Will you please continue to pray for the people of Turkey and Syria? I returned this week from a trip to southeast Turkey, just over a month after two devastating earthquakes hit the region. They are still reeling in the midst of the tragedy and heartbreak. If you want to give to the relief efforts, I highly recommend giving to Send Relief by clicking HERE.
Regardless, please pray…
Pray for God’s mercy and grace to be experienced and realized.
Pray for local believers and churches in Turkey to endure and remain faithful as they minister to those affected by the earthquakes.
Pray for God to use this horrible tragedy to open the eyes, minds, and hearts of people to see their need for Jesus Christ.
Pray for God’s name to be glorified across that land.
Below is a story I wrote for SEND Relief to share about my time here for the purpose of helping with water filtration in response to the recent earthquakes…
I am really having a difficult time processing what I am seeing and experiencing here the past 10 days.
Overwhelming is a the word that comes to mind. I am overwhelmed by the devastation and destruction – the buildings and the lives. I am overwhelmed by the hopelessness of those trying to move forward without knowing the hope of Jesus Christ. I am overwhelmed by the necessary recovery efforts that will undoubtedly take years. Overwhelming.
Inadequacy is another word that comes to mind. We are so inadequate to meet the needs here. We cannot get enough filters or install enough filters to provide clean water for everyone who needs and requests it. We cannot have enough conversations and pray for enough people to make a spiritual dent in the darkness. We are completely inadequate for the task at hand. Inadequacy.
Discouraging is another unfortunate word that hurts my heart. I am discouraged by the buildings which still lie and ruins with bodies buried underneath. I am discouraged by a local organization that promised to provide water for a tent community after we installed a filter in their building, but then they refused share the water as they promised. I am discouraged by the overwhelming inadequacy of our relief efforts. Discouraging.
Despite all I said above, though, hopeful is the most important word that comes to mind. I am hopeful because of the local church here stepping up in amazing ways to serve their community. I am hopeful because I see people serving others even though they themselves have experienced tragedy. I am hopeful because the Lord is still in control, even in the midst of unspeakable brokenness and heartache.
Sure, I am overwhelmed, inadequate, and discouraged, but there is hope in the Lord. He is infinitely bigger than anything which overwhelms. He is infinitely stronger than my inadequacy is weak. He is infinitely more comforting than any discouragement is disheartening. Praise the Lord!
Will you pray for the people of Turkey and Syria? Pray for local believers to have wisdom, boldness, courage, and compassion. Pray for survivors to find the only hope that will not end – hope in the Lord Jesus. Pray for relief from the suffering, safety from further disaster, and peace in the midst of sorrow. Pray for God’s name to be glorified in this land.
Thursday, I was with a water filtration team in Elbistan, Turkey, and my heart hurts for the people. Today (Friday), we will be heading to another city hit hard by the recent earthquakes. The pictures below are just a glimpse of the devastation we witnessed Thursday.
Will you join me in praying for Turkey (and Syria)? Pray for peace, hope, and healing in Christ. Pray for local churches who are faithfully and sacrificially serving others while dealing with the heartache and devastation themselves. We heard about one believer who lost 30 family members in the earthquakes. Can you imagine?! Please pray for God’s sovereign hand of provision and grace amidst this devastation.
If you are able to give to the disaster relief efforts for Turkey and Syria, you can do so HERE.
What is God’s will for your life? How can you know? What should you do to find out?
Contrary to what people might say or how you might feel, God’s desire is not that you walk through life aimlessly and confused about His will. Rather, He has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ and through His Word – the Bible.
The problem we have in learning God’s will is not with His plan but rather with our pursuit.
God’s plan is perfect. Our pursuit, though, is flawed. We are sinners, and when we find ourselves confused, uncertain, scared, or uncomfortable, we tend to look everywhere except to God and His Word for answers. Yet, His desire is that we pursue and trust Him.
What is His specific will in your specific situation? You will only find the answer with the proper pursuit. Above all, pursue the Lord in two of the most basic but important ways possible…
1. PRAY TO HIM
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue my sermon series through Acts and preach through Acts 1:12-26 on “Prayer & Provision for Our Purpose” (available before Monday HERE). One of the most important things we can learn from the early church in the book of Acts is the importance of uniting together in prayer.
Seek the Lord by praying to Him. Pray to Him with your family. Pray to Him throughout your day. Pray to Him with your church.
