Well, last night I was unable to sleep very well because we had a thunderstorm roll right over the top of us with rain, thunder and lightning. Then to complicate things, every time there was a clap of thunder, then a car alarm nearby went off adding to the noise. I finally got some sleep but not as much as I would have liked.
Went to breakfast again in the cafeteria at SBTS, the food here is outstanding. After that, Dr. and Mrs Hauser came and picked me up and they took me back to their home to show me around. They have a nice home and God has provided for them in their retirement years. They did share with me that they have had some difficulty in finding a good church. Those of you who read, please pray for the Hausers that the Lord will direct them to a good Independent Baptist church in the area. After taking a tour of their house, we went to a nearby Bob Evans for lunch and then they brought me back to the seminary for the scheduled tour I was to take in the afternoon.
At 12:30, I went over to the Admissions office and met up with the group that was taking a tour of the facilities. I had a tour with Terry Delaney on Wednesday. I called that the “student tour”. This was a more formal tour that is given to visitors/prospective students. We got to see a good portion of the nice facilities here and we were able to ask questions as well. The tour concluded at 2:00 pm and I had some work to complete. I still had to finish up my book review and take my exam. I was able to complete both of those tasks and went to dinner in the cafeteria around 5:30. Again, the food was great!
I took some time just to relax (now that the pressure was off because I got my assignment and exam completed and e-mailed back.
At 7:00 pm, the first session of the Spiritual Disciplines Conference started. This is a smaller conference than usual because of the confluence of several events. Spring Break here at Southern Seminary is next week, T4G- Together for the Gospel is about ten days. So it was a timing issue of sorts. We have a group of approximately 12 people and Dr. Whitney told us that this would be a good thing because it would allow a more intimate setting with less people (time for questions, etc)
I wanted to live-blog, but did not want to disturb anyone else with my rapid typing and was afraid that I would miss something in the process. I took a lot of notes, so those will suffice for my summary and delayed live-blog.
Dr. Whitney began the conference by talking about a conference that used to be held several years ago entitled “Prayer for Spiritual Awakening” At that conference, the question was asked, “How much time do you spend in prayer?” The average answer among the 20,000 people surveyed was as follows: 15,000 laypeople said that they prayed on average about 5 mins a day. The 5,000 ministers and their families did not fare much better, they prayed an average of 7 mins a day.
Dr. Whitney made a couple of statements that really got our attention:
“We don’t pray because we don’t feel like it.”
“Our problem in prayer is we say the same old things about the same old things”
Because of this, we tend to conclude that we are second-rate Christians. It is not about us, it is about our methods.
Our problem is not that we pray about the same old-things. To pray about the same old things most of the time is normal. What are those things?
- Work or school
- Church or ministry
- “Current crisis” – job change, birth, death (these occur on average about every 6 months or so
Our problem in prayer is that we say the same old things about the same old things. There is no passion, it becomes boring, our mind wanders, we lost interest. All of us if we are honest can say that we have experienced one of more of those things at some point in our Christian life.
The problem could be the lack of the Holy Spirit which would mean that we are unconverted.
The Holy Spirit brings holy longings, aspirations, appetites, loves, love for God’s people and a love for God’s Word and God’s will.
Those who have the Holy Spirit really want to pray. Experience tells us that prayer is boring. Again the problem is not you, but your method!
What is the solution?
- Whatever it is, it must be simple
- Otherwise, almost no Christian in the world could have a meaningful prayer life.
He then taught us how to pray through a Psalm, here are some of the principles that were given to us.
- Whatever comes to mind – line by line
- You can’t do it wrong
- You do not have to finish the Psalm or pray through the entire Psalm
- You will never repeat yourself
- The words that we are using (Psalms) are inspired words
- His words (Psalms) are the wings of our prayers
He then gave a distinction between studying the Bible and reading the Bible.
