“Gethsemane – Keep Watch with Jesus”: Guest blog post by Dr Steve Kinnard

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 53

I’m very privileged to bring you a post on prayer by my friend Dr Steve Kinnard. We’ve known each other a few decades now, and I have benefitted significantly from his lessons, conversations and reading his books.

This blog post originally appeared on Steve’s site, November 7, 2016.

The Garden of Gethsemane is a special place for my family. When we lived in Jerusalem, we often had family devotionals in Gethsemane. Our daughter Chelsea adopted an olive tree that she would climb.  Chelsea would lay upon one of its branches and pray. We called that olive tree–The Chelsea Tree.  We visited the tree on our recent trip to Gethsemane. It is still a strong, healthy tree. And our daughter Chelsea has grown into an amazing woman of God. We are blessed.

Let’s meditate on the story of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-ff.

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Luke 22:39-46

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus asked his disciples to perform one task–Keep watch with him. Stay awake with Him.

Stated in the negative this is–don’t fall asleep on Jesus.

Stay awake. Stay awake and pray. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

One task. KEEP watch. Stay awake.

I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples. Luke, who was not one of the original disciples, informs us that the disciples were exhausted with sorrow. I get that. When I’m sad, full of sorrow, I want to sleep. Sometimes when I see a really depressing movie, I say, “I need a nap after that.” I sleep hoping that while I’m sleeping the situation will change, and I won’t have to be sad anymore. But so far, sleep has never caused the situation to go away. So I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples because I understand what it means to be exhausted with sorrow. And they had had a long, difficult week with Jesus.

At the same time, I also realize that if a really good friend asked me to stay awake while he prayed, I’d find a way to stay awake. Especially if there were three of us who were fighting to stay awake. We could help each other stay awake.

Let’s say my good friend Troy Baker asked me to pray with him. I’d be honored to pray with Troy. Troy says, “Steve, just keep watch for me while I pray.” That’s risky leaving me alone to keep watch. But then Troy invites another friend Mike Santorio to join me. Ain’t no way Mike Santorio is going to allow me to fall asleep. He would have me doing push ups if I began to look sleepy. Then Troy invites another friend Lance Sarincino to join us. Lance is an amazing guy. But, at times, Lance can be a little scary. And I’m pretty sure Lance likes it that way. So I wouldn’t fall asleep because Lance might tie me up and dangle me from a cliff. I’m sure pictures of me dangling from that cliff would be posted on Facebook the next day. My point it this–it only takes one person who is invested to make sure the others stay awake. Be that person.

I think Peter, James, and John could have kept each other awake. If one of the three had been intentional about keeping watch, then he could have kept the others awake.

But that’s not where there minds were.

They failed to Keep Watch. They failed to stay awake with Jesus.

If you are going to keep watch with Jesus, you have to be intentional about it. Staying awake with Jesus doesn’t happen by accident.

And here’s the thing:

If we aren’t careful, we can easily sleepwalk through our spiritual lives. We get up in the morning, have our routine quiet time, rush off to work or to school, rush back home after work, have a quick dinner with the family, perhaps run out to a regular midweek Bible study, come back home, go to bed, and wake up the next day for the same routine. We aren’t intentional about growing to be more and more like Jesus, so we don’t grow spiritually. We maintain the status quo, but we don’t grow.

We might think about growing with Jesus, but we don’t do the things that Jesus did to be the person he was. Like getting up early, while it was still dark, to connect with the Father in prayer. Or, memorize large portions of scriptures so that when we are tempted we have scriptures on our hearts to use against Satan. Or, develop the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the needy, and the hurting. Or, be willing to go person to person and village to village to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to those who are lost. Or, pray the Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

So we must decide to Keep Watch with Jesus. We must decide to stay awake and not to sleep walk.

The older I get, all I want to know about, learn about, focus on, think about, meditate on is Jesus.

Because Jesus is THE difference maker in life. He gives me energy. He gives me purpose.

When I’m selfish, I think about the selflessness of Jesus.

When I’m lazy about pursuing God, I think about how Jesus would get up early to pray with God or stay up the whole night in prayer.

