The Weekend Wanderer: 11 January 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

114587“After Soleimani’s Death, Iran’s Christians Brace for ‘Tsunami of Disaster and Opportunity'” – Last week, most of the international attention was on the events and rising tensions between the US and Iran. One of the questions that rose in my mind immediately was, “What does this mean for the astounding movement of God, brining many Persian-background people to Christ both inside and outside Iran?” Well, it seems from this report by Christianity Today, it brings both potential disaster and opportunity. I hope you will join me both in reading this article and praying for our brothers and sisters.

 

journal-fountain-pen“In-Depth Answers to Ten Big Questions About Spiritual Formation” – When I first surrendered my life to Christ, I pored over Scripture and any writer I could find who helped me understand the life with God better. I was so hungry for God that anything someone else recommended would immediately become a part of my discipleship practice or reading.  I encountered Christ through the charismatic movement and so one influential stream of my spiritual life was charismatic Christianity. However, I grew up in a Presbyterian church so another one of the influential streams of my spiritual life was very Word-centered. Sometimes, these streams seemed to run in opposite directions, but when they converged it was a beautiful thing. It was Richard Foster, and those working with him with Renovaré, who first helped me see how valuable it could be to have different streams of Christian tradition come together in our lives as part of an overall spiritual formation trajectory with God. This article hosted at Dallas Willard’s website talks about the nature of spiritual formation in the Christian life around ten big questions we grapple with on that topic. Some of this may seem a bit dated, but it is still helpful in considering what is important in our growth with the Triune God.

 

Notre Dame“Notre Dame Cathedral ‘not saved yet’ and still at risk of collapse” – One of the biggest stories of last year in terms of architecture and church life was the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in April 2019, as well as the billions of euros pledged to rebuilt it. This past week, however, the French general, Jean-Louis Georgelin,  assigned to oversee the task of rebuilding said, “The cathedral is still in a state of peril.”

 

114509“United Methodist Church Announces Proposal to Split Over Gay Marriage” – Another monumental story in religion around the world came in March 2019, when the global gathering of the United Methodist Church, in a highly conflicted vote, affirmed the traditional view of marriage. Since that vote, discussions have arisen to part ways between the more progressive western church and the more traditional church in the rest of the world. This past week, plans emerged for a mutually agreed upon parting of ways that has widespread support from all parties, at least preliminarily, with more details to emerge on January 13. So long to the “United” Methodist Church as fault lines emerge in various denominational bodies over these sorts of issues.

 

Lois Irene Evans“Funeral of Lois Evans, wife of Tony Evans, set for their Dallas church” – Lois Evans, wife of Bible teacher and pastor Tony Evans, passed away on December 30 after being diagnosed with biliary cancer. Lois Evans was married to Tony Evans for 49 years and was the founder of Pastors’ Wives Ministry, author of many books, and leader of Christian ministry in various settings. The celebration of Lois’ home-going is viewable online here, including many moving tributes and worship led by Kirk Franklin.

 

rabbi-chaim-rottenberg“Rabbi who survived machete attack has a unifying message” – From CNN: “The New York rabbi who survived an attack at his home during Hanukkah urged people to put aside differences and ‘work side by side to eradicate hatred.’ Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, leader of Congregation Netzach Yisroel, made his first public comments since the December 28 attack during a celebration on the seventh day of Hanukkah in the hamlet of Monsey. Five people were injured, including his son.”

 

Music: Donny McClurkin with Richard Smallwood, “Total Praise,” from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Five Quotations on Prayer

Power in Prayer Series Gfx_App Square

This past weekend, I concluded a preaching series at Eastbrook Church called “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” Through the series, I shared quotations on prayer throughout the series, and several people asked if I could share them. There were a few that I had in my notes that I never mentioned, so here they all are.

 

Baron Friedrich von Hugel: “The decisive preparation for prayer lies not in the prayer itself, but in the life prior to the prayer.”[1]

John Wesley: “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”[2]

John Stott: “So, the major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.”[3]

Richard Foster: “The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son.” [4]

Dallas Willard: “Prayer is, above all, a means of forming character.”[5]


[1] Baron Friedrich von Hugel, The Life of Prayer, 30.

[2] In Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, rev. ed. (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1988), 34.

[3] John R. W. Stott, Sermon: “Growth in the Prayer Life,” 20 August 1989.

[4] Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), 57.

[5] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: Harper Collins, 1998), 250.

 

Bibliography on Prayer

Throughout our series, “Great Prayers of the Bible,” we looked at passages of Scripture in which prayer is the central activity. Along with study of those specific Bible passages, I turned to the wisdom of many authors far more brilliant than me and from many different eras for help. At times people ask me whether I have books I recommend alongside of certain preaching series. I find that a difficult question to always answer briefly, so here is a bibliography I have been gathering (and reading) over the last twenty years on the topic of prayer.

Bibliography on Prayer:

Ruth Haley Barton. “Prayer.” In Sacred Rhythms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006.

Anthony Bloom. Beginning to Pray. New York: Paulist Press, 1970.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Prayerbook of the Bible. DBW, vol 5. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

E. M. Bounds. Power Through Prayer in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990.

Brother Lawrence. The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1967.

Walter Brueggemann. Great Prayers of the Old Testament. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

George A. Buttrick. Prayer. Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1944.

David Crump. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

Ronald Dunn. Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992.

Jacques Ellul. Prayer and Modern Man. Translated by C. Edward Hopkin. New York: The Seabury Press, 1970.

