Revive Our Hearts Weekend Podcast

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The Importance of Prayer

Dannah Gresh: Have you ever eavesdropped on a child’s prayer? Let’s do that now . . 

Child 1: Dear God, in church they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation?

Child 2: I bet it’s very hard for You to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in my family, and I can never do it.

Child 3: Dear God, are You really invisible or is that just a trick?

Child 4: Dear God, please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before. You can look it up.

Child 5: Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?

Child 6: Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother.

Child 7: Dear God, thank You for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.

Dannah: Be honest with me . . . some of your prayers have sounded that way, right? Naïve. Uneducated. Well, our prayers reveal a lot about what we think. They reveal a lot about where our hearts are.

Welcome to Revive Our Hearts Weekend, I’m Dannah Gresh. Today we’re going to talk about prayer. Where Nancy started when she wanted to understand more about prayer was the Lord’s Prayer. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Prayer, I find, is difficult for most people I know.

How many of you would say you struggle with the whole area of prayer? There’s some aspect of prayer that you just find really difficult. Okay, a lot of hands in here. Most of us at least, at times, feel guilty when we think about prayer because we know we should be praying more than we do. I think most of us feel inadequate. Even the apostle Paul said, “We don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what we should pray for. We don’t know how to pray about so many different situations” (Rom. 8:26 paraphrase).

I think at times we feel confused about prayer, maybe even disturbed or perturbed at God. We wouldn’t maybe say that, but sometimes with prayer there’s this extraordinary, apparent lack of relationship between cause and effect. The things you pray for don’t happen and some of the things you don’t pray for do happen. You say, “Go figure. Does prayer work? Does it not?”

Some of these things we wouldn’t probably say out loud, but we do feel that frustration. A lot of times we have unanswered questions about prayer—things like, “Why pray about something, if God already knows it all and He’s sovereign? He’s going to do what He’s going to do. Why should we even pray?”

Sometimes we don’t verbalize those questions and those thoughts, but I have to confess to you that prayer is a very, very difficult area of my spiritual life. But in the past year or so I’ve been asking the Lord to teach me how to pray.

As part of that search over the last several months, I’ve been studying and meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave that prayer to teach His disciples how to pray. I’ve been saying, “Lord teach me to pray,” and that quest has led me to the Lord’s Prayer. It has been such a rich, rich study.

Dannah: Let’s read the Lord’s Prayer together. Open your Bible or your Bible reading app to Matthew 6, beginning with verse 9. It reads:

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from evil."

Nancy: There would be many stories that could be told, but one that particularly was a blessing to me was when I read about a pastor named Helmut Thielicke who was, actually, a well-known Lutheran theologian in Germany during World War II. He was also a pastor during that period. He was a young pastor, and during the final days of the war, his congregation in Stuttgart, Germany, was in upheaval, as you might imagine.

These were horribly trying times for this little flock of believers. The bombs were falling day and night. The Third Reich was crumbling. The Allied Forces were coming in and overcoming the German resistance. The country was in chaos. This Pastor Thielicke looked into the eyes of his people week after week, and he saw fear, terror, doubt, despair. These people desperately needed hope.

Was their country going to be wiped out? Were they going to be wiped out? What was going to happen? If you're the pastor, what do you say at a time like that? How do you try and encourage these people? How do you prepare your people for what may lie ahead for them?

Thielicke decided to preach a series of sermons on the Lord's Prayer, and that series became well known. It was ultimately translated into English. It was published in the United States. In the introduction to that book, Thielicke said, “The Lord's Prayer was able to contain it all.”

The Lord's Prayer was able to contain it all. We're living in troubled times today. We don't have bombs falling around us—yet. We don't know if that will ever happen. We don't know that it won't happen at some point, but these are troubled times. You don't have to be very current on current events, you don't have to be a big news buff to know that we live in dire times.

The world is self-destructing under the weight of sin and rebellion against God, and as I've been following developments in various parts of the world, I've been thinking about the instability of the world situation and the increasing likelihood of catastrophic events, not only in other parts of the world, but in our country. It's going to happen.

Jesus said there will be times in the end days when men will actually—their hearts will fail because of fear. They'll be having heart attacks; they're so scared. What do you say to people in times like these? How do we prepare our listeners? How do we prepare our own hearts for the disastrous times that we may be facing?

As we think about what lies ahead for our country, for our world, or maybe what you're facing right now in your marriage, in your family, in your health, in your finances—you can say, “Yes, the world's going crazy, but my life is really going crazy!” Or you think about what lies ahead. There are things that you're dreading, things that you're fearing, things that you're facing.

We don't know how to deal with these times. We don't know how to deal with distress, and God's given us His Spirit to intercede for us, but God has also given us this prayer, the Lord's Prayer we call it, to direct our praying.

