How Important is Prayer to You?

Many people pray regularly.    TalkingBack.jpg

Some pray rarely.

What about you?

I am reading Lynn Anderson’s new book, Talking Back to God (Speaking Your Heart to God Through the Psalms.) This is a wonderful book. I think this book can be very useful to people who pray regularly as well as those who pray rarely. The book speaks to ordinary people just like us. You may be single, married or divorced. You may be female or male. You may live in the United States or you may live in another nation.

One thing is true: God wants to hear your prayer.

In this book, Lynn Anderson is suggesting that reading from the Psalms in the Bible and then praying these words back to God can enrich a person’s prayer life. Listen to these words from Lynn:

“Once we learn to pay attention to our hunger for God, we can then acknowledge our pangs and cry out for all the answers you want in prayer and crying out for the loving presence of the living God. The former is crying out to be filled with all that we think we need: money relationships, prestige, and power. The latter is crying out to God to fill us with himself.

Are these challenges–these roadblocks to pursuing God–inevitable in our life of prayer? Maybe not. Part of the problem could be in flawed approaches to God and distorted expectations from prayer. We may be attempting quick fixes that cannot keep us out of the ditches. Do we always expect some kind of sensational experiences with God, or do we quietly pay attention to his presence?

The Psalms lead us to talk and to listen, to look and hear and feel God’s presence, his voice. The Psalms magnify the reality of God’s presence by exploring openly who god really is and what he is doing in the world. The paradox of poetry in Psalms is a cadence we need in our lives.

Evil is all around us.

God is here.

Life is falling apart.

God is here.

In this fast pace of life, we tend to ignore God as well as the significance of the this cadence of the Psalms that reminds us that the happiness we seek in so many ways is found only in God and God alone.” (pp. 21-22)


How important has prayer been to you? Have you gone through dry times where it was difficult for you to pray? What was helpful?

Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?

Read this book.

Karen Spears Zacharias has written a very good book!

Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide?  

Of course, the title and cover immediately had my attention. I liked the table of contents and the creative way that she tagged each one of the major characters featured in her chapters.

She handles the issue of the prosperity gospel quite well. Not only does she raise important questions but she provides enough stories to document this problem again and again. As I read the chapters, I found myself thinking several times, “Oh yea, I forgot about him!” (as with Rev. Ike) Zacharias.jpg

Other stories are inspiring and uplifting. She writes numerous stories of what God is doing through various men and women. I found these stories heart-warming, encouraging, and motivating.

Karen Spears Zacharias is a great storyteller! For example, in the final chapter, she paints such a clear picture of her and her sister driving around, looking for a Starbucks and then seeing a Rolls Royce. That began an interesting conversation and an adventure. The picture she paints in this story is so clear, I felt as if I could see each one of these people.

Would you like a free copy of her book? I will be giving away autographed copies to two people who make comments on this post. In fact, Karen Spears Zacharias has even agreed to call the winners to talk about the book, if you like.

A drawing will be held in my office in just a few days. Again, if you would like to enter, be sure to leave a comment.

Now here is a taste of this book:

After Daddy died, Mama paid $6,000 for a single-wide trailer, a 12 X 60. It was the first home our family owned. It had plywood walls so thin you could hear a roach grunt, and the only insulation from the outside elements was a feather pillow clutched down over your head during winter or a cooling rag filled with ice cubes for the sticky nights of a Georgia summer.

We moved that trailer five times in six years. Corner lots in the trailer parks were the most coveted because they usually had the biggest yards. Wealthy people lived in trailers with tip-outs. The very rich lived in double-wides. My friend Karin Paris and her brother lived in a double-wide with their mama. They really had it made — all that space for only three people. We had twice as many people living in a trailer half as big.

While I no longer live in a house balanced on cinder blocks the way I did in my youth, I recognize that almost all of my life’s truly meaningful moments took place in a trailer. I had my first kiss in a trailer. I smoked my first and last cigarette in a trailer. I asked Jesus into my heart on bended knee in a trailer. And I gave birth to my firstborn child on my mama’s bed in a trailer.

Given my druthers, I’d rather reside in a mansion carved from marble than a 12 X 60 crafted from aluminum siding. Still, I know without question that God’s love for me or his favor toward me is not manifested in whether I live at the end of a dirt road in a trailer or around an emerald bend in a gated community comprised of McMansions. Proof of God’s love is not found in the square footage of our homes or the number of cars our garage will hold. God’s love is not evident in our net worth at all. It’s found in the same place it has always been, at the foot of a rough-hewn and bloodied cross.

