20/20 Vision 

We have entered a new year – 2020
And, we have also entered a new decade – 2020 to 2030
God has been very active bringing us to this point
In our personal lives
In our corporate life as a local church
In the worldwide Church as the Kingdom continues to expand
He has been very active
He is very active
He will be very active as we enter a new year and a new decade
Often we don’t see Him at work. But the Bible states that He is bringing everything forward to completion

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12 Keys to a More Powerful Prayer Life

12 Keys to a More Powerful Prayer Life

12 powerful prayer principles from the life of Jesus Christ. It will made such a difference in your personal prayer life.

Principles of Powerful Prayer

There are only 17 references to Jesus praying and most of them are in the book of Luke.

1.  The principle of ILLUMINATION.

Luke 3:21-22 says, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My Son whom I love. With You I am well pleased.’” The setting here was Jesus’ baptism and this is the first recorded example of Jesus praying, and we see in the book of Luke three results of His praying.
Heaven opened up.
The Holy Spirit came down.
The Father spoke.

These are three results when we make contact with God in our prayers. Symbolically, heaven opens up and we receive God’s blessing. The Holy Spirit fills our lives afresh. And the Father speaks to us. If you’d like to know the Spirit’s power in your life, if you’d like God to speak to you, you must practice the powerful prayer life of Jesus.

2.  The principle of ISOLATION.

Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” “Often” means it was His habit. He did it in places where He was all by Himself. I believe this is absolutely essential. We need to spend time alone with God every day. Jesus returned again and again to a lonely place. Find that place where you can get alone with God, where you can be isolated and pray aloud and let God speak to you.

3.  The principle of CONCENTRATION.

Luke 6:12 says, “In those days Jesus went out on the mountainside to pray and He spent the night praying to God.” Notice it says, “He spent the night.” Some of the greatest lessons of my life have been nights that I have spent in prayer. Sometimes when I pray it takes just a few minutes for me to get my thoughts collected. Sometimes it takes a long time for me to even get in the mood and touch the heart of God. I’ve found that it’s important to, on occasion, spend extended blocks of time with God. This powerful prayer enables you to concentrate on who He wants you to be and what He wants you to do for Him – His will for your life.

4.  The principle of INSULATION.

The Bible says, “Once when Jesus was praying in private, the disciples were with Him.” Notice that the disciples were with him but He still found time for personal prayer. This is an important principle because there’s not always time to get alone by yourself. There are times when you can’t be isolated. I think of this as kind of an incubator verse. Babies can be in the middle of a busy hospital, but they can be incubated in a situation that protects them from the hustle and bustle around them. Sometimes I find as an apostle I just can’t get alone, but I can have an attitude of isolation or insulation and I can be silent even in the middle of a traffic jam. My prayer can overcome the interruptions when I put myself in an attitude of insulation.

5.  The principle of TRANSFORMATION.

We find this in Luke 9:28-29. “He took Peter, John and James with Him and went up on a mountain to pray. As He was praying the appearance of His face changed and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening.” Prayer changes you. Do you think it’s possible to spend so much time with God that when you come away your face shows it?

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all with unveiled faces behold the glory of the Lord.” As we look on Him “we are transformed from one degree to another.” The word in that passage is the word katoptrizo. It’s the only time that word is used in the entire Bible. It means ”to seriously look at, to contemplate, to meditate, to gaze on like somebody gazing in a mirror.” As we gaze on the word, as we reflect on the word, like a mirror reflects, we become more and more like Christ. And we’re transformed.

6.  The principle of EXEMPLIFICATION.

Luke 11:1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place and when He finished one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’” Notice it does not say “teach us how to pray,” which is often misquoted. It says “teach us to pray.” I would suggest that this is a dangerous, powerful prayer to pray. We should not pray this request unless we really mean it, because God will often use trials and hardships and difficulties to teach us to pray.

7.  The principle of PRESERVATION.

In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says, “Simon, Simon. Satan has asked to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” This is a prayer of protection. We don’t just believe in prayer, we believe in God. Jesus not only saves you but He prays for you. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.” God is praying for us right now. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

8.  The principle of PREPARATION.

In Luke 22:42 Jesus prays, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will but Yours be done.” Notice the change in this prayer. First, He said, take it away from Me. Then He said, “Lord, leave it.” He prayed earnestly. Why? Because He knew He would be facing in the next few hours the greatest trial of His life and He didn’t want to approach it prayerless.

