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Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Christians Practice Spiritual Disciplines. Amen!

The Bible is the Word of God and contains everything necessary and sufficient for our salvation.  The Bible teaches that Jesus Saves us from sin when we have faith.  The Bible also teaches that faith without good deeds is dead. Today, I want to explain some of the spiritual disciplines the Bible teaches Christians to practice.

1 Timothy 4:7-8
Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

First of all, this Scripture warns Christians: “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales.”  The Bible is a fascinating book full of intriguing stories.  There are a lot of things that are hard to understand.  There are even many things that have caused people to scratch their head and speculate what the original writers meant.  There are stories about giants and even angels having intercourse with the daughters of the earth.  We wonder:  How did Noah fit all those animals on the Ark? Could Jonah really survive living in the stomach of a giant fish for three days?  These are interesting ideas that capture our imaginations and people love to speculate on them.

However, a quote often attributed to Mark Twain says, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  It may be “fun” to speculate about the intriguing parts of the Bible, but Paul writes to Timothy (and us), “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales.  Instead, train yourself to be godly.”

Living a godly life takes work.  It’s hard enough work that we don’t need to waste our time on unfruitful speculations.  Paul writes:  “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

We all know the benefits of exercise.  In our comfortable and prosperous world, we eat too much and don’t exercise enough.  This leads to all kinds of health problems.  People who exercise regularly, tend to be healthier, happier, more energetic, and productive.  We know the physical benefits of exercise.

But Paul says, “training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”  No matter how much we exercise, our physical bodies are eventually going to wear out and die.  This Ash Wednesday we remembered how our physical bodies will be buried and return to dust: “Remember, you came from dust and to dust you shall return.  Repent and believe in the Gospel!”  We will be given new and perfect bodies for eternal life.   The gains of physical exercise are for this temporary lifetime, but the gains of spiritual exercise are for eternity.

Spiritual Disciplines
Spiritual disciplines are spiritual exercises found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth and health.  Just as physical exercise develops your body and muscles, spiritual disciplines develop your spirit so you become more like Christ.  Spiritual disciplines nurture the growth God wants to give us. 

It is not enough to know about the spiritual disciplines.  We must actually practice them in order to experience the benefits God wants us to have.  There are many spiritual disciplines, but I want to mention just seven for your today, and challenge you to practice them between now and Easter.

First, there is prayer.  Prayer the most basic element of Christian living.  Prayer is like breathing for the Christian.  Some people say, praying is talking to God, but it is even more basic than that.  Last night, Kelly and I went to see the movie “The Jesus Revolution.” It’s a wonderful movie.  Of course, we didn’t talk during the movie.  That would be rude.  We sat and held hands and watched the movie together.  Even though no words were spoken, we chose to be together.

Prayer can be like that. Prayer is spending time with God.  There are many different ways to pray.  You can ask God for help for yourself or people you care about.  Other times, prayer is just sitting quietly with God on purpose.  Sometimes prayer is listening to God while you read Scripture.  Sometimes prayer is writing a prayer or reading someone else’s prayer or even reciting a prayer you have memorized—like the Lord’s Prayer.  Whatever way you pray, you should pray.  It is the most important Spiritual Exercise for Christians.  Prayer is an essential part of all the other spiritual disciplines.

Another spiritual discipline is fasting.  Fasting is voluntarily giving up food (or something else) for a time as a way to humble yourself before God. Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life. Most often, fasting is associated with going without food.  (Jesus fasted for 40 days before he officially began his earthly ministry.)  Many Christians give up something for Lent—like chocolate or coffee.  Fasting could also be giving up TV or social media or something else for a time.  Anything you give up is meant to help you focus more on God and less on yourself.  Fasting and prayer go together.  Fasting amplifies your prayers.  It turns every fiber of your being into a prayer.  As you long for the thing you are without, your longing becomes an unconscious prayer of longing for God.

Next to prayer, study is one of the most essential ways the Holy Spirit changes us.  Our mind is the center of our thoughts and our thoughts lead to our actions.  When we study the Holy Bible, we allow God to transform our minds.  The Bible is the Living Word of God.  If you want to hear God’s voice—the Voice that gives Life—you must study the Bible.  Study can also include reading other books, attending classes, or other forms of study.  All these can be beneficial.  However, studying the Bible is the most essential form of study.

