prayer

Little Darts & Hand Grenades

"...between...times of devotion, labor to be much in ejaculatory prayer. While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God; not in twenty sentences at a time, for such an interval might be inconsistent with your calling, but in broken sentences and interjections. It is always wrong to present one duty to God stained with the blood of another, and that we should do if we spoiled study or labor by running away to pray at all hours; but we may, without this, let short sentences go up to heaven, ay, and we may shoot upwards cries, and single words, such as an "Ah," an "Oh," an "O that;" or, without words we may pray in the upward glancing of the eye or the sigh of the heart. He who prays without ceasing uses many little darts and hand-grenades of godly desire, which he casts forth at every available interval. Sometimes he will blow the furnace of his desires to a great heat in regular prayer, and as a consequence at other times, the sparks will continue to rise up to heaven in the form of brief words, and looks, and desires."

From Charles Spurgeon's sermon "Pray Without Ceasing."

Spiritual Disciplines: Abstinence & Engagement

Willard Disciplines

In Dallas Willard's classic book, The Spirit of the Disciplines (Kindle), he gives two lists of "main disciplines." I find it helpful for me to review some of my favorite books on the disciplines when I need spiritual renewal. Not all books and teaching on the disciplines float my boat, but this one adds some interesting insight to disciplines I tend to ignore. I don't agree with everything he says in the book, but this is worth checking out. I'm reading through his explanation of each of the disciplines below.

Disciplines of Abstinence

  • Solitude
  • Silence
  • Fasting
  • Frugality
  • Chastity
  • Secrecy
  • Sacrifice

Disciplines of Engagement 

  • Study
  • Worship
  • Celebration
  • Service
  • Prayer
  • Fellowship
  • Confession
  • Submission

Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines, p158. I have a 1988 copy and the one linked is newer. 

What are your thoughts on the disciplines? Helpful books? Unhelpful or helpful disciplines listed here or ignored here? Would love your feedback. Also feel free to engage with me on Twitter: @SteveKMcCoy.

A Prayer Reflecting On Romans 7

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O Lord, your gospel is true to life. It reads me as much as I read it. How lofty, how noble are my intentions! But how ugly, how squalid, how embarrassing are my actions! I see your law for the holy thing it is. And I see myself, in my imagination, running off on my white charger to do battle against sin. But so often, I am defeated and shamed and seen to be the fool I am. In this ongoing encounter between your law and my sinfulness, I am learning one simple truth: I really am a sinner, and I really hate it, and I really want you to be my Savior. Draw near to me now, dear Lord. Nurture within me an undying, persistent, rugged love for you that will fight on through the warfare of this life, never giving up and never giving in, but striving on for the holiness you have promised to perfect in me in heaven. Keep your bright promises before me, dear Lord, especially when I fall defeated in sin. In the holy name of Christ. Amen.

Ray Ortlund, Jr. in A Passion for God, pgs 105-106.

Evangelism: Prime the Pump

Pump

When I was in high school I worked in landscaping: trimming hedges, mowing lawns, planting trees, hooking up decorative fountains and surrounding it with decorative rock. It was hard work, but something I enjoyed as a young man. And it provided me with a killer tan.

The owner of the business lived on a farm that had a well. This wasn’t a bucket on a rope well; it was equipped with a pump. And if you’ve ever pumped water from a well you know that the pump never works right away. You have to “prime the pump” by cranking the lever a few times. A pump that hasn’t been used for a while is full of air from the pump down closer to water level. It takes a couple of pumps on the handle for the water to fill the tube that delivers it above ground. It’s those first couple of pumps that bring the water to ground level and to usefulness. 

As missionaries and evangelists for the supplier of living water, we have to prime the pump in our own hearts so that we are ready to tell all of our King. We need Gospel-readiness and Spirit-reliance right there at ground level. We need to battle with sin and push back against apathy. Evangelism is one of those things that takes God-confidence, courage, and risk. We need a heart that has been primed through dying to self, a reoriented life, a renewed mind, fixing our eyes on Jesus, filled with His Spirit, meditating on His Word, loving Him with all our strength. 

Too often we haven’t prayed as we should and wrestled with our fleeting emotions, doubts, and timidity. We haven’t developed a state of readiness and anticipation. We won’t dispense living water efficiently and effectively unless we prime the pump of our hearts, remembering who God is, what God has done, who we are, and what God has called us to do. We need daily motivation for Gospel-readiness.

When we drink from the stream of living water at the outset of our day, and throughout our day, we’ve already brought it to ground level and are ready to point others to it. We will not only find our thirst quenched, but we will be motivated by our own satisfaction in Jesus Christ to help others to quench their thirst. 

