How to Get a Richly Supplied Soul

Proverbs contrasts the sluggard who craves and gets nothing with the diligent whose soul is richly supplied, or literally, made fat (13:4). 

No matter how much the sluggard craves something, his inherent laziness precludes him from acquiring anything. He is a victim of his own sins of sloth.

There is only one road to a richly supplied, spiritually fat soul. It’s called diligence. If you and I want a richly supplied soul by God’s grace, we must work at it. Hard.

J. C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, said true Christianity will cost a man his love of ease.

He must take pains and trouble if he means to run a successful race toward heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behavior every hour of the day, in every company and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace. In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of those who he can safely neglect. “The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4) (emphasis mine).

Two emphases tomorrow at OGC will converge towards the end of promoting richly supplied souls for those who participate. In the 9:30 hour (meeting in the sanctuary this week) we will continue our study in Carson’s book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. We have resupplied our resource table with copies that will be available tomorrow. Few books can help us more with how to grow in diligence in our prayers for a richly supplied soul. In the worship service I will preach another New Year’s sermon, this one from Colossians 3:1-4, entitled How to Stop the Sinful Self-Indulgence of the Flesh. Paul uses a diligence verb in his command in verse one – seek the things above where Christ is. Praying is one important way we do seeking that our souls may be richly supplied.

Diet all you will in the New Year that the body may return to fitness after the indulgence of the holidays. But take pains, eschew your love of ease, be diligent, seek the things above, that your soul may be made fat, richly supplied indeed.

Get a good night’s sleep and, Lord willing, I will see you tomorrow.

Lessons from the School of Prayer

That’s the title for chapter one in Carson’s book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, our text for the 9:30 equipping hour during the first quarter of 2010.

Apart from my bleeding mouth (so sorry about that for those who saw it – near as we can figure I bit myself in an area numbed by my cancer surgery – I had no idea it happened until Nancy pointed it out to me), we got off to a smashing start in our study on prayer.

At the end of the class on Sunday I challenged us to four action steps for the quarter:

  1. Read the book.
  2. Attend the class.
  3. Enlist a prayer partner.
  4. Pray through the church directory.

As I made my way yet another time through chapter one in preparation for this week’s study, I was struck by something when I came to the third lesson Carson lists: At various points in your life, develop, if possible, a prayer-partner relationship (p. 22). He talks about several variations on that theme including meeting with a handful of people weekly, perhaps in the early morning, for an hour or more of intercessory prayer.

God has given me just such a group in our staff, interns, and others on Mondays from 6:30-7:30 AM.

The participants change from time to time. This picture was taken on our last day with several of the guys who recently took positions elsewhere around the country. But we continue to meet and it remains a highlight of my week to join with these men in pouring out our hearts to God. We never fail to pray for Monday’s group of folks in the directory!

My hope for what we do in those prayer meetings is well summed up by Dr. Carson on p. 25:

Such clusters of prayer partners have been used by God again and again to spearhead powerful ministry and extravagant blessing. They may continue unnoticed for years, except in the courts of heaven. Some little groups grow and become large prayer meetings; others multiply and divide, maintaining the same principles. But whatever the precise pattern, there is a great deal to be said for developing godly prayer-partnership relationships.

How about you? With whom do you have a prayer-partner relationship? I for one am so grateful for the men God has given me on Monday mornings!

A Call to Spiritual Reformation

It’s Saturday evening. I have just finished my final preparations for tomorrow’s first session of our 9:30 hour 2010 equipping class on prayer.

I’m wondering how much anyone else in our fellowship thinks with me how terribly important this effort is to the vitality and viability of our church in 2010? Oh how I pray many do.

After all, we say intercessory prayer is one of our core values, one of our ten priorities. Here is how we unpack it in our new member’s class:

We value Christ-connected prayer over the ministry. Apart from the power of Jesus Christ working in and through us we can accomplish nothing of lasting spiritual value that magnifies God’s glorious grace (John 15:5). Therefore we will relentlessly saturate every dimension of our ministry with prayer, petition, supplication, and intercession, along with thanksgiving, in order that we might continually abide in Christ, the true vine, and thus bear much fruit (John 15:7-8).

