Archives For Prayer

The Story of Operation World

Chris —  September 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sunday, I encouraged our church to focus on fasting. My central proposition was that one of the ways we should respond to horrific evil in the world is to fervently pray for global missions.

One of the greatest resources ever produced for the sake of praying for missions is Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Operation World Set). This book offers an overview of every country of the world and offers suggestions about how to pray for them. This resource would be on the short list of books I think every Christian family should own.

In the below video, Jason Mandryk interviews Patrick Johnstone about the origin and development of Operation World.


See also:

Operation World

The E-mail Syrian Christians Would Write to Us

Focus on Fasting

Chris —  September 28, 2015 — 3 Comments

One of the ways God’s people should respond to grave injustice in the world is to fast and pray for the gospel message to go out to all nations. A number of our flock responded to my sermon on Matthew 6:16-18 and a challenge to focus on fasting. You can listen to the sermon here.

The black notebook to the right is the binder I use for some of my prayer notes for our church family. This week, I have crammed into it many response sheets from those who want prayer and/or are committing to fasting and praying on Tuesday. This was in response to the sermon on 9/27/15.

The logic of my sermon developed as follows:

  1. I asked our people if a captain in the United States army was justified in “beating up: an Afghan leader (one who the United States helped put in place) who sexually abused a young boy he had chained to his bed. (See U.S. Soldiers told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies).
  2. We defined fasting (per Lloyd-Jones) as voluntarily giving up a legitimate activity for the purpose of prayer and spiritual focus. Food is one obvious example but we might also choose to fast from media, screens, entertainment etc. The possibility of rewards and God answering our prayers should encourage us to do so.
  3. We reviewed Jesus’s warnings about fasting. Don’t fast to look spiritual in front of people. Be careful not to do acts of righteousness with the applause of people in view (Matthew 6:1). Further, do not approach fasting as a “work” to earn or merit something from God.
  4. We reviewed examples of biblical occasions of fasting (2 Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1:4, Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:21-24. We concluded with Calvin that, ““Wherever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.”
  5. We then returned to the original question. How should we respond to the sexual abuse in Afghanistan? It isn’t really for us to know precisely what should have been done in that situation. What is far more important than whether or not we would hit an Afghan leader as a soldier is to consider if we are so concerned about the cause of missions in the world that we fast and pray for the gospel to go out? We should consider which  we believe would help more: (a) Punching someone (b) Proclaiming the gospel?
  6. Bearing in mind that our heavenly Father who hears in secret will reward those who pray in secret (Matthew 6:18), we were challenged to consider making a specific commitment to fast.

I asked people to consider fasting during the daylight on Tuesday. I also encouraged our people to let our pastors know if they are fasting and praying and to share their prayer requests. Many responded.

Now let’s follow through. Let’s be praying people who cry out to God for justice.

See also:

John Piper’s recommended study: A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer

Scripture Passages to Help You Pray

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, Don’t Chant It

Scripture Passages to Help You Pray

Chris —  September 25, 2015 — 3 Comments

If you struggle knowing what to pray, or how to pray, one of the best practices is to prayerfully (Psalm 119:18) read biblical passages/prayers and then pray a current version of them. The Bible is full of passages that will help you pray. Here are some suggestions to get you started . . .And consider watching the video at the end!

Text What It’s About How It Can Help You Pray
Neh 1:4-11 Nehemiah was broken because Jerusalem,  which was central to Old Testament worship, was a mess. Follow Nehemiah’s example in seeing our messed up world through the eyes of the gospel (Jesus is the only answer!) and cry out to our great and loving God to use us.

If you read Ezra and Nehemiah, you will be motivated to pray for the “Good hand of the Lord on our lives”! See this post.

Matt 6:9-13, 7:7-11 The Lord’s Prayer: Jesus outlined the categories which should be the handrails of our prayer life. Pray the Lord’s prayer – – don’t chant it! See this post:  – – Ask our heavenly Father for good things. He won’t give us serpents!