When I’m struggling with love for neighbor, I see the way Jesus touched lepers and spoke with outsiders like the Samaritan woman and cared for people with a selfless, agape love.

I know one of the most special aspects about being in the Holy Land is knowing that you are walking where Jesus walked. On our tours, we love to focus on the spots where we know Jesus walked there. You don’t see signs in Aramaic that read “Jesus slept here,” but you do have places where you know Jesus was.

Like the Sea of Galilee.

Or, Caesarea Philippi.

Capernaum

Nazareth

Bethesda

The Garden of Gathsemane.

The steps of the southern Temple Mount.

It’s exciting to be in those places. I love those spots.

But I think the question we each need to ask is, “Am I going to walk in the steps of Jesus every day of my life wherever I might be in life?” Because the steps of Jesus lead to the needy, the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. The steps of Jesus lead to great relationships within his kingdom–helping, helpful, encouraging relationships. The steps of Jesus lead to keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. The steps of Jesus lead to building up the kingdom.

So keep watch with Jesus. Keep watch by obeying his commands. Keep watch by getting into his word and letting the word change your heart. Keep watch and pray. Pray that you will not give into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Be intentional. Have great times in the word. Have inspiring pray times. Decide to be with positive people who build you up and don’t drag you down. Flee temptation. James says that if you flee temptation, the devil will run from you. When is the last time you made the devil run?

Will you stay awake with Jesus? Will you stay awake and pray? Will you stay awake and pray so that you will not to fall into temptation?

Keep Watch With Jesus

Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus in Caperaum

Jesus in Bethsaida

Jesus in Chorazim

Jesus in Caesarea Philippi

Jesus in Nazareth

Jesus on the Temple Mount

Jesus on the Mount of Olives

Jesus in Gethsemane asking his disciple

Keep watch, stay awake, pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Jesus on a cross at Golotha

Arms outstretched

Breathing his last breath

Jesus in a tomb

But not for very long

Jesus rose

Up from the grave-Jesus rose

Keep watch

Stay awake

Pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

Keep watch with Jesus.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“How to look in the right place”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 52

Purchasing some binoculars has changed the way I ‘look’ at things. Spiritual parallels abound. I share some thoughts on the significance of using scripture to help our spiritual sight to be located in the best place to help our prayers.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalms 105:3–4 NIV11)

Which scriptures help you to focus your heart and mind in such a way as to prepare you for prayer?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me on coach.me. Join the facebook group, Quiet Time Coaching if you would like to be part of a community striving to grow in our relationship with God.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Guest blog post by Rolan Monje: “Prayers in the Bible”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 51

I’m very happy to bring you a guest blog post by my friend, Rolan Monje. He has the role of a Teacher in our sister congregation in Manila.

Take your time to read it carefully and use it in the way it’s intended – not just for interest, but to stimulate our prayer lives.

Let me know what stands out from this article, and leave a comment as to how it helped you.

God bless, Malcolm

 

Prayers in the Bible

A few months ago, I felt that God was calling me to a deeper prayer life. I decided to meditate on the prayers of the prophets. Also, I found it helpful to study out the prayers of Christ. As I dug deeper, I ended up surveying the whole Bible on the subject of prayer. One thing is certain: the Bible has more than enough references to prayer-commands, records, examples, and allusions to show that God desires to have a prayerful people. It was both a sobering and inspiring study for me.

In the following sections, you will find listed the various prayers mentioned in the different parts of the Bible. I hope that this summary will encourage you to also study out prayer in the Bible. This will surely enrich your walk with God. Here are some helpful study questions when you look at prayers in the Bible:

1. What caused the person to pray?

2. What was the condition of the person’s heart when he/she prayed?

3. Why was the prayer answered (or not answered)?

4. What can I learn here about God’s character?

5. Is there anything I can change in my prayer life based on this example?

A. Prayers in the Pentateuch

The books from Genesis to Deuteronomy mention prayers of many different kinds. Although collectively the first five books comprise what is called “The Law”, it is not just a cold, legal document. Principles and patterns of prayer (non-legal in nature) stand out. Most of the prayers are requests and pleas, but there are also praises and complaints:

1. Cain’s prayer is the first one mentioned in Scripture. In Ge 4:13-15, he cried out to God as he bore the consequence of his sin.

