The Center Fellowship
The Center Fellowship

Developing an Effective Prayer Life

RS: Okay, what we’re going to do in this series is I’m going to share with you, going back over time, all that I’ve personally learned about the issue of prayer, and there is so much to know and understand. I’m also using other resources, including Tim Keller’s book on prayer. It’s a very lengthy book, but I’m almost finished with it; it’s very good, as well as some other books. Let me just share this right up front, but the first thing that I’ve concluded, is that of all the spiritual disciplines in the Christian life, prayer is clearly the most difficult, and yet maybe the most important. Now, that is what Keller says. He says, “I can think of nothing great that is also easy.” Think about that. I can think of nothing that’s great, say, for your life, that’s also easy. He says, “prayer, must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world. To admit that prayer is hard, however, can be encouraging, because if you struggle greatly in this area of your life, you’re not alone. You’re not an aberration. I remember, this has been years ago, I somehow got into contact with, and devedloped a friendship with, a relationship with, an older man, I want to say he was in his 80s, and he had this wonderful ministry in the inner city. He was a retired lawyer is what he was, and just a kind, humble guy. The thing that always cracked me up about him is that he always, always wore a tie and a suit. I guess he’d done it so long as a lawyer, he didn’t know what else to wear, but always, had a tie and a suit. Just a real gentlemen, and a Godly man, but I’ll never forget him confiding in me, and he said, Richard, you know, I really don’t have much of a prayer life. He said, I really struggle with prayer. Then he said this, and I think you might relate to this, after two or three minutes of praying to God, I run out of things to say. And if you think about it, when it comes to reading the Bible, let’s say you are reading the book of Mark, say in the morning, before you go to work, and let’s say you are reading two chapters a day, and hopefully, as I encouraged you, you keep a notebook, keep up with what you’re reading and you’re going to read the fourth chapter of Mark, you open your Bible, you know where to go, and you can easily focus your attention on the reading. But prayer, if you really don’t know what to pray, your mind can easily wonder. And, let me just say this, even if you do have things to pray about, your mind can easily wonder. I like to pray, to go on walks early in the morning and pray. And just the other day, I realized as I started praying about something, my mind starts to wonder, and I’m not praying anymore, I’m thinking about something in my day. So, it’s a difficult discipline, but I’ll tell you this, when we’re finished with this series, I’ll promise you this, you will see that there is plenty to pray about in this life. Now, before we start, I want to share a thought, maybe to encourage you a little bit, maybe to challenge you a little bit, and this dawned on me 12 or 13 years ago, when I was preparing to teach on prayer, and I would ask you to turn to Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews 11 is the famous chapter on faith. And he talks about people in the scriputres and the Old Testament who were people who lived by faith. And he begins by talking about what faith is, and look at verse 6. Robert Jolly, would you read that?

Robert: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

RS: That’s a great verse. We could spend some time on that verse. But what I want to focus on, when he says, without faith it is impossible to please God. This is the way we approach God, by faith. Think about what prayer is, guys, think about what’s really going on here. Let’s assume, I don’t know about your house, but at my house, I’m always the first one up. And, I’ll get up, and we have a sunroom at our house, and that’s where I go to study the scriptures, and pray. Now think about this, let’s say that you, I don’t know what you do, but let’s say you get up early, and get up before everybody else and you go and pray. Think about it. Why are you praying? You’re not trying to impress anybody because nobody is around. You’re not praying in a group withother people, you’re by yourself. When you’re by yourself, and nobody’s looking, think about what’s going on there. The reason you pray is because you really believe that He’s listening. If you didn’t think He was listening, if you saw no value, you wouldn’t pray. I guess what I’m saying is, think about it, prayer is the ultimate act of faith. Go down to verse 27 in Hebrews 11. Charlie Haynes, would you read that? This is about Moses, and if you keep reading, you read about Moses and the incredible faith he had.

