Singing with Little Enthusiasm and Praying with Little Heart

Too often we sit distracted and disinterested in our corporate gatherings. We sing with little enthusiasm. We pray with little heart. We treat the privileges of God’s family as if they were mere little obligations.

All the while, little eyes are watching us.

But when those eyes see in the adults around them a passion for Jesus that seems at once both unreasonable and yet remarkably genuine, then the doorway to their hearts might be cracked open by the Holy Spirit.

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Fear of God Devotional: Suppressing the Fear of God



Do you fully realize that God sees each of your actions and thoughts at all times and that nothing is hidden from His sight? How should that realization impact the way you live?

In this short video, Jason Dohm explains that over time, some individuals have seared their conscience so severely through rebellion and repeated sin that their memory of God has begun to fade and they are being given over to a depraved mind. They have chosen to suppress the fact that they live every second under the eye of God. It is a sobering thought.

Why do they feel like they can act however they want? When you realize that every second you live is under His gaze, there is a subsequent fear of God. However, when you lose that fear of God and when you think you’re not under a righteous and holy God who will judge you, you become incrementally more careless with respect towards sin and often resort to committing evil acts that you would never even think of doing.

Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV) – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

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Fear of God Devotional: The Fear of Displeasing God



Do you strive to please God by repenting of sin and pursuing righteousness? Or have you become complacent with sin and your affections are elsewhere, instead of being fixed on God?

Joel Beeke explains that as Christians, we know that sin greatly displeases God. Consequently, we should earnestly pray that we would have a childlike fear of God and desire to please Him with our actions and words. We ought to pray for strength to mortify sin in our life and live our lives only for Him. We ought to seek to put to death every sin and pursue Christlikeness.

Colossians 3:5 (NKJV) – “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

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Fear of God Devotional: The Fear of God in Evangelism



How should the fear of God impact what we say when we evangelize?

Paul Washer gently reminds us that it is only the Spirit of God that can create a fear of God in an unbeliever’s heart. We are not the cause of a new heart in an unsaved soul. When evangelizing an unbeliever, we must first explain who God is, what His law is, and His plan of redemption instead of starting with wrath and condemnation. Then, the Spirit of God will work to create that fear in people’s hearts. Taking the time to sit down with an unbeliever, answer questions, and explain biblical truths is an avenue through which the Spirit of God can work to create the fear of God in their heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV) – I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

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Teaching Our Congregation to Pray Corporately

We want to be a praying church

We have set aside Wednesday nights for corporate prayer and we desire that all of us will make it a fixed priority in our weekly schedules. The early church was a praying church, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42). Further, the apostles called for prayer in the churches. An example of this is when Paul urged Timothy that the church in Ephesus be a praying church, Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

This is why every aspect of the church’s life and ministry ought to be undergirded with regular, fervent prayer.

Many different experiences

In our local church, we have found that people have had many different experiences in churches where corporate prayer is practiced. They naturally bring those practices into their new church. Some of their practices may even be harmful. For this reason, we have found that the church needs instruction in order to engage the time for the greatest value. However, we quickly acknowledge that the most influential matter of corporate prayer cannot be taught or governed. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through a consecrated people, in true fellowship with God who have fixed their hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Even so, there are things we have tried to teach our church in order to rightly enter into our times of corporate prayer. Therefore, the things we teach regarding prayer are not recipes for success. Rather they are underlying practices that assume the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Following are twelve guidelines we recommend to our church for corporate prayer at Hope.

1. We move quickly to prayer.

As we gather for corporate prayer we desire to move quickly to prayer. We begin with singing right away, then receive some brief instruction on prayer from one of the elders or another appointed man in the church, and then we go straight to prayer. We do not take requests as this consumes valuable time that can result in unprofitable speech and even gossip. This is why we go directly to prayer.

2. We desire our prayers be God centered and Christ exalting.

As we enter into prayer, we desire that our prayers be substantially and expansively God centered. This means that we prioritize giving glory to God for His person and His works.

3. We recognize there is a difference between corporate and private prayer. 

In private prayer an individual goes to the secret place to pray personal prayers. These prayers are individual in nature and evidenced by the use of the word,  “I” in the prayer.

