“Bold prayers with a humble heart wisely seek God’s heart of love.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – May 15, 2023
You help us by your prayers. 2 Corinthians 1:11
Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta for 51 years, recently went to be with the Lord. I am saddened by his departure but gladdened when I reflect on his greatest influence on me…his gift of prayer. His teaching on prayer was transformational both in its clear instruction and compelling inspiration, and his book How to Listen to God is still a spiritual staple for my soul. But what really molded my softened heart as a 29-year-old associate pastor, was how Dr. Stanley modeled prayer. In staff meetings, we were on our knees crying out to God for the lost, the sick, and those who needed comfort in their grieving. In his office, before and after worship services, he would anoint the foreheads of hurting souls with oil, they would confess their sins, and several of us would pray for healing. Some were healed, some were not, but we prayed, believing. The most profound prayer experience to this day happened a month after I began serving at First Baptist. But before I describe this God encounter, I need to go back a few years.
From 1982-1985, while attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I pastored Sweetwater Baptist Church just outside Comanche, Texas on the weekends. On a good Sunday, we had 25 in attendance, which included my wife, Rita, and our two-year-old daughter, Rebekah. Each Sunday, a church member would sign up on a sheet of paper on the church’s back wall to host the pastor and his family for Sunday lunch, followed by a nap with the swamp coolers humming in the background. Frankie hosted us one Sunday with homemade rolls, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried okra, and strawberries drizzled over angel food cake. With full stomachs, fuller hearts, and rested bodies…we readied for our drive back to Fort Worth. To keep us awake, Johnnie gave me ten cassette tapes by Dr. Charles Stanley on “How to Pray.” Rita and I listened to his deep experiential understanding of prayer that pierced our hearts for the next ten weeks. So, to grow and be accountable, I taught our little church a series on prayer. I had only been a Christian for three years, but Dr. Stanley’s prayer teaching became foundational to my faith.
Back to my life-changing prayer retreat with Dr. Stanley. Being the newest staff member in the summer of 1989, Charles and Andy invited me to ride up with the two of them for the north Georgia prayer retreat at Hidden Lake. Prone to motion sickness, I became queasy on the curvy roads. Dr. Stanley asked how I felt; I sheepishly said, “fine,” not wanting to call attention to myself. Upon arrival, our twelve staff attendees enjoyed a high-carb/starch dinner of fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy…and, with satisfied stomachs and heavy eyelids, began praying. Dr. Stanley laid face down on the floor, and we followed suit. Starting about 8 pm, we prayed for one hour, two hours, and three hours and I heard snoring, so I nudged Rick, our church administrator, to wake up, ha! Finally, around midnight Dr. Stanley leaped up:
“The Lord has told me we are to reach the world for Jesus Christ through radio and television.” And then, Dennis, our education pastor, stood up and said, “God has laid on my heart to write a seminary curriculum for pastors in under-resourced countries who cannot afford theological training.” Both prayers were answered as In Touch Ministries has blanketed the world with the gospel, and Bible Training Center for Pastors has trained several hundred thousand church leaders. Bold prayers with a humble heart became my method of seeking God’s heart.
One other prayer experience with Dr. Stanley was personal and profound. He invited me to his home study for almost two hours of one-on-one time to show me the process of his sermon preparation. He laid face down with his Bible and a yellow legal pad and would write out what the Holy Spirit was teaching him to internalize in his heart and mind to preach to others. Then he would type up his notes and memorize them before Sunday’s service at the church. I love Dr. Stanley for investing in my family and me; the Lord used him to draw us closer to Jesus Christ!
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
Heavenly Father, grow my heart of prayer in loving worship of you and dependence on you through Christ’s love and in Jesus’ name, amen.
Pray for a mentor who can model prayer by praying with you and for you.
Hillsong United: Wonder (Acoustic)
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