Love & Humility

“If an experience fails to engender humility, charity, mortification, holy simplicity, and silence, etc., of what value is it?…In this faith God supernaturally and secretly teaches the soul and, in a way unknown to it, raises it up in virtues and gifts…When together with the words and concepts the soul is loving God and simultaneously experiencing this love with humility and reverence, there is indication that the Holy Spirit is at work within it.” -St. John of the Cross

As I was driving today, these were my thoughts…

I have experienced deep pain, I have felt the sting of betrayal, the dagger of rejection; I have felt the offense of close friends, I have been torn by the gossip of others. I have seen the hypocrisy of leadership and not pointed my finger; I have stood in the face of being falsely accused.

I have been wrong. I am often wrong. I have hurt people close to me. I have spoken pointed words knowing exactly where they will hurt the most.

And in all of this, in every situation, in all human and spiritual relationships, I have seen that only two things are worth experiencing them all: love and humility. If I can come out of these situations, whether I am the injurer or the offender, with love and humility, it’s worth it.

I’m not trying to rewrite a letter from Paul, though skimming them last night is probably why this is on my mind. It’s sounds so simple: respond well, taking the low road and love through the hard things. Yet so many of us choose the easy way of offense, selfishness, and pride, so we stay in our immature state.

I know many people who are twice my age and still take the easy path. I want to set my face towards the low, unattractive door. I want to come out of every situation with a little more love and a little more humility.

The Worry Behind Your Eyes

Ugly wall of worry

To some extent, we all put up a wall in our minds and hide a thought process behind it. Hopefully you don’t have many of these walls keeping your thoughts from those around you, but don’t lie — you know what I’m talking about.

I don’t want to get into the issues of shame and fear of man, though they’re common walls. What I’ve been meditating on is a big, ugly wall so many of us are hiding behind: worrying about money.

I’ve heard a lot of stories lately about how financial big wigs and missionaries alike are getting hit with the effects of the economy. Two IMs at my HOP had their phones shut off recently. It’s that bad.

So last night I was asking the Lord about His promise in Malachi:

“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'”
Malachi 3:10

I started to cry as I told the Lord I hadn’t seen the fulfillment of that promise (I have seen blessing, but not to the point of “not enough room to receive it”). He actually said to bachan (test) Him in His faithfulness.

So maybe this is an encouragement to all of you that God promised He would provide, maybe it’s a shout out to Him that I want to see it in my own life — or recognize it if I just haven’t noticed — I don’t really know. All I know is that God keeps His promises and this is no exception. It’s just hard to see sometimes.

Série de Prière: In Conclusion

It’s been a good challenge for me to sit down and consciously think about how I pray. I certainly didn’t intend for the series to last so long! I hope that some of my insight, experiential knowledge, or simple steps have helped you and lifted some of the mystery of prayer.

In conclusion, I just wanted to say that as you continue your journey in prayer, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. My favorite quote about that comes from a Jason Upton song:

I’m so proud of you
I’m so proud of you
Samuel, I’m so proud of you
I’m proud of you when you are sleeping
I’m proud of you when you’re awake
And whatever you do, don’t stop tryin’
‘Cause learnin’ makes lots of mistakes

The Holy Spirit will direct your path. Ask Him for help, after all, He is called the Teacher (John 14:26).

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Intercession (Part 2)

“In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.” – Richard Foster

Practical Steps

In my limited experience, I have learned that listening is the most important part of this kind of prayer. We must not assume we know God’s will on a matter (unless clearly defined in Scripture) because then we can twist our prayer to suit our own motives or misconceptions. Rather, before I even begin to intercede, I ask the Holy Spirit several questions about the person/situation. I ask for certain scriptures to pray, what God thinks of them/the situation, what my position is to be, etc. Then I can intercede with authority because I know I am in alignment with God’s heart.

Beyond receiving direction from the Lord on how to pray, there’s really no formula for intercession. It can be practiced as a two-word prayer, internally as you’re going about monotonous tasks, or very focused in a prayer room. It can last two seconds or several hours. The goal is not the quantity of time or amount of words — as I said before, many words encourage distractions — but instead praying in alignment with God’s will. It is when we pray God’s will that we see our prayers answered. Please know that just because you have direction from the Lord on how to pray, it does not mean He will answer right away. In my post on Luke 11, I went into depth on the importance of persistence in prayer.

Something I learned at IHOP is how important it is to pray positive prayers. All of the apostles’ prayers in the Bible are positive, praying for what would be in the churches instead of focusing on their weaknesses. (While on the subject, apostolic prayers are great tools for intercession. A list of them can be downloaded here.) It is vital to keep our focus on God in our prayers. In Luke 11, the man that needed bread didn’t pray against the lack, he went to his friend with the bread.

A couple weeks ago, a young married couple asked me to pray for them. I didn’t know what they needed prayer for, but I spent about 3 hours asking questions and interceding for them before I went to their house. After I spent only 15 minutes praying for them, I could see fresh hope in their eyes. The Lord had spoken to me and used me to encourage them — and I was just as encouraged to know that I hear from God!

