Pray, pray, pray!

The word of God says to ‘pray continually’. Our Father in Heaven loves to hear us talk to Him. Our lives should be one long prayer to God, a running conversation with Him. What is sweeter than communion with the Lord of Hosts through our Lord Jesus Christ? What is more amazing than talking directly to our Creator, the one who holds the stars in the palm of His hands, in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit?

Prayer is essentially speaking to God. We address ourselves to God the Father in the name of God the Son through the power of God the Spirit. But in a sense, prayer is more than kneeling and saying a few words, because everything we do speaks to God, and actions speak louder than words…

One bloke once said, there are three things a Christian should do: the first is to pray; the second is to pray; and, you might have guessed it, the third is to pray! Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, yet one, I fear, is sadly neglected by many believers in our day and age. The poet William Cowper said, ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.’

Do we pray?

When was the last time you knelt before the King of Kings? When was the last time you sought the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? When was the last time you poured out your heart to the Most High? When was the last time you lifted up your hands and your heart to our God in heaven? When was the last time you cried out unceasingly with tears in your eyes until the Lord looked down?

I’m not just talking about saying ‘thanks’ for your lunch, an ‘arrow-prayer’ because you can’t find your keys, or a long old shopping-list you rattle-off every now and then. It’s living like Epaphras, who ‘was always wrestling in prayer for the brethren [in Colosse],’ and having the attitude of Jacob, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me!’
We complain we live in days of small things, we say, ‘God does not seem to be working in my life, or in the church anymore’. Well — why is that? Because we don’t pray! ‘We don’t have because we don’t ask’. We don’t pray ‘continually’ or ‘without ceasing’, we breeze in and out of the Almighty’s presence like we would a train station, we hardly get inside before we’re off again in a hurry, ‘getting on with our lives’. If we want to be serious about revival; then we need to be serious about prayer.  A man once said, ‘God’s works of grace are always traced to a humble saint upon their knees’. Pray in power and in faith! God pleases to use our prayers; but at present, what is there to use?

Is this true of you? How sad is this, brothers and sisters! I feel it myself so bad. I don’t pray as I ought, I don’t seek the Lord as I ought. My prayer-life is far too poor.

We simply do not pray enough. It’s all about our heart in these matters. We should never leave the Lord’s presence, whether we’re directly speaking to God or in-directly speaking to Him with our lives. J.C. Ryle says the harder it is to pray, often the better it is for your soul. However feeble our prayers and our hearts, God will listen — that is His amazing promise. Wherever we are… whether we’re in the house of God with his people; in the belly of a big fish at a total loose-end; wasting away in the darkest dungeon of gloom and despair; atop the scary whirling heights of a particular trial; lost in the wilderness of life; or in bed with the flu (last four examples — Psalm 107). If we cry out to the Lord, He will save us, and ‘if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us’ and He will ‘draw near to us, as we draw near to Him’.

Paul says, ‘always keep on praying for all the saints’. Peter says, ‘Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you’. Jude says, ‘Beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life’. What was the secret to success for these peoples’ lives, lived for the Lord, and so many Christians throughout history? Prayer. Simple prayer.

Jesus, Himself, spent many whole nights in prayer. And if He, God incarnate, needed to pray, how much more do we?

It does feel, in our days, that the devil seems to be winning — he has so stifled Christians prayer-lives, so they are as practically non-existent. We need to get back to the days of old, when men like John Welch developed serious knee problems from praying too much on their knees (he prayed all night — every night)! Or when Martin Luther had so much to do one day that it would take at least ‘three hours’ with the Lord! That should be our way of life!

So come on Christian soldiers, before you arise, fall down on your knees before your Heavenly Father, who loves to have His little children come to Him. Pray and then go on praying into your day and ‘live a life worthy of your calling’.

One of my favourite hymns as a youngster was ‘Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?’, two lines of which say:

And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

That’s powerful imagery. Our hearts connected to God’s heart with Christ. With Christ we can tackle anything. Was Christ’s work completed on the cross? No! Far from it; He now stands at the right hand of God, there making intercession for all His saints.

Hebrews 4:16 reads:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

What to pray?

