If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

His god wants Him to be Happy


I wrote this a couple of years ago. Nothing has changed – except perhaps to have grown worse.

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I talked with a woman the other day who’s been married 27 years. She told me her husband wants a divorce so he can marry the woman with whom he’s been sleeping for the past several months. As his excuse, he said to her, “My god wants me to be happy.”



I tried not to look too stunned, but I doubt I was successful. A moment later I responded, “I believe it is true that his god wants him to be happy. But,” I continued, “his god is clearly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



Later that afternoon while driving home, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a breakfast meeting I’d had the day before with some local church leaders. As we ate our pancakes and bacon, I overheard two ministers from a nearby church talk among themselves about their same-sex ‘partners.’



And so the bold ‘in-your-face’ mockery of God's demand for our holiness and sanctification goes on and on and on. Yet even though I've encountered multiple dozens of such self-deceived church-goers in the past decade, I still do not cease to be amazed that such people can be so shamelessly cavalier with Him of whom the Holy Spirit warned:



“If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . . . . It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31)



The true and eternal God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will not be mocked; especially by those who call themselves Christians.



It really will be a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Oh, Holy Spirit PLEASE -- help us all to not “think lightly of the riches of [Your] kindness and tolerance and patience.” Indeed, as the Scripture tells us, Your kindness should lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)




Sunday, August 18, 2019

When We Don't Like God's Answer - part two


It took nearly 40 minutes to preach this message at the 55+ community where I share God’s word each week. For the ease of reading, I divided it into two parts. You can find part one at this link

What will we do when God says “No” to our prayers? Let me help you find a far better answer than Harris and Sampson gave. When disappointment or disillusionment creeps into our thoughts, ask yourself the following three questions: 

The first is this: Is God good and compassionate all the time and in all circumstances? His Scriptures says He is. For example, Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.”  Again, Psalm 103:13-14 “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

God says He is good and compassionate all the time and in all circumstances. Will you decide to believe Him, even when your heart is breaking? 

The second question is this: Can I trust God to do what is right and good all the time and in all circumstances? His word says He is trustworthy. For example, Romans 8:28-31 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose . . . What then shall we say to these things [that happened to us and around us]? If God is for us, who is against us?” 

Will you decide to trust Him, even when your heart is breaking?

Here is the third question: Do I also believe God loves me as much as He loves Jesus? Jesus says God does. In His so-called High Priestly prayer (John 17:20-23) Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word . . . I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Will you believe the Father loves you as much as He loves Jesus, even when your heart is breaking?

Let me cite only two examples of people, common, everyday people like you and I whose circumstances forced them to ask and to answer those three questions. 

The first example is Horatio Spafford. I’ve referred to him before. In 1871, Spafford’s 4-year-old son died of Scarlet fever. Two years later, business demands kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where their friend Dwight L. Moody would be preaching. While enroute on November 22, 1873, their steamship collided with another, and sank within minutes to the bottom of the ocean, killing 226 people. Among the dead were all four of Spafford's daughters. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. When she finally arrived in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford. It read "Saved alone. What shall I do?" 

Spafford immediately followed on the next ship sailing for England. As his ship crossed the spot where his four daughters drowned, Spafford wrote these words: 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.  Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul. . . .  And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul. 

How could Spafford write such words? I’ll tell you how. Because he had lived a life of faith and trust and love toward His Savior. 

The second person I want to introduce to you is George Muller (d. 1898). Muller and his first wife opened orphanages across Bristol, England to care for homeless, and destitute children. By the end of his life, Muller and his wives had housed, fed, and clothed more than ten thousand orphans and opened nearly 120 schools which offered Christian education to more than 120,000 children.  

