Pastoral Prayer Quotes

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People who fit don’t seek. The seekers are those that don’t fit.
Shannon L. Alder
No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.
Leonard Ravenhill
Faithfulness in small things leads to faithfulness in great things, and never the other way around.
Jerry L. Lewis (What God Can't Do: Keys to Prayer Power, Self Awareness, Love, Growth, Freedom, and Joy)
It was not apathy or passiveness. For him, prayer was a display of the strongest possible activity.
Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do, than someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you work it out yourself. This is what spiritual direction is.
Eugene H. Peterson
He did not hope that God heard his prayers; he knew it.
Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
Grace is not a little prayer you say before you eat. It is a way of life. Eph 2:8,9
John Paul Warren
Martin Luther spent two hours a day in prayer. John Wesley spent two hours a day in prayer. According to a recent poll taken on both sides of the Atlantic, the average church leader, pastor, priest, evangelist, teacher today spends four minutes a day in prayer and you wonder why the church is powerless.
R.T. Kendall (Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit's Work in Our Lives)
God told us to love everyone. However, when you don’t like someone then you need to walk away and focus not on him or her, but the hatred you’re harboring. Otherwise, you will allow your piety to take over. Before you know it, you’re using the gospel as a sword to slice other religious people apart, which have offended you. From your point of helplessness, it will be is easy to recruit people that will mistake your kindness as righteousness, when in reality it is a hidden agenda to humiliate through the words of Christ. This game is so often used by women in the Christian faith, that it is the number one reason why many people become inactive. It is a silent, unspoken hypocrisy that is inconsistent with the teachings of the gospel. If you choose not to like someone, then avoid them. If you wish to love them, the only way to overcome your frustrations is through empathy, prayer, forgiveness and allowing yourself time to heal through distance. Try focusing on what you share as sisters in the gospel, rather than the negative aspects you dislike about that person.
Shannon L. Alder
You've witnessed what you c-c-c-call a miracle and now you believe-you believe everything," Pastor Merrill said. "But miracles don't c-c-c-cause belief-real miracles don't m-m-m-make faith out of thin air; you have to already have faith in order to believe in real miracles.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Advent Prayer In our secret yearnings we wait for your coming, and in our grinding despair we doubt that you will. And in this privileged place we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we and by those who despair more deeply than do we. Look upon your church and its pastors in this season of hope which runs so quickly to fatigue and in this season of yearning which becomes so easily quarrelsome. Give us the grace and the impatience to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes, to the edges of our fingertips. We do not want our several worlds to end. Come in your power and come in your weakness in any case and make all things new. Amen.
Walter Brueggemann (Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann)
Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime.... [As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God's sovereignty.
Eugene H. Peterson (The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction)
Not long ago, I learned that if I let other people tell me how God was supposed to work in my life I would be dead. If I would have given into someone else’s version of God then I would have done nothing to improve my situation. The notion that “if it was meant to be, it will be”, is a pacifying, yet harmful quote, that many spiritualists use to soften the blow of anger. God is not passive. He is relentless, and he will build you through fire. He will put in your heart a need for answers. The intensity of what bothers your soul is often his voice trying to take you from the limited vision of mankind to the full view of the best life he would like to offer you. He is above any pastor, any bishop, any prophet, any church, any cleverly crafted sermon or multi-meaning verse. He is the master of his craft and the author of your forever. Inner peace is only found through action. Fear may darken the trail, but the light of peace stands at the end of such a journey ----waiting with truth.
Shannon L. Alder
On a blustery October night in a church outside Minneapolis, several hundred believers had gathered for a three-day seminar. I began with a one-hour presentation on the gospel of grace and the reality of Salvation. Using Scripture, story, symbolism, and personal experience, I focused on the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The service ended with a song and a prayer. Leaving the church by a side door, the pastor turned to his associate and fumed, 'Humph, that airhead didn't say one thing about what we have to do to earn our salvation!' Something is radically wrong.
Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel)
You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night. But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.
minister from Australia or New Zealand...(Jim Cymbala)
John Knox's dying words were, 'Lord, grant true pastors to Thy kirk.' Such was the last prayer of a great man without whom there would have been no America, no Puritans, no Pilgrims, no Scottish covenanters, no Presbyterians, no Patrick Henry, no Samuel Adams, no George Washington. Could it have been so simple? John Knox's agenda was far from political. All he wanted were more pastors and elders. This is our agenda. Lord grant true pastors to Thy church!
Kevin Swanson (The Second Mayflower)
Lord, convert our friends that still remain unsaved. Oh mighty power of God, let none come into this house even accidentally and casually without receiving some devout impression.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (The Pastor In Prayer)
But, Lord, we have yet another burden — it is that we ourselves do not love Thee as we should,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (The Pastor In Prayer)
For every Gospel action, there is an opposite and devious demonic reaction. We see this in the book of Acts. It appears in church history. We experience it in our personal journeys.
Daniel Henderson
The most spiritual people I’ve ever met were not “givers” they were communicators. You don’t give people crumbs. You give them the whole piece of bread when that is what they are asking for, in order to be healed. Christ was never about hiding behind a Facebook page, an email, a prayer circle, a bible, or a church. He was about talking, listening and healing-- face to face. He walked among sinners and ate with them. He devoted his time to people that were brokenhearted, difficult to like and fake as the religious beliefs they clung to. So, why is it that so many people profess to believe in Christ, yet they have forgotten what real love is----communicating?
Shannon L. Alder
Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, an din its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovreign Lord. Humble us, O God, under your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ.
John Piper (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry)
It is a great sin on the part of Church members if they do not daily sustain their pastor by their prayers!”–1892, Sermon 2261
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Spurgeon Gems)
There had to be forces outside. The prayer went, "Lead me not in temptation." If people were not led by others, why was the famous prayer that it was?
Philip Roth (American Pastoral)
The people, especially in the villages, know nothing at all of Christian doctrine; and many pastors are sadly unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet all are called Christians, have been baptized, and enjoy the use of the Sacrament, although they know neither the Lord's Prayer, nor the Creed, nor the Ten Commandments...
Martin Luther (Small Catechism, with Explanation)
I am convinced that the Lord heard my prayers and took me out according to His plan. I had only to learn a very deep lesson, to drink the cup to its bitterest dregs; and now I am thankful that I passed through this hard school, which teaches you the highest love, love toward God, even when He gives nothing but suffering.
Sabina Wurmbrand (The Pastor's Wife)
My primary pastoral work had to do with Scripture and prayer. I was neither capable nor competent to form Christ in another person, to shape a life of discipleship in man, woman or child. That is supernatural work, and I am not supernatural. Mine was the more modest work of Scripture and prayer- helping people listen to God speak to them from the Scriptures and then joining them in answering God as personally and honestly as we could in lives of prayer. This turned out to be slow work. From time to time, impatient with the slowness, I would try out ways of going about my work that promised quicker results. But after a while it always seemed to be more like meddling in these people's lives than helping them attend to God. More often than not I found myself getting in the way of what the Holy Spirit had been doing long before I arrived on the scene, so I would go back, feeling a bit chastised, to my proper work: Scripture and prayer; prayer and Scripture.
Eugene H. Peterson (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society)
When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do. A. C. Dixon
John Piper (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry)
He . . . said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
I mean I’m just bad at being good. Bad despite more than sixty years of attending Sunday school, worship services, summer camps, revivals, prayer meetings, retreats, workshops, religious colleges, seminary; being a pastor; reading spiritual books, writing spiritual books, and memorizing Bible verses. I stumble a lot!
J. Brent Bill (Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace)
We use the word cross in our hymns, in our piety, in our prayers, and in our pastoral language. But we use it too cheaply. We say that a person has to live with some sort of suffering in life: a sickness that cannot be cured, an unresolvable personality conflict within the family, poverty, or some other unexplainable or unchangeable suffering. Then we say, “That person has a cross to bear.” Granted, whatever kind of suffering we have is suffering that we can bear in confidence that God is with us. But the cross that Jesus had to face, because he chose to face it, was not—like sickness—something that strikes you without explanation. It was not some continuing difficulty in his social life. It was not an accident or catastrophe that just happened to hit him when it could have hit somebody else. Jesus’ cross was the price to pay for being the kind of person he was in the kind of world he was in; the cross that he chose was the price of his representing a new way of life in a world that did not want a new way of life. That is what he called his followers to do.
