The “Experience” of the House of Prayer

A few years ago*, the leaders of the popular and super influential mega church called Willow Creek announced that they made a mistake about their assumptions regarding what influences Christian maturity.

Thatʼs the business of the Church, right? To help people grow spiritually. How does the Church help and what potentially hindering activity does it need to stop doing ?

As soon as the first installment of Willow’s first installment of their ground-breaking Reveal research came out in print, I had to have a copy. I was impressed with Willowʼs transparency, and the layout of their findings.

Here is the main lesson I received from reading Reveal: Like most churches,we put a lot of work into our weekend services. It is the most visible church activity, and seemingly the most influential since it reaches a diverse and highest number of people at one time. The survey showed that weekend services may help new Christians grow, but for the majority of most believers,not so much.1

Believers regardless of their level of spiritual maturity expressed what they needed from their church2:

Help me understand the Bible in depth
Help me in my time of emotional need
Help me to develop relationships that encourage accountability
When I read this a couple years ago, I thought that we were on the right track with our growing midweek prayer meeting. We are not perfect even now, but the goal of the prayer meeting has been to serve as a avenue for discipleship and as the next step that would fuel our deeper relationship with God.3

seeking a House of Prayer Experience

Seeking a House of Prayer Experience?

Doctrinal teaching matters and sharing ideas matters. At the same time, I am reminded that when Jesus rolled the scroll back up after the morning reading from the Book of Isaiah -He told His congregation how they were going to see,feel,taste the Word of God alive from then on:

And He began to say to them, ʻToday this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. -Luke 4:21

After this declaration of His life’s Mission, Jesus preached to the people, and he open their eyes to the reality of His Message. What if our prayer meetings became Houses of Prayer. Places where people could experience God through the power of prayer and community? What if their eyes were opened to the reality of the Word made flesh?

What if while information mattered, so did transformation?

Dear God, we donʼt want to settle for the idea of You. We want more of You. The more of You we experience, the more alive we will be. Please revive us for your namesake. Start with me. Amen~

Are your part of a prayer group? Does it strike a good balance between practice and theory?

*This article originally published on June 28,2011

Fasting-A Beginner’s Guide

There are several kinds of fasts that may last from half a day to twenty-four hours to several days for different life circumstances or personal reasons. For your first time, you might want to try first fasting for a whole day or half a day this week. Prayerfully choose a day when you’ll be the least distracted. Reflect on why you want to fast. Is there an area in your life where you seek more clarity or peace? Your reason may be as simple as wanting to draw closer to God.

Once you have chosen the day,length and reason for your fast, determine what you will fast from. You may want to try the traditional fast involving your skipping a meal or two, or abstain from a certain type of food. If your fast involves eating less, make sure you that you hydrate yourself well, preferable with water. When it comes time to break your fast, don’t make up for what you didn’t eat. Eat lightly instead.

Rather than avoid eating, some people temporarily suspend certain activities such as listening to the radio, watching TV or engaging in social media. If you’re not sure what you’ll fast from, ask yourself,what tends to take up most of my attention away from reflection or prayer? When you have selected the nature of your fast, you will need a Place, a Psalm, a Pause and a Promise to fill the void left by what you’ll be abstaining from.

A Place
Find a spot for solitude where you are least likely to be interrupted, and where you feel comfortable being in God’s presence.

A Prayer
Ask for God’s help, and let Him know that you’re new at fasting. Ask Him to speak to you through His Word. If unsure how to express that prayer, borrow the words of
I Samuel 3:10,

Here I am, Lord. Please speak. Your servant is listening.

A Psalm
Psalms are prayers in the format of a poem and lyrics to songs for which we don’t have the tune today. If not a Psalm, choose a book from the Bible that resonates with you or you find easy to follow along. Your reading is not so much for coming up with theological propositions, and much more about helping you experience God’s invitation for you at this moment. Read the passage two or three times.

A Pause
Take a break or several breaks throughout the day,such as during your mealtime. Take a moment to reflect alone when you would normally be eating or watching TV. Read your selected text and pause between the verses to absorb its meaning and message. Wonder or ask yourself:

~What is God revealing about Himself through this reading?
~What is God saying about me and what I need to do?
~Is there something I need to trust Him more with?
~What is His calling for me to do?
~How will I apply this Word to my life?
~What is my prayer after reading this passage of Scripture?

A Promise
You may not sense the effect of your time of fasting right away. The answer you seek might seem delayed. Stay encouraged. Learn as much as you can about God and how much You matter to Him. Believe that “Those who wait on the Lord- WILL renew their strength” -Isaiah 40:31

I’ll add one more to this list. It’s optional, but recommended. If possible, share with:

A Partner
A prayer partner will be a source of accountability and encouragement for you when you are tempted to drop your resolve during a fast. Share your experiences with God’s Word and pray for each other.

A Handout: My Commitment to Fasting