9.  The principle of REVELATION.

This is the powerful prayer that Jesus prayed on the cross. One of the seven last words of Christ was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing.” We can really learn a lot about Christ’s character here because He’s in agony. He’s in pain, yet He’s praying for other people. When you watch what other people say and do and pray when their back is up against the wall, it reveals what’s really inside of them. Prayer, like nothing else, is revelation of a person. It shows what’s inside the heart.

10.  The principle of SATISFACTION.

In Luke 22:46, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.’ When He said this, He breathed His last.” Jesus satisfied God the Father because He did what He was supposed to do. But more than just that, Jesus was satisfied Himself with what He had done. Because of that—that He had satisfied the Father and He was satisfied with Himself—He can satisfy every need that you will ever have. He said, “I’ve finished it all. It’s all complete.”

11.  The principle of GRATIFICATION.

Jesus expressed His gratitude for what God had done in His life. It says that when He was at the table with the 12, He broke bread, He gave thanks and He broke it and began to give it to them. He gave thanks. This is probably the one sin that is the root of so many other sins—ingratitude. I believe our prayers should be filled with thanksgiving. In Philippians it says, “Make your requests with thanksgiving.” When we ask, we should also be grateful at the same time.

12.  The principle of BENEDICTION.
Luke 24:50 says, “When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and He blessed them.” It’s interesting to me that the very last thing Jesus did was hold His hands out and He blessed them. He holds His hands out so they would see the scars that are in His palms. It is no wonder that when He went to bless them and held out His scarred hands, they went from there immediately and left to spend 10 days in powerful prayer.

Ralph Howe Ministries
www.ralphhoweministries.com

The Start of a New Year

Here is what I know about the new year – it won’t turn out the way you hope it does.  It won’t be near as good as you want it to be. It will not be the fulfillment of your fondest dream. It will not be anything like what you think it should be. How do I know that? Well, after 70+ years of life I simply have come to that conclusion. And, it is not negative – it is simply truthful and realistic. And, approaching a new year with this attitude means I recognize that bad things do happen to good people. And, there are many up and downs in any given 12 month period. 

Life is filled with ups and downs. The problem is that what most of us want is ups and ups. That’s not possible. I think it’s pretty obvious that no one gets to escape bad experiences. But, we must remember that God is in control and that He is with us and will see us through no matter what the new year brings our way. And, that as a result of our faith in Him we will be stronger and better off at the end of the year than at the start.

There is an old saying: ‘Some days you’re the pigeon; some days you’re the statue!”

We can do everything in our power to avoid negative experiences and not be the statue, but they (the pigeons) have a way of finding us. I love the quote, “I try to take life one day at a time, but lately several days have attacked me at once.” No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, or what your background is, you will have to deal with bad experiences in 2020.

As television host and author observed, “Expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.” You have to have realistic expectations when it comes to pain and problems. You can’t avoid them. Everyone has bad experiences. Starting a fresh, new year does not alter that truth.

But, my observation is that there are few people, even few believers, who make bad experiences positive experiences.

Life’s difficulties do not allow us to stay the same. They move us. The question is in which direction will we be moved: forward or backward? When we have bad experiences, do we become better or bitter? Will those experiences limit us or lead us to grow? As Warren Lester remarked, “Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.”

When tough times and bad experiences come, many people don’t respond well. Some seem to have the motto that I once saw on a bumper sticker: “When the going gets tough, it’s time to take a nap.” What a shame. We need to be examining the bad experience, looking for lessons that will help us to grow. Yes, bad experiences can be painful. But don’t waste the experience or the pain. Learn from them. Most successful people will point to the hard times in their lives as key points in their journey of development and growth. If you are dedicated to growth and becoming more mature, then you must be committed to managing your bad experiences well and learning from them. 

So, let your discomfort and disappointment in 2020 be a catalyst for your development. Growth is the best possible outcome for any negative experience. 