Human beings were designed to worship.  Worship means to show reverence and adoration for God.  It centers on God, not ourselves or our feelings or our own particular preferences.  When we worship God, we point our spirit toward God in worship, we begin to see, hear, feel, and experience God at a deeper level.  We must worship in spirit (heartfelt, intimate closeness, and submission to God) and in truth (based on right understanding).  Worship works best when we prepare properly.  If you expect to get the most out of Sunday morning worship, be sure to get enough seep the night before and prepare for worship on Sunday morning by praying on Sunday morning before worship for God to make worship meaningful.  Come hungry for the Lord and with the expectation that something important will happen.

Christian meditation is listening for God’s voice so we can obey His Word.  In meditation, we use our imagination to spend time with God in the Scripture.  We look for God to come to us and fill our minds with His feelings, His ideas, and His insights and welcome Him to transform our wills.  We are not so much searching for God as letting Him find us as we watch, listen, and wait patiently.  Often it is helpful to read a passage from the Bible, pray for God to speak to you through it, and then just meditate on the passage for a time, letting God speak to you.

One of my favorite spiritual disciplines is solitude.  To practice solitude is to step away from the world for a little while to focus on interacting only with God.  You silence the inner turmoil of your anxious mind and cease striving to control people and situations by your own force of will.  You learn to trust God to work things out according to His plan and His timing.  For introverts like me, it doesn't take much convincing to get us to seek alone time.  We need it!  But when you are alone, make sure to intentionally focus on God's presence with your.  If you are an extrovert who loves to be with people, being alone can be way out of your comfort zone.  But I encourage you to try it regularly.  It may be even more important for you to get away from people occasionally and to only rely on God's presence to to fill you.

Service is helping others.  Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, “The greatest among you must be a servant.”  Service is a spiritual discipline that is good for both you and for others.  Service is really about recognizing we are servants.  We let go of our right to choose who and how we will serve.  Instead, we learn humility as we shift our focus from ourselves and onto others.   This is the main way Jesus taught his Disciples in the Bible.  Instead of sending them off to Bible college to get trained, Jesus gave them on the job training.  And He wants to do the same for you.  You may not feel qualified to serve.  But Jesus may invite you to serve anyway.  He will teach and equip you to serve as you serve.  You have to trust Him and answer the call when He asks you to serve--even if you don't feel ready.

I Challenge You to Practice Spiritual Disciplines
I’ve been giving you challenges throughout this series.  First, I challenged you to read Genesis and Matthew before Easter arrives.  Then, I said focus on one category of good deeds (see the list here).  Today, I challenge you to practice these 7 spiritual disciplines.  There are 42 days until Easter. Let’s get busy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

4 Tips to Help You Pray Out Loud

This blog is part of a series where I try to answer your questions about the God, the Bible, and the Christian faith.  Ask me your question in the comments section and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming blog.

Recently I was asked, “Why is it so hard to pray out loud?” Some people don’t mind praying out loud.  It terrifies others!  They'd rather die!  Don’t feel bad if you struggle to pray out loud.  It’s a very common struggle, even for deeply committed Christians.  I’ve known pastors who struggled to pray out loud–especially at the beginning of their ministries.  Some avoided becoming pastors because of their fear of praying outloud. 

So if you are a pastor or church leader, you should always check with people before you put them on the spot and ask them to pray out loud at a meeting.  Even if you think you know someone, check with them first if you’ve never heard them pray aloud. 

Now, let me give some tips to help if you struggle to pray out loud. 

Tip Number 1 - Practice
Practice praying out loud when you’re alone. It may surprise you, but most people aren’t used to hearing the sound of their own voice.  And hearing your voice when everyone else in the room is completely silent can really weird you out.  So, practice praying out loud at home when you’re all alone.  God will love it and no one else will know.  Practice makes perfect. 

Tip Number 2 - Pray for Dinner
Start by praying for dinner while alone or with your family.  This is how I learned how to pray out loud when I was a kid.  My parents prayed for the meal and sometimes they asked the kids to pray.  We simply copied them and prayed something like: “God is great!  God is good!  Let us thank Him for our food! By His hands, we all are fed.  Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  Amen.” 

A simple meal blessing like this is easy to remember.  From this, I became accustomed to praying out loud and it was easy to progress to prayers for other occasions as I grew older.  This is a great way to train your own kids to pray and it can help you too.  Start a family habit of praying before your meals, even when you go out to eat in a restaurant.  It’s a good spiritual practice for your family.  Let your kids in on the fun while they’re young.  It will bless your family in so many ways and help you and your kids learn to pray out loud.  There's quite as sweet as hearing your kids or grandkids say the blessing. 