There’s an acrostic, which is less than perfect, but besides being easy to remember can give us an idea of prayer and the order of it…

  • P – Praise! How should we get started in prayer? – ‘Enter into His gates with thanksgiving. And enter His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.’ This should be our over-running theme throughout our prayer-life and our kick-starter. Find something to praise Him for, it isn’t hard!
  • R – Repent! We’re sinners who can only come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ, our Righteousness. Remember God is completely holy; nothing impure can even get close. We come with repentant hearts to Him, recognising our sin and our need of Him.
  • A – Ask! With ‘praise and thanksgiving we present out petitions to the Lord.’ We should uphold each other and the whole world in prayer.
  • Y – Yield! We’re told to pray according to His sovereign will. Therefore we leave it all in His hands.

Pray the Bible, particularly the Psalms. There’s a psalm for every occasion, when we need His strength (27), when we are seeking His forgiveness (51), when we are struggling to come to terms with the wickedness in the world (73), whatever, wherever we are, pray the word and seek His will. And then ‘wait on the Lord’ and watch the results! As well as being reverent, we need to be bold in prayer.

Lamentations is another great book for prayer; harrowing and sober, but essentially a call to prayer; well worth prayerfully studying. There are tons of illustrations of prayers in the Bible, not least the Lord’s template for prayer.

We should pray for the faith to ‘move mountains’. Then go and live that prayer! Matthew Henry said, ‘Thanksgiving is good; thanksliving is so much better’, we ‘live according to his purpose, pray according to his will’.

Where to pray?

Pray ‘in your closet’ — just you and the Lord, no distractions; phone off, Bible open, heart ready. Take time. Don’t be short in prayer! Go for a ‘walk and talk’ with the Lord, His creation can be so inspiring. Worry about nothing, pray about everything.

Pray with the Lord’s people. It’s always so important and always so encouraging — coming to the Lord together and bringing praise, big requests, little worries, the lot, to His throne of Grace. C.H. Spurgeon declared that the prayer meeting is the ‘engine-room’ of ‘His Majesty’s Ship Church’. It is the most important meeting of the week! And some churches don’t even have one! The prayer meeting is more important than a Cabinet meeting in Ten Downing Street. Get over that one!

Prayer-partners/buddies, and meeting with one or two believers every now and then, is another great way of coming to the Lord. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, and I don’t know about you, but I can be so stirred by simply joining with a brother or sister in prayer. There’s absolutely nothing like it.

Family prayer-times are so important too. If you’re blessed with a God-fearing family, make the most of it!

Go forth and pray!

Now, go and pray in the Spirit, He is our guide and counsellor, He lays on our heart matters for prayer, He ‘intercedes with groans that words cannot express,’ He draws us so much nearer to God, He strengthens us, builds us up, helps us experience the amazing love of God, and glorifies God (‘man’s chief end’). And let’s persevere in prayer (Lamentations 5:19-22), especially as we kick-off this new year!

More holiness give me,
More sweetness within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Saviour,
More sense of His care,
More joy in His service,
More freedom in prayer.

Come, my Saviour, and help me,
Comfort, strengthen and keep me;
Thou each moment wilt save me,
Thou art saving me now.

More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More zeal for His glory,
More hope in His Word,
More tears for His sorrows,
More pain at His grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.

More victory give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More quest for the throne,
More fit for the kingdom,
More useful I’d be,
More blessed and holy,
More, Saviour, like Thee

(Philip Paul Bliss)

Music As a Form of Worship

The phrase ‘Let us start worship’ or ‘Let us begin worship’ is one that never sits easy with me. The term ‘Worship Leader’ for me doesn’t seem to be a biblical principal. In this post, I am to pick apart these terms and phrases and suggest what I believe we should be actually doing instead.

Is Worship something we turn on?

I do hope that no church flicks a switch and suddenly they are in ‘worship’ mode, I would be extremely concerned if it did! In my interpretation, worship is something that we are, we are made to worship. It is also not just solely music and singing, as we can sometimes think; in fact music is just a small part of what worship is all about.

So can we just turn it on with a flick of a switch? No! We don’t start worship, and we don’t just begin in worship, we should be worshipping God in all our thoughts and deeds, in our actions and in our words.

There is no start, and there is no end. To be frank, no one can lead you in worship. No man can lead you in worship to God, only the Spirit can give you the words to say, give you desire to praise such an awesome God we serve. You don’t just go to church where someone there helps your heart focus on God, that’s all through the Spirit, through your own heart and through you as an individual before the Lord. We worship collectively as individuals.

