. (1 John 5:14–15) People ask me why we should even bother to pray. ‘If God wants to do something, why doesn’t God “just do it” and leave us out of it?’ they ask. The Bible teaches clearly that our life as followers of God is a partnership with Him. Nothing of value can be accomplished in the life of a God follower unless we partner deliberately and with free choice. We cannot become a follower until we believe. We cannot experience life-changes (i.e. Sanctification) unless we freely submit to God. We cannot have healing unless we ask God and seek cleansing first. We cannot change our world without obedience. It all requires a partnership. God will do His part and we must do our part. But that’s another essay.

For years, true Intercessors were not a well-known part of the church. They often prayed alone or in small groups. It is difficult to ask God for things you may never see the answer to with your eyes. It takes hours and days to hear God, pray effectively, keep on praying and to break through the resistance of the enemy. Daniel took 21 days of fasting and praying before the answers began to come. Some people have prayed for 50 years before seeing answers to prayer. Very few people are willing to put in that kind of effort in their prayers. Most people count it a victory if they pray for 10 minutes.

But True Intercessors count this ministry as equal to eating and sleeping. Many times, they will give up food and sleep to pray. We should count ourselves blessed they would be willing to do that. Almost all of us have had changed lives because an Intercessor prayed for us. We probably don’t even know it, but God will reveal it to us in the Afterlife some day. I don’t consider myself one of the Elite Intercessors by any means. I pray when I feel God’s burden to pray. And I often don’t pray for longer than an hour. I do admire those who pray in secret and alone or in small groups and will not let go until God is finished.

As I have gathered together with intercessors around the world, I am awe-struck by the determination and fortitude of real intercessors. It is my contention that every major work of God in our world was thoroughly grounded in Intercessory Prayer before there were noticable results. I enjoy my times teaching intercessors and joining with their efforts. The only time I can pray much longer than a couple of hours is when I am swept along as mighty prayer warriors touch God’s heart.

So why am I pulling away from the Intercessory Prayer crowd? Because they have been taken over by a group that has a much different agenda than God’s agenda. The prayer movement has been sacrificed at the altar of both right-wing politics and the hunger for power. These altars are as much false worship as any offering to Baal or Asherah were in the Old Testament. The ones taking over this prayer movement have many names. They call themselves Triumphal, Conquerors, Champions, World-beaters. They call God’s people to unity, a common Call, to return to the roots of our country. They set up targets for prayer, calling these targets Mountains (business, government, media, entertainment, education, family and even church are mentioned as Mountain-like targets). Politicians show up to these rallies and get the crowds going. In fact, the presence of huge crowds tell us that this movement differs greatly from the Prayer movements of the past.

At the heart of this false prayer movement is an old, old belief system called post-Millennialism. That’s a fancy term that simply means this: That the role of the church is to conquer all the forces in this world that stand opposed to God. When we finish our work of taking over governments, media and schools, then Christ will return to set up his Kingdom.

Historically this was the belief of the Crusaders who sought to conquer the Infidels surrounding Jerusalem. This was at the heart of the Conquistadors who felt they were laying the foundation of the Kingdom of God by slaughtering the Aztecs. This was often spoken by settlers of the West who murdered Native Americans with the goal of creating the Kingdom of God. Look at how many place names in the Western U.S. and Canada have biblical names. If you trace the history of those towns, many of them have the sub-text of belief in this establishment of a Christian dwelling place on earth.

Intercessory prayer is designed to change the spiritual heart of a nation, not its institutions. Institutions will only change when people’s hearts change. We see Christians today practicing the same sins at the same rate as anyone else. Why would we want to force our practices on the rest of the world? We tell homosexuals who want to get married that they are evil and yet the divorce rate for heterosexual Christians is well over 30%. How does that represent the Kingdom of God?  Do we really want to establish the Kingdom before Christ returns based on our gossip, jealousy, envy, back-biting, adulteries, alcohol and drug addictions? Why do we even think our current actions can supplant the problems that exist on top of society’s so-called great Mountains?

