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52 Churches

Significant Interactions

My pre-church prayer seems mired in the rut of routine. So it is when we pray this morning and head out for today’s church. Even so, I pray for significant interactions.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #47

1. When my wife confirmed the time for this church, they invited us to arrive early for coffee. I would have stayed afterward, but to come early is more awkward than I’m willing to endure. 

How can you make sure your efforts at connection are easy for people to accept?

2. With everyone ignoring us when we arrive, we sit. A woman comes up and tells us what to expect during the service, including communion. No one in forty-six churches has done this. 

How can you help visitors feel at ease and know what to expect?

3. Today is the first time on our journey where I’m free to focus on the moment of Communion and not worry about the method. 

What can you do to help others better engage in your service and encounter God?

4. After the service a man greets us and asks how he can pray for us. This is another first on our journey. I so appreciate his offer. 

In what ways can you be available and ready to pray for others?

This Sunday was a day of significant interactions. If only we experienced this at more of the churches we visited.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Praying for My Children

Pray for Family and Friends

Ever since our daughter was born, I knew I should pray for her, as well as for her brother, when he came along. I did pray for them—when I thought of it—which wasn’t very often. I felt guilty for not doing what I knew I should do. And when I did pray, my prayers were always the same. My words repeated. They felt stale. When it came to praying for our children, I was stuck in a rut.

Praying for Our Children

When the oldest was in middle school, her youth group leader gave us a handout. Titled “Things I Pray for My Children,” it listed twenty-three items to guide our prayers. I began praying one item each day. At the end of twenty-three days (or a little bit longer if I missed a day) I started the list over and prayed through it again, making one request each day.

The prayer list empowered me to pray for our children. I no longer felt guilty about neglecting this aspect of their spiritual development.

After a few years, however, the list had grown stale. Though I continued to pray, I began to struggle. About that time, I came across another list, a prayer card: “31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids.” This one had thirty-one suggestions, one for each day of a thirty-one-day month. Though both lists had similarities, no items were an exact duplicate. I now had thirty-one new ideas to guide my prayers.

On the months with thirty-one days, I used the thirty-one-day list. On the other months, I used the twenty-three-item list. And when I had run out of items for those months, I went off the list and came up with my own things to pray for our kids.

Praying for Their Friends

As they got older, I added their best friends to the list too. I did this because their friends were emerging as a bigger influence in their lives than their mom and me. I wanted their friends to be godly influences, so I prayed for them.

When they started dating, I prayed for those they were dating. One dated a lot and the other not so much. In college, I added their roommates.

Though the makeup of the list changed over time, the two people I consistently prayed for were our kids. Because I prayed for the people they were dating, their future spouses received years of prayer before they were engaged, even before they met.

These simple prayers, offered daily, one prayer at a time, were huge.

Simple prayers for our children and their friends, offered daily, one prayer at a time, will make a huge difference. Click To Tweet

Praying for Grandchildren

After they were married and the prospect of grandchildren became more realistic, I took a step of faith and began praying for their future children, my future grandchildren. Using the same two prayer lists to guide me, I prayed for God’s blessing on what would be.

As each grandchild was born, my prayers for them became more real. Having invested years of prayers before their arrival served to deepen my love for them.

Praying for Great Grandchildren and Great, Great Grandchildren

Along this journey of praying for my children and grandchildren, God prompted me to an even grander calling. He told me to pray for my future great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. This was hard to do at first because that reality resides so far in the future. And though it’s realistic that I may someday see and hold great-grandchildren, it will only be by God’s grace that I live long enough to welcome great-great-grandchildren.

Praying for Future Generations

The story doesn’t end there, however. Praying for the next four generations of my descendants wasn’t enough. God prompted me to pray for the next ten. It was hard to get my mind around this, but I’ve faithfully prayed for them, as a group, ever since.

Then one day as I prayed, I misspoke. Instead of praying for the next ten generations, I said “twelve” in error. But before I could correct myself, God assured me that twelve is the number I should use going forward.

Interestingly, twelve is a recurring number in the Bible: twelve tribes in the Old Testament and twelve disciples in the New Testament, symbolically connecting the two parts of God’s Word.

In addition, twelve pops up often in the books of Moses (twelve pillars, twelve stones, twelve loaves of bread, twelve oxen, twelve silver plates, twelve silver bowls, twelve gold dishes, twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve lambs, twelve goats, and twelve staffs), as well as in the future-focused prophecy of Revelation (twelve stars, twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve foundations, twelve apostles, twelve pearls, and twelve crops of fruit).

And for me, twelve generations.

Beyond twelve, I know that at some point God will up the number to one hundred. That’s heady stuff, but when the time comes, I’ll embrace the challenge, full of faith that he will answer these prayers for our descendants for hundreds of years to come.

