Category Archives: Prayer

The Kind of Praying that Changes the World

I saw a prayer motto in a church years ago that struck me as right…and WRONG: “Prayer changes me.”

OK…sure. Of course, praying changes me. And for the record, I need to be changed. But the sign seemed to suggest something else – that I shouldn’t expect answers to my prayers – I should just expect to be personally changed. 

Meh. Sounds a bit like eating your vegetables. Of course, I should do it, and of course I need to do it, but will I? If I’m honest, that’s not a motto that will get me on my knees every day.

But then…I read the Bible: Hebrews 13:18, 19 for instance – where we see that prayer does much more than change me. It connects me with God who changes my circumstances:

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Hebrews 13:18, 19 (ESV)

Do you see it?…The more earnestly they prayed, the sooner he would be restored.

Yes, prayer changes me, but what gets me on my knees is that prayer changes circumstances, at least earnest prayer does. Earnest prayer advances the Kingdom of God in a visible and tangible way. So there’s a cause and effect. That’s what I need to know about prayer. If…then. 

 “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2 (ESV)

There are many important aspects of prayer to understand, but maybe this one is where we should start – it’s the heart of everything: God answers earnest prayer.

When we pray earnestly, He moves. He responds. He does things. The writer of Hebrews asks his readers to pray for him to be restored. Released from prison? From other pressing duties? We are not told the circumstances keeping him, because the circumstances don’t matter. All we need to know is all they needed to know – the motivating part: the more earnestly they pray, the sooner he will be restored. That’s what the Word of God says. 

If they gave themselves to heartfelt prayer regarding this circumstance, they would see an answer.

Whatever it was that kept him from seeing them, if they were to pray in a tepid, unbelieving, “whenever I feel like it” manner, they shouldn’t expect to see him soon. But if they would give themselves to intense and earnest prayer, then they should hang a welcome banner out – he would be coming.

It’s a theme the author of Hebrews also writes about in chapter 11, verse 6: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

If you seek God, he will reward you. But…do you believe it? If you do, it will show in a life of earnest prayer.

Better get the guest room ready.

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Posted by on July 12, 2022 in Prayer, Uncategorized



Walking vs. Running

"My" boardwalk outside Edgewood

“My” boardwalk outside Edgewood

I went for a walk today…and a few hours later, I went for a run. The walk was better. Here’s why…

The walk, you see, wasn’t about fitness, just about prayer, though there might have been some side health benefits along the way. But I didn’t do it to get my heart in shape, at least not my physical heart, and that’s good because the pace was quite meandering. Now I’ve been praying and walking since my college days, and it is probably my favorite way to pray. (In 2008, I wrote a grant proposal on “walking prayer” to the Lilly Endowment, and $45,000 later, my family and I went to Europe for three months where I did a fair bit of prayer walking in the hills of Scotland, and all of us did a good bit of walking in Scotland and other never-to-forget locales.) I like to joke that the Lord put a boardwalk and an incredible walk right next to our church through woods and a marsh as a personal present to me, and I tend to call it “my boardwalk”, though I will let you walk on it every so often.

Anyway, I say that the walk today was better than the run because of what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy…

…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

Of course, it’s important to stay in shape. While I doubt Paul did push-ups, even he said that bodily training was of “some” value. And we know why: working out makes you feel better…and look better. In other words, it is good and important for the present, for this life, for the here and now. But…spiritual training and godliness, these things are important not just for today, but also for tomorrow. For this life…and the next.

So if some day in the future, all you have time for is a walk…or a run…well, you know what to do.

For Tuesday, September 1: 1 Timothy 5


Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Prayer, spiritual training


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The Day I Heard the Voice of God

There aren’t a lot of days in my life I can say that I know God sent a message intended just for me.  But there are a few. This is one of them…

It was the fall of 1998.  We were living in Lake Forest, Illinois, and I had spent the year interviewing for senior/solo pastor positions.  I was asked to interview for the position at Waupun Evangelical Free Church (Edgewood).  It had been a busy year with trips to visit churches in California, North Dakota (two different churches), Maryland, and Arkansas. We actually had a lot of fun traveling the country, and three of those churches had offered me their position, but we didn’t sense any of them were quite right.  However, all of those churches were solo pastorates.  This Waupun thing was not – there was an Associate Pastor (Mike Giebink) – and it was the largest of all the churches I had interviewed with at that point (the statistic I received at the time was 225 people).

That first interview (by phone) with the people in Waupun was scheduled on Monday evening, October 12.  On the morning of the 12th, I took a prayer walk to talk to the Lord.