Sadly, we are tempted to only resort to prayer before a big decision when we are unsure what else to do. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Wrongly, we are tempted to think of prayer as a last resort when everything or everyone else has failed. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Let us continually depend on the Lord in prayer, seeking and trusting Him for His provision. He is faithful, and what He said is true: “You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
Are you seeking God with all your heart? Are you surrounding yourself with others who are seeking God with all their hearts? A sincere pursuit of God in prayerful dependence on Him is worth the regular, continuous commitment.
2. LISTEN TO HIM
While sincerely pursuing God in prayer, you might hear from Him through the conviction of His Holy Spirit, an overwhelming sense of peace and direction, and/or a clear desire He places on your heart. Are you listening to Him?
Most importantly, though, how we listen to God (and can be certain we are listening to and hearing from Him) is by listening to His Word – the Bible. Are you spending regular time in God’s Word? Are you talking with others about God’s Word? Are you listening to the preaching of God’s Word? Are you studying God’s Word? Are you praying God’s Word back to Him?
We are so incredibly blessed that God has preserved His perfect word for thousands of years so that we can know Him and follow Him!
So often, the very simple answers to our questions about God’s will are found in God’s Word. Pray for His help to understand, and listen to the truth of His Word.
Far more often than not, when people come to me for pastoral counsel and advice, the answers to their questions and concerns are abundantly clear in the Bible. Of course, I am grateful for that because I know that God’s Word is perfect and true, so any advice I give by sharing God’s Word is great advice because it is not from me.
Sure, there are plenty of questions we have that the Bible does not address, but the Bible does address the most important questions (Who is God? Who are we? Why are we here? Who are we to be?). For everything else, if you are sincere in your pursuit of God, you will not regret the results.
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4). Are you delighting yourself in Him? Are you depending on Him in prayer? Are you listening to Him through His Word? Are you seeking the counsel of godly friends and leaders who are listening to Him through His Word?
What is God’s will? His will is that you “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Praise the Lord!
Probably the biggest ongoing frustration of my 24.5 years of being a Christian is my prayer life. Like all sinners, I have struggled with various things, even since placing my faith in Jesus in 1998. The one thing I am regularly unsatisfied about, though, is my prayer life.
Sure, I pray daily and set aside time for prayer, and while that time in prayer could always be better, what I am especially referring to is ongoing prayer throughout the day. Ultimately, this boils down to prideful foolishness because even though I never consciously think that I do not need to pray and rely upon the Lord, my failure to do so is a wrongful, foolish reliance upon myself and my own abilities. I get busy and try to keep up in my own power and wisdom, both of which are far from sufficient. Like you and every other person on this earth, I need the Lord. Apart from His grace and provision, we can do nothing good.
In thinking about my struggles with prayer, I wanted to share some things that have helped. Also, though, I would love to hear from you. What are some practical things that have helped your prayer life? What follows are some suggestions I have. They are not in any particular order of importance or effectiveness but rather just various things that have helped me over the years.
1. PRAY THE BIBLE.
One thing I am always grateful for when I am disciplined to do it is praying God’s Word back to Him. The Psalms are especially helpful for this, but there are also several other prayers throughout Scripture that you can use – prayers from Jesus, Paul, Jonah, etc. One of my favorites is from Colossians 1:9-12. Adjusting this as a personal prayer, you might pray, “Lord, please fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that I may walk worthy of You, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of You. Please strengthen me with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy and help me to give thanks to You, who have enabled me to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.“
A really helpful book with examples, tips, structure, and teaching on this idea is Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. In fact, if you are part of our church family, we have a case of these books coming soon, so you can have one. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I encourage you to pray the Bible.
2. HAVE SOME STRUCTURE
While we never want to fall into the trap of legalism and simply “checking things off a list,” I have found structure to be very helpful in my prayer life. If I simply think that I am just going to pray about things and be a prayerful person but do not have a plan to do so, I will usually fail. I need some structure.
Unless you are very unusual, you probably need some structure, too. Try to discipline yourself to start your day off right by spending time in God’s Word and in prayer. I have yet to meet someone who regrets getting up 30 minutes earlier (or making some changes to their schedule) for the purpose of seeking God through His Word and prayer before starting their day. Such structure will set the tone for the rest of the day.
Want to have a more consistent prayer life? Have some structure.
