Praying for Rain

Before we get into the subject of this post today, I need to tell you about the 2017 Picture Birmingham calendar! This is our third year that Picture Birmingham and Mission Birmingham have collaborated to create this beautiful product, which contains 13 stunning photos by Birmingham photographer Rachel Callahan, and a short, Scripture-based prayer at the bottom of each page. As always, 100% of the profit from these calendars benefit both The Wellhouse (as does all of your purchases from Picture Birmingham) and Mission Birmingham. These calendars make great Christmas gifts, and you’ll be supporting two ministries at the same time! You can order yours here.

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After last night’s disappointing rain – or rather – non-rain event, much of the metro-Birmingham area has not seen any measurable rain for 33 days, according to The Alabama Weather Blog. The next chance of rain doesn’t come until next Saturday. 98% of the state is now in some stage of drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, which is the highest level of drought. Of the metro-Birmingham area, most of it is in extreme drought, with a small portion in exceptional drought. Waterfalls such as Noccalula and the dam at Tannehill are bone dry, as are most of the smaller streams and creeks that run through our local parks, and are some of my favorite places to visit during a normal Fall.

I confess that I often find myself trusting in the science of meteorology to determine rainfall more than I should. God is the one who ordains seasons and weather patterns, and He is the One who opens and shuts the “windows of heaven” to provide rain or to withhold rain. Yet, this week the Lord has been prompting me to pray for rain. (What can I say, I’m rather slow and dull of hearing at times.) As I started this blog post, it was to pray for the elections, but God interrupted me and impressed upon me that we need to pray for rain.

Of course, anytime we’re talking about drought or praying for rain, the story that comes to most people’s minds is Elijah praying for rain near the end of I Kings 18. I wish we knew what he prayed, but I think the reason we don’t is because we too often want to turn prayer into a formula. I saw a book at the bookstore last night called, “The Right Prayers to Pray for Any Need”. But prayer is not about saying the right words in the right order to get what we want/need. Look at the passage in I Kings:

42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”

What I noticed in this passage is that Elijah’s prayer position was one of humility and faith. He had faith in what God was telling him to do, and he was faithful to keep doing it until He saw God’s answer. Prayer isn’t about the right words. It’s about the right attitude toward God and about ourselves.

The context of this account is also interesting. Elijah had just finished facing off against the prophets of Baal, and we can read his prayer from that encounter. Verses 36-37 say, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” The purpose was to reveal God as the Sovereign Lord and to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. Then, in James 5:16,17, it talks about Elijah’s faith and prayer for rain, and it’s in the context of confessing our sins, which is the first step of having our hearts turned back to God.

As we face one of the most divisive election seasons in my lifetime, and as our culture continues to embrace those things which the Lord calls abominations, perhaps this drought is a small reminder that all of us who are called by His name need to humble ourselves and to faithfully seek God’s face (to borrow a phrase from a well-known verse, II Chron. 7:14).

Lord God, You are the God of this city and of every nation under Heaven, whether we acknowledge it or not. You establish kings and remove kings (Dan. 2:21). No purpose of Yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We humbly acknowledge You are a great God and a great King above all gods (Ps. 95:3). We confess that we are idolatrous and prideful, and we need You to turn our hearts back to You.

We pray that You would bring rain to our state, Lord. You are in control of the weather patterns. You are the One who determines when rain comes and when it doesn’t come. Forgive me for taking so long to remember that I should be praying for rain, instead of constantly consulting my favorite meteorologist. We pray that You would open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (from Ps. 145:16) Revive us, O  Lord, by Your Spirit. Revive us with streams of Living Water. And when You bring the rains, let it serve as a reminder that You are the source of all that we need and desire. We pray this for Your name’s sake. Amen.

 

Back to Writing – and Praying for East Lake

I thoroughly enjoyed making the video for last week and being able to pray out loud instead of in my head and out through my fingers/keyboard. What I did not enjoy was the face I’m making in the frame the video decided to use as the screen-shot thingy. (My brain is not coming up with the right word.) Clearly, I am a novice with the whole video-making thing. If any of you have any helpful hints, feel free to share them! I hope to do more videos from time-to-time in the future – IF my boss approves. Ha!

As you know, these past few months we have been focusing our prayers on the East Lake community in Birmingham. This coming Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7pm, New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting a city-wide prayer gathering for East Lake. Their worship team will be leading us in musical worship, and our prayer times will be facilitated by Pastor Thomas Beavers, pastor of the host church, Pastor Keith Stanley of WorkFaith Birmingham, and Pastor Kevin Moore of Mission Birmingham. Most, if not all, of the ministries we have prayed for this summer will be there. As I keep saying, it will be an incredible evening of prayer, and I hope you will be able to join us!

