Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Learn how to Facilitate Prayer Retreats

Preparing Leaders

for Reflection and Prayer Days and Short Retreats

Dr. Evelyn Davis, International Training Consultant for Wycliffe and SIL (with others assisting), will train participants how to facilitate half or full days of reflection and prayer, and short retreats, at two locations in the U.S. in 2008. Dates and places are May 14-23 at Lutheridge Retreat near Asheville, NC, and October 1-10, 2008 at Brookhaven Retreat near Dallas, TX. For the detailed information and an application form, please contact evelyn_davis@wycliffe.org. The training will be done at Kangaroo Ground (Melbourne) in Australia November 20-29. For that information, contact grace_gesto@wycliffe.org

The reflection and prayer topics are: A Spiritual Inventory and Spiritual Markers; Personal Worship; Finding A Rhythm of Rest; Life Tasks: Strength for the Journey; Our Time of Need; Prayer Areas and Issues; and The Servant Leader. The two retreat topics are Life Passages and the Missionary Experience and New Testament Images of Adult Growth and Change.

The cost for accommodations, meals, and basic books and materials is $575.00. Please note that scholarships are available if needed.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Too Much Noise?

Just listen. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. You see, we live in a loud world, and often God speaks quietly." Maggie & Duffy Robbins, Enjoy the Silence

Turn That Noise Off
(The Economist) Music has the power to delight the listener, improve well-being, and uplift the soul. But sounds have more malign uses too. The beauty of the music produced by the Sirens of ancient Greek legend drew unwary sailors to their doom on the rocks. And in Britain calls have been made to ban the use of the Mosquito, a high-pitched-noise generator that is used to disperse groups of unruly teenagers from congregating points such as shopping centres and housing estates. Campaigners say it's unfair to subject the young to a discomforting sound that only they can detect -- older ears are no longer sensitive enough to detect the Mosquito's din....
[Read the article]

>Timely resources for further reading, listening, & viewing:
[] NOOMA - Noise 005 (DVD) with Rob Bell
[] Let's Make a Joyful Noise: Celebrating Psalm 100 by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Amy June Bates (coming this March)
[] Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Mark Yaconelli (foreword by Anne Lamott)
[] Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli
[] Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry by Tony Jones
[] Enjoy the Silence: A 30-Day Experiment in Listening to God by Maggie & Duffy Robbins
[] Into God's Presence: Listening to God through Prayer and Meditation by Liz Babbs
[] The Book of Uncommon Prayer: Contemplative and Celebratory Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministry (includes music CD) by Steven Case
[] The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministry (includes music CD) by Steven Case
[] C. S. Lewis Readings for Meditations by C. S. Lewis
[] Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Meditations on Psalms, edited by Edwin H. Robertson

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thirty Two Principles for Public Prayer

Lig Duncan

Thirty Two Principles for Public Prayer

By J. Ligon Duncan III (following Samuel Miller)

Those who regularly bear the solemn responsibility of leading the congregation in public prayer are here again encouraged to study and reflect on this important matter. The consistent devotional use of such helps as Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer should be a helpful aid in preparing for such an awesome privilege and duty. In the introduction Samuel Miller's Thoughts on Public Prayer has already been commended, but perhaps an enumeration of some of Miller's main principles and admonitions will whet the reader's appetite for more and prove useful in evaluating our own efforts in corporate prayer.

Miller detected the following common faults in the public praying of the church in his day and they remain applicable to our own.


1. Overuse of certain favorite words and set forms of expression. This can become monotonous if one leads in pastoral prayer week after week. Too much repetition of God's name ("Lord," "Father," "Heavenly Father," etc.) should also be diligently avoided. This is often simply a matter of habit and lack of forethought.

2. Hesitation and apparent embarrassment in articulation. Long, awkward pauses and grasping for words detract from the power of public prayer.

3. Ungrammatical expressions in prayer. Rules of grammar and syntax should be studiously observed lest our poor form of speech become a stumbling block to those congregated for worship.

