Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, September 2023
Our ministry opportunities in August were both profound and plentiful. However, we are giving you just a quick review as, in the body of this month’s letter, we will be presenting what we believe is a helpful primer on prayer. And so, before we get to that piece, here’s a quick look back.
* Our “When Swing Was King” shows went terrific. And we have increased the number of senior facilities where we present the show, now making it 11.
* The times of prayer and public witness outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill were intense and effective.
* Vital Signs’ Sunday afternoon church services at Aksarben Village Senior Living Church have been heartwarming, inspirational, and well-attended.
* We sent out The Top 5 every Saturday and, in several other ways, stayed quite active in our social media platforms.
* After finally getting our house put back together following a couple of serious renovation projects, we have started hosting a new round of dessert and dinner parties.
* We were honored to take a couple of shifts at the Nebraska Right to Life booth at the State Fair in Grand Island.
* We took 5 days in Colorado to enjoy the grand sights around Estes Park, have good times with members of our family in Loveland and Golden, and be of service to dear friends Larry and Deb Harrold as Larry continues his recovery from cancer surgery and treatment.
* And then next up? Well, I need to create the September “When Swing Was King” show in the next couple of days because our schedule starts on the 11th. Remember, the schedule is always on the Vital Signs Ministries website, and we would love to have you join us sometime.
* At noon on Thursday, September 7, Claire and I are both speaking at the quarterly luncheon of the Business and Professional People for Life at the German-American Society. Our topic is the unique services to seniors VSM has developed over the years and the aching need for others (pro-life groups, churches, families, etc.) to draw inspiration from our example and get involved.
* We will be hosting two letter-writing parties on September 12 (a brunch at 10 and an evening event at 7).
* We are hosting a Book Brunch discussion of Tim Tebow’s inspiring, challenging book Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms. That will be on Saturday morning, September 26th at 10.
* I will be speaking at the adult Sunday School class and presenting the morning sermon at Herman Community Church on September 10.
* And, of course, September will see us engaged in a lot of our other regular duties – on the streets outside the Planned Parenthood abortion business, the personal correspondence, the hospitality and networking, the sermon preparation, writing for the social media, keeping up on our efforts to improve the VSM website, and trying to finish projects like my study on the contrarian spirit.
* However, one of those overdue projects was finished recently. That was a substantial reworking of 7 presentations I gave last year on spiritual disciplines. The completed work can now be found on the website. Look in the ARTICLE section under “Christian Living.”
And, while you’re there, you might take a look at the other articles (much shorter ones) that are also in the “Christian Living” section: “Your Sins, Your Enemies, and Your Fears Will Be ‘Cleared Away,’” “The Christian Pilgrimage: My Hand in His,” “Top Ten Hints for a Marvelous Marriage,” “The Code of Chivalry,” and “Reflections on Radical Discipleship.”
* And now, as promised, here is a portion of the article on prayer that is part of that “Spiritual Disciplines” series. We hope you’ll find it of value and perhaps be motivated to then check out the other essays in that series.
The spiritual discipline of prayer should be a given to anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible. After all, the heroes of the Bible constantly demonstrate lives of prayer. From the patriarchs to the prophets, from the kings to the military champions, from Jesus Himself and His apostles, prayer is presented as an absolutely indispensable practice for the faithful. We are also specifically (and frequently) commanded to pray. We are even given specific prayer targets: the Lord’s will, one another, our daily needs, thanksgiving, our enemies (even those who persecute us), the peace of Israel, laborers for the kingdom’s harvest fields, and so many more. Prayer, we are carefully taught, is the antidote to anxiety, to losing heart, to selfishness, to worldliness. It is a key path by which the believer finds God’s guidance, protection, and intimacy.
Yet even with this matter established in our minds, Christians regularly confess that prayer is too often a matter of weakness, frustration, and guilt. Why? One reason is that we don’t really understand prayer very well. We haven’t been “schooled” in the basics and so when we’ve tried to put our ideas into practice, they fall flat. We end up either accepting an inconsistent mediocrity or we even forgo prayer altogether — except perhaps in emergencies or the obligation to “say grace” at the dinner table when company is present!
