- Get up early. Read the scripture. Pray for your wife, children, extended family, work problems, government, etc.
- Don’t leave for work without kissing your wife.
- Work hard. Don’t mail in your work. Break a sweat (figuratively if you have a desk job).
- Come home for lunch, if possible. Especially while the kids are young. Your wife will appreciate the adult interaction/conversation.
- When you get home from work, greet your children with a big smile. Make sure they know you delight in them. Tickle them. Tell them how excited you are to see them.
- Once you get home in the evening, put your phone away. Spend time with your wife and children, undistracted by texts, social media, work emails, or sports scores.
- Rally the troops to help their mom to get dinner on the table. Eat dinner together. Pray before the meal. Read a scripture verse afterwards, or a catechism question. Explain and discuss.
- Read books to your children. Play a board game with them. Help with their homework, and/or discuss what they’ve been learning in school and help them comprehend the concepts. If the weather is good, go for a walk, toss a football, scoop up some ice cream for the whole family.
- Be involved in the bedtime routine. Get the bubble bath ready. Brush the teeth of the little ones. Wrestle with the older ones. Make up stories to tell them. Tell them a story about when you were a child. Pray aloud for each child by name. At some point in the evening, you may (very likely) need to discipline them. Give them spankings, restore them to familial fellowship, and let the good times rolls.
- Once the kids are in bed, spend time with your wife. Read a book with her. Watch a good show/movie. Make love. Ask about her thoughts on some text of Scripture, cultural event, theological issue and discuss.
- Before you drift off to sleep, talk with your wife about the cute/funny things the kids did that day or recently. Laugh with her. Rejoice in the fruit of your union with her. Kiss her. Pray with her.
- Ask God to bless your home before you go to sleep. Kiss your wife again.
- Go to sleep at a reasonable hour, get a good night’s sleep. That way you can get up on time the next day, and do it all over again.
One mistake we often make in our prayers, is expecting all the wrong things. We pray for faith and expect a boost of confidence, and instead we meet with a confusing passage that causes us doubt. We pray for patience and peace and expect a calm tranquility of soul to settle upon us as we magnanimously treat others in our life; instead we are presented a bombardment of chaos and crashing of schedules. We pray for joy expecting laughter, and find sorrow instead. We pray for victory over sin and are immediately presented with the meatiest of temptations we’ve yet faced!
One mistake we often make in our prayers, is expecting all the wrong things. It must be clear that our Father in heaven gives good gifts to His children; He is not abusive and “up-to-something.” When we ask for bread, he doesn’t give rocks, He gives bread (Lk. 11:11). Yet, when we see our prayers being answered differently than we expect, this does’t mean that God is failing to meet our request for bread, but that the Holy Spirit is praying and interceding on our behalf and “translating” our prayers. You see, we think we are asking for bread, when we are really asking for gravel. God, in His great love for us, sees fit to look beyond the stuttering and stammering and misguided requests we often make, and by His Spirit transforms our imperfect requests into precisely what He knows we should be asking for. As we mature, we become less likely to ask for our circumstances to change, and rather we ask that we would be changed through the circumstances God’s Providence has sent into our lives.
Thus, we must be more daring in our prayers, and grow in maturity. We must not ask for stuff, when God would have us to seek Him and His kingdom (Mat. 6:33). One entry from Robert Murray M’Cheyne‘s journal exhibits mature praying:
Nov 21 – If nothing else will do to sever me from my sins, Lord, send me such sore and trying calamities as shall awake me from earthly slumbers. It must always be best to be alive to thee whatever be the quickening instrument. I tremble as I write, for oh! on every hand do I see too likely occasions for sore afflictions. –R.M. M’Cheyne (Memoirs)
Notice that his desire to be “severed from his sins” (i.e. sanctification) was converted into prayer not by asking directly for the temptations for sin to be removed, but that God would send “sore and trying calamities” which would “awake [him] from earthly slumbers.” Would you dare to pray as M’Cheyne did, “God send me the sort of trials and temptations which are sure to pry my grip off of worldly trinkets?” Or like David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psa 139:23-24).” All too often we ask for what God might give to us, rather than asking for Him, and that He would bring about the sort of circumstances that will reveal the wiliness of our sinfulness. If nothing else will do to sever me from my sins, Lord, send me such sore and trying calamities as shall awake me from earthly slumbers. R.M. M’Cheyne
Asking that God would expose our sin and proclivities to sin is not a “kill-joy”. Rather, it demonstrates that one loves God and therefore hates sin. When we pray, we must ask according to His will, and His will is our sanctification. Meaning, when we ask for faith, for instance, we are entrusting ourselves to His sovereign decree of what He knows will result in the greatest strengthening of our faith. In many cases, this will look like a peculiar cross to bear or trial to face; which are, of course, incomparable to the glory which will be revealed in us, as a result of the pruning work of these trials and sufferings. As the old hymn well instructs us: “Behind a frowning providence, He hides a gracious smile.”