An Honest Cry

You might be interested in a book that was just released. An Honest Cry: Sermons from the Psalms in Honor of Prentice A. Meador Jr. is a book dedicated to the memory of a man who touched many.   

This book is a compilation of sermons on the Psalms. Each writer was impacted by Prentice in some way. The book opens with a very interesting and insightful chapter by his son, Mark. There are sermons in this book by Bob Chisholm, Royce Money, Jack Reese, Gary Holloway, Landon Saunders, Mike Cope, Chris Seidman, David Rubio, Scott Sager, Tom A. Jones, Collin Packer, Harold Hazelip, Lynn Anderson, Rick Atchley, Jennings Davis, Ken Durham, John York, and Tim Spivey.

My own contribution to this book is a sermon based on Psalm 73 and entitled “What’s the Use?” Meador.jpg

Prentice Meador was an encourager, a mentor, and a guide to me and so many others. I learned by watching him, being with him on various occasions, and listening to his preaching. He would occasionally call me to tell me that he had recommended me to a church. Was that ever encouraging to a young minister! On other occasions, he called to encourage me about my preaching or something I had written. About fifteen years ago, after learning that I had major surgery, he called me while I was still in the hospital and prayed with me over the phone. That meant so much to me.

Not long after moving to Waco almost seventeen years ago, I began having lunches with Prentice, usually a few times a year. No matter how busy he was, he always seemed to be fully present during these times. He was patient as I asked question after question about ministry. These lunches and numerous telephone calls were encouraging times for me. I am so thankful.   

The book is published by Leafwood Publishers and can be purchased here.   

I Have Heard So Many Secrets

Through the years, as a minister, I have sat with person after person and listened to sad, difficult stories.closingtime.jpg

I have heard so many secrets.

  • The alcoholic father who told me of his affair with his high school daughter’s friend.
  • The foster children who told me of a cruel woman who isolated them in a basement each evening, while the rest of the family ate dinner together. Later, they were brought the family’s leftovers.
  • The mother who grew up constantly hearing critical, demeaning words from her mother.
  • The man, who as a child, had lived with a brutal, bullying father. Yet at church, his father was perceived to be very godly.
  • The young woman who told me of the abortion she had while in college and how she had lived with this secret for several decades.

I am reading Joe Queenan’s memoir, Closing Time .

It is the story of a boy who grew up in a Philadelphia housing project. He and his three sisters are forced to make do. They live with their father and mother in an atmosphere that does not feel emotionally or physically safe. Their mother repeatedly said to her children that she wished she had never had children. Their mother seemed emotionally disconnected from the family. Meanwhile, their father was a violent man — especially when he drank:

My father got broke when he was young, and he never got fixed. He may have wanted to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, but he was not cut out for that job. He liked to drink, and unlike some men who like to drink, it was the only thing he liked to do. Among our relatives, he had a reputation as a happy-go-lucky fellow who, once he got a few beers in him, would turn into the life of the party. He was not the life of our party. Most of the time he was already dead drunk when he came home from work, spoiling for a fight with whoever crossed him first. (p. 7)

What memories.

His father, when he was drunk, beat his children, quite often. The rest of the family, instead of condemning such behavior, seemed more interested in providing excuses for such behavior. Queenan says that, “Manufacturing excuses for my father’s behavior was a family industry.” (p. 9)

Does this kind of excuse-making sound familiar to you?

Do you know what it is to have been hurt, abused, cheated, betrayed by family or friends and then have loved ones make excuses for such behaviors?

  • “Your daddy is under a lot of stress and he sometimes explodes when he is home.”
  • “Now I’m not saying I agree with what he did. But you haven’t been the best wife either.”
  • “You should not have upset your mother. If you kids would straighten up, she wouldn’t act that way.”
  • “Well, he probably didn’t really mean to say those things. He just looses his temper when you don’t do what he wants.”
  • “Your husband is a good man. I’m sure the situation is not as bad as you describe it.”

What complicates this even further is when a husband/wife or father/mother is perceived to be a Christian by those in their church, and yet family members live with this person’s ruthless, manipulative behavior during the week.

Perhaps none of this is a part of your experience. You may, however, have witnessed this kind of behavior in other families.

Meanwhile, many people spend years working through the impact of these secrets on their thinking, their emotions, and their faith.


How do such secrets impact an adult in later years? How does excuse-making complicate life?

Scouting the Divine

Early one morning, I began reading Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg. I had just made a cup of coffee and anticipated reading just a few pages. However, I found it very difficult to put the book down.

