Learning to Pray

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1)

Prayer, like conversion, is a turning to God.  This turning to God is very difficult for human-focused, individualistic Euro-Americans and those culturally influenced by the secularism of traditional Western education.  We are taught to rely on ourselves rather than on God.

How then can we learn to pray, to turn to God?  The answer is imitating others who depend on God, modeling their examples.

Prayer – Imitating Jesus

The early disciples learned to pray by watching Jesus.  They watched him go to a solitary place to pray (Luke 4:42).  They witnessed that he “often withdrew” from proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick “to lonely places” to pray (Luke 5:15-16).  They learned that before Jesus selected twelve of them to become his apostles that he “spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12-15).  They heard his prayers before his death, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you!” (John 17:1), and his death had the power to give them “eternal life” (John 17:2). They did not fully understand this prayer, but the words stuck in their minds.

But the journey to his death was not easy.  He urged his disciples to pray that they would not “fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-40) and then withdrew “a stone’s throw away” and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:41-42).  Luke says that he prayed so earnestly that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:44).  This took place in the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus habitually took his apostles to pray (Luke 22:39).

Jesus’ journey was typified by prayer to His father and was witnessed to by his disciples!

Prayer and Disciple-Making

Learning to pray cannot be done merely by studying prayer, telling people to pray, or teaching the components of prayer.  It is best done by imitating those who are walking in a dependent relationship with God.  Learning by imitation thus becomes an inextricable part of our disciples-making.   Expectant prayer must be modeled in both community and ministry.

I am currently learning how to more effectively huddle church planters and ReVision church leaders for the purpose of disciple-making and leader-equipping.   In this process I am like “a sheep from the front and a shepherd from behind” (p. 40, Building a Discipling Culture – Huddle Guide by Mike Breen and Steve Cochram).  In other words, I am following those who disciple me while simultaneously guiding others on the road to becoming mature disciples and leaders.   In these various huddles I am learning prayer both from the vantage point of a follower and a leader.

Currently I am honored to facilitate a huddle for the leaders of a church in the San Antonio area, who are going through the Mission Alive ReVision ministry.  This weekly huddle takes place via conference calls because of distance.   As church leaders, we recently spent two weeks disciplining ourselves to pray.  We concluded during this time that it is easier for us to talk about prayer than to discipline our lives to commune with God in prayer.  We, like the disciples in Luke 11, requested “O Lord, teach us to pray!”

The obvious beginning point is the Lord’s Prayer, his model prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13.  This prayer, given specifically to teach us to pray, has six elements, each teaching us an important truth about the father (Breen and Cockram, Building a Discipline Culture, Chapter 11): Continue reading

The Anatomy of a Day

Every day of ministry in Mission Alive has its own special flavor. This morning I thought I would describe what happened yesterday, January 10, so that you might catch of glimpse of one such day. The day was a mixture of preparation for an upcoming lab, working on a developing Missions text, participating in a Partnering Team meeting, and working with church planters in a Planter Forum.

Strategy Lab Preparation

I spend much of the early morning working on a Strategy Lab to be held at the Riverside Church of Christ next week, January 16-20. I focused on a section about sensing, discerning, and entering the will of God. I am using a diagram from 3dm about God’s timing or Kairos. “Kairos” is God’s timing (as compared to “Chronos”, which is sequential timing as indicated by a watch or calendar). Kairos occurs “when the eternal God breaks into your circumstances with an event that gathers some loose ends of your life and knots them together in His hands” (Breen and Cockran in “Building a Discipling Culture”). “Kairos” time occurred when God sent Jesus into the world (Gal. 4:4-5) or when He led Peter to enter the house of Cornelius. It occurs when “the kingdom of God comes near” and we “repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:14-15). This transformation is illustrated by the following diagram from 3dm:

Kairos Moment

Kairos Moment

God, the Source of Mission, enters into our lives leading us through a process of transformation. We, therefore, must live with an expectation of God’s leading in our lives and ministry.

As I was working on this course, Brian Williamson, my 3dm coach, called. We talked about the redevelopment of the Strategy Lab and set up another time to talk together on Friday morning.

Conference Call on Mission: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies

Missions text

Missions text

In the mid-morning Anthony Parker, Becky, and I talked by phone for over an hour about the revision of Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategy, a missions text first published by Zondervan in 1996. This book has gone through frequent reprintings and a second edition is long overdue. Anthony is working with me to edit and collaborating to write certain chapters of the new edition. We worked for the later part of the morning on editing this text.

Anthony is a long-time friend and co-worker. He served for three years as my first graduate assistant at Abilene Christian University from 1988-91, ministered as a missionary to West Africa for about 20 years, and today works as a coach with the Pioneer Bible Translators. I am thankful for how well we think and work together.

Partnering Team for Carlos Bautista

In the early afternoon I travelled to the Highland Oaks church for a Partnering Team meeting with Carlos Bautista who has planted the Iglesia de Cristo: Un Lugar de Gracia (“The Place of Grace) in Grand Prairie. A Partnering Team is a group of church leaders who walk alongside the church planting family in ministry. One of our core beliefs is that Church planters should not work alone but within a network of support, encouragement, and equipping. Sixto Rivera of Genesis Alliance coaches Carlos and facilitates the Partnering Team. We rejoiced to hear that last year 39 souls were baptized into Christ within that community in 2011. Carlos and his son Jacob made a presentation about their goals and plans for 2012. We then talked about an evaluative grid to help the church develop deeper relationships with God, within the community, and with the unchurched. We sometimes call this the Triangle with three prongs: UP (relationship with God); IN (deep, authentic community), and OUT (on mission with God where members live, play, and work). We concluded our meeting with a prayer of blessing and asking that God lead us forward on His mission.

I then went from this meeting to the ACU campus in Irving, where our monthly DFW Church Planter Forum takes place. I settled in for a couple of hours of preparation for the Strategy Lab before the 7:00 p.m. gathering. (It was too far for me to return home and then come to the evening meeting).

Dallas-Ft. Worth Church Planter Forum

I greatly enjoyed our church planter forum this month. Only three of our DFW church planters were able to come: Wesley Esquivel of ONEcommunity in Mesquite; Charles Kiser of Storyline Christian Community in Dallas, and Bret Wells of The Gathering in Burleson. For two and a half hours we worked through what was occurring in our various church plantings and helped each other. We also explored new insights that we have learned from 3dm (www.weare3dm.com) and the Mission Increase Foundation (www.mif.org) and how these insights were coming into the development of our Strategy Lab. It was a time of growing and learning forward as participants in the kingdom of God.

This is a glimpse of a very long day! While returning home I rejoiced in the Lord for His work in ministry.

Living for the sake of His kingdom,

Gailyn Van Rheenen