That pastor in Germany said that the Lord's Prayer was able to contain it all. This prayer does contain it all, and it's a prayer that Jesus gave to us that will help prepare us to face uncertain times.

It's a prayer that as we dig into it in the days ahead, it's going to help us know how to think, how to live, how to pray, how to walk, how to respond, how to not give in to fear, how to be prepared for today and for whatever lies ahead. Jesus said, “When you pray, pray this way,” and I think these are times when we need to be learning how to pray this way.

Children: Our Father who art in heaven . . .

Dannah: Amen! How precious! And, some good words from Nancy and a reminder that the Lord’s Prayer is such a powerful piece to guide our praying—especially when we’re not sure what to be praying.

If you’d like to go deeper and study The Lord’s Prayer with Nancy, you can! That was just a taste of an entire series available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Hear Nancy's full message "The Lord's Prayer, Day 1" from the series "The Lord's Prayer."

Dannah: Think back with me to a time when God answered a specific prayer. Did you have to pray long and hard? Or was it easy? How did you feel? 

Not too long ago, Nancy and I were able to chat with Karen Ellis about prayer. Karen loves traveling with her husband, Carl, and delights in her children and granddaughter. Another thing she enjoys greatly is watching God work through the prayers of His people.

Karen: Every single advance of the kingdom in the New Testament is preceded by prayer! I’m opening up the Scripture now, and I’m seeing prayer, prayer, prayer—kingdom prayer. One of the things I’m working on . . . I’m doing a research project on the Moravians and their hundred years of prayer and how the Lord unfolded an enormous movement out of that, that spread the gospel around the Carribean through the first African-led congregation in the Americas. They were a product of that. 

I guess it’s just causing me to have a sort of different take and to see things through a different lens, that it’s hard for me to go back to that argument that prayer is not action. 

I would challenge anybody who would say that prayer is not action or prayer is passive, or prayer is the wimp’s way out. I would challenge them to go through Scripture and look at all the places where people called out to God and find one place where He didn’t move!

Nancy: Wow. So, what does it look like for you to be praying with some of these friends, these people with whom God has connected your heart? What do you see God doing? I know you’ve had kind of a front row seat to some of what God is doing in stirring up His people to cry out to Him. Give us a glimpse of some of what you’ve seen in that.

Karen: It sounds kind of redundant, but we’ve been praying for prayer. We’ve been praying for prayer and praying for God to help us find the people of prayer and peace. And in the middle of all of that, we’ve found ourselves in some really interesting situations. 

We stumbled on an ongoing prayer gathering that’s been happening in Fairfield, Alabama, that I wrote about in United We Pray, at their website. In the middle of all of the global confusion, all of the domestic confusion, a friend of ours who is the pastor of a church that has declared bankruptcy and has all sorts of problems that you would associate with a city in bankruptcy, on top of that, they’ve got civil unrest now. 

He called a prayer meeting and just sent out a basic email. I don’t know how many people he sent it out to, but about three-hundred people showed up. It was such an incredible experience, because the building was an old Dollar store. They didn’t wait for the big renovation to have the big church.

It felt so much like the condition of my heart at the time. The store was stripped, just rubble pretty much. Spread to the side so they could put up some chairs. There was no electricity in the building so they had some generators outside providing a sound system. It just felt very bare-bones, very much gutted.

I think a lot of us showed up with our hearts feeling gutted at the time. It wasn’t dramatic. The prayer that went on there; it was just three-hundred people. We heard a message where the pastor called out to God and reminded us that we are one, and then we just set about praying. 

It wasn’t something you would associate with, “Oh! Something significant happened!” or “We came out with a game plan of how we’re going to move and fix all of these things that are wrong with the city!” It wasn’t that, but I think everybody who was there just knew something significant happened, even if it was just the miracle of three-hundred people. 

Some of us had driven two-and-a-half hours to get there. Three-hundred people just coming together to pray in a hundred degree heat in a gutted building together as one. We see things like this popping up all over the place! They’re happening virtually: people starting these little prayer pods (I don’t know what else to call them) of people studying prayer, turning to prayer.

Actually, a big part of it seems to be laying down our idols, laying down the things that we have allowed to replace the Lord within our heart. There is probably much, much more going on that I have no idea, but it just seems that something is happening, something is stirring the Church to pray. 

We have been praying in a global online prayer group, like I’m sure some of you are affiliated with and participating in. We’ve been praying in one for God to stir His people to kingdom prayer. So pray for prayer! Praying for prayer is probably the most important thing we could do right now.

Dannah: You know, my heart is about to burst, because what I’m sensing . . . it’s almost like a eureka moment for me. I think that you’ve described this: how can you walk with the Lord for twenty-five years and suddenly be awakened to prayer?