Charlie: inaudible
[By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him Who is invisible.]

RS: Seeing Him Who is invisible. The New American talks about the unseen God, and that’s what we were talking about, in our prayer life. It’s God, in verse 27, who is unseen, and that’s who we’re praying to, and we pray because we believe that He hears us, and so, when you pray, you are exercising your faith, and according to Hebrews 11:6, this is pleasing unto God. Let me stop here. Anybody have comments or questions? You with me? Now, so, we said prayer is important. How do we know it’s important? Well, primarily because Jesus says that it is. And, if He says that it is, we can kind of take it as being Gospel Truth. But, let’s look at, not only because He said it, but let’s look at how important it is in His life. Turn to Mark chapter 1, Mark chapter 1. We’re going to look at a little snapshot, if you would call it that, of a day in the life of Jesus. We get this little snapshot in Mark chapter 1, starting in verse 21. In verse 21, it says, “They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath, He entered the synagogue, and began to teach.” You know, on the Sabbath, they would go to the synagogue, and they might spend several hours there. They would spend time reading the scripture, and according to this, they were not only probably reading scripture, Jesus was teaching. They didn’t have any place to go like we do on Sundays, so they might have been there several hours, we don’t know. It says, and then, if you keep reading, they were amazed at His teaching, and then a man with an unclean spirit comes, and He orders the unclean spirit out of him and, if you go down to verse 29, it says immediately after this, they came out of the synagogue, and they went to the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her, and, as you can imagine, Christ heals her of this fever. And it says, after that, she went and waited on them, which, I guess, leads you to believe that they then probably had a meal. Had supper. Because if you go then to verse 32, it says, then evening came, after the sun had set, and listen to this, they began bringing to Him all that were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And then in 33, listen to this, the whole city, the whole city, the whole town, had gathered at the door of where Jesus was. And He spent the evening healing and ministering to all these people. And then, at some point, they went to bed, but we don’t know anything about that. But, what I want to focus on is 35. “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying there.” He didn’t roll out of bed at 9 o’clock, he got out of bed while it was still dark, everybody else was asleep, and He went to pray. What you see, guys, if you read the Gospel, we get a little glimpse of this, Jesus would do this. This was a pattern in His life. He started His day off praying. When you think about it, His example should really speak to us, and speak into our lives. Elsewhere, for instance, in Luke 18:1, and we’ll look at this later, He gives a parable, He says, at all times, this is Jesus’ own words, He says, “At all times, we should pray and not lose heart.” And so, guys, from Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ instruction, we should recognize the need we have to pray. Frank?