2. Abraham has several times of prayer recorded in his storyline. He prayed for a son in Ge 15:1-9), and for different people as well: for Ishmael in Ge 17:20 and for Abimelech in Ge 20:17. Another time he prayed for the city of Sodom (Ge 18:23-33).

3. Hagar is recorded as praying for deliverance (Ge 16:7-13).

4. Lot bargained with God regarding his escape plan in Ge 19:20.

5. Abraham’s servant (possibly Eliezer) sought specific guidance from God in Ge 24:12-52. This is a great example of specific, pointed prayer.

6. Rebekah cried out to God concerning her pains in pregnancy (Ge 25:22-23).

7. Jacob, finally facing up to his faults, pleaded for deliverance from Esau (Ge 32:9-32; 33:1-17).

8. Moses had a whole lot of prayers lifted up to God. In Exodus, Moses asked for help at the Red Sea (Ex 14:15-16), at the waters of Marah (Ex 15:25), at Horeb (Ex 17:4-6), and in the battle versus the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-14). In Numbers 11, he went to God concerning the grumbling of the Israelites for flesh (Nu 11:11-35) and in the chapter following in behalf of Miriam’s leprosy (Nu 12:13-15).

Questions for reflection:

1. How does our character affect our prayer life?

2. How did God train Israel to be prayerful? Note: Aside from these examples, the Israelites are also mentioned as having “cried unto the Lord” (Nu 20:16; De 26:7). This means that they had prayed although the actual words of their prayer were never recorded. In each case, Israel is presented as helpless without God, and it is He who is ultimately the Saviour of the nation. Without divine intervention, sure ruin would have come to Israel.

Suggested topics for study: How Moses spoke with God, Jacob’s “habit” of altar-building; Abraham’s call and prayer life, How God trained Israel to pray

B. Prayers in the History Books

More detailed prayers are given in the history books. Interwoven within the annals of ancient Israel are the lucid narratives of men who sought a deep relationship God. More pronouncedly than the Pentateuch, the History books portray the connection between a man’s leadership and his prayer life. Also, with David as a chief example, the History books give greater detail into how God’s people made various requests to God. It is clear that those who rely on God receive favour. Some of their prayers are listed below:

1. Joshua prayed a unique, radical prayer for the sun to stand still (Jos 10:12-14). This chapter displays God’s power over creation in behalf of man.

2. Gideon, before his debut as Israel’s leader, asked for a sign of dew (Jdg 6:36-40). The chapter actually records more appeals for proof of God’s approval. Gideon’s confidence in God’s promises needed boosting.

3. Manoah asked for guidance about his child, saying “teach us how to bring up the boy”. This prayer about raising Samson was heard by God (Jdg 13:8-9).

4. Samson begged for strength for one last time, gaining retribution for his demise (Jdg 16:28-30).

5. Hannah asked for a child after many years of being barren (1Sa 1:10-17, 19-20).

6. David has a well-recorded prayer life. His prayers include inquiring whether Keilah would be delivered into his hands (1Sa 23:10-12), inquiring about Ziklag (1Sa 30:8), asking whether he should enter Judah after Saul’s death (2Sa 2:1), and asking whether he should go to war against the Philistines (2Sa 5:19-25). Some of David’s other prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g. Ps 118:5; 138:3).

7. Solomon prayed for wisdom at the start of his reign (1Ki 3:1-13). He also prayed at the dedication of the temple (1Ki 8:23-53; 2Ch 6:14-42).

8. Hezekiah prayed to God for a chance to serve a longer time (2Ki 20:2+). Hezekiah reminded God of his faithfulness, both in his personal conduct and in his righteous deeds, and of his wholehearted devotion to God. Earlier he had prayed for deliverance from Sennacherib (2Ki 19:14-20; 2Ch 32:20-23).