Yet one thing remains. As I pray for our grandchildren and future great-grandchildren and the generations that follow, I continue to pray for our children every day.

And I’ll never stop.

[Update: This is an excerpt from my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide. I have now taken the bold step of praying for all future generations of my offspring, through to the end of time.]

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Will God Ever Tell Us Not to Pray?

Even If We Don’t Understand Why God Tells Us to Do Something We Should Do It Anyway

After giving Jeremiah a stinging message to tell the people, God gives a personal message to his prophet. He says, “You are not to pray for these people.” He says don’t plead for them or make a petition to me about them. “For I won’t listen to your prayer.”

How strange. Doesn’t God want us to pray? Why would he tell Jeremiah not to pray?

God has his reasons. He has a plan. This plan may not make sense to us. In fact, it may seem foolish. But we also believe he will work things out for the good of his people who love him (Romans 8:28).

God Said to Pray and Then Not to Pray

One time I visited a church with a friend. They were between pastors and struggling, yet a core group worked hard to help this church grow and move into their future. Since the church was in a different city, there wasn’t much I could do to help or join in their work.

However, I could pray. In fact, God prompted me to commit to pray for them every day. And I did that. Well, at least most every day.

Yet after praying for this tiny church for several months, one day, while in mid prayer, God told me to stop. He said, “I don’t want you to pray for them anymore.” This shocked me.

God told me my season for praying for them was over. Click To Tweet

This small congregation had a committed group of people dedicated to following Jesus. They desired to make a difference in the community. And even though they didn’t have a pastor to lead them, they moved forward on their own. They seem to be making a difference.

Yet God told me my season for praying for them was over. Though he didn’t tell me he wouldn’t answer my prayers if I continued, he made it clear I would displease him if I persisted.

I stopped praying for that church that day. I don’t know why God had me stop, but I do know it was part of his greater plan.

Maybe one day I’ll have greater insight into what his plan was when he told me not to pray—or maybe I’ll never know. Either way I trust God in the outcome even if it doesn’t make sense to me now.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 7-9, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 7:16.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Make a Difference by Having a Meaningful Spiritual Conversation

We Can Impact Others by Being Intentional with Our Words

Are we someone who others want to talk to about spiritual matters? Are we open to pursue a meaningful spiritual conversation?

A Timely Phone Call

As I made lunch, my phone rang. Few people have my number—only family and close friends—so I expected another scam call. I prepared to reject the call and block the number. To my utter glee, the caller ID revealed that a valued friend was waiting to talk to me.

My heart leapt for joy. I know this sounds over the top, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Truly, my heart leapt with joy.

I was having an okay day, which was following a really bad day . . . or two, but hearing my friend’s voice changed everything. My day instantly turned from okay to great. Regardless of what we would say, I knew it would be good for my soul. I knew my spirit would rise and soar.

I forgot about lunch. It no longer mattered. My physical hunger disappeared. A spiritual delight would soon replace it. I knew it. That’s what a timely call from a good friend can do.

After we covered the initial reason for the call, we updated each other on our lives, what was going on, and where God was at work. We ended by praying for each other. It was a meaningful spiritual conversation. God was present. We had a holy moment. It was good. So good.

An Intentional Interaction

A few days later, my bride and I were at an open house. We saw a lot of people we knew, waving at or saying “hi” to many of them. We talked with a few others, polite social conversation, talk that’s a challenge for me to maintain for any length of time.

Though it was nice to see them and chat with them, what we said did nothing for my soul and, I suspect, nothing for theirs.

Then another good friend waved hi, surprised to see me. I expected another polite, short, and inconsequential exchange. But he approached me with both a smile and intention. After a few moments of small talk, we dove into conversation that matters.

He shared his spiritual journey with me. And my spirit lifted as we celebrated God’s work in his life, his family’s, and his church’s. He asked about me and my writing and my spiritual journey.

Although small talk challenges me, having a meaningful spiritual conversation flows with much greater ease. Go figure. Though I’d approached this social gathering with equal parts expectation and trepidation, I left having told my friend that our time together was, “good for my soul.” And it was.

My Heart Burned Within Me

My reaction to my friends’ interaction reminds me of the Emmaus-bound disciples after encountering the risen Jesus. They said to each other, “weren’t our hearts burning within us when he talked?” (Luke 24:32). That’s how I felt with my friends.

In both instances my friends took the initiative. But I was a willing participant, embracing their move past superficial exchange and into a meaningful spiritual conversation.

Other times I take the initiative and pursue meaningful interaction with others. Sometimes they squirm against this and in other instances they acquiesce with caution, but many times they gladly go in the direction where I lead. We dive into deep, meaningful spiritual conversation.