Tip Number 3 - Just Talk to God
You don’t have to pray like the preacher at church. Just be yourself.  God isn’t looking for fancy language.  He just wants you to be you.  Some of the best prayers I’ve heard were plain language that sounded like a friend talking to a friend.  So just be yourself. 

Tip Number 4 - Keep it short.  Keep it simple. 
Trust me, no one is going to complain your prayer was too short.  People like short prayers!   (God does too!)  Don’t try to go on and on.  Just say what you need to say and be done.  In fact, it’s perfectly OK to memorize a short standard prayer you can use.  Start with a standard basic prayer and add anything specific you need to pray. 

When I was growing up, I had a basic prayer that went like this: “Dear God, thank you for everything You’ve given me and done for me.  Please heal anyone who is sick, comfort those who are grieving, and forgive our sins.  In Jesus Name. Amen.” 

So you can pray something simple like this and if you think of anything specific, just add that in too.  

Praying out loud can be hard when you first start, but the more you practice and the more you pray, the easier it will be.  So, let’s pray right now: “Jesus, help everyone reading this to learn to pray out loud.  Amen.”

Monday, November 29, 2021

Living In Between

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.  Advent is a season of waiting and preparation.  We are preparing for Christmas—the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  But we are also waiting for the second coming of Christ, for it was promised Jesus would return to judge the living and the dead, and to right all that is wrong with the world.  Then God will recreate the heavens and the earth, and we will live with God forever in Paradise. 

But in the meantime, we are waiting.

Waiting is an important part of God’s plan for His people.  It can feel like nothing happens while you wait, but God is at work. This series will examine what happened to God’s people in the period in between the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament while they waited for the Messiah to be born.  This series is also design to help you in those times when you feel stuck in between, waiting.

Timeline of the Old Testament
The Bible is divided into two Testaments – the Old Testament & the New Testament.  The Old Testament primarily deals with God’s covenant with Israel.  The New Testament primarily deals with God’s new covenant with all people, made possible through God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, who was the Messiah the Jews longed for.

Here’s a quick review of the Bible.  
First there was Abraham (circa 1900s BC).  About 400 years later, one of Abraham's decedents, Joseph, went down to Egypt.  Then the Israelites became slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  Next, Moses delivered the Israelites (circa 1300s BC).  About 400 years later, David was annointed king of Israel followed by David's son King Solomon (900s BC).  After Solomon, there was a civil war between the northern and southern tribes of Israel.  Israel split into two kingdoms--Samaria in the North and Judea in the South (we get the name "Jews" from Judea).  In 586 BC, Judea was conquered by Babylon and all the inhabitants were taken away into captivity in Babylon.  about 70 years later, the captives were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem & the Temple (515 BC).  Finally, the last book of the Old Testament was composed about 475 BC.

Nothing else was added to the Bible until the New Testament detailed the events from the first century AD after Christ was born.  What happened during the 400 or so years between the Old and New Testament?  We find a clue in the Book of Nehemiah, which was written close to the end of the OT.  In particular, Nehemiah 9:36-37 was written about events that happened about 515 BC.

Nehemiah 9:36-37
“So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land. 37 The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”

Nehemiah Rebuilds Jerusalem
Nehemiah was living as one of the conquered Jewish exiles in Persia when the king of Persia (Artaxerxes) decided to let the Jewish exiles return home to Jerusalem.  The king of Persia  commissioned Nehemiah to govern Jerusalem and help oversee the rebuilding of the city and the Temple.

It was a time of great hope for Jews.  They hoped that Jerusalem might return to the glory of Solomon’s days.  They hoped to achieve religious freedom, peace, and prosperity.  They longed to rebuild and worship in their own Temple once again.

Unfortunately their hopes were never fully realized.  The Temple was rebuilt, but it was a shadow of its former glory.  In fact, the Bible record that the people who had known the glory of Solomon's Temple wept because the new Temple was only a shadow of it's former glory.  The reality is the Jews were “slaves in the land” of Israel (Nehemiah 9:36). They remained vassels, subjugated to the more powerful Kingdoms around them.  Throughout the 400-500 year period between the Old and New Testaments, the Jews were passed around between the various empires that rose to power in the region.  They were not treated with dignity or respect. They were merely pawns in an international chess match. They were disposable, vulnerable, and a commodity to be used by more powerful people.  Nehemiah 9:37 says, “We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.” And that about sums up the Jewish people’s 400 year experience from the time they returned from exile until the time when Jesus was born—the entire period between the Old and New Testaments.