4. A lack of order and certain important elements of prayer. Disorderliness is a distraction for people who are trying to pray along with the one leading in prayer. During our public worship every Biblical element of prayer (such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession) should be employed. If there is only one comprehensive prayer in the service it should exhibit each part of prayer. If the various parts of prayer are divided into multiple prayers then each element should be given due prominence within the service. Corporate prayer which ignores or neglects any one of these elements is essentially defective.

5. Too much detail in particular elements of prayer. We should aim for proportion between the various parts of the prayer.

6. Praying too long. Excessive length in public prayer should be avoided. "Long prayers are for the closet." In Miller's day, when attention spans were much longer than our own, he recommended 12-15 minutes at the most. The reader may judge what is appropriate for his own situation.

7. The employment of allegorical style in prayer. Overuse of highly figurative language is to be discouraged and simplicity of form commended.

8. Introduction of allusions to party politics, and personalities in prayer. These are serious faults in public prayer. On the matter of prayer and politics the wise and learned Dr. Miller, toward the end of his earthly course, said, "I resolved, more than thirty years ago, never to allow myself, either in public prayer or preaching, to utter a syllable, in periods of great political excitement and party strife, that would enable any human being so much as to conjecture to which side in the political conflict I leaned." With regard to alluding to specific personalities in prayer, it may be noted in passing that it is never appropriate to pray "at" someone in public worship.

9. Usage of unsuitably affectionate or intimate language in prayer. The inappropriate use of amatory language (particularly when directed toward the persons of the Trinity) ought to be avoided in public devotions. This language, no matter how well intentioned, often has the appearance of being artificial or quaint.

10. The injection of comedy into prayer. The practice of indulging in wit, humor or sarcasm in public prayer is absolutely inexcusable and should not be tolerated.

11. Use of prayer to expound on a point of teaching. Miller says, "the excellence of a public prayer may be marred by introducing into it a large portion of didactic statement." The purpose of prayer is not to provide an outline of the text, the sermon or some topic in Christian doctrine, but to lead sinners to the throne of grace.

12. Careless over-emphasis of doctrines which are particularly repugnant to unbelievers. Those who are prone to discoursing on doctrine in their praying may also tend to be "studious of introducing, with much point, those doctrines which are most offensive to the carnal heart and which seldom fail to be revolting to our impenitent hearers." While no Scriptural doctrine should be deemed unsuitable for and excluded altogether from public prayer (even difficult and offensive teachings: the atonement, original sin, predestination, etc.) we should not become disproportionate in our emphasis or thoughtless in our language.

13. Casualness or over-familiarity in our speech with the Almighty. The High and Holy One is often addressed with too much familiarity (and sometimes almost flippancy). This is both distracting and disturbing to devout persons and ought to be studiously avoided.

14. Inappropriate display of pastoral "humility." Many ministers, before they preach, are wont to confess their unworthiness to proclaim the gospel and abase themselves before God. Miller warns, "there is such a thing as expressing unseasonably and also as carrying to an extreme the profession of humility." Public avowal of our ministerial humility (even in the form of prayer) carries with it certain spiritual dangers for which we all must be on guard.

15. Flattery in prayer. Anything even approaching flattery in public prayer is a serious matter. As Miller said, "flattery in any man and on any occasion is criminal." Yet, particularly when there are visiting dignitaries present in the congregation or preaching in the pulpit, this is a temptation to which ministers often succumb. We pray to God not to men. The Lord Almighty is our audience. Let us seek our approval of Him.

16. Lack of a sense of occasion. Some prayers so disregard the circumstances of the service, that they are virtually generic and would be as suitable for one occasion as well as another. Public prayer ought to be fitted for and appropriate to the circumstances of the service in which it is rendered.

17. Lack of reverence in the conclusion of prayer. Often the sentences or words of a prayer are spoken in such a way which gives the impression that the one praying is more concerned about what he must do following the prayer than he is with reverently addressing the Almighty. Our conclusions to prayer should be as worshipful as our beginnings.

18. Excessive volume and rapidity in prayer. Sometimes, as an expression of deep and ardent feeling, a person will pray very loudly and/or rapidly. Not only is this distracting in and of itself, but also makes it difficult for the congregation to follow along.