John Howard Yoder (Radical Christian Discipleship (John Howard Yoder's Challenge to the Church, # 1))
The fall of communism had more to do with prayer meetings in Poland than bombs dropped on Cambodia.
Brian Zahnd (A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace)
If vocational holiness is to be anything more than a pious wish, pastors must dive to the ocean depths of prayer.
Eugene H. Peterson (Under the Unpredictable Plant an Exploration in Vocational Holiness (The Pastoral series, #3))
Wean our heart from every creature Thee to love and Thee alone.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (The Pastor In Prayer)
The fall of communism had more to do with prayer meetings in Poland than bombs dropped on Cambodia. War is, among other things, impatience.
Brian Zahnd (A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace)
Much of the Church today is celebrating the prayer life instead of celebrating the BREAKTHROUGH…
Pastor Rod W. Larkins
If you want to make virtually any believer feel inadequate, ask him about his prayer life.
Brian Croft (The Pastor's Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd)
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead …’” Pastor Merrill assured us. “‘For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead,’” my father said.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
In both classes, Pastor Merrill preached his doubt-is-the-essence-of-and-not-the-opposite-of-faith philosophy
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Lord, will you send me with such an unbelieving heart to persuade others to believe? Must I daily plead with sinners about everlasting life and everlasting death, and have no more belief or feeling of these weighty things myself? Oh send me not naked and unprovided to the work; but, as you command me to do it, furnish me with a spirit suitable thereto." Prayer
Richard Baxter (The Reformed Pastor)
Prayer is not a tool of faith by which we control His control over our lives. Rather, it is the conversation God began with us when He established a relationship with us in Baptism.
Richard C. Eyer (Pastoral Care Under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering)
Nowhere is the dog more venerated and cared for than in Zoroastianism. The Avesta and other sacred books say the dog symbolizes sagacity, vigilance and fidelity and is the pillar of the pastoral culture. It must be treated with the utmost kindness and reverence. Every household should not only give food to every hungry dog but the dog should be fed with 'clean food,' specially prepared, before the family itself is fed. At religious ceremonies a complete 'meal of the dog' is prepared with consecrated food and the dog is served before the worshippers join in the communal meal. A prayer is said as the dog eats.
J.C. Cooper (Dictionary of Symbolic and Mythological Animals)
God creates us out of love, but we don’t want God, or we don’t believe in Him, or we pay very poor attention to Him. Nevertheless, God continues to love us—at least, He continues to try to get our attention. Pastor Merrill made religion seem reasonable. And the trick of having faith, he said, was that it was necessary to believe in God without any great or even remotely reassuring evidence that we don’t inhabit a godless universe.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
As for my faith: I've become my father's son-that is, I've become the kind of believer that Pastor Merrill used to be. Doubt one minute, faith the next-sometimes inspired, sometimes in despair. Canon Campbell taught me to ask myself a question when the latter state settles upon me. Whom do I know who's alive whom I love? Good question-one that can bring you back to life. These days, I love Dan Needham and the Rev. Katherine Keeling; I know I love them because I worry about them-Dan should lose some weight, Katherine should gain some! What I feel for Hester isn't exactly love; I admire her-she's certainly been a more heroic survivor than I've been, and her kind of survival is admirable. And then there are those distant, family ties that pass for love-I'm talking about Noah and Simon, about Aunt Martha and Uncle Alfred. I look forward to seeing them every Christmas.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off.
Leonard Ravenhill (Why Revival Tarries)
Prayer is indeed the very pulse of the spiritual life. It is the great means of bringing to a pastor and the people the blessing and power of heaven. Persevering and believing prayer means a strong and abundant spiritual life.
Andrew Murray (The Prayer Life [Annotated, Updated]: Persevering in Prayer)
People complain about the obscurity of poetry, especially if they're assigned to write about it, but actually poetry is rather straightforward compared to ordinary conversation with people you don't know well which tends to be jumpy repartee, crooked, coded, allusive to no effect, firmly repressed, locked up in irony, steadfastly refusing to share genuine experience--think of conversation at office parties or conversation between teenage children and parents, or between teenagers themselves, or between men, or between bitter spouces: rarely in ordinary conversation do people speak from the heart and mean what they say. How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart? It's there in poetry. Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter--poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart. All that I wrote about it as a grad student I hereby recant and abjure--all that matters about poetry to me is directness and clarity and truthfulness. All that is twittery and lit'ry: no thanks, pal. A person could perish of entertainment, especially comedy, so much of it casually nihilistic, hateful, glittering, cold, and in the end clueless. People in nusing homes die watching late-night television and if I were one of them, I'd be grateful when the darkness descends. Thank God if the pastor comes and offers a psalm and a prayer, and they can attain a glimmer of clarity at the end.
Garrison Keillor
to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,’” Pastor Merrill said. “‘So we are always of good courage’!” my father exhorted us. “‘We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight,’” he said. “‘We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
The prayer level of a church never rises any higher than the personal example and passion of the leaders. The quantity and quality of prayer in leadership meetings is the essential indicator of the amount of prayer that will eventually arise among the congregation.
Daniel Henderson (Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church Through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word)
Place gathers stories, relationships, memories. This two acres of sacred landscape in the mountains of Montana has provided the material conditions for preserving a continuity of story in the course of living in eighteen residences located variously in five states and two countries. It has provided a stable location in space and time to give prayerful, meditative, discerning attention to the ways in which my life is being written into the comprehensive salvation story. It is the holy ground from which choke-cherry blossoms scent the spring air and giant ponderosa pines keep sentinel watch in the forest. It opens out on an immense glacier-cut horizon against which the invisibilities of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit form a believing imagination where the “inside is larger than the outside.
Eugene H. Peterson (The Pastor: A Memoir)
Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.”   — Pope Francis, July 27, 2013 Youth Prayer Vigil at Rio
Michael J. Ruszala (Pope Francis: Pastor of Mercy)
There are times, even now, when I look at my heart and wonder how I could possibly have been “born again.” Moments in which I care more about what’s coming on TV that night than I do the spread of the gospel in the world. Moments when God feels distant, almost like a stranger. My emotions for Him are lukewarm, if not downright cold. I don’t jump out of bed hungry for His Word, and my mind wanders all over the place when I pray. Or I fall to that same old temptation again. For the thousandth time. Or moments I doubt God’s goodness, even His existence. It’s not how I feel all the time, or even most of the time, but it is how I feel some of the time. And then the question hits me again: Wait a minute . . . Am I really saved? How could I be, and still have feelings like this? What do you do in that moment? Pray “the sinners’ prayer” again? Should I call my old church and have the pastor warm up the baptismal waters? The answer is relatively simple in that moment: keep believing the gospel. Keep your hand on the head of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how you feel at any given moment, how encouraged or discouraged you feel about your spiritual progress, how hot or cold your love for Jesus, what you should be doing is always the same—resting in the gospel. Rest in His finished work. That’s all you can do. It’s all you need to do. It’s all God has commanded you to do.