And while in former times, God had sent prophet's like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea and Micah to speak His word to them--words so powerfully inspired people collected them in our Bible--no one spoke inspired words worthy of being included in the Bible for 400 years after the completion of Malachi.  It seems as if God was silent.

This was not the first time God was silent.  It also wasn’t the first time God’s people had to wait.
Remember, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years before God sent Moses to deliver them.  At least during the intertestamental period they were slaves in their own land.

Still, it’s hard to patiently suffer and wait on God when it feels like He is being silent and doesn’t care.  God does care, but sometimes, He has to let us wait and ripen until the time is right to fulfill His plan.

In the meantime, we have to be patient and wait on the Lord.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

And James 5:7 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return.”

Even if you suffer while you wait, God can use it to bless you when you trust Him & are faithful.  God gives you time to think and grow while you wait for the right opportunities and pass on the wrong ones.  God helps you when you are really hungry and waiting for good food. He teaches you, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God."  Waiting for God gives you time to realize, He is Your only hope.  

Sometimes, people pause for effect before they say something really important.  After the Old Testament, God paused to let people know He was about to speak the most important Word He woudl ever give--the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

The Israelites had to wait for 400 years before their Messiah came, but that 400 years was time for important work in the hearts of HIs people.


First, the pause between the Old and New Testaments gave Israelites time to exhaust all their own schemes and realize, they were hopeless without God.

Israel was a small, insignificant land stuck in between massively powerful empires.  They were never going to have enough resources or a powerful enough army to dominate others.
Their only hope was the Lord.  
Again and again the Jews tried to establish their own kingdom by their own hands, but again and again they failed.  By the time Jesus came, most people realized their only hope was the Lord.  It would only be by the direct intervention of God Almighty that they would find salvation.  The name “Messiah”, means the one chosen by God to save.  Jesus is the Messiah.


What about you?  Do you realize your only hope is the Lord?
Have you been trying to make your own plans work by your own hand?
Don’t you realize, any “kingdom” you build will not stand.  It will fail.
But the plans of the Lord will last forever.  Learn to wait on the Lord.


Second, the time of waiting in between the Old and New Testaments gave the Israelites time to discover their “line in the sand”.

Since Israel had to compromise on many things in order to survive in a hostile world surround by more powerful nations, they really had to learn their core values—the essentials of being faithful to God that they could not compromise.  Not everything is worth fighting about.  But some things are worth dying for.  It's critical to know the difference.

What about you?  Do you know who you really are? 
What are the core values you can’t compromise?  What are the deal breakers for you? 
How do you deal with people who cross the line?
Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” 
How do you live that out?  How do you know if it’s time to compromise or take a stand?
How do you avoid sin and honor God when you take your stand?

Third, the time of waiting in between the Old and New Testaments helped many Israelites grow closer to God.

Waiting for something important can either drive you away from God or draw you closer.  Some Israelites tried to build their own kingdoms.  In the weeks ahead, we will learn about some of the different political and religious groups in Israel and how they tried to build their own kingdoms of Israel.  Thanksfully, there were also many people (like The Wisemen in the East, and Simeon and Anna in Luke 2) who grew closer to God by waiting on God, praying, worshiping, and patiently trusting God's plan.

How about you? 
How can you grow closer to God as you wait faithfully through prayer, study, fasting, and serving?

Closing Thoughts to Contemplate
Contemplate how
you can grow closer to the Lord as you prepare for Christmas?
What will it take for you to finally realize you are hopeless without God?
What are your core values?
What practical steps could you take this season to truly depend upon God, discover who you really are, and prepare for the coming of the Lord?


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Praying Through The Psalm by McKenzi Marlow

Today, I am pleased to share the second instalment in a series on prayer by a member of my church, McKenzi Marlow.  McKenzi is a talented young lady who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Samford University with a BA in English and literature concentration.  McKenzi will enter the English Masters program at Auburn University this fall where she will also be teaching and doing research.  Today, McKenzi shares about her experience with praying through the Psalms over the last week and over the weekend while on a trip to Austin, Texas.


Hello regular readers of Pastor Chris’ blog!

As I mentioned last week, most of my prayers up until now have been collections of petitions and intercessions to God. It wasn’t until I began seeking Christ and Christian community on my own in college that I realized prayer was deeper and more complex. Last week, Dr. Floyd’s article introduced the idea of beginning prayer time with scripture. Since opening my prayers with Psalm 63 had been beneficial, I decided this week would be the perfect time to learn how to pray through the whole book of Psalms. 

