“HOW TO FIND TIME TO PRAY”
by Malcolm Cox

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30 JULY 2017

You’ve already decided prayer is a priority. But life is busy. Crazy, even. You make resolutions about consistency. You have a good streak. But something trips you up. Inconsistency is the only consistency. What can you do? You don’t want to give up or feel guilty. Well, I have good news. You can find what Michael Hyatt would call the ‘margin’ for prayer.

When you’ve listened to the recording, please leave a comment. How do you find the time to pray? What works for you?

God bless, Malcolm

HOW TO FIND TIME TO PRAY

Seven Tips To Find the Time for Prayer

You’ve already decided prayer is a priority. But life is busy. Crazy, even. You make resolutions about consistency. You have a good streak. But something trips you up. Inconsistency is the only consistency. What can you do? You don’t want to give up or feel guilty. Well, I have good news. You can find what Michael Hyatt would call the ‘margin’ for prayer.

Personal Seasons

In different seasons of my life, I’ve found different ways to create ‘margin’ for prayer. When younger, I prayed while cycling to work. Later, I prayed in my car. While working on a farm one summer, lunchtimes were a prayer-window – sitting on hay bales. Middle-of-the-night prayers were common during the teething phases of our children’s childhood. In some seasons I’ve found the way to pray. In others, I’ve given in to prayerlessness.

Busy Jesus

No one in history had more on their plate than Jesus. Quite apart from the disciples, his enemies and the crowds, he had huge responsibilities and challenges. To name but a few: remaining sinless; hunger; thirst; tiredness; anticipation of his arrest, mistreatment, crucifixion and death; the salvation of humankind. And the rest.

Still, he made time to prayer. He inconvenienced people in order to pray. He prayed when he could have been healing or teaching. He prayed, somehow, no matter what.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”” Mark 1.35-37

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

Time Exists

Time for healthy, satisfying prayer exists. We can find it, uncover it, release it. How? Let’s look at seven ways from people in Scripture. Which one will help you?

Time to Pray

1. In the morning – Jesus

We’ve already mentioned Mark 1.35 above. Praying in the morning is no obligation, but it has good effects. Psalm 88:13, “But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Ps 5.3 Can you find 5 minutes to pray in the morning – at home, walking to the bus stop, getting from your car to the office?

2. In the moment – Nehemiah

“Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man.” Neh 1.11 Nehemiah had only a moment to pause and pray before talking to the King. Sometimes we’ve only a second or two for prayer. Breath and pray before answering the phone or speaking to your boss.

3. In the fish – Jonah

“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.” Jonah 2.1 Rebellion against God got Jonah into the fish, but once there he did the right thing. He prayed. Our sin takes us into foul-smelling places. The next time you wake up to the aroma of fish, decide to pray.

4. In the cave – David

“A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.””, Psalm 142:1. Persecution knocks us off balance. Saul chased David over rocks and deserts until his home was a cave. Even in the cave, David prayed. Are you facing opposition? Pray for your enemies (Matt 5.44). Do it before (instead of) answering with words you cannot take back, or sending a tweet you’ll regret.

5. In the open – Daniel

He prayed with the windows open (Daniel 6.10). Hannah prayed close to Eli. Her mouth opened, but no sound came out (that’s one way to pray in public). “Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.””, 1 Samuel 1.13-14. She didn’t care what he thought. Can you find time to pray by praying in public?

6. In the fellowship – disciples

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”” (Luke 9:18 NIV11) It looks like Jesus was praying with his disciples. Next time you’re with a fellow-disciple, pray together. My friend Ben never lets me go without us praying together. We’ve prayed on skype, on the phone, in person, in my car. He’d ask me to pray anywhere.

7. In the home – Peter

“Peter went up on the roof to pray.” Acts 10.9 Strictly speaking, Peter was praying on his roof, not in his home. But you get the point. We don’t only pray at ‘church’, but home too. Find time to pray with your children, your spouse, your housemates, or on your own – at home. Do it instead of watching TV, doing a meaningless chore or moaning to your spouse about the boss.