After his discussion of common weaknesses in public prayer, Miller suggests a number of marks of suitable public prayer. The following synopsis is drawn from that discussion.

1. Public prayer should abound in the language of Scripture. This is "one of the most essential excellencies in public prayer," said Miller. The language of the word of God is always right, safe, and edifying. Furthermore, in God's word there is a simplicity and tenderness which is very powerful and particularly suited to captivate the heart. Finally, it enables the listener to follow the prayer more easily.

2. Public prayer should be well-ordered. Regular order is helpful to the memory of the one who is leading in prayer and assists the worshippers who are joining in it. Furthermore, it helps keep the prayer at a proper length. Of course, this does not mean that the same order must be used every time.

3. It should be general and comprehensive. Miller observes that "a suitable prayer in the public assembly is dignified and general in its plan, and comprehensive in its requests, without descending to too much detail." This will better suit the prayer to the general petitions that need to be rendered up by the congregation as a whole.

4. It should not be too wordy or lengthy. This will involve care not to attempt to pray on too many topics, or in too great detail.

5. It should be appropriate to the occasion on which it is offered. This is a Scriptural pattern, a help to the worshippers, and a good way to keep pastoral prayers from becoming too tedious or lengthy.

6. It ought to contain a good dose of gospel truth. Without turning into a sermon, Miller suggests that "It is an important excellence in a public prayer that it include the recognition of so much gospel truth as to be richly in instructive to all who join in it, as well as who listen to it."

7. It should manifest variety. There is so much that is suitable for inclusion in the petitions of corporate prayer in the Lord's church, that only laziness can lead us to pray over the same content, in the same pattern, week after week. A desirable degree of variety in prayer can be a great help to holding the attention of those worshippers who are seriously attempting to join in offering prayer to God.

8. If prayer is routinely closed with a doxology from Scripture, the doxology should be varied. This practice was standard in Miller's day and is to be commended to the Christian public in our own.

9. It should contain petition for the advance of the gospel. Miller says "a good public prayer ought always to include a strongly marked reference to the spread of the gospel, and earnest petitions for the success of the means employed by the Church for that purpose."

10. The names of the Lord should be appropriately employed in the various parts of prayer. Instead of simply employing one title of God throughout a prayer it is appropriate to change this title from one segment of prayer to another.

11. It should be marked by the spirit and language of hope and confidence. "Our gracious covenant God loves to be taken at his word; to be firmly and affectionately trusted; to have his exceeding great and precious promises importunately pleaded; and to be approached as a willing, tender Father, not only `mighty to save,' but ready and willing to save; more ready to bestow the gifts of his grace than earthly parents to give good things to their children" said Miller.

12. The prayer after the sermon should be solemn and impressive. Miller suggests that "it ought to be formed upon the plan of taking hold of the conscience and the heart most deeply and effectually."

13. The frequent use of the Lord's prayer is proper, but not mandatory. We should not feel constrained to use the Lord's Prayer every Sunday.

14. The voice and tone in which we offer prayer should be suitable to the solemn activity. "It is important to add, that the whole manner of uttering a public prayer should be in accordance with the humble, filial, affectionate, yet reverential spirit which ought to characterize the prayer itself throughout," said Miller. For a sinner to offer a prayer to Almighty God in a "pompous, dictatorial manner" is incongruous with our status as sinful men and the very activity of prayer (which is an acknowledgment of our creaturely dependence and an exercise of humble reliance).

In conclusion, we may note Miller's pithy description of an acceptable public prayer. He said "Words `few,' `well considered,' and `well ordered,' are the inspired characteristics of a good prayer."

J. Ligon Duncan is the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

January/February 2008

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Inner~View #37: Prayer Leaders and the Tech Revolution

Prayer Leader Interviewed Toby Dagenhart

Developer/Owner iPrayerWorks.com

Prayer Leader
~ Toby the Internet continues to explode and new technologies appear almost every day - How can already over loaded prayer leaders get a handle on what is beneficial and applicable to their ministry?