What do you do to prime the pump for evangelism? What resources do you use other than Scripture?

Three Basic Traits of Frontline Prayer

Center Church Crop

In chapter 6 of Center Church, Tim Keller discusses "The Work of Gospel Renewal." The first means of Gospel renewal Keller mentions is Extraordinary Prayer. There he lists the three basic traits of frontline prayer (as contrasted with "maintenance prayer")...

  1. A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves
  2. A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost
  3. A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory

Keller then states, "If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present."

Use these 3 traits as a guide when you lead times of focused prayer in your church, small group, and prayer meetings. As Keller writes, "To kindle every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called 'extraordinary prayer' -- united, persistent, and kingdom centered."

(Center Church, page 73)

Calvin: Six Purposes of Prayer

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Joel Beeke & Brian Najapfour in Taking Hold of God: Reformed & Puritan Perspectives on Prayer list what John Calvin (Institutes: book 3, chapter 20) sees as the six (at least) purposes of prayer.

  1. To fly to God with every need and gain from Him what is lacking in ourselves to live the Christian life
  2. To learn to desire wholeheartedly only what is right as we place all our petitions before God
  3. To prepare us to receive God's benefits and responses to to our petitions with humble gratitude
  4. To meditate on God's kindness to us as we receive what we have asked for
  5. To instill the proper spirit of delight for God's answers in prayer
  6. To confirm God's faithful providence so that we may glorify Him and trust in His present help more readily as we witness His regularly answering our prayers

"All of these purposes are designed to foster communion with God so that 'the promises of God should have their way with us.'" (quoting Niesel, Theology of Calvin, 157)

From Taking Hold of God, pg 31-32.

Steps Toward Open-Air Preaching

Areopagus turn crop words2

Posts in my open-air series so far (for context)...
  1. The Gospel in the Open-Air Again
  2. Guidelines for Open-Air Preaching
  3. Open-Air Preaching is Optional?
  4. Missional Open-Air Preaching

Jesse Winkler put up a very helpful comment today on my Missional Open-Air Preaching post. Jesse writes...

After I read some stuff and watched the vids you posted I made a short list of things I can do right now as I'm not ready to go stand on the street and start preaching. My list was 1) begin to pray for the right heart, 2) make a solid intentional list of verses and memorize them, 3) find the right spots in my community, 4) compile a list of texts conducive to preaching the gospel in open air.

Great stuff, Jesse. One of the things I've failed to do yet in this series, though I've done some sporadically throughout, is to let people know what I'm doing before I start some form of open-air preaching. I think the preparation is crucial to doing it well. Jesse's four points are excellent and are clearly reflective of things I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing to take steps toward open-air preaching...

1. Praying | I'm not spending a lot of time praying for the right heart, as I feel like the right heart is what God has been preparing in me to even do this series of posts and head in this direction evangelistically. But Jesse's comment reminds me I need to do this more. I'm praying currently more for revival in our church, for the Spirit to guide me toward the right places, right times, & right means, for the Spirit to be working in the hearts of the lost so the seeds of the Gospel will grow, etc. 

I'm also praying for a handful of guys who have expressed interest, who I've been in contact with privately about it, and for others who I hope will consider open-air preaching because they would be good at it. I think I mentioned that in a previous post, but worth noting here.

Some of the prayer for evangelism and toward the lostness of our neighbors is with my wife and kids. The kids know varying amounts of info about my growing plans (depending on their age and maturity), but they are a part of this for sure. They will know (generally) what I'm doing when I do it.

2. Brainstorming | I'm spending a significant amount of time just brainstorming. Ideas sometimes come out of prayer, and prayer is my response to ideas. Often listening to podcasts helps to spark my thinking (preaching on particular passages, on revival, on evangelism; Jerram Barrs iTunes U evangelism class), drawing stuff on my whiteboard or in my Moleskine workbook, making lists, playing with acrostics for different things I'm doing or want to do, making notes in a personal journal, etc. I can't emphasize how important untethered time has been in thinking this stuff through. 

I could make a whole other point on stuff I'm reading that's a part of my brainstorming, but it's more pieces of things. Much I've found helpful I've tweeted or posted as quotes. But I'll just say I'm reading Scripture, books, stuff out of theology books, evangelism books, etc and so on to help me continue to brainstorm.

I'm also watching videos of people doing open-air preaching. Even the bad stuff is informative on at least what NOT to do. :) I notice a lot of patterns found in nearly all preachers, which helps in brainstorming as well.