Frank: unintelligible comment/ question

RS: What’s the significance of that? Mark 1, well, clearly this was early in His ministry. One of the things you notice, is that when Jesus begins His ministry, He would do a miracle, often, and He would say, don’t tell anybody. It’s kind of like He was trying to keep things down initially, and I think that may be the reason there. He would always say, don’t go tell anybody that I’ve done this. Because, you see at the end of His ministry, you see right here, they all come to Him, once the word gets out that here’s a guy who can heal you of any ailments you’ve got, they come flocking to Him. And He says, sometimes, My time has not yet come. Anybody else? Now, let’s go into the issue I want to focus on today, as we think about why is it important to me personally, why is prayer important to me personally? Phillip Yancey makes an important point, he says, the main purpose of prayer, to ask that question, you might get all kinds of answers, why is prayer important? What is the purpose of it? And Yancey says, “The purpose of prayer is not to make life easier for you, it’s not to get everything you want in life, it’s not to enable you to gain some kind of magical power, he says the main purpose of prayer is this: To Know God.” I love what Mother Teresa said. She says, “Prayer is this: it’s simply talking to God. He speaks to us, we listen.” And we’re going to get to Him speaking to us in the scripture, and how that translates into our prayer life. There is a huge connection here, guys. He speaks to us, we listen, we speak to Him, He listens. He says, it’s a two-way process. Speaking, and listening. And what she’s ultimately saying is, prayer is learning to dialogue with God to have communion with Him. Henri Nouwen shares something interesting about his prayer life. I don’t know if you’ve read any of Nouwen, but he taught at Harvard and at Yale, I think in their divinity school, and then he tells about taking a sabbatical from his professership at Yale, and he spent seven months at a Trappist monastery in upstate New York. And he had this mentor, this guy who kind of spiritually mentored him, and he asked this guy for advice on how to develop a deeper prayer life, in the midst of his busyness. He said when he tried to pray, his mind drifted to the many things that he had to do, most of which seemed more urgent and important than praying. Well, the mentor recommended that Nouwen set a prayer schedule and that he should stick to it at all costs. He suggested an hour in the morning before going to work, and a half hour before going to bed, which was a schedule far more lenient than the monk’s own schedule. Nouwen decided on a far more realistic schedule of half an hour a day. At first, he said his thoughts went wild like an untamed animal. Not much happened in his prayer life, but he kept at it, and he told himself since I’m here for this half hour anyway, I might as well just pray. He said, what happened over time, this sense of awkwardness gradually faded, and, in time, he felt his soul settling down to a more calming rhythm. He says, it may seem that nothing happens when you pray, but, you know, if you will stay with it, if you will discipline yourself and stay with it, what you begin to realize over time is that something indeed is happening in your life. Something is happening in your relationship with God. This is a good thought. I was doing this this morning, but Tim Keller talks about it in his book, Phillip Yancey talks about it in his book on prayer, he’s written a book on prayer. I read where Billy Graham did this regularly, was to study, and even pray, the prayers in the Psalms. You know, there are 150 Psalms, and most of them are prayers. And they are beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with using them in your own life, particularly the prayers of praise. This is what Yancey concluded from doing this, he says, “I learned from the Psalms to converse with God as I would converse with my employer, my friend, my wife. In short, to treat God as a person in every sense of the word.” He said, “I had seen prayer as a kind of duty, that you had to do, and not as a safe outlet for whatever I was thinking or doing. The prayers of the Psalmist freed me to go deeper.” And, as one of the guys yesterday morning shared, the great thing about the Psalms, and you’ll notice this, is how brutally honest David was before God. He said, there are times where he would just go and vent before God. He said that was an indication of a very real relationship, we vent with our wives, we complain with our wives, tell them how lousy things are going, and he says, we should, that’s the way we should go before Him, sharing our hearts with Him. This is what real prayer is. Prayer is communion with God, and, as a Christian, it’s conversing with Him, and not just any person, this is a great thing, but we are conversing with our Heavenly Father. Because the one thing we need to keep at the forefront guys, is this, Christianity is not a religion where you go out and perform for God, where you seek to win God’s approval by being a good person. Christianity is the relationsihip where God desires and intends for us to go deeper and deeper with him over the course of time. And prayer plays a vital role in that. Let me stop and see if anybody has a comment or question. Yes, sir, Billy?

Billy: unintelligible comment/question

RS: I don’t know how many Episcopalians we have in here, or if any of you know what the Book of Common Prayer is, but, it’s an incredible book. What most people don’t know, Billy, I appreciate you bringing this up, and we’re going to come back to this, is that so many of the prayers are scripture, Psalms, that have been converted into prayer language. It’s like you’re taking the scripture and praying it. And this is something Drayton Nabors, I learned from him, is such an important part of your prayer life, is learning to read the Bible and pray through it as you read it. We’re going to talk about that in one of our sessions. And it’s transforming. Anybody else, Charlie?

Charlie: unintelligible comment/question

Audience member: unintelligible comment/question

RS: Amen. Good point. We’ve got to get it into perspective who we’re actually talking to. Yeah, Frank?

