August 12, 2009
I’ve been consumed over the past few weeks preparing for a message on “The Promise of Answered Prayer.” I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with colleagues Steve Springsted and Walt Pitman. Last Sunday we preached it together and it was quite an experience. I was personally ministered to in a powerful way by my brothers who went before me, and when it came time to do my part on “Practicing Prayer,” I was very aware of the presence of God leading me that morning as I led my church family in the practice of prayer in worship. There are times when I sense a profound unity as if the entire congregation is experiencing our God together. This morning was one of those times and it was sweet. Of course this is the goal of every worship service. You can check out the message here: The Promise of Answered Prayer. (I attached the video because both Steve and Walt used PowerPoint in their parts.) When it comes to prayer, this is an area where I long to excel still more – not out of guilt or duty, but out of a hunger and thirst to know my Father – to hear his voice and to see his hand at work and to turn and give thanks.
I read a motivating (and yes, convicting) article this morning in Worship Leader magazine this morning on “The 7 Steps to Worship Renewal.” Step 7 was to pray. It was written by Kenn Gulliksen, a man who God used to lead the church in what has been called the Jesus Movement of the early Seventies. He founded the first Vineyard church in West Los Angelous. I’m going to post his part here – I needed to hear it and perhaps you do too.
By Kenn Gullicksen
Fifty-six years ago Alan Redpath wrote, “There seems to be a tendency for many Christians to imagine that a church can be conducted and led in the same way as a business concern … but the Church of Jesus Christ can only be led in blessing and power by men who have been humbled and broken at the cross, and who, through many experiences of their own failure and nothingness, have learned an utter dependence upon God and have been taught by the Holy Spirit to lay hold of Him at the Throne of Grace.”
Busted. After being filled with the Spirit at a Lutheran renewal summer camp in 1962, and 40 years of pastoring, I’m beginning to get it. I always thought of myself as Spirit-filled because of that early experience, and my subsequent “successes” in ministry. I really did love the Lord, seek the Lord, and serve the Lord. I taught pretty well and tried to walk in the light I had. But little by little, over a couple of decades, I found myself increasingly filled with myself, serving out of self effort, out of the desire to find value in my performance. I wasn’t aware of it until I grew weary with well-doing, lost heart and didn’t like God too much.
We were created to experience an unbroken and intimate love relationship with our Father, and to live and serve from the overflow of that relationship. In His indescribable love, God exposed my heart, and in that place of “failure and nothingness” I began to own what I had been teaching all along.
We have been grafted into a vine/branch union, and prayer is the joint that connects the vine (Jesus) to the branch (us).
Without prayer there is no life, let alone renewal. Prayer is the most important thing we do, or fail to do. Norman Grubb used to tell me, “the goal isn’t frequent renewal, but continuous revival.” We’re not pots to be filled with water only to be emptied, but more like hoses that are connected to the Source, constantly being filled, constantly full, constantly being emptied out in service. We can only serve from the overflow if we choose to stay connected to the Source.
Here are some ways to make this a reality in your life:
- Show up–choose to accept the invitation to rest, commune, and receive. Quit making excuses. We make time for what we truly believe is important. As our model, Jesus made time each morning to meet with His Father for intimacy and to see what His Father was doing. Jesus understood He could do nothing apart from His Father. He continued to abide all day.
- Agree–be honest, confess and repent of self effort, unbelief, wrong priorities, hidden sin. Invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart; ask Jesus to be your King and to advance His kingdom in you. Graham Cooke said, “The soul (emotions, intellect and will) must come to the cross daily, not to be destroyed, but to give up its right to rule.”
- Receive–abide in the Vine and let Him truly be the air you breathe, let His Word be your daily bread. Let His mercy and grace flood you with life, forgiveness and, the power of the Holy Spirit. Celebrate!
- Serve from the overflow–if you abide, you will be compelled to give away what you’re experiencing in Christ.
Ultimately, then, prayer/abiding is our connection to the ongoing work of continual personal and corporate renewal. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Continue [ongoing process] to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will [give you the desire] and to act [give you the power] according to His good purpose.”