Retreat Prayer Experience

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Recently, for a retreat, I revised an older prayer experience I used in college based on Psalm 97, Romans 12:1-2, and Philippians 4:8. The experience is designed to help you renew your mind, either at the beginning or the close of the day. I hope it ministers to you.

Simply read the scripture and follow the instructions below:

Read Psalm 97 below and take some time to meditate on the identity of the Lord.

1 The Lord is king!  Let the earth rejoice!  Let the farthest coastlands be glad. 2 Dark clouds surround him.  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3 Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes. 4 His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory. 7 Those who worship idols are disgraced—all who brag about their worthless gods—for every god must bow to him.

8 Jerusalem has heard and rejoiced, and all the towns of Judah are glad because of your justice, O Lord!

9 For you, O Lord, are supreme over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 10 You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.

11 Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. 12 May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name!

Write down five words that describe the greatness of God:

Now use those five words in a brief spoken prayer to the Lord.

Read Romans 12:1-2

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Living Sacrifice Prayer: Romans 12:1 tells us to offer our lives as “living sacrifices” to God as an act of worship. Where you are, kneel before God as a sign of surrender and worship. Pray and ask Him to show you how to be a living sacrifice to Him.

Things of the World Prayer: Romans 12:2 says to conform no longer to the patterns of the world. Make a list of ways you struggle with conforming to the world, then pray a prayer, asking God to help you no longer conform to each of the items you’ve listed. 

Read Philippians 4:8.  

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Pray and ask God to help you fix your thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable throughout this staff retreat. Ask Him to help you speak what is excellent and praiseworthy…

Finally, craft a note of thanks to the Lord for helping renew your mind. 

photo- courtesy of Unsplash - photo by Greg Rakozy

Prayer Service Outline Built Around the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

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Last night, our church had a special time of prayer and worship in conjunction with our January Prayer and Fasting Emphasis. It was a powerful time of worship, reflection, confession, and intercession. As is usual with these types of services, we tend to go off script from time to time, so we use these outlines as a guide and ask the Lord to guide us and lead us accordingly.

I hope this outline blesses you and your churches. If you have similar (or different) outlines, please share them with me so our church can benefit from your experience.

Prayer Service Outline

Opening 

  • 2-3 Song Worship Set
  • Welcome and Offering Prayer
  • Offering as service continues

AFFIRMING GOD’S GREATNESS Section

  • Read Matthew 6:9 – “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
  • Comment personally upon the scripture.
  • Direct the people to spend a moment in personal prayer, instructing them to acknowledge the Greatness of the Lord.
  • Pray for the people before the worship music continues.

Song about the Holiness/Greatness of God

  • Suggested song: Glorious by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

SUBMITTING TO GOD’S WILL Section

  • Read Matthew 6:10 – “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • Comment upon the scripture as you feel led.
  • Ask the people to pray for God’s will to be done. Ask them to think about how often they really pray for God’s will to be done.
  • Direct the people to get into small groups where they pray for God’s will to be done in the lives of others in the group.
  • Pray for God’s will to be done in our church, in your campus, and in the lives of those present.

Song About God’s Will or His Wisdom

  • Suggested song: God I Look to You – Bethel Music

REQUESTING GOD’S PROVISION Section

  • Read Matthew 6:11“Give us this day our daily bread…”
  • Comment upon the scripture as you feel led.
  • Instruct the people to think of one area of their lives where they need God’s provision. Direct them to pray and ask God for His provision in this area.
  • Ask another pastor, elder, deacon, or life group leader to pray for the needs of the people.

Song About God’s Provision, Blessings, or Care

  • Suggested song: Good Good Father – Housefires

ASKING FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS Section

    • Read Matthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
  • Comment upon the scripture as you feel led.
  • Direct the people to pull out a blank sheet of paper (which we’ll need to provide). Have them draw a line down the middle of the paper creating two sections. At the top of the first section, have them write “My Sins.” At the top of the second section, have them write “Sins against me.” Give them 60-90 seconds to create a short list of their own sins in the first section. Then, give them 60 – 90 seconds to create a list of those who have sinned against them.
  • Lead Then, lead the people in a prayer where they ask forgiveness for their own sins and grant forgiveness to those who have sinned against them.