We need to be careful what we ask for, because we just might get it. Christians are prone to throw around prayers for revival like a germaphobe with hand sanitizer. We see the grimy corruption of our culture, and we desire things to be a bit more “tidy”. So, our sense of “Christian-ese” motivates us to throw requests for revival into our prayers, like radishes into a salad. Revival indeed is the solution to the maelstrom of sin which our society is caught in; but as we ask and implore God to grant revival, we best be prepared for what we’re asking for–if that’s at all possible. We most certainly will never be “prepared” for revival, in one sense; but we most definitely need to know what it is we are asking for when we ask God to give revival to our families, communities and nations.
To be clear, we are not asking for more teary-eyed worship nights, with so much swaying to the music. We are not asking for mere social reform to satiate our nostalgia for Victorian sensibilities. We are not asking for spine tingling pep-talks which let us vent our pent-up emotions. We are not asking for some kind of confessional catharsis.
We are asking for a sweeping fire of repentance. Revival is, in fact, a massive gift of repentance to an individual, family, community, and/or nation. Thus, revival–when God grants it–results not in simple tearful behavior modification, but in repenting from allegiance to worldliness, moralism, and humanism, and turning in faith and allegiance to Christ, His covenant, and the laws found in His word for how we are to order society.
True revival results in a new cultureWhat this means is that true revival results in a new culture. Its fruit is a more thoroughly Christian culture. Regardless of the extent of the revival, the true fruit of a revival is that people get married, have kids and raise a Christian family; they start businesses which operate on Biblical principles; they run for office, to guide the civic sphere to work in submission to Christ’s Kingdom; they undertake science experiments to develop remedies to disease, and invent newer & better equipment to due our work/communication with; and they compose songs & symphonies, write stories, make movies, take photographs, and paint beautiful, good, and true things. In essence, things get really practical after a true revival.
Two Biblical examples of this are the Exodus and Pentecost. To paint with a broad brush, these were both revivals, which attest to God’s people returning unto God, by God’s power. In the first instance, notice that following the great deliverance of God’s people out of Egypt, God spends 3+ books (half of Exodus, and all of Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy) laying out the ordering of a God-honoring culture. Following this great revival of true religion, we witness a zeal for ordering a community according to God’s standards (and of course plenty of sinful blunders along the way).
At Pentecost, we see the greatest revival found in Scripture (and it is set in contrast to the first Pentecost, which I’ve written about here); but in the following chapters, what do we find those who experienced the revival doing? Well, for starters, organizing potlucks (Acts. 2:42); they began ordering the early church into, might we call them, parishes, districts, groupings, etc. Then we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ordaining the first diaconate. Then we see missionary undertakings, which produced the need for councils (Acts 15). We also have the rest of the New Testament, much of which is devoted to the outlining of how Christian families and Churches are to be ordered. To pull it all together, John’s Apocalypse sets forth the vision of Christ ruling over all the nations with the Sword of His Gospel. After the glorious revival of Pentecost in Acts 2, the entire New Testament is devoted to building and establishing a new culture, one that is under submission to Christ and His Word.
When revival comes, we are not aiming to have Kleenex’s stock rise due to all the tearful confessions (though repentance often is accompanied by such emotions, and there is no intrinsic problem with those feelings). But the proof is in the pudding–as the British, I think, say–and the fruit of true revival is true repentance, and that means turning away from sinful ordering of society, and submitting to a Scriptural ordering of society. That has implications for the individual, the family, the church, and communities large and small (towns, cities, and nations).