Frank: unintelligible comment/question

RS: Keller speaks to the importance of prayer and conversation, and what the two Charlies were just talking about, being real, and when you can do that, and be personal with God, it really does lead to a greater knowledge of Him, a greater understanding of Him, and a deeper relationship with Him, and Keller points something out in Ephesians 1 that is really good, so, if you would, turn to Ephesians 1. We’re going to look at Ephesians 1:15-17. Dennis would you read that for us? Give everybody a second to get there, Ephesians 1:15-17.

Dennis: unintelligible
[For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.]

RS: Look at that last phrase. I love that last phrase, so that you might know Him better, that’s the NIV. The NAS says, that you might have a deeper knowledge of Him. The Amplified speaks of having a deep intimate knowledge of God. It’s really about knowing Him, and says that, Paul is praying this for all the people he cares about and loves, that you might know Him better. Listen to what Keller says, “A quick comparison of this prayer from Ephesians 1 with those in Philippians 1 and Colossians 1, and later, Ephesians 3, reveals that this is how Paul customarily prayed for those he loves. At the grammatical heart of Paul’s long sentences, a striking insight into the greatness and importance of prayer. When in verse 17, he writes that I keep asking that you may know Him better. It’s remarkable that in all of his writings, Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It’s certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecutions, death from disease, oppression from powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure than ours is today, yet, in these prayers, you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from a marauding army, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our list of requests.” What you see Paul praying for, guys, is these people he cared for deeply, is what he believed was the most important thing God could give them, and what was that? That they might know Him better. And prayer is such a big part of this. And back in college, I became a Christian at the age of 20, and that’s an interesting story, but I’ll leave that for another time, and one summer, right afterward, I met with two other guys, and we began to read, I don’t remember how this happened, I’m so old, it’s hard to remember all this, but, that summer we read and discussed a book by J.I. Packer that has become a classic, which I highly recommend, and the title is Knowing God. It had a huge impact on me, because I didn’t know squat at this point in my Christian life, and these are some words right out of the book. He says, “Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing. Knowing God is more than knowing about Him. It is a matter of dealing with Him as He opens up to you and being dealt with by Him.” He says, “Think about it. Friends open their hearts to each other by what they say and do. We must not lose sight of the fact that knowing God is an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one, and could not indeed be a deep relationship between persons if it were not so.” Think about it this way, guys. God reveals Himself to us in His Word. He starts the conversation with us through the scriptures and prayer is continuing the conversation which eventually becomes a full encounter with Him. You see, most people don’t know God because they don’t continue the conversation. I think too often Christians read the Bible but they don’t pray much. They don’t have an effective prayer life, and part of the reason, is they don’t really know how to pray. It’s something that has to be learned, and that’s something that we’re going to talk about, and like I said earlier, I promise you, when we are finished with this, you’re going to have plenty to pray about. You may need more time in your day to pray, which is okay, but most people don’t know God because they really don’t pray. Comments? Questions? Charlie?

Charlie: unintelligible comment / question

RS: That’s a good way to start off your prayer, Amen. In fact, I think what I’m going to do, I was thinking about this this morning. I’m going to write out, when we’re done, every area of prayer that we talked about. I may even write out some of the prayers, ideas, like I said, you’ll be shocked at what there is out there in your life that God wants you to bring before Him. But with that being said, I want to look at real quickly at a few verses about prayer. It may not use the word prayer, but look at the language, pay close attention to the language that we’re going to read, we’re going to start by going to Psalm 116. Psalm 116, verses 1 and 2. Mike Graham, you want to read those for us, Psalm 116:1-2?

Mike: unintelligible
[I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.]

RS: Think about what this is saying. I love the Lord. Why? He hears me. He hears my voice and my supplications. He’s inclined His ear to me, He’s turned His ear to me, and therefore, I will call upon Him as long as I live. Go to Psalm 25:1. This is a single little sentence. Ben Patrick, how about reading that when you get there. Psalm 25:1.