In corporate prayer the church goes to a public place to pray and they use “we” rather than “I.” This indicates that the church is a unified body. There are several aspects of this unity. First, when we pray, we are representing one another. Second, we are helping and guiding one another by carrying one another along. Third, as one body, we lift one voice to God.

4. We are acknowledging we are not alone in this world.

You are part of a family. We support one another. We listen to one another. We groan together. We weep and rejoice together. We acknowledge one another – our sins, struggles, joys, and victories. When we pray about problems… its no longer “their problem,” it’s “OUR problem.” This is the nature of our unified prayer. The Bible commentator, John Fawcett, explained it this way, “Before the Father’s throne, we pour our ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.”  

It’s very nature draws man close to God. When we are commanded to pray, it is an appeal for love. Come close. Speak. Listen.

5. We understand that prayer involves man in the holy and perfect work of God in the world.

God has ordained all things for His own glory including every moment of history. History is important because God is using all of History to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners and their final glorification. He takes the despised, defiled, unprofitable sinners of this world and welcomes them into His eternal home.

In this sense, God uses the prayers of His people to accomplish what He has pre-determined by the sovereign power of His will. In prayer, we enter into the work of God.

Prayer is meant to play a primary role in the life of the church for advancing the kingdom of God. Since prayer is one of the most important weapons against the works of darkness, it is very important that we are a praying church.

6. We recommend that prayer is “the chief use of the tongue.”

John Calvin speaks of prayer as the chief use of the tongue, “During our Savior’s ministry, He referred to the Temple as ‘A house of prayer’ (Matt. 21:13). He taught by this term that the chief part of His worship lies in the office of prayer, and that the Temple was set up like a banner for believers so that they might, with one consent, participate in it . . . The chief use of the tongue is in public prayers, which are offered in the assembly of believers, by which it comes about that with one common voice, as it were, with the same mouth, we all glorify God together, worshipping Him with one spirit and same faith” (Calvin’s Institutes III, p. 29-31).

7. We have a general pattern for prayer.

We have the pattern for prayer that many Christians use: A.C.T.S (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). These elements should be part of every prayer meeting.

Adoration:

Adore Him in the way He desires to be adored,

Psalm 48:1, 9-10

Psalm 92

Psalm 148

Confession:

Confess to Him the way He desires to receive confession,

1 John 1:9

Psalm 51:4, 10-12

Daniel 9:16,11:3

Thanksgiving

Give thanks the way He wants to be thanked,

Romans 3:22-24

Psalms 136

 

Supplication

Make supplications for the things He desires to do,

1 Timothy 2:1-2

Colossians 1:9-11

Philipians 4:19

8. We encourage one another to pray the words of Scripture

There are particular blessings that come from praying Scripture. We are not suggesting that all our prayers must come from Scripture. Please consider looking at your Bibles to see what Scripture might be a blessing to the congregation. Pray, using His Sword, Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active.” Pray His language. Pray His commands. Pray His promises. Pray for His intentions.

9. We give specific instructions for prayer

1. Pray all, to fulfill the command to pray.

Often a few end up praying and it’s the same old people. If you are one of those who normally does not pray, ask yourself why and take steps to break your pattern of un-involvement. Most of the time people don’t pray because their spiritual fervor is at a low point. They have not been feeding themselves spiritual food and are starving and therefore have nothing to give. If you have nothing to give, realize that you are not only hurting yourself, you are also defrauding your brethren.

2. Pray short, so more can pray.

Long prayers should be avoided in order to allow all to pray.

3. Pray consecutively without gaps, to redeem the time.

Often there are gaps in the prayers with long silences. The church should avoid these, and take up the time for more glory given to God.

4. Pray together, to be unified.

When we pray we should be praying the same thing together with heartfelt affirmation of the prayer.

5. Pray responsively, and say “Amen” at least in your heart.

Letting a prayer fall to the ground without explicit agreement and saying “amen” either in your heart or with your mouth diminishes the weight of the prayer in your heart. This is one way prayer unites us.

6. Pray loud enough so others can hear.

One problem with corporate prayer is that people often pray as if they were alone, as if they don’t understand the difference between private and corporate prayer.  So, be sensitive and kind and pray so that everyone can hear… even the oldsters who can’t hear that well anymore and the people in the far corner of the room.