I feel like, at this moment, I’m hearing, “The point of it is the prayer!” Hello-o-o?! The point of it is the prayer; the point of it is not, “What are we going to get out of the prayer?” So many times we come to God . . . My question I want to ask you right now (and I’m not going to), but the one I want to ask you is, “Well, what happened after you gathered in that dilapidated building? How did God move? What came next?” 

But I’m sensing this satisfaction that you just came and you were with God, and that was the point! And maybe that’s why the Lord is letting things fall apart, do you think?

Karen: Sure! I think the most significant change was in us . . . or at least in me; I can speak for myself. That was where the most significant change was. You know, the children of Israel cried out, “Lord, we don’t want to go if You don’t go with us!” 

I think the folks that we’re meeting, from whom we’re learning, are sensing that there’s always a cultural moment coming after the moment that you’re in. Cultural moments are like Pez candy dispensers: there’s always another one. You flip the head back, there’s another one, there’s another one. And we don’t know what that next cultural moment is going to be.

But if we become a people of kingdom prayer—not prayer centered on politics or culture, but on kingdom—if we become a kingdom of prayer, we may be a little bit better prepared for whatever is coming, even as our hearts are being stirred to the most basic confessing our idols and laying them down.

So, I’m content to sit in that space. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t go and respond to my community’s needs and continue doing the work of the kingdom and the mercy ministry and all of those things. That doesn’t mean that I stop all of that and just commit everything to prayer. We’re not talking about a kind of monastic existence here.

I think what we’re talking about is making that central, asking God, “Where are we going as a people? What are we doing as a people? How are we responding as a people in a way that comports with the kingdom that You’re building . . . not the kingdoms we want to see?”

Dannah: I remember that interview with Karen. It stuck with me. I saw prayer differently . . . almost more, well, simply! The point of prayer is prayer. Like gathering with my good girlfriend, Lynn. I don’t meet her for coffee to ask her to do things for me, though sometimes I do. I don’t intend to ask for advice, but it almost always leads to that. I don’t show up just to praise her, but her hair is almost always on point! The purpose of meeting her is being with her. I adore her. She’s my friend. 

I’m learning to approach prayer more like that, too! Now if you could read my prayer journal (and guess what, I’m going to let you in a sec), you’d see a lot of petitions to God as I watch for answers. You’d see places where I pine for advice. You’d see pages of praise and thanksgiving. But the more I grow in my walk with Jesus, there are entries like the one I wrote on March 13, just a few weeks ago.

"Sitting on a sunny deck wrapped in a sherpa blanket with a gentle wind blowing through leaves left over from fall. Sensing You. Certain of You. It’s good to be with You, Lord.”

Hear the full interview with Karen "Prayer Is Action" which came from the series "Kingdom Praying, with Karen Ellis."

Dannah: As we continue learning about prayer today, I want to share a story with you of one women who made prayer and planting seeds such a part of her life that it spilled over to everything she did. Rhonwyn Kendrick would say she’s just a regular woman, like you, like me, but she has a passion to see things grow—plants and people.

Rhonwyn Kendrick: I love being outdoors. I guess it’s part of growing up on the farm . . . planting something and then just watching it grow.

Dannah: This is Rhonwyn Kendrick’s son, Stephen. 

Stephen Kendrick: You can take the girl off of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. She goes out and works outside all the time.

Mrs. Kendrick: For the spring garden, we planted green beans . . .

Stephen: It’s therapy for her.

Mrs. Kendrick: . . . sweet potatoes . . .

Stephen: It’s a joy for her . . .

Mrs. Kendrick: . . . squash . . .

Stephen: . . . to get her hands dirty and see something bloom.

Mrs. Kendrick: . . . zucchini . . .

Stephen: She has transformed her back yard from an ugly backyard into something very beautiful over the years.

Mrs. Kendrick: Last year I tried corn. That didn’t work!

Dannah: Mrs. Kendrick not only cultivates her garden every day. She also cultivates a close relationship with the Lord.

Mrs. Kendrick: In the mornings I like to take my Bible and I go to my kitchen table. I put my Bible on the table, and I stand. If I stand, I don’t doze off. And I just start praying.

Dannah: Mrs. Kendrick uses a lot of Scripture when she prays.

Mrs. Kendrick: In the mornings I like to read Psalm 23: “The Lord is [our] Shepherd, [we] shall not want . . .” And then, Psalm 25: “Show [us] Your ways, O Lord; teach [us] Your plans” (v. 4). Deuteronomy 28: “We’re blessed in the city, blessed in the field; blessed is the fruit of our body . . .” (vv. 3–4 paraphrased).

The verses in Psalm 34: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . . They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (vv. 1, 10). Psalm 37: “Delight thyselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (v. 1).