Ben: To You, oh Lord, I lift up my soul.

RS: Listen to what the Amplified says it really means. It says, To You Lord, I bring my life and put it before You. I put my life before You. I bring it and put it before You. Go to Psalm 145, 17 and 18.

Audience member: unintelligible … put on the altar.

RS: Yes, putting your life on the altar, Amen. Psalm 145:17-18. Charlie, I’ll let you read those if you don’t mind.

Charlie: The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.

RS: The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. He is near. Remember in Psalm 73, it says the nearness of God is my ultimate good in life. And then Psalm 62:8. Matt Whatley, you want to read that, Psalm 62:8?

Matt: Trust in Him at all times, you people, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

RS: Pour out your hearts to Him. I mean, when was the last time you poured out your heart to Him? When was the last time you poured out your heart to anybody? This is real personal communication with Him, conversation with Him. One of my favorite verses, I’ll just quote it to you real quick because we’re going to run out of time. Jeremiah 33:3, God says, call to me, He says, and I’ll answer you, and I’ll tell you great and mighty things that you don’t know. That’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what He promises, but you’ll have to call to Me. And then, one fo the probably most significant teachings on prayer is Matthew chapter 7. Verses 7 through 11.
Tom Wall, you want to read those for us?

Tom: unintelligible
[Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!]

RS: Very good, thank you. In James 4:2, it says, you do not have because you do not ask. You may be asking what’s appropriate for me to ask God for, called supplications. We’ll get to that, because you see a lot in the Psalms, what the Psalmist prayed and asked God for. I think there’s some very appropriate things we should be asking Him for, and there’s some things that aren’t appropriate. Then there’s some things you don’t know, so you just ask. Think about the verses that we just read. Call out to Him. Pour out your heart before Him. Lift up your soul to Him, bring your life before Him, ask. This should be the description of our prayer life, and, as I said, we will get into the nuts and bolts of this as we do this series, but I want to close with you, and I want to show you a good prayer to ask. And I want to tell you a story. It’s a very personal story in my own life, and this is what changed my life, and this is what brought me to where I am today. I really believe this course of events is what led me to do what I am doing. Turn if you would to Colossians chapter 4. Frank, you want to read for us, verses 2 and 3, Colossians 4. Give everybody a second to get there. It’s a hard book to find.

Frank: unintelligible
[Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.]

RS: What’s the prayer in verse 3? Anybody? What’s the prayer he’s saying that we should be saying?

