Posts Tagged ‘William Temple’

A reflection on the power of prayer (or its perceived lack of power)

September 15, 2016

I wrote the following for my church’s weekly email blast.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to listen to podcasts. And you won’t be surprised to know that I often listen to podcasts related to church and Christian theology.

In the past week, I’ve heard two podcasts about formerly prominent Christian clergy who’ve now lost their faith. [ed. note: here and here.] It breaks my heart. I can’t help but wonder if their training for ministry adequately prepared them for the acute spiritual warfare that accompanies a call to pastoral ministry.

I pray that the Lord will bring them back to their senses.

In both cases, these former pastors cited unanswered prayer as one important reason for their abandoning the faith. One of them wondered aloud, for instance, why God would fail to grant a prayer request for a dying child. If God won’t answer even that prayer, he asked, why would he answer any prayer? Unless, of course, there were no God.

Very smart Christians have offered good answers to these kinds of questions. And on my blog, I’ve tried to do so as well.

For whatever reason, however, unanswered prayer hasn’t been a big challenge for me. Even in instances of profound grief, which I’ve experienced firsthand, I have a sense that God is with those of us who are suffering and is working for our good—even when he doesn’t give us what we pray for.

In general, my experience with prayer agrees with William Temple, an Archbishop of Canterbury from the 20th century. He said, “When I pray, coincidences happen. When I don’t, they don’t.”

Besides, given what the Bible, including the red-letter words of Jesus, teaches about prayer, who am I to complain? I know I don’t pray often enough or with nearly enough persistence. I’m sure there are many prayers that God would answer for me if only I would pray them, or if only I wouldn’t give up on them so easily!

Here’s a frightening thought: How has my own ministry been hampered by a lack of faithfulness in prayer?

I shared this fear on my blog last week, and a friend helpfully cited Paul’s words from Philippians 3:13: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”


I’m grateful that many of you have joined me these past few weeks in praying each day for our new :44 service, which begins this Sunday. Will you continue to make prayer your top priority?

Or if you’ve tried and failed to do so, pray that the Holy Spirit would give you the power to change.

Your church needs your prayers. Your pastor needs your prayers. Your friends and loved ones need your prayers. You need your prayers!

Sermon 03-06-16: “Believing the Word”

March 11, 2016

John Sermon Series Graphic
As hard as it is to believe, when we find ourselves in a place of utter helplessness—when we’ve reach the end of our ropes and realize that there’s nothing else we can do to help ourselves—this is often, surprisingly, an amazing place to be! Because this is the place where God’s grace meets us! This sermon explores this idea and more. Enjoy!

Sermon Text: John 4:43-54

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Growing up, my friend Andy had a street sign hanging on his bedroom wall. It identified a street near where we lived; I don’t know how he got it or where he got it. But the sign hung on his wall, right next to the Christie Brinkley swimsuit poster. It was awesome—and the street sign was pretty cool too!

But I’m sure the people from the county who put the sign up originally didn’t want my friend to have it—in part because the county paid for it, and they had to replace it with a new one. And besides, the purpose of a sign isn’t to be displayed on the wall as a piece of art, as part of the decor of a teenage boy’s bedroom; the purpose of a sign is to point to something, to identify something, to give information about something. If you hang the sign on your wall because you like the way it looks, you’ve missed the point of the sign.

And that’s what these Galileans in today’s scripture have done. They’ve missed the point of Jesus’ “signs,” which is John’s name for the miracles that Jesus performs. So of course, as verse 45 says, the Galileans “welcome” Jesus; they roll out the red carpet for him; throw a parade for him when he returns home to Galilee. Why wouldn’t they welcome him like this? The local boy has made them proud; he’s done well. After all, did you see what he did a couple of weeks ago at the Passover festival in Jerusalem? Unbelievable… All those miracles he performed! And the way he drove away those merchants and money changers in the Temple! But especially the miracles! Everyone’s talking about the miracles! And he’s one of us! He’s a hometown boy!

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