3. Bouncing Ideas & Seeking Advice | Molly gets a lot of it. She's pumped, and always has good wifely advice as well as godly advice. Important because of of who she is in my life, and because she needs to be prayed up and prepared for any possible negative consequences. I've been on the phone more the last 3 days than in the last month, just picking brains. Joe Thorn gets plenty of that, but other guys elsewhere are getting some of that. Emails and DM's on Twitter are hopping. I've started sending a list of my posts to some respected guys out there (pastors, authors, missiologists) for their advice, feedback, or whatever. I need people to tell me if/where I'm wrong! I'm thinking it through and I KNOW some guys out there think I'm a nutjob for saying all this, but few are saying it to me. Dear "that guy," please tell me. Help me. Sharpen me. 

4. Canvassing My City (County) | I've done this for a while, but it's ramping up. I'm doing drive-bys and paying visits to places at certain times to gauge people-flow. I somewhat regularly do work at the local community college to see the flow of students to and from campus, to and from the cafeteria, etc. Last night, for example, I left the house and did a drive-by the local bars. How busy are they on a Wednesday night?

I have some workbook notes on specific times and places of things that happen, as well as spaces that might be conducive. Helpful for praying and planning for open-air preaching.

5. Texts for Memorizing/Preaching | Jesse's point here is important. I'm looking particularly to the parables at the moment for preaching. I'm focusing more on gospel Scriptures than apologetics Scriptures, but both have a place. 

I'm also convicted after some discussion with Jim Elliff that I need to spend more time reading Scripture than reading other good things, books, etc. Trying to ramp up that pursuit.

6. Preparing My Local Church | I'm telling my church in sermons what I'm planning (more vaguely). I'm telling my church in community groups and prayer meetings in as much detail as is helpful. They are responding with more prayer, with more focused prayer, prayer for boldness, etc. After worship on Sunday they spontaneously (led by a couple people) surrounded me, laid their hands on me, and prayed for boldness.

7. Seeking Partners | I've also told my people I need them in the work. Some need to be there to observe, respond relationally and conversationally to follow-up. A few have already stepped forward for that.

----------

Jesse had a second thing he brought up and I'll briefly respond to...

My hang up is, in addition to the qualities you mention that you're calling for in open air preaching, doesn't there have to be an attractional element to gather people? What does that look like other than being in a public place and raising your voice really loud?

I'm going to have more to say about this when I start talking about a particular approach I'm planning on taking. But I'm hoping to take a gradual approach to public preaching, meaning to start preaching out of other things that are occurring. In Acts 2 Peter's preaching is responding to the drunkenness comments of the crowd after tongues are spoken. In Acts 3 Peter's preaching is responding to the lame guy leaping around after healing takes place. Paul (generally speaking) often moves from Synagogue to marketplace to further opportunity (Areopagus, Hall of Tyrannus). Public preaching (of some sort) of Jesus is often in response to his healing, his helping the woman caught in adultery, to the crowds surrounding him because of other things going on. 

Now, we for some reason have taken that to mean we should learn some clever magic tricks and juggling in order to draw a crowd. I think more biblical ways above are better ways.

While I'm probably not going to take a lame guy and make him walk (unless the Lord wills!), I can start small with a conversation with one or two in such a way and in such a place that it leads to others joining in as they either eavesdrop (which we hope for) or because they are invited to join. 

In other words, I'm not planning at this point on being the dude who brings in his ladder and microphone and says my name and starts preaching to a crowd. I'm planning on starting with a few, loudly enough and in a public gathering area in order that others will overhear, and with the hope it draws a crowd and larger-scale open-air preaching is the result. AND, I believe I've found at least one way to do that in my city, though I'm not ready to post that specifically here. I've told a few friends. I'm happy to give a little more info to anyone who desires more. But what I gave should be enough to spark some thought in your context.

Hope that's helpful. Again, thinking it all through. Trying to find a way to do it better. And I'm desperate for negative or positive feedback so I'm not just some blogger out there saying a bunch stuff that will amount to nothing. What would you add to my list?

Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself

Tim-keller

Tim Keller, at about 7 minutes in to the 2nd Q&A session with Bryan Chapell (from these discussions), is basically asked, How do you ["preach the gospel to yourself every day"]? I worked hard to do justice to how Keller stated these things. Hope it's helpful.

I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent. 

But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions. 

I always pray in the morning, "Lord make me happy enough in the grace of Jesus to avoid being proud, cold, scared, and hooked."