Toby ~ I'm glad you brought up one of the most important problems prayer leaders face, "already over loaded prayer leaders." You are exactly right, what I have found in my work with the prayer leadership personnel is that they continually express that same problem. As a matter of record, I was approached by the prayer leader of the Chapelwood United Methodist Church with a request from her to develop a program that could relieve not only her workload but the workload of those associated with her. She was looking for a way to not only improve the daily activities of her prayer team, reduce the time needed for the leadership activities required and provide an opportunity to focus more time and effort on programs that had been shelved, her primary concern was to help more people in need through prayer, exactly what the job of the church is.

Prayer Leader ~ You have developed a site designed especially for prayer - How does it work?

Toby ~ The system basically uses the power of the internet to allow access to the congregational prayer needs 24 hours a day seven days a week. Prayer room administrators can review and manage prayer requests from any computer with internet access. Intercessors can log-in and pray for the needs of the church any time of the day or night.

Prayer Leader ~
This system is already being used by congregations. What feedback are they giving you?

Toby ~ The feedback, unsolicited, has been beyond our expectations. The churches that are presently using the system are all seeing tremendous growth in their prayer ministries. The growth they are experiencing is from several different directions.
  1. Increased involvement from the general membership, more intercessors signing up and a renewed commitment of those already acting as intercessors.
  2. A reduction of time required to perform the administrative duties to manage the daily activities of the prayer team.
  3. An increase in the number of prayers being lifted up to the Lord on behalf of those in need.
  4. Ease of access to the list of those in need and the specific need allowing the intercessors to respond more rapidly, precisely pinpointing the need rather than a shotgun approach.
  5. Meaningful prayer to address specific needs from anywhere in the world where intercessors have access to a computer and online availability.

Prayer Leader~ How can this system be utilized for prayer-care-share ministries?

Toby ~ I can envision churches positioning themselves as prayer centers, reaching out to the communities in which they are located, to offer support, not only for their own membership, but for non-members as well. As requests are made it will allow the church the opportunity to grow in several ways.

The organization of one or more teams to receive and to respond to the requests.

  1. A more complete understanding of the community of which they are a part, their needs, their desires, their knowledge of Christ, and I believe most importantly, what is on their heart.
  2. The church over a period of time will find itself in a position to better respond to the community in general, not just the church community.
  3. As the non church connected people of the community realize the power of prayer they are in a much better position to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  4. Every person in the community will have access to submitting a prayer request via the internet.

Prayer Leader ~ Powerful management tools are often very complicated to use and expensive to purchase or rent ...

Toby ~ This management tool was built to be user friendly with the end-user in mind. There is no software necessary for the prayer leaders to install, there are no downloads or upgrades, all of those problems are taken care of by us. The upgrades are automatically added to their system with notification and information on use. Training is provided not only for the intercessors but for the prayer leaders as well to make sure they are gaining full benefit of the program. Each program is designed specifically for the church identifying them as the user. The program has received many compliments because of its ease of use. The training of intercessors who have a computer and access to the internet takes less than 15 minutes. Once the intercessor is trained they can easily log-in, using their own user name and password, accessing the prayer requests and begin their prayer session in less than 30 seconds.

Pricing, as you are aware, is many different things to many different people. What seems to be expensive for one is viewed as inexpensive for another, and the reason for that difference is one can see the benefits and results clearly, while the other cannot see or understand the benefits. There is a one-time set-up fee which is based on the size of the church followed by a monthly service fee. The monthly service fee includes hosting, database back-ups, technical support, and all future upgrades to the system. Please be assured the benefits of this program clearly outweigh any pricing objections.

Prayer Leader ~ Toby, what is your prayer for the prayer coordinator who is tech-challenged and resists implementing new technologies...

