Living a Life Characterized by Love

from  

love th1 John 2_10at shirt!” “I love ice cream!” “I lovemy wife!”

Words, like coins, can be in circulation for such a long time that they start wearing out. Unfortunately, the word love is losing its value. It is really difficult to understand how a man can use the same word to express his love for his wife as he uses to tell how he feels about a shirt or ice cream! When words are used carelessly, they really mean little or nothing at all. Like the dollar, the word love has been devalued.

As John describes the life that is real, he uses three words repeatedly: lovelife, and light. He explains they belong together and must not be separated. In our present study (1 John 2:7–11), we learn how Christian love is affected by light and darkness. A Christian who is walking in the light (which simply means he is obeying God) is going to love his brother Christian. On the contrary, those who walk in darkness practice hatred. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes this truth.

John not only writes about love, but also practices it. One of his favorite names for his readers is “Beloved.” He felt love for them. John is known as the “Apostle of Love” because in his Gospel and his epistles he gives such prominence to this subject.

However, John was not always the “Apostle of Love.” At one time, Jesus gave John and his brother James, both of whom had hot tempers, the nickname “Boanerges” (Mk. 3:17), which means “sons of thunder.” On another occasion these two brothers wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village (Lk. 9:51–56).

The commandment to love is not new in time, but it is new in character. Because of Jesus Christ, the old commandment to love one another has taken on new meaning. In 1 John 2:7–11, we learn the commandment to love is new in three important ways:

Continue at http://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/living-a-life-characterized-by-love/

Jesus is preached

Jesus-preached

My grace is sufficient

from Fashioned with Purpose

2corinthians129

For Pastors Only: A Prayer by A. W. Tozer

from Miscellanies by 

I’m nearing the end of A Passion For God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL; Moody, 2008). It’s been a well-researched portrait look at a fascinatingly godly (and isolated) man who, through his popular wittings, has shaped modern Christian spirituality.

Tozer was raised in a blue-collar, non-Christian home, a farmer who followed his family when they moved to the big city for better employment. From the farm Tozer transitioned into a job hand-cutting rubber in a Goodyear tire plant. His gifting for the ministry however became evident to the Christians around him and Tozer was ordained by the Christian and Missionary Alliance on August 18, 1920 at the age of 23. After the ordination service, Tozer prematurely left the fellowship celebration to spend time alone with God in prayer, a priority he would cherish and model throughout his life. Years later the private prayer from his ordination day was written and published, “For Pastors Only.” Here is the text as it later appeared in the Alliance Weekly on May 6, 1950.

——————

For Pastors Only – Prayer of a Minor Prophet

By A. W Tozer

This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Saviour in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him. And he said:

O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, Thou has stopped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man takes this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but Thine. Thou hast said, “I knew thee—I ordained thee—I sanctified thee,” and Thou has also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.

-As quote in A Passion For God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL; Moody, 2008), pp. 65-68.

The Lion has conquered

TheLion

The whole story . . .

TheWholeStory

Favorite Quotes: Why The Universe Is The Way It Is

from Faithful Thinkers

This is a collection of my favorite quotes from the book Why The Universe Is The Way It Is by astrophysicistDr. Hugh Ross. My full review of the book may be read here. For more information about the work of Dr. Ross, please visit Reasons to Believe.

Investigating Reality
“Humans…wonder about everything: tangible and intangible, tiny and huge, near and far, the past and the future as well as the present- the how and why of everything both in this universe and beyond. Human curiosity knows no boundaries, and many individuals will pay any price, even lose their own lives, to satisfy it.”

“I’m firmly convinced we can know enough. Not enough to end all questions, but enough to make sense of our lives. We can build a cosmic perspective solid enough to remain firm yet flexible enough to absorb the impact of new discoveries.”

Problem of Evil
“Nothing seems to perplex humanity as much as the subject of evil. Some say the existence of evil is a paradox wrapped in an enigma enshrouded in mystery embedded in riddle implanted in a puzzle inside a giant maze.”

“From the moment spiritual death (autonomy from God) invaded creation physical death became a blessing, an avenue through which God could temper the outbreak of evil and suffering.”

