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Luigi Orione: Pray Nonstop

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Without Prayer nothing good is done. God’s works are done with our hands joined, and on our knees. Even when we run, we must remain spiritually kneeling before Him.”

Luigi Orione (1872-1940) in Prayer: Teach Us To Pray, by Terry R. Lynch (North Charleston: CreateSpace, 2013) 18.

Someone asked me this week about praying the divine hours. Later, I thought about the fact that it’s only a tiny fraction of the day, seven small snippets.

The Apostle Paul urged the Thessalonians to pray nonstop. Orione reminds us that “without prayer nothing good is done.” What role will prayer have in your life after Lent?

Today is a full day of teaching for me. I am learning that preparation means extra time for prayer this morning asking God to prepare me, cultivate hearts, and pour out the Holy Spirit.

My preparation communicates what I believe. If my prep is all about me, then I really think I’m the agent at work. When my prep centers on fasting and prayer, I have hope to teach with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Whether the good works God has prepared for you to today are your service, your giving, or some other facet of generosity, don’t even think of doing it without prayer. Pray nonstop.

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J.B. Lightfoot on the Didache: Fasting and Prayer Rhythms

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

“Let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week; but keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation day (Friday). And do not pray like the hypocrites, but pray as the Lord commanded in His Gospel. Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one; for Yours is the power and the glory for ever and ever. Pray thus three times in the day.”

The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles 8:1-11. On this text, viewed by scholars as the proverbial discipleship manual of the early church, J.B. Lightfoot offers these notes (18).

“Chapter 8 suggests that fasts are not to be on Monday and Thursday “with the hypocrites” – presumably non-Christian Jews – but on Wednesday and Friday. Nor must Christians pray with their Judaic brethren, instead they shall say the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. The text of the prayer is not identical to the version in the Gospel of Matthew, and it is given with the doxology “for Thine is the power and the glory for ever.” The Didache is the main source for the inclusion of the doxology. It does not occur within the oldest copies of the texts of Matthew and Luke. Most biblical scholars agree that it was included as a result of a later edit.”

At least four insights surface in this ancient document and modern commentary for us.

Firstly, fasting and giving can lead to pride. We must not allow this to occur in our hearts in life after Lent. The Pharisee in today’s Scripture was clearly prideful and expected answers from God based on his merit rather than God’s mercy. Don’t go there.

Secondly, we find the early church fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays to differentiate themselves from the “the hypocrites” (presumably non-Christian Jews) who fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Fasting was a Christian rhythm that aimed to point people to Christ.

Thirdly, ever wonder why the phrase “for Thine is the power and the glory for ever” is not in your Bible but a part of tradition. This ancient document is likely the source of the ending of the prayer not found in Scripture. Everyone prayed it so it found its way into manuscripts.

Fourthly, three times a day (likely 9 am, 12 noon, and 3 pm) Christ followers would pause to pray the Lord’s prayer. Try it sometime. When you do this, throughout the course of your day, it’s like resetting your mind and heart to depend on God.

What will your fasting and prayer rhythms be in life after Lent?

Choose a discipline. If you don’t your schedule will just get filled with other things. I would encourage you to consider fasting twice a week and pausing to pray 3 times (or even 7 times) a day in life after Lent. Do this because God does not need our money or our fasting or hollow prayers. He wants our hearts.

These disciplines transform us into people who surrender our will, release financial resources, and have God’s heart. Only once that happens, do we exhibit Christian generosity. We serve others selflessly like Jesus with kindness and allow His money and other blessings to flow freely through us to the people and causes He cares about.

We do this to present Him as the power and the glory of our lives for ever and ever.

I am flying to Dallas today to meet with various Christian workers at the Christian Leadership Alliance Outcomes Conference and to speak tomorrow in an all-day session with Wes Willmer and Greg Henson on our book, The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance.

Thanks for your prayers for safe travel, receptive hearts, and Spirit-filled teaching.

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D.L. Moody: Full Already or Empty

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52

“I believe firmly, that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and self-seeking, and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Ghost will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride and conceit, and ambition and self-seeking, and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else. Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray Him to empty us.”