I began, as anyone would in the 21st century, by Googling “how to pray the Psalms.” One of the first links led me to The Upper Room website and their articles on prayer. According to The Upper Room staff writer, the book of Psalms is known in both the Jewish and Christian traditions as the “prayer book of the Bible.” Unlike a normal poetry collection, the Psalms are meant to be used in conversation with God; to praise Him, exalt Him, and tell Him our anxieties. The Upper Room article says, “[The Psalms] teach us to hide nothing from God, but to bring all that is real into the only relationship that can bless and heal the worst in us.” Confirmed in my suspicion that Psalms are the key to a healthy prayer life, I decided to let the “words of the Psalms accompany [me] into God’s presence” this week (“Praying the Psalms”). 

Unlike Dr. Floyd, The Upper Room failed to provide me with specific instructions for praying the Psalms. To their credit, they did include a list of Psalms to pray in certain situations. If I felt contented, for example, The Upper Room recommended Psalm 23. If I felt anxious, they recommended Psalm 70. Though helpful, this list is not a structured method for prayer. Disappointed, I turned once again to Google. To my relief, I stumbled upon “How to Pray the Psalms” by Pastor Benjamin Kandt. Kandt is the pastor of formation and mission at New City Church in Orlando. In his article, he gives a brief explanation of how to—you guessed it—go about praying the Psalms. Though his article is not a prayer method outline like Dr. Floyd’s, I still found Kandt’s observations beneficial. 

The first tip Pastor Kandt gives is “pray through the whole Psalter.” Psalters are collections of Psalms “arranged for liturgical worship in Christian churches” meaning they are intended for public, corporate worship like hymnals (Kiczek). For those of us who do not own Psalters, Pastor Kandt gives instructions for using our familiar Bibles. He gives two methods. To simulate the structure of the Psalter you can, “Multiply the day of the month by five and pray those psalms” (Kandt). Now, if you’re anything like me, you balk at the mention of math, even if it’s a simple calculation. Nevertheless, I whipped out my phone and crunched the numbers. Since it was the fourteenth of June, I was supposed to begin with Psalm 70. Great! But I had a problem: where should I stop? According to his article, Pastor Kandt prayed five psalms in succession. Should I just count up from 70 and pray Psalms 70-74? Perturbed, I decided to review the second way to simulate the Psalter. Kandt writes we can forgo math (hooray) and “start with Psalm 1 and pray it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. . . [moving] to Psalm 2 the next day.” Needless to say, I chose this method. 

My method selected, I read Kandt’s next tip. His second bullet point says to “make the psalm’s words your words.” Whether the psalmist is lamenting or praising, we are meant to take their emotion in stride instead of hopping around looking for the right words to fit our mood. As I moved through the first seven psalms, I found it difficult to push myself to feel negative emotions, especially when I went on vacation. It’s hard to call for vengeance on your enemies while surrounded by friends. It is important, however, not to skip over psalms of vengeance or sorrow when we aren’t feeling those negative emotions. In Romans, Paul says we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12: 5). In other words, we are supposed to empathize with our fellow man. If I can’t even identify with a psalmist’s joy and sorrow, how am I going to do so with my friends’ and family’s. Allowing the psalmist’s phrases to guide my prayers meant my laments were longer, but when I did get to praise God, my joy was brighter.

While we pray through the Psalms, regardless of their tone, Kandt recommends we “meditate on [them].” This step was difficult for me, especially while I was vacationing. Getting up thirty minutes earlier than everyone else to ponder the Psalms after staying up thirty minutes later the night before was not something I really wanted to do. It required a lot of discipline to sit still and reread verses that jumped out at me. Most of the time I could feel my mind trying to wander while I attempted to let God “shine His light” on the passage (Kandt). 

Kandt’s fourth tip is to “memorize the Psalms.” In times of spiritual speechlessness—those nights when you just don’t know what to say to our Father—having the Word stored away will help you articulate what you need to say. Last week, I decided I didn’t have time to memorize anything properly, but I will be circling back to memorization in my private spiritual life. I already have the opening verse of Psalm 63 locked and loaded! 