J.D. Greear (Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved)
Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
H. Fischer-Hüllstrung
Most churches do not grow beyond the spiritual health of their leadership. Many churches have a pastor who is trying to lead people to a Savior he has yet to personally encounter. If spiritual gifting is no proof of authentic faith, then certainly a job title isn't either. You must have a clear sense of calling before you enter ministry. Being a called man is a lonely job, and many times you feel like God has abandoned you in your ministry. Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible. And unless we have a fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. Pastoral ministry is a calling, not a career. It is not a job you pursue. If you don’t think demons are real, try planting a church! You won’t get very far in advancing God’s kingdom without feeling resistance from the enemy. If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. Once a month I get away for the day, once a quarter I try to get out for two days, and once a year I try to get away for a week. The purpose of these times is rest, relaxation, and solitude with God. A pastor must always be fearless before his critics and fearful before his God. Let us tremble at the thought of neglecting the sheep. Remember that when Christ judges us, he will judge us with a special degree of strictness. The only way you will endure in ministry is if you determine to do so through the prevailing power of the Holy Spirit. The unsexy reality of the pastorate is that it involves hard work—the heavy-lifting, curse-ridden, unyielding employment of your whole person for the sake of the church. Pastoral ministry requires dogged, unyielding determination, and determination can only come from one source—God himself. Passive staff members must be motivated. Erring elders and deacons must be confronted. Divisive church members must be rebuked. Nobody enjoys doing such things (if you do, you should be not be a pastor!), but they are necessary in order to have a healthy church over the long haul. If you allow passivity, laziness, and sin to fester, you will soon despise the church you pastor. From the beginning of sacred Scripture (Gen. 2:17) to the end (Rev. 21:8), the penalty for sin is death. Therefore, if we sin, we should die. But it is Jesus, the sinless one, who dies in our place for our sins. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus died to take to himself the penalty of our sin. The Bible is not Christ-centered because it is generally about Jesus. It is Christ-centered because the Bible’s primary purpose, from beginning to end, is to point us toward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation and sanctification of sinners. Christ-centered preaching goes much further than merely providing suggestions for how to live; it points us to the very source of life and wisdom and explains how and why we have access to him. Felt needs are set into the context of the gospel, so that the Christian message is not reduced to making us feel better about ourselves. If you do not know how sinful you are, you feel no need of salvation. Sin-exposing preaching helps people come face-to-face with their sin and their great need for a Savior. We can worship in heaven, and we can talk to God in heaven, and we can read our Bibles in heaven, but we can’t share the gospel with our lost friends in heaven. “Would your city weep if your church did not exist?” It was crystal-clear for me. Somehow, through fear or insecurity, I had let my dreams for our church shrink. I had stopped thinking about the limitless things God could do and had been distracted by my own limitations. I prayed right there that God would forgive me of my small-mindedness. I asked God to forgive my lack of faith that God could use a man like me to bring the message of the gospel through our missionary church to our lost city. I begged God to renew my heart and mind with a vision for our city that was more like Christ's.
Darrin Patrick (Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission)
That morning I sat in the front row with my head in my hands, totally stressed, praying, God, please don’t let my sermon be bad. I’m sure people thought I was in deep prayer for people in the room to have a fresh encounter with Jesus, but unfortunately I was only praying for myself. I desperately didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the guest speaker who had been so amazing the night before. Then the Lord spoke to my heart: Banning, you have a choice. You can either be a preacher or you can be a son. If you decide to be a preacher, you’ll be good sometimes and at other times you won’t be that good. But if you decide to be a son, you’ll be great all the time, because you are a fantastic son. Everything changed for me in that moment. I said, God, I want to be a son. I don’t want to be anything else. I don’t want to be a preacher. I want to be a son. From that point on, something shifted for me. I was motivated by something different. Now, of course, I do want to be a good pastor, a good preacher, and a good leader. But none of that stuff is what drives me, because when I step off a stage and get alone with Jesus, I don’t want to hear Him say, Banning, you’re a great preacher. I want Him to say, Banning, you’re a great son.
Banning Liebscher (Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You)
It is striking how many spiritual writers react to the specificity of real prayer. It runs deeper than Greek Neoplatonism and the influence of Buddhist spirituality. Frankly, God makes us nervous when he gets too close. We don’t want a physical dependence on him. It feels hokey, like we are controlling God. Deep down we just don’t like grace. We don’t want to risk our prayer not being answered. We prefer the safety of isolation to engaging the living God. To embrace the Father and thus prayer is to accept what one pastor called “the sting of particularity.”4 Our dislike of asking is rooted in our desire for independence.
Paul E. Miller (A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World)
When he finished reading this passage, Pastor Merrill lifted his face to us and cried out, “‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ Owen Meany helped my ‘unbelief,’” my father said. “Compared to Owen Meany, I am an amateur—in my faith,” Mr. Merrill said. “Owen was not just a hero to the United States Army—he was my hero,” my father said.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Secondly, it is the very nature of spiritual life to grow. Wherever they principle of this life is to be found, it can be no different for it must grow. "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18); "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" (Job 17:9). This refers to the children of GOd, who are compared to palm and cedar trees (Psa. 92:12). As natural as it is for children and trees to grow, so natural is growth for the regenerated children of God. Thirdly, the growth of His children is the goal and objective God has in view by administering the means of grace to them. "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints...that we henceforth be no more children...but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head" (Eph. 4:11-15). This is also to be observed in 1 Peter 2:2: "as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, " God will reach His goal and His word will not return to Him void; thus God's children will grow in grace. Fourthly, is is the duty to which God's children are continually exhorted, and their activity is to consist in a striving for growth. That it is their duty is to be observed in the following passages: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18); "He that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev. 22:11). The nature of this activity is expressed as follows: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after" (Phil. 3:12). If it were not necessary for believers to grow the exhortations to that end would be in vain. Some remain feeble, having but little life and strength. this can be due to a lack of nourishment, living under a barren ministry, or being without guidance. It can also be that they naturally have a slow mind and a lazy disposition; that they have strong corruptions which draw them away; that they are without much are without much strife; that they are too busy from early morning till late evening, due to heavy labor, or to having a family with many children, and thus must struggle or are poverty-stricken. Furthermore, it can be that they either do not have the opportunity to converse with the godly; that they do not avail themselves of such opportunities; or that they are lazy as far as reading in God's Word and prayer are concerned. Such persons are generally subject to many ups and downs. At one time they lift up their heads out of all their troubles, by renewal becoming serious, and they seek God with their whole heart. It does not take long, however , and they are quickly cast down in despondency - or their lusts gain the upper hand. Thus they remain feeble and are, so to speak, continually on the verge of death. Some of them occasionally make good progress, but then grieve the Spirit of God and backslide rapidly. For some this lasts for a season, after which they are restored, but others are as those who suffer from consumption - they languish until they die. Oh what a sad condition this is! (Chapter 89. Spiritual Growth, pg. 140, 142-143)
Wilhelmus à Brakel (The Christian's Reasonable Service, Vol. 4)
In my prayer journey I’ve been motived by many lesser aspirations like guilt, approval before others and even a ego-driven desire for church growth. Of course, a passion for revival can even trigger more prayers. Yet, in the long run, we must remember that there is a difference between seeking revival from God vs. seeking God for revival.
Daniel Henderson (Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word)
As often as I feel certain that God exists, I feel as often at a loss to say what difference it makes—that He exists—or even: that to believe in God, which I do, raises more questions than it presents answers. Thus, when I am feeling my most faithful, I also feel full of a few hard questions that I would like to put to God—I mean, critical questions of the How-Can-He, How-Could-He, How-Dare-You variety. “For example, I would like to ask God to give us back Owen Meany,” Mr. Merrill said; when he spread his arms wide, the fingers of his right hand were dancing again in the beam of light. “O God—give him back, give him back to us!” Pastor Merrill asked. It was so quiet in Hurd’s Church,
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Our real problem is not the pervasiveness of the darkness but a failure of the light. Light always dispels darkness. The glorious light of the resurrection life of Jesus Christ is still sufficient and available to those who reject self-reliance and return to His plan for biblical leadership. This return can reignite the radiance of the Gospel in transforming power.
Daniel Henderson (Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church Through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word)
And conservatives and moderates alike could respect his keen pastoral sense and his personal frugality – a Prince of the Church who had given up a grand archbishop’s palace for a simple apartment in his episcopal office-block, who cooked his own meals and eschewed a chauffeur-driven limousine in favour of taking the subway and the bus. He was also a man of deep prayer.
