Thursday, May 14, 2009

Inner~View #64: Teaching People to Pray As They Pray

Interview with John Franklin, national prayer leader and author

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Phil ~ Your website begins with "America is morally imploding before our very eyes." What is your perspective on the times and seasons of our culture and how is that impacting your teaching and writing ministry?

John ~ Jeremiah 18:7-11 declares, “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. 11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ (NIV)

Given our increasing wickedness, what other conclusion is there, save we had better wake up before it’s too late. I sense a very strong burden to teach regarding revival, the fear of God, our accountability to Him as Christians and a nation, the hope if we repent, the certainty of judgment that awaits us if we do not.

Phil ~ What prompted you to write your latest book, Walking With God?

John ~ – After speaking to thousands of prayer leaders and people in the pew over the last 12 years, I concluded the majority of Christians do not know how to practically connect with God in prayer. The vast majority do not know how to answer basic questions such as:
1. What does it take to connect with God in prayer?
2. How do you hear God’s voice?
3. What are the hindrances to prayer?
4. What does it take to keep your heart steadfast in a love relationship with the living God?

I wrote the book to give basic prayer principles in a format that teaches a lifestyle habit for walking with God.

Phil ~ The subtitle, 30 Days to Change Your Prayer Life, might sound typical for prayer guides but you have incorporated several interesting features ... Please explain:

John ~ The features I’m about to explain spring from three beliefs.
1. People learn best by doing mixed with understanding.
2. Simplicity creates better learning than complexity.
3. Repetition in following a God-centered format creates the greatest likelihood for learning how to pray.

Here are the features:
1. The book is organized around 30 days of training exercises. I called them training exercises instead of devotionals because I wanted people to know they were to learn a lifestyle habit – not merely have a devotional thought for the day.

2. Each training exercise follows a standardized God-centered format. I did this so that learning could be reinforced through repetition.
3. The 30 training exercises are organized by seven themes of what the reader should be learning and doing in prayer.
4. Before the reader starts, they read a brief explanation as to what the three keys to dynamic prayer are in order to give them a reference point for knowing what they’re looking for when they pray.

Three Keys
I recognize that the three keys I teach are not all there is to prayer. But I believe this trio is indispensable to understand anything else. The three keys are:
1. Understanding the nature of Prayer – Prayer is the communication aspect of how I conducted my relationship with God – not primarily about getting from God.
2. Understanding and practicing three foundations – Those foundations are 1) Practicing prayer as a relationship with God. Our desire for God determines whether or not we’ll walk with Him. 2) Praying consistently about your kingdom purpose – What did God talk to the great saints in the Bible about? More times than not it related to their assignment. If someone tries to conduct their prayer life with God by having one on one warm fuzzy sessions, they will not find Him consistently. 3) A Biblical mind-set – in order to connect our minds must be saturated with Scripture. This leads to a God-centeredness, repentance, a clean heart, and asking in line with the desires of God’s heart.
3. Understanding that God has initiated a training process in your life through prayer – Most people start prayer without any sense that God is taking them somewhere. They do not view themselves as kingdom agents whom God is developing to be ever increasingly of greater and greater use in that kingdom. A prayer life will result in personal growth as a kingdom servant.

Seven Themes
The 30 training exercises are organized into seven themes. The purpose of the themes is to highlight ways God wants to train you. The themes are:
1. The three foundations of prayer (training exercises 1-3).
2. God trains you (training exercises 4-10).
3. Begin prayer by focusing on God (training exercises 11-13).
4. Respond from the heart (training exercises 14-20).
5. Seek first the kingdom (training exercises 21-28).
6. Present your request (training exercise 29).
7. Close in joy (training exercise 30).

Thirty Exercises
Each exercise follow a format. I studied every prayer meeting in the Bible to identify what the Bible format for prayer is. I discovered that all prayer meetings begin with focusing on God, then there was a heart response of the people. After that the format varied. I The format I chose begins with focusing on God and responding from the heart. The next three elements correspond to what Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer. The format for the 30 training exercises is:
-Focus on God
-Respond from the heart
-Seek first the kingdom
-Present your requests
-Close in joy
Notice that the format and themes 2-7 are the same. Again I’m trying to use repetition, simplicity, and reinforcement.