“This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24). Isaiah 54: “All of your children shall be taught of the Lord” (v. 13). I have quoted this for years. Galatians 3: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (v. 13). Psalm 91: “[We] will say of the Lord, He is our refuge . . . He covers [us] with his feathers, and under his wings [do we] trust” (vv. 2, 4).

Dannah: Stephen Kendrick remembers the way his mom used to pray for him and his brothers before school.

Stephen: We heard Psalm 91 just about every day, it seemed, going to school, growing up. We would be in the car and she would make it personal. When Mom would personalize the chapter, she would say, “We dwell in the secret place of the most High: we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. We will say of the Lord, He is our refuge, our fortress: our God; in Him will we trust. Surely he shall deliver us from the snare of the fowler, from the noisome pestilence. He will cover us with His feathers; under His wings we will trust” (see Ps. 91:1–4).

And then, she would go through the whole chapter, as we’re in the car: “Only with our eyes will we behold and see the reward of the wicked. A thousand may fall at our side, ten thousand at our right hand; but it will not happen to us” (see Ps. 91:7–8).

At the end of the passage it talks about the Lord’s blessing and protection over our family. Having sons caused my mom to pray for protection a lot. She would pray Psalm 91 protection over us as we would be out in the woods—swinging on vines, trying to be Indiana Jones as kids.

A mom could look at her children saying, “I’m trying to protect them and keep them safe”—but your prayers will go with them. There were many times where we almost died as kids, growing up—runnin’ the car out into the street, driving it as a three-year-old. I backed the car out in the street two different times.

Over the years, the things that we have experienced . . . But Mom was always praying for us behind the scenes, asking the Lord to put His angels’ charge over us and keep us safe. And so you may be looking at your kids thinking, I’m so worried or fearful about them because I can’t always be with them wherever they go.

Well, the Lord is with them and His guardian angels can be charge over them. When you pray for their protection, they’re in the Lord’s hands, and you can rest at night knowing that He has a better plan than you do for their lives.

Mom and Dad made prayer a part of everything they did. We’re not only praying before meals, but we’re praying before major decisions. One thing that we would see in our parents was, they wouldn’t hold back in their prayer lives.

They wouldn’t pray just small prayers, but they believed that God could provide, He could protect, He could do things. So, there was a sense of, “The Lord is able to carry us through this and provide what we need.”

Hear Rhonwyn Kendrick's story on "The Power of a Mother's Prayer."

Dannah: Great story! I hope our time together today encouraged your heart and mind and reminded you that God loves to hear from His children

And in case you didn’t recognize those names, her prayers for her children yielded some pretty beauty amazing fruit. Because Stephen is one part of the Kendrick Brothers who’ve brought us great movies that encourage the body of Christ.

Speaking of prayer, this Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. I encourage you to spend some time joining with me and other believers in the United States in praying for our country. If you need some tips and tools, visit NationalDayOfPrayer.org.

We also have lots of helpful articles and resources about prayer on our website at ReviveOurHearts.com.

It’s May and during this month, we at Revive Our Hearts are closing the books on fiscal year 20/21.

Thank you. Because of you, we’ve been able to teach women around the world to pray, and we’ve prayed together. In fact, just a few months ago we brought thousands of women from all over the world together to join in prayer through our Cry Out Prayer Challenge.

We’re considering ther opportunities to reach more women, so as we close out the books, maybe you could consider a donation to help us finish stronger and reach even more women. When you donate a gift of any amount, you are part of bringing gospel hope to women all over the world. If you'd like to get involved in what God is doing through this ministry, you can give now at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

And here’s a friendly reminder: Mother’s Day is coming up next week. So get your card and mail it this week, or plan a dinner or ZOOM call for your mom. We have a special program planned for next week. Find out what eternity and eyeballs have to do with motherhood. We’ll have an extra dose of encouragement for any weary mom and practical ideas to keep us all looking up on those darker days.We’ll hear from Gloria Furman and Holly Elliff on Revive Our Hearts Weekend.

Revive Our Hearts Weekend wants to encourage you to cultivate a deeper prayer life! This program is a outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Guests

Karen Ellis

Karen Ellis

Karen Ellis is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Bible & Ethnicity at Reformed Theological Seminary (Atlanta). She holds Master’s degrees from Yale University and Westminster Theological Seminary, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford Center for Mission Studies in Oxford, England. Since 2003, she has worked as an advocate for the global persecuted Church, raising awareness and promoting indigenous leadership in countries where Christianity is restricted or repressed. Karen is married to Dr. Carl F. Ellis, Jr., a Professor of Theology and Culture at RTS.

Stephen Kendrick

Stephen Kendrick

Stephen and his brothers operate Kendrick Bros. Productions. Their films include: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, and War Room. In addition to co-writing and producing feature films, he works with Provident Films and LifeWay to develop Bible study resources for each movie, including The Love Dare which became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than thirty languages.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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