After nearly 40 years of marriage to his first wife, Mary, death took her from his arms. His second wife, Susannah, died after 23 years of marriage. Muller also buried his four children, the oldest at age 68, another at 15 months, and two still-born infants. Nevertheless, shortly before his own death in 1898 (he was 92), and undaunted by his own life-tragedies, Muller preached a message from Lamentations 3:21-22. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 

Muller told his congregation: “While everything changes here on earth, Jesus our friend is the same. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As he was millions of years ago, he is now. What he was when he walked in Galilee and Judea and Samaria. He is now. His heart full of beauty and tenderness and compassion.” 

Muller continued: “I say to you all, you may be the oldest, the greatest, the hardest of sinners. But if you turn to Christ, He will forgive you. There is power in the blood of Christ to take away the worst of sins.” 

“Knowledge cannot make you happy. Christ alone brings you happiness again and again. I know seven languages, but I will still go to hell if I did not know Christ.” And now read the final words of his message in the context with the deaths of his two wives, and four children: “I cannot describe the joy and the peace which comes from knowing the Lord Jesus. I am a happy old man. Yes, I am a happy old man. I walk around my room knowing I am not alone because you are here with me. I have buried my wives and my children, but still you are with me. I do not feel alone or forsaken because I have you and your smile. And that is better than life itself.” 

What shall you and I do when we don’t like God’s answers to our prayers? Shall we turn away as Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson did? Or shall we live as Spafford and Muller, and the rest of that great cloud of witnesses we read of in Hebrews eleven – trusting God, and striving to love Him so much that nothing, not even the deepest soul-wrenching heartache and sorrow and pain – no, not even hearing Him say ‘No” to our prayers – nothing shall move us from our faithful relationship with Him and Him alone. 

Oh, Holy Spirit, please help us.


When We Don't Like God's Answer - part one

It took nearly 40 minutes to preach this message at the 55+ community where I share God’s word each week. For the ease of reading, I divided it into two parts. Part two will follow tomorrow. 
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As I prepared this message, I thought of two stories in recent weeks about two high-profile Christians who turned their backs on Jesus. You might remember I posted my comments about them several days ago. Their fall from grace still troubles me. 

Joshua Harris, who was a megachurch pastor and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, proudly proclaimed his freedom from Christianity. He then promptly divorced his wife and shortly thereafter marched in a Gay Pride parade. 

A week or so later I read of another big name ‘Christian,’ Marty Sampson. Sampson was a Hillsong megachurch worship leader and songwriter until he also boasted of having escaped from Christ. 

It’s nothing short of tragic for them, their families, and for those who looked up to them that Satan can now do a victory dance at their fall. 

December of this year will mark 47 years that I have walked with Jesus. And in those nearly five decades I have watched many, many men and women fall away from Christ. To my knowledge, none have ever returned. 

Let me first say this. I am certain neither Joshua Harris nor Marty Sampson woke up one morning and suddenly decided they no longer believed what they said they had once believed about the Savior. Their turning from Christ started slowly and continued incrementally until they made their break from the One whom they once called their Lord and Savior. 

In the nearly 50 years I have followed Jesus, I have seen too many followers of Christ turn away from their faith. And while their reasons for turning back to the world might be varied, I think there is most often only of two fundamental reasons a person leaves Christ: Either they tire of doing what Jesus wants them to do, or they grow angry, or annoyed, or disillusioned when Jesus doesn’t do what they want Him to do. 

In either case, they bristle – perhaps unconsciously at first – they bristle at the idea the He is God – and they are not. They stumble at the realization that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. 

What do we do when we don’t like God’s answer to our prayers? 

Don’t think Harris’ and Sampson’s apostasy could not become your own story. The Holy Spirit warns us through St. Paul’s pen: “[L]et him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) A few chapters later, Paul warns: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) 

St. Peter also tells us a truth we dare not gloss over: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) 

The shorter the time grows before the Lord Jesus’ return, the more urgent the devil grows in his seduction of humanity – and especially of churchgoers. 

Why especially churchgoers? Because if he can seduce them away from Christ, they don’t usually go alone. They bring with them those who looked up to them, those who trusted them, those who thought they had the answers to questions like “How can I live a godly life like you do?” 