9. Elijah’s life was built on prayer. Only by asking God was the widow’s son raised (1Ki 17:22). At the famous challenge of Mt. Carmel, God answered his plea for fire on his sacrifice(1Ki 18:36-38). Elijah’s prayers also affected the rain (1Ki 17:1; 18:1, 42-45; Jas 5:17).

10. Elisha is recorded as praying to God to open the eyes of his servant. He later leads the Syrian army to submission (2Ki 6:1, 17-20).

11. Jabez implored for prosperity in 1Ch 4:10.

12. Abijah asked for victory over Jeroboam (2Ch 13:14-18).

13. Asa asked for victory over Zerah (2Ch 14:11-15).

14. Jehoshaphat asked for victory over the Canaanites (2Ch 18:31; 20:6-7)

15. Jehoahaz asked for victory over Hazael (2Ki 13:4)

16. Manasseh asked for deliverance from the king of Babylon (2Ch 33:13, 19)

17. Ezra prayed to God upon hearing of intermarriage among the people (Ezr 9:5-6; 10:1)

18. Nehemiah opened his account with prayer (Ne 1:4-11). The book has several other prayers and references to prayer (e.g. 2:4).

Aside from the individuals mentioned above, several groups are mentioned as lifting up prayers to God. The Reubenites pleaded for deliverance from the Hagrites (1Ch 5:20). The priests also offered prayer in behalf of the people in 2 Chr 30:27. Although not as specific about prayer, the people of Judah are mentioned to have sought God “with their whole desire” (2Ch 15:15). Upon returning from the Captivity, the Jews also offered up prayers to God while fasting (Ezr 8:21, 23).

Suggested topics for study: Joshua’s Radical Prayer, Nehemiah’s prayer life, The Heart of David in prayer, Ezra’s prayer in Ezra 10, Prayer and Faithfulness

C. Prayers in the Prophets & Psalms

The prophets acted as God’s spokesmen for many centuries. For sure it was vital for these men to have a dynamic walk with the Lord. The instances of prayer mentioned in the prophets–books from Isaiah to Malachi–are few but significant. Of course, it would be impossible for these men to remain in their vocation without powerful prayer. I am sure that many prayers of the prophets were left unrecorded. In Isaiah 6 for example, the prophet has a discourse with God in a vision. Elsewhere in the book he does not actually pray to God, but prayer his is mentioned in 2 Ki 20:11. Here are some of the instances of prayer mentioned in the prophets:

1. Jeremiah prayed to God, seeking reassurance for his “risky” purchase of land (Jer 32:16-25). This section records an intense conversation between God and the prophet.

2. Ezekiel bargained for another way to bake bread (Eze 4:12-15). This had a spiritual significance in his life as a prophet.

3. Daniel was known for his consistent prayer life (Da 6:10-11). He prayed for divine revelation and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Da 2:19-23) and also interceded for the people (Da 9:20-23).

4. Jonah found himself praying from inside a big fish (Jnh 2:1+).

5. Habakkuk questioned God as he complained and lamented (Hab 1:2+).

 

Questions for thought:

1. What was the role of prayer in a prophet’s life?

2. What could have been some of the prophets’ difficulties in prayer?

3. What can I learn from the prayers of the prophets?

All the Psalms could be read as “lifting up hearts before God.” In this way, the Psalms present a valuable treasure trove of prayer. The Psalms represent the whole range of human emotion and teach us how to express ourselves to God at different times. That is why the Psalms are so “relatable” to us. By reading through the Psalms, meditating on them, and reciting them aloud, we learn to communicate with God the way his ancient peoples did.

D. Prayers of the New Testament

The New Testament chronicles a lesser number of prayers than the Old. Because of the letters however, we are given richer insight into how the apostles prayed: their content and manner. Here are some prayers recorded in the NT, with the prayers of Christ reserved for later:

1. Zechariah prayed for a son (Lk 1:13).

2. Anna served God with fasting and prayer (Lk 2:37).

3. Paul asked to be delivered from death (2Co 1:9-11).

4. Stephen prayed as he neared death (Ac 7:59-60).

5. Paul and Silas were praying in prison, being heard by the other inmates (Ac 16:25).

6. Peter prayed for the dead Tabitha (Ac 9:40). Another time he is went up on the roof to pray (Ac 10:9).

7. Cornelius’ piety was shown by his prayers (Ac 10:30).

In Acts, the disciples are seen praying for Peter’s protection (Ac 12:5-17). This shows that there was an atmosphere of prayer in the church (check out the role of prayer in Acts 1, 6, and 13). After the gospels and Acts, the Epistles hold a vast number of prayers penned by the authors. These give us insight into how the Apostles prayed. See for example Paul’s prayers: for Ephesians (Eph 1:15-19; 3:14-19), for Philippians (Php 1:3-5, 9), for Colossians (Col 1:3, 9), for Thessalonians (1Th 1:2; 3:10, 12-13; 5:23; 2Th 1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5, 16), for Onesiphorus (2Ti 1:16, 18), for Philemon (Phm 4).


The prayers of Christ deserve special attention. Not only are they frequent and varied, but they uniquely open a window into the very heart of God. The prayers of Jesus are moving and gripping. They teach us how to approach God humbly yet forcefully.

Here are some passages describing the prayer life of our Lord:

1. Jesus began his day early with prayer (Mk 1:35). This reflects discipline and dependence.

2. Jesus sought to have private times with God, especially in the mountains (Mt 14:23; Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29).

3. Jesus’ custom was giving thanksgiving before eating (Mt 14:19; 15:36; 26:26-27; Mk 6:41; 8:6; 1Co 11:24).

4. Jesus depended on God in times of distress (Jn 12:27; Heb 5:7). He showed this at Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-44; Mk 14:32-35; Lk 22:41-44; Heb 5:7) and on the cross (Mt 27:46; Lk 23:34, 46).

5. Jesus blessed children (Mt 19:13, 15; Mk 10:16).

6. Jesus prayed for his disciples, just like he told Peter (Lk 22:31-32). He also prayed for all believers (Jn 17:1-26). This reflects his big heart for people.

7. Jesus had specific requests to God. He presented his desires at the grave of Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42). He also prayed for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16).

A study of Jesus’ prayer life shows how mortal man can have a dynamic relationship with God. Jesus’ prayers, whether on a mountain (Mt 14:23; Mk 6:46; Lk 6:12; 9:28) or in the wilderness (Lk 5:16), give us great insight into true personal worship with God. His example of prayer was one-of-a kind. It is evident from the gospels that Jesus believed in prayer, told men to pray, and prayed a lot himself. Jesus’ teachings matched his own superlative example; I would say he was the most “prayed up” man ever. His prayers were frequent, sincere and personal. Jesus understood that the Father sought worshippers and that our worship satisfies His loving heart. That is why his prayers pleased God; they met God’s desire. This was the new spiritual worship that Jesus described to the Samaritan woman. Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit. As God is, so His worshippers. Anyone who prays more like Christ is on a good spiritual track.


Closing Thoughts

The Bible has so much about prayer that a whole lifetime would not be enough to exhaust the learning and the experience. Praise God that he has given us every day of our lives to enjoy our relationship with him. I pray that this summary of prayers in the Bible will inspire you to grow in your own prayer life. A close walk with God is a priceless gift.

A growing prayer life is worth the time and effort. Even the chance to approach God is something we don’t deserve. To have a “good talk” with the Lord is better than anything in the world. There is nothing as fulfilling, as enjoyable, or as powerful.

Rolan D. Monje


Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“How to pray for people”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 50

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV11)

1. A prompt, not a to do list

  • Review every Saturday
  • Put in diary, so don’t forget
  • Pray for people at least once a week
  • Helps me keep my promises to pray for people

2. Pause before each person

3. Picture, bring them to mind, picture them in your imagination

Please leave a comment, pass the link on and subscribe.

What question would you like to see answered?

God bless, Malcolm

“A 3-minute prayer meditation on Psalm 42”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 48

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalms 42:1–2 NRSV)

Something different this week. I offer a three-minute prayer meditation on Psalm 42:1-2.

Instructions

  1. Find a quiet place
  2. Settle in a comfortable position
  3. Take a deep breath…..hold…..exhale
  4. Relax and listen to the audio or watch the video

Readings of the two verses will be interspersed with the sounds of the River Gade.