See also Jesus Example of Prayer in the Gospel of Luke

Luke 18:1-8 Jesus taught this parable to his disciples so that they would not give up. Persist in praying with an expectation that our heavenly Father, who is is far more generous than a crooked judge, will hear our prayers. See this post for more explanation.
Acts 1:6-8 Jesus repeated the Great Commission to the disciples and stressed the role of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we would be a church that keeps its eye on the mission of making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Remember: “A local church is not a local church.”
Acts 14:19-23 The early church appointed elders after fasting and prayer. Pray that God would use our pastors (our elders) to give overall leadership to our church and that other gospel centered people would be used in leadership in our church. Pray our church would be committed to biblical leadership.
Eph 3:14-21 Paul prayed that the Ephesians would not only objectively know the good news of Christ, he prays they would experience it as well. Pray that the Lord would give an experience of the Holy Spirit that we cannot even put into words: that we would experience the unknowable love of Christ.
Eph 6:19-20 Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for his proclamation of the gospel. Pray for all the teaching ministries of our church – – and our pulpit in a special way – – that the Holy Spirit would anoint the Word so that it would go out with boldness and power. Notice the explanation of the word “fired” in this post.
Col 1:9-14 Paul prayed for the Colossians to be strengthened in patient endurance. Consider how Paul positions his prayer for the Colossians in the context of the gospel. It is only as we are in Christ – – only as we have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of His beloved Son – – only as believers – – that we find patient endurance. Meditate on this prayer and ask for patient endurance with joy.
Revelation 22 John shared a vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth Notice how many times John uses the Word “soon” relative to Jesus coming back. Think about all the pain in the world, and the people you miss, and pray “Thy Kingdom come!”

Remember: We are meeting at the 5th Tree on the Right Side of the River!

Children praying during a time of worship at Vacation Bible School in 2013.In our series at the Red Brick Church on the Sermon on the Mount, one of our central emphases has been to pray rather than chant the Lord’s Prayer. It is of no value to mindlessly recite the Lord’s prayer. Rather, praying the Lord’s Prayer means understanding what each phrase means and how it should guide our prayers.

Think of the Lord’s Prayer as “hand rails” we hold onto as we pray. But we must walk through the prayer in our minds as we engage with God.

If you are unsure what each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer means, then follow this link (Westminster Confessions and Heidelberg Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer) to a document I created which brings together the explanations given by the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms as well as the Heidelberg Catechism. These catechisms give beautiful and elegant explanations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The below video from the New City Catechism will also help you understand the Lord’s Prayer.

On the Lord’s teaching about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Stott comments:

We see again that the method of Jesus is to pain a vivid contrast between two alternatives, in order to indicate his way the more plainly. Regarding the practice of piety in general, he has contrasted the pharisaic way (ostentatious and selfish) with the Christian way (secret and godly). Now regarding the practice of prayer in particular, he contrasts the pagan way of meaningless loquacity with the Christian way of meaningful communion with God.

From The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, pages 142-152.

Ditches to Dodge

What Jesus Encouraged

Stott’s Comment – “Thus Christian prayer is seen in contrast to its non-Christian alternatives.”
Hypocrisy “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. God- Centered: “My” not “Thy” Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. “It is God-centered (concerned for God’s glory) in contrast to the self-centredness of the Pharisees (preoccupied with their own glory).”Stott summarizes that we do not come to God “hypocritically like play actors seeking the applause of men.”
Babbling [7] “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Intelligent and Thoughtful: To a personal God Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. “And it is intelligent (expressive of thoughtful dependence) in contrast to the mechanical incantations of the heathen.”Stott summarizes that we do not come to God “mechanically like pagan babblers, whose mind is not in their mutterings.”

Screenshot 2015-08-13 16.05.25

The Paradox of Prayer

Chris —  July 9, 2015 — Leave a comment

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7

When we read Jesus’ admonition to not “heap up empty phrases” we feel a tension with other texts in Scripture that tell us to “pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)” and with persistence (Luke 18:1-8). Frederick Dale Bruner, as is so often the case, offers profound insights:

When Jesus discourages quantity in prayer is he not discouraging prayer itself? Here, too, however, in a spherical world, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. The paradox of prayer is that only when it is relieved of the necessity of much prayer will people experience the freedom for much, they will surprisingly, desire to pray more. (The Christbook, 289).