Music isn’t all worship

Let’s be straight here as well. Music is only a tiny fraction of what worship actually is. The Bible says:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Worship is everything we do, it is a way we can communicate with God, it is a way we can give Him praises, and it is a way in which we can actually remember truths and passages from the Bible. If you look at hymns for example, their purpose is often to help people remember key truths about the Bible and about God. Are we losing that today?

Nonetheless, music isn’t worship. Music is a tool God has given us, to help us and to give it back to Him. Martin Luther said, ‘Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ However, I think, we, the church, can get too focused on just one facet of what worship is. We will rehearse, practice and make a fantastic performance on stage, but what is our prayer life like? Do we spend time with God? Do we read our Bibles? Do we show a Christian life by our actions always? Sometimes we focus on one facet that we forget all the others which are just as, if not even more, important. We may get excited over a song, but we have to ask the question — do we get excited because we love the tune, love the music, but not what worship is all about?

I’m not against ‘Worship Leaders’ but..

I understand the need for someone to help keep everyone in tune, in focus and in musical cohesion, but let’s be straight here, no person actually leads worship. If anything the Spirit helps us in our singing praise, but again no person should be in a position like this, it is though as if it was just a title given to someone to sound spiritual.

Again, I am not against someone at the front helping the congregation sing and what not, but it’s the term that I have problems with, can it not be just an ego situation?

So is Music bad?

Certainly not! Music is a great gift! (Psalm 71:23; 105:2; 150: 1-5, Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14: 3-4) and one we should cherish and love to do, it allows us to be creative and it allows us to express ourselves when words fail us. Nonetheless, we must remember that it is all about Him, the mighty God, the One we are told to hold in reverent fear as well as love and adore. When we sing to our Father we do need to be serious and mean what we say. If we sing ‘I surrender all’, for example, then we should surrender all to Jesus, rather than merely singing for the sake of it (or because it’s catchy and modern) then going home and forgetting all about it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites and, to be frank, we can be very hypocritical in our music.

Music shouldn’t also be about using the latest snazziest catchphrases. For example, in recent times ‘oceans’, ‘waves’ and ‘storms’ having been doing the rounds. Before that it was ‘dry bones’ and I can keep going on. When we write music as worship, it should all be from the heart, about what God is telling us, and what we have been through, not what is trendy. Let’s be frank, modern songs/hymns have produced some amazing and great songs that really come from the heart, but there are also a number which just sound like they have been regurgitated time and time again, the same phrases, the same things being said. When we describe God, surely there are more ways of saying ‘You are awesome’ or ‘You are great.’ Don’t get me wrong, these are amazing truths, but sometimes it feels to me that less time has been put into the lyrics and more time into the production quality. Lyrics are important! Sometimes I can’t resist rewriting certain songs for my own personal use, and I’ll probably go on a massive rewriting spree now with many others because sometimes the tune is great but the words are so weak.

When we worship, via music, via songs, we must ensure it comes from the heart and that we mean it. We must also be prepared to learn, to be prepared to be challenged. We must acknowledge all aspects of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Now I love music, I love music in churches, but I just wanted to write this. I think sometimes we get the wrong concept of what worship is. We don’t start or begin worship, when we sing we actually join in with the choruses in heaven, but our whole life is worship, of one form or another. Live a life that worships God, love Him with all your strength and yes praise Him in music, but always remember Who you are worshipping.

Remembering, Commemorating and Romanticising the Reformation.

Five hundred years ago a big event happened in Europe that changed the course of history forever. Five hundred years ago this month, a monk nailed 95 theses to a door, a move which would shake the foundations of the European world and indeed the global world forevermore. Five hundred years ago, was the beginning of the Reformation.

You will undoubtedly see many a post this month, and probably have seen this year about how important the Reformation was in history. But in this post I would like to offer a warning about romanticising the past, as well as the exciting opportunities and lessons it can give us.

Before we really get going, I feel a brief word about the Reformation is necessary. It was a movement in the late medieval/early modern period of history, mostly in the 16th century, although reverberations continued well into the next. It saw the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and other ‘Reformers’ lead the split from the Catholic Church. Luther famously nailed his 95 theses on a church door, each point showing the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church. It was a time which would see the establishment of the Church of England, the dissolution of the monasteries, as well as bibles being written in common languages, and where God was shown to be a personal God, not a distant one, shrouded in mystery, approachable only through a priest or a ‘Saint’.