Teleology (Design)
“Astronomers’ observations show that in the context of the laws of physics, the Earth, Moon, solar system, Milky Way Galaxy, and Local Group- indeed the entire universe are all perfectly designed to provide a wonderful, bountiful home for humanity.”

“Many conditions necessary for human existence and beneficial to quality of life are also time critical. The fact that these features…all converge simultaneously at the moment human beings arrive on the planet defies realistic probability. One favorable time window’s alignment with even one other window might be considered an astounding coincidence. But the lineup of so many independent time windows with the brief human moment on the cosmic calendar speaks powerfully of purpose.”

“The optimization of cosmic darkness and of Earth’s location within the dark universe that sacrifices neither the material needs of human beings nor their capacity to gain knowledge about the universe reflects masterful engineering at a level far beyond human capability-  and even imagination. It testifies of a supernatural, superintelligent, superpowerful, fully deliberate Creator.”

“If the universe were any smaller or larger, younger or older, brighter or darker, more or less efficient as a radiator, and if human observers were located where most stars and planets reside, the view would be so blocked as to give few (if any) clues about what lies beyond.”

“This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe or adding a single dime’s mass to it.”

“Innumerable conditions must be exquisitely optimized for the support of humanity and of civilization. Many of them are highly time variable. Evidence showing that a wide variety of independent conditions all reached optimality during the identical narrow epoch when human beings appeared on the cosmic and terrestrial scene testifies of supernatural design and purpose rather than mere coincidence.”

Was Christ a Copycat?

from Reasonable Theology

As Easter approaches, so does the annual surge of skepticism about the existence of Jesus. Is it true that Jesus is one of many gods who were born of a virgin, died, and resurrected?

Was Christ a Copycat

Those who encounter this claim online or elsewhere often start to wonder about the truth of New Testament history. Is the account of Christ a retelling of “dying and rising” pagan gods? If Jesus’ life does parallel other gods, does that mean Jesus is also a myth?

This argument implies that if gods we consider false claim the same things that Christianity claims, Christianity must also be false. This ‘guilt by association’ mindset attempts to discredit the accounts of the Gospels by suggesting that life events attributed to Jesus are recycled bits of storytelling that are popular across different cultures and time periods.

So what is a believer to think in the face of such bold assertions? There are two important questions that a believer should ask when encountering themselves when tackling the “Jesus myth”: Are these parallels historically accurate? If they were, what difference would it make?

Doppelganger Deities 

Alleged Pagan Plagiarism

Are there really a number of gods who have biographies shockingly similar to that of Jesus of Nazareth? Names that are commonly included in this group of similar gods include Mithras, Dionysus, and Osiris, among others.

This image is one version of this attack on the deity of Christ that is continually circulating. Some claim that other gods share the attributes of being virgin-born, being born on December 25th (which is not in the Bible, by the way), performing the same kinds of miracles Jesus did, dying (in some cases being crucified), and miraculously resurrecting from the dead.

Let’s examine several of the pagan gods that Christianity is alleged to have plagiarized, as well as three of these ‘shared’ life events: a virgin birth, death, and resurrection.

Mithras
Unless you consider emerging fully grown out of a rock being born of a virgin, this god already has one strike against being similar to Jesus. Certainly he must have been crucified, right? No. Actually, Mithras didn’t even die – he was believed to be taken to paradise on a chariot when still alive. Since he didn’t die, he didn’t resurrect from the dead. Three strikes, you’re out!

Dionysus
Also known as Bachus, Dionysus doesn’t fare much better. He was said to be conceived out of an affair between Zeus and a mortal woman, Semele. After Zeus’ wife, Hera, found out she tricked the mortal into demanding that Zeus reveal himself in all his glory. He begrudgingly agreed, knowing that this would kill her. He was, however, able to rescue Dionysus and sewed him (or his heart) into his thigh until he was born. This is the claim for his ‘rebirth’ – a far cry from the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Osiris
There is no birth story recorded in regards to Osiris. He was eventually killed by his own brother, torn into 14 pieces, and strewn about Egypt. His sister (and wife – ew), Isis, gathered and buried almost all of the pieces. Osiris became the ruler of the underworld as the god of the dead. Some versions of the life of Horus say that Osiris was magically reassembled by Isis and impregnated her before becoming ruler of the underworld. Even if this version is to be preferred, it is worth noting that, unlike Jesus, Osiris would have been brought back to life by another rather than by his own power.