Song About the Forgiveness of God

  • Suggested song: How Can It Be- Lauren Daigle 

PRAISING GOD FOR HIS GUIDANCE Section

    • Read Matthew 6:13“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
  • Comment upon the scripture as you feel led.
  • Recite the model prayer with your people and comment on what it means.
  • Upbeat Closing Prayer by Campus Pastor praising God for who He is, all He has done, and all He will do.
  • Upbeat Closing Praise Suggested Song –

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The Selfish Decree of St. Patrick

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On March 25, 433, St. Patrick stepped onto the shores of Slane, Ireland. He immediately demanded the opportunity to speak to the people of that city. His speech went something like this:

“Good people of the Emerald Isle! Henceforth on March 17th, or upon the weekend closest to that date, the rivers of at least one major city should be dyed green in my honor. People without the knowledge that the 3 leafed shamrock represents the Holy Trinity shall wear them proudly, along with shiny green top hats. I decree that everyone should skip church in order to attend parades where green beads and cabbages will be thrown to the massive crowds who have gathered to celebrate the anniversary of my death! Oh, and children who don’t wear green shall be pinched unmercilessly. Ok, that’s it. Let’s all get sloshed!”

Here’s a slightly more accurate account:

St. Patrick was born to Italian parents, residing in Scotland, in the year 387. When he was 14 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a shepherd. While there, he learned the language and the customs of the people. He also spent much time in prayer and soon dedicated his life to Jesus.  Six years after his capture, he escaped captivity and begged a ship captain to give him passage. Even as he was escaping, he had a dream where the people of Ireland were calling out to him, saying, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”

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Upon his return to England, Patrick began his studies for the priesthood and was later named as Bishop Patrick. He was then given the task of converting Ireland for the glory of God. He did arrive in Slane, Ireland in 433, and set about sharing the gospel with everyone he met. One legend says one Chief named Dichu tried to kill Patrick, but discovered that his arm was unable to move. Once he prayed with Patrick to give his life to Jesus, his arm relaxed and he could move it once again.

Patrick preached the Gospel across Ireland, living the life of a missionary and converting thousands. He planted churches across the entire island, training priests and overseers to lead them. St. Patrick served the Lord for the remainder of his life in Ireland, living most of them in poverty. He passed away on March 17, 461.

The following prayer is attributed to St. Patrick:

I arise today through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth, firmness of the rock.

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me afar and anear,

Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today against wounding.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today through the mighty strength of the Lord of creation.

May we all be as focused on Christ as was St. Patrick.

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Stop the Worship! Let’s Pray…

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How to More Effectively Connect Musical Worship and Prayer

It may sound like a silly question, but have you ever found it distracting when someone stands up to pray in the middle of a worship song set?  I have.

Think about it.  Your morning’s already been a hassle, you’re walking into the church building much later than you intended, you get your kids situated for children’s ministry, and you finally find a seat in the worship center in the during the first song (at least you think it’s the first song).  It takes you a song or two to stop thinking about the pressures of your life, and then, just when you get into a spirit of worship, some staff member comes out, stops everything, and says “Let’s pray.”

Someone’s probably asking right now, “What’s the problem?  Isn’t prayer a part of worship?”

Absolutely.

Too often the worship music and prayer are totally disconnected from one another.  As church leaders, pastors, worship leaders, and pray-ers, we must take time to connect the musical worship and the prayer taking place within the worship set without destroying to the flow of worship.

To take it further, both singing and prayer are worship.  Both can lead us to the throne of God.  Both allow us to exalt and petition the Lord.  Both are important.  That being said, how much better would the entire time of corporate worship be if they didn’t function independently of one another.

That’s why worship leaders, pastors, and prayers need to take appropriate time making the spoken prayer during a worship set fit into the flow of the musical worship.  If this doesn’t happen, there is a disconnect between the two.

It’s like we’re screaming out, “Stop the Worship!  Let’s pray.”  

Breakthrough!

I don’t want that to happen in the worship services where I’m leading, producing, or participating.

Do you?

So what are some ways we can more effectively transition from worship music into prayer?

  1.  Micro-Testimony – Before the prayer leader prays, making a 30 second connection between the theme of the song or the service and the prayer can be most helpful.  This allows the prayer person to seamlessly personalize the worship, connect or reconnect disengaged people to what is happening while adding purpose to the prayer.

