What is Prayer?

Prayer simply means communication with God. Communication with God is like communicating with a person, is a two-way process. Prayer changes things. Every documented revival in history had its origin in prayer. Satan uses laziness, complacency, apathy, a lack of discipline, etc….to cause the church to lay aside as a weapon. Prayer is a gift from God without substitute. It is the key to the unlimited resources of God. Satan does mind what we do as long as leave the power of Almighty God out of it. Prayer in the hand of faith, is the key to the immeasurable, unimaginable resources of God.

Prayer unleashes the power of God into a given circumstance. God could, but rarely forces Himself into your world. He desires for you to invite Him into your life and circumstances. In John 16:24 Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be made complete.” God knows your needs, your thoughts, your intentions, your motives, God knows everything about you, yet He still desires to be invited to participate with you. By communicating with Him (prayer) we can simply invite Him to work in, around, and through us so He can make a difference in, through, and around us. Ephesians 3:20 says “God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”.

Prayer is an invitation to experience the boundlessness of God. We serve an unlimited God who is not bound by anything except His own will and purposes. By inviting us to talk to Him (prayer), God is inviting us to partner with Him in His Kingdom work. As we see God answer prayer, meet needs, restore relationships, set people free from addictions, and bondages of all kinds, we begin to realize that there truly is nothing that is impossible to God.

Prayer takes the battle out of our hands and places it into God’s hands. In Zechariah 4:6, God said. “It will not be by might, nor power, but by My Spirit”. The things God desires to accomplish will not be accomplished by our might, our strength, our wealth, our experience, our wisdom, nor will it be accomplished by our power, our work ethic, our endurance, our fitness, our energy. The God-sized things God wants to do will only be accomplished by His Spirit!”. “God can immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.

Prayer can be launched in an instant, at the speed of thought. Communicating with God can occur any place, at any time, in any posture, in any situation. Prayer isn’t just for the church setting. Prayer does not have to wait until you have 20 minutes to spend. Prayer is merely an intentional thought away. As fast as you can think it, God hears it. Prayer should be seen as on on-going conversation with God. Over the years we have uses “Amen” to end the prayer. Since I believe that we should have an on-going conversation with God (Pray without ceasing. 1 Thess 5:17) I rarely say “Amen” in my personal prayers. That is as silly as saying “good-bye” to someone who will be with you for the rest of the day.

Take a few moments today, as you drive, work in the yard, take a walk, stare at the computer, or watch TV to thank God for all He has given you or to ask Him for the wisdom you need, or just tell Him how amazing He is to you. The God of all creation is waiting to hear from you, don’t leave Him hanging

Preacher, Evaluation is Your Friend

I remember my early days as a reluctant communicator. I never relished the idea of public speaking, but I knew I was called by God, and therefore, I was determined to be as effective as I could be as communicator. Obviously, over the past 32 years I have progressed a great deal in my communication style, ability, and effectiveness. I could tell countless stories from the lessons I have learned over the years, however for the purpose of this article I want to write about the importance of getting honest evaluation of your preaching.

Three Foundation Principles

  1. Evaluation is our friend.

You have to believe and embrace that evaluation, no matter how painful in the moment, is always your friend. Evaluation is healthy and good. Anything worth doing is worth doing as effectively as possible, and the only way to measure that effectiveness is through evaluation. Evaluation helps us maintain humility, stay relevant, stay healthy, remain gospel-centered, and increase our effectiveness.

  1. Determine to be a life-long increasingly more effective communicator.

Effective preaching requires the occurrence of actual communication. Talking to a crowd does not mean actual communication is occurring. We have all heard the pastor that preached for 20 minutes and it felt like an hour, while another person can preach for an hour and it feels like 20 minutes. We have all listened to a message and walked away wondering what was said, and we have walked away knowing what was said and having a clear application and inspiration for our lives. If you are going to communicate, then communicate effectively. If you don’t want to communicate effectively, then just stop.

  1. Embrace the reality that God has entrusted to you the most important message in the world.

Not the specific message you are preaching this Sunday, but the gospel, the message of hope and reconciliation for the lost and dying world as well as for the church attending world. The people far from God who see the cross as foolish are perishing (1 Cor 1:18) and headed toward a Christ-less eternity. The people sitting in your church are starving to understand scripture in a way that applies to their every day lives. You are the person God has called to step on to your stage to clearly and effectively communicate to His children on His behalf. Therefore, increasing your effectiveness as a communicator is of utmost importance.

Four Methods of Evaluation I Use

  1. Listen/watch to yourself

Most communicators hate listening/watching themselves communicate, but that is the first level of honest communication. Force yourself to listen to you each week. When I began as a communicator, I would get a cassette tape of my messages each week and listen to it. Now, I’m streamed live every Sunday and have message videos “on demand” through our church website that I watch each week. I know this will be painful, but think of it as “watching game film”. Every football coach watches game film to evaluate his team. If your church does not record your messages currently, just use your phone to record your messages.

  1. Ask a trusted people to give you feedback on your preaching.

These people should hear us every week, but we only need to meet with them once a month or even once a quarter to hear their overall evaluation and feedback of tendencies they are seeing/hearing consistently. Tendencies are really the foremost issue. Getting off track one time in six messages is different than a tendency to get off track in every message. I have a wide-range of people who give me honest feedback and evaluation of my messages; men and women, adults and students.

We don’t want evaluation from a nit-picking or naturally critical person type person. We need broad strokes type evaluation from someone willing to be honest with us. We want someone(s), who understands what we are trying to accomplish to give us regular feedback on our tone, delivery, clarity, flow, “rabbit chasing”, etc.

It is helpful if you ask them specific questions to answer. For example: Was the point I was trying to make clear? Did that illustration or story make sense and connect with people? Was I positive, prepared, and hope-filled? What was the high point or the most important part of the message? Did I give clear applications? Did I transition well? Did my conclusion make sense? Was my energy good throughout? Did I point to the cross and Christ?

  1. Evaluate the fruit or results of your communication.

By “fruit or results” I don’t mean how many people responded to the altar or believed on Christ in a specific message, but over a period of time, are your messages resonating with people, are they growing, moving forward, developing spiritually, etc? Are they talking about your message on social media and/or to their friends? Your communication will bear fruit. You can evaluate that fruit. You might not like that process, but it’s healthy and good. A healthy tree produces healthy fruit. Bad fruit means something is wrong with the tree. Communicators produce fruit too.

  1. Listen/watch effective communicators (or even hire a consultant as a coach).

Find communicators who light a fire in you, and learn from them by listening and watching them. Don’t mimic them, but look for transferable principles that will help you as a communicator. Compare your style to their style. Listen to how they transition or how they “connect the dots” for people as they make applications, or how they organize their thoughts.

Our God-given message is too important to allow ourselves to be comfortable in mediocrity or even our success. We must continue to improve. Even as I write this article, I have a paid consultant who is “coaching” me through my next level of improvement. Evaluation is our friend. The gospel matters. The cross matters. I am committed to becoming the most effective version of me I can be for the glory of God.