The scandal Satan causes when those who call themselves Christians fall back into sin is incalculable. That’s why we spent several weeks examining the armor of God that St. Paul wrote of in Ephesians chapter six. We are each in a battle for the eternal destiny of our souls – and for the souls of others. That’s why the Holy Spirit through Paul urges us, Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10) 

I hope you will often read that passage about that armor. Read it often and live by it. Stay alert in your armor. You don’t want your end to be as Harris and Sampson, high-profile deserters who are to be pitied – and prayed for

“What do you do when you don’t like God’s answers?” That is not an insignificant question. It’s one that you and I will repeatedly face throughout our life journey toward the Kingdom. 

Those who preach from pulpits and write books telling God’s people that He wants us happy, healthy, wealthy – and that He will always answer our prayers according to our desires – that message is a lie, totally unsupportable by God’s word. 

Let me give you only three examples of high-profile people who heard God say ‘No’ to their requests.  The first is Moses. Israel was about the cross into the Promised Land after their 40-year trek through the wilderness. Earlier during that journey, God told Moses he would not enter the Promised land because he had openly disobeyed God and struck the rock to get water for the people instead of only speaking to it (Numbers 20:10-12). 

And now, as they were about to cross the Jordan River, Moses once more asked God to let him enter with the people. Here is how the Scripture describes that melancholy scene: 

Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. Go up to the top of [Mount] Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. (Deuteronomy 3:25-27) 

Our second high-profile person to whom God said, “No” is the apostle Paul. In his second letter to the Christians at Corinth, Paul implored God to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh.’  Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about that thorn, but we can easily surmise it was a great affliction for him. 

Here is how the man who wrote nearly one half of the New Testament books records it: Concerning this [thorn] I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) 

In other words, God told Paul, “No. I will not remove that thorn.”

The third high-profile person to hear God answer “No” to His prayers is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Luke records the scene this way: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44). You remember what He asked the Father: “If You are willing, remove this cup from Me.” But the Father said, in other words, “No, Son. I will not remove the cup.” 

How could Moses accept God’s ‘No’ to his prayer? Because he had spent the better part of 40 years walking every day with God. After all that time, Moses grew to know God, to trust Him, to love Him. And so, though surely disappointed, he remained submissive to God’s decision. 

Paul could accept God’s ‘No’ for the same reason. In the more than three decades the apostle walked with Christ, he tells us: “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) 

Yet through it all, during his 30+year journey toward the Kingdom, Paul learned to know God, to trust God, to love God. So, when God said, “No” Paul could say: “Thy will be done.” 

And how could Jesus – who was not only 100% God, but He was also 100% human just like you and me – how could the Man Jesus, freely submit Himself to the will of the Father, even though He knew it meant His torturous death? 

How? The same way Moses and Paul could accept the Father’s will. Jesus knew the Father. He trusted the Father. He loved the Father. 

What will we do when we don’t like God’s answers to our prayers?  I’ll tell you what Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson had not done during the years they preached God’s word or led congregations in music worship: They had not learned to trust God to always, and in every circumstance, do right. They had never learned God loves them – He still does, even though they have turned away from Him. 

What will we do when God says “No” to our prayers? Let me help you find a far better answer than Harris and Sampson gave. When disappointment or disillusionment creeps into our thoughts, ask yourself the following three questions. I offer those questions in part two. Follow the link here:

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Perhaps Today

I posted this a couple of times on this blog. I thought today would be a good time to re-post it.
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[God] will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all [our] faces . . . . And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:8-9).

So I’m reading through the 25th chapter of Isaiah and came across verses 8 & 9. Then my thoughts drifted to Jesus’ words in the 14th chapter of St. John’s gospel:

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be (John 14:2-3).

And I contemplated the Second Advent.
And I remembered . . .

