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A Praying Church, Part 11

May 25, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Last week we considered Miller’s teaching about not becoming bogged down with problems in our prayers. He calls his readers to aim for resurrection hope in their prayers, which often does not include relief from physical problems. As with any sensitive topic, the discussion of praying for problems requires careful wisdom and balance. I believe Miller hits this balanced note with his next chapter, titled “Becoming Real in Prayer.” Authenticity has become a trending word in church circles. Nobody wants to be accused of being inauthentic, or worse, hypocritical. In our prayers, there is no advantage to hide our weaknesses. God invites us to acknowledge our weaknesses in order to rest in his all-sufficient grace and power (2 Cor. 12:9). So, the previous chapter’s warning about becoming bogged down focusing on problems is not an invitation to fake it. The balance is to be open and honest about our problems, while looking and praying for the resurrection work of the Spirit in our lives. ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 10

May 18, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Continuing his discussion about “The Art of Praying Together,” Miller gives some more practical guidance for helping a church become a praying church. In addition to starting small and prioritizing time to pray together (last week), Miller commends restoring prayer to Sunday morning and aiming for resurrection hope when praying for problems. Let me highlight some of his points. Miller states, “In general the death of Wednesday prayer meeting has been accompanied by a weakening of Sunday morning prayer as well” (p. 188). In other words, as the value of prayer is diminished in the weekly worship gathering, the value of prayer will be diminished throughout the life of the church. For instruction and encouragement, Miller draws attention to the practices of the early church. He writes, “The early church believed that corporate prayer joined them to divine power” (p. 189). He then gives some practical points on how a church might elevate the place of prayer in a Sunday worship service (I am happy to say that some of his suggestions are practiced at Oak Hills). He concludes, “When Sunday morning includes time for extended prayer, it fosters a culture of prayer” (p. 190). ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 9

May 11, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Part 4, of five parts, of Miller’s book is titled, “The Art of Praying Together.” In this section, he provides direction for how individual members of the church can help their church become a praying community. He opens with the question, “How do you even start to help your church value praying together?” His first answer, of course, is simple: “by praying” (p. 169). Miller explains, “All great movements of the kingdom begin low and slow, with hidden pray-ers who keep showing up to pray. Who pray when they don’t feel like it. Who pray when there is no change. Who pray when they are discouraged. They are continual in prayer, and then they slowly attract other pray-ers to join them” (p. 170). He presents Anna from Luke 2 as an example of a “hidden pray-er.” She was eighty-four years old when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Luke 2:37 describes her devotion to prayer, “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 8

May 4, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. In a very practical and insightful chapter, Miller addresses the pitfalls of prayer. Jesus highlights in the Sermon on the Mount that there are pitfalls when we engage in prayer. He warns to not be like the hypocrites who pray to be seen (Matt. 6:5-6). He warns against heaping up empty phrases (6:7-8). He warns against putting on a dramatic show to be seen by others (6:16-18). Miller follows Jesus’ lead, and other Scripture passages, to provide five pitfalls to avoid when praying. Avoid Over-Spiritualizing We over-spiritualize our prayers when we use different language or vocabulary than our normal speech. For example, we might think we need to pray using King James language, employing “thees” and “thous.” The problem is that this language is often fake, not reflecting our hearts. Miller comments, “Too often our public prayers are for show and pious effect. They don’t come from the heart. That creates cynicism, which mocks the good. The bottom line is that when pietism does bad, it gets cheesy… Be real. Be yourself. Be careful of a ‘prayer language’ when talking to God. Let prayer be part of the warp and woof of your life” (p. 157). ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 7

April 27, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Like Paul Miller, I find Paul’s doxological prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21 to be remarkable. The apostle Paul concludes the first half of his letter with a final statement of praise to God. Implied in his praise to God is an invitation for the reader to embrace a larger vision of God and what God can and wants to do in our lives. Here is Paul’s praise: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” First and foremost, this is doxology, a praise of God. “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26), even things that are beyond our wildest dreams or imaginations. All glory must and will be given to God in the church throughout all generations. This is no room for human boasting. How does such a doxology impact our prayer life? Paul Miller contends that it draws us into praying big. I must admit that when I read the word “big” I stumble a bit. In our American context, we have a picture of what is “big.” Big equals more. More people. More money. More property. More followers. More technology. More amenities. More. More. More. ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 6

April 20, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. We are still digging into the middle section of this book, titled “How the Spirit Reshapes a Praying Community.” The chapters I want to cover today address specifically the prayer life of leaders in the church. I want to grow in my prayer habits; that is one of the reasons I have chosen to read this book. But I also want to encourage you to grow in your prayer habits. This section applies to you as well, even if you don’t see yourself as a leader in the church. John Maxwell defined leadership as influence. We all have influence at some level, even if it’s just influence over our own lives. In our influence, we ought to let prayer be the backbone. Miller begins by addressing our management style or planning habits. Too often we make our plans and then turn to prayer, asking the Lord to bless our plans. Miller encourages us to flip that script. What if prayer was our management style? What if prayer was our strategic plan? Miller says, “A watchful, prayerful waiting should be the first part of any plan in a Jesus community” (p. 115). ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 5

