Systems Thinking: Personal Prayer

prayer2I’ll admit it: I struggle with prayer.  I always have.  I understand how it works, I know lots of different ways to do it, and I believe in its power.  But I have always struggled to pray well because it has always been outside of my systems thinking.  I’ve always thought about prayer as needing to be “authentic” – and by authentic we normally really mean spontaneous.  And I don’t do spontaneous.

But this week I was challenged by a prayer warrior to have “established and formal” prayer.  That sounds like a System to me!  And that I can get my mind around.  So what does a Personal Prayer System look like?  Here are some aspects I think need to be in place:

An Appointment

A Prayer System starts with having a time designated to pray.  It is important to have the time blocked out or it will get used for something else.  Just like anything else, if we don’t make time to pray, we won’t do it!

A Direction

Once you have time set aside to pray, a Prayer System needs a direction for the prayer to go in.  There are lots of ways to pray, and lots of things to pray for.  So choose one!  Choose a way (or many ways) to pray, and what you are going to pray about regularly (family, self, sins, church, the lost, etc).  Then stick to the plan flexibly – there are times you may need to shift your plan.

A Team

A Personal Prayer System starts with you praying, but it also needs people praying for you!  Find 2-4 reliable, trustworthy people and ask them to pray for you – as part of your system.  Then work them into the system by creating a scheduled sharing of praises, needs, and answers to pray.  Make sure to include those answers as encouragement to them to keep praying!

An Evaluation

Finally, a Prayer System, like all systems, needs some way to evaluate success.  Define what success looks like for you (time in prayer, answers to prayer, daily impact on life, etc).  Then create the scorecard – what you are going to track and evaluate (days I prayed, number of prayers clearly answered, number of times God clearly moved, etc).  Now evaluate, redesigning the system as necessary.

When we have a Personal Prayer System, our prayer becomes “established and formal”, and our lives, families, and ministries will be covered continuously in prayer.

How can systematic prayer transform your personal prayer life?

to the Center

English: A of . This church is situated in Sym...

None of these things is bad in itself.  We should belief the right things, act the right way, and have outer signs of our faith (faith without works is still dead).  But a church that is focused on the perimeter loses its focus on the center, which is Christ.

Rather than focus on the line between “us” and “them”, what would it look like if the church was focused instead of Jesus and Him Crucified?

A church focused on the Center will understand that we are all journeying toward Jesus – sinners and saints.  This journey then becomes a unifying thread between the found one and the lost one.  Both need to be moved in the same direction, just in different increments and ways.

A church focused on the Center will allow the lost to experience the community of the found, for there the lost experience Jesus.  This experience becomes a common experience between the lost and the found, a starting ground for conversation.

A church focused on the Center will view evangelism as discipleship, as it draws the lost toward Jesus and the found closer to Jesus.  They will see that discipleship begins before conversion, not just afterwards.

The Center focused church creates less distinction between the lost and the found, as it views both as travelers journeying in the same direction and moves to create commonality between the two.  When the lost and the found are together, the commonalities between them are readily apparent.

But the Center focused church will also create more distinction between the lost and the found, for the fruit of their lives will quickly display who is drawing close to Jesus and who is far from him.  When the lost and the found are together, the differences between them are readily apparent.

This is a church I want to be a part of – a church that takes seriously Jesus’ call to full discipleship of those found and those lost.

What do you think a center focused church might look like?

Did Moses Love the Egyptians?

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

There has been a lot said about the Bible Miniseries on the History Channel.  While there is much left to be desired (specifically the way the show depicts men and women acting in the name of God rather than God acting powerfully in history), one aspect of the depiction of Moses caught my attention.  I have read and heard and studied the Exodus multiple times, but I never wondered about Moses’ thoughts on the Egyptians.

Who are Moses’ People?

When I read the Exodus, I am caught up in the story of the Israelites.  They suffer, they groan, they are oppressed, they are remembered.  I am swept up in the mighty works of God.  He judges, he overwhelms Pharoah, he saves his people.  I rejoice with the Israelites when the death of the firstborn Egyptians results in their freedom.  I feel their pain and bewilderment when they are trapped at the Red Sea.  And I celebrate and worship with them as God destroys their enemies.

But what about Moses?  Unlike the other Israelites, his experience with the Egyptians is not simply one of pain and oppression, but also of love and family.  The Bible miniseries showed me a portrait of Moses I had not considered before.  In fact, in the miniseries, when the Angel of Death is drawing near to the Egyptian homes, Moses is not excited at the hope of freedom.  He declares of the now dying Egyptian children “I used to call them my people.”  He is a man torn.  He is working with God to free his people, the Israelites.  But in order to do so he must wreak havoc and destruction on his people, the Egyptians.

Then, as the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea, Moses appears downcast while the Israelites rejoice around him.  He has accomplished his mission, but at what cost?  The choices of his people, the Egyptians, have led to their own demise.  If they had allowed the Israelites to go there would have been no plagues.  If they had not chased them to the Red Sea there would be no drowning.  They have made their own bed, so to speak.  But still the people he grew up with have now drowned.  Sorrow mixed with Joy.

In short, the Bible miniseries depicts a Moses who loves his enemies because they are his people.  The book of Exodus does not give us any indication that Moses felt this way, but it does not give us any reason to think otherwise either.  Moses is an Israelite who grew up an Egyptian and so it is likely that he was both joyful at the rescue of the Israelites and saddened by the death of so many Egyptians.

Who are God’s People?

God was in the same position as Moses.  Who are his people?  The Israelites, obviously.  He has chosen them and rescued them from oppression.  But also the Egyptians.  In fact, in Isaiah 19:25, the Lord declares “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”  He worked mightily to free his people from oppression, but at the expense of his people who were oppressing them.  All people are God’s people.  He has made them, he sustains them, he loves them, and he is waiting for them to turn to him.  When they sin, he judges, but they remain his people.

Why have I taken so long to see that God does not delight in destroying the Egyptians?  And that he does not delight in seeing any perish, but desires that all might be saved?

What enemies do you need to love?  What people are you forgetting are God’s people?