I was nervous.  Not only was it the largest church I had interviewed with, but there was an associate staff person, and they were heading into a building campaign.  I knew that I was weak in administration, and I doubted my qualifications. So I told the Lord about my concerns.  I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember what he said.  As I was walking, some semi-obscure verses from the book of Numbers popped into my mind that I had memorized some time before:

Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes, and said to the entire Israelite assembly: “The Land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into the land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not be afraid of the people of the Land, for we will swallow them up.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.  Do not be afraid of them.” – Numbers 14:6 – 9 (NASB)

Well, that was all it took.  I was buoyant and encouraged as I headed back to our home, realizing that even if I doubted my abilities in pastoring the church in Waupun, the Lord could give grace and bring it about.

I went inside to look over the information that the church had sent, and I turned on the CD player to put on some Michael W. Smith.  At first, however, I got the radio; it was Chuck Swindoll preaching in his Insight for Living broadcast (I liked Chuck, but wasn’t in the habit of listening to him). The message was set at Dallas Seminary, and he was speaking to pastors or future pastors…from Numbers 14.  When he got to the few verses God had just brought to my mind, he actually read them, and I got down on my knees there in the kitchen at 770 W. Westleigh in Lake Forest…and began to cry.  There were four guys set to interview that night, but I had an advantage over them – I already knew the outcome.

We were going to Waupun.


Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Prayer, Uncategorized


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Shamelessly Persistent Prayer…and Glorious Answers: The story of Daws

My own prayer life has been significantly impacted by the prayer lives of others, and one of these is a man named Dawson Trotman.  Like King David, Daws was a man after God’s own heart and was used greatly by God to start The Navigators, a Christian organization emphasizing a personal walk with God, evangelism, discipleship and Scripture memory.  The man who led me to Christ was part of this organization, and thus I attended Navigator meetings at West Point and eventually became a student leader with them at the University of Illinois.

There are two biographies (that I know of) written on Daws, and what follows is an excerpt from one of them, The Navigator, by Robert D. Foster.  Foster describes how, early in his ministry (my guess – circa 1930), Daws and his friend Walt claimed a promise from God (Jeremiah 33:3) and subsequently saw incredible answers to their petitions:

Beginning that very week, early in the day before the sun came up, they rode out to a canyon near their homes, built a fire, and knelt in prayer.  With open Bibles, they began to pray by name for the boys God had given them through their Sunday school and Boys’ Club ministry.  For two hours each morning they brought their requests to God, pausing only to reread from the Bible the great and precious promises that spurred them on when they felt their prayers were going nowhere.  Often they would break up grudgingly, in order to get to work by 8:00 a.m.  On Sunday morning, they met and prayed for three hours.

Dawson recalled that as the days passed, “We prayed for Harbor City and Torrance and Long Beach and San Pedro and Los Angeles and Pasadena and then the surrounding cities.  I had received calls from Christian leaders and pastors asking us to come over to their churches and show them how they could reach young boys. The third and fourth weeks we began extending our prayer interests up the West Coast – San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle.”  Daws and Walt decided that if God could answer prayer right where they lived in southern California, He surely could do it in other places too…While these promises were soaking in their souls, God began giving them faith to believe that He was going to enable them to reach for Christ men from all of the forty-eight states.  They started praying for men from Washington, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and then throughout the eastern U.S. on down to Florida.

Dawson continued: “I don’t know which one of us suggested that we get a map of the world, for that surely would give us a good prayer list for weeks to come.  We bought a world map with all the nations in beautiful color and would leave it up there in the hills, covered up at night with a piece of old canvas.  Each morning we would roll it out and put our fingers on China, Japan, a little island called Formosa, and the Philippines. As we moved in our prayer time, we started praying for Greece, the island of Cyprus, Egypt, and the countries of Africa. What exciting days as we covered the world in our intercession, praying by name for each nation and asking, ‘God allow us to serve You some day in each of these places and enable us to reach men for You in every one of these continents of the world.'”

At the end of forty-two days, they felt the burden lift, and they began to thank God that he had heard them and was going to fulfill what He had promised.  During the six weeks they had spent over one hundred hours in prayer in the hills together with God, asking Him to use them to win and train men for His glory around the world.  Little did they realize what was in store for them in the years to come!

Many years later, while looking through some papers in a drawer, Daws found a purple card with “Washington” written on it, and under it was the name of a sailor from that state won to Christ through Daw’s witness.  Here were other names – Les from Illinois, John from Texas, Ed from Wisconsin. Daws and Lila discoved that evening that men from every one of the forty-eight states had been touched by their ministry…

The end of that forty-two day prayer meeting marked a turning point in the life of this man who believed God…That turning point in Daws’s life came when he made a covenant with God to believe God’s promises and to intercede for men. Daws believed that this kind of prayer was not the privilege of a select few, but the right and responsibility of every Christian. His only regret later in life was, “I only wish that I had asked God for more!”

Having been personally led to Christ and discipled by The Navigators, I don’t think it’s too far off to think that my own Christian life is an answer to those prayers in the southern California hills some 80 years ago, and maybe…those whom God has used me to touch and reach as well…

Keep praying!


Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Prayer


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