“Prayers that move God to act – Part 2”
by Malcolm Cox

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30 June 2017

We’re having a second bite at this topic: developing a healthy prayer life by praying in such a way as to be confident God will act. Part one is here.

It can be hard to change your mind. My wife and I were raised with different perspectives on many things. One that threatened to cause a divorce in the earlier years of our marriage was the right way to peel vegetables. With a peeler that peeled away from you, or a peeler that peeled towards you? We settled on a compromise. We have our own peelers. Mine peels away from the body (the correct way, of course), and hers peels towards the body (false doctrine if ever I saw it). Joking apart, some attitudes do not need changing. But some do. It’s going to be hard to have a healthy prayer life if we go into our times of prayer without a willingness to change our hearts and our minds.

In last week’s article, we focussed on the idea, summed up in the quote from Spurgeon, that, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moveth the muscles of omnipotence.”[1]. How should we pray? Our first insight was to see that, 1. Prayer is satisfying when God is who we are seeking. What of our second insight? It is this.

Prayer is satisfying when we are willing to be changed….

PRAYERS THAT MOVE GOD TO ACT – Part 3

More of, "How to Pray So God Hears and Acts"

We’re having a third bite at this topic: developing a healthy prayer life by praying in such a way as to be confident God will act.

Part one is here. Part two is here.


Filip Mroz

Sometimes being specific can be very important. Back in the ’80s together with a housing Association, we bought a part-share in a flat – 30% owned by us, 70% owned by the Association. After 18 months we had to move, but in the meantime, the housing market had crashed. The property lost £14,000 of its value (a lot of money now, but a whole lot more then!). We would have taken the hit if the split of the loss had been 30/70, but we had not noticed a specific detail in the small print. Profits were shared 30/70, but losses were wholly our responsibility. And there was no sub-letting clause. We made an agreement with the Association for sub-letting, but it was over a decade before we could sell the flat without making a loss.

Not being specific can have long-term consequences. Prayer is rarely satisfying nor meaningful if we go into our times of prayer without a willingness to be specific in our requests. Jesus was specific many times. For example, when he prayed for Peter:

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”” (Luke 22:32 NIV11)

In the previous two articles, we discovered two principles. Prayers that cause God to act are effective, 1. When God is who we are seeking; 2. When we are willing to be changed. Let me offer the final of these three thoughts…

Prayer is satisfying when what we’re praying about is specific.

God answers prayer! Reflect on these words of J. C. Ryle, “Prayer has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It has won victories over fire, air, earth and water. Prayer opened the Red Sea. Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib. Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead. Prayer had procured the conversion of countless souls.”[1]

Not so long ago I prayed with a friend. One of our prayers was for those who had lost their faith. Two hours later, through a combination of odd circumstances, I walked through somewhere I hadn’t planned to visit. I bumped into the son of a former member of the church. He told me his mother had said to him she wanted to come and visit the church again. After that encounter, he visited the church and his sister came regularly. Coincidence, or an answer to specific prayer? I forget who said it, but I love the quote, “The more I pray, the more coincidences happen.” God-incidences are more frequent when we pray specifically!

Let’s seek God’s satisfying presence, open our hearts to become submissive to His will and pray specifically for Him to answer our requests.

Questions: What stands in the way of you being specific in your prayers? What will you do differently in your next prayer time? Do you have examples of answers to specific prayer? Leave a comment in the comment section below.

What are we waiting for? Let’s exercise the prayer-nerve and God will move the muscle!

Your brother,

Malcolm

 

[1] A Call to Prayer, pp. 29-30

 

Tuesday Teaching Tips: “How to preach outdoors” – VIDEO

Speaking outdoors can be a challenge, but an exciting opportunity. I share five tips to make us as effective as possible:

1. Confidence
2. Conditions
3. Props
4. Voice
5. One point

What are your ideas and questions? Email me at malcolm@malcolmcox.org, or leave a comment here.

Tuesday Teaching Tips: “How to preach outdoors” – AUDIO

Speaking outdoors can be a challenge, but an exciting opportunity. I share five tips to make us as effective as possible:

 

1. Confidence
2. Conditions
3. Props
4. Voice
5. One point

What are your ideas and questions? Email me at malcolm@malcolmcox.org, or leave a comment here.

The Sunday Sample, 25th June 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 25th June

Location: Watford (Dunstable Downs) and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: outdoor service for the Watford church

We’re continuing our run of experimental services in the Watford church. This week saw us make an expedition to the Dunstable Downs. It’s a beautiful spot (highest in Bedfordshire) and gives views of the three counties of Bucks, Herts and Beds. A wonderful location to remind us of God’s vision for all peoples. After singing and praying we reflected on Matt 28.16-20.  Jesus took his disciples up a mountain at least in part to give them a vision –

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:16–20 NIV11)

The location has added poignancy for me because my parents brought me to the Downs when I was a baby. At the time we lived in nearby Luton.

Note to self: research the Watford church members to find out if they have places of spiritual significance locally that we could go to for the purpose of inspiration. 

 

Speakers

Fabian was our speaker in Lower Earley. His youthfulness, combined with an exceptionally able mind, meant we were treated to a fresh and well thought-through exposition on the story of Zacchaeus. Hearing him preach filled me with hope for the next generation. It’s vital we give these young people opportunities to teach.

Note to self: don’t forget to ask members of the congregation for feedback on young speakers so that I can give the young people well-balanced feedback, and not just my own opinions.