He then talked to us about the Psalm of the day
There are 150 Psalms, there are an average of 30 days in a month. 5 Psalms per day- look at 5 and pick 1 to pray through.
The way we come about the Psalms of the day:
- Day of the month – today is the 4th of April = 4
- Add 30 – 4+30=34 +30 = 64 +30 = 94, etc.
- So for today we would look at Psalm 4, 34, 64, 94, 124
- On the 31st use Psalm 119. Psalm 119 will also come up on the 29th of the month
The Psalms are the best place to pray Scripture
- In the Psalms, God reveals to us how He wants us to praise Him
- Psalms were originally inspired for singing
- God inspired the Psalms for us so that we would sing the Psalms to him
We are given two commands to sing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs in the New Testament – Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16
People will sing Psalms out of convenience. We should be intentional and sing them out of obedience.
Before 1700 – every denomination sang Psalms and some sang nothing but Psalms
Exclusive Psalmody – the view that excludes everything by Psalms to be sung in churches. This was held until around the 1700’s when Benjamin Keach and Isaac Watts started to introduce human composition into churches to be sung.
Other points about praying through Scripture
- Martin Luther “Every doctrine in the Bible is in the Psalms”
- Every human emotion is in the Psalms
- The New Testament Letters – we used I Thessalonians 2 – every verse suggests something to pray about
- The narrative passages of Scriptures (Gospels, Acts, OT) – we looked at John 8. In narrative texts, it helps for us to look at the big ideas and to pray about the punchline and not necessarily the setting or details.
- We can do this with a prayer list by mentioning the needs as we see them in the text.
- Prayer ought to be conversational – letting each party speak ( we speak to God through prayer and God speaks to us through His Word) This will free us from feeling like we have to prop-up the conversation with filler
He talked about George Mueller
- He recommended the biography of Mueller written by Roger Steer
- He said that George Mueller documented in his journal that he saw over 50,000 answers to prayer
- Over 30,000 of those were answered in the same day
- Mueller for the first 10 yrs of his “life of faith” started by praying for 1/2 hour to an hour and then he felt like he was just beginning to pray.
- He prayed through Scripture and it changed his life, he said “I scarcely ever suffered any longer”
He gave some Biblical examples of praying through Scripture
- Jesus in Matthew 27:46 (he was praying through Psalm 22)
- Jesus in Luke 23:46 (he was praying through Psalm 31)
- The church in Acts 4:23-26 (they were praying Psalm 2:1,2)
Tomorrow we will be talking about Bible intake and meditation. I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to try to convey some of the things that I have learned. My notes do not do justice to what you can hear in person. I would highly recommend anytime you can hear Dr. Whitney do one of these conference, whether here at Southern Seminary or maybe in a church in your area, please do yourself a huge favor and go and listen. This content could change your life.
For me, I determined that I had to make an investment in my spiritual life and walk with God, not only for my sake, but for the sake of my wife and son. I have been a Christian for over 20 years and I will be extremely transparent that I have struggled in the area of the Spiritual Disciplines and that by being away from my family for a few days and spending the needed funds for airfare, food and lodging have already been well worth it for me. Sometimes it takes a conference like this to give us an “aha” moment to something we have either taken for granted or something that we struggle with and think that there is no hope.
I like what Dr. Whitney said, “It’s not you, it’s your method” Maybe that is why many people struggle with consistency in these areas because they are continually blaming themselves and not looking at their methods. I know in my own personal example, I was never really effectively discipled after I became a Christian. I was told by well-intentioned people that I had to do certain things (pray, read the Bible, etc.) but a lot of times, they failed to instruct me on HOW to do those things with a reasonable amount of success and consistency. I am not casting blame or dispersion, but it is a lesson to me that eventually someday when I serve in a church as a pastor that I have a responsibility to teach the people how to do this and not just tell them to do it and let them figure it out on their own.
Well, it is late and I am going to attempt to get some rest, there is no rain or storms here, so I should sleep well.