Toby ~ My prayer for prayer leaders is that they trust God in knowing He will provide for them their daily bread. Whether that daily bread comes in the form of new technology is between them and God. I know it has been the answer for some, but probably is not the answer for all.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

RESORUCE ~ 6 Minute Video for Kids Teaches Adults How To Prayerwalk

NOTE >> Just uploaded on You Tube - Kid's Prayer DVDs - Narrated by kids - 6 minutes long each - Great for kids (ages 3-9) (even better for their teachers, leaders and parents!) ...

Prayerwalking for Kids,. Preview

Prayerwalking for Kids a snappy upbeat 6 minute video for kids on how to pray for your community

Prayer and Fasting for Kids,. Preview

Prayer and Fasting for Kids a fast paced 7 minute video that encourages children to fast and pray for other nations

The 10/40 Window for Kids, Preview

The 10/40 Window for Kids a wonderful 6 minute video used to teach kids about missions across America and around the world.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Secrecy of Prayer

Keys to Effective Prayer
Alice Smith

Some Christians seem to experience a much closer intimacy with God than others. Some appear to enjoy a reverent familiarity with the Lord that is foreign to others. Is it a matter of favoritism on God's part? No. The Lord doesn't have favorites, but he does have intimates. And Jesus invites you to be one of them. What are the benefits of this close fellowship with Jesus Christ?

My intimate experiences with the Lord have grown and changed through the years. So will yours. Jesus can't reveal everything to us at once; we grow closer to him over time. One of the joys of knowing Christ is the depth of communion we can experience. To be invited to constantly commune with Christ is such a privilege.

Communion reminds us of the Lord's Supper. It sounds rather formal and somber. Of course you can, as some do, experience a personal "Lord’s Supper." But I'm referring not to the ordinance, per se. There is so much more beyond that. I'm referring to the intimate fellowship we can have with Christ. Let me share with you, from my heart, several insights I have gleaned.
1. Relax in prayer. Don't struggle to perform. Relax and be yourself. Laugh, celebrate, praise and enjoy this marvelous, yet mysterious covenant relationship you have with Jesus.

2. Don't feel worthy? Don't take yourself so seriously. We all "blow it" at times. Loosen up.

3. Don't limit your communion relationship to prayer. Include devotional reading, Bible reading, praise and worship in your prayer times. Sing to him, brag on him; enjoy him.

4. You can't lead another to a level deeper of intimacy that you've not experienced. Develop your intimate relationship with Christ first before trying to lead others.

5. Do as I do, involve the Lord in your every day conversation. Assume his constant presence with you. Ask him to minister to people around you. Tell the Lord how much you appreciate revelation and counsel regarding the day to day situations in which you find yourself. Hey, you can ask Jesus to help you find a parking spot too!

My friend, pastor and author, Dutch Sheets explains communion this way. "Second Corinthians 13:14 says, 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship a/the Holy Spirit, be with you all.' The word fellowship here is koinonia and is rich with meaning, as can be seen in the following definitions: The word koinonia implies that the Holy Spirit wants intimacy with us. This very word is used in 1 Corinthians 10: 16 to describe the Lord's Table, the bread and the wine. This is appropriate since it is the Lord's shed blood and broken body that brings us into covenantal, intimate communion with Him."

"The Holy Spirit wants to commune with us. He has much to say if we learn to listen. He is the means to all revelation from God. He is the Teacher. He is a part of the Godhead we're to be in relationship with. Let him fellowship and commune with you. At times his fellowship with you requires no speaking. Some communion is heart to heart. At times I crawl up to God for a look. Just knowing he is looking back is enough. At other times he shares his heart while I'm gazing.

"There is an amazing picture of this sort of intimacy reflected in the following scriptures: The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant (Ps. 25:14, italics mine)."

"The words "secret" and "intimacy" are translated from the same root Hebrew word cowd, which means "couch, cushion, or pillow." Dutch Sheets, Watchman Prayer."
(Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2000), p. 153-154.
The picture is one of two intimate friends laughing and talking at lunch in a crowded restaurant, oblivious to their surroundings, lost in their conversation. Or it reminds me of my teen slumber parties. Late at night, we girls would put on our PJ’s, grab our pillows, and sit in a circle to talk, laugh, and tell stories. The Lord longs for this same kind of "snuggle-close" friendship.
Please help us during this Sabbath rest for Eddie.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Revitalizing an 80 Year Old Congregation

Do you have any helps or tips on revitalizing our church prayer chain or the ministry of prayer within our congregation? I’m going to meet with the 2 ladies that have headed it up for years. They have 6 teams of 5 members each. What do other churches do? Do guys take lead in this area? We are an 80 year old congregation with an average Sunday attendance of 1,000. Thanks for all you do to help folks with prayer Phil.