April 13, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. In part 3 of his book, A Praying Church, Paul Miller addresses the topic “How the Spirit Reshapes a Praying Community.” He has seven chapters diving into the work of the Holy Spirit. We will spend a few weeks unpacking his teaching on this topic. One of the causes of prayerlessness in the church, Miller contends, is a “doubt that the Spirit does anything substantial… The Spirit’s seeming elusiveness, which is anathema to management rationalism, contributes to the weakness of prayer in the modern church” (p. 95). If we do not understand how dependent we are on the Spirit for our spiritual life and well-being, or if we do not understand how the Spirit works on our behalf, we will not turn to prayer, seeking the Spirit’s help. Miller then explains how our prayers interface with the Spirit in seven ways: 1. Surprise; 2. Imagination explosion; 3. Repentance; 4. Dying and rising; 5. Hiddenness; 6. Mystery; and 7. The least of these (p. 100-102). What Miller is highlighting with these seven ways is that we do not control the Spirit, nor do we fully understand how the Spirit works. Reflecting on John 3:8, where Jesus compares the Spirit with the blowing of the wind, Miller says, “Clearly, the Spirit of Jesus is not our assistant. He’s not here to bless our plans. He the free Spirit of Jesus with his own plans and design. We don’t control the Spirit’s timing, method, or result” (p. 97). Therefore, when we humbly depend on the Spirit through prayer, we often will be surprised by the manner the Spirit responds. ... Keep Reading

Small Talk to the Glory of God

April 6, 2023 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments

Throughout the year, there are countless opportunities to share the hope of the gospel with the people around us who may not know Christ (Matt. 9:37). The seasons of Advent and Easter are often natural opportunities before us. As we approach Easter weekend, let us seek out opportunities to share the hope that is within us with others (1 Pet. 3:15). We have various opportunities during our Good Friday service, Easter egg hunt, Easter reception, and Easter Sunday service to connect with visitors who may not know Christ or who may not have a church home. My prayer is that God would enlarge our hearts and give us eyes to see any new faces this coming Easter Weekend at Oak Hills. I’ll be honest, it can be daunting to intentionally initiate a welcome to new visitors. I want to encourage and challenge us to intentionally seek out the opportunities to connect with visitors to the glory of God this weekend. SMALL TALK TO THE GLORY OF GOD Let’s be honest, no one really likes small talk. We often view small talk as conversation to pass the time by. But, small talk is a glorious opportunity that the Lord gives and helps us to see the unique image bearer directly in front of us. General conversations about life, work, family, sports, books, music, all things Kansas, and even weather can help us to hear and to see the person in front of us as the unique image bearer of God they are and to begin a relationship to His glory. God often uses small talk conversations to begin opening doors to deeper conversations, especially about faith and life. Two questions that naturally open up conversation with a new visitor can be simply asking how long they’ve lived in the area and how they came to hear about our church. ... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 4

March 30, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. How we view the church and how it functions directly impacts the prayer life of the church. That is what Paul Miller is explaining in Part 2 of his book, The Prayer Church. Last week, we saw that when we think of the church more in its institutional nature, rather than its organic nature, we diminish the value of prayer. Miller wants us to think of the saints (i.e., the individual believers) when we think of the church. The church institutional exists to equip and feed the church organic. Miller contends, “Feeding saints church as an end in itself leaves them starving and weak, while praying Christ into saints energizes them for ministry” (p. 73). Building on this view of the church, Miller expands the normal understanding of what ministry is. Again, he looks to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as a guide. He says, “What do saints do? They love. So love defines what they do and how they do it. We’ve not gone from theology to application, but from doing faith (Eph. 1-3) to doing love (Eph. 4-6). When doing love becomes mere application, it weakens the church, relegating love to a backwater” (p. 75). Miller does not want us to think of “love” as a tack on for Christian living. Love is a defining mark of true Christians. And all ministry is an outflow of love.... Keep Reading

A Praying Church, Part 3

March 23, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world. Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Church, is broken into five parts with four to six chapters in each part. Part 1, which I covered in my first two articles, addressed the question, “Why Pray Together?” In a nutshell, Miller answers that question by stating, “Prayer accesses the Spirit of Jesus” (p. 30). The Spirit of Jesus brings the power of the gospel to bear on the church and the saints. In Part 2 Miller addresses the question, “What is the Church?” He contends that the church’s “current way of functioning makes it prayer resistant” (p. 47). He explains that when we think of the church more in its institutional nature, rather than its organic nature, we diminish the value of prayer. Miller writes, “So, what is the church? What’s the point of contact of the Spirit’s power with reality? Paul’s answer: the saints!... When the church’s power train (prayer -> Spirit -> Jesus -> power) empowers the saints, the whole church comes alive. People experience a reality of the risen Christ that kills unbelief and cynicism. The Spirit’s energy empowers the little people, allowing the kingdom to come in real time. Jesus is enfleshed” (p. 52-53). When we think of the church as a building and institution, we tend to think of ministry only happening through the weekly worship gathering and its programs. By placing the saints at the center of our answer to the question, what is the church, we begin to elevate the ministry of individual believers taking place in the normal activities of life. Ministry happens when we take time to listen to a neighbor, comfort a hurting coworker, read the Bible with our children, cook a meal for a family recovering from a hardship, share the gospel with a friend, pray for a fellow church member, etc. This cultivates the praying church. “When we see and celebrate saints at work, praying together comes alive in vibrant and fresh ways. Prayers are enlarged from purely personal needs (health, safety, success) to tuning into what the Spirit is doing in multiple lives” (p. 52). ... Keep Reading

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