Conclusion

Which of the seven examples above could you imitate this week? This day? I know we’re all pressed for prayer-time, but, even if you don’t have a spare hour, I bet you’ve got a spare minute. Make the most of those minutes because they add up to hours.

Question

What have I missed? Are there more opportunities to pray that you’ve tried? How do you fit prayer into your life? Leave a comment so that we can all learn and grow.

God bless,

Malcolm

Tuesday Teaching Tips: “Six Sources For Finding Your Unique Voice”

 

Your voice is unique. But do you know how unique? We look at six ways to discover your unique voice.

“Tuesday Teaching Tips: “Six Sources for Finding Your Unique Voice””
by Malcolm Cox

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25 July 2017

“The Sunday Sample 23 July 2017, reflections on corporate worship.”
by Malcolm Cox

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24 July 2017

The Sunday Sample, 23 July 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 23rd July

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: Outdoor ‘Bandstand’ Service in Watford’s Cassiobury Park

Speakers

II spoke in Watford. Johnson spoke in Lower Earley. I really enjoyed listening to him speak, and his wife Cicily sharing. It was good to hear about how God has moved in India.

I loved doing the outdoor service in Watford. The preteens got involved in my sermon in a similar way to the outdoor service at Wellington country park. It helped their attention and provided a compelling illustration for the adults present. An improvement on my lesson in Wellington was the addition of concluding illustration about a missing lottery ticket. I was struck by how much a powerful illustration at the end of the lesson made a difference to people’s reception of the point. Might be good to do something similar more often.

Video of Johnson’s lesson is here. Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast. My audio is findable on the Watford church podcast.

Note to self: put effort into illustrations. Don’t view them as a bonus, but essential.

Music Worship

The song services went well in both locations. In particular, the variety of songs old and new, more and less familiar, traditional and more modern in Lower Earley helped bring a freshness to the singing. One song we sang, which I wrote, needed more work. It was not helped by the fact that we do not mike up the women. Their part was important because it was only a two-part song. Next time we need microphones for the women.

I have discovered a hidden guitarist in Lower Earley – François. Good news! I shall send him chords for a song this week, and let’s see if he can take part next Sunday.

Note to self: consider whether the men’s and women’s parts need to be heard by the congregation

Other Thoughts

The projector at Lower Earley is not powerful enough. We need to buy a new one. I shall look into that this week. The text is fine on screen, but images are terrible. So much of communication is about images now. It is worth the investment to make sure the pictures are clear.

Last week I said:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Lower Earley – done, but not perfectly executed!
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – did not happen.

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Involve Francois in the musical accompaniment
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – carried over

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

 

“HOW TO PRAY WITH CONFIDENCE – HEBREWS 10.19-22”
by Malcolm Cox

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20 July 2017

Dino Reichmuth

Would you like to pray with confidence? God wants us near him – otherwise, why send Jesus? Yet, even so, why is it we lack confidence in approaching him? Or, when in the act of praying, suffer from debilitating doubt? Today we’ll look at Hebrews 10.19-22 and discover three tips to help us pray with confidence.

Leave a comment after you’ve listened to the podcast. What helps you have confidence in prayer?

HOW TO PRAY WITH CONFIDENCE – HEBREWS 10.19-22

Coming into the presence of God without inappropriate fear

Would you like to pray with confidence? God wants us near him – otherwise why send Jesus? Yet, even so, why is it we lack confidence in approaching him? Or, when in the act of praying, suffer from debilitating doubt? Today we’ll look at Hebrews 10.19-22 and discover three tips to help us pray with confidence.
 

King Cantona

We lived in Manchester in the ’90s. Man Utd were supreme, and Eric Cantona was the King. I was in awe of him, occasionally praying for him and wondering if I or another member of our church might have a chance to invite him to a service.
 