Good to hear from you Pastor.

Several ideas/comments:

A Prayer Chain is important but it is only one way into the movement of prayer in a church.

Levels of prayer:
1st ...Prayer is an activity - like chains, prayer rooms, prayer meetings

2nd ... Prayer is a ministry - good development if this team seeks to saturate prayer into every existing ministry
3rd ... Prayer is first a strategy, then we build a ministry, then we choose our activities that fit the strategy

1. Integrate prayer into every members life at home and at work and at "play" (community connections)
2. Saturate prayer into every ministry; every ministry leader is a champion of prayer that produces plans and power for ministry
3. Penetrate prayer into the community by praying
> For the neighborhoods and needs of the community
> In the community
> With the community (neighbors, mayors, etc)

Books to start the process:
- House of Prayer (NavPress.com)
- (same title) (LifeWay.com)
- Prayer Saturated Church (NavPress)

Let me know how the meeting goes - Glad to give more feedback,

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Don't pray unless . . ."

The Prayer Force

By Rick Ezell

Prayer is the indispensable and vital function of a believer. No aspect of our Christian life is more essential and crucial to our personal growth and health, and the church's growth and health, than spending time with God. We are never taller than when we are on our knees. We are never stronger than when we are confessing our weaknesses. We are never bolder in public than when we are quiet before God in private.

Prayer brings God to us. Prayer reminds us that we need God more than he needs us. The essence of prayer is to join God, not God joining us. We ask what is on God's heart rather than telling God what is on our hearts. Prayer is the lifeline that saves the drowning soul. Prayer is the umbilical cord that provides nourishment to the starving spirit. Prayer is the channel by which God's life-giving presence flows to us.

St. Augustine, the early church father and theologian, described prayer as like a man in a hapless boat who throws a rope at a rock. The rock provides the needed security and stability for the helpless man. When the rock is lassoed, it's not the man pulling the rock to the boat (though it may appear that way); it is the pulling of the boat to the rock. Jesus is the rock, and we throw the rope through prayer.

Prayer changes us. The early disciples were once timid and afraid, hiding and secretive, embarrassed and ashamed. But when they prayed for boldness and power in public ministry, God changed them. He transformed wimps (weak, ineffectual, and insipid persons) into warriors (bold, courageous, and powerful people).

Richard Foster wrote, "To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ."

Don't pray unless you want to change. Don't pray unless you want to be propelled to action. Don't pray unless you want to move on the offensive. Don't pray unless you want to go to war. And, when you go to war you need power.

Prayer unleashes the power of God. Prayer is the most powerful weapon in the believer's arsenal. Is it any wonder that the Evil One seeks valiantly to keep Christ followers from praying? When we don't pray Satan has won the battle. But, when we pray, the power of God is unleashed.

The power is felt on the human front. Sidlow Baxter wrote, "Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers."

Then, the power is felt on the spiritual front. Samuel Chadwick said, "The one concern of the devil is to keep saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray."

Prayer equips us for battle. The battle is for the hearts of men and women. God needs us on the front lines telling others about him. The war is won in the trenches of men and women's will. Prayer equips us for that engagement.

How foolish one would be to go to battle without proper preparation, training, and equipment. How foolish are we to go to spiritual battles without prayer. John Henry Jowett claimed, "It is in the field of prayer that life's critical battles are won or lost." As believers and as a church we will only be triumphant in storming the lines of evil for the souls of men and women when we pray.

Let us pray. The souls of men and women hang in the balance.

Copyright 2005 Rick Ezell / http://www.rickezell.net

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