So a story to drive home the point:

There was this chicken farmer whose land was flooded nearly every spring. He didn’t want to give up the farm and move, but when the water backed up onto his land and flooded his chicken coops, it was always a struggle to get his chickens to higher ground. Some years he couldn’t move fast enough and hundreds of his chickens drowned.

After the worst spring he’s ever experienced and losing his entire flock, he came into the farmhouse and told his wife. “I’ve had it. I can’t afford another place. I can’t sell this one. I don’t know what to do.”

His wife replied, “Buy ducks.”

The people who make the most out of bad experiences are the ones who find creative ways to meet them, like the farmer’s wife in the story. They see possibilities within their problems. 

Author Neale Donald Walsh asserted, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I believe that creativity begins at the end of your comfort zone. When you feel the pain of bad experiences, creativity gives you the opportunity to turn that pain into gain. The secret to doing that is to use the energy that comes from either adrenaline or anger and use it to solve problems and learn lessons. 

When you have had a bad experience, instead of letting it discourage you or make you angry, try to find ways to let it prompt your creativity. 

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part four

We were chatting about Mr. Rogers and his desire to be revolutionary and a radical. His radicalness was to allow silence when he was engaging with people… (see yesterday’s blog)

Again from a great book that I have recently read …

One year he was invited to the White House for a conference on children’s education and television, where he met with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and the highest-level executives of PBS. And how do you think he started that meeting with some of the most powerful people in the world? With sixty seconds of silence during which they were told to think of someone who had an impact on them.

He did the same thing when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement award at the 1997 Emmys. In the middle of his speech, he took off his watch, told the audience he’d keep the time, and led them in the very same exercise. He was leading not just the audience in the theatre, but also 18,744,000 people watching all over the country in the very same moment. And it was clear from the first second or two, when a few in the audience laughed or howled, that they thought that he was just joking.

But he was serious.

It was the Emmys and millions were watching. One second of silence could easily lose those millions of viewers.

I particularly love Esquire’s account of the moment:

And he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, “I’ll watch the time,” and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked … and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds … and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, “May God be with you” to all his vanquished children.

I wonder how many that night truly experienced their first minute of intentional, deliberate silence.

To watch this special time go to: https://youtu.be/Upm9LnuCBUM

Here’s the truth we have to reckon with: slow or silent space doesn’t mean wasted space – no matter how much our world tells us it does.

Empty space does not need to always, inherently, be filled.

It just can be. 

What would it look like if we were people who reclaimed spaces of silence as an act of resistance in our daily lives?

For another amazing video … Mister Rogers was reunited with Jeff Erlanger, a quadriplegic man in a wheelchair who had been on his show decades before as a kid. Mr. Roger’s gentleness and tenderness in that moment is honestly one of the most real and beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on TV. It’s when Mr. Rogers showed himself to be a resister and rebel all over again. 

Link:  https://youtu.be/MRaq11KiARM  

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Three

We need a “quiet revolution.” There is simply too much noise too often everywhere we go. The other day coming back from Eastern Canada to my home out west there was music playing on the plane as we loaded ourselves and our bags into the small space we purchased by obtaining a ticket. When we landed the same music came back on as soon as we came to a stop. Now listen (pun intended), we were not paying any attention to the music. We were busy squeezing ourselves into the small space we rented and then trying to get ourselves and our carry-ons out of the small space and off the plane as quickly as possible. 

My point: there is noise everywhere even when no one is wanting it or it is just adding to the noise and commotion of life in general. We need a quiet revolution.

Recently I read the following in a great book I took time to read as I drank great coffee in the stillness and solitude of my study – in an oversized, comfortable chair that has been my friend for 30 years. (I’ll leave the quotation marks out – anything in brackets I have added)

When we think of famous rebels or revolutionaries or resisters from history, we tend to think about noise and violence, about warfare and a small band of militia fighters trying to take down an empire. (You know, for example, Star Wars!)

Not me. I think about Fred Rogers.

Yes, Mister Rogers.

Of course, there’s the urban legend he was a Navy SEAL and wore those awesome cardigan sweaters to cover up full-length arm sleeve tattoos. But I don’t mean in that regard.

Mister Rogers was a rebel and a revolutionary because of how different he was on television. I remember watching him as a kid and gravitating towards his peace and calm and secure quietness – maybe because I always had such a tough time with those exact things.