The ‘darker side’ of the Reformation

There are many paintings, many lectures, and many stories about the lives of the Reformation brethren. All these include their heroic deeds, the amazing and humble lives they led, and how positive the Reformation was. I’ve read articles on how we should tell our children about them, most fascinating I must say, but there is a danger in this. We romanticise the past, maybe this is because of the Victorian approach to history (Hobsbawm’s Invention of tradition comes to mind) but it should stop. Below are a few reasons why it was not so black and white:

    1. The saints involved were far from perfect, and should not be placed on any sort of pedestal, as some have been. This is painfully ironic as one of the issues the Reformers fought against was the idolisation of past saints; men like Luther and Calvin would probably turn in their graves at the sort of attention afforded to them today.
    2. The Reformation was a torrid time. It brought war, death, disorder to the lives of so many. It was a time of instability. It arguably saw the worst war in European history.
    3. Protestants fought Protestants. It wasn’t as straight forward as Catholic versus Protestant.
    4. The Catholics aren’t the ‘bad guys’. Both sides did terrible things! Both sides also had good godly Christians, who sought to do what was right before the Lord.
    5. Propaganda was one of the most-effective tools at the disposal of different figures and governments. There was a ton of it!
    6. The Reformation saw a rise of witch trials. Mainly this was on nation borders as people divided themselves more and more. This shows us just how divided people were at the time.
  • The Reformation, to a large extent, created the nation states that we know today. Borders were drawn up, and people more divided than ever before.


So what did the Reformation give us?

These are just a few things that show a darker side to the reformation. Nonetheless, despite all of this, the effects of the Reformation were, and still are, amazing; it paved the way for free thought and free press. Sometimes we talk about the spiritual awakening brought by the Reformation, and of course that was tremendous. But when we talk to our non-Christian friends and they talk about history, what do we say to them? God brought light to Europe? He sent his Spirit? Arguments that will never hold up in the present day, because people do not believe in God. We know what God has done, but in an age of evidence and argument, we need to show what God has done; cold hard facts.

So what did come out of the Reformation? Free thought and press would alone give vent to many scientific discoveries and political discussions.   New theories, new theological ideas all came from the Reformation, finally ‘religion’ could no longer control people as it had. It gave a voice to the common person; it allowed them to engage in national debates.

The Reformation would lead to us being able to read, to write, to engage with discussions around us. Now some people take this as people before didn’t know what was going on in their country and what not, and that is wrong. But the Reformation allowed a stronger sense of identity, and protest. It allowed people to read, it would allow people like you and me to actually have an education.

The Reformation quickened superstition’s death. Although witch trials did increase, it did allow eventually for superstition to decrease. And whilst superstition is still around today, ‘touch wood’ and all that; it is nothing like what it was like in the medieval period.

The Reformation induced free trade, and gave way to a bigger and more powerful middle-class. Now, you could be a Marxist or a socialist reading this and think this was more a negative, and to be honest, I do see your point. But what we see is people that were once disregarded in society, elevated to positions such as Parliament, and perhaps giving us greater social mobility, even if it was still very limited. It saw the begins of a capitalist system, which has indeed given us benefits, and even if you are a Marxist reading this, then it is one step closer to communism/socialism!

The Reformation showed us that people can stand up to authority and win. It shows us that we can stand up as the smaller guy and win; it shows us that if there is something you believe in, fight for it, and don’t give up. It gave us people, even if you don’t have a faith, to look at and admire for their bravery. If you are a Christian, then it shows us that anything is possible with God, if he is with us, what can stand against? For the Christian, it put the ‘church’ back in its place, and emphasised a personal relationship with God through Christ, instead of some weird distant god through priests, bishops, indulgences and purgatory. Instead of a wealthy domineering powerbase, the Reformation turned back to the original meaning of ‘church’ in the Bible: ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly of believers’.

And where did all this come from? The Bible, that great book, finally translated into the common languages of the European peoples. The greatest thing the Reformation gave anyone was the Bible finally in their own language.

In fact, the entirety of today’s society is built on the back of the Reformation, on the back of the Bible. Yes, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t a picturesque time by any stretch of the imagination, but it gave us things we value so much. The society we live in now comes from the Reformation, and that we can be thankful for that. The fact is, no period in time is lovely, it is all gritty and scary, and that is something Christians need to remember. When we teach our children about it, we have to ensure a balanced approach. Romanticising the past is dangerous, it can lead to misconceptions, and can lead us to living in the past, or our own idealised fantasy world. It can lead us to forgetting the awful things that were done. At the same time, it is an event to celebrate, but always do it in balance.