Paul Vallely (Pope Francis: Untying the Knots)
As for my faith: I’ve become my father’s son—that is, I’ve become the kind of believer that Pastor Merrill used to be. Doubt one minute, faith the next—sometimes inspired, sometimes in despair. Canon Campbell taught me to ask myself a question when the latter state settles upon me. Whom do I know who’s alive whom I love? Good question—one that can bring you back to life.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
I love this place in which I have been placed—it’s language, its history, its energy. But I don’t love “the American way,” its culture and values. I don’t love the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. I don’t love the dehumanizing ways that turn men, women, and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. I don’t love the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies. The cultural conditions in which I am immersed require, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I wanted my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the scriptures and prayer.
Eugene H. Peterson (The Pastor: A Memoir)
Douglas Moo notes that therefore, while not denying that some in the church may have the gift of healing, James encourages all Christians, and especially those charged with pastoral oversight, to be active in prayer for healing. . . . Similarly, James’ promise that the Lord will raise up (egeiro) the sick person reflects the language of NT healing stories (Matt 9:6; Mark 1:31; Acts 3:7).
J.P. Moreland (In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God)
The undersigned pointed out that nothing was required of a pastor except that he intimate in church at the dead man's bier his date of birth and date of death and thereafter say some little prayer or other, even if it were only the Lord's Prayer; and finally sprinkle the State's three spadefuls of earth with the statutory innocent phrases, Earth to earth, etc., as is the custom. Pastor Jón Prímus: That's not so innocent as it looks. It derives from those scholastics. They were always doing their utmost to falsify Aristotle, though he was quite bad enough already. They tried to feed the fables with yet more fables, such as that the primary elements of matter first disintegrate and then reassemble to resurrect. They lied so fast in the Middle Ages they hadn't even time to hiccup.
Halldór Laxness (Under the Glacier)
And when he was privileged to witness the miracle of Owen Meany, my bitter father could manage no better response than to whine to me about his lost faith—his ridiculously subjective and fragile belief, which he had so easily allowed to be routed by his mean-spirited and self-imposed doubt. What a wimp he was, Pastor Merrill; but how proud I felt of my mother—that she’d had the good sense to shrug him off.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
About 1,500 gathered for two hours of lively, focused prayer. Later, I asked Pastor Jim Cymbala why so many were attending the Brooklyn Tab prayer meetings when many other churches have cancelled their prayer meetings for lack of interest. He answered, “You would also have a full church on prayer meeting night if your people actually believed that God answers prayer!” If we actually believed God answers prayer!
Dwight L. Moody (Prevailing Prayer (Moody Classics))
To pastors and teachers Compose catechisms particularly to teach prayer, not by reasoning nor by method, for the simple are incapable thereof; but to teach the prayer of the heart, not of the understanding; the prayer of God's Spirit, not of man's invention. Alas! By wanting them to pray in elaborate forms . . . you create their chief obstacles. The children have been led astray from the best of fathers, by your endeavouring to teach them too refined, too polished a language . . . A father is much better pleased with an address which love and respect in the child throws into disorder, because he knows it proceeds from the heart, than by a formal and barren harangue, though ever so elaborate in the composition. The simple and undisguised emotions of filial love are infinitely more expressive than all language and all reasoning.
Jeanne Guyon (A Short and Easy Method of Prayer)
It matters little whether you are the mother of active children who drain away your energy, an important executive in a major multinational corporation, a graduate student cramming for impending comprehensives, a plumber working overtime to put your children through college, or a pastor of a large church putting in ninety-hour weeks: at the end of the day, if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out.
Donald Arthur Carson (A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers)
Do you pray for your pastor on Saturday night? Don’t criticize him, but rather pray for him. He needs your prayers. The Devil gives him enough opposition. You don’t need to join the crowd that crucifies the man who is preaching the Word of God. You ought to uphold his hands as Aaron and Hur upheld the hands of Moses on behalf of Israel. My heart goes out to pastors who are in need of congregations who will stand with them.
J. Vernon McGee (Thru the Bible Commentary, Volumes 1-5: Genesis through Revelation)
the pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God—this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.” I want to give witness to this way of understanding pastor, a way that can’t be measured or counted, and often isn’t even noticed. I didn’t notice for a long time. I would like to provide dignity to this essentially modest and often obscure way of life in the kingdom of God. Along the way, I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life: the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives—these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops, and comes to birth is unique to each pastor. The only modifier I can think of that might be useful in honoring the ambiguity and mystery involved in the working life of the pastor is “maybe.” Anne Tyler a few years ago wrote a novel with the title Saint Maybe. How about Pastor Maybe? That would serve both as a disclaimer to expertise (that if we could just copy the right model, we would have it down) and a ready reminder of the unavoidable ambiguity involved in this vocation. Pastor Maybe: given the loss of cultural and ecclesiastical consensus on how to live this life, none of us is sure of what we are doing much of the time, only maybe.
Eugene H. Peterson (The Pastor: A Memoir)
Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero said this shortly before his assassination: “I am going to speak to you simply as a pastor, as one who, together with his people, has been learning the beautiful but harsh truth that the Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it; the church is not a fortress set apart from the city. The church follows Jesus, who lived, worked, struggled and died in the midst of a city, in the polis.
Shane Claiborne (Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)
sat in the dark of the vestry office, thinking that religion was only a career for Pastor Merrill. He taught the same old stories, with the same old cast of characters; he preached the same old virtues and values; and he theologized on the same old “miracles”—yet he appeared not to believe in any of it. His mind was closed to the possibility of a new story; there was no room in his heart for a new character of God’s holy choosing, or for a new “miracle.
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Towards the end of our conversation in the churchyard today I got the impression that pastor Jón thinks that all gods that men worship are equally good. In the Bhagavad Gita, which pastor Jón cites, Krishna is reported as saying, as I recall: You are free to address your prayers to any god at all; but the one who answers the prayers, I am he. Is this what pastor Jón means when he says that all gods are equally good except the god that answers the prayers, because he is nowhere? Neither of these two standpoints can be accommodated within the framework of our confession of faith. The god who speaks through Krishna's words isn't particularly pleasant, either, because he alone controls the card-game and the other gods are only dummies and he is the one who declares on their cards. At any rate this god is rather far removed from the seventy-year-old grandfather with the large beard who came to breakfast with the farmer Abraham of Ur accompanied by two angels, his attendants, and settled in with him, and whom the Jews inherited and thereafter the pope and finally the Saxons. When Krishna says he is the one god who answers prayers, then this is actually just our orthodox god of the catechism, the one who says: I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me. Pastor Jón says, on the other hand, Thou shalt have all other gods before the Lord thy God. What is the answer to that?
Halldór Laxness (Under the Glacier)
The public prayers of the pastor are apt to be the models of the devotions of his people; when he leads them in prayer he is really teaching them to pray. Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath. Prayer is the appointed channel of his whole redemption. How mischievous is that man who by his coldness, inappropriateness, irreverence, vagueness, unbelief, chills the aspirations and obstructs the access of a whole multitude which he should have led up to the mercy-seat!
Robert Lewis Dabney (Evangelical Eloquence)
If we could free up the time pastors devote to prepping their sermons, and making sure the choir is ready, and leading trustees meetings, and figuring out the next stewardship campaign, we would create the time for them to be in the parks with the least and the lost, to be with those who are hurting, to be in prayer and contemplation to reenergize themselves, and to lead others to do all of these same things (which they will do when they see their pastor doing it). I truly believe that if we give our pastors time to love people, people will follow suit!
