29 June 2011

Peter on prayer - the motivation and the mechanism

You've probably noticed that I have been doing some thinking about prayer lately.  My hope is that I might see a deepening in the scope of my prayers and a building up of my "praying on my own" prayer muscles that have atrophied after long years of sleep deprived or toddler driven distractedness.  

Last week I had the joy of reading through 1 Peter and found a new verse to underline.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
1Peter 4:7

This verse seems to sum it all up for me and has been rolling around my head ever since.

Prayer is important because the end of all things is near.  All the major events in God's plan of redemption have occurred with Christ's work on the cross, his resurrection and ascension and now all things are ready for Christ to return and rule.  We have been in the end times for nearly 2 000 years.  We don't know when Christ will return.  It may not be for another 2 000 years or more.  Or it may be in a minute.  "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" it says in Matthew 24:36.  What we do know is that it will happen and so we need to be ready so that it doesn't come upon us like a thief in the night.  Part of being ready, Peter tells us in this verse, is to pray. That is the motivation.

And then he provides the mechanism. Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray.  Which for me means I just really need to keep a clear mind to make mental and physical space to pray.  I have moved out of the season of being distracted by sleep deprivation followed by the endless, energy sapping vigour of toddlers.  That season is over.  I am without excuse now.  Except that I find myself distracted by the various balls I gradually added to my juggling act as the boys grew into greater independence and ultimately reached school age, leaving me with five free hours for five days a week.  More than ever it seems I need to show some self control in regulating my activities so that I can pray serious, sober, informed, intelligent, deep prayers with a clear mind. 

The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 1Peter 4:7

28 June 2011

Tim Keller on prayer

Back in January I listened to this sermon on prayer given by Tim Keller.  Here's a bit that I found helpful.

If as we lay our requests to God we find ourselves sinking deeper into despondency, anger or self pity; if when you pray for things you don't find the burden lifting off you, then we must a) be sure the things we are asking for aren't idols or else our petition will only make us more discouraged... b) be sure the things we are asking for aren't enhancing our anger and sense of superiority over others or else our petition will only make us more bitter and c) be sure that when we are aksing God for things, we also spend time thanking God for the things we already have and cannot lose in the Gospel.

25 June 2011

Garden Update # 9

It was a very long, hot summer.  By December I had all but given up on the garden.  But about a month ago winter showed up.  The temperature dropped.  The rain started to fall.  And it was time to get into the garden.  So here are some before and after shots.


and after.


...and after.

A smaller variety of herbs this year - basil, thyme, coriander, parsley and mint.  No need to grow perfect sage when I don't use it!  But I would like another rosemary plant and look, there is an empty pot in the corner.  One more trip to the nursery. 


...and after.

Needs weeding...but I am loving the life and colour even so.

20 June 2011

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The following excerpt was on the Desiring God site today.

May our own dear ones be among the better generation who shall continue in the Lord's ways, obedient to the end. And their seed shall be established before thee. God does not neglect the children of his servants. It is the rule that Abraham's Isaac should be the Lord's, that Isaac's Jacob should be beloved of the Most High, and that Jacob's Joseph should find favour in the sight of God. Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind, even as many great landowners feel a pleasure in having the same families as tenants upon their estates from generation to generation. Here is Zion's hope, her sons will build her up, her offspring will restore her former glories. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.

Excerpted from The Treasury of David (Psalm 102:28).

That is just beautiful.  I am thankful to God for the rich encouragement of these words today. 

I've been thinking for a while about reading some Spurgeon.  So if there are any Spurgeon experts out there, what would you recommend?  Where does one start with Spurgeon?

14 June 2011

The Book Depository

The Book Depository is an online bookstore that markets books at extraordinarily good prices and doesn't charge postage!  And it runs an affiliate scheme.

What does that mean?

It means that if you buy your books at the The Book Depository and happen to go to their site via my blog then I get a 5% credit for the books you purchase.

How does it work?

All you have to do is visit my blog on your way to the bookstore and while you are here you click on the Book Depository button on my sidebar.  That will take you to The Book Depository site.  Then you do your own shopping in the normal way and 5% of the sum of your purchase is credited to me.  It doesn't cost you anything extra.

Why would you do it?

Well, as it turns out, I checked my shopping history at The Book Depository and of the nearly 30 books I have purchased there I've only kept two for myself.  The rest have all been gifts.  And most of them bear the titles
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,
Be Still, My Soul and
Valley of Vision

So my intention in joining this affiliate scheme is not to profit from your book shopping and plan a holiday for myself in Tuscany but rather to increase my capacity to give away more great books like these to lots more people.  The Key to the Door is a not for profit organisation!!  Who knows, I may even give the odd book away right here on this blog!  So if you would like to help me out, please make your travels to The Book Depository site via this blog and click on the Book Depository button in the sidebar.

What if you you are not comfortable with this?

Some will not be comfortable with this and that is fine.  If that is you then please ignore this, do your Book Depository shopping by going to their site directly and still be my friend.  Forget I ever mentioned it.  :-)

11 June 2011

Paul on prayer

So you may have noticed that I have been reading A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers by Don Carson.  I have a couple of friends who have read this book in recent times and have commented that it breathed new life into their prayerfulness.