What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me on coach.me.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

“Is presence natural, or can it be learned?”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 44

  • We’re mistaken if we think we can lead a group without paying attention to presence
  • Some have it more naturally
  • Others can learn it
  1. Look at the group – take risks – look up.
  2.  Smile
  3. Stand tall
  4. Move slowly
Remember your goal is to be what they need, not what you feel is comfortable.

Question

What have you tried to help you grow in presence?
Please leave a comment and pass the link on.
God bless, Malcolm
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Ps 100:2

“What to do when you are stuck with God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 47

In last week’s episode (number 46) we looked at more reasons why we need a specific place for study. Please let me know how you’ve been getting on with your own study.
 
This week, let’s talk about what to do when you are stuck in your relationship with God. We’ve all been there. I have many times. I will be again, and so will you. What is it that will get us out of our rut?
 

Neither shallow, nor introspective.

We cannot stay shallow. Equally, we dare not become introspective. Perhaps a change of perspective will help. We’re not really trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? We’re attempting to go deeper into God. As Richard Foster puts it,
 
“I do not mean to turn inward by becoming ever more introspective, nor do I mean to turn inward in hopes of finding within ourselves some special inner strength or an inner saviour who will deliver us. Vain search! No, it is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God.”*
 
Yes, that’s right. We emerge into God. In other words, we take action and discover that the faith involved in that action brings the reward of a renewed connection with God. It’s so important to remember that a relationship with God is not, in its essence, a concept or a feeling. It is something built by our faithful actions.
 

Confidence comes from action

Confidence with God grows as we take action. It has always been thus in the Christian life.
  • Jesus said, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17 NIV11)
  • The faithful of Hebrews 11 are commended for taking action, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7 NIV11)
  • Abraham is held up as the example of faithful action, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV11)
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God – take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often.

Experiment with the ‘examen’

One action you could take is what’s called the ‘examen’. Psalm 139 sums it up:
 
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
The prayer of ‘examen’ consciously invites God to reveal truth in us. The revelation of truth is a startling stimulus to growth. We do not know what we will discover. As a result, we need to deal with the fear of what is turned up. Foster inserts this prayer at the end of his chapter on the topic:
 
“Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid… Afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself – and you – in full measure. Amen”*
 
Why not pray this prayer, and then practice one of these four suggested methods for going deeper with God?
  1. Meditate on scripture – such as Psalm 62
  2. Pray the ‘Lord’s prayer’, Luke 11.2-4
  3. Pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’, Exodus 20.1-17
  4. Pray through and/or meditate on one or more of the ‘Beatitudes’, Matthew 5.3-12
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God - take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Try one of these suggestions for a period of time and note what you learn. What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Question

What happened when you took action on one of these ideas? Were some easier than others? Why might that be?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
Get coached on Coach.me
 

“More reflections on why we need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 46

In last week’s episode (number 45) we looked at why we need a specific place for study. “Thank you” to Johann who found the episode helpful and posted his response on the YouTube channel.
 
This week, rather than start a new topic I’d like to give a personal report on my progress and offer some more ideas.

I have had a good week of study. Digging into Acts chapters 7 and 8 has been enlightening and inspiring. The commitments I made last week made a difference. Let’s do a quick check on each one.
 
Last week’s commitments:
 
  1. Phone out of sight: I kept to this commitment by leaving the phone in my pocket, or putting it on to charge behind me.
  2. Noise-cancelling headphones: Using them helped to narrow my focus.
  3. Clear the desk: Removing everything not connected with my Bible study kept visual distractions low.
 
My focus improved and I had a much better week of study. However, I learned of some more areas of distraction which I had not noticed before. Eliminating some issues revealed others. Here are this week’s observations and new commitments:
  1. Headphones: Pairing them via Bluetooth didn’t always work well. Sometimes it took two minutes which was frustrating. I also had some instances of skipping which were distracting. This week I will attach them via a cable if it takes longer than a few seconds to pair them or if more skipping occurs.
  2. Door: Even with the headphones on I still noticed sounds in the house. This week I will close the door to the room in which I do my study.
  3. Reflections: The computer screen faces some windows. This produces reflections when people walk past on the street. I found myself distracted when I noticed neighbours passing my house. This week I will close the curtains behind me while I do my study.
  4. Software: On one occasion this last week I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to run a program called “Clean my Mac” while I was doing my Bible study. How wrong I was! Even though it is silent, and does not affect the computer’s performance, just knowing it was open and running distracted my mind from time to time. This week I will close any software unnecessary to my study.