Looking back now, it’s astonishing to think about what he did. How he predicated his show on calm, slow, methodical, and pointed talking. Yet silence and slowness are now treated like diseases to be eradicated. Television inherently calls for more noise and stimulation. The cuts and pace and music are intentionally nothing like real life…In fact, especially during Mister Roger’s era, I remember cartoons growing in noise, speed, and stimulation. Today most animated shows are an assault on the senses, causing violence to our more sensitive awareness. Attempting to entertain and stimulate via a metaphorical shock that ends up frying the more fragile parts of us.

Rogers knew that, and he knew it was creating a culture of buzz and anxiety. So he fought for the opposite.

Think of the boardroom fight that must have happened at least once or twice. Fred, you can’t be silent for ten seconds and say or do absolutely nothing on TV. That’s the equivalent of a year in television time! People will immediately turn it off.”

But Rogers knew the difference. The media’s culture of noise is like giving someone meth or cocaine. It overstimulates, lies to your senses, and then something in you weirdly craves it again – even though before you experienced it you never realized you desired it.

The only way to fight something like that is with the anchored, deep, slow presence of silence.

Silence today is rare, so undervalued, that it is an act of resistance.

Rogers would use that silence strategically. “Silence is the greatest gift we have,” he once said. And he fought for that silence everywhere.  

He even had a ritual in which every meeting, spanning across decades, had to start with silence. He’d instruct his staff and team to take one minute at the beginning of the meeting to think of a person who had a positive impact on their life. And he’d watch the time and tell them when the minute was up.

More of this story next time ….   In Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Four

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Two

When we first think of silence and solitude, we may not care much about it, or we may think it sounds religiously sexy and hipster, cool, and trendy.

Until we try it.

And then we are shocked and maybe terrified by it.

Because in silence we feel exposed and naked, and weirdly we become noisy. Not outwardly but inside our heads. So we quickly dismiss it. “Nah, I’m good.”

But here’s the unsexy and unpolished truth: our aversion to that nakedness and the awkwardness and ugliness we feel are actually why we need to do it. We need silence and solitude. If we never experience it, we are continually buzzing, always anxious, wired, and on edge, empty and spiritually thin and malnourished. 

This, of course, is what we see in the Church and the lives of individual believers today. A lack of spiritual life and vitality. People going through the ‘Christian motions’ without the emotions. Going through the traditional, religious, daily habits of prayer and Bible reading and yet not experiencing life. Just existing. Or, already spiritually dead and not knowing it. As Paul reminded Timothy, these are people “who hold to the outward form of our religion but deny the power thereof.”

And here’s the worse part: This feeling of nakedness, ugliness, and awkwardness is just the beginning. If we stay in the desert (solitude with silence) longer and push through it, up bubbles a myriad of distractions, random ideas, images, and thoughts that feel so uncomfortable we wonder, “Do I really have these thoughts? Where is this coming from?”

But to stay put in the quiet place is to stay put in the desert. A place we can’t survive on our own, where mirages of our false self pop up again and again. And we are desperate for someone to save us and meet us there. Thirsty for just a drop of water.

And that’s where these words of Henri Nouwen speak to us over and over again as a beautiful reminder.

“The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Silence and solitude are like a graveyard for all the worst in you and your false self. Dare we say, your religious self.

And, if we want to live into our true selves, the ones Jesus created us to be, we have to enter through the graveyard. We have to take ourselves to the desert. There we will finally discover the real person that God created. Burying the person that we have allowed others and our culture and society to form. The one that religion has approved even though your life was lived on the surface and you were spiritually thin or maybe even dead. 

Silence and solitude hurt. So, we naturally work hard to avoid it. We want to avoid the silence and the solitude because we don’t like what happens and what we see when in the silence. And, we have been fed this non-biblical idea that time alone with Jesus (our morning devotions)  was therapeutic, beautiful, serene, and peaceful. Just not true. Being in His presence is life changing. And, it means facing who we are so that we can become who He created us to be. That is difficult and can even be seriously messy and painful.

So, it seems we have two options. We can go around my true self and stay within the noise. Or we can go through to our true self within the silence and the solitude.

The beautiful part is that even though it’s messy and painful and glaring, we aren’t alone.