3. USE AN APP
Now, this is not for everyone, but I have found a prayer app to be extremely helpful with my need for structure. After using a few, the one I have settled on and used for years now is PrayerMate. I use PrayerMate almost every day, and I can customize it with prayers from the Bible, personal prayer needs, prayers for family and friends, prayers for my church family, prayers for unbelievers, prayers for the advancement of the gospel, etc. Nothing structures my prayer life and helps me not to forget to pray for people more than PrayerMate.
Some people might find an app and the temptation to look at phone notifications to be unhelpful, but if you want to improve your prayer life and have not yet tried something like this, why not give using an app like PrayerMate a shot?
4. TAKE A WALK
This goes along with the structure and app I just talked about, as I really enjoy walking when I get up in the morning and praying through the prayer requests on my daily PrayerMate list, which changes everyday. Not only does this keep things fresh; it also helps me to feel more awake and alert before I dig into God’s Word.
Most of the time, I do this outside, and I especially like these prayer walks in the summer because I can enjoy the sunrise and God’s creation. If there is rainy or bitter-cold weather, though, I might get on the treadmill or even walk laps around our family room while I pray.
Again, this might not work for everyone, but I have found walking while praying to be beneficial, both spiritually and physically. This even helps some throughout the day, too, as I have that mindset of, “Hey, while I’m walking from here to there, why not pray?” Take a walk.
5. SET REMINDERS
While technology can often distract us from praying and can even be used as evil and lead us astray, technology can also be used for good. One really simple way this is true is to set reminders to pray for certain things. In fact, it can be as simple as, “Hey, Google (or Siri or Alexa or _____). Remind me tomorrow morning at 7 to pray for Tom’s surgery.” Then, just like that, you have a reminder set on your phone (or smart speaker, computer, tablet, etc.) to pray for something specific at a particular time.
Do not simply say you will pray for someone. Pray. Set reminders, if and when necessary, and make prayer a priority.
6. PRAY WITH OTHERS
Having a conversation with someone who needs prayer? Why not pray with them right then? Usually, this is not only appropriate but appreciated. If not, set a reminder and/or pray silently in that moment.
Does your church have a prayer meeting like we do (our weekly prayer gathering is at 9:00 on Sunday mornings)? Join that prayer meeting and pray with others. Pray for others. Pray for God to be glorified in the life of your church.
Do you have family or roommates with whom you live? Pray with them. Pray for them. Ask them to pray for you. My wife and I pray each night before bed, and while I am sometimes tired and/or lazy and might not desire to pray, not once have I prayed and thought, “Well, that was a mistake. Shouldn’t have thanked God for all He does and shouldn’t have asked for His help.” We pray with our kids before they head to school in the mornings, and we need to be better about praying together during the summer months. Again, though, never do I regret praying with my kids and having them pray aloud for various things.
Pray with others. Prayer is not the last resort but rather our first priority because we always need the Lord, and He is always worthy of our praise.
7. KEEP A LIST
Perhaps you will do this through journaling, with a prayer app, on a notepad, on a piece of paper you keep in your Bible, on a dry-erase board on your fridge, or in some other way, but keep a list. This can help you from getting distracted, remind you of prayer needs you might otherwise forget, and even be a useful tool in reminding you to pray throughout the day.
Our memories can fail us. Our structures can crumble. Our discipline can be insufficient. Keep a prayer list.
8. PRAY OUT LOUD
Maybe you struggle to stay awake while praying, or maybe you struggle with your mind wandering. If so, you are not alone. One of the most helpful ways to combat struggles like that is to pray out loud. Not only that, but praying out loud (whether you are by yourself or with others) can better train you to get more and more comfortable praying with/for others out loud.
Have you ever been asked to pray but were not comfortable doing so? Pray out loud in your personal times of prayer each day, and this can help you get used to praying out loud in public. While being comfortable praying out loud in public (like at a church prayer gathering) is not necessary for one to be a faithful Christian, you can really be a blessing and example if you do so.
Regardless of your comfort level around larger groups of people, be intentional about praying out loud regularly, even if you are only doing so alone and with people in your household, small group, friends, etc.
9. SING PRAYERS
This is something I do not do nearly enough, but I always love singing prayers and praises to God. Why do I not do so more often?! Sometimes, I might be sitting in my quiet home office before the kids are awake, and I do not want my prayers to come out like a curse. The same might be true if I sing too loudly outside…
“If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him” (Proverbs 27:14).
Still, I really have no excuse as to why I do not sing prayers more often. There are plenty of great songs of prayer and praise that I have memorized, and so this would be a great way to improve my prayer life.