D.L. Moody (1837-1899) in “Secret Power or The Secret Success in Christian Life and Work,” excerpt from chapter two, in The D.L. Moody Collection (Karpathos Collection: Pronoun, 2015).

During Holy Week we journey with Jesus who surrendered His will for the will of the Father. That’s what happens with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We empty ourselves, we set aside our desires, and we ask God to fill us.

As you journey to the cross this week, I hope you are not full already. Start by asking Jesus to empty you of everything, your self and worldly attachments, so that the Spirit can fill every nook and cranny of your being.

This will position you for life after Lent. Your generosity will reflect an abandonment of your agenda, your pride, and your ambitions. Father, empty us. Spirit, fill us. Do this we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Isidore of Seville: Two Wings for Prayer

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” Matthew 21:13

“With regard to time it has truly been said (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “Pray without ceasing,” but this applies to individuals; in a religious community there is a service at certain hours to signal the divisions of the day – at the third hour, the sixth, and the ninth (i.e. Terce, Sext, and Nones) – and likewise the divisions of the night.

These hours of prayers are apportioned so that, if we should by chance be occupied, the specific time would draw our attention to the divine office. These times are found in Scripture (Psalm 119:164).

First, the Holy Spirit was poured into the gathered disciples at the third hour (Acts 2:15). Peter, on the day in which he experienced the vision of communication in the vessel, had ascended in order to pray at the sixth hour (Acts 10:9–16). Likewise Peter with John went to the temple at the ninth hour when he healed the paralytic (Acts 3:1–8).

But we also read that Daniel observed these times in his prayer (Daniel 6:13), and in any case it is the teaching from the Israelites that we should pray not less than three times a day, for we are debtors of three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – not counting, of course, other prayers as well, which are due without any notice being given, at the onset of day or of night or of the watches of the night.

But we are also not to consume food before we have interposed a prayer, for refreshment of the spirit should come first, because heavenly things come before earthly. Moreover, he who wishes for his prayer to fly to God should make two wings for it, fasting and almsgiving, and it will ascend swiftly and be clearly heard.”

Isidore of Seville (c. 556-636) in The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, Book IV, xix. De Officiis, 60-64, ed. by Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and Oliver Berghof with Muriel Hall (Cambridge: CUP, 2006) 150.

On Holy Week Monday we are reminded that Jesus cleansed the temple. It was not to be a place of buying and selling as if money sustained the ministry there. It was to be a house of prayer for the nations sustained by God.

What if we made our church buildings into places of prayer for the nations? Imagine prayer at the divine hours of 6am, 9am, 12noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, and then some time in the late night or early morning each and every day?

And what if we added two wings to prayer: fasting and almsgiving? Think of the revival that would follow? Consider how this would get God’s attention and what the watching world would witness?

My biggest takeaway from Lent 2019 is the impact of observing the divine hours and feeding on a Psalm seven times a day combining it with prayer and almsgiving. It has impacted me in indescribable ways.

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Peter Kreeft: Prayer and Time

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. John 6:9-11

“We have time and prayer backwards. We think time determines prayer, but prayer determines time. We think our lack of time is the cause of our lack of prayer, but our lack of prayer is the cause of our lack of time.

When a little boy offered Christ five loaves and two fishes, he multiplied them miraculously. He does the same with our time, but only if we offer it to him in prayer. This is literally miraculous, yet I know it happens from repeated experience. Every day that I say I am too busy to pray, I seem to have no time, accomplish little, and feel frazzled and enslaved by time. Every day that I say I’m too busy not to pray, every time I offer some time-loaves and life-fishes to Christ, he miraculously multiplies them and I share his conquest of time. I have no idea how he does it, I know that he does it, time after time.

And yet I resist sacrificing my loaves and fishes to him. I am an idiot. That’s one of the things original sin means: spiritual insanity, preferring misery to joy, little bits of hell to little bits of heaven.