Phil~ I noticed the daily exercises are not all internally focused. Topics include a new mind-set, society, the nations ...

John ~ Yes. That’s because the majority of prayers in the Bible were for the advance of the kingdom. Matthew 6:7-8 tells us not to pray like pagans. The basic nature of pagan prayer is that they pray for earthly provision and think they will be heard for their many words. Instead Jesus tell us our Father already knows what we have need of before we pray. So we ought to pray this way, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). He concludes the chapter by reiterating we’re not to be like pagans all worried and uptight about earthly provisions for our life (Mt. 25-32), but instead to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).

Starting prayer with God instead of our request, taking time to respond from the heart in relationship to Him, and seeking first the kingdom, are the three most violated Biblical practices of prayer that I know of in our day.

Phil ~ The daily format follows five principles taken from the Lord's Prayer ...

John ~ Yes. I mentioned it earlier, but to clarify:
• Focus on God – Our Father which art in heaven
• Respond from the heart – Hallowed by Thy name
• Seek First the Kingdom – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
• Present Your Requests – Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
• Close in joy - For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Phil ~ The book concludes with a section of your Thoughts on Revival. Why is that relevant to someone embarking on a path to change their prayer life?

John ~ Because our prayer life is oriented to God. If revival is on His heart, then that ought to be on my heart. Prayer is not primarily about my wants, my wishes, and my heart. Rather it’s about His wants, His wishes, and His heart. Second, if I’m going to pray about this matter intelligently, I need to know how God goes about revival and the things associated with it. So this final section does not teach one how to pray like the 30 training exercises, but impacts prayer by helping the reader know about God’s heart in an area of vital interest.

Phil ~ "God intends to use his people as agents of mercy during judgment." Most authors focus on judgment, and ignore mercy, or on mercy, and minimize judgment. Why is that and how is that dangerous for the Church?

John ~ Historically, the church has focused on one truth of God to the minimization of others. In our day we emphasize the love, mercy, compassion, kindness and grace of God without adequate understanding of His holiness, justice, wrath, vengeance, fear, and accountability. The reason for this in American Christianity is because we are influenced by the Humanism of the 20th century. We tend to think that anything causing human suffering must be the worst sort of injustice; therefore, God couldn’t cause suffering or really inflict wrath to any significant degree.. It has taken me about 10 years to understand the holiness and love of God so that they are no longer in conflict in my thinking.

This is dangerous in our day because we have lost the fear of God. When we no longer have a concept of a holy God who can be provoked to wrath, then we lose any real sense of accountability for sin. If “By fear of the Lord one departs from evil” (Prov. 16:6), and we are no longer departing, then it can only mean we no longer fear the Lord. We evidently have taught mercy and grace in such a way that the majority does not sense the impending wrath of God against sin. Until this happens, we cannot have a national revival. And that must happen first in the church. Judgment begins with us (1 Peter 4:17).

Phil ~ How can this guide be used by prayer leaders (pastors and/or prayer coordinators) to involve nominal pray-ers in the lifestyle of dynamic praying?

John ~ In general the best way to involve nominal pray-ers is to call them to prayer around a central focus for a set amount of time. This book could be used toward this end, for example, by a church going into a building program, a mission team preparing for their trip, or VBS workers seeking God’s favor on their endeavors. In the section of the format Seek First The Kingdom, the central focus of the church or group could be plugged in. Once someone has practical training and a reference point, they will be more likely to become involved in a lifestyle of dynamic praying. I’ve made this book cost effective for churches and groups so that they can do this easily - only $4 a copy when bought in bulk.

Phil ~ John, please write a prayer you hope each one of us reading this will pray; for ourselves and for those we shepherd.

John ~ Father, would you grant that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened to know the character and nature of your Son, to be conformed to His image, to walk with You as He did, especially in this our day when we stand in desperate need of revival. May each pastor and leader have the grace to wisely shepherd Your flock, to turn them from the propensity toward self-centeredness, to see themselves as servants of the Living God, denying self so they may be agents of righteousness for Christ’s sake.

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