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when he wipes the tears,

kisses the wounds, and

binds the broken. (1)

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when the Lord descends

from heaven with a
shout;



A day when the trumpet of God

resounds,

and those who died in Christ

burst from their graves;



A day when we too,
who live in Christ,

will be caught up with them,

to meet the Lord in the air,

and be forever with Him. (2)

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when we no longer walk by faith,

but by sight; (3)



When we no longer grieve,

or moan,

or utter so much
as a whimper;



When the lion lies with the lamb,

and the child plays on a viper’s den

and is not be hurt. (4)


There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when the last nail is hammered

into the last board

of the last room

of the house promised us by Christ;

And we hear Him call:

“It's time!” (5)


There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow –

or perhaps even . . .

today.


Oh, Lord Jesus
and so we plead,

come quickly.

1. Isaiah 25:8-9
2. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52
3. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
4. Isaiah 11:8-9; Isaiah 65:25
5. John 14:2-3

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Another Turns His Back


So now there are two high-profile alleged Christians who, in less than a month, turned their backs on Jesus. A few weeks ago Joshua Harris (megachurch pastor and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye) proudly proclaimed his freedom from what I am certain he considers toxic Christianity.  He promptly divorced his wife and shortly thereafter marched in a Gay Pride parade. 

Today we have news of another big name ‘Christian”; Hillsong worship leader and songwriter Marty Sampson also boasts of having escaped from Christ. 

It’s nothing short of tragic for them, their families, and for those who looked up to them that Satan can now do a victory dance at their fall. 

December of this year will mark 47 years that I have walked with Jesus. And in those nearly five decades I have seen many, many men and women fall away from Christ. To my knowledge, none have ever returned. 

Scripture provides us two primary reasons why people turn away from Jesus. Either they tire of doing what Jesus wants them to do, or they grow angry and annoyed that Jesus doesn’t do what they want Him to do. 

In either case, they kick at the idea that He is God – and they are not. 

Do you think Harris’ and Sampson’s apostasy could not become your own story? The Holy Spirit warns us through Paul’s pen: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) 

St. Peter tells us a truth we dare not gloss over: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9) 

The shorter the time grows before the Lord Jesus’ return, the more urgent the devil grows in his seduction of humanity – and especially of church-goers. 

No wonder St. Paul urges us: “Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10)

I hope you will reread the entire section about the armor of God in Ephesians six. Read it often and live by it. Put on daily your spiritual armor. Stay alert daily in your armor. You do not want your end to be as Harris and Sampson, high-profile deserters who are to be pitied. 

And, please, lifted to God in prayer.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Healing Hardened Hearts


Many of you know my wife, Nancy, had a stroke in January of this year. I call her recovery nothing short of miraculous. The reason for her nearly complete health is she had collateral circulation in the area where her aneurysm bled. As a result, her brain tissue in that area didn’t die from lack of oxygen and nutrients.


I told the story to my atheist friend. He wasn’t impressed. He first tried to tell me collateral circulation is not an uncommon physiological phenomenon. He almost died several years ago from a heart attack. The reason he's still alive, he told me, is his heart had formed collateral circulation around his 99% blocked coronary artery.


When I reminded him collateral circulation only occurs over time he scoffed – even though he teaches physiology at the university level and is aware of the process. As in his case, increased pressure within a blocked artery can sometimes cause neo-vascularization (creation of new blood vessels) to circumvent the blockage.


But Nancy’s situation was completely different. She did not have an artery that was slowly becoming obstructed. Her cranial artery suddenly burst. Like a popped balloon.


My friend grudgingly acknowledged collateral circulation doesn't form in an instant. But he still had one more argument.


“So, if your God created her collateral circulation, why didn’t He just create her blood vessel to not burst in the first place?’


I was speechless. How can an intelligent person – one who teaches human physiology, one who knows the delicate intricacies of the human body – how can such a person stare a miracle in its face, and still find a reason to disbelieve?