Horus
As mentioned above, most versions of the birth of Horus are the result of a sexual relationship between Osiris and his wife/sister Isis. Some claim that Horus was crucified, but this is not only unsupported by history but is a major anachronism. Crucifixion was a Roman method of execution used thousands of years later. They may as well say that Horus was killed in a motorcycle crash.

Rather than being crucified, most versions of the Horus myth do not have a death recorded at all. In some instances, it was believed that he merged with the sun god, Re, and each sunrise is a symbol of him being reborn each day. Again, this is hardly parallel to the resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s Pretend it was True

The above exercise can be continued to address all of the many different gods that Christ is alleged to have been copied from. As you can see, claims of pagan plagiarism are unfounded and terribly inaccurate. Even so, you may still encounter arguments that attempt to debunk the debunking that occurs in the above chart. Fortunately, a proper defense of Jesus’ unique claims to deity do not hinge solely on an examination of these other gods.

Let’s pretend that one or more of the above gods really did share the same biography as Jesus, particularly in the areas of their birth, death, and resurrection. Would this disprove the Gospel accounts of Christ? The short answer is no, it wouldn’t. Here’s why: we determine the historical accuracy of an event or person based on evidence. We do not demand that the details be completely unique in order to consider them to be true.

Take this example as shared by Greg Koukl:

Did you know there’s a book that was written around the turn-of-the-last-century about a ship that was an unsinkable ship, which hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank?  The name of the ship was the Titan.  This is remarkable because some 15 years later the Titanic sunk on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg.   Now what if you had read the novel and then later heard that a ship called the Titanic had actually sunk?  I’m sure you can see that rejecting the story of the Titanic on its face would be foolish only because you’d read a novel similar to the actual event.   Whether or not the Titanic sank is determined by the evidence for its sinking, unrelated to any other fictional stories that were like it.

Even if an historical event shares characteristics of a mythological one, the reality of what happened is not diminished. The truth of an event is determined by the evidence for or against it, not in an absence of similar fictional claims.

Does this refutation of the “Jesus myth” allegation prove that Jesus existed? Actually, it doesn’t. It does, however, effectively dismantle an attack on Jesus as an historical figure and properly frames the question as one of evidence.

Remember, our aim as apologists is to help others separate fact from fiction and lovingly point them towards the person of Jesus (Tweet That). Once you have removed this allegation as a potential explanation for a belief in the historical Jesus, you can then discuss the overwhelming evidence that supports His life, death, and resurrection.

Article Written By 

For Further Study

The Case for the Real Jesus, by Lee Strobel.
Chapter 4 is particularly relevant to the above material.

GotQuestions.org | Is Jesus a Myth?

Greg Koukl – Jesus and Other Myths (Video)

Review of evidential apologetics book by pastor shows where church needs to improve

from Wintery Knight’s blog Go to the link he provides  below and read the review and also the comments at the end.

There are basically two views of faith in Christianity.

The first view of faith is the Biblical view of faith as active trust in propositions we know to be true, because we have reasons and evidence to believe those propositions. This view is not only rooted in the Bible, but it extends through Augustine and Aquinas to the present day. I have written about this view of faith before, and quoted many theologians in support of it. I also showed how people in the Bible use miracles as a sign in order to convince skeptics. For example, Peter appealing to the resurrection in Acts 2. The Bible teaches that faith is active trusting based on evidence.

The second view is blind faith. This view is nowhere in the Bible, and this view asserts that becoming a Christian is a leap-of-faith in the dark against all the evidence. This view not only minimizes evidence, but it actually opposes presenting evidence to unbelievers and skeptics in the way that the Bible teaches. This view is nowhere in the Bible, and it was not the method used by Jesus or his followers. It is an unBiblical way of viewing faith, but it is very popular in some circles of Christianity. It is also popular among atheists, because this is what many Christian leaders and pastors tell them that faith is. Why would these Christian leaders reject the plain teaching of the Scripture on faith, and adopt a man-made view of evangelism that opposes the use of evidence?