Until the Intercessory Prayer movement returns to 2 Chronicles 7:14, I am no longer a part of it. In that verse we are told that if God’s people “who are called by {God’s} name will humble themselves in prayer, seek his face and turn from their wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven and will heal their land”. Today’s intercessory prayer movement just wants power, not repentance and transformation. It just wants influence, not purity. It only wants to be recognized, not to be restorative. It wants to conquer so Christ will be impressed; not to weep so God will be moved to action.

I am done for now. I will keep praying, keep teaching and keep weeping. Perhaps my heart will change and then it will purify my prayers. Then other hearts will change and purify their prayers. Then perhaps our land will be healed. It won’t happen by voting in our favorite party or getting another law passed.

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Riots and Stock Market Crashes

August 9, 2011

I cannot give a long, detailed assessment of the current global crises, but I can give a response based upon established biblical truth.

These days, thousands of youth are rioting in the streets of London. It is not the “fact” of rioting that is most interesting, it is the reason. In recent years, rioting has fallen into one of three categories: political, crime-related or social protest. Political: people rioting because they want a change of government. This is what has fueled the riots of the so-called “Arab Spring”. Crime-Related: The Rodney King riots or many of the reactive riots in Syria at the moment protest the way the official police or court policy has handled affairs. Social Protest: The government or other entities are doing things that a portion of the society disagrees with. Think of the 60s anti-war protests, gay rights or anti-abortion marches, or even the anti-apartheid protests of the 80s. The race riots in Britain twenty years ago were the last time we saw violence in the streets of London.

So what is fueling this latest round of violence? Actually, not much of anything, other than selfish human nature. According to interviews done with some typical protesters on London’s streets, the violence was just “something to do to relieve boredom.” An Associated Press reporter this morning asked one young lady who was looting a store why she was doing it. Her answer: “We are simply doing our part to have class equality”. And then she laughed. Most of the organizers of this protest are using Twitter and Facebook to get the crowds out. The only universally stated goal is “anarchy and lots of it” as one infamous Twitter post reads.

Anarchy is the desire of the human heart to have “no one to tell me what to do”. The book of Judges has this theme going through it: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes“. Anarchy says “might is right”. Anarchy says “if it works, we support it, if it fails it was wrong”. Anarchy says “there is no absolute truth”. Anarchy says “All men are created equal; but some are more equal than others”.

In America, we have always hated the idea of a society that is anything less than free. We like everything free. We want a free Internet, free voting, free enterprise, free health care, free education, free speech, free press, freedom to bear arms…on and on. But freedom is always only a quarter of a step away from anarchy. A free market is allowed to do anything it wants. When the banks started betting on each other’s assets (also known as Mortgage based Securities), it sent our economy into a semi-permanent nose-dive. We all want everything to be free, but we don’t realize it all has a price. The free Internet destroys jobs faster than the failing economy. People used to get paid to book flights, write articles, market songs, make movies, sell books and clothes – most of which are done online now through computers. The people who used to do those jobs are unemployed and have too much time on their hands. In a society like Britain, when you have too many youths with too much time on their hands, a few Tweets and the candy store down the street looks like a good investment. A rock and an angry yell make the perfect down payment for anarchy.

According to the New America Foundation, an independent think tank, our true unemployment rate is 19.2% in America, and almost 40% of those are now “permanently” unemployed. This means that even if we pay people to stay home (through unemployment) and pay their medical and pay their public transportation, at some point they will get bored with staying home and will find some reason to hit the streets.

The stock market crash of yesterday is only a symptom of many people getting their money out of what looks like a sinking ship. What will happen when it feels like all ships are sinking? Without God as our anchor, and a public consensus of morals, civilization can become chaos in a moment. It could happen in six months if we do not pray right now. Pray that people will get tired of anarchy and boundless greed and will gather together to turn back to God. Really turn to God, not in a religious way (appeasing God) but in a relational way (knowing God and his ways).

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Hearing God When Making Decisions – Part 4

January 27, 2009

Let me explain the situation. I helped to direct a church running out of money. A close friend in the church had resigned his membership and as he left  told me  I was an idiot. Two of my fellow staff members were threatening to quit. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning without shooting pain in my back and legs. A dear friend died of cancer even though we had prayed for her every day for months.