Now we all know that we can read books on prayer and listen to sermons on prayer (and I have listened to a few lately!!) until the cows come home but none of this going to have an impact on our prayerfulness unless, at our end, we have a desire to grow in our prayer life and we just get on with the business of praying.  This book is not a quick fix.  There is no quick fix.  But if you have a yearning to grow in prayefulness - quality or quantity - then there is much in this book for encouragement.

In chapter four of A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers Don Carson pauses from his exposition and in a discussion on praying for others, quotes most of the prayers from Paul's letters in full over six solid pages.

I confess, right here on the internet for all to see, that when I first read this chapter at the beginning of June I travelled through these six pages pretty quickly.  I skimmed a few of the passages, skipped over others having read the references because they were so familiar and by the fifth page, just turned it right over to get back to Carson's text. Tut tut!

At the end of each chapter there are three or four study questions or ideas to promote some deeper thinking. At the end of this chapter, point number two is, "As a spiritual discipline slowly read through the prayers of Paul every day for one month.  Record in what ways this discipline influences your own praying."

So my reading of this book has slowed a little because I have decided to have a go at this exercise.  I've only managed to read through the passages three or four times in the last ten days but it is definitely a worthwhile exercise for widening and deepening scope in  prayer.  And for honing focus.  I may tinker away at it as I can during June and then pick it up for daily reading and reflection come the July school holidays.

What follows then is the list of the Scriptures Carson quotes.  I know a long list of Scriptures makes for absolutely deadly blogging so feel free to stop reading right here if this is not for you - at all or just at the moment. But there may be one or two who would like to have a go at this...and so here goes - most of the prayers of Paul.

Romans 1:8-10
Romans 10:1
Romans 12:12
Romans 15:5-6
Romans 15:13
Romans  15:30-33
1Corinthinans 1:4-9
1Corinthinans 16:23
2Corinthinans 1:3-7
2Corinthinans 2:14-16
2Corinthinans 9:12-15
2Corinthinans 12:7-9a
2Corinthinans 13:7-9
Galatians 6:18
Ephesians 1:3-8
Ephesians 1:15-23
Ephesians 3:14-21
Ephesians 6:19-20
Philippians 1:3-6
Philippians 1:9-11
Philippians 4:6-7
Philippians 4:23
Colossians 1:3-14
Colossians 4:2-4
1Thessalonians 1:2-3
1Thessalonians 2:13-16
1Thessalonians 3:9-13
1Thessalonians 5:23-24
1Thessalonians 5:28
2Thessalonians 1:3-4
2Thessalonians 1:11-12
2Thessalonians 2:16-17
2Thessalonians 3:2-5
2Thessalonians 3:16
1 Timothy 1:12
1 Timothy 2:1-6
2 Timothy 1:3-7
2 Timothy 1:16-18
2 Timothy 4:22
Titus 3:15b
Philemon 4-7
Philemon 25

If you think you might like to have a go at this and I know you (in person or via frequent commenting between blogs) and you would like me to photocopy the six pages out of the book and post them to you (it is helpful to just have the passages in front of you, all in one place) then leave me a message and I will see what I can do.

05 June 2011

Don Carson on prayer # 3

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the heart of all our praying must be a biblical vision.  That vision embraces who God is, what he has done, who we are, where we are going, what we must value and cherish.  That vision drives us toward increasing conformity with Jesus, toward lives lived in the light of eternity, towards hearty echoing of the church's ongoing cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" That vision must shape our prayers, so that the things that most concern us in prayer are those that concern the heart of God.  Then we will persevere in our praying, until we reach the goal God himself has set for us.

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers  p. 62

02 June 2011

Don Carson on Prayer # 2 (with a bit of Tim Keller)

I've recently listened to a couple of sermons about prayer delivered by Tim Keller.  In both sermons he asked a very helpful question.  Given one of those rare moments when you have absolutely nothing to do - it may be that you actually got to the end of that TO DO list and you're experiencing one of those rare lulls in proceedings or it may be that you are waiting (in a queue, in a traffic jam, for someone to arrive) and you have a few unfilled moments or it may be that you are doing something menial with hands engaged but mind free to roam - where does your mind go?  Do you plan, dream, remember, worry, pray, create, blank out? Where we go in those empty moments gives window to our hearts. It's a good question to ask of ourselves.  Maybe a bit scary even.

There was a similar echo in chapter two of A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers on the subject of prayers of thanksgiving.

For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings - when the mortgage we’ve applied for comes through, or when we first turn on the ignition in a car we’ve just purchased. We may sigh a prayer of sweaty thanks after a near miss on the highway; we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.  From pages 40-41

And then something to encourage some growth in this area.

If in our prayers we are to develop a mental framework analogous to Paul’s, we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them. It is not simply that Paul gives thanks for whatever measure of maturity some group of Christians has achieved, before he goes on to ask for yet more maturity (although in part that is what he is doing.) Rather the specific elements in his thanksgiving show the framework of he brings to his intercession – and we urgently need to develop the same framework.

For what have we thanked God recently? Have we gone over a list of members at our local church , say, or over a list of Christian workers, and quietly thanked God for signs of grace in their lives? Do we make it a matter of praise to God when we observe evidence in one another of growing conformity to Christ, exemplified in trust, reliability, love and genuine spiritual stamina?”  From page 44