3 Reasons We Need to Pray

3 Reasons We Need to Pray

As a Christian, as a pastor, and as a church member, I find myself at a lot of meetings. And more often than not, these meetings begin with prayer. I don’t often think about why we do this—we just do it. We pray before we do business, and we pray before we do ministry.

As I drove home from a meeting yesterday, I thought about these little prayers and how much I enjoy them. I thought about their sheer significance.

Praying declares that we do not have the wisdom we need. My guess is that when the executives at Amazon or Google gather in their corporate settings to make major decisions, they believe that they have the wisdom, experience, and expertise they need right there in the room. As Christians, we know that we do not. We know that we are entirely dependent upon wisdom that comes from outside ourselves. These little prayers, prayed by even the best and brightest Christian minds, are a simple plea for help, a child’s plea to his father to give the gifts of knowledge and wisdom.

Praying declares that we do not have the time we need. There is something so deliciously counter-cultural about saying, “We have a very full agenda and only a couple of hours to make some major decisions. So let’s start by investing a few minutes asking for help from an invisible but all-powerful God.” And if your experience is at all like mine, you have probably found that the meetings that begin with heartfelt prayer often end up being unusually productive and generating unusually wise decisions—almost as if God really does hear and answer those prayers.

Praying declares that we do not have the motives we need. Prayer is a cry to God not only for wisdom and appropriate use of time, but also a plea that we will make decisions for the best of motives. We understand that without God’s help we will make decisions out of fear of man instead of fear of God; we will make decisions that are good for us even if they are bad for others; we will decide to do what preserves our comfort and security even if it skirts morality. So we begin our time together by asking God to elevate our motives so that every word, every thought, and every decision will bring glory to him.

It’s a simple habit, this. But it’s both beautiful and meaningful.

A La Carte (September 18)

Let’s talk Kindle deals. First off, Amazon has a new Kindle Fire tablet that will do just fine for reading books while setting you back only $49.99. As for books, consider The Immigration Crisis by James Hoffmeier ($4.79) and The End of Christianity by William Dembski ($0.99). (To review the rest of these week’s deals, just click here.)

The Solar System

This took a lot of effort and ingenuity: ”On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.”

The Desire to Be Desired

This is good stuff from Ed Welch. “At the heart of the romance novel is the thrill of being desired—irresistibly, intoxicatingly desired. And since that genre is the most frequently visited Internet category among women, there is a lot of ‘desiring to be desired’ out there. A lot. Since men’s idolatries get most of the attention, this is a short meditation aimed at bringing fairness to this imbalance.”

The Rise of Victimhood Culture

I appreciated this article’s description of the culture of victimhood we see around us today. “A recent scholarly paper on ‘microaggressions’ uses them to chart the ascendance of a new moral code in American life.”

The Most Misread Poem in America

This is an entertaining interpretation of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and an explanation as to why most people get it wrong.

This Day in 1905. Scottish clergyman and novelist, George MacDonald, who would influence many through his writings, including C.S. Lewis, dies in England. *

Is Baptism Required for Church Membership?

Whether or not you agree with the major premise of this article about baptism and church membership, I think you’ll benefit from reading it. (For what it’s worth, I need to think more about it, but am generally inclined to agree with most of what he says.)

Ambition and a Future Target

I have been thinking about ambition a lot, and appreciate what Dave Harvey calls for here. “God wants to rescue ambition. But not to build future monuments to our own glory. I’m talking about an instinct that looks for new ways to glorify God through our dreams.”


I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart; he gave me a new heart. —Scotty Smith

There Is Hope in Your Struggle for Light

There Is Hope in Your Struggle for Light

In the tiny front yard of our little inner-city plot in Minneapolis live two crabapple trees. My wife and I bought them from the same nursery and planted them on the same day fourteen years ago. But if you were enjoying a late summer stroll down our street today and noticed them, you would wonder why these two trees look so different.

The tree just off the north corner of the house is the picture of a fine-looking young crab. It stands about fifteen feet high with branches spreading in pleasing proportion in all directions. It is just beginning to develop the familiar gnarled beauty of a mature crab tree. As summer gives way to autumn, almost every branch is hanging heavy with its beautiful, deep red fruit — so much fruit, in fact, that most of its leaves have dropped just to make room.

But the tree just off the south corner is much different. At first you might not think it a crab tree at all. It is nearly thirty feet tall and oddly slender. Its branches are full of leaves, and though it’s producing fruit in similar quantity to its north-side sister, the berries are growing almost entirely in the top third of the tree.

So why are these two crab trees so different?

The Altering Influence of Struggle

Actually, for their first seven years of life they weren’t much different at all. Both trees grew at similar rates and proportions. Then something happened that changed the life of the south-side crab. A mulberry tree began to grow in the hedge just a few feet away.

Our neighbors to the south had always carefully maintained the hedge. Then they moved, leaving me with hedge-trimming duty — and a problem. An embankment put the front end of the hedge out of my reach, even with my ladder. As I put off buying another ladder, the hedge front grew and in it the unforeseen mulberry.

This mulberry tree grew with amazing speed. But it began to look nice, drew lots of birds, and people even made mulberry jam from it. So I let it be. But the larger the mulberry became, the more it blocked sunlight from the young south-side crab tree. This forced the crab to struggle for nourishing sunrays. For years the mulberry adversity pushed the crab to grow oddly tall while its north-side sister grew “normally,” basking in unimpeded sun.

The Lord of the Mulberries

Perhaps you’ve had a mulberry in your past. It may be gone now, but its effects linger. And it has shaped you in ways you wouldn’t have chosen. You feel different, abnormal.