  • Now, by proud I mean what you think, too self-congratulatory. And maybe disdainful of people who I don't think have it together.
  • Cold means I'm just too absorbed in my concerns to really be compassionate and gracious and warm and joyful to the people around me. 
  • Scared means I'm just obviously too anxious and worried.
  • Hooked means...when you're overworked, it means for me...eating. Eating things I shouldn't eat just because it's a way of keeping my energy up, and also because it's a way of rewarding myself. Or looking at women more than once.

So: proud, cold, scared, hooked.

Now, in the middle of the day I get it out and say, "Have I been proud, scared, cold, or hooked in the last 3-4 hours. And the answer usually is "Yeah." And then I say, "How do I bring the Gospel to bear on that? How does the grace of God deal with it?" And you try to catch yourself in those feelings. So basically finding problem feelings and inordinate desires, catch them when they're happening, try to deal with them with the Gospel right there.

I call that "Quick Strike" on my idols around noon, if I can remember it. And repentance at night and petition in the morning. So I try to get into God's presence three times a day.

[...]

I know the times in which I've been most prone to temptation is when I've basically drop-kicked the whole practice, the discipline of it, for weeks on end because I've just been so busy and running ragged and that's when I can really sense myself being vulnerable.

Family Worship & Bible Reading

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I'm learning & growing to be the pastor of my family I've been called to be, and I'm enjoying leading them better in family worship and Bible reading. The recent Desiring God Pastor's Conference message by Joel Beeke on family worship was convicting and encouraging. You should check it out.

Right now we have five main resouces for family worship &/or Bible reading (singing resources aren't listed). For the most part our kids read Scripture in the morning and we use the other resouces at night. Let me know what resources you have found helpful in the comments below.

1. The Bible | Each of our kids has their own ESV Bible (compact Bible for my boys, my daughter has a prettier one). They are reading James every day in the mornings, sometimes on their own and sometimes with me and/or Molly.

2. ESV Study Bible | Same text with notes that help the family when we need a few interpretive helps on a passage. We have a copy permanently stationed in our living room for the kids to open if they need to check notes on their own. They don't do this much yet, but will get the hang of it.

3. The Story of God for Kids | Created by the good folks at Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington. My family LOVES this. Well written and helpful notes for using it well, good questions to help it sink in. I have been reading it off my Kindle to them. Last night Elijah was peppering me with questions as he is piecing together the larger "Story of God" from the lessons blending together. Wonderful resource. Check out their other resources for adults and small groups.

Operation World

4. Operation World: A Prayer Guide to the Nations | Eye-opening for our kids as they learn about the world and the needs of the world from a missionary perspective. They love to thumb through the pages and learn about a new country. We are putting little biographies of missionaries in their hands and they want to learn about those countries today. We want to teach them to pray BIG prayers to our BIG God for our BIG world. UPDATE: Commenter reminded me of Window on the World, an Operation World of sorts for younger kids. We have that and the kids like it a lot.

9781433521942

5. Four Holy Gospels | Just got this in the mail yesterday. It's the most beautiful Bible I've ever seen, with artwork by NYC artist Makoto Fujimura. Our family was able to meet Mako and attend the Crossway Books release event for the project. We now plan on using the Bible at least once a week (Sundays) to take turns reading aloud from a Gospel together before we leave the house to gather with our local church. It's nice to add a substantial piece like this into our family worship & Bible reading that will last through the years as a family treasure.

Prayer For Revival Should Never Be Parochial

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...Asahel Nettleton in America knew the importance of communities praying for each other. At Milton he urged the Christians to pray for revival but then added ' Whether you do or not, it is possible there may be one, for Christians in other places have agreed to pray for you'! This is a reminder than in our praying for revival we should never be parochial and long for the touch of God only for ourselves; we must pray for those churches that do not pray for themselves, as well as for those that do.

Brian Edwards, Revival: A People Saturated With God, p84

Check out the other books on revival I'm using for my current sermon series.

Books on Revival

Revival SermonSlide 3

Here's a list of books I own on revival that I'll be using in one way or another for my current sermon series Revival: Longing for a Surprising Work of God.

I tried to list them in the order of how much I expect to use (or depend on) each one for this series. I'm referencing a number of other things as well (articles, audio, websites) but this list is for books alone.

UPDATE 2.8.11: I added some new books at the bottom, and a few comments in parentheses where I have something to say, so far.

Additions as of 1/20/2011...

Additions as of 2/8/2011...

I'd love to hear your suggestions for other books on revivals or about revival. I also assume as I peruse my personal library I could add a few to this list that I overlooked.