10. We involve the whole family in prayer

Bringing children to prayer is an important part of their involvement in biblical church life. Since, prayer is one of the most important aspects of church life, it should not exclude children. Here are a few tips for including children. 

First, prepare them for prayer. Like any other believer they need to be taught to pray in the same way Jesus taught His disciples when they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Children should be taught the meaning of prayer and how to conduct themselves in a prayer meeting. For example, they need to be taught to listen, and say “amen” to the prayers. If they are very little, you can squeeze their hands when a prayer is concluded to remind them to be involved. 

Second, use your family worship times to instruct them on how to pray using the Lord’s prayer as a guideline.  

Third, recognize when they are not praying in a godly way, by speaking to them if they are praying with silliness, monopolizing or to draw attention to themselves. The Apostle Paul said that when he was a child he spoke and thought as a child, and so we should not expect children to pray the prayers of the mature, but we should not constrain them in prayer unless their prayers are inappropriate. 

Fourth, help your children. One of the challenges with including children in prayer is fidgeting. My own grown children have had a practice with their children that I feel has been very effective in dealing with this problem. They simply require that their children fold their hands during prayer. It helps a great deal. They have found that in time they will be able to sit still in prayer.

11. We remember the warning: God does not hear prayers when there is sin.

The very act of prayer is designed by God to restrain sin in our lives. God gives us His Spirit, His Word, a conscience, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. God desires for us to meet our sin through prayer. He does this through warning us of the kind of prayer that will go unanswered as in Psalm 66:18-20, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy away from me!”” See also, 1 John 1:8.

If I have seen iniquity in my heart and indulged in it, if I have seen it and been unwilling to despise it and turn away from it then I am a hindrance to the whole church when we pray.

12. We remember why we must pray

We must pray because God has called us to pray, we need to pray and the world needs us to pray. Some men traveled to meet Charles Spurgeon to see what they could learn about the remarkable ministry they had observed at the Tabernacle. They asked about why there was so much power in the ministry. He took them down the hallway, and down two flights of stairs to the basement. He opened the door and there were 200 men on their knees. Spurgeon said, “this is the boiler room of the church.” The pulpit was directly above the room. He told them that their prayers lifted him up to heaven while he was preaching. This is what we are doing in prayer. When we come together we become the chief power source of the equipping and evangelization of the church.

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Fear of God Devotional: The Blessing of the Fear of God in the Church



How is the fear of God present when a member of the church undergoes church discipline?

When biblical church discipline of a believer living in sin takes place, there is a fear of God that comes upon the church as a result. Once that believer is ultimately restored, the church body is blessed by seeing the restoration of that wayward church member. Ultimately, the church body better understands the judgment of God while witnessing the grace of God upon the repentant individual. This, Paul Thompson explains, is a blessing and encouragement to the church.

Galatians 6:1 (NKJV) – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

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Rend the Heavens


“Rend the heavens…” Isaiah, is full of zeal for awakening and in this passage, the prophet issues an urgent plea for it. He is a man who will not rest, “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.” – Isaiah 62:1

Neither will Isaiah let God rest. He pleads with God. 

Isaiah is in pain and he cries for God to pay attention to him. He feels that God’s attention has been directed away from him. This is a very personal cry. He is concerned about himself, “Where are Your zeal and Your strength, The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?” Isaiah’s petition – a cry for help from a God who is zealous, strong and merciful.

This passage makes it clear that the key factor in revival is God. Isaiah has no back up plan, God is the plan.

This passage raises the question: “What in the landscape of our lives, or our families or churches which needs alteration?”

The result of revival is a transformed life, a renewed worship and an godly society. This is why Isaiah cries, “Rend the heavens.”

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Fear of God Devotional: How Is It That Christ Feared His Father in Isaiah 1-2



Did Christ demonstrate a fear of God?

Yes, Christ feared God the Father. The fear of God involves reverence, respect, and honor. Jesus Christ submitted to God the Father in His incarnation, public ministry and in His death and resurrection. He was an example of giving God the praise and honor that is due to Him. God is worthy of all our praise – on the other hand, if God is not praiseworthy, then He is not God. Here, Kevin Swanson explains that we can learn much from the life of Christ – specifically, how He feared and honored God the Father.

