Is The Easy Way The Best Way?

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As you may know I recently made a big change in my life.  I left my position as pastor of a rural church in southern Missouri and relocated to Oahu to plant a church.  The change is difficult, but it is most difficult on my 9 year old son, Caleb.  Caleb was only three when I began my ministry at First Baptist Church of Birch Tree, MO.  His first friends are there.  He was quite comfortable there.  He was a top student at the school and was surrounded by familiarity.  Then, everything changed for him.  We moved here.

Here, they do not know him as a top student.  His school is just over 7 times larger than his old one.  He is just one more student until he can prove otherwise.  The way they do things is different and he is trying to learn a lot of new methods and rules.  He does not know anyone.  Nobody knows him.  And according to one of his complaints, “they don’t even play kickball here.”

The first week of school was marked in our home with tears, imaginary stomach aches, anger, and defiance.  This was not the way for me to start a day.  Seeing my son struggle was enough for me to wonder if I had made the right decision to come here.  I am resolved to face the struggles of church planting in a different culture, but I begged God to make this easy on my son.  My biggest fear is that his difficulties would lead to resentment and there would be one more angry preacher’s kid in the world.  Then something happened.

Our prayer partners came through in droves to pray for Caleb.  We shared the emails with him and he really liked that so many people thought his struggle was worth praying for.  We also began to pray with Caleb before going to school.  Suddenly, things began to look up for Caleb.  He made a few friends, he figured out the rigid homework system, and his class did in fact play kickball.  One tearless morning we mounted our bicycles for the ride to the school.  “Wait,” he shouted.  “Aren’t we going to pray?”  Right there in the middle of our street, my son wanted us to stop and pray before he went to school.  I thought about that all day.

What I have realized is this.  The answer to my prayers is not that things got better for Caleb.  They did, but that does not make life easy for him.  The answer turned out to be that Caleb learned a little about relying on God.  The difficulty that I feared so much that he would face has actually strengthened him.  I have to learn something.  I have to understand that God loves my son even more than his mother and I do.  God knows what my son needs and He knows what is best.  He will give what is best even if that looks like struggle here on Earth.  God will give him that because of what it can make him.

Knowing this, why would I pray that God would make it easy on him?  Why would I pray for it to be easy on me.  Easy is not always best, and I want what is best.


Additional thoughts on prayer

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After reading E.M. Bounds’ Power Through Prayer, I wrote about my thoughts concerning prayer and loving God with my heart as well as with my mind.

For many, there remains a question as to how one should pray. To that end, I have found Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray to be very helpful and worth reading.

Using scripture as an anchor for prayer brings us to a good reflection on the Gospel as well as guides what our petitions should be.

For me, such prayer keeps me focused (my mind tends to wander) and keeps me from confusing prayer with a trip to see Santa at the mall.

I hope to pray to and for the glory of God!

Some Thoughts on Prayer

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It is well known among pastors that Martin Luther spend about two hours each day in prayer. The exception for Luther would be particularly busy days, on which he would pray three hours. Robert Murray McCheyne devoted several periods of the day to prayer. It is well known to pastors that the great ones prayed. Unable to attend the Desiring God conference, I decided to spend the week looking at prayer. I listened a little online to the conference and pulled E.M. Bounds’ classic, Power through Prayer off the shelf.

Reading Power Through Prayer is both refreshing and challenging. It is much more of a devotional work than a scholarly work. I believe I am reading E.M. Bounds’ heart on prayer as I read these pages. His passion covers his work and it is very refreshing.

On the other hand, it is very challenging. I don’t know that anyone can truly read such a discourse on prayer and think “I pray enough.” Yet, time spent in prayer is not the true challenge I am left with.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. I have learned some lessons on strength and endurance lately as I have tried to become a runner. In that regard, I have pushed myself to a new limit each week and have seen that growth surpasses pain. Such could be said of enduring in my walk with Christ. As to loving God with my mind, I have spend most of the past year with this challenge. I have studied more, read more, and sought to convey more in preaching. This has been rewarding in many ways. Yet, prayer is not about loving God with my mind, but with my heart. It is a necessary in a relationship with God as romance is in marriage. All manner of endurance and study seems to lack until there is heart-felt worship and prayer.

I find that two things tend to get in the way of prayer. First is pure idleness. As a product of my culture, I find it terribly difficult to turn off the need to be stimulated through the senses. It is hard not to watch something, listen to something, experience something, and imagine something without my mind quickly wandering to something. I find that “be still and know that I am God” may be the most difficult verse to obey.

Second, I find it difficult to rely on something other than myself. To love God with strength, I need will power. To love God with my mind, I need to learn and listen and read. To love God with my heart, I need God. For sure, the others don’t go far without Him either, but prayer requires a sort of helplessness that does not come easy. Most would rather do than pray and most would rather figure things out for themselves rather than ask for prayer.

Yet, when we realize our true helplessness, then something else happens. The love of God in our heart becomes like the love of a child. Our prayers well up and pour out naturally. Our mind desires more and we feel a renewed strength for the race.

Lord, let me learn to rely on you. Let me pray as my love for you bursts at the seams. This will be my prayer today.

Book Review: Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson


Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson claims to be “a practical guide to cooperating with your brain’s innate capacities in order to experience a richer, fuller prayer life.” Wilson bases much of his doctrine of prayer on new discoveries by Andrew Newberg et al that suggests that the brain is uniquely active during prayer and meditation. Based on these findings, Wilson attempts to show why contemplative prayer practices are affective and how anyone can begin such practices.

It is odd that Wilson advocates mysticism while dismissing the supernatural. In all fairness, Wilson denies being a mystic, yet he recounts a vision in which he met with Jesus in a cave and another prayer where the “presence” of his deceased father sat next to him. Wilson is attempting to dwindle all things spiritual to brain chemistry. In other words, he is defining the supernatural in terms of the natural. He claims that praying is essentially looking “inward.” This ought to be the first clue that Wilson’s prayers have very little to do with Christ.

Throughout the book, prayer is presented as a way to manipulate brain activity in order produce results. Thus, Christ is of no consequence to prayer. This may be very true regarding the scientific link between brain activity and certain meditative practices. It is also true of various drugs, exercise, and other activities. However, the Christian in prayer is not looking for chemistry. He or she is looking for communication with Almighty God. The “prayer” of this book is not that kind of communication.

Thomas Nelson publishers provided this book to me, free of charge, in exchange for a review. One question I am to address is, “Did the author convey biblical truth?” In fact, there is virtually no biblical foundation for Wilson’s doctrine of prayer. Though he does quote a few verses, they nothing more than weak proof-texts. The gospel is absent. The cross is reduced down to nothing more than a “desolate place” of prayer.

There are some that would say that people are afraid of new methods and are thus cautious concerning books like this one. Let me be clear. It is not the method, but the doctrine that is problematic here. If someone were looking for a book on prayer, they would be best to stick with the classics. May I suggest The works of E.M. Bounds on prayer? Or perhaps simply reflecting on what it means to have a life in Christ? Jesus Manifesto is a great resource for such meditation. Someone wanting a deeper prayer life need not be distracted by tricks of the imagination, but should seek to embrace a life in Christ. Mystically Wired adds nothing to such a life.