After all these years – decades, actually – trying to help my friend know the God whom I love, I fear he has made himself a living illustration of Isaiah’s prophecy as quoted by the Lord Jesus:

“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:14-15) 

I continue to pray for my friend nearly every day. I also pray for several other self-professed atheists, some of whom are like family to me. But the point of my remarks is not about them. 

It’s about spiritual blindness which is far more disabling than physical blindness. It’s about being healed of such blindness, and dulled ears, and hardened hearts. 

Listen, please. The only cure for such an eventually damning spiritual sickness is self-effacing humility before the Creator, a humility that leads to repentance of one’s willful rebellion against Him and His commandments.  

Only then will God, in His abundant mercy, open blind eyes, deaf ears, and hardened hearts. 

And bring healing.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Supernatural Battle - Part Six, Prayer

We’ve looked in these past several essays at individual elements of the supernatural armor – the belt, the breastplate, the shield, the sword, and so forth. But though we’ve looked at them in isolation, each piece is a crucial part of the entire armor. We look now at the last element Paul speaks of – prayer.

Prayer is more than simple communication between the Creator and the created. God designed Christian prayer as an intimate exchange of love. The closest I can come to describing what I mean is to compare prayer to a mother nursing her baby on her lap. I remember watching Nancy nursing our children. Her eyes overflowing with love and warmth and wonder, her hand gently caressing their faces, and their eyes gazing into hers as they suckled. 

That memory reminds me of the message God gave to Israel through Isaiah: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . . ” (49:15-16, NIV)

That’s the intimacy God designed for prayer – communion with Him as close as skin to skin. Picture that in your mind! The Creator designed a means for us to enter such closeness with Himself as a mother with her suckling child. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787) said this of prayer: Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears — of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly.”

But every follower of Christ knows prayer is a battle. We battle distractions, dryness, discouragements, disappointments, disillusionments about prayer. And the most common reason prayer is a battle is because Satan understands prayer’s potential power better than any of us know its power. That’s why he does all he can to keep us away from prayer. And if he cannot keep us away from prayer, then he tries to keep it anemic and lifeless.

But there are things we can do to mitigate the distractions, the dryness, the discouragements and disillusionments that often plague our prayers. Here are some ideas I’ve excerpted from my book of twelve prayer strategies. (Find it at this link). 

Strategy one: Fall more deeply in love with God. The deeper we love Him, the more our intimate communication with Him grows. 

Fr. Pedro Arupe (d. 1991) said this about falling in love with God: Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love [with God]. Stay in love, and it will decide everything.

How do we fall in love with anyone? By spending time with the person. By reading what our beloved sends to us. Sometimes it’s simply sitting silently with our beloved, resisting the temptation to keep jabbering away. 
Mother Theresa of Calcutta wisely noted: We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God . . . .to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.

Strategy two: Confession 

Confession of sins is a prerequisite for effective prayer. The Scripture links prayer and confession so often that even with a cursory reading of the Bible it is impossible to miss to connection. For example: He who conceals his sins prospers not, but he who confesses and forsakes them obtains mercy (Proverbs 28:13). And, I called to the Lord with my mouth; praise was upon my tongue. [But] had I cherished evil in my heart, the Lord would not have heard (Psalm 66:17-18). 
Our prayers are utterly useless if we are aware of our sins – even what we might call small sins – our prayers are useless if we delay our repentance. That is why the examination of conscience is important for every Christian to practice. 
What do I mean by the examination of conscience? Get alone with God and ask Him to reveal your heart to yourself. Ask Him to show you things for which you must repent – the mean-spirited words you spoke to others, resentment you carry, an unforgiving spirit you nurse, and so forth. When He unveils those sins to your mind, ask His forgiveness and His divine help to not do it again. 

Strategy Three: Forgiveness


Forgiveness toward others is an essential attitude we must nurture if we hope our prayers will be effective. The Lord Jesus made it clear that God’s forgiveness of us is inextricably linked to our forgiveness of others. Perhaps the clearest example of this principle is found in the Lord’s Prayer in which Jesus warns, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15).