Well, I have an idea why, based on my experiences trying to get apologetics into the church and university. Suppose a pastor or campus group leader wants to avoid having to learn physics and cosmology, or the minimum facts case for the resurrection, or how to respond to apparently gratuitous suffering, or the problem of religious pluralism. Suppose he thinks that Christianity, if it is about anything, is about his feeling happy and comfortable with a minimum of effort and work. So, he diligently avoids reading apologetics, because learning evidence is hard work. He avoids watching debates on God’s existence and the resurrection, because this is hard work. He avoids conversations with people who do study these things, and implies that there is something wrong with them for studying these things. He endeavors to conceal his laziness and ignorance and cowardice from his flock with much pious God-talk and fervent praise-hymn-singing.

Eventually, some member of his church asks him to go for lunch with an actual non-Christian family member. The pastor agrees and when he meets the unbelieving family member, he has nothing at all to say about typical challenges that unbelievers face. He has no knowledge of evolution, the problem of evil, the hiddenness of God, or the hallucination theory. He has never read a single atheist, and never read a single piece of evidence to refute them from Christian scholars. He lacks humility, refusing to admit that other Christian scholars may know more than he does because they have studied other areas. Needless to say, he fails to defend God’s reputation to the non-Christian. What will he say to the members of his flock about his failure? How will he justify his obstinate refusal to do what everyone else in the Bible does when confronting non-believers?

Well, consider this review of a recent book that defends the Gospels and the historicity of the resurrection by one such fideist pastor.

He writes:

There are, however, two significant shortcomings to the book.

First, Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.

All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).

In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.

That is a textbook definition of fideism – that belief is somehow more pious and praiseworthy the less evidence we have. And the best way to have less evidence is to study nothing at all, but to just make a leap-of-faith in the dark. Of course, a leap-of-faith can land you anywhere – Islam, Mormonism. Presumably this pastor is like the Mormons who eschew all evidence and prefer to detect the truth of Mormonism by “the burning of the bosom” which happens when people read the all-sufficient, all-powerful Book of Mormon. His view of faith is identical to theirs, and 180 degrees opposed to the Bible. He has made his leap-of-faith, and that leap-of-faith is not accountable to arguments and evidence. His faith is private and personal, based on his own feelings. He considers it blasphemous to have to demonstrate what he believes to those who disagree with him. Where is this in the Bible? It’s nowhere. But it is everywhere in anti-intellectual Christian circles.

There is a good response to this blind-faith pastor on Deeper Waters. Much less angry than my response.

Excerpt:

The dark side of apologetics? Did I somehow step into a Star Wars universe?

Yes. How horrible to show that the Bible is backed up by sources outside of it. How terrible to show that these events did not happen in a vacuum. Thankfully, no one in the Bible took this approach.

Except for the fact that when the gospel was being preached, there were no gospels per se and there were no epistles. Paul told Agrippa that the events done weren’t done in a corner. In other words, investigate the claims for yourself! The early testimony was eyewitness testimony. Sources like Tacitus and others show the eyewitnesses were right! This was not done in a corner! This was done out in the open! Archaeology helps us confirm the biblical writings and shows that unlike the pagan myths, these events were rooted in a place and time. Is there some danger that our faith will be destroyed by outside sources?

It really becomes a fideistic approach. If your worldview is true, you should have no problem putting it to the strictest scrutiny. If it is not, then you will have a problem. No Christian should fear further research into what they believe. No Christian should have a problem with extra-biblical sources. Now I do agree there is a problem with stating that EVERYTHING must be backed extra-biblically. I think this is a prejudice we too often have where nothing in the Bible can be considered historical unless it’s verified somewhere else. A gospel account alone could count as a historical claim itself that can be investigated, and indeed is in NT scholarship, but where we can get extra-biblical evidence, I’m all for it.

[…]Christianity is a faith that is rooted in evidences so we should be able to use evidences to demonstrate it. I have often been told by those of the presuppositional bent that the approach is used all the time in the Bible. The problem is I can’t find one. I get told passages like “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yes. It is. Wisdom refers to godly living. It doesn’t refer to confirming the gospel to be true. When I look at the apostles in every case, I see them pointing to evidences.