Jerry Herships (Last Call: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesus)
Eventually I reached a crisis point concerning what the gospel is and how it should be preached. To a large extent, this came about when I began to seriously read the apostolic sermons found in the book of Acts. I had to admit the apostles did not preach the gospel the way I was preaching it. (“Pray the sinner’s prayer so you can go to heaven when you die.”) In fact, in the eight gospel sermons found in the book of Acts, not one of them is based on afterlife issues! Instead they proclaimed that the world now had a new emperor and his name was Jesus! Their witness was this: the Galilean Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, had been executed by Roman crucifixion, but God had vindicated him by raising him from the dead. The world now had a new boss: Jesus the Christ. What the world’s new Lord (think emperor) is doing is saving the world. This includes the personal forgiveness of sins and the promise of being with the Lord in the interim between death and resurrection as well as after the resurrection, but the whole project is much, much bigger than that—the world is to be repaired! Now that is a gospel I can get excited about! A gospel that isn’t reserved for the sweet by-and-by, but a gospel that is for the here and now!
Brian Zahnd (A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace)
But you of all people!” I said to him. “Look at me—I never was a believer, not until this happened. If I can believe it, why can’t you?” I asked Mr. Merrill. He began to stutter. “It’s easier for you to j-j-j-just accept it. Belief is not something you have felt, and then not felt; you haven’t l-l-l-lived with belief, and with unbelief. It’s easier f-f-f-for you,” the Rev. Mr. Merrill repeated. “You haven’t ever been f-f-f-full of faith, and full of d-d-d-doubt. Something j-j-j-just strikes you as a miracle, and you believe it. For me, it’s not that s-s-s-simple,” said Pastor Merrill. “But it is a miracle!” I cried. “He told you that dream—I know he did! And you were there—when he saw his name, and the date of his death, on Scrooge’s grave. You were there!” I cried. “How can you doubt that he knew?” I asked Mr. Merrill. “He knew—he knew everything! What do you call that—if you don’t call it a miracle?” “You’ve witnessed what you c-c-c-call a miracle and now you believe—you believe everything,” Pastor Merrill said. “But miracles don’t c-c-c-cause belief—real miracles don’t m-m-m-make faith out of thin air; you have to already have faith in order to believe in real miracles. I believe that Owen was extraordinarily g-g-g-gifted—
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with a good prayer. I mean, I believe in God. At least I think I do. I just wondered where God was when I was being mopped by that cop. And I knew that’s what the pastor had come to tell me. That God was there. That God was always there. Which, to me, is the wrong thing to say, because if he or it or whatever was there and didn’t do nothing, then that would make God my enemy. Because he let it happen. I would much rather Pastor Johnson say that God wasn’t there. That he was busy. That he turned his back, just for a second, to check on somebody else, and that asshole officer snuck right by him and got me. But… nope.
Jason Reynolds (All American Boys)
Still, there were some glimmers of hope. Luc’s fellow pastors were becoming a great support. They had no problem with caring for so many people. To the contrary, they were thrilled. In a wonderful answer to prayer, Chrétien and Émile and their wives brought over bushels of fruit and vegetables to help feed everyone. They brought fresh clothes so the group didn’t have to wear the same things day after day. One morning, Émile showed up with new identity papers for each person and a plan to move most of them in with other families, including his own, to lighten the burden and not draw so much attention to Luc and Claire, lest the authorities start asking questions.
Joel C. Rosenberg (The Auschwitz Escape)
I am part of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made - I am a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarf goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.
A Zimbabwean pastor, later martyred for his faith
Most members of our community are genuinely dear souls who love the Lord Jesus with their whole heart and honor in pious conduct. Also in external things everything is completely orderly and Christian. And even when Satan sometimes wishes to sow his seeds of some discord, they resist him and follow our counsel imparted to them from God's Word. Their exactness in public worship on Sundays and in the daily evening prayer services is indeed uncommon, and their attention during the proclamation of the divine Word is so great and persistent that we ourselves are not little encouraged through it and consider ourselves completely unworthy of the grace of God that He demonstrates to us in our calling through these upright souls.
Johann Martin Boltzius (The Letters of Johann Martin Boltzius, Lutheran Pastor in Ebenezer, Georgia: German Pietism in Colonial America, Book 1 and Book 2)
I, whom you behold in these black garments of the priesthood,—I, who ascend the sacred desk, and turn my pale face heavenward, taking upon myself to hold communion, in your behalf, with the Most High Omniscience,—I, in whose daily life you discern the sanctity of Enoch,—I, whose footsteps, as you suppose, leave a gleam along my earthly track, whereby the pilgrims that shall come after me may be guided to the regions of the blest,—I, who have laid the hand of baptism upon your children,—I, who have breathed the parting prayer over your dying friends, to whom the Amen sounded faintly from a world which they had quitted,—I, your pastor, whom you so reverence and trust, am utterly a pollution and a lie!” Excerpt From: Nathaniel Hawthorne. “The Scarlet Letter.” iBooks.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter)
(from chapter 24, "Heather-scented Theology") "...I was more than ever what I had been becoming for a long time - a contemplative pastor. In these early years when I was becoming a pastor, I needed a pastor. Some deep and cultivated pastoral instinct in Ian responded: he became my pastor without making me a project, without giving me advice, without smothering me with his concerns... I learned, without being aware that I was learning of the immense freedom that comes in pastoral relationships that are structured by prayer and ritual and let everything else happen more or less spontaneously. The competitiveness didn't exactly leave me, but it developed a root system that didn't depend on artificial stimulants or chemical additives - like 'start another building campaign.
Eugene H. Peterson (The Pastor: A Memoir)
We were outside the vestry office, in the dark corridor where two rows of wooden pegs—for coats—extended for the entire length of two walls; off in the darkness, several lost or left-behind overcoats hung there, like old churchgoers who had loitered so long that they had fallen asleep, slumped against the walls. And there were a few pairs of galoshes in the corridor; but they were not directly beneath the abandoned overcoats, so that the churchgoers in the darkness appeared to have been separated from their feet. On the wooden peg nearest the door to the vestry office was the Rev. Mr. Merrill’s double-breasted and oddly youthful Navy pea jacket—and, on the peg next to it, his seaman’s watch cap. Dan and I, passing these, heard Pastor Merrill say: “Owen? Is it the dream? Have you had that dream again?
John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany)
Everything we do and say will either underline or undermine our discipleship process. As long as there is one unsaved person on my campus or in my city, then my church is not big enough. One of the underlying principles of our discipleship strategy is that every believer can and should make disciples. When a discipleship process fails, many times the fatal flaw is that the definition of discipleship is either unclear, unbiblical, or not commonly shared by the leadership team. Write down what you love to do most, and then go do it with unbelievers. Whatever you love to do, turn it into an outreach. You have to formulate a system that is appropriate for your cultural setting. Writing your own program for making disciples takes time, prayer, and some trial and error—just as it did with us. Learn and incorporate ideas from other churches around the world, but only after modification to make sure the strategies make sense in our culture and community. Culture is changing so quickly that staying relevant requires our constant attention. If we allow ourselves to be distracted by focusing on the mechanics of our own efforts rather than our culture, we will become irrelevant almost overnight. The easiest and most common way to fail at discipleship is to import a model or copy a method that worked somewhere else without first understanding the values that create a healthy discipleship culture. Principles and process are much more important than material, models, and methods. The church is an organization that exists for its nonmembers. Christianity does not promise a storm-free life. However, if we build our lives on biblical foundations, the storms of life will not destroy us. We cannot have lives that are storm-free, but we can become storm-proof. Just as we have to figure out the most effective way to engage our community for Christ, we also have to figure out the most effective way to establish spiritual foundations in each unique context. There is really only one biblical foundation we can build our lives on, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastors, teachers, and church staff believe their primary role is to serve as mentors. Their task is to equip every believer for the work of the ministry. It is not to do all the ministry, but to equip all the people to do it. Their top priority is to equip disciples to do ministry and to make disciples. Do you spend more time ministering to people or preparing people to minister? No matter what your church responsibilities are, you can prepare others for the same ministry. Insecurity in leadership is a deadly thing that will destroy any organization. It drives pastors and presidents to defensive positions, protecting their authority or exercising it simply to show who is the boss. Disciple-making is a process that systematically moves people toward Christ and spiritual maturity; it is not a bunch of randomly disconnected church activities. In the context of church leadership, one of the greatest and most important applications of faith is to trust the Holy Spirit to work in and through those you are leading. Without confidence that the Holy Spirit is in control, there is no empowering, no shared leadership, and, as a consequence, no multiplication.