Here’s an example sent to me by a friend of mine:

“I had a tough week emotionally.  However, God reminded me through my Bible reading this morning that “His grace is sufficient for me.”  You see, not only does God’s Word sustain us, but it proves that He knows exactly where we are and what we are feeling.  Let’s pray.”

  1.  Scripture – Before the actual prayer, quoting or reading scripture that relates to both the musical worship and the prayer brings both connection and spiritual validity to both song and prayer.  We are blessed to have the Word of God.  We should use it, not only in our preaching, but in our prayer leading as well.

In Isaiah 55:11 (NLT), we read the following words of God:

It is the same with My Word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

If sharing God’s Word always produces fruit and will accomplish all God wants it to in a given moment, it only makes sense to use it wisely in times of corporate worship.

A great scripture to use before praying in worship is Psalm 97:1-6 (seen below in the NLT), especially if you’re focusing on the greatness or holiness of the Lord.

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.  Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.  Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes on every side.  His lightning lights up the world;  the earth sees and trembles.  The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.  The heavens proclaim His righteousness and all peoples will see His glory!

  1.  Praying within a song.  To some worshipers, it may sometimes seem as if prayer breaks up the flow of worship because it always takes place between two songs.  If this is where the prayer always takes place within the worship set, the prayer person and worship leader should work together to find the perfect place within a worship song where the prayer can happen with the instrumental music playing in the background.  Then, following the prayer, the worship leader can move right back into the worship song seamlessly.  Even though this takes more coordination, it can certainly be worth the effort.
  2.  Music intensity.  The musical worship leader and prayer person should coordinate with each other to ensure that the music flows with the prayer.  If the prayer person builds in volume and intensity, the music should build in volume and intensity to create a dynamic, electric atmosphere.  If the prayer becomes more reflective and intimate, the music should diminish in volume and intensity to create a more intimate setting.  The more this becomes the practice with the prayer person, the worship leader and the worship team, the more the worship team will be able to follow the prayer person naturally if the Holy Spirit leads them in different ways during the prayer.

So what’s the secret?

  1.  Preparation.

The person praying must prepare ahead of time.  Preparing to pray something meaningful for 30-90 seconds usually takes longer than most people are willing to spend.  An unprepared prayer spoken on the fly can ruin hours of preparation from the worship and technology teams.  However, a well planned prayer creates a launching pad for a great God moment in our services.

The worship leader and team must be prepared for what is going to happen in the prayer time.  If the music and prayer emphasis doesn’t work together, everyone in the worship center can tell.  However, if the worship team knows what is going to happen, it can help build a spirit of anticipation throughout the worship center that is contagious.

Take the time to prepare your prayer and you will see results.

  1.  Prayer.  

It may seem silly to hear that you need to pray about how you are going to pray.  Isn’t prayer simply “talking with God?”

Yes, it is.  But praying during a worship set is also a powerful tool God has given us to lead people deeper into His presence.  He wants us to “dialogue” with Him about the best way to do this for a particular worship moment.

Besides, if a prayer is important enough to pray before tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people, isn’t it important enough to pray about?

In case anyone’s wondering, the answer is “yes.”

If you have further thoughts about how to more effectively connect musical worship and prayer, I’d love to hear your comments.  

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Late Night Frustration

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There I was, once again, working long into the night, angry that my ministry project wasn’t producing the results I expected.  In frustration, I threw up my hands and cried out, “God, what am I doing wrong?”

That’s when, in my head, I heard a whisper say, “Ask Me for help.”

Why do we do it?  Why do we spend countless hours working on ministry projects, seasonal productions, mission trips, evangelism strategies, small group trainings, and worship planning meetings without asking for God’s favor?  Why don’t we ask Him to establish the work of our hands?

We all make this mistake on an almost daily basis.  We get so busy serving the Lord that we fail to ask Him, the all-knowing Creator God, to guide us in the work that we are doing.  We simply forget to ask Him to bless the work of our hands, minds, and voices.  In other words, we neglect to involve Him in the process of our ministry projects and processes.  Why do we do this?

Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish the work of our hands-establish the work of our hands!  Psalm 90:17 HCSB

It’s time for us to ask His forgiveness.  It’s time that we asked Him for His favor.  It’s time that we trust Him to guide us once again.

Lord, forgive us when we forget You.  May we find favor in Your eyes.  Will You please establish the work of our hands?