We must restore our spiritual sanity. One giant step in that direction is to think truly about time.
Time is like the setting of a play. The setting is really part of the play, contained by the play, determined by the play. But we often think the opposite: we think the play is contained by the setting. We think that the theme, the meaning, the spirit of the play is in its material setting instead of the other way around…

And since time measures the movements of material bodies, while prayer measures the movements of the soul, time is really in prayer rather than prayer in time. Prayer determines and changes and miraculously multiplies time (the loaves and fishes). But prayer multiplies time only if and when we sacrifice our time, offer it up. There’s the rub. We fear sacrifice…

Eternity is not in the future but in the present. The future is unreal, not yet real. One of the devil’s most ridiculous and successful lies is the idea that we should devote our lives to pursuing and acquiring goods we do not yet have rather than enjoying the ones we do have. This makes us slaves to time, to the unreal future, forever, for “tomorrow is always a day away.”

The first rule for prayer, the most important first step, is not about how to do it, but to just do it; not to perfect and complete it but to begin it. Once the car is moving, it’s easy to steer it in the right direction, but it’s much harder to start it up when it’s stalled. And prayer is stalled in our world.

So stop reading and start praying. Right now.”

Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, from his blogpost entitled, “Time.”

Do what he says. Take time to pray today. Prayer determines time. It helps us grasp what is real and good and true and right. Prayer multiplies time, but only when we sacrifice time.

Live in this reality regarding prayer and time in life after Lent and you will enjoy what you have now, you will find freedom from slavery to things, your time and capacity for generous living will grow exponentially.

And if you have no idea what I just said, stop reading and start praying, now. You don’t figure it out until you live it out. You must sacrifice time for prayer to discover this experientially.

What better day to start than Palm Sunday. Christ is with you. Christ is with me. He is with us.

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Teresa of Ávila: Defect

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

“Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”

Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) as recounted by William J. Elenchin in Happy Without the Meal (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2013) 65.

Fasting teaches us that we don’t really need all the things we think we need. We must learn this because our flesh confuses luxuries with necessities.

We like something once. Then we want it all the time. The more we get it, the more we become a slave to it. The only thing we need is Christ.

The tricky thing that trips up even committed followers of Christ is money. They think they need money to sustain themselves and their families.

This is why the writer of Hebrews reminded us to keep ourselves free of the love of money, which means “I need money to sustain me.” Money does not sustain us. Christ does!

This is why fasting, when combined with giving and prayer during Lent, shapes us into people whose generosity, rooted in contentment, shows the world that having Christ is having all you need.

He heals our defect. We realize we don’t need care and comforts. Though it’s great to enjoy them occasionally. He is all we have ever needed, all we need, and all we will ever need.

Live in this reality in life after Lent.

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Matt Fradd: Are you dieting?

And [Jesus] told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29

“Prayer without fasting is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back, and that fasting without prayer is, well, dieting.”

Matt Fradd on Twitter on 24 August 2013.

Are you dieting? Seriously! Lent is not about sacrificing some kind of food in order to lose a few pounds. It’s about locating power greater than your own.

Part of living, giving, serving, and loving in a manner that exhibits generosity that is distinctly Christian to a watching world is tapping into divine power and abundant capacity.

When the disciples realized that the challenges exceeded their power and abilities, Jesus told them to pray and fast. Instead, so often, we push hard in our own strength and end up weary and worn out.

Don’t diet. Do what He says. I am learning that you don’t figure this out until you live it out.

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John of the Cross: Never Give Up Prayer

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

“Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.”

John of the Cross (1542-1591) in “Counsels to a Religious” in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Washington D.C.: ICS, 2017) 729.

Two things happened linked to the Lenten discipline of prayer in Kentucky over the last two days. I must share them as they relate to generosity and God’s provision linked to answered prayer.

Firstly, upon arrival I had a meeting and time of prayer with my hosts at Asbury Seminary. We prayed specifically that God would surprise our schools with provision for taking time away from work to grow and learn together.

God miraculously moved. Not one but two schools learned of $1 million gifts while we were convened. God reminded us afresh as colleagues that He is our Provider and that He hears our prayers.

Secondly, in giving myself in service to others while I am praying for God’s provision for Global Trust Partners, I prayed for Him to supply in a way that would show me I was supposed to be serving them.

After two long days, God surprised me with just that. He’s raised up another mighty man to stand with me and support GTP. It was not the result of my work but His work in this brother’s life. I am praising the Lord.

I don’t know where you find yourself today, but I want to encourage you to “never give up prayer.” You may be saying to yourself, “But what does faithful prayer have to do with generosity?”