Jesus meets us there. He was waiting for us. In silence. In our pain. And let’s be honest; sometimes it feels like He doesn’t show up. But when we keep showing up – again and again – He doesn’t leave us out in the cold alone.

As the prophet Isaiah said, Jesus gives us “streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). He meets us in the place of death with sustaining life. He won’t take us out of that place, but He will sustain us in it.

In fact, when we see His face in those moments, it’s almost as if we’re not waiting for Him; it’s as if He’s been waiting for us. In that mundane, everyday ordinariness, we see Him. Face to face. Eye to eye. And we start to hear something different.

Not noise, but His voice. And He says, “This is your true self. The one I saw when I died for you. I’ve been here the whole time, waiting for you to get here.” 

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part One

Well, Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone. They are often noisy events. More noise on top of what is already a noisy existence in our world. Have you noticed? It is noisy out there in the world – in restaurants, stores, shopping malls, theatres, everywhere. And, it is noisy in our homes with the television going, kids on iPads, iPhones, Spotify, SiriusXM, and numerous other ways to get our ‘noise fix’ for the day.

I took one of my daughters out for lunch just before Christmas. I arrived early so I could relax and read for a few minutes. But, the music was playing so loud it hurt my ears. And, the staff were over the other side of the restaurant talking to each other. Well, really they were literally yelling at each other. They had to yell to be heard. Sad. When my daughter came and the lunch crowd began to arrive – they turned the “noise” up. First and last time I will spend my time and money there.

During the holidays I was having a great night’s sleep when all of a sudden I woke up. Something was different. Now, I live in a fairly quiet house. And, my office and study are upstairs and away from normal life and people traffic. So, I am use to quiet even when working. But, that night I woke up and knew something was different. It was creepy silent. The power had gone out in my region of the city. And, all the white noise that is normally there was all of a sudden quiet, gone, still. The noise went from quiet – I would say silent – to creepy silent. The noise dropped from silent to terrifying. The dozens of devices that are usually receiving electricity – the clock, the iPhone charging, the computer (which is never turned off), the fridge in my study (you know, Coke Zero), the freezer, the modem, the fan. They were no longer buzzing. That was true silence. And I realized that I had not really “heard it” for ages.

I think we have just become use to the constant noise that is in our world. Dare I call it noise pollution. Our minds block out a lot of the noise and so we don’t pay any attention to it – thus it does not even register that it is out there. So, even a quiet place – like Starbucks where I sometimes go to read and write – is not really quiet. I have just learned to block out most of the noise – the coffee machines grinding coffee, the steam being let out of the milk warmers, the music they play, the ice box lid sliding back into place, the scooping and rattling of the ice for a drink, cups and lids snapping, names being called out when an order is ready, doors opening, the drive-thru window opening, and people talking at the next table.  It is amazing how noisy it  really is for a “quiet place” that many people use for work – and how good we have gotten at being numb to the noise. 

Noise distracts. Numbs. And we are surrounded by white noise even though we often fail to hear it or recognize the influence it is having on us. The damage it is doing. As a society, we have normalized insane levels of noise. It is difficult today to find the quiet that we need – as humans, as believers who are in a personal relationship with Jesus.

Here is what I have discovered…

Silence is quiet. But it also roars,

Noise distracts. Numbs.

And while the white noise all around us is certainly not ideal, I don’t think we realize how quickly “normal” noise crosses into damaging noise. This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life and our spirit’s connection with God’s Holy Spirit. 

So, during the Christmas and New Year’s break from active ministry I have worked diligently to keep family activities at a minimal so that I could have some serious quiet – Intense silence. I have worked hard to carve out time for ‘Intentional Deliberate Silence.’ Add to this being alone for an extended period of time – it called “solitude” and it is a receipt for renewal and discovery.

Henri Nouwen, a powerful Christian writer and activist, said about his experience with silence and solitude: “Solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born.”

In other words, it is not a therapeutic place. It is a place where you go to die. 

He went on to say that silence is such a force because it is truly one of the only places we are laid bare. Completely naked.

No calls to make. No meetings to attend. No tasks to accomplish. No music to listen to. 

It’s complete nothingness. He goes on to say, “A nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.”

More next time…