Audience member: unintelligible comment

RS: Even more significantly, he doesn’t just say that I am going to go and out and preach the message. He’s asked that God would open a door, that I might have an opportunity to take this message to the people you want me to take it to. Guys, this is a great prayer that everybody can pray, Lord, I pray that you’d open a door and lead me to somebody you want me to help. Somebody you want me to take this message to. It kind of takes the pressure off of you. You’re looking to God to open the door, but let me tell you something, if you start praying that, you better watch out, you better get ready. You never know. I have a good friend who, I remember he shared this with me when he was back in medical school, this was years ago, he said, you’re not going to believe this, he says, I started praying this, I’m at lunch in the cafeteria at the hospital, as a resident, and one of my friends sits down, opening up to me, and starts telling me how empty his life is. He said, it was kind of like a layup for me, to just tell him about the difference that Christ made in my own life. So, you start praying that, watch out. You never know what you’re going to run into. I share that, and I want to share something with you as an encouragement about praying. I became a Christian as a sophomore in college at Sewanee. And, it was in my senior year, my closest friend, in school, ironically, he became a Christian about the same time that I did, and, we didn’t really know each other, we even taught a Bible study our senior year, he’s one of my closest friends today, and, that was the first time I ever taught, and I thought, you know, I kind of like doing this. Then I graduated, and I moved to Atlanta for a year, went to graduate school, and I worked over there, and then I moved back to Birmingham and started my career in the insurance brokerage business. That was the summer of 1977. In September, my roommate, Billy Wooten and I lived together, and I remember in September, these two guys, maybe it was August, took us to lunch, we knew them both, they were older than we were, and both of these guys worked with Young Life. Ya’ll ever heard of Young Life, you know what Young Life is? It’s a ministry to teenagers. It’s kind of like what what’s his name does with Mountain Brook kids, what do they call it? Big Time. I mean, it’s an outreach, but it is to men and women, girls and boys. And, I was familiar with it, because I went some in high school even though I was not a Christian, and they said we need some more volunteer leaders, and we would like for you guys to consider coming to work with us. I had no real interest in doing it, but Billy did it, and I thought, well, you know, maybe a good way to spend some time, maybe it would be good for me, okay, I’ll do it. Then they pulled a fast one on me, the guy that was in charge. I thought, I’m going to go work over at Mountain Brook, that was my Alma Mater, I knew some of the kids over there, the teenagers, I had my own siblings that went there, I thought that would be a great fit for me, then the leader comes to me and says, we’ve got a problem. The leader, the head guy at Homewood, is moving to Tuscaloosa, and we need somebody to fill that spot and we think you ought to do it. I looked at them and said you’ve got to be kidding. I hadn’t even been a Christian but for two years. I don’t know much. Oh, we think you’d be good at it. So I said, well, I’ll give it a shot. It was, I thrust into the fire with very little experience, but it was one of the best things that I ever did. And they had a great, solid group of students involved, primarily juniors and seniors. And they have a weekly meeting where all the kids come, they play the guitars, they sing songs, stuff that I can’t do, but then I had to get up and give a five or 10 minute message. I had to have it memorized, you don’t get up there with notes. And that was good for me. And that first year, we had a Bible study on Friday morning, we called it Campaigners, and you come and I’d meet with the guys, they had girl leaders to meet with the girls, and that first year was just incredible, but the problem was, I had a bunch of seniors who graduated, and I had a bunch of juniors the next year, and I realized, I didn’t have any 9th or 10th graders involved at all, and I thought, once these guys graduate, there isn’t anybody left. So, I talked to the football coach, some of you may remember him, his name was Gary Rutledge, he played football at Alabama, he wasn’t a very good football coach, they fired him after two years, but Gary said, I’ve got some guys, 10th graders, 15-year old 10th graders, you need to meet them, these are the guys you need to reach. I don’t remember how he introduces me to these guys. Now, weekly, I would go up to the school, I don’t know that you can do this anymore, but they let me go and have lunch, the Homewood administration was great, I could come up there any time I wanted to, I could come up there at the lunch hour and just hang out with some of the kids. And I remember, I went up there, and I saw these four guys, they saw me, and you know what they did? They ran! They really did, they got up and left the table, and went wherever they went. I realized, guys, if you give me a chance, you might like me, but they were scared to death of me. You know, that religious young life leader. So, I started praying. I don’t know that I prayed Colossians 4, but I was praying, Lord, I would pray that you would somehow enable me to get to know these boys because I think they’d like me if they got to know me. But, in fact, I don’t know if any of you know George Bradford, his dad, John, and I would pray together. And I was praying, Lord, I pray that you would open a door. Figure out a way for me to spend some time with these guys. Well, we went through September and prayed, we went through October and prayed. November rolls around and nothing is happening. I’m kind of discouraged, and I’m thinking, after this year, I’m kind of done at Homewood. Well, this was back, this shows you how long ago this was, this was back when Alabama played their big games at Legion Field. And they were going to play LSU in November like they always do. And I don’t remember where I got it, but I had two tickets, and I took a buddy with me, and I remember, I go up, and it’s like the 40th row, seats 7 and 8, and I look, and in seat 9 and 10, were two of these boys. I mean, 75,000 people, my seats were next to two of these guys. And you know what, they saw me coming, and they turned white. They could not believe they were going to have to sit next to me during this whole game.

