Simple Prayer

  • 3 August 2016
  • Keith Reed

Do your silent prayers sometimes get ambushed by your overloaded brain? For instance, as you pray for your friend, you think of his smile and it reminds you of how happy he looks when his mouth of full of his favourite candy. The image makes you think of the sweet taste of sugar and suddenly your mouth is watering and you begin to think about what you should have for dinner. Then you remember that you’re not meal planning, but praying! You’re only four seconds removed from an earnest prayer, but now you feel frustrated—maybe even embarrassed—that you can’t stay focused while you talk with God. 

It happens to me too. 

I’ve heard (and tried) different ways to keep prayer distractions at a minimum. You can pray out loud or write down your requests instead of composing them in your head. You can make a note of everything that comes to your mind and then take care of these things at a later time. These strategies work just fine, but they don’t always relieve me from the negative feelings that discourage me when I’m interrupted by the endless sea of my thoughts. Having my prayers intercepted by a distraction can make me feel like I’m failing or that my faith is too weak because I can’t stay focused. I want to give up because of the gap between what I’m thinking about and what I ought to be thinking about. 

John Ortberg suggests that this gap can be removed through a practice called simple prayer. In simple prayer, I pray about what’s really on my mind, not what I wish was on my mind. Ortberg's motive for praying this way is based on the conviction that nothing kills prayer faster than pretending to be more noble than we really are. 

The answer then, is presenting ourselves to God as we truly are and embracing the distractions as they enter our minds. This means that instead of responding to my errant thoughts with regret, I can attend to them with a prayer. Every person deals with their share of distractions. Instead of wishing them away, we’d be wise to present them to God. 

Choosing to pray in this responsive way will put you in good company. Consider these words from a number of spiritual guides:  

Tips For Successful Pastoral Searches

  • 18 March 2016
  • Randy Wollf

Looking for a new pastor can be a daunting challenge. In this blog, I will offer several tips for successful pastoral searches (this content is also available in a training video that you can find here).

Pray much

One cannot underestimate the incredible importance of prayer in a pastoral search process. The search committee needs to devote a significant portion of their meeting time to prayer (a perfunctory prayer at the start of each meeting is simply not adequate). In addition, the church leadership must mobilize the congregation to pray and even challenge some to form a prayer team around the search.

Understand that your primary role is to discern God’s leading

In a pastoral search process, we’re not looking for the best candidate who applies; we’re looking for the right candidate (click to Tweet). This is why prayer is so vitally important. Don’t worry if an outstanding candidate doesn’t fit or decides to move in a different direction. Receiving “no’s” from the Lord is part of discerning His leading.

Line up your ducks 

Make sure that you prepare all the necessary materials (e.g. position packet, application form) and have processes and timelines in place to help you stay on track. This will also help potential candidates develop an understanding of the values and expectations of your church (remember that you might be providing candidates with their first impressions of your church).  

Search primarily along relational lines

Encourage people in the church to refer solid candidates. When possible, look within your congregation first. If you can hire from within, it can make the transition for the candidate (and his/her family) and the church so much easier.

Touch base with influential connectors

Who are the connectors in your denomination or network? Talk to them about your search. They may be able to provide some quality leads. In addition, advertise in places that your ideal candidate would likely visit.

Develop a scorecard for rating applicants

Five Reasons to Go on a Prayer Retreat

  • 13 November 2015
  • Randy Wollf

Last week, I had the opportunity to go on a daylong prayer retreat. I came away refreshed, more in love with Jesus, and with a keener sense of His priorities for my life. Going on these kinds of retreats is something I’ve been doing for over 20 years (sometimes more regularly than others). Here are five reasons why I do them (and why I think others should consider doing them, as well):

We Experience Rest and Refreshment

When I go on a prayer retreat, I try not to schedule too many activities. It’s an opportunity for me to slow down – to practice a true day of rest. I come away from these times refreshed in body, mind, and spirit.

We Enter into Silence

Susan Moto says, “In a noise-polluted world, it is even difficult to hear ourselves think let alone try to be still and know God. Yet it seems essential for our spiritual life to seek some silence, no matter how busy we may be. Silence is not to be shunned as empty space, but to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God.”

I know that silence is difficult to embrace when we are not used to it (yes, it may mean shutting off our electronic devices). Yet, silence creates a space where we can experience God in a deeper way.

We Connect with Jesus

Healthy relationships require time to connect. A prayer retreat gives us the opportunity to spend prolonged, intimate time with Jesus – listening, talking, and just being together. During a prayer retreat, I will find myself adoring God through praise. I’ll spend time interceding for others. Sometimes, I’m brought to my knees in confession as the Spirit reveals sin in my life. Throughout the day, I experience God’s love and express my love to Him. I cannot think of a time when I left a prayer retreat not feeling more in love with Jesus.

We Gain a Renewed Focus

When I remove myself from my normal activities for a prolonged period of time, I am better able to focus on Jesus. As I do so, I am more likely to gain his perspective on my life, both the present and the future. My fears and anxieties begin to fade into the background as God takes centre stage.

We Receive Guidance

There is something powerful about prolonged, uninterrupted time with God that allows us to draw close to Him and hear His quiet voice. Whether it’s related to a significant personal decision, a family matter, or a work situation, I find that God will often speak into those situations as I take time to listen.

What is your experience with prayer retreats? I would love to hear what you have found beneficial (you can leave a comment below).