Allie High School GraduationEvery May, since I became a pastor over 20 years ago, I review what I want to say to graduating students on one page. I prayerfully refine it every year. This year I have consolidated points that were previously separate and I have added points #5 and #6. I welcome your interaction . . . you may talk me into changing what I say before I pass this out to graduating seniors in May.*   

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations on your accomplishment! We are so thankful for you.

For over 20 years I have thought about what I would tell graduates on one page.  Each year it is my goal to prayerfully refine this letter even as I refine our philosophy of youth ministry. Here is the 2015 version.

  1. Know that following Christ is both right and best. Believing in Jesus is right because Jesus is the One true God. He deserves all glory. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus is best because Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:9-10). If you have not done so already, give your life to the King. On the Cross, he paid the penalty for His people so that we could spend eternity together on the New Earth in his presence. This is the Gospel (or the Good News of Christ) and it should shape every area of life. The alternative to believing in Jesus is unthinkable (John 3:36).
  2. Be warned and be sure. First, be warned: the way of the sinner is hard. As someone has said, “choose to sin, choose to suffer.” Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences (Galatians 6:7-8). Do not choose to suffer by dating unbelievers! Hate, hate, hate pornography and other potentially addictive behaviors. Second, be sure. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). Many think they are Christians and they are not. The worst words that will ever be heard will be when many stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they will spend eternity in hell (Matt 7:21-23). The thought that some in our flock may be in that group is what scares me most as a pastor. Talk to someone soon if you have any questions!
  3. Remember that God makes bricks with a building in mind. The Apostle Peter compared individual Christians to living stones so that he could make the point that Christians should be mortared together in local churches (1 Peter 2:5). Gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve together, local churches are called to be salt –subtly seasoning and preserving every bit of our communities – – and light – – boldly proclaiming the truth to light the darkness. Be baptized and join. You need a church as much as Noah needed the ark. Don’t put church on hold for the next few years. During that time, you will make decisions that affect the trajectory of your life. Be aimed in the right direction. If you move, or go to college, make it your first priority to find a church and Christian fellowship. This is especially critical the first three weeks of college.
  4. Sharpen your wisdom saw with the Word (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:1-2). Wisdom is skill for living.  It is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw to make quality decisions. We sharpen our wisdom saws by memorizing and reading the Word and by hearing it preached. Be Word-centered! Rinse in Scripture. It is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:7-11).
  5. Envision a beautiful bride walking down the aisle in a Christ-centered wedding. Most of you will marry. God’s plan for sex and marriage is breathtakingly beautiful. All of us, even those who remain single, must remember that the Church is the bride of Christ. Marriage and the gospel explain one another (Ephesians 5:29-32). We cannot allow unbelieving culture to corrupt our vision for Christ-centered weddings and homes. Both marriage and the gospel are at stake.
  6. Think deeply about true answers. Don’t stumble through life as an unconscious zombie. Too many in our day never think about life’s big questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why do we love? Why is there pain? How can we know God? Don’t be a zombie! Insist on answers (1 Peter 3:15). Let’s welcome discussion about what we believe so that we can point others to our King.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. Love didn’t evolve. Love wasn’t invented. Love is eternal because our triune God is eternally love: ever giving and self-giving. He loves us and tells us to love one another. And we do. We love you. When we get to the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne. We will be there soon. In the mean time, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,


Pastor Chris Brauns , @chrisbrauns

*This is a working document so I am revising it over time. I have already revised point #5 after an excellent comment. More revisions are probably coming. Proverbs 27:17

At the Red Brick Church we are striving to live out Jesus's encouragement that we ought always to pray and not give up (Luke 18:1)And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1 . . .

If nothing else, just pray with the song given at the end of this post . . .

Life aches over the long haul, not just for a second or two. If life was a 50-yard dash, then we could endure the pain through sheer force of will. But life isn’t a sprint. It’s a cross-country marathon that hurts each step of the race. Soon enough we find ourselves singing with Jackson Browne that we’re “running on empty.” We lose heart and can barely put one foot in front of the other.

So the question becomes, “How can we go on when we’re running on empty?” Where can we find the strength to make it through so many aching years? The general answer is, of course, the LORD. Scripture promises that those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:28-31).