10. PRAY FOR PRAYER
Many days, the first thing that comes to my mind when I wake up in the morning is how pathetic I was the day before in persistently praying throughout the day. Thus, I might pray immediately, “God, please help me to be more prayerful today. Please remind me of Your presence throughout the day. Please give me a growing desire to seek You and trust You and depend on You.”
Not only that, I find myself asking others to pray for my prayer life. In fact, I would ask if you would pray for my prayer life? And, if you have any other tips for me, I would love to hear them.
Pray for prayer. We need the Lord, so let us not fail to constantly turn to Him and give Him thanks.
Do you ever feel far from God and wonder why? Do you sometimes wonder if your prayers are in vain? Because you, like me, are a sinner, the answer to those questions is surely yes, at least occasionally. Why, though? Why do we sometimes not feel as close to God as we would like (for those of us who desire such closeness)?
While there are a lot of things we could discuss regarding closeness to God, I want to focus on prayer. To be clear, though, feeling distant from God is never God’s fault. He is not playing hide-n-seek and desiring for you to feel alone and abandoned. Rather, feeling far from God can only be the result of our sin – our failure to sincerely seek Him, surrender to Him, serve Him, and obey Him.
God does not make mistakes. We do. God is perfectly faithful. We are not.
Specifically, then, what does this mean about our prayer life? Is God listening? Similar to our awareness of God’s presence in our lives is the promise of God’s ear to our requests. If we are genuinely seeking Him in faith, then we can be assured of His presence and provision (spiritually). He is not a genie, though, that is simply waiting for our wishes regardless of our hearts’ affections.
“Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law — even his prayer is detestable” (Proverbs 28:9).
In other words, if you are not seeking to honor God with your life, He despises your prayers to Him. If ever I am struggling in my prayer life and in my relationship with God, I must examine my heart and consider, “Have I been turning my ear away from hearing God’s law?” If so, it is no wonder I am struggling.
Let us consider such important truth, then. Are you walking with God? If not, do not expect Him to listen to your prayers. You have no such guarantee.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
And so, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).
The primary problem, then, is that none of us is righteous. We are all sinners and thus only deserving of God’s judgment and wrath (see HERE). Praise God, though, that in and through Jesus Christ, we can be counted as righteous (see HERE).
Thus, that is the first and most important thing you must do – make sure you have trusted in Jesus for your salvation and righteousness. Otherwise, you have no right to even bring your requests to God, let alone for Him to listen to them.
Then, though, you must also make sure that you are continuing to walk with Him according to His Word. Otherwise, as referenced above in Proverbs 28:9, your prayer is detestable.
A blind man healed by Jesus was right when he said, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him” (John 9:31).
We are all sinners, but if you have trusted in Jesus by faith and are walking with Him (the proof that you have trusted in Him), then your status with God is one of right standing. Worship Him and live according to His Word, and you will be aware of His presence and experience the closeness that He desires for you.
Is God listening to you? If you know and follow Him according to His Word, then yes, He is. If not, cry out to Him today. He desires that you do and is faithful and merciful to our sincere surrender.
When I pray each day for my and my family’s purity and biblical faithfulness, I often pray for my children’s future spouses. I pray that my children will walk closely with Jesus Christ and have no desire to marry someone who is not a faithful follower of Jesus. Please understand, too, that I pray this because I want for my children what God wants for my children. Unless they have the unusual gift of celibacy, my children will one day desire to be married. And, God’s desire for them is that they marry faithful Christians.
God’s Word is abundantly clear on this, as we are commanded not to marry unbelievers (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:39, which gives a Christian widow the freedom to remarry but only to remarry someone who is a believer – “in the Lord.”). This command, though, is not because we are better than others but rather because God knows we are not.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Ezra 9–10 on “Reclaimed Repentance.” The ending of Ezra provides a sobering reminder of why we must never compromise our faith in God by marrying those who do not have such faith. Sure, there are times when “things work out,” by the grace and mercy of God. What ends up happening, more often than not, however, is that when a believer marries an unbeliever, the believer ends up compromising his or her faith and betrays the Lord. That happened over and over again in Israel’s history, and it continues to happen today.
Thus, we must pray that God will protect us from such temptation. Pray this for yourself if you are single and hope to be married one day. Parents, pray this for your children. Grandparents, pray this for your grandchildren. Let us pray this for our church family and others throughout the body of Christ. Let us pray that we will be faithful to the Lord, which includes obedience to His Word. When we fail, let us pray for our hearts to be broken and for sincere repentance.