Recommended Reading

Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar

Crafted Prayer by Graham Cooke is a 95 pages of wisdom on focused, effective prayers

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Intercession (Part 1)

I’ve left the most complex subject for last. I’m timid about defining intercession for three reasons: a) people I respect disagree with my definition, b) hundreds of thousands of intercessors have gone before me and must know much more than I, and c) because there is so much to be said. But the rule is that I speak from my own experience, so here is my humble definition.

What is it?

The simplest definition is this: intercession is praying for others. (The dictionary definition of intercession is “the action of intervening on the behalf of another.”) I like to tag on to that definition that it is taking a position between God and man — partnering with God’s heart for anything outside of yourself and asking Him to bring His purposes to pass.

I can’t move on from “what is it?” without addressing why I think the intercessors are the most burnt-out part of the Church. We must have a foundation of who God is and who we are before Him before we begin to seriously intercede. If we do not, we begin to strive and look to man for validation of what we are doing. I wrote about my experience of finding my identity before God in prayer in my series on enjoyable prayer (which can be found here, here, and here).

“Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7

God has things He will or won’t do based upon our intercession (Jer. 5:1). We see several times in the Bible that God changes His mind as a direct result of someone praying. My favorite example is Moses:

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen [Israel] and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!”
Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’
Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Why should the Egyptians speak and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”
So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” Exodus 32:9-14

God has given us an unprecedented dignity in our prayers: even to the point of changing His mind.

In my next post, I’ll cover some practical ways to intercede, as well as some encouragement of the fruit of intercession that I have seen in my own life.

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Communion

“God [is] Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

What is it?

I’m not here to talk about the Eucharist, though that’s a good form of communion too. The word “communion” simply means sharing something in intimate fellowship/friendship. The kind of communion I am talking about is the internal relationship we have with the Holy Spirit.

Why do it? Well firstly, it is repeated over and over that Jesus communed with the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 10:21, John 1:33, etc.). I also find it interesting how much Jesus stressed abiding with the Spirit right before He went to the cross (read John 14-16).

In my own life, I find that the more I focus on communing with the Spirit on a moment-by-moment basis, the less I sin: I make better decisions because I follow His leading and I am generally more joyful as I remember God is walking with me throughout all my circumstances.

I have posted this quote before, but I believe it sums up communing with the Holy Spirit better than I ever could:

“There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to the divine breathings.” – Thomas Kelly

Practical Steps

Jesus said the Father would give the Holy Spirit to His children if we ask (Luke 11:13). I don’t have bullet-points for this type of prayer, just suggestions.

Try to develop an awareness of the Spirit within you all the time. You may have been consumed with the natural all day and then all of the sudden remember about Him — that’s great! Talk to Him internally when that happens. If you’re stressed out, thank Him for who He is (e.g. “Thank you Holy Spirit for your peace”).

As I’ve progressed in this, I find that I can have a normal conversation with someone and be consciously adoring the Lord and as I have to make small decisions, I ask Him what I should do. Sometimes He gives me specific direction, other times I know that that it is my choice.

Recommended Reading

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a small but insightful book on communing with the Lord throughout the day

Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen is an easy read on unceasing prayer, among other subjects

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Contemplation

Contemplative prayer is my favorite type of prayer. When people write about contemplative prayer, they usually refer to the old Catholic saints like St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Madame Guyon. These people are called “mystics”; I don’t prefer the term because of the Catholic affiliation, but I do like to call myself “contemplative.”

What is it?

Contemplative prayer is really something that must be experienced. It is near impossible to describe as it is  communing with God through your spirit (and everyone goes about this a little differently). The basic idea is this: it is a selfless prayer — a prayer that focuses on ministering to God and Him alone. It is giving back to Him because He has given so much to us.

Contemplative prayer is a prayer of the spirit. God is a spirit being, so it follows that He is to be loved in spirit. Although you may receive what the mystics called “favors” (visions, etc.) from the Lord, don’t expect them. Sometimes I come out of contemplative prayer feeling so in love and I don’t know why, I just feel full and like I’m walking on air. Other times I feel more dry than ever.

Practical Steps

I have practiced contemplative prayer in a prayer room, but I think it is most effective in solitude. I like to play soft music or have complete silence.

1. Start with reading the Bible and worshiping. Take this time to write down your thoughts and quiet your soul before the Lord.

2. Find a scripture of adoration (i.e. that makes you love the Lord).

3. Softly repeat the phrase of scripture internally. Seek a connection with Holy Spirit in this.

4. Say the phrase until you feel a distinct “in love” feeling.

5. With no words, remain in that “loving on the Lord” place as long as you can (try to start with 20 minutes).

If you get distracted in this process, go back to repeating the scripture. If you fall asleep, just continue where you left off. It is important to begin with a scripture because of the mystical nature of contemplative prayer. Otherwise, it is possible to get involved in nihilism (extreme skepticism maintaining that nothing in the world has real existence) and other things.

