Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Knowing and Praying the Gospel

When the small group leaders met in December, for a short training workshop, our primary focus was on learning to speak and pray the Gospel into people’s lives. The following is a summary of our teaching and discussion.

When anyone shares the Gospel with a believer or non-believer it is important to share scripture that you feel comfortable with. Therefore, take the opportunity and practice. Use scriptures such as Ephesians 2:1-10, 1st Corinthians 15:3-5, or Romans 3:21-26. Work your way down the verses. Practice saying these truths out loud, with a spouse, friend, or to yourself in front of the mirror. Do whatever it takes to be able to say clearly “Christ died for our sins”. These five simple words will impact lives for eternity.

When you speak the Gospel into someone’s life there can be a direct correlation between that person with the result of them being saved and/or healed. Acts 5:14-16 states: “more and more men and women believed in the Lord and as a result many were healed ... The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by sin and they were all healed.”

Many people come for prayer to be saved from the torment they feel when continuing to honor sin, idols, or the behaviors in their lives they have yet to surrender to the Savior, Jesus Christ.

As Christians, it is our responsibility and calling as ministers of the word to redirect thoughts and hearts back into relationship with Christ. This can be an overwhelming and difficult task. But, the Bible was written in such a way as to be able to give hope and answers when we teach and pray through the Gospel of Christ.. As we become more articulate in saying the Gospel to one another it will come naturally that we will also be able to pray the Gospel into lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be used for healing in the lives of both believers and non-believers.

As group leaders and prayers, an assignment was given in order to gain freedom to comfortably begin praying the Gospel.

Mark 7:20 (ESV) says “And He (Jesus) said, what comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

First: begin the assignment by doing a word/verse study on each of these sins, idols, or behaviors listed in Mark 7:20.

Second: Ask yourself these questions: What aspect of the Gospel (using the scriptures that are most comfortable to you) is missing in this person’s life as they are continuing in sin? Or, is there a lack of understanding God’s love, compassion, justice, faithfulness or righteousness? (This list is by no means complete.)

For Example: The first sin listed in Mark 7:20 is evil thoughts.

I looked up the word evil in a concordance and found several scriptures that gave me an indication of what aspect of the Gospel would need to be prayed for. Remember, the ultimate goal for prayer is to bring an individual who is struggling with sin back into a Christ-centered relationship.

These are a few of the scriptures I found…

1st Corinthians 13:6 Love does not delight in evil
Proverbs 28:5 Evil men do not understand Justice
Matthew 15:19 out of the heart comes evil thoughts

In this case; we should pray the Gospel into the life of the person struggling with evil thoughts by focusing on Christ’s love and compassion. We need to pray for understanding Christ’s justification, not receiving an eye for an eye… Many times it is in the redirecting of our thoughts away from evil and onto Christ that open the doors for salvation.

An example from Jeremy Phelps:
“Immediately following our workshop on gospel-centered prayer,
I received a phone call from a gentleman who had been referred to me
by a friend. He wanted to talk to a “minister of the gospel” in his area.
(And I was the only person my friend could think of.) As I began to
listen to this man's story of depression, health problems, and the contemplation
of suicide, my mind immediately thought back to our workshop on
“praying the gospel”. At first, I actually thought Royce and Monica were
pulling a trick on me because this seemed to be a situation that fit exactly
what we had learned. But I soon realized that this was the real
thing. When my turn to listen was nearly complete, I decided just to try
what I had learned earlier that day. I spoke to him briefly and then
prayed for this man, emphasizing the gospel truths throughout my prayer.
He responded well and was obviously touched by the prayer. Since
then, I have prayed gospel-centered prayers with others and it has been very
meaningful for them.”

Many of us struggle in our sin to the point of faithlessness, or we become frozen in inactivity and come to accept the deception of our sin. As we begin to acknowledge our own sins, ask forgiveness and receive restoration we can receive the truth also of 1st Corinthians 6:9-11. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Therefore, walk and pray in Christ’s power and grace.


P.S. I would be interested in receiving your word/verse studies.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Learning from Paul how to pray

I have been doing some studying of the Apostle Paul’s teaching and practice of prayer. Recently I was looking over a list of Bible passages in which Paul told the recipients of his letters that he prayed for them. This list included the following:

  • Romans 1:8-10
  • Ephesians 1:15-16
  • Philippians 1:3-6
  • Colossians 1:3-4, 9
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 11
  • 2 Timothy 1:3
  • Philemon 4-6

Three things caught my attention and should instruct us on our praying for others.

First, is the importance Paul places on praying for others, even before speaking to others. What particularly caught my attention is where Paul placed his comments about praying for others in his letters. Take a look at the list above. What do you notice? Let me phrase it another way. How long did it take Paul to tell the recipients of his letters, whether a church or a person, that he was praying specifically for them? Answer – not long at all.

Soon after greeting them, Paul wants them to know that he is praying for them. Before he unpacks the great theological truths, before he addresses the problems that they are facing, and before he gives them instruction on how to live in light of the gospel, Paul says “Hey guys, I’ve been praying for you! In fact, I’ve been praying for you a lot.”

An implication is that the content of his message to them flows from his praying for them. His relationship with them, whether those close to him (like Timothy) or those he has not met in person yet (like the church in Rome), is an extension of his conversations with God about them.

As I thought about this, I realized that I tend to speak first and pray later. Actually, I speak a lot and too often don’t even get around to praying later.

How about you?

Second, in every one of these passages, Paul thanks God for the recipients. He repeatedly says that he “always gives thanks for them”. This is not simply something he did once in a while. It clearly is a constant part of his normal prayer life, especially when he is praying for others.

He is also consistent in that he often gives thanks to God for their faith and love. The evidence that Paul sees of God working in their lives is their showing and increasing in faith and love. And Paul gives thanks where credit is due, to God. Paul recognizes and reminds his readers of God’s sovereign grace in their lives. Even before he gets to the meat of what he wants to say to them, Paul confidently knows “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). God will complete what he started. And Paul constantly thanks God for His working in their lives.

Unfortunately, when I pray for others, I find myself reminding God of what is not happening in someone’s life and what needs to be corrected. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I can’t believe how often I give God pointers on how things should get done.) I have found that I have a lot of confidence that God “can” work in someone’s life but I am often negligent in looking for signs that God has already been working in their life.

How about you?

Third, Paul was constantly and consistently in prayer. This for me is the most obvious from these passages and the most daunting. He talks about how he “does not cease” to pray for them and how he prays “night and day” for them.

I am not going to lay a guilt trip on you by saying that if you don’t pray at least three solid hours a day you are a spiritual loser. Not because I am concerned about hurting your feelings but because I don’t like calling myself a big loser.

I have learned something about consistency in prayer, at least for myself. If I don’t plan to do it, it doesn’t happen. My best prayer times are when I set my alarm, get up earlier than I need to, spend some time reading the Bible, and then spend a set time praying. And here is the key for me, good intentions don’t get it done. Planning does.

How about you?

So, in summary.

  1. Communicate with God before communicating with people.
  2. Give God more thanks for what He is doing and less advice on what He should be doing.
  3. Pray. Just pray.