Looks good on paper or in a blog, but oh how much I/we struggle to make it a reality.

Hence the reason for our church-wide emphasis beginning tomorrow morning in the SDA fellowship hall. We want to grow in our experience of vital, intercessory prayer!

D. A. Carson writes in his introduction to the book we will use toward this end:

Just as God’s Word must reform our theology, our ethics, and our practices, so also must it reform our praying. The purpose of this book, then is to think through some of Paul’s prayers, so that we may align our prayer habits with his. We want to learn what to pray for, what arguments to use, what priorities we should adopt, what beliefs should shape our prayers, and much more (pp. 17-18).

Church, my praying needs reforming. What about yours?

A Call to Spiritual Reformation

CarsonI have multiple aims in this post. First, I want to review D. A. Carson’s book by the same title (Baker, 1992, 230 pages). Second, I want to introduce our 9:30 equipping hour curriculum focus for the first quarter of the New Year. The two go hand-in-hand as you will quickly see.

At first glance of the title, you wouldn’t guess the book had much to do with prayer. You have to proceed further to the subtitle for this clarification: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. This work comes from a series of sermons Dr. Carson once preached on the subject of prayer. Baker then took them and edited them into book form for the greater public.

In the preface, the author lays out this lament:

I doubt if there is any Christian who has not sometimes found it difficult to pray. In itself this is neither surprising, nor depressing; it is not surprising, because we are still pilgrims with many lessons to learn; it is not depressing, because struggling with such matters is part of the way we learn.

What is both surprising and depressing is the sheer prayerlessness that characterizes so much of the Western church. It is surprising, because it is out of step with the Bible that portrays what Christian living should be; it is depressing because it frequently coexists with abounding Christian activity that somehow seems hollow, frivolous, and superficial. Scarcely less disturbing is the enthusiastic praying in some circles that overflows with emotional release but is utterly uncontrolled by any thoughtful reflection on the prayers of Scripture (p. 9).

Carson, as would I, admits that he is part of what he condemns. Who hasn’t struggled with the means of grace called prayer in terms of pursuing it with the passion and consistency Scripture commends to us? This makes his aim in writing all the more attractive to me – to work through several of Paul’s prayers in such a way that we hear God speak to us today, and to find strength and direction to improve our praying (pp. 9-10).

After a relatively brief introduction where Dr. Carson presents his case for this lack of prayer constituting the most urgent need of the church, he brings twelve chapters on the subject of prayer. In all he examines seven of Paul’s prayers including 2 Thess. 1:1-12, 1 Thess. 3:9-13, Col. 1:9-14, Phil. 1:9-11, Eph. 1:15-23, 3:14-21, and Rom. 15:14-33.

Interspersed among the soundly exegetical and practical studies of these prayers are topic headings like Lessons from the School of Prayer, Praying for Others, Excuses for Not Praying, and Praying to a Sovereign God. Only in the last chapter on Rom. 15, Prayer for Ministry, did I feel a bit cheated by a more cursory treatment of the biblical text and its ramifications for those of us in vocational ministry than I would have hoped.

Otherwise, and I have read the book in its entirety, this is by far one of the most helpful resources on prayer I have ever encountered. Given the fact that one of our core values at OGC is intercessory prayer and that, to my knowledge, we’ve not given ourselves to an equipping hour yet on this immensely important subject, our leadership team has decided to make this a church-wide emphasis for adults in the first quarter of 2010. We have purchased fifty copies of this paperback book which are available at our resource table in the narthex throughout December. The cost is $13 or whatever you can afford. If you can help someone else in need purchase a book by an extra contribution to the cause, that would be much appreciated.

We will take one chapter per week over the thirteen weeks utilizing the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. We will also do some workshop praying along the way, so we can practice what we are learning. To start we will meet in the fellowship hall. If the crowd proves too big, a problem I would love to have, we’ll move over to the sanctuary. I will take the point on facilitating the discussion, but I am certain that we will do some smaller group work as well to encourage wider levels of participation.

I urge you to get your copy soon and begin to read Dr. Carson’s work so that you might experience what The Banner of Truth wrote on the back cover – the reader is guided, gently yet persuasively, towards a reformation in personal dealings with God.