The problem with the common understanding of repentance and revival is that we are far too heavily influenced by some of the most unhealthy aspects of the revival-ism (of the likes of Charles Finney). So much so, that we have geared even our weekly worship services to cater to a sort of Protestant Confession booth, were we get a cathartic release every Sunday, only to continue on in the same sorts of worldly habits and thinking the rest of the week. What we truly need is a Christian reformation of culture. That is what we are really asking for when we plead with God to grant revival. This all is not to in any way impinge our praying for revival, but to enrich our understanding of what God does when he revives a people.
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For several years I’ve followed a sort of liturgy for my times of private prayer. I’ve found it so helpful in organizing and prioritizing my thoughts, and keeping me focused during my prayers. However, it provides the flexibility for pressing needs, limited time, and a purposefulness in the discipline of prayer!
Recently, what with a new baby, new town, new job, new schedule, new studies, etc. I’ve found that private prayer has been a casualty of all these changes. I do pray continually (1Thes. 5:17), but dedicated times of prayer have been less often.
However, despite my limited time for private prayer and trying to figure out where it fits in all the “newness” of my life, I’ve been refreshed by having a pre-decided commitment to pursuing private prayer and study; and even more than that, a biblical template of sorts, to guide my praying. I happened across this “template” many years ago now, and have continually returned to it as a model for how to structure my times of prayer. It comes from Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s biography, which is fabulous and I highly recommend it. He organized prayer this way, drawing from the Psalms and from the Lord’s Prayer:
“I ought not to omit any of the parts of prayer–confession, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
I’ve been working through “The Art of Prophesying” by William Perkins. The book is nothing earth shattering or groundbreaking, but is full of some real good foundational truths for preaching and preachers. The basic reminders are always helpful, and I’m a staunch advocate that we should never think that we’ve graduated beyond the basics!
Chapter 11 is a very brief explanation of how public prayer should be carried out. The principles presented here may jar our modernist sentimental sensibilities, but the sting of correction is better than the agony of judgement. Here is the full excerpt, and thankfully, you can find the full book here.
We have been considering the preaching of the Word. Now, finally, something should be said about leading in public prayer. This is the second aspect of prophesying. In it the minister is the voice of the people in calling upon God (1 Sam. 14:24; Luke 11:1).
In the days in which we live we, as Christians, must be faithful to keep a few things in mind. One, we win. Two, darkness loses . . . every time. Now, the darkness occasionally wins a battle here and there, but those “victories” are more like the defense calling an all out blitz on Peyton Manning only to realize that they left the receivers wide open. Sure, they were fast off the line . . . but that victory is short-lived, as Manning launches a bullet to the end zone. The defense, then, has very little to actually celebrate.
Increasingly, our government views itself as the answer to everything. Ironically, this is nothing novel. We ought not to be surprised that human governments view themselves as indispensable; they seem to have a track record of concluding that. The lust for power inevitably leads to the worship of demons. The lust for votes inevitably leads to sacrificing our children to Molech. The lust to rule with a pen and phone, without any sort of accountability, always leads to idolatry. [Read more…] about Praying to Darius
I forget where I first discovered this precious gem from A.W. Tozer. But it has become a beloved reminder of the attitude and disposition which we, as believers, ought to live with. I pray that it inspires you towards a greater humility of soul, and a greater boldness for God.
The Prayer of the Minor Prophet
Oh Lord, I have heard Your voice, and was afraid. You have called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. You are about to shake all nations, and the Earth, and also Heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Oh Lord, my Lord, you have stooped to honor me to be your servant. No man takes this honor upon himself, save he that was called by God, as was Aaron. You have ordained me, Your messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected You, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant. [Read more…] about The Prayer of the Minor Prophet
Here is a sneak peek at our speaking/ministry schedule for the next few weeks! Some of these times are tentative and are subject to change. South African’s like to “go with the flow!” Which keeps me on my toes! Would love to have you praying alongside of us!