Steve Murrell (WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering, and Viral)
MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT AFTER BEING ORDAINED as a pastor almost finished me. I was called to be the assistant pastor in a large and affluent suburban church. I was glad to be part of such an obviously winning organization. After I had been there a short time, a few people came to me and asked that I lead them in a Bible study. “Of course,” I said, “there is nothing I would rather do.” We met on Monday evenings. There weren’t many—eight or nine men and women—but even so that was triple the two or three that Jesus defined as a quorum. They were eager and attentive; I was full of enthusiasm. After a few weeks the senior pastor, my boss, asked me what I was doing on Monday evenings. I told him. He asked me how many people were there. I told him. He told me that I would have to stop. “Why?” I asked. “It is not cost-effective. That is too few people to spend your time on.” I was told then how I should spend my time. I was introduced to the principles of successful church administration: crowds are important, individuals are expendable; the positive must always be accented, the negative must be suppressed. Don’t expect too much of people—your job is to make them feel good about themselves and about the church. Don’t talk too much about abstractions like God and sin—deal with practical issues. We had an elaborate music program, expensively and brilliantly executed. The sermons were seven minutes long and of the sort that Father Taylor (the sailor-preacher in Boston who was the model for Father Mapple in Melville’s Moby Dick) complained of in the transcendentalists of the last century: that a person could no more be converted listening to sermons like that than get intoxicated drinking skim milk.[2] It was soon apparent that I didn’t fit. I had supposed that I was there to be a pastor: to proclaim and interpret Scripture, to guide people into a life of prayer, to encourage faith, to represent the mercy and forgiveness of Christ at special times of need, to train people to live as disciples in their families, in their communities and in their work. In fact I had been hired to help run a church and do it as efficiently as possible: to be a cheerleader to this dynamic organization, to recruit members, to lend the dignity of my office to certain ceremonial occasions, to promote the image of a prestigious religious institution. I got out of there as quickly as I could decently manage it. At the time I thought I had just been unlucky. Later I came to realize that what I experienced was not at all uncommon.
Eugene H. Peterson (Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best)
I know what the cynics will say. I know how the scoffers will sneer. I know the non-dreamers believing only in the brutal ways of force will laugh me off as impossibly naive. But I don’t care. I’ve grown immune to their strain of unbelief. I’ve turned a corner. I believe that what Isaiah dreamed of, Jesus died for. I believe that what Isaiah said would come to pass in the last days, Jesus inaugurated in his resurrection. I’ve caught a glimpse of the better world that can be—a world that Jesus came to give and continues to offer us. I believe the world of peace is possible in Christ. I won’t let the doomsday preppers with their Armageddon obsession talk me out of it. Jesus has already spoken the first word of a new world—the word peace. So things have changed. I have changed. I’ve prayed my last war prayer and preached my last war sermon. I’ve given up bellicose flag waving and singing lustily about bombs bursting in air. I’ve bid a final farewell to Mars. From now on I follow the Prince of Peace. I know others will come with me. Maybe you will be one of them. I hope so.
Brian Zahnd (A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace)
My pastor, Pete Wilson, gave a message on prayer, specifically citing this idea many of us have that prayer is a kind of transaction. beside him on the platform, an object the size of a refrigerator stood cloaked beneath a black cover. He said, 'most of us have reduced prayer down to a transaction. A way to manipulate what we want. A vending machine.' At that point, he yanked off the cover revealing a large vending machine, loaded with all kinds of snacks. He inserted some coins and pushed the button for peanut M&Ms (smart man, my pastor). Nothing happened. He hit the machine a couple of times, tried to rock it. Nothing. He continued. 'Most of the time when we go to God, it's because we want something. If we get what we want, we turn and walk off, satisfied. If we don't get what we want, we get frustrated; we kick the machine and blame God for not answering our request.' This 'transaction' view of prayer will always disappoint us because at the root of it, we think it's all about us. but prayer is so much more than giving God a list of our wants and needs or, in some cases, our demands. Prayer is communication. It's talking and listening.
Diane Moody (Confessions of a Prayer Slacker)
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the Catholic church’s value for European culture and for the whole world. It Christianized and civilized barbaric peoples and for a long time was the only guardian of science and art. Here the church’s cloisters were preeminent. The Catholic church developed a spiritual power unequaled anywhere, and today we still admire the way it combined the principle of catholicism with the principle of one sanctifying church, as well as tolerance with intolerance. It is a world in itself. Infinite diversity flows together, and this colorful picture gives it its irresistible charm (Complexio oppositorum). A country has seldom produced so many different kinds of people as has the Catholic church. With admirable power, it has understood how to maintain unity in diversity, to gain the love and respect of the masses, and to foster a strong sense of community. . . . But it is exactly because of this greatness that we have serious reservations. Has this world [of the Catholic church] really remained the church of Christ? Has it not perhaps become an obstruction blocking the path to God instead of a road sign on the path to God? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as long as she has it we can still believe in the holy Christian church. God’s word will never be denied (Isa. 55:11), whether it be preached by us or by our sister church. We adhere to the same confession of faith, we pray the same Lord’s Prayer, and we share some of the same ancient rites. This binds us together, and as far as we are concerned we would like to live in peace with our disparate sister. We do not, however, want to deny anything that we have recognized as God’s word. The designation Catholic or Protestant is unimportant. The important thing is God’s word. Conversely, we will never violate anyone else’s faith. God does not desire reluctant service, and God has given everyone a conscience. We can and should desire that our sister church search its soul and concentrate on nothing but the word [1 Cor. 2:12– 13]. Until that time, we must have patience. We will have to endure it when, in false darkness, the “only holy church” pronounces upon our church the “anathema” (condemnation). She doesn’t know any better, and she doesn’t hate the heretic, only the heresy. As long as we let the word be our only armor we can look confidently into the future.
Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
To pastors and teachers If all who laboured for the conversion of others were to introduce them immediately into Prayer and the Interior Life, and make it their main design to gain and win over the heart, numberless as well as permanent conversions would certainly ensue. On the contrary, few and transient fruits must attend that labour which is confined to outward matters; such as burdening the disciple with a thousand precepts for external exercises, instead of leaving the soul to Christ by the occupation of the heart in him . . . O when once the heart is gained, how easily is all moral evil corrected! It is, therefore, that God above all things requires the heart. It is the conquest of the heart alone that can extirpate those dreadful vices which are so predominant, such as drunkenness, blasphemy, lewdness,envy, and theft. Jesus Christ would become the universal and peaceful Sovereign, and the face of the church would be wholly renewed. The decay of internal piety is unquestionably the source of the various errors that have arisen in the church, all which would would speedily be sapped and overthrown should inward religion be reestablished . . . O how inexpressibly great is the loss sustained by mankind from the neglect of the Interior Life!
Jeanne Guyon (A Short and Easy Method of Prayer)
In ways that he was unaware of, his private conversation had become progressively theological. More and more, he thought about God, and because of that, the meaning and purpose of his life. But rather than letting what the Bible says about God help him interpret the overwhelming circumstances he was facing, he let his circumstances redefine his view of God. How could a loving God let this happen to anyone? Where were all God’s promises? Why didn’t God answer his prayers? Why were other people being blessed while he got cursed? Why didn’t God use his power to help him? Why was God punishing him? Why had God turned his back on him? Why didn’t God do something to help him? Why? The Bible didn’t answer his questions because he no longer had faith in what it said, and he knew that his pastor and Christian friends would offer him the same tired platitudes that he had once repeated to others in need. His love for God began to morph into anger at God. Worship devolved into an angry demand for change. The faith that had shaped his life now seemed to be a grand trick played on weak people. In his endless and dark conversation with himself, he finally concluded that if there was a God, he was not good or worthy of his trust. And in that moment he was all alone in his overwhelming and increasingly debilitating circumstances.