As hard as all those things were, the most life-sucking part went on inside my head. Several times a day, I replayed a mental loop composed of four parts:

1. Thinking of all the ways I had failed the previous five years.

2. Piecing together the ways my failures had affected others, like my children, wife, friends and church.

3. How much they all had a right to hate me and/or curse me.

4. Resenting them for feeling this way about me…after all, they had all failed too and I wasn’t the only one…perhaps I needed a fresh start where I could prove myself.

Thinking about a fresh start lead me to conclude that even if I launched into a new opportunity (and I received several offers during that season) I would probably screw those things up as badly as I had this one. Then the loop would start again.

If you know Prayer Counseling (Theophostic), you might recognize the roots of much lie-based thinking. I was feeling self-destructive and self-loathing. Those are always based upon some kind of lie. Not to say that making mistakes can’t launch these thoughts, but these thoughts don’t stay unless they draw upon past lies. In addition to self-destructive thoughts, I was unrealistic about the opinions of others. Unrealistic viewpoints like this are residue of childhood Universal fears, I was channeling leftover thinking that had dogged me for years. I could go on with the analysis, but suffice to say I wasn’t thinking straight.

That wasn’t the best season to make life-directing decisions.

I’m not alone fortunately (fortunate for readers of this account as well). Many Bible characters suffered through this kind of season while they were wrestling with personal decisions. John the Baptist can stand in for them all as an example. Near the end of his life, as he rotted in Herod’s personal jail, he began to bear the weight of his pain, loneliness and sense of failure. This caused him to doubt even his own prophecies. He was the one who spoke for God in telling the Jewish people that Jesus was the Messiah. But during the last days of his life, he sent a message to Jesus asking if he was indeed the Messiah or perhaps John needed to look for someone else. It was a crappy time in John’s mind.

But in this scene he shows us the way to the Light. The key here is that he didn’t give in to unbelief. He simply expressed his doubts to God. He asked questions and sought answers. He wasn’t budging from his beliefs unless God lead him on a different path.

I find that hearing God when your mind is wading through mental manure is not as hard as it sounds. Oh, it isn’t easy, but neither is it impossible. It begins by asking God questions. Have I really failed you? Is everyone against me? That one is better framed as a question. When Elijah made it a statement, God nailed him with the right answer. (Elijah, take a hint: When God asks “is that your final answer”, it is best to phone a friend. At least poll the audience).

One question I asked God during this season was whether I had created all the mess the church was facing. He assured me I had not created all of it. He also pointed out my role in the problems. That’s how I knew it was God. He rarely is as Universal and extreme as our minds would be. Also, God showed me things I could do to make amends. A few days later God also pointed out how He had started the church down the path to some healing (this later panned out as God said it would).

When listening to God during muddled mental days, ask a lot of the hardest questions. But don’t draw your own conclusions. Ask God frequently what you can begin doing. I took a lot of long walks and skipped a lot of stones on the river. I invited a lot more music and books into my mind and gave television and movies a rest for awhile.

In a month of this listening therapy, I was aware of joy returning. I could feel peace descending slowly but tangibly.

That’s when the idea of church planting began to grow. Even though it didn’t happen for three more years, the plan was already gestating. The main thing standing in the way had been my garbled thought-life. Once that mess got cleaned up, the future made more sense.

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Hearing God When Making Decisions – Part 2

December 5, 2008

Our son was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis – he was only 10 months old. No Canadian child had ever been diagnosed with JRA that young. My wife and I believe that God heals and we immediately followed the biblical command to “call for the elders of the church and have them lay on hands in prayer”. We did this in full faith, believing that God could and would heal. The JRA had affected one of John’s knees, ballooning it three inches larger than the other one. Within an hour of praying, his knee began to decrease in size. Within a day, it was almost the same size as the other one, and the telltale heat of inflammation on the knee was now gone. We cried and laughed and told everyone we knew.

However, within a week the knee was swollen badly again and even warmer than before.

Now what were we to do? Read the rest of this entry ?

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