Or perhaps right now you’re living in the shadow of a mulberry, struggling for light. Jesus invites you to ask what you wish (John 15:7). He will give you what you ask in faith, for he is the Great Remover of mulberries (Luke 17:6), though do not be surprised if it feels like he’s taking too long.

But whether your mulberry is removed or you’re waiting for its removal, the Lord of the Mulberries is your gardener. Unlike me, he knows where the mulberries grow. He foresaw your mulberry, and therefore your unique growth is not an accident.

Your dimensions as a tree in the garden of God may look different from other trees, perhaps conspicuously so. But there are purposes in your dimensions (Romans 8:28). They will have unforeseen benefits, and you will still bear fruit as you trust your gardener (John 15:1, 5). You also will have a unique ability to comfort those who are struggling against their mulberries (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Remember the Mulberries and Be Patient

Those who pass our yard and observe the south-side crab tree may wonder why it is the way it is. So it is with us. Others who observe us, but don’t know our history of struggle, may misunderstand why we are the way we are.

Perhaps they have not dealt with a mulberry. Or more likely, their mulberry experience was different. They may not understand how our mulberry’s shadow affected our growth and so misunderstand our different dimensions. They might judge with wrong judgments and reach erroneous conclusions. We might do the same to them.

Past mulberries can result in painful present misinterpretations, so be careful. Remember the mulberry and the crab tree, and let love be patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). And rather than see each other’s atypical dimensions as defects, look for the gardener’s grace in them. Likely they have benefits we haven’t yet seen.

In the care of the Lord Gardener, all our mulberry struggles change us for good.

Related Resources

Help in Overcoming Church Hurt

Help in Overcoming Church Hurt

Have you been hurt by a church? If so, you’re not alone.

As a pastor of a church, I’ve heard stories from people who have found church confusing, contrarian, or even damaging. Not every church hurts people, but most churches have hurt someone at some point. Some people are hurt through their own mistakes, others because of sin committed against them, and still others because of failed leadership. This reality can leave them reluctant to re-engage, afraid of being hurt again, wanting to protect themselves, and questioning the place of church in their lives. The good news for the hurting is that God has spoken to your pain in the Bible.

Most of the writing in the New Testament about how to live in a church exists because the church has never been perfect. Most, if not all, of the letters were written to solve problems in the church:

  • Galatians to solve legalism (Galatians 1:6–7, 3:1–3, 4:9, 5:1).
  • Colossians to solve heresy (Colossians 2:4, 8).
  • 2 Timothy to solve tension in succession (2 Timothy 4:9–16).
  • Philippians to solve conflict and selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3–22).
  • 1 and 2 Corinthians to solve a whole host of problems centered around the issues of human pride in gifting and speaking that led to loveless and arrogant religious activity.

And that’s not even to mention the letters to the churches in Revelation (chapters 2–3), one of which is so unhealthy, it makes Jesus want to vomit (Revelation 3:16).

And we think we’ve got problems.

A Broken, But Growing Church

That said, the church is the bride of Christ and the body of Christ — a people set apart to declare God’s praises to the nations and called to become more like the people of God we are meant to be. We shouldn’t be surprised by hurt and pain in the church, because everyone in the church is still sinful. But while saving faith in Christ is not surprised by brokenness, it is never content or negligent with it either.

So how do we make progress in the midst of our church’s flaws? Many things are outside of our individual control, but God has given us a simple formula for walking through every stage of life with every kind of challenge, grief, and disappointment. There’s nothing secret or magic about these steps, except for the Father who loves to reveal his power when we give ourselves to them.

1. Stay in God’s manual for our grief.

Unashamedly, unshakably, and unreservedly draw your hope for life and healing from the teaching of the Bible. The more we are centered on God’s truth spoken in love (Ephesians 4:1–16), the more we will grow up into maturity and the more resources we’ll have at our disposal to heal from hurt ourselves and to avoid hurting one another.

The temptation will be to avoid God’s word. But keep reading the Bible, even if for just a few minutes each day. It’s like eating. What counts is every single day getting what we need to get through that day. Knowing God’s word will help us as we process hurt and find truth to satisfy and guide us.

2. Pursue the holiness you hope for in others.

Passionately, sacrificially, and deliberately persevere in pursuing Christ-like discipleship. When you’re faced with betrayal or disappointment, it will require perseverance — supernatural perseverance. Learn. Grow. Forgive. Repent. Repent some more. Fight the good fight. Urge each other on. Do not give up meeting together. Stay on the path of discipleship, knowing it will be rugged at times. Trust that the good work God is doing in you and in other believers around you will ultimately be for the good of all who believe in him.

3. Trust that love will eventually prevail.

Love anyway. It seems impossible in the moment, but it’s the call of every Christian in every situation. In the end, only love will abide (1 Corinthians 13:13). And without love, our lives will be meaningless and unfruitful (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Therefore, the wisest and safest way forward is always love. Love as if your life depends on it.

To love someone is to seek his best. I can love someone without even liking him. I can find someone frustrating, but still genuinely and truly want what is best for him. Love does not mean avoiding tough conversations or life-on-life accountability, but doing those sorts of things from a loving, humble, gracious, and patient position which is from a mind and heart like Christ’s.

Jesus said you could tell his disciples by how they love one another (John 13:35), and so we who are loved by him love each other in turn — even through the darkest, most difficult days.

Of course, none of these steps will make your church experience or relationships perfect. But these truths will change how you process the pain you feel in the church. They will change your life. And eventually, by God’s grace, they will change your church, too.

Related Resources