There are yet other reasons for an ineffective life of prayer. We live divorced from an awareness of the supernatural. Yes, even Christians get used to thinking that life is a matter of self-sufficiency. Heartfelt prayers for daily needs, guidance, and strength are therefore foreign to us. Some also deal with a lack faith, or of ongoing sin in their lives which keep them embarrassed from coming to the Lord for a conversation. Others may feel a definite unwillingness to hear what God may have to say or a fear that God will not answer their prayers the way they want.
Actually, the answers to these obstacles are not all that difficult to overcome. For Jesus has promised us help, understanding, strength, forgiveness, and fresh starts. And He has comforted us with the news that His burdens are light as we lean into the power of the Spirit. But to overcome the barriers to prayer, we must 1) seriously desire things to change, 2) become properly informed about prayer, and 3) start praying! That’s right; get started. Even when it seems awkward or irregular, you must realize that you will never become confident and comfortable in prayer unless you start exercising what you are learning.
One of the most elementary lessons in the “school of prayer” is that you become better acquainted with the God you’re praying to. Focus in on the wonderful truths the Bible teaches about our heavenly Father. Be moved by His testimony of overwhelming power and enduring mercy. Rest on the promise that He is always eager to listen to those who have by faith received Jesus as their Savior. Praise God that, through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, our sins are completely and forever forgiven. Thus, we are guaranteed complete and immediate access to the Father — always! No penance is required before we pray. No workup of emotions. No religious bribery to persuade Him to give us a few minutes. No mediator is needed nor is any special sentiment or atmosphere required. Our omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Father is always there and He is eager to spend time with us.
Psalms 145:17-19 — “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”
1 John 5:13-15 — “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
Job 22:25-28 — “Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to Him; He will hear you and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing and it will be established for you; so light will shine on your ways.”
Another critical element is to realize that our purposes of prayer are often quite different than those of God. We tend to focus on “presents;” that is, what God can give us or do for us while His priority is all about “presence.” The Lord wants us to find comfort and strength simply by being in His company, experiencing a fellowship with the One Who saved us from the penalty of our sins. For never forget that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3)
So spend time with God. Honestly lay your concerns and needs and ideas before Him even as you put your humble, confident trust in Him to achieve His glorious will in your behalf. That is the most significant and far-reaching of all the blessings coming from prayer; namely, being occupied with God rather than being occupied by your questions, complaints, and requests. This is how to be successful in folding prayer into day-to-day life.
As you diligently pursue your pilgrimage, your prayers will become more characterized by a love of truth, a willingness to obey His Word, heavy doses of thanksgiving and praise, intercession for others, deeper humility and trust, and an ever-growing intimacy with the Lord Jesus that sees you placing all areas of your life into His hands. Your prayers will be conversational – not ritualistic repetitions or stilted religious rhetoric. You will become comfortable with short prayers as well as longer conversations. You will find yourself looking for prayer opportunities – in the car, on the patio, in groups of Christian friends, in planned “devotional” exercises, but also in spontaneous appeals for help or praise. Like in any relationship, your conversation becomes easier and more fruitful as you become familiar with the other person. And as the comfortability and significance of your prayer experience grows, so will your desire to live godly in all areas of your life.
Now there are many, many more things to be explored about prayer – confession, vows to God, public prayers with one’s spouse and children (extremely important), and so on. But of highest value are those two things I underscored earlier – becoming better informed about prayer and starting in to build a stronger, more natural prayer experience. In both, cherish the fact that God is on your side and that He wants you to succeed in becoming more “conversant” with Him. Furthermore, He is a God of great grace Who offers forgiveness and fresh starts over and again.
“Dear Lord, please help me to become better in my prayer life. Motivate me to ‘go to school’ on the subject through Bible study, help from Christian friends, and a renewed devotion to the adventure. And help me to embrace the grace that you give for my weak prayers of previous days and for the new, fresh power You offer me to start again and become better in this key area of the sanctified life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”
There you go, friends. May the Lord richly bless you as you pursue your sanctified adventures with the Lord Jesus – adventures that are divinely ordained, customized by His wise care for you, and full of heavenly rewards. Thank you for your faithfulness to His call…and for your ongoing support of Vital Signs Ministries.