 

Music Worship

The singing at Dunstable was good – if a little affected by the fresh wind! We’d have benefitted from one song that was children-friendly. The Lower Earley singing was good – especially in the second half of the service  – for some reason I cannot fathom. Rudie assigned leaders to the songs in advance which made for a more settled sense of leadership. Rynhardt led, “Ancient of Days”, and helped us to utilise it the best so far – largely because he interspersed the sections with guiding us as to where the song was going (repeat chorus etc.). This style of leadership is very effective when there are many ways to get through a song.

The Lower Earley singing was good – especially in the second half of the service (for some reason I cannot fathom). Rudie assigned leaders to the songs in advance which made for a more settled sense of leadership. Rynhardt led, “Ancient of Days”, and helped us to utilise it the best so far – largely because he interspersed the sections with guiding us as to where the song was going (repeat chorus etc.). This style of leadership is very effective when there are many ways to get through a song.

Note to self: encourage more song leaders to do as Rynhardt did when appropriate.

 

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we would:

  1. Focus on agreeing who is leading which song in advance (Lower Earley) – done, and made a positive difference
  2. Prioritise ventilation – not needed this week

Focus for next Sunday:

  1. Thames Valley has the annual outdoor service at Wellington Country Park.  I will emphasise to all speakers the significance of being ready to move up front to do their part. When outdoors it is especially important to avoid delays at transition points.
  2. I will not be at the Watford service this week, but I will ask the speakers and song leader (Danny) if there is any way I can support them in my absence.

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you? Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

 

God bless,

Malcolm

God had the power to make shy Moses a leader (Exodus 3-4), to soften cruel Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 11.1-8), to keep discouraged Elijah from quitting (1 Kings 19.15) and to turn the fanatical persecutor Saul into a globetrotting apostle (Acts 9.1-31).

“Prayers That Move God To Act – Part 1”
by Malcolm Cox

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

Prayer Podcast
23 June 2017

How to pray so God hears and acts.

One way you can develop a healthy prayer life is to pray in such a way as to be confident God will act.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moveth the muscles of omnipotence.” Nerves are so tiny, aren’t they? I’ve got some damaged nerves from knee surgery. Hit me on my left knee in just the right place and I won’t feel a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever physically seen a nerve, but the movement of my muscles depends on them. Spurgeon saw prayers as the nerves that move God’s mighty muscles. I like that picture. It reminds me….

PRAYERS THAT MOVE GOD TO ACT – Part 2

More of, "How to Pray So God Hears and Acts"

We’re having a second bite at this topic: developing a healthy prayer life by praying in such a way as to be confident God will act. Part one is here.


Filip Mroz

It can be hard to change your mind. My wife and I were raised with different perspectives on many things. One that threatened to cause a divorce in the earlier years of our marriage was the right way to peel vegetables. With a peeler that peeled away from you, or a peeler that peeled towards you? We settled on a compromise. We have our own peelers. Mine peels away from the body (the correct way, of course), and hers peels towards the body (false doctrine if ever I saw it). Joking apart, some attitudes do not need changing. But some do. It’s going to be hard to have a healthy prayer life if we go into our times of prayer without a willingness to change our hearts and our minds.

In last week’s article, we focussed on the idea, summed up in the quote from Spurgeon, that, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moveth the muscles of omnipotence.”[1]. How should we pray? Our first insight was to see that, 1. Prayer is satisfying when God is who we are seeking. What of our second insight? It is this.

Prayer is satisfying when we are willing to be changed

I’m not sure if prayer always changes God’s mind (he is sovereign after all), but I am sure it changes mine. Consider the example of Jesus. He prayed in Gethsemane for his will to be in line with God’s – “Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mk 14.36. He was changed and strengthened (enabled to go through with the crucifixion) “because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7)

How do we do this? I suggest three steps:

  1. Ask for the right heart. “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalms 51:12 NIV11)
  2. Consciously commit the issues to God. “Commit your way to the Lord;” (Psalms 37:5 NIV11)
  3. Trust God that the outcome will be best for the kingdom, and for you. “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” (Psalms 25:1 NIV11)

Charles Finney wrote, “prayer produces a change in us that makes it fitting for God to do what would not have been fitting otherwise.”[2] In other words, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that God will act when we’re not prepared to be involved. We cannot be detached from what we’re praying about. In praying for something, I’m effectively saying, “I’m ready to be involved in seeing that prayer answered with whatever I can do.” Let’s be sure that we’re willing to be changed and used by God.

We’ll look at a final point in one more article next week.

Questions: What stands in the way of you being willing to do God’s will? Is there anything you know He is asking of you that you are resisting? What is at the root of the problem? Do you have some tactics for dealing with these challenges that have worked for you? What will you do differently in your next prayer time? Leave a comment in the comment section below.

Your brother,

Malcolm

Audio of this post can be found here.

[1] Twelve Sermons on prayer, Baker Books, p 31

[2] Lectures on Revival, Bethany House, p 38

Tuesday Teaching Tips: “How to include God” – VIDEO

Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Are our lessons really about God? It’s easy to emphasise practical application at the expense of a focus on God.

I share two practical ways to make sure we keep God the main thing.

What are your ideas to keep God front and centre as we speak? Please leave a comment below.

Many thanks,

Malcolm

Tuesday Teaching Tips: “How to include God” – AUDIO

Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Are our lessons really about God? It’s easy to emphasise practical application at the expense of a focus on God.

I share two practical ways to make sure we keep God the main thing.

What are your ideas to keep God front and centre as we speak? Please leave a comment below.

Many thanks,

Malcolm