If you have come to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you have His Holy Spirit living in you. One of the clear evidences of such a salvation and the presence of God in your life, then, is an ongoing desire to turn away from sin and draw closer to the Lord. This certainly includes – and is even much more – than our most intimate relationships.
Spring is a time of new beginning and growth. Praise the Lord – He is always at work in people’s lives, bringing forth new beginnings and growth! Just as the grass grows and the flowers blossom, so God brings about spiritual growth and development.
Of course, we are completely incapable of experiencing that growth and development apart from God’s grace. We must continually rely upon Him by seeking Him through His Word, walking with Him in prayer, serving alongside His church, and being committed to His mission.
Do you have people in your life to challenge, sharpen, and encourage you to walk with the Lord? Have you sincerely surrendered your life to Him? Are you continually depending on Him?
Knowing how much we need prayer and how much we need one another, I wanted to share some ways you can be praying for our family right now…
Please pray that we will love, serve, and honor Jesus Christ above all.
Please pray that we will be good stewards of our resources.
Please pray that we will be disciples who make disciple makers.
Fall has arrived, and this is my favorite part of the year because the weather is great, football is fun, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks…
We hope you are having a good start to your fall, too. Are there any ways we can pray for you? If so, please let us know. May God bless you as you seek to honor and live for Him!
Like so many others, I am praying for God’s grace and mercy in the midst of this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the current projections are anything but favorable, I am asking God to do the impossible and bring an end to COVID-19.
What if, in the meantime, though, we ask God to do an amazing work in our hearts? What if we ask Him to do an amazing work in His church? What if we ask Him to use COVID-19 for His glory and for our good? What if we can one day look back on this pandemic and say, “Wow! God changed so many lives for His kingdom during that difficult time.“?
In the same way September 11, 2001, seemed to drastically increase patriotism in our great nation, what if COVID-19 drastically increases faith in our great God?
Would you join me in praying for three specific results in the coming weeks?
1. PRAY FOR A GROWING HUNGER FOR GOD’S WORD.
If we follow our government’s directives – and I believe we should to the best of our abilities – then we are going to have a lot more time at home until COVID-19 is “under control.” A lot more time isolated from those outside of our household. A lot more time alone, perhaps.
Hey, what a great time to binge-watch television shows and movies! What a plethora of time to waste on social media and the internet!
What if, instead, we prayed for a growing hunger for God’s Word? What if we used the increased time at home to spend more time reading our Bibles, praying from our Bibles, and memorizing Scripture? What if we developed a consistent habit of daily interaction with God through His Word? What if we established a regular routine of family devotions?
“How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:1-2).
If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word and sincerely prioritize our Bibles right now, our lives could be changed forever. Our families could be changed forever. Our churches could be changed forever. Our communities could be changed forever. Our world could be changed forever. What could and would God do in and through us if we truly grew in our hunger for His Word? Let’s find out!
People who are marginally committed to their churches might use this “break” as an opportunity to sleep in on Sundays. They might fall out of the habit of regular worship service attendance and church involvement. They might see this as an excuse to “drop out.” I pray that is not the case, but the possibility is real.
For those who sincerely love Jesus, though, a growing love for His church is evident. Thus, what if God were to use this time of separation from your church family to grow your commitment to your church family? What if, out of this pandemic, you realize what a privilege church involvement truly is, and your longing to be back with your church family is overflowing?
“God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).
If we pray for a growing hunger for God’s Word, and God answers our prayers, then I believe a growing commitment to God’s church will naturally follow. Let’s find out!
3. PRAY FOR A GROWING PASSION FOR GOD’S MISSION.
Likewise, as God grows our hunger for His Word and our commitment to His church, I believe He will increase our passion for His mission. Perhaps we cannot do quite as much as before or quite as much as we would like because of social distancing right now. Then again, perhaps we can do more, or at least different acts of mission and service.
Is this an increased opportunity to serve the elderly who have needs but are unable to leave their homes? Is this an increased opportunity to serve lost family and friends who are fearful and overwhelmed by financial instability and future uncertainty? Is this a vivid reminder to pray for the lost and pray for opportunities to reach out to them, even if only via the phone and/or internet?
Jesus said, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47).
What if we pray for a growing passion for God’s mission – the gospel to the world? What if God answers that prayer, and as a result, He uses this pandemic to bring about a great spiritual awakening for His glory and for our good? Let’s find out!