Paul David Tripp (Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense)
In the chapter entitled “You Can’t Pray a Lie” in Twain’s beloved novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck Finn has helped hide Miss Watson’s runaway slave, Jim. But Huck thought he was committing a sin in helping a runaway slave. Huck had learned in Sunday school “that people that acts as I’d been acting … goes to everlasting fire.” So in an act of repentance in order to save his soul, Huck wrote a note to Miss Watson and told her where she could find her runaway slave. Now Huck was ready to pray his “sinner’s prayer” and “get saved.” I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world and the only he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see the paper. It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.1 Huck Finn had been shaped by the Christianity he’d found in his Missouri Sunday school—a Christianity focused on heaven in the afterlife while preserving the status quo of the here and now. Huck thought that helping Jim escape from slavery was a sin, because that’s what he had been taught. He knew he couldn’t ask God to forgive him until he was ready to “repent” and betray Jim. Huck didn’t want to go to hell; he wanted to be saved. But Huck loved his friend more, so he was willing to go to hell in order to save his friend from slavery.
Brian Zahnd (A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace)
Dr. Syngmann: But someone must have made it all. Don't you think so, John? Pastor Jón: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and so on, said the late pastor Lens. Dr. Syngmann: Listen, John, how is it possible to love God? And what reason is there for doing so? To love, is that not the prelude to sleeping together, something connected with the genitals, at its best a marital tragedy among apes? It would be ridiculous. People are fond of their children, all right, but if someone said he was fond of God, wouldn't that be blasphemy? Pastor Jón once again utters that strange word 'it' and says: I accept it. Dr. Syngmann: What do you mean when you say you accept God? Did you consent to his creating the world? Do you think the world as good as all that, or something? This world! Or are you all that pleased with yourself? Pastor Jón: Have you noticed that the ewe that was bleating outside the window is now quiet? She has found her lamb. And I believe that the calf here in the homefield will pull through. Dr. Syngmann: I know as well as you do, John, that animals are perfect within their limits and that man is the lowest rung in the reverse-evolution of earthly life: one need only compare the pictures of an emperor and a dog to see that, or a farmer and the horse he rides. But I for my part refuse to accept it. Pastor Jón Prímus: To refuse to accept it - what is meant by that? Suicide or something? Dr. Syngmann: At this moment, when the alignment with a higher humanity is at hand, a chapter is at last beginning that can be taken seriously in the history of the earth. Epagogics provide the arguments to prove to the Creator that life is an entirely meaningless gimmick unless it is eternal. Pastor Jón: Who is to bell the cat? Dr. Syngmann: As regards epagogics, it is pleading a completely logical case. In six volumes I have proved my thesis with incontrovertible arguments; even juridically. But obviously it isn't enough to use cold reasoning. I take the liberty of appealing to this gifted Maker's honour. I ask Him - how could it ever occur to you to hand over the earth to demons? The only ideal over which demons can unite is to have a war. Why did you permit the demons of the earth to profess their love to you in services and prayers as if you were their God? Will you let honest men call you demiurge, you, the Creator of the world? Whose defeat is it, now that the demons of the earth have acquired a machine to wipe out all life? Whose defeat is it if you let life on earth die on your hands? Can the Maker of the heavens stoop so low as to let German philosophers give Him orders what to do? And finally - I am a creature you have created. And that's why I am here, just like you. Who has given you the right to wipe me out? Is justice ridiculous in your eyes? Cards on the table! (He mumbles to himself.) You are at least under an obligation to resurrect me!
Halldór Laxness (Under the Glacier)
Door: So spiritual direction is a slow process that looks idle and inefficient. Peterson: It's subversive. I'm a subversive, really. I gather the people in worship, I pray for them, I engage them often in matters of spiritual correction, and I take them on two really strong retreats a year. I am a true subversive. We live in a culture that we think is Christian. When a congregation gathers in a church, they assume they are among friends in a basically friendly world (with the exception of pornographers, etc.). If I, as their pastor, get up and tell them the world is not friendly and they are really idol worshippers, they think I'm crazy. This culture has twisted all of our metaphors and images and structures of understanding. But I can't say that directly. The only way that you can approach people is indirectly, obliquely. A head-on attack doesn't work. Jesus was the master of indirection. The parables are subversive. His hyperboles are indirect. There is a kind of outrageous quality to them that defies common sense, but later on the understanding comes. The largest poetic piece in the Bible, Revelation, is a subversive piece. Instead of (being) a three-point lecturer, the pastor is instead a storyteller and a pray-er. Prayer and story become the primary means by which you get past people's self-defense mechanisms. In my book, I say it this way: "I must remember that I am a subversive. My long-term effectiveness depends on my not being recognized for who I am as a pastor. If the church member actually realized that the American way of life is doomed to destruction and that another kingdom is right now being formed in secret to take its place, he wouldn't be pleased at all. If he knew what I was really doing and the difference it was making, he would fire me." True subversion requires patience. You slowly get cells of people who are believing in what you are doing, participating in it.
Eugene H. Peterson (Subversive Spirituality)
An Orthodox priest, a friend of mine, telephoned me and told me that a Russian officer had come to him to confess. My friend did not know Russian. However, knowing that I speak Russian, he had given him my address. The next day this man came to see me. He longed for God, but he had never seen a Bible. He had no religious education and never attended religious services (churches in Russia then were very scarce). He loved God without the slightest knowledge of Him. I read to him the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus. After hearing them, he danced around the room in rapturous joy proclaiming, “What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ!” It was the first time that I saw someone so joyful in Christ. Then I made a mistake. I read to him the passion and crucifixion of Christ, without having prepared him for this. He had not expected it and, when he heard how Christ was beaten, how He was crucified and that in the end He died, he fell into an armchair and began to weep bitterly. He had believed in a Savior and now his Savior was dead! I looked at him and was ashamed. I had called myself a Christian, a pastor, and a teacher of others, but I had never shared the sufferings of Christ as this Russian officer now shared them. Looking at him, it was like seeing Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of the cross, faithfully weeping when Jesus was a corpse in the tomb. Then I read to him the story of the resurrection and watched his expression change. He had not known that his Savior arose from the tomb. When he heard this wonderful news, he beat his knees and swore—using very dirty, but very “holy” profanity. This was his crude manner of speech. Again he rejoiced, shouting for joy, “He is alive! He is alive!” He danced around the room once more, overwhelmed with happiness! I said to him, “Let us pray!” He did not know how to pray. He did not know our “holy” phrases. He fell on his knees together with me and his words of prayer were: “Oh God, what a fine chap you are! If I were You and You were me, I would never have forgiven You of Your sins. But You are really a very nice chap! I love You with all of my heart.” I think that all the angels in heaven stopped what they were doing to listen to this sublime prayer from a Russian officer. The man had been won for Christ!
Richard Wurmbrand (Tortured for Christ)
I remember that as I sat there, my initial reaction was: flummoxed. Pray to God to heal a baby’s defective heart? Really? But doesn’t God, being omniscient, already know that this baby’s heart is defective? And doesn’t God, being omnipotent, already have the ability to heal the baby’s heart if he wants to? Isn’t the defective heart thus part of God’s plan? What good is prayer, then? Do these people really think that God will alter his will if they only pray hard enough? And if they don’t pray hard enough, he’ll let the baby die? What kind of a God is that? Such coldly skeptical thoughts percolated through my fifteen-year-old brain. But they soon fizzled out. As I sat there looking at the crying couple, listening to the murmur of prayers all around me, my initial skepticism was soon supplanted by a sober appreciation and empathetic recognition of what I was witnessing and experiencing. Here was an entire body of people all expressing their love and sympathy for a young couple with a dying baby. Here were hundreds of people caringly, genuinely, warmly pouring out their hearts to this poor unfortunate man, woman, and child. The love and sadness in the gathering were palpable, and I “got” it. I could see the intangible benefit of such a communal act. There was that poor couple at the front of the church, crying, while everyone around them was showering them with support and hope. While I didn’t buy the literal words of the pastor, I surely understood their deeper significance: they were making these suffering people feel a bit better. And while I didn’t think the congregation’s prayers would realistically count for a hill of beans toward actually curing that baby, I was still able to see that it was a serenely beneficial act nonetheless, for it offered hope and solace to these unlucky parents, as well as to everyone else present there in that church who was feeling sadness for them, or for themselves and their own personal misfortunes. So while I sat there, absolutely convinced that there exists no God who heals defective baby hearts, I also sat there equally convinced that this mass prayer session was a deeply good thing. Or if not a deeply good thing, then at least a deeply understandable thing. I felt so sad for that young couple that day. I could not, and still cannot, fathom the pain of having a new baby who, after only a few months of life, begins to die.