Richard Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1993.

Ole Hallesby. Prayer. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1931.

James Houston. The Prayer (previously title The Transforming Friendship). David C. Cook, 2007.

Joyce Huggett. The Joy of Listening to God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Timothy Keller. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Kenneth Leech. True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980

C. S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1964.

Richard N. Longenecker, ed. Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

Paul E. Miller. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2009.

Andrew Murray. Teach Me to Pray. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1982/2002.

Eugene Peterson. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989.

________. Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

J. C. Ryle. A Call to Prayer. Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2002.

Baron Friedrich von Hugel. The Life of Prayer. New York: E. P. Dutton & Sons, 1927.

Philip Yancey. Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.

Prayer of Surrender: Two Quotations

In my message this past weekend, “Prayer of Surrender,” I shared two different quotations related to ways in which we need to relinquish our life to God. The first came from Richard Foster, in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home:

Struggle is an essential feature of prayer…Jesus’ prayer struggle [in the Garden of Gethsemane] – replete with bloody sweat – lasted long into the night….All the luminaries in Scripture struggled as well: Abraham as he relinquished his son, Isaac; Moses as he relinquished his understanding of how the deliverer of Israel should function; David as he relinquished the son given to him by Bathsheba;…Paul as he relinquished his desire to be free of a debilitating ‘thorn in the flesh.’[1]

The second was a story taken from Adrian Rogers‘ book The Incredible Power of Kingdom of Authority. While I cannot necessarily speak to the entire book, in one particular section he records a conversation he has with Romanian pastor, author and president of the Romanian Missionary Society, Dr. Josef Tson. Tson had survived persecution and exile under the Communist rule. Rogers asks Tson what his perception of American Christianity is, and he responds:

Well, Adrian, since you have asked me, I’ll tell you. The key word in American Christianity is commitment….When you make a commitment, you are still in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give his money, or to commit to automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he chooses to do, he commits to. But surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told….Americans love commitment because they are still in control. But the key word is surrender. We are to be slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ.’[2]

 


[1] Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 50.

[2] Adrian Rogers, The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority (Nashville: B&H Books, 2002).

Four Quotations on Prayer

CBR001323This past weekend in my message “Making Space for Prayer,” the first part of our series “The Art of Prayer” at Eastbrook Church, I shared four quotations on prayer that many people asked me about later. Here they are for your edification.

“The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have set about praying some of the time somewhere.” – Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), 74.

“One of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. . . . We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. . . . And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut.” – John Piper, Desiring God (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986), 150-1.

“Work, work from early till late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther, quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 86.

“One thing I know for sure about prayer these days is that we do not know how to pray. It is only the young in Christ who think they know how to pray; the rest of us know we are just beginners. So let’s try to begin together, which is really all we can do.” – Ruth Haley Barton, “Prayer,” in Sacred Rhythms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 63.

Celebration of Discipline (book giveaway)

A couple of weeks back, we completed a series at Eastbrook Church on spiritual growth called “Let’s Grow.” With Will Branch, we addressed issues such as being made for growth, growing through difficulties, and barriers to growth.

Alongside of the Bible, the most important book I have read about spiritual growth in my life is the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. When I first encountered Foster’s book, I was a relatively new Christian and his understanding of both the underpinnings and practicality of spiritual growth changed my life. I still readily recommend this book to people who are looking to develop a deeper life with God.

I recently came upon a free copy of this book in hardcover. It has highlighting in the first chapter but is clean after that point. Reply to this blog post stating why you would benefit from this book. By the end of the day Friday, I’ll select someone at random and send this book to you for free.

In the book, Foster looks at twelve key spiritual disciplines, or spiritual practices, that help us draw near to God. These include inward disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, service), and corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, celebration). Foster understands that these practices do not guarantee spiritual growth, but also knows that “the Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us” (7).

Fasting: Words from Church History

Here are some words from the past two-thousand years about the topic of fasting. I found these words alternately challenging and inspiring.

  • The Didache, a first century document relating core teaching of the early church, “prescribed two fast days a week: Wednesday and Friday” for early Christians; this was seen as a regular part of daily discipleship [1]
  • “Regular fasting was made obligatory at the Second Council of Orleans in the sixth century.”[2]
  • “Whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.” – Jean Calvin, 16th century pastor and reformer [3]
  • “Constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation” – Richard Foster, 20th-21st century pastor and author[4]
  • “John Wesley sought to revive the teaching of the Didache and urged early Methodists to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. He felt so strongly about this matter, in fact, that he refused to ordain anyone to the Methodist ministry who did not fast on those two days.”[5]
  • “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.” – John Wesley, 18th century pastor and author
  • “First, let it [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” – John Wesley, 18th century pastor and author  [6]
  • “The king of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by the French in 1756. On February 6 John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, an there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility.’ In a footnote he wrote, ‘Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.’”[7]
  • “During the early days of our nation, Congress proclaimed three national fasts. Presidents John Adams and James Madison each called all Americans to fast, and Abraham Lincoln did so on three separate occasions during the War Between the States.”[8]
  • “Fasting helps us to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God.” – Andrew Murray[9]
  • “One of the goals of fasting is to determine levels of addiction or…levels of idolatry.” – John Piper, contemporary pastor and author

[1] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 51.

[2] Ibid.

[3] In Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 165.

[4] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 47.

[5] Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 51.

[6] In Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 55.

[7] In Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 50.

[8] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 162.

[9] In McKnight, Fasting, xviii.