How to Pursue Significant Spiritual Conversations

I desire to have these deep, meaningful spiritual conversations all the time, but I don’t. I’m not sure why this happens sometimes while other times it doesn’t. I wish I could naturally move into meaningful spiritual discussions all the time, with ease and without giving it much forethought.

But I’m not there—yet. Until I am, there are steps I can take to recognize the potential for significance and move forward to make the best of it.

Pray for Opportunities: It starts with asking God to provide occasions where I can have a meaningful spiritual conversation with others. Without him playing a part in opening my eyes to see the opportunities around me and preparing the hearts of others to engage in significant discussions, there’s not much I can do on my own.

And, as a bonus, by praying for the chance to talk with people about spiritual matters, my attention focuses on others and allows me to seize the openings God provides.

Look for People Willing to Engage in Spiritual Discussions: Sometimes people who know me and my heart will approach me, asking for prayer, seeking encouragement, or wanting to share their concerns. However, usually I must be proactive.

This means looking for people to talk to, people who may be hurting, lonely, or in need.

Listen to The Holy Spirit: Most important is to listen to the gentle prompting of God’s Spirit. If I bother to pay attention, the Holy Spirit will direct me to people I should talk to. And often, he will tell me what to say or ask.

I attempt to represent Jesus to them, and I hope their hearts warm when I do. Click To Tweet

The Outcome of Having a Meaningful Spiritual Conversation

When I do this, what happens next is astonishing. We enter into a holy moment. I attempt to represent Jesus to them, and I hope their hearts warm when I do, just as my heart burned within me after talking with my two friends.

This is what can happen when we have a meaningful spiritual conversation.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Should We Pray Against Our Enemies or Pray for Them?

Some Psalms Ask God to Punish Our Enemies and Those Who Do Evil

Many people enjoy reading the Psalms. They appreciate the poetic nature of its words. They find encouragement to persevere and inspiration to strengthen their faith. Many Psalms also lead us into our worship of God. These are some of the best.

However, other Psalms carry a negative focus. These Psalms request that God punish people for the wrong things they have done to him, society, and to us. This presents a challenge to my view of God and my theology of faith.

Is it okay for us to ask God to favor us, while we beg him to hurt our enemies? After all, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, do good to them, and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28).

Yet David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22), does just the opposite. He asks God to vindicate him by destroying his enemies.

We must remember Jesus’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. Click To Tweet

David’s Prayer of Retribution

Consider some of the key points from David’s petition of retaliation in Psalms 109:6-15:

  • Send someone to fight my enemy.
  • Find him guilty.
  • Let his prayers condemn him.
  • Cut his life short so that his children become orphans and his wife, a widow.
  • Make his children homeless and beg for food.
  • Have his creditors repossess everything he owns.
  • Don’t let anyone be nice to him or pity his poor, orphaned kids.
  • Let his family line die out.
  • Hold him accountable for all the sins of his ancestors.
  • Don’t forgive him for the wrong things he’s done.

Wow! That’s quite a prayer. It’s one that I would never dare say. Yet, I must admit, there are times I wish God would do bad things to bad people.

Though the Old Testament of the Bible records David’s harsh, revengeful prayer against his oppressors, we must remember Jesus’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28).

Both of these appear in the Bible, and it’s left to us to determine which one should guide our prayers. May we choose wisely.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 106-109, and today’s post is on Psalms 109:6-15.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

What Happens After We Promise to Pray For Others?

Be Sure to Follow through in What you Say You’ll Do

Prayer is important to me, and I often pray for others. However, I seldom promise to pray for them. Why is that?

Too many times, people have told me they’d pray for me, but I sensed they never would. Their words were hollow. Perhaps they had good intentions, or maybe they were just saying what they thought they should, being socially polite, with no intention of following through.

I seldom make that promise to pray for others because I’m afraid I might forget. I’d rather not promise to pray and pray anyway, than to make a promise and not pray.

This reminds me of a story Jesus once told about two sons. The father tells the first to go work in the vineyard. The boy says “No,” but later changes his mind and goes to work anyway.

God does not need to hear many words or elegant words, just honest words. Click To Tweet

When Dad tells the second son to get to work, the boy says “Sure,” but he never does. Jesus commends the first son as the obedient one.

As they say, action speak louder than words. Don’t talk about praying, just pray.

When an opportunity to pray for a person or situation arises, I try to pray immediately. If the situation allows, I pray aloud. Other times I pray silently. In both cases I trust the Holy Spirit to remind me to pray again later.

Sometimes it’s a single prompting; in other instances it’s multiple times, over the course of hours or days.

Usually this spiritual cue results in a short prayer: God does not need to hear many words or elegant words, just honest words. Other times I stop what I’m doing, become still, listen to God, and pray accordingly.

Our promises to pray are not what’s important; it’s our actual prayers that matter.

[Matthew 21:28-32]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.