Phil Zuckerman (Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions)
God’s renown is our first concern. Our task is to be an expert in “hallowed be your name” and “your kingdom come.” “Hallowed” means to be known and declared as holy. Our first desire is that God would be known as he truly is, the Holy One. Implicit in his name being hallowed is that his glory or fame would cover the earth. This takes us out of ourselves immediately. Somehow, we want God’s glory to be increasingly apparent through the church today. If you need specifics, keep your eyes peeled for the names God reveals to us. For example, we can pray that he would be known as the Mighty God, the Burden-Bearer, and the God who cares. “Your kingdom come” overlaps with our desire for his fame and renown. It is not so much that we are praying that Jesus would return quickly, though such a prayer is certainly one of the ways we pray. Instead, it is for God’s kingdom to continue its progress toward world dominion. The kingdom has already come and, as stewards of the kingdom for this generation, we want it to grow and flourish. The kingdom of heaven is about everything Jesus taught: love for neighbors and even enemies, humility in judgment, not coveting, blessing rather than cursing, meekness, peacemaking, and trusting instead of worrying. It is a matter of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Edward T. Welch February 1 Matthew 18:21–35 People mistreat us, sometimes in horrific ways. Spouses cheat. Children rebel. Bosses fire. Friends lie. Pastors fail. Parents abuse. Hurts are real. But how do all these one hundred denarii (about $6,000) offenses against us compare to the ten thousand talent (multimillion-dollar) debt we owed God, which he mercifully canceled? Since birth, and for all our lives, we have failed to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). But in one fell swoop—by the death and resurrection of Jesus—God wiped our records clean. Through the cross of Jesus and our faith in him, God removed our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12); he hurled “all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Could it be that one reason you find it so hard to forgive is because you have never received God’s forgiveness by repenting of your sins and believing in Jesus as your Savior? Or maybe you have yet to grasp the enormity of God’s forgiveness of all your many sins. If you dwell on your offender’s $6,000 debt against you, you will be trapped in bitterness until you die. But if you dwell on God’s forgiveness of your multimillion-dollar debt, you will find release and liberty. Robert D. Jones
CCEF (Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives)
A similar theological—and particularly ecclesiological—logic shapes the Durham Declaration, a manifesto against abortion addressed specifically to the United Methodist Church by a group of United Methodist pastors and theologians. The declaration is addressed not to legislators or the public media but to the community of the faithful. It concludes with a series of pledges, including the following: We pledge, with Cod’s help, to become a church that hospitably provides safe refuge for the so-called “unwanted child” and mother. We will joyfully welcome and generously support—with prayer, friendship, and material resources—both child and mother. This support includes strong encouragement for the biological father to be a father, in deed, to his child.27 No one can make such a pledge lightly. A church that seriously attempted to live out such a commitment would quickly find itself extended to the limits of its resources, and its members would be called upon to make serious personal sacrifices. In other words, it would find itself living as the church envisioned by the New Testament. William H. Willimon tells the story of a group of ministers debating the morality of abortion. One of the ministers argues that abortion is justified in some cases because young teenage girls cannot possibly be expected to raise children by themselves. But a black minister, the pastor of a large African American congregation, takes the other side of the question. “We have young girls who have this happen to them. I have a fourteen year old in my congregation who had a baby last month. We’re going to baptize the child next Sunday,” he added. “Do you really think that she is capable of raising a little baby?” another minister asked. “Of course not,” he replied. No fourteen year old is capable of raising a baby. For that matter, not many thirty year olds are qualified. A baby’s too difficult for any one person to raise by herself.” “So what do you do with babies?” they asked. “Well, we baptize them so that we all raise them together. In the case of that fourteen year old, we have given her baby to a retired couple who have enough time and enough wisdom to raise children. They can then raise the mama along with her baby. That’s the way we do it.”28 Only a church living such a life of disciplined service has the possibility of witnessing credibly to the state against abortion. Here we see the gospel fully embodied in a community that has been so formed by Scripture that the three focal images employed throughout this study can be brought to bear also on our “reading” of the church’s action. Community: the congregation’s assumption of responsibility for a pregnant teenager. Cross: the young girl’s endurance of shame and the physical difficulty of pregnancy, along with the retired couple’s sacrifice of their peace and freedom for the sake of a helpless child. New creation: the promise of baptism, a sign that the destructive power of the world is broken and that this child receives the grace of God and hope for the future.29 There, in microcosm, is the ethic of the New Testament. When the community of God’s people is living in responsive obedience to God’s Word, we will find, again and again, such grace-filled homologies between the story of Scripture and its performance in our midst.
Richard B. Hays (The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics)
LEAD PEOPLE TO COMMITMENT We have seen that nonbelievers in worship actually “close with Christ” in two basic ways: some may come to Christ during the service itself (1 Cor 14:24 – 25), while others must be “followed up with” by means of after-service meetings. Let’s take a closer look at both ways of leading people to commitment. It is possible to lead people to a commitment to Christ during the service. One way of inviting people to receive Christ is to make a verbal invitation as the Lord’s Supper is being distributed. At our church, we say it this way: “If you are not in a saving relationship with God through Christ today, do not take the bread and the cup, but as they come around, take Christ. Receive him in your heart as those around you receive the food. Then immediately afterward, come up and tell an officer or a pastor about what you’ve done so we can get you ready to receive the Supper the next time as a child of God.” Another way to invite commitment during the service is to give people a time of silence or a period of musical interlude after the sermon. This affords people time to think and process what they have heard and to offer themselves to God in prayer. In many situations, it is best to invite people to commitment through after-meetings. Acts 2 gives an example. Inverses 12 and 13 we are told that some folks mocked after hearing the apostles praise and preach, but others were disturbed and asked, “What does this mean?” Then, we see that Peter very specifically explained the gospel and, in response to the follow-up question “What shall we do?” (v. 37), he explained how to become a Christian. Historically, many preachers have found it effective to offer such meetings to nonbelievers and seekers immediately after evangelistic worship. Convicted seekers have just come from being in the presence of God and are often the most teachable and open at this time. To seek to “get them into a small group” or even to merely return next Sunday is asking a lot. They may also be “amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12), and it is best to strike while the iron is hot. This should not be understood as doubting that God is infallibly drawing people to himself (Acts 13:48; 16:14). Knowing the sovereignty of God helps us to relax as we do evangelism, knowing that conversions are not dependent on our eloquence. But it should not lead us to ignore or minimize the truth that God works through secondary causes. The Westminster Confession (5.2 – 3), for example, tells us that God routinely works through normal social and psychological processes. Therefore, inviting people into a follow-up meeting immediately after the worship service can often be more conducive to conserving the fruit of the Word. After-meetings may take the shape of one or more persons waiting at the front of the auditorium to pray with and talk with seekers who wish to make inquiries right on the spot. Another way is to host a simple Q&A session with the preacher in or near the main auditorium, following the postlude. Or offer one or two classes or small group experiences targeted to specific questions non-Christians ask about the content, relevance, and credibility of the Christian faith. Skilled lay evangelists should be present who can come alongside newcomers, answer spiritual questions, and provide guidance for their next steps.
Timothy J. Keller (Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City)