Kandt’s fifth tip is to “pray the psalms like an apple tree or Christmas tree.” When I saw that line for the first time, I raised an eyebrow at its childish, Bible School vocabulary only to sheepishly force the brow back down after reading his explanation. Those phrases are actually useful! Kandt explains apple picking as choosing “pleas and praises” from the Psalms and making them your own. As an English major, I try to avoid taking quotes out of context to use for my specific purposes, which is what Kandt’s apple picking sounded like to me. That left the Christmas tree method. 

With the Christmas tree method, you simply “[hang] your pleas and praises” from the Psalm’s words. As I allowed the different psalms to inform my mood and length of my prayers, I was glad the Christmas tree method was so customizable. For example, Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man / who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” I read the verse and then began hanging my plea and praise. I prayed, “Father, help me turn from the counsel of the wicked and listen to Your good instructions instead.” Here, I pleaded for salvation from wicked counsel and praised God’s goodness. With that branch decorated, I moved on to the next verse. By the end of the passage, I felt like I’d had a fulfilling, deep conversation with someone close to me. 

The sixth and final tip is to “pray the Psalm through Jesus & with Jesus.” This tip works in tandem with the third, meditation. As you’re sitting there, eyes closed, attempting to mull over a specific word or phrase that stuck out to you, imagine Jesus doing the same thing. When I lamented, I imagined Him lamenting in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when I praised God, I imagined Jesus praising Him after performing miracles to reveal His glory. I felt closer to Jesus because I realized I was praying the same words He would have known, loved, and used two thousand years ago. This revelation added an extra layer of fervent awe to my prayers even as I struggled to be still during meditation. 

At the end of the week, my prayer life felt a little dehydrated. I started strong, Christmas tree-ing every Psalm I read, all three times I read it, but by the end of the week, I was just throwing random ornaments at the passage as I let my eyes scan the words. Autopilot praying isn’t fair to God, and it definitely isn’t going to help our relationship flourish. I think Pastor Kandt’s tips are useful, but they would benefit from having more structure or at least a journaling session as the final step. Though disappointed, I appreciate the challenge that praying the Psalms posed. Wish me luck as I attempt to follow my third method this week. I’ll let you know how it goes! 

In Christ,
Mckenzi Marlow


Kandt, Benjamin. “How to Pray the Psalms.”, Medium, 16 July 2017, 

Kiczek, Steven. “Cataloging Biblical Materials: Differentiating Psalms from Psalters.” Princeton University Library’s Cataloging Documentation, Princeton University Library, 

“Praying the Psalms.” The Upper Room, , 2021,

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Prayer As A Spiritual Journey by McKenzi Marlow

Today, I am pleased to share the first instalment in a series on prayer by a member of my church, McKenzi Marlow.  McKenzi is a talented young lady who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Samford University with a BA in English and literature concentration.  McKenzi will enter the English Masters program at Auburn University this fall where she will also be teaching and doing research.  I plan to post McKenzi's blogs each week on Wednesday.  I invite you to follow along!


Hello regular readers of Pastor Chris’s blog! 

My name is Mckenzi Marlow, and I have recently graduated college. Idling between college and grad school, I asked Pastor Chris if there was any way for me to get involved with the church this summer. To my surprise, he asked me to do a blog series on prayer. For the next three weeks, I will be attempting different pastors’ prayer methods, recording my progress, and sharing with all of you here. Though I’m nervous for the challenge of communicating my thoughts on spiritual things, I am excited to dive deeper into my own prayer life and grow closer to my Heavenly Father. 

For this week’s post, I checked out Dr. Ronnie Floyd’s prayer method. Dr. Floyd is the Senior Pastor of Cross Church and founder of the Cross Church School of Ministry. In an article I found on, Floyd speaks of prayer as a “spiritual journey.” Before I read that phrase, I’d always thought of prayer as simple communication with God, like sending a passive report to your boss once a day to check in and make sure your requests are being heard. Dr. Floyd, however, understands prayer as an active expedition into our spiritual lives. When we pray, our “spiritual destination” is open communication with God, but to “reach [it] effectively and consistently” we must have a plan (Floyd). If there is anything I need after a year of pandemic and pandemonium, it’s consistent, effective communication with my Creator, Lord, and Father. 

Though the act of prayer is more complex than I had imagined, Dr. Floyd assured me his plan was “simple, sequential, specific, and spiritual.” To my delight, he was correct. Usually, my prayers, whether silent or aloud, become confused or distracted by other thoughts in my head instead of staying engaged with God. Floyd’s method not only helped me talk to God, it gave me an ordered, specific way of going about it, and if there’s anything my Type A brain loves it’s order and specificity. 

