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The Problem of Prayer: An Experiment November 9, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, books, Christianity, confession, Greg Boyd, hearing God, life, Peter Lord, Philip Yancey, prayer.
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Prayer is one of those things that is fundamental to following Christ. Most Christians would agree that prayer, along with Bible reading and going to church, is one of the most essential things to living a successful Christian life. The interesting thing is that while it is considered essential, not many people actually do it that often (the same could be said for the other two), and even when people do pray, they often don’t think they are very good at it. I’m one of the latter. Now, I might pray a line or two throughout the day when something enters my mind that I know I need to pray for. Also, I meet with a small group to pray for about an hour each week before my church’s young adults service, and I actually surprise myself at how well I pray out loud. My problem is sitting down and having focused, intentional, personal prayer time with God. I have no problems spending a lot of time reading the Bible, but when it comes to really pouring my heart out to God in a time of  concentrated personal worship, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, I feel that I lack. This really bothers me because I believe that prayer changes circumstances, people (the person praying most of all), events, at sometimes can even change God’s mind and will cause Him to act in a way that He would not of acted if no prayer was prayed otherwise. With this view of the power of prayer,  not only is prayer a privilege and a right but also a great responsibility. Therefore, there is no excuse for me to not pray.

I have had knowledge of this problem of prayer in my life for awhile now, so I was excited when the young adults ministry at my church started a three week series on the topic of prayer. The more we studied about it the more I realized that I needed to make a change. I started re-reading two books that have influenced my views of prayer the most, Hearing God by Peter Lord and God of the Possible by Greg Boyd, and picked up  Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  These books and the series at church have helped motivate me greatly, and I feel that God is leading me to try the experiment that I’m about to share with you. Some people may think that this is too small but I think it’s a good way to jump-start my prayer life.

The experiment is this: for the next thirty days I’m going to spend at least one hour in concentrated prayer everyday. Through these thirty days I’m going to try different techniques, formulas, and models. Sometimes I will follow the formula I learned in seventh grade called the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Other times I will open the Bible and pray the through the Scriptures, mostly the Psalms, but this will not be a time of Bible study. I will also pray the prayers in books such as The Book of Common Prayer. I’ll try these multiple methods to try and determine which I find to be the most helpful for me to maintain a consistent time with God. Some time over the next 30 days I will also try to take a 3 day personal prayer retreat where I leave to go stay somewhere and leave all forms of technology behind and spend all 3 days in prayer, fasting, and Bible study. I will attempt to blog about my experiences as much as possible. Hopefully, this experiment will enhance both my prayer life and yours as well. I challenge you to try this experiment yourself and we can dialogue about what we’re going through together here on the blog.

UPDATE: As soon as I posted this blog, Greg Boyd also posted one on the same subject. I strongly recommend it. http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/my-car-crash-and-the-open-view/

Are there any prayer models like the ACTS model that you know of that you can share with me?

What are some books that have helped your prayer life?

Will you be trying the prayer experiment with me?

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Books Every Christian Should Read (Part 2) October 15, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in apologetics, Bible, books, Brennan Manning, Christianity, Francis Chan, grace, Holy Spirit, John Eldredge, Rob Bell, spiritual authority, theology, Timothy Keller, Watchman Nee.
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Yesterday I started listing some books that I think every Christian should read at least once in their lifetime. This list will continue today, but allow me to say this because I know someone will eventually call me out on it. I am not listing the Bible in this list, because I am assuming (hoping?) that if you are a Christian you read the Bible often, so it goes without saying that Christians should read the Bible. Now that we have covered that, on with the list!

                                                                                                                     Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

Most people come down on either side of the fence on Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They either love him or hate him. I’m in the former category. I don’t agree with everything he says, but the vast majority is brilliant. He gets a bad rap from “heresy hunters” who take some things out of context, or just hear some things and don’t bother to even read the book. But, there’s a lot of good stuff that deserves some serious thought in Velvet Elvis. I especially like the section on what Bell calls, “Brickianity.” You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Elvis-Repainting-Christian-Faith/dp/0310273080/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287160820&sr=8-1

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Chan is known more by his first book, Crazy Love (a great book in it’s own right), but the lesser known Forgotten God has the more important message for today’s Christians. In it, Chan examines the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and gives a very balanced view of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Not overly Charismatic, and not too traditional, Chan explains how the extremist views of the Holy Spirit have scared many Christians and churches away from even discussing the Holy Spirit and that this should not be. The Holy Spirit is needed in our lives, and Chan does a wonderful job of placing him on the throne that he deserves to be on. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-God-Reversing-Tragic-Neglect/dp/1434767957/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287161524&sr=1-1

 Spiritual Authority by Watchman Nee

Nee’s story is amazing. He spent the last twenty years of his life in a Chinese prison. Through the face of extreme persecution and torture, Nee maintained a Christlike attitude. In Spiritual Authority, Nee explains how to have this Christlike attitude when it comes to those in authority over us. This is extremely important in today’s Church where our leaders are constantly called into question. Nee even explains how to submit to our authority when they are wrong. He states, “Submission has to do with attitude. Obedience has to do with conduct.” Nee’s message is badly needed today. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Authority-Watchman-Nee/dp/0935008357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287162169&sr=1-1

 Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

While written toward men, I think Wild at Heart should be written by Christians of both sexes. It will help men understand why they are like they are, as well as women. There are some things in it that will initially cause you to disagree with Eldredge, but continue to press through it and you will begin to understand what he is saying. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Heart-Discovering-Secret-Mans/dp/1400202817/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287163161&sr=1-1

 The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

While some would consider Mere Christianity and Simply Christian “apologetics” books, The Reason for God is really the only true apologetics book on my list. While there are plenty of other great books on the defense of Christianity out there, this is my favorite just because of Keller’s intellectual, but conversational, writing style. Most of these kinds of books tend to be scholarly to the point of reading like a textbook. Keller’s, on the other hand, really feels like your sitting in his office and he’s explaining to you why belief in the God of the Bible makes sense. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Reason-God-Belief-Age-Skepticism/dp/1594483493/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287163582&sr=1-1

 

                                                                                                     The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Of the hundreds of books written on grace, Manning’s is in a class by itself. Manning delivers a beuatiful picture of how God’s grace is power for what he calls “ragamuffins,” people who are beat up, bedraggled, and burnt out. By that definition, I think all Christians could be considered ragamuffins from time to time. You can buy this at http://www.christianbook.com/the-ragamuffin-gospel-brennan-manning/9781590525029/pd/525020

That’s my current list of books every Christian should read. I’m sure it will grow and expand the more I read, however. This list is by no means exhaustive. So what did I miss? What other books do you think every Christian should read? I look forward to hearing your suggestions and your reviews of the books in my list!

Books Every Christian Should Read (Part 1) October 14, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in books, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Donald Miller, doubts, hearing God, John Ortberg, Mark Batterson, N.T. Wright, Peter Lord, The Church, theology.
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A staple of socially awkward people is that we’re well-read. Reading is usually an activity best done alone, so we get a lot of it done because we are usually alone. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but that’s not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is just to let you know some books that have seriously helped my faith. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are plenty of books I have yet to read. But of those I have read, I believe these are some that, if you are a Christian, you should definitely check out. (I’m not putting them in any particular order, so don’t think I rank one better than the other).

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The only “classic” on my list. It’s hard to find any Christian, of any tradition or denomination, say something negative about C.S. Lewis. While Chronicles of Narnia is by far his most famous work, Mere Christianity is still one of the best resources for Christians who need a little help in articulating what they believe. You can buy it at http://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652888

   Simply Christian by N.T. Wright

Moving on from C.S. Lewis to the man some are calling today’s C.S. Lewis. N.T. Wright is a bishop in the same denomination that Lewis was apart of (The Church of England) and quotes him frequently. Wright uses more theological terms than Lewis does, but his theology his what makes the book so interesting. Wright’s goal is to examine what the early Church, namely the Apostles, believed and compare their beliefs to Christians of today. Along the way, Wright also provides a great theological defense of, as the subtitle states, “why Christianity makes sense.” You can buy this book at http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Simply-Christian-N-T-Wright/?isbn=9780061920622

   Know Doubt by John Ortberg

Some non-believers think they can never become a Christian if they have doubts about it. Some Christians, on the other hand, feel like they can never move forward in their faith because of their doubts. While other Christians feel that they can never even mention their doubts without being cast out of the Church. Ortberg, a Presbyterian minister, challenges all of those ideas and even sets forth the idea that doubt is not the enemy of faith, but an essential part of it. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Know-Doubt-Importance-Embracing-Uncertainty/dp/031032503X

                                                                                                                    Hearing God by Peter Lord

Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). But, sometimes that can get a little tricky for modern-day Christians. So often we are confused as to what Jesus is really saying to us. Peter Lord, a Baptist pastor, gives practical ways that we can increase our ability to hear and discern God’s voice in our lives. There is a revised edition coming out in 2011. Until then you can buy the first edition at http://www.amazon.com/Hearing-God-Peter-Lord/dp/0801056500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287101729&sr=1-1

 Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has recently been popularized by Lifeway Christian Stores as an author that we should “read with discernment” (You can read more on that in a great blog by Shaun Groves at http://shaungroves.com/2010/10/read-with-discernment-especially-donald-miller/ ). Even with that dubious distinction, he is still my favorite author. Miller does not have the experience of a pastor or a theological degree, but what he does have is an outstanding talent to write,a deep faith, and extreme honesty. Blue Like Jazz is Miller’s own life story of dealing with various obstacles that many young American Christians face on a daily basis. You can buy  Blue Like Jazz at http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Like-Jazz-Nonreligious-Spirituality/dp/0785263705/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287102617&sr=1-1 But, remember…”read with discernment.” 😉

 In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Based on 2 Samuel 23:20-23, Assembly of God Pastor Mark Batterson explains how sometimes God’s biggest dreams will only be revealed to us if we take risks and trust God. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Pit-Lion-Snowy-Day-Opportunity/dp/1590527151/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287103531&sr=1-1

I’ll be back with part 2 tomorrow, in the meantime, what are some books that you think every Christian should read?

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