If you keep track of the local news at all, you probably have heard about the recent shootings in Gate City, which is located in East Lake. One was killed and five were wounded. This community desperately needs our prayers. They need the Lord.

The passage we will be praying out of Wednesday evening is Colossians 1:15-29:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Lord Jesus, You are the Creator, the Ruler, the Sovereign One over every. single. thing in existence. Every nation, every city, every community, every person exists through You and for You. Our eyes are on You because You are our Head. You are the Beginning; You are the One who sustains; in You are “the fullness of the times” (Eph. 1:10). You gave everything to reconcile us to the Father even while we were full of every evil thing. You do not wait for us to clean up before You save us; You save us so that You can set us free from our rotting graveclothes and chains, and so that You receive all the glory that is due Your great name. We praise You, Lord! Hallelujah to the Lamb! You are worthy!

We lift up East Lake, and especially Gate City, this week to You, Lord. We know it grieves Your heart when violence and hate have their way. Yet, in Your Sovereignty, You allow it. In Your power, You are more than able to cause these tragedies to turn to good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. You can take what man meant for evil and turn it for good. So that’s what we’re asking for today, God. Take these shootings and the fear, and the anger, and the grief they bring to this community and turn it into the very things that bring people to trust in the Lord with all their heart, and to stop leaning on their own understanding. Cause them to acknowledge You in all their ways so that You can direct their paths. (from Prov. 3:5,6)

We pray for the ones who are caught up in committing acts of violence. You’ve created them for more than this. You know their stories and what brought to that place of hate, fear, and apathy for life. You know that some of them feel they are too far gone into darkness to ever be received by the Light. God, we beg You to rescue them. Do not let the enemy have his way with them any longer. Cause the power of the Gospel to come fully to bear in their lives. This is not too hard for You. Your arm CAN save. Your mercy IS that deep and wide. Gun-control policies cannot save lives, rallies can’t change people, not even well-meaning charities can change someone; ONLY YOU CAN GOD! Do what only You can do for these men and women, for Gate City, and for the East Lake community. IN YOUR ALMIGHTY and GLORIOUS NAME we ask this, Jesus. AMEN!

Instead of a blog post….

I made a video! Actually, I made two. One is a Facebook Live video that you can see on our City on its Knees page on Facebook. I like this one better. It is by no means of great quality, and I did it “as is” – no make-up, hair not really fixed. In it, I invite you to the city-wide prayer rally on Sept. 21 at 7pm at New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. I also share some things God has been reminding me of this past week or so, and I invite you to pray with me for a couple of minutes. I hope it ministers to you.

Praying for our Leaders: 2016 Municipal Elections

Last Friday was our final stop in our 2016 Summer Prayer Journey. But wait! There’s more! On Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7pm, New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting a city-wide prayer rally in which East Lake and the ministries we’ve been praying for will be the focus. Mission Birmingham will be facilitating the evening.

This past Tuesday, many of the municipalities we’ve prayed for had elections for those who will be leading their cities. I don’t have info on all of the 90-something cities we’ve prayed for, but of those I do have, I see a mix of incumbents, new mayors, and run-offs, and lots of new and returning council members in various cities. I will eventually be updating each blog post with the new mayors information. At the end of this post, you’ll see a list of municipalities that I don’t have info for as of yet. If you do, please share it with me so that I can update those posts. Thanks!

I Timothy 1: 1-8 – 1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

In Your Sovereignty, Lord, You have appointed men and women to lead our local governments in the metro-B’ham area over the course of the next couple of years. We thank You for the leaders You have chosen for this time, even if some of them aren’t the ones we voted for. You are in control and You are the one who raises up kings and brings them down again to accomplish Your plans and purposes.

We pray for these men and women who will be leading our cities and hometowns to be wise and humble servant-leaders who are even-tempered, not willful or greedy, temperate. We pray that they would be men and women who love what is good, sensible, just, and self-controlled. (from Titus 1:7,8) Let them lead with integrity and honor. We pray that their homes would be places of love and peace. Protect these leaders and their families from every spiritual attack and from every demonic spirit that stands against them and against the cities they serve. We pray for the salvation of every mayor and every council person in the metro-Birmingham area.