Dr. Floyd breaks down his process into three easy steps. The first step is simple: read your Bible. According to Floyd, “The Word of God and prayer go hand in hand.” I’m embarrassed to admit that in my eighteen years as a cognitive Christian, I had never thought to pick up my Bible before I prayed. I had heard of praying through the Psalms before, so Monday night I grabbed my black leather Bible and flipped to a random page. My eyes scanned, “You, God, are my God / Earnestly I seek you” (Psalm 63). Apparently, God was glad I’d finally figured out how to text him back. I continued to use this Psalm to open my prayers each night, and as I grew more familiar with the neat lines of black text, I grew more familiar with my Father. 

If the first item on Floyd’s list is simple, the second is more so: Pray. In the Crosswalk article, Floyd outlines some principles for us to follow. To begin, we should confess our sins. I wasn’t sure how to do this since I know I sin a lot in a day, sometimes without even realizing it, but I don’t necessarily keep track. I decided to do a blanket confession. I also asked God to reveal each sin to me as it happens so we can work on eradicating those together. The purpose of my walk with God is to become more like Jesus; though I know I can never be perfect, I can at least try to be good. The best part is, I know God hears my confessions and accepts my repentance each time I stumble. 

After confession, Floyd says to praise God. That one’s easy! Or is it? God has done so much both in the Bible and in my own life. . .how can I manage to praise him for everything? Floyd recommends we focus on three of God’s attributes. This week I chose His patience, goodness, and power. In my Bible, I flipped to moments in Genesis and Exodus that exhibit His power. I chose to listen to “Good Good Father” to meditate on His goodness. For patience, I reminisced about all the times in my life He had to patiently wait for me to turn back to Him. As Floyd’s method became routine for me, I noticed each of God’s attributes are linked together. Saving the Israelites from slavery with ten plagues is an example not only of His awesome power, but of His goodness and patience as well. 

After we confess our sins and praise God, Floyd writes we must thank Him. This week I thanked God for tiny things in my life like the double rainbow I saw coming back from the gym, and the women’s Bible study I’ve been able to find community in this summer. Next come petition and intercession. I tend to confuse the two categories, but Floyd defines petition as “prayer on personal needs” while intercession is praying for other people. To my delight, he even provided us with a schedule for intercessory prayers! I found following it to be rewarding because I was able to devote equal time to each subject instead of rushing through everything on my prayer list without a backwards glance. I’ve included the rotation below: 

              Dr. Ronnie Floyd’s Weekly Intercession Rotation:

                             Sunday: World missions/missionaries

                             Monday: Lost and unchurched

                             Tuesday: the United States

                             Wednesday: Friends

                             Thursday: Christian leaders

                             Friday: Your local church

                             Saturday: Relatives 

Petition and intercession were familiar to me, since most of my past prayers have involved a mixture of the two. For his final prayer step, Floyd devotes an extra category to requests “so critical [they require] daily attention from you for a specific time or until the crisis has passed.” These are called urgent requests. I didn’t have any this week, thank goodness, so I chose to skip this part though I appreciated Floyd’s separation. I tend to throw everything into the urgent category without a second glance, but differentiating between intercession, petition, and urgent reminded me God has everything under control. I was able to relax and simply enjoy speaking to Him. 

The third and final step in Dr. Floyd’s prayer method is: journal. I was surprised to see that the type of entry Floyd encourages is a one page letter to God. He explains letters are “concrete” and “[provide] a sense of relief from your burdens,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Floyd writes, “As you document your walk with God. . .your faith in the power of prayer will increase.” At the beginning of this week, I was hopeful. I mean, that’s what this whole blog project is about: Mckenzi rekindling her faith in the power of prayer. And here, at the end of the week, the night before this blog post is due, I’m elated to report I already feel a sense of plush peace when I begin to pray instead of exhausted duty. I flipped back through my letters before editing this post, and I noticed the ones from the beginning of the week are concerned with petitions and intercessions. At the end, however, they are odes to God’s attributes and His love for me. The letters grow more personal as the days pass, and I am thankful I finally feel as if I have a true intimate relationship with a Heavenly Father even as I serve the Great I Am. 

I found Dr. Ronnie Floyd’s prayer method to be easy to follow and successful in deepening my relationship with God. This Monday, I’ll be attempting to follow a new prayer method. I am excited to grow even further in my relationship with God, and I hope by the end of this project I’ll be able to create my own personalized prayer method using all of the techniques I learn. 