In the book, Feinberg recognizes that the daily life described in the Bible is very different from her own in the suburbs. Consequently, many of the stories of the Bible speak of the produce of the land, the vineyards, or the sheep and the shepherd. She decided to pay attention to the portraits of God that use these images and try to better understand their significance.


This book begins with Margaret’s visit to a shepherd’s home in Oregon. This is the section I had difficulty putting down. Margaret’s interaction with this shepherd caused me to think in fresh ways about the shepherd/sheep relationship.

The following is an excerpt:   
On the way back to the larger, lower pasture, Lynne grabbed another scoop of grain. Opening the gate, she once again called, “Sheep, sheep, sheep.” We sat on the grass as the flock pushed toward us en masse, hoping for a tasty morsel. As the food dwindled, my friend Mario remained. A few others stood by as I scratched each in turn under the chin.

The sun dipped below the fiery horizon, leaving a faint glow of rose and tangerine in the sky. Lynne and I sat in the field with the sheep. At one point, the smallest lamb, Swan, who had watched us all day, dared to break from her mother and head toward Lynne. The shepherd extended her palm, wiggled her fingers, and spoke the lamb’s name. Swan hesitated and then came forward to experience the gentle touch of her shepherd for the first time.

Lynne withdrew her hand. Swan stepped forward, wanting more. With a swift one-armed move, Lynne grabbed the lamb and held her. Swan melted into her shepherd’s arms.

“Once they respond to my beckoning I have them forever,” she said as Swan rested her tiny head in the palm of Lynne’s hand.

Lynne sounded a lot like Someone I’d been reading about.


Brad Cox and Jerry Tackitt are the two winners in the recent drawing for copies of Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens. Autographed copies will be sent to you in the very near future. Thanks to all who left comments during the week of the interview with Tippens.

Don’t miss the new post on “21st Century Ministry and 2 Corinthians” (see below).

Question: Whose Life Story Have You Read?

Have you ever read a biography or autobiography that was difficult to put down? Have you ever read the story of another woman or man that caused you to really think?

When I was a child, a branch of the Dallas Public Library opened near our home. I often went to this library on Saturday mornings. Much of my time was spent in a section of books that contained the biographies and autobiographies for my age group. I loved these books. I read stories of presidents, generals, coaches, and world explorers. I read the biographies of people like Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Winston Churchill, Louisa May Alcott, and many, many others. I read the biographies of people who lived in the USA and in other countries as well. It was wonderful.

I continue to love biographies. Just the other evening, I walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Within a few minutes, I was thumbing through the new biographies. I stood in one place looking at biography after biography. There is something about reading a great biography that not only helps me understand the person who is the subject of the book but also sometimes helps me understand my own story.

Almost eighteen years ago, our family was traveling through Missouri. We spent one night in a downtown St. Louis hotel. I vividly recall getting up early the next morning and slipping out of the room while my family slept. I went downstairs to find a cup of coffee and a place where I could read. For the next hour or so, I sat at a small table on the sidewalk, nursing a cup of coffee, and read William Martin’s biography of Billy Graham. This biography was so refreshing to me. Graham’s integrity spoke volumes and was encouraging and even inspirational to me. I suspect that one reason for remembering the morning so vividly is that Graham’s story encouraged me at a critical time when I was very discouraged with my ministry.

Now please think for a moment about some of the biographies you have read. Think about the people who were the subjects of those biographies.



What attracts you to read a particular biography?

Whose life story have you read that you particularly enjoyed?

Whose life story would you one day like to read?

Question: Do You Enjoy Reading Fiction?

A number of you left comments on the recent post regarding your favorite authors. I found your comments to be very interesting. Several of you introduced me to authors who were previously unfamiliar to me. I also realized that many of you read far more fiction than I do.

On Friday, I read Mary E. DeMuth’s outstanding post, “Why Should Christ Followers Read Fiction?” After reading her post, I concluded that I really should read more fiction. (I would enjoy hearing your reflections on her post).



What do you enjoy about reading fiction?

Question: Who Are In Your Top Ten?


What writers are in your top ten? You may read for pleasure. You may read for your work. You may read to help you think (as in my case). You may read for a variety of reasons. Regardless of your reason for reading, who are some of your favorite authors?

What contemporary authors would be in your top ten?

My own list includes: N. T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Gary Thomas, Eugene Peterson, William Willimon, etc. I read very few novels but I do pay attention to Anne Tyler. I try to read widely. I regularly read numerous book reviews (as per Tim Keller’s suggestion). I occasionally read books, such as Andy Andrews’, The Noticer, as well as an occasional book by John Maxwell.


What contemporary writers are in your top ten?