You can use mental imagery when you contemplate, but the mystics consider this a “lesser” form of prayer because God cannot be contained in any imagery and His majesty cannot be given justice through what we know in our heads. I think imagery is a fine place to start, but – in my opinion – it’s good to get to the place where we are able to stare into “the cloud of unknowing” without imagery props.

Recommended Reading

Fire Within by Thomas Dubay is a summary of the lives of two great mystics, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Waiting

There’s something very special about waiting prayer. When practiced with the right motives, it can become the core of your prayer life — and a very important part at that.

What is it?

Waiting prayer is taking time to be still before the Lord. This concept is repeated over and over again in Scripture (Ps. 25:5, 25:21, 27:14, 37:7, 37:9, 39:7, 62:5, 130:5; Isa. 40:31; Lam. 3:25-26; Hos. 12:6 — to name a few). When you quiet your soul and focus on the Lord, you are expectant. You let Him love you as you worship Him and you expect that He will reveal Himself to you. If you’re not used to internal prayer, waiting prayer is a great place to start.

“Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation.” Ps. 62:1

The more you wait on the Lord, the more sensitive you become to the Holy Spirit. You may feel nothing — in fact, for a while, I can almost guarantee you that you will feel nothing — but the simple act of quieting your soul before God will inevitably cause you to sense Him more.

The Bible commands us to wait on the Lord (Ps. 27:14, Hosea 12:6). It is the beginning of trust: you admit your own human weakness and look to the Lord for strength. And David tells us that, “those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” (Ps. 37:9)

Practical Steps

Waiting prayer can be practiced in a prayer room or in your bedroom. Just be somewhere that you’re not likely to be interrupted.

  1. Start with worshiping God — out loud or internally — and read the Word.
  2. Close your eyes and begin to clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Focus, in expectancy, on the Lord. (If you want, ask God to give you a mental picture to help you focus.)
  3. Then just wait. Don’t ask questions, try not to get distracted — just wait. Honestly, even though I’ve been doing this for 2 years, it often takes a half hour for my soul to quiet down so I can hear the Holy Spirit’s voice clearly. We get so busy during the day that it takes us a while to slow down.

Start with a few minutes at a time. If you fall asleep, just pick up where you left off; there’s no shame in that. You will soon find that you want to wait on the Lord longer and longer because His presence is so addicting.

Recommended Reading

Jaeson Ma, a campus revivalist, has posted his “Waiting Prayer” chapter from his book on his blog — it is an excellent description and includes his own personal testimony.

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Meditation

What is it?

While Eastern meditation attempts to empty the mind, this kind of meditation is an attempt to consume it with God. Biblical meditation is setting yourself before the Lord to receive revelation from His Word. The purpose is to receive more of the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5 says how to get the knowledge of God and this is the first step: receiving God’s words and treasuring His commands.

There is nothing quite like taking an hour to meditate on a short phrase (like “Our Father in Heaven”), asking the Holy Spirit to teach you about it, and receiving your own revelation on it (and then feeling silly that you didn’t see that before!)

Practical Steps

Everyone who practices meditation does it a little differently. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Pick a verse you want to meditate on (or a portion of Scripture you want to take a few weeks to go through).
  2. Worship for a bit.
  3. Begin to meditate on the first phrase of the first verse (e.g. if the phrase is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” try just meditating on “In the beginning”).
  4. Repeat the phrase over and over.
  5. Thank the Holy Spirit for the truth of the verse (e.g. “Thank you that You were in the beginning”).
  6. Ask questions – lots of questions. Write down any answers you get.
  7. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more to you

Meditate for 20 minutes before you move on to the next part of the verse. Once you get the hang of it, try going for 2 hours on one phrase. It may seem impossible at first, but it’s amazing how long you can stay on one phrase when the Holy Spirit is speaking!

I’ve made my meditation page available for download here.

Recommended Reading

Revelation through Meditation by Kirk Bennett is a great method for meditation (listen to the teaching too)

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Madame Guyon is a book written in simple language to make meditation approachable for everyone

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière (Series on Prayer): Distraction

I want to get a huge factor out of the way before I continue this series on prayer: distraction.

Humans are weak — I live in a community of people who pray for a living and this issue comes up over and over again. We live such fast-paced lives (internally and externally) that when we try to sit and focus on an invisible God, we understandably get distracted by the smallest thing.

But there is hope! I’ve been in a prayer room for a minimum of 25 hours a week for the past 2 1/2 years and I have definitely progressed in the distraction area (though I’m far from conquering it).

“Our minds are so flighty. However, remember that our God-given wills govern all of our strength. We must recall our minds to God. Otherwise, our spirits may wander, dragging us down to the things of this earth. It isn’t necessary to be too verbose in prayer, because lengthy prayers encourage wandering thoughts. Simply present yourself to God…and fix your attention on His presence. If your mind wanders at times, don’t be upset, because being upset will only distract you more. Allow your will to recall your attention gently to God. Such perseverance will please Him.”

-Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
(emphasis mine)

There are many ways to stay focused in prayer — I won’t go into them now, but be encouraged that distraction is perfectly normal and nothing to be frustrated about.

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.