90 Day Challenge – Week Three

GOYOWe are done with week three of our 90 Day Challenge. Yesterday was day #21 and we are beginning week four today. If you are taking the challenge, stop for a moment and give yourself a hand (go ahead, I’ll wait)…

I do think it is important to celebrate our progress along the way. Maybe for some of us, this has been the most consistent we’ve been or even the longest we’ve stayed with a reading plan. Even if you have fallen behind, don’t get discouraged. Remember – our goal is to develop the habit of spending time regularly with God. The 90 Day Challenge is just a tool to do that.

One thing that has grabbed my attention as we have gone through the Gospel of Luke is Jesus’ teaching on prayer. In Luke 11 the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray. He gives the model prayer and then tells a story about a neighbor who comes at midnight and knocks on the door asking for bread. In Luke 18 we hear the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In both stories, the point seems to be that a request is granted because the person was persistent in asking.

In Luke 11, the NIV uses this phrase to describe the request: “shameless audacity.” In Luke 18, the judge grants the widow’s request because she “keeps bothering” him.

Jesus characterizes God as a Father who cares about His children and loves to give good gifts to them. So, rather than seeing God as a judge to be bothered or a neighbor to be woken up, we should see God as a Father who wants us to ask. The takeaway from these two teachings for me has been that I should ask God for the things on my heart. As I look at the decisions that need to be made in the coming months, I should ask God for His direction. I guess the question I could ask myself is this: have I brought my requests to God with “shameless audacity?”

Advertisements

Praying Circles Around Your Children

I’ve read several of Mark Batterson’s books including In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy DayWild Goose Chase and The Circle Maker.  Praying Circles Around Your Children is a shorter book based on the principles and scriptures found in The Circle Maker.  I read the entire book in two sittings, but it could easily be read through in 60 – 90 minutes.  Batterson does a good job of building on what he wrote about in The Circle Maker and made it applicable to parents.

He shares stories not only from his own experience of raising three children, but also from parents he has met through his various speaking engagements. He also receives emails from people who have read his book and take time to share their stories.

I was challenged by this book to be in regular prayer for my children.  Batterson emphasizes the importance of not giving up when it comes to praying for various things.  One quote from the books states it well:  “We need a paradigm shift.  We need to start praying ALAT prayers – as long as it takes.”  He shares stories from people who prayed on a regular basis – some for several years – for their children before answers came.

Many times when you read books like this and you have older children, you get the feeling it is too late.  Batterson addresses that as well.  He writes specifically to those who have teenage students.  “When they enter middle school or high school or college, we need to intercede for our children.  Pray that they will make the right friends and the right choices.  Pray that their conscience will keep them on the straight and narrow.  Pray that they won’t just survive; pray that they will thrive.”

Praying Circles Around Your Children not only encourages parents to pray, but offers practical ideas on how to do that.  If you are a parent, this book will be an encouragement to you.

See You At The Pole 2012

Since 1990, when See You At The Pole began, students have gathered at school flag poles to pray for each other, their schools and our country. This year saw more students gather together to pray.

We encouraged our students to get to school early and pray with whoever showed up. I’ve heard reports from all three of our schools (East Clinton, Clinton-Massie and Wilmington) and each school had a prayer time. The East Clinton group had to battle the rain, but had 30+ people meet. Clinton-Massie had a similar number and Wilmington had around a dozen or more.

It’s a big step for some to gather in front of the school and I’m proud of our students and adults who took advantage of the opportunity.

See You At The Pole, while primarily a junior high and high school event, has trickled down to the elementary level. I received this picture from one of our local elementary schools who took part in SYATP. Way to go teachers and students!

The Circle Maker Review

A few days ago I finished reading Mark Batterson’s latest book, The Circle Maker.  The title comes from the story of Honi the Circle Maker (you can read Batterson’s retelling of Honi’s story from a previous post.)

The Circle Maker was a challenging read to be sure.  I have read Batterson’s other books and also listen to his podcasts from National Community Church in D.C.  From those two sources I have become somewhat familiar with the story and growth of NCC. In this book, Batterson continually points back to the prayers he and the church prayed about the church’s direction and growth.  On most occasions, the prayers were not offered once, but were prayed over a long period of time.  Through the pages of the book, Batterson points to prayers that were prayed and how God answered them months and even years later.

Batterson not only uses stories from his church’s experiences, he also include many Biblical references that underscore the need to be persistent and bold in prayer.  As he writes about prayer, he encourages believers to Dream Big, Pray Hard and Think Long.  One phrase he uses throughout the book is this – Pray as if it depends on God and work as if it depends on you.

After reading The Circle Maker one can’t help but put the book down and feel the need to become more disciplined and persistent in prayer.  Batterson does a good job of laying out practical steps and encouragement to follow through on that desire. The reality that kept coming back to me was that prayer is work and requires discipline to continue to circle the dreams and fears each one of us have.

The Circle Maker is a book you should pick up and read.  I know of several others who are reading it and are being challenged.  Grab a copy and be challenged to be a circle maker.

Lord, Bless My Enemies

In staff meeting, our senior minister shared this prayer of St. Nikolai of Ochrid.  I’ve never heard of him nor read this prayer. Pretty powerful and humbling prayer.

“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life,they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.

But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen.”

Honi the Circle Maker

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I have started reading Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker.  I was not familiar with the basis of the book, the story of Honi, the Circle Maker.  I did a little research last night just to get some more information.  Here is how Batterson retells the story. (I found this info on Catalystspace website.)

A few years ago, I was reading through The Book of Legends, a collection of stories from the Jewish Talmud, when I discovered the true legend of Honi the Circle Maker. It forever changed the way I pray. I pray more. I pray with more faith. I’ve learned how to pray circles around my dreams, my problems, my family, and most importantly, the promises of God.

A devastating drought threatened to destroy a generation–the generation before Jesus. The last of the Jewish prophets had died off nearly four centuries before. Miracles were a distant memory. And God was nowhere to be heard. But there was one man, an old sage who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem, who dared to pray anyway. His name was Honi. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.

With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi drew a circle in the sand. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven. With the authority of the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven, Honi called down rain.

Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.

Then it happened.

As his prayer ascended to the heavens, raindrops descended to the earth. The people rejoiced over the rain, but Honi wasn’t satisfied with a sprinkle. Still kneeling within the circle, Honi lifted his voice over the sounds of celebration.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns.

The sprinkle turned into such a torrential downpour that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape the flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed inside his protracted circle.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, benediction, and grace.

Then, like a well-proportioned sun shower on a summer afternoon, it began to rain in perfect moderation. Some within the Sanhedrin threatened excommunication because his prayer was too bold for their taste, but the miracle couldn’t be repudiated. Eventually, Honi the Circle Maker was honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.” The circle he drew in the sand symbolizes the power of a single prayer to change the course of history. It’s also a reminder of this timeless truth: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.