As the citizens of these cities, I pray that we would be faithful to support our leaders through our prayers, as You have commanded us. Before we complain, prompt us to pray. Our politics have become a source of such hate, anger, and ungodly behavior. Forgive us, and cause us to turn from those habits and toward the habit of praying for our leaders. You promise in the passage in I Timothy that when we pray for them, it will lead to tranquil, quiet lives in godliness and dignity. That’s what we long for. Lord, we pray for cities that would experience Your kingdom and Your will in our midst as it is in Heaven. I pray that we would pray without “wrath and dissension”.

I also want to specifically lift up those who are facing run-off elections. Running in an election and going through the campaigning process has got to be an exhausting process. I would imagine it can be rather discouraging to realize that you have two more months of it ahead of you. We lift up those men and women who are facing that prospect this week. We pray that they would find their rest in You. Cause them to wait on You as they prepare for their run-offs, so that can then mount up with wings like eagles, they can run and not grow weary, they can walk and not faint. Cause them to see Your hand of grace and mercy on them and their families in the process.

We pray all this to You, praising You because You are worthy of all praise, and because You are in control. Amen.

I would love to read your prayers, and come into agreement with you, in the comments as you pray for the mayor of your specific city.

 

 

 

Praying for The Way Community Church

Happy Friday! For a lot of students and teachers, this was the first full week of school. I work for an after-school program, and so I witness just a fraction of the craziness that the first week can be a lot of times. Before we begin praying for our non-profit of the week, will you take a minute to pray for the students, teachers, and staff in the schools in your area? Pray for their peace, for time management, for wisdom, and for God to be evident in every classroom.

This week we are praying for a new church plant called The Way Community Church, pastored by Danny Brister. The church plant hasn’t launched just yet, and I think it’s a wonderful privilege and opportunity to pray for a brand-new part of the Church in Birmingham.

Acts 2:37-47 – “37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Lord God, You birthed Your Church through a miraculous move of Your Holy Spirit, made possible by the shed blood of Your Son and His resurrection. You chose to use the Church to be agents of Your kingdom and to bring many souls into a relationship with their Creator and Redeemer. You have equipped it with the fullness of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the riches of His Word – everything we need for life and godliness according to His divine power (2 Peter 1:3).

Forgive us, Lord, for replacing those gifts with the traditions of man and worldly thinking. Purify our hearts and our minds. We love You; help us love You more. We need You; make us see how much more we need You. Convict us and lead us to repentance for the ways we have sinned against You. Thank You for redeeming us and calling us by Your name. Thank You for forgiving us of our sins – for Your grace that covers all our sin and restores us.

We pray for Pastor Danny Brister to be a man ever more devoted to You. Protect him and his family from every effort of the enemy to thwart him from what You have called him to do. We thank You, Father, that Your Word says in Job 42:2 that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. We pray that You would shepherd him as he shepherds Your flock that You entrust to him.

We pray for The Way Community Church to be a church that is filled with and functions by the Holy Spirit. We pray that every person who comes to this church would feel a sense of awe. Let this local body be devoted to Your Word, to fellowship, and to prayer. Let it be a place where believers bear one another’s burdens and are able to give mutual support and care for one another. Empower this church to be a sign to the community of Your awesome power, amazing grace, unconditional love, and uncompromising holiness. Let this church shine Your light and Your glory for the whole East Lake community, and even all of Birmingham, to see and to be drawn to it. Use them to lift high the name of Jesus. Use The Way Community Church to bring many into Your Kingdom. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed specifically for a church plant in my own city before. Have you? What else would you pray for? Leave a comment!

 

Praying for the Lovelady Center

This ministry has a special place in my heart. Not only do I love the fact that they help women build their lives in Christ, but I also love their heart for prayer and worship. We also had the privilege of praying for them last summer. After our prayer time, their morning devotional time was just getting underway, which was started with worship music and singing. Seeing around 200 women, who have come out of difficult circumstances, singing “I am Redeemed”, moved me to tears. It was also my testimony. God not only redeemed my life from sin through His Son, but He is also redeeming my story from past sexual abuse.  You can see some videos on their Facebook page of their worship time. In one of those videos, they’re singing to “I am Redeemed”! Here is where we prayed for them on the blog last year.

The Lovelady Center‘s purpose is to help women build a strong positive foundation in Christ. Their mission statement is empowering women through faith-based initiatives so they can return to society as well-equipped women of God. We do this by providing a safe, structured, and loving environment.

Galatians 5:13-25 – 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to not only seal us in Christ as Your possession (Eph. 1:13), but to also encourage us, equip us, and empower us to live the life You have called us to live. I think how often of how I would love to have been on earth when Jesus was physically here, but He said it was better for us to have Him leave so that He could send Your Holy Spirit. I think I often lose sight of how rich a treasure and blessing that He is. So thank You, Father, for sending us the Holy Spirit.