Prayer reorients us to realize our role and God’s role in His work. I have been reminded to serve generously and trust God to supply abundantly. We show our love and trust in God through prayer and service. Never give up prayer.

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Benedict of Nursia: Pray and Work

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

“O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to you. I pledge myself to do your will in all things: To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength. Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness. To honor all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself. To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures. To love fasting. To relieve the poor. To clothe the naked. To visit the sick. To bury the dead. To help in trouble. To console the sorrowing. To hold myself aloof from worldly ways.

To prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Not to give way to anger. Not to foster a desire for revenge. Not to entertain deceit in the heart. Not to make a false peace. Not to forsake charity. Not to swear, lest I swear falsely. To speak the truth with heart and tongue. Not to return evil for evil. To do no injury: yea, even to bear patiently any injury done to me. To love my enemies. Not to curse those who curse me, but rather to bless them. To bear persecution for justice’ sake. Not to be proud. Not to be given to intoxicating drink. Not to be an over-eater. Not to be lazy. Not to be slothful. Not to be a murmured. Not to be a detractor. To put my trust in God.

To refer the good I see in myself to God. To refer any evil in myself to myself. To fear the Day of Judgment. To be in dread of hell. To desire eternal life with spiritual longing. To keep death before my eyes daily. To keep constant watch over my actions. To remember that God sees me everywhere. To call upon Christ for defense against evil thoughts that arises in my heart. To guard my tongue against wicked speech. To avoid much speaking. To avoid idle talk. To read only what is good to read. To look at only what is good to see. To pray often.

To ask forgiveness daily for my sins, and to seek ways to amend my life. To obey my superiors in all things rightful. Not to desire to be thought holy, but to seek holiness. To fulfill the commandments of God by good works. To love chastity. To hate no one. Not to be jealous or envious of anyone. Not to love strife. Not to love pride. To honor the aged. To pray for my enemies. To make peace after a quarrel, before the setting of the sun. Never to despair of your mercy, O God of Mercy. Amen.”

The Prayer of St. Benedict by Benedict of Nursia (480-547). The Rule of St. Benedict is often summed up with the Latin expression “ora et labora” or “pray and work.”

This prayer seemed fitting because it mentions the Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and giving as a part of everyday life. It is also relevant to my situation. I am facilitating meetings with administrators of 13 leading theological schools at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, and we are discussing our faithful work that must be rooted in prayer. This prayer, ascribed to Benedict, helps us as God’s workers to stay centered and focused on Christ. I pray it blesses you and those you share it with (along with the new header photo from horse farm country).

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Council of Trent: Uprooting all sin

For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16

“Pastors should teach that all kinds of satisfaction are reducible to three heads: prayer, fasting and almsdeeds, which correspond to three kinds of goods which we have received from God, those of the soul, those of the body and what are called external goods.

Nothing can be more effectual in uprooting all sin from the soul than these three kinds of satisfaction. For since whatever is in the world is the [lust] of the flesh, the [lust] of the eyes, and the pride of life, everyone can see that to these three causes of disease are opposed also three remedies. To the first is opposed fasting; to the second, almsdeeds; to the third, prayer.

Moreover, if we consider those whom our sins injure, we shall easily perceive why all kinds of satisfaction are reduced especially to these three. For those (we offend by our sins) are: God, our neighbour and ourselves. God we appease by prayer, our neighbour we satisfy by alms, and ourselves we chastise by fasting.”

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) in “The Catechism of the Council of Trent” (John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan, 1923) 189.

The Council of Trent drew from the rich legacy of the church. Therein we find quotes from Augustine, Chrysostom, and many other saints in church history.

We also find that fasting, praying, and almsdeeds are presented as three primary practices that minister to our soul and our body. They teach us how to relate to earthly goods and work to uproot all sin from our lives.

Notice that the Council urges pastors to teach this. Pastors, pay attention! Urge prayer so people connect with God. Call for alms to show love of neighbor. Exhort fasting to save us from ourselves.

It is fitting that I quote the Council of Trent today as one of my books that I am giving to some of the seminary leaders today is my most recent ECFA Press book, The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance.

Thanks for your prayers for fruitful meetings at Asbury Theological Seminary. I arrived late last night so I will try to post a beautiful header photo from Kentucky tomorrow.

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