I think that Christians are much better off following the example of authentic Christian pastors like R.C. Sproul, who, in a conference on evangelism, invited Dr. Stephen C. Meyer to present multiple lines of evidence from mainstream science to establish the existence of God. The only reason not to take this approach is laziness, which leads to ignorance, which leads to cowardice. And failure. It is pastors like Pastor Bungle above who are responsible for the great falling away from Christianity that we are seeing when we look at young people. Pastors who pride themselves in refusing to connecting the Bible to the real world, with evidence and with policy analysis, are causing young people to abandon the faith.

Work at Your Prayers!

from Tim Challies

Praying, and especially praying in public, represents a challenge to most Christians. It represents a challenge to the one praying—a challenge to pray humbly and clearly before others. Too often it represents an even greater challenge to the ones who hear that prayer—a challenge to follow a too-long and too-rambling prayer interspersed with filler words like “I just…” and “Father God.” D. A. Carson provides some timely counsel in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. His solution is simple: Work at your prayers. Here is what he says:

If you are in any form of spiritual leadership, work at your public prayers. It does not matter whether the form of spiritual leadership you exercise is the teaching of a Sunday school class, pastoral ministry, small-group evangelism, or anything else: if at any point you pray in public as a leader, then work at your public prayers.

Some people think this advice distinctly corrupt. It smells too much of public relations, of concern for public image. After all, whether we are praying in private or in public, we are praying to God: Surely he is the one we should be thinking about, no one else.

It is not a question of pleasing our human hearers, but of instructing them and edifying them.

This objection misses the point. Certainly if we must choose between trying to please God in prayer, and trying to please our fellow creatures, we must unhesitatingly opt for the former. But that is not the issue. It is not a question of pleasing our human hearers, but of instructing them and edifying them.The ultimate sanction for this approach is none less than Jesus himself. At the tomb of Lazarus, after the stone has been removed, Jesus looks to heaven and prays, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). Here, then, is a prayer of Jesus himself that is shaped in part by his awareness of what his human hearers need to hear.

The point is that although public prayer is addressed to God, it is addressed to God while others are overhearing it. Of course, if the one who is praying is more concerned to impress these human hearers than to pray to God, then rank hypocrisy takes over. That is why Jesus so roundly condemns much of the public praying of his day and insists on the primacy of private prayer (Matt. 6:5-8). But that does not mean that there is no place at all for public prayer. Rather, it means that public prayer ought to be the overflow of one’s private praying. And then, judging by the example of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, there is ample reason to reflect on just what my prayer, rightly directed to God, is saying to the people who hear me.

In brief, public praying is a pedagogical [teaching] opportunity. It provides the one who is praying with an opportunity to instruct or encourage or edify all who hear the prayer. In liturgical churches, many of the prayers are well-crafted, but to some ears they lack spontaneity. In nonliturgical churches, many of the prayers are so predictable that they are scarcely any more spontaneous than written prayers, and most of them are not nearly as well-crafted. The answer to both situations is to provide more prayers that are carefully and freshly prepared. That does not necessarily mean writing them out verbatim (though that can be a good thing to do). At the least, it means thinking through in advance and in some detail just where the prayer is going, preparing, perhaps, some notes, and memorizing them.

Public praying is a responsibility as well as a privilege. In the last century, the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon did not mind sharing his pulpit: others sometimes preached in his home church even when he was present. But when he came to the “pastoral prayer,” if he was present, he reserved that part of the service for himself. This decision did not arise out of any priestly conviction that his prayers were more efficacious than those of others. Rather, it arose from his love for his people, his high view of prayer, his conviction that public praying should not only intercede with God but also instruct and edify and encourage the saints.

Many facets of Christian discipleship, not least prayer, are rather more effectively passed on by modeling than by formal teaching. Good praying is more easily caught than taught. If it is right to say that we should choose models from whom we can learn, then the obverse truth is that we ourselves become responsible to become models for others. So whether you are leading a service or family prayers, whether you are praying in a small-group Bible study or at a convention, work at your public prayers.