John 12:49 (NKJV) – “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Missteps in the Fear of God



Do unbelievers have a fear of God?

Jason Dohm explains that while unbelievers understand that there is a God, a fearful God, they choose instead to shun God and suppress knowledge of Him and His eternal attributes, choosing instead to hate Him. Thus, the unbeliever does not have a fear of God. Instead of a fear of God, it is rather a hatred of God. We as believers ought to keep this in mind as we witness to unbelievers around us.

Romans 1:18 (NKJV) – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,”

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Fear of God Devotional: Illustrating the Fear of God to Your Children



God is present at all times, but how does God’s omnipotence impact us? Do we live in recognition or denial of this fact?

Joel Beeke explains that the fear of God should provoke a feeling of terror and fear but also one of security and comfort, for God promises that all things work together for good. Unfortunately, America as a nation has lost her fear of God because we as individuals have no fear of God. Cultivating a fear of God is something that needs to begin on the individual level and only then can families and churches be impacted.

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

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Fear of God Devotional: The Cure for a Multitude of Evils in the Church



Do you turn to Scripture and prayer when you experience struggles in life or do you seek out other, alternative means?

Paul Washer explains that prayer and studying the Word of God are simple, yet effective means to address a multitude of evils within the church. The answers to many of life’s problems and struggles cannot be found within ourselves, but only by turning to God and His Word. It requires humility and a heart that is willing to obey and learn instead of being hardened and prideful.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Indicators of the Fear of God in a Believer



How do Christians know if they have a fear of God?

Paul Thompson explains that Christians who have a fear of God often have a desire to gather together with fellow Christians, to harvest truths from reading the Scriptures, and demonstrate a willingness to repent of sins.

The better we know who God is, who is without sin, the better we can identify those root sins that cause hardness of heart. A fear of God will result in Christians striving to get to the “root sins” in their lives that prevent them from pursuing holiness with all of their being.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV) – “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

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Dread and Awe

What does it really men to fear God? Al Martin, in his book “The Forgotten Fear,” explains an important nuance to the fear of God. This nuance is reflected in a letter I received from a young man recently who discovered that before he was saved he had a certain kind of fear, and after he was saved, he had a very different type of fear of God. He wrote, I think I was afraid of God but did not fear Him.” Al Martin explains,

There are two basic aspects of the fear of God, as in all human fear. There is dread, and there is awe. The first aspect of fear drives us from the object of dread, the other aspect draws us to the object of awe. Our Lord’s teaching makes very clear that both aspects are included in a healthy fear of God – including this element of dread.

Al Martin – The Forgotten Fear, pg 13.

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Fear of God Devotional: How Do Parents Explain the Fear of God to their Children



How do you handle the Word of God with your children? Is it treated reverently and with respect or is it “dumbed down” and viewed as a fairy tale?

Sadly, many children’s books today, such as Noah and the flood, distort biblical narratives by neglecting to include the entire story. God’s judgment against sin and rebellion, such as death and judgment, are oftentimes downplayed or left out entirely.

Kevin Swanson encourages parents to not shy away from discussing with their children, even at young ages, that sin is a serious matter in God’s eyes and that He judges sin severely. At the same time, parents ought to balance the seriousness of sin with God’s mercy and love, demonstrated through the cross. We can only fully grasp the cross and God’s mercy if we also realize how serious our sin is, and how severe God’s judgment of that sin is.

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Mercy Toward Those Who Fear God



Pride acts as a barrier between God and man. Prideful individuals shield themselves from being corrected, from being instructed, and from being rebuked. When we are prideful, we fail to see how sinful we are and how righteous and holy God is. Instead, we live in rebellion to God and His ways.

Jason Dohm explains that there is grace for those who humble themselves. One way to humble ourselves is to fear God. When we fear God, we humble ourselves before him, acknowledging that He is great, we are not. He is the potter, we are the clay. Conversely, if we resist God and rebel against Him, we can expect to be opposed and judged by God.

James 4:6 (NKJV) – “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

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