We lift up all the lovely ladies of the Lovelady Center to You, Father. You have called them to freedom. Hallelujah! We pray that You would bind up the wounds of their past and bring them to the place where they can lay down their heavy chains, knowing You have wiped away every stain by the blood of Jesus Christ. (Yes, I am totally borrowing some of the words from the song I mentioned above.) You have already won the battle for them. We pray that they would learn how to walk in that victory by the power of the Holy Spirit. Give these ladies the courage and strength to daily and moment-by-moment die to their flesh and their old way of living. Empower them to choose to walk by Your Spirit into the life You have for them. We pray that these ladies would become like Your garden, watered by the Word of God, and bearing all the fruit of the Spirit.

We also pray for the leadership, staff, and volunteers at The Lovelady Center. Fill them with Your Spirit, and let their lives be full of the fruit of the Spirit. We pray that they would especially bear the fruit of love abundantly in their lives as they serve the ladies and children in their ministry. Give them the capacity to carry Your light into the dark places these ladies come from so that they can be used by You to help rescue, redeem, and restore. We are so grateful for the lives that have already been transformed through this ministry, and we give You, Lord God, all the praise and glory for Your redeeming work. We pray that You would continue to supply The Lovelady Center with all they need according to Your riches in glory. (Phil. 4:19).  Amen.

How is the Lord leading you to pray today? Have you had an opportunity to visit The Lovelady Center? I would love to hear about your experience with them!

Summer Prayer Journey: Praying for Banks Academy

This week we are praying for Banks Academy, which is a private Christian high school which opened in August of last year in Eastlake. As they enter their second year of operation, they are welcoming 9th and 10th grade students. A grade will be added each year until all four high school grades are established. Students who meet the qualifications to enroll at Banks Academy are offered scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition. Surrounded by public schools who are struggling with low test scores and high drop-out rates, parents in the East Lake and surrounding communities now have a choice when it comes to their children’s high school education. The school is named after the original Banks High School, which also started with just a 9th grade class in 1957, but went on to become a pillar of the community and a school recognized on a national level because of its academics and athletics. Dr. Kathy King is the school’s principal.

From their website:
Our school provides:
A safe and secure school building and environment.
A group of teachers committed to getting students caught up to their grade level.
A vision for the future in which they are taught to be self sufficient.
A quality education that is based on merit and not on pushing them through the system.
A cutting edge school in which successful strategies of learning are implemented.
A Christ centered setting in which the authority of our lives is Jesus Christ and the written word of God.

Deut. 6: 4-9, 20-25 – 4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.

Lord God, there is no god like You! There is no god like You in the earth or in the heavens. You keep covenants and show mercy to those who walk before You with all of their hearts. (from I Kings 8:23) You are never-changing. You are the same God who rescued Your people from Egypt, and who rescued Your people from sin and death at the cross. Hallelujah! Let Your deeds and the wonders of Your love be proclaimed from generation to generation!

Father, children today are not taught to remember You. We confess that somewhere along the way, we became too comfortable and we forgot You. As a result, our young people are growing up in a culture of fear, violence, anger, and immorality. Forgive us, Lord God, and rescue this generation! Cause us to be diligent to teach our children about You. Turn the hearts of this generation to You, Lord. Do not let the enemy continue to harm them and destroy them. Let the Way, the Truth, and the Life be made know to them.

We pray for Banks Academy as they gear up for their second school year. Equip Dr. King and her staff with the wisdom, discernment, strength, and the fruit of the Spirit as they impart knowledge and truth into their students. We pray that every young person who comes to Banks Academy would come to know You as their personal Savior and Lord, and in so doing, let it change their lives, their families, and their community for their good and for Your glory. By the time they’re reached high school age and can attend Banks Academy, a lot of these kids have already seen and experienced a lot of harsh realities. We pray that You would empower the teachers and staff to continually speak and demonstrate the love of Christ to each student. Let generational strongholds be torn down in Jesus’ name. Let wounded and hurting hearts find peace and healing through the power of the Gospel as it is lived out through the staff at Banks Academy.

We also pray that You would meet the practical needs this ministry has going into the new school year. We pray for more donors so that they can continue offering scholarships to their students. We pray that You would provide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual protection for Dr. King and her staff, for the students, and for the board members of Banks Academy. Let the staff keep their eyes fixed on You, committed to Your Word and to prayer. We pray that Banks Academy would be a school that fears the Lord. Amen.

Feel free to add your prayers or comments below. I love hearing from those who are joining us in prayer!