Conclusion

I’m looking for ‘flow’. A state in which my mind is fully engaged in what I am doing. That’s how I see my study being of the most benefit. You might like this TED talk on the concept of flow. And here is a link to the classic text.

Question

Have you put any of these ideas into practice? Do you have some you would like to share? What helps you to get into a state of ‘flow’ when you study?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

“Why you need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 45

Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.

One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.

Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.

It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.

To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.

Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:

1. Phone out of sight

The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones

I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.

3. Clear the desk

I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.

Conclusion

I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.

Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.

Question

What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“What happens when you grab for the wrong support”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 44

My morning prayer walk was messier than expected. It was all caused by a casual grab at the wrong support.
 
 
One of my favourite prayer walks takes me to the edge of a canal. There is no bridge at this point, but you can cross by walking along the top of the lock gates. It’s narrow, but there are handrails. This particular morning I stepped up onto the top of the gates. I reached out towards the ironmongery with my right hand to steady myself.
 
Instead of feeling the cool iron under my fingers, I sensed a sticky gooey mess. I stopped, looked at my right hand and saw thick black grease. Instead of grabbing for the handrail, I had mistakenly reached for the mechanism which moved the sluice gates. They are heavily greased to protect them from the water.
Stepping off the lock, I approached a tree. With the help of several leaves I removed most of the grease from my hand.
I reflected on what lesson there might be for me from this experience. What do I grab for? What do I reach for when I need support?
 

1. Superficial support

Too often I prioritise feeling better instead of getting better. The instant-fix support sees me turning on the television, listening to a podcast or raiding the fridge. None of these are wrong in themselves. They are meant to be enjoyed – God gave us lots of things specifically for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).
 
It’s just that they cannot provide the kind of support I need when I am struggling with something spiritual. You know the kind of thing. When I don’t want to persevere. When I don’t want to love someone. When I don’t feel like praying.
 
The problem with reaching for the superficial support is twofold. Firstly, it is only a temporary diversion and distraction. The original problem comes back with a bang.
Secondly, the consequences are a stickiness in my soul – rather like the grease on my hand. Because I have delayed dealing with the situation spiritually, procrastination is now clogging up my spirit. If I had dealt with the matter in a more spiritual manner, I could have moved onto the next challenge to my faith. Now, however, I have one piled on top of another. Not a good situation, and not a winning feeling.
 

2. Spiritual support

What I really need is spiritual support. What does that look like? Here are two suggestions.
 
i. Church support. I don’t mean the organisation, but the network of relationships. We are meant to be interconnected. If we are, we will feel the support of our community. Paul made the point in Ephesians:
 
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV11)
 
Those friendship-ligaments are a source of support when I am weak. Are you connected enough to feel that support? What is your part in that?
 
ii. God support. He is a very willing supporter. We don’t have to push him into it. We understand this intellectually. The point, however, is to grasp it from the heart. The Psalmist accepted this:
 
“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18–19 NIV11)
 
There is no substitute for the support of the Lord. It is his love that convinces us of his unconditional support. It’s personal with him. He wants to support us not because it is a duty or a project. No. His heart is one of compassion and connection. He is able to grant us not only the fact of support but the feeling of support if we are willing to accept it.

Conclusion

What did Jesus say? “I am with you”, (Matt 28.20). Reflect on him walking with you. Today. Pray to be aware of his presence and support. Next time you need some support, pause before reaching for the remote. Take a moment to call a friend and call on God.
 
If he is with me, that’s enough. He may not change the situation. His support may not change how I feel. But I know he’s in it with me, and that’s enough.

Question

What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to your day?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community. Pass the link on….
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
Get coached on Coach.me