Audience member: unintelligible comment

RS: I knew it; you’re the third person to say that, Robert, but I don’t think, they were 15, I don’t think they were drinking, but, you never know. They didn’t drink with me. And we had a great time. They saw that I was just a regular guy, I liked football, I knew football, we all pulled for the same team, and at the end of the game, one of them said, why don’t you come play basketball Monday night with us at Dawson. We have a big group of our peers, we play basketball. I said, I’ll be there. And, that began a relationship with all these sophomores, and they began to come to our meeting. They weren’t Christians, none of them were Christians, and in their junior year, I said, all right, I want everyone, Young Life used to take this big ski trip over spring break. That year, only two kids from Homewood went, there was a big Mountain Brook and Vestavia contingent that went. I said, we’re all going skiing next year. Some of them couldn’t afford it, so we raised money, and all kinds of ways. We took 36 kids. It’s an evangelical outreach, it’s a fabulous trip. You take buses, that’s the only problem, a 36 hour bus trip, but most of these kids had never skied, I had never skied, and it was a great trip, and I remember about two nights before it ended, you’re in rooms of about six, I had six kids, then we had another one with six, then about two nights left to go, I had a knock on my door, and they said, will you come out here. There were four of these boys, and two of them, I think were the ones I sat with at Legion Field telling me they’d become Christians. When we left, there were 36, 33 of them had come to know the Lord. Now, there’s more to the story. Here we are, fast forward, about 37 years, I think now, since then, and most of these kids are still really walking with the Lord. I had the chance to speak to the deacons and the elders at Shades Mountain Baptist Church a couple of months ago. One of the guys that was knocking on the door that night, he’s an elder there. He’s a physician, either gastroenterologist, he does colonoscopies, what do you call that? GI. And, a real leader at that church. Got a great Christian family. Several of the people went on to go into youth ministry full time. This is the cool part. That night, that I went to play basketball, one of the 15 year olds, this goofy looking fellow, he had on a baseball cap backwards, playing basketball, he and I got to know each other, we got to be good friends, and then right when he graduated from Birmingham Southern, he got married and I was in his wedding. Like I said, we were close. It’s interesting, at the rehearsal dinner, this guy’s wife, I’m 31 at the time, this just kind of shows you, I see for the first time, his wife’s sister, who is 17, and I thought, well, she’s pretty cute, and 9 years later, I ended up hiring his wife to come work for us at HRH. And she said, why don’t you go out with my younger sister, Holly? I said, I don’t know, she’s kind of young. She said, I think you’d like her. Well, the long and short of it is, she’s my wife today. Scott Pyburn is the guy, Margaret Ann is his wife, and she is Holly’s sister. And then one other thing that came from this, and then I’ll wrap this up, we’re out of time. Ten years ago, one of the kids that knocked on my door, he drowned. He married a woman, and had two stepchildren, and he was trying to save one of the stepchildren at the beach. He drowned, and she lived. And I remember going to his funeral and just thinking, you know, thank God, that he went on that trip and was exposed to the Gospel and became a Christian. I’ve shared a lot, but where did it all start? It all started by praying that God would open a door, that He would enable us to somehow get to know these boys. And at Legion Field in November of 1979, I think it was, He answered that prayer. It’s interesting to be able to look back and see, how, when we pray, and God moves, you never know what’s going to happen. Now, let me give you a final word, and then we’ll close up. I’m sorry we’ve gone over. In Matthew 7, verses 24 and 25, Jesus says, Every one who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice may be compared to a wise man who builds his house on a rock and the winds come and floods come and beat against that house, but it stands firm, because it’s been established on the rock. In this series, guys, you’re going to hear a great deal of teaching on prayer that comes straight from God’s Word, and if you will put it into practice, it will enable you to lay a strong foundation for your future as you develop your prayer life.

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Reflections on the Existence of God

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