Until next week,


Works Cited:

Floyd, Ronnie. “How to Have a Personal Prayer Plan.”,, 19 May 2017,


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

How to Pray for 30 Minutes

How to Pray for 30 Minutes
The following is one way you can pray for 30 minutes.  It’s adapted from a formula offered online by Athens First United Methodist Church.  If you struggle to pray for extended periods of time, perhaps this could help.  I encourage you to give it a try.  The formula is broken down into sections that include: Praise, Reading Scripture, Meditation, Confession, Intercession, Listening, Recording, Petitions, Praying for Family, Praying for the Church, Praying for Government Leaders, and Giving Thanks.  If you pray each section for 2 and a half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes.  You will need a few things to follow this formula:  a Bible, a Notebook, a pen or pencil, and a quiet place where you can be a alone and uninterrupted for 30 minutes.

Start by praising God.  Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”  This is a great way to begin 30 minutes of prayer.  Call out to God. Praise Him for creation. Think about His love and wisdom and praise Him.  Think about the wonder of God’s creation and how they testify to the glory of God. And praise God for who He is.  Just revel in the wonder of the God of the universe.

Read Scripture
II Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good.”  Read a Psalm of praise to the Lord. Here are some suggestions:  Psalm 100, Psalm 23, Psalm 121, or Psalm 34 (or pick another one you like).  Pray through a Bible passage using the words as your prayer. Ask God to help you understanding as you read His Word. Let the Scriptures fill your mind and impact your heart. 

Meditate on God’s Word
Psalm 119:11 says, “I treasure your word in my heart.” Take a few minutes to meditate on the Scripture you have just read (or on other passages that come to mind).  Mull them over again and again in your mind.  What is God saying to you through them?

I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Take some time to evaluate specific attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions that God brings to mind as you pray. Confess your sins to God and humbly ask for His forgiveness and cleansing. 

I Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” Pray to the Lord on behalf of others. Pray for renewal in the hearts of believers. Pray diligently for the needs that come to mind.

Next, quiet your heart and be still before God. Psalm 29:2, 4 says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; worship the Lord in holy splendor… the voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”  Ask God to speak to you. Be quiet and listen.

Record your Prayers and Insights
Now, take out your notebook and something with which to write .  Take a few minutes to write down some notes that come to mind.  Write down the insights and direction God gave you during your prayer time. You can even write out a prayer or something you think God wants you to do.  It takes a little bit longer to write words than to say or think them.  Writing encourages you to slow down and dwell with God as He organizes your thoughts.

Petition for Daily Needs
Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So spend a few minutes sharing your personal requests with God.  What do you need?  What are you worrying about?  Talk to God about it.

Pray for Family
Psalm 133:1 says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
We want our family to live together in unity.  So, pray for your family. Pray for families in general. Ask the Lord to strengthen marriages and uphold family relationships.

Pray for the Church
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Pray for Pleasant Grove United Methodist church and all who seek to know the Lord there, and pray for our church leaders.  Go over your church prayer list.  Pray for the United Methodist Denomination as we prepare to tackle some very divisive issues at our next General Conference.  And pray for the universal Body of Christ, which is made up of believers all over the world of all different denominations.

Pray for Government Leaders
1 Timothy 2:2 says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”  Spend a few minutes to pray that God will give our government leaders wisdom and understanding. Pray for local, national, and international concerns. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  We need God to heal our land.  So pray for it.

Give Thanks
Now it’s time to finish your 30 minutes of prayer.  You may now find that 30 minutes is not enough time.  If your schedule allows it, you can keep praying.  God would love that!  But, when it’s time to finish praying, think about the good gifts God has given you and express your gratitude for His care and provision. Praise God for all He has done and for all He will do.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


If you follow this simple formula, praying each section for about two-and-a-half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes.  It’s not that hard.  Perhaps the hardest part is making the time and committing to do it. 

February 17, 2021 is Ash Wednesday and begins the 40-day season of Lent—a season for Christians to devote themselves to prayer in preparation for the Easter celebration coming up in April.  Perhaps you can use this formula to pray for 30 minutes each day throughout the 40-day season of Lent.  You might find you like it so much, you want to make it a regular part of your day even after Lent is over.  I challenge you to give it a try.  Send me and email and tell me what time of day you want to pray and I will include you on our prayer board. 

Prayer is the lifeblood of a person’s relationship with God.  You can know about God (just like you can know about a famous athlete or celebrity); but prayer is spending time with God.  It is essential for every Christian to be devoted to prayer.  Let’s begin today.