My daughter was learning the piano. We needed a metronome. My son and I went to a music store to buy one. We wandered upstairs and, to my surprise, there was Cantona with two of his friends. He was trying out some trumpets (or possibly bugles). We bought the metronome and went outside.
 
I waited for what seemed like hours (it was a few minutes) until he came out. Almost choked with nerves I managed to stammer “Hello”. He, and his rather large minders, turned towards me. I felt like a worm in the presence of a hungry hawk. Stammering, I gave him a church card and invited him to join us at a church service. He looked at me and said, “Non”.
 
He was polite in his tone, but there was not a glimmer of interest or engagement. I left the scene exhilarated to have met him, but emotionally exhausted!
 

Bridge Building

Certain people scare us. They leave us dry-mouthed, and tongue-tied. With some it is an overwhelming respect, with others it is downright fear. Neither soberness regarding our sin, nor recognition of God’s utter righteousness are meant to be barriers. In fact, the gulf between us and God is something he bridged in Jesus.
 
What does this mean for our times of prayer? According to Hebrews 10.19-22 we have an answer to this challenge. The passage reads thus:
 
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19–22 NIV11)

Complete Confidence

Our confidence in prayer is built on what God has done in Jesus. It depends on God, and not on us. The word ‘confidence’ is important in Hebrews (see Heb 3:6; Heb 4:16; Heb 10:35 as well as this passage). We need never lack confidence for at least three reasons.
 

Three Thoughts

  1. The price of entry was the body of Christ. Therefore we adore, worship and offer thanksgiving. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12 NIV11). If God is willing to pay that high a price for our company, you can be sure he wants you near him.
  2. The barrier no longer exists. “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38 NIV11) If the ultimate barrier is torn to shreds, we have nothing standing between us and our loving father.
  3. One baptism is enough. Old covenant priests were subject to frequent washings. But, because of what Jesus has done, one immersion is enough. The bodily cleansing here is initiatory (in the Greek perfect tense) and therefore refers to baptism. Perhaps some of the Jewish Christians still had an idea that more washings were needed to stay clean. If you’ve been baptised, you don’t need anything extra.
 

Confidence Restored

If you know and have accepted what Jesus has done for you, if you trust that the veil no longer exists, if you have participated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2.36-42; Romans 6.1-10), then you have nothing to fear. Go to God in prayer. He’s waiting, and he’s interested.
 

Question: What helps you to pray with confidence?

Please share your ideas. We need each other’s advice. Leave a comment below so we can all learn and grow.
 
God bless,
 
Malcolm

“The Sunday Sample, 16 July 2017 – reflections on corporate worship”
by Malcolm Cox

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17 July 2017

The Sunday Sample, 16th July 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Ben & Cherie May

Date: Sunday 16th July

Location: Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

No service in Watford this week. The Bracknell Service of the Thames Valley churches of Christ went ahead as usual. The service was a bit of a test as to how some of our less experienced speakers would do and how far we’ve come. I was able to focus more on leading the worship in Bracknell as a result.

Speakers

Ben May spoke in Bracknell. It was his first sermon at the larger service. Such an encouragement. The congregation were very attentive, and Ben shared with good insight and applicability. His experience in investment banking brought a different perspective to the passages on which he spoke. It was a good reminder of the value of having many different people speak. Everyone has an unique angle on God’s word. We need to hear as many voices as possible.

The other speakers all acquitted themselves well. Very heartening to see relatively inexperienced people speaking so well and with such conviction.

Video of Ben’s lesson is here. Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast.

Note to self: continue to involve people from a variety of walks of life.

Music Worship

The preparatory devotional was helpful (see my posts on Psalm 100). The team did well, but I lacked spiritual peace during some of the songs. Simpler music selections would enable us all to relax into the songs and the worship more.

Note to self: consider whether the level of complexity is appropriate to the context

Other Thoughts

Last week I said:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Bracknell – done (with last-minute changes forced on us by illness)
  2. Have a longer devotional for all participating in the service at Bracknell this week – done. Focussed on Ps 100.

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Lower Earley
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week

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