But the general answer, “the LORD will give us strength,” doesn’t suggest any particular course of action. How is it that we are going to see God get us through life? Jesus answered the question of how we can be renewed in Luke 18. He taught his disciples a parable for the purpose of showing that the antidote to wearing out in life is to always pray. Notice Luke 18:1 at the top of this page. Christ gave this parable so that they always pray and not lose heart.

The parable that Christ gave in Luke 18:1-8 is a curious picture. The LORD told the story of a widow persistently petitioning an unjust judge. The judge eventually grants the widow’s request because she has worn him out. Christ reasoned that if even an unjust judge eventually gave in, we can be sure that God will hear the persistent prayers of his own who call out in prayer.

Do notice the emphasis on persistent prayer. The key to always praying so that we don’t lose heart is recognizing that prayer should be a long, steady pull – – – not a quick jerk here and there. For those areas of life where we hurt, we should find ourselves on our knees day after day after day. Over and over again, we should approach God with the bright anticipation of children who ask a loving present for a gift.

When we find ourselves wearing out, then we should respond by getting on our knees each day to bringing our requests to our heavenly Father, “We should ask God with anticipation, “Is it today that you will grant my request? Lord will you hear my prayer?”

Forget Jackson Browne and the lament that we’re running on empty. Instead, let’s sing the old chorus, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, / Standin’ in the need of prayer. / It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, / Standin’ in the need of prayer.” Or, “Pass me not o gentle savior, hear my humble cry. / While on others thou art calling, / do not pass me by.

As you pray persistently, do not forget to ask God for those areas of vision that we are targeting as a church. We are striving to be a church that features: (1) Word centered Worship (2) A passion for outreach locally and around the world. (3) A passion for raising up a new generation of Christians who continue in the faith after High School. (4) A current constitution and a strong-evangelical doctrinal statement (5) A shared vision for giving sacrificially of our time, talents, and treasure. (6) Meaningful membership and maintained rolls (7) A name that reflects our identity – (8) A staff to lead and feed our church: (9) Facilities where we can minister and share life together. Persistently pray!

See also on prayer:

Specific Family Prayers Provide Particular Encouragement

Jesus Example of Prayer in the Gospel of Luke

Pray Like a Drunk

2013_12_06_10_41_45Family prayer journals can be used to encourage those for whom we are praying in special ways. Click on the pictures and enlarge them to see how we prayed and what we wrote down. My children write like their father. You may or may not be able to read their handwriting.

Recently a young father in our church learned that he has cancer. Like most churches, we are quick to promise prayer in that kind of situation. Within a few days, our leaders met together with the family in their home to pray over them.

In addition, our family has learned that one of the best ways for us to pray is to do so together and to make journal entries about our prayers. 2013_12_06_10_41_46We pray together as a family after our evening meal and then someone writes a brief note about how we prayed.

If you read the journal entries, you will notice that we usually write down what it was we ate. Our point is not that matters whether or not we are kosher (we ate pork chops one night). But we know that specificity adds credibility . . .when they read this they can know that our family really did take time after dinner to pray for them.

It is one thing to say generally, “We’re praying.” It is even more encouraging when we show with specificity that we prayed together as a group at a particular time and place.

Answered prayer on FacebookOf course, you can imagine how thankful we were to hear the day before Thanksgiving how God has answered prayer.

Paul’s words should challenge us to pray for the Church in Syria and for one another. What would happen with the cause of Christ if more of us took seriously Paul’s admonition to pray (2 Cor 1:11).

Doubtless, many persecuted Christians in Syria and around the world are so persecuted that they are despairing of life itself.

The Apostle Paul could relate. In 2 Cor 1, Paul bares his heart by sharing that in Asia he and his coworkers thought they had reached the end:

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  (2 Cor 1:8-9).

Still, Paul knew there was a purpose for his suffering.

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor 1:9-10).

If Paul knew that his only hope was through Christ, he also understood that God works through the instrumentality of prayer. God’s faithfulness in seeing his people through difficulties is in and through God’s people praying. So Paul adds:

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11.

Surely, if Syrian Christians had our email addresses, and they didn’t think that we would mark them as spam, they would echo the Apostle Paul’s words to us today, “You must help us by prayer . . .”