Forgiveness is a choice. It is an act of the will, independent of our ‘feelings’ of forgiveness.  It’s the choice Jesus made when He prayed for the Father to forgive those who mocked and crucified Him – even though they had not asked for forgiveness. It’s the same choice St. Stephen made when, as he was dying at the hands of the mob stoning him, he asked the Father to not hold that sin against them – even though they had not asked for forgiveness.


Do we really think we can live close to Christ if we are unwilling to live as Christ? Do we really think we can receive His forgiveness if we remain unwilling to forgive others – even those who don’t ask for forgiveness? 

Of all the prayer strategies we could ever put into practice, if confession and forgiveness are not at their core, we might as well stop jabbering at God. Forgiveness is a choice. And by exercising the right choice, we permit the Holy Spirit to supernaturally turn injury into compassion and hurt into honest intercession.


Strategy Four – The environment of Prayer



The Lord Jesus said, “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Find a quiet place, away from others, if possible, where you can close the door and close yourself in with your Creator. Try to meet with Him at the same time or times each day. Mornings are best for many people, before the activities and the distractions of the day nudge the Lord further from their central focus. Keep a notepad at your side so when thoughts about what you need to do later that day interrupt your communion with God, you can quickly jot them down, so you won't forget them – and then return to prayer.
Strategy Five: The Prayer List

Prayer lists help keep your intercessory prayers organized. But after a while your list will likely become so long as to make it unwieldy. When that happened to me, I devised a prayer calendar. I divided my list into nine columns. I labeled the first, “Daily” and the succeeding seven Monday, Tuesday, and so forth. I labeled the ninth column “Others.”
In the Daily column I write the names of those that I commit myself to pray for every day. I place others into the columns labeled by the days of the week. Sometimes I put people into more than one column, so I remember to pray for them more often during the week. In the last column (column nine) I add people as they come to my attention during the week, either when the Holy Spirit drops their name into my heart, or the person asks me for prayer. Those names often get added later to either my daily list, or a weekday list, depending on the need.

Strategy five:  Acrostics


This strategy uses acrostics to keep me centered on prayer. One of my acrostics is the word CROSS.


For example, on the letter C, I meditate on the Crucifixion of Jesus. I let my imagination wander to what it might have been like for Him to hang on that cross. Then I let my thoughts take me to Gethsemane, the courtyard where He was whipped, the soldiers hammering the spikes into His flesh. This kind of prayer is called ‘Imaginative Prayer.’


On the letter R, I meditate on the Resurrection. For example, what might it have been like for the women to arrive at the empty tomb? What was Mary wearing? What did she do when she saw the open tomb?



My imaginative prayer takes me step by step through the rest of the acrostic.

 
Strategy six: Scripted prayer.



I once thought scripted prayers, like those in prayer books, are less meaningful (AKA: less spiritual) than spontaneous ones. How foolish of me. Men and women of God have prayed scripted prayers – such as the Psalms – for millennia.



But what of those offered to God by the many spiritual giants of church history, such as John Wesley or St. Augustine?



For example, doesn't John Wesley’s prayer carry a sweet savor to the Father? I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.


Or St. Augustine: Narrow is the mansion of my soul; [please] enlarge it, that You may
enter in. It is ruinous; [please] repair it. It has that within which must offend Your eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? Or to whom should I cry, [except to] Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy.


Prayer is a battle because the enemy of our souls knows how powerful prayer can be in the life of the believer. When the Christian adds effective and fervent prayer to the armor, Hell itself trembles.



Christian – do battle. Your soul, and the souls of those you love need you to enter boldly into the fray. Remember, you are not in this battle alone. The Holy Spirit and God’s surrounding angels are ever with you in the fight.

So, get in there. Fight the good fight of faith.



As the Psalmist wrote: “For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall . . . . He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; And Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.”  (Psalm 18:31-36)