Nehemiah Prayer Time

Nehemiah 8_8

Nehemiah. He’s one of my favorite characters in the Bible. To be honest, I have a lot of favorites, but really, he’s up there as one of my top 20, or 10 or maybe even 5. . .

To coin a phrase from the Fabulous Bentley Brothers, “He built the wall, y’all!” But he did so much more. He prayed, he wept, he humbled himself, he led, he worked, he encouraged, he persevered and he saw God do incredible, miraculous things in and through the people.

Nehemiah 8 is one of my favorite chapters in his book. In a few weeks, I’ll be heading  to the Northwest to speak at a camp, and  I found myself digging trough the pages  of “his-story” for inspiration and prayer.

We find Ezra, the scribe, bringing out the Book of the Law and reading it to the people. He read it from daybreak until noon, and all the people listened attentively as he read. (Yeah, from daybreak til noon! Sometimes we hope for a good 15 minutes of attention!) While he read, the people all stood. They praised the Lord and lifted their hands and responded with Amen! Amen! Then they bowed and worshiped the Lord.

Verse 8 is one of my favorite favorites, “They read from the book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”

Now there’s something to pray for. As we teach, may our words be clear and give meaning so those we teach can understand.

Here is a list of things we are currently praying from Nehemiah 8 for our camp and our campers:

v. 3 May our campers (and sponsors) listen attentively.
v. 6 May our campers (and sponsors) bow their hearts and worship the Lord.
v. 8 May we make the Word clear and give it meaning so that our campers can understand what is being taught.
v. 10 May we all know the joy of the Lord as our strength.
v. 12 May we celebrate with great joy because we now understand the Words made known to us.
v. 15 May we proclaim the word and spread it throughout our towns.

Nehemiah didn’t just build a wall, y’all. As we read, remember  and pray “his-story,” his life, and ours, is building believers! Let us pray. Amen! Amen!

H.O.W. I’m Praying Now

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I’ll admit it. I like a good acronym.

Recently, while praying, God put three little letters together to help me remember to pray specifically for three not-so-little qualities that are changing my heart.

H.O.W. does it work? It’s simple. (I like simple and am really just a simple girl at heart!)

Every day I take time to pray for:

H Humility

O Obedience

W Wonder

In praying for these three things each day, God is opening my heart to areas of pride that need to be removed, and my eyes to areas where I can put humility into practice.

He is showing me what a deeper level of obedience means and reminding me again that the little things are really the big things.

God is revealing to me His wonder. The sometime inconsequential things that are really meant to be appreciated and treasured. In my race to get to the next thing on my to-do list, I have been missing out on the wonder of God around me.

Simple.

Powerful.

Life-changing.

Thank you, Jesus.

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

 

The Power of Praying Hands

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You know when you read those blog posts that have these amazingly great ideas. Then you find out that they are way out of your budget or could in no way be done in your facility.

Well, this is not one of those blog posts!

This is just one of those little things. You don’t really need any money. It should work in just about any venue.

All you need is some paper, some tape, a hand print, and some people to pray. Curious?? Read on.

Our leaders met this week to kick off HiSKidZ Wednesday night program, KidZRocK.

Each year we resolve to make prayer a bigger commitment, especially before we meet each night of our mid-week program. Then, life happens. The kids are sick, you have to work over at our job, you lock your keys in your car (Maddie!), and next thing you know that big group prayer time just isn’t happening because of last-minute craziness. Although each of us knows and believes that prayer is the, group prayer has not been attainable for our group.

This year as I was praying about that, this simple idea came to my mind. It’s so simple!! Really! It comes with a little poem that is, perhaps, a bit cheesy. However, I believe it originated from the Spirit and trust that He must like a little cheesy now and then–especially if it moves us to pray.

And it has.

On each door where our small groups and stations meet, I attached a laminated sign with a large hand print and the following poem:

On this place a hand was laid, where someone took a moment and prayed For power and grace from up above, teaching and truth that’s filled with love. To help change a life, here’s what you can do: place your hand on the hand and say a prayer, too.

As we finished our meeting up, each small group team went to their room and placed their hands on those hands and they prayed for power, for grace, for holiness, for salvation, and for a whole lot more other things that I didn’t get to hear. But we prayed. We prayed not just for our own spaces, but we went from door to door to door until each leader had prayed for every spot of our program.

Then we left the posters up–determined to stop for just a moment each night as we enter those rooms and pray. We are trusting that through the week, God will send people through our hallway who will also see those hands, and stop for a moment and pray.

It was the smallest thing, but it has sparked a flame in our group.

Maybe today you are looking for a spark, something small, but powerful, and maybe this is it. Our team thought it was worth sharing.

From our team to yours, may God move in powerful ways through your praying hands.

Three Ways Going P.R.O. Helps Kids Grow Spiritually

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To really grow, we have to let God work inside of us. I mean, we can try to do it on our own, and we can try with all our might, but in reality, it must be God who moves and works in us to bring about change.

To help kids to learn to rely on Jesus to help them grow spiritually rather than striving to “be good” on their own, teach them to go “PRO” by using these three simple concepts based on the acronym PRO.

1) Pray—Begin by asking God to seek your heart and show you where He wants to work. As He reveals any areas that may need to change, confess them to Him and . . .

2) Repent—More than just changing our actions, repentance involves a change of mind trusting God’s way over ours. True repentance is the action that shows a change of our hearts and minds from our way to God’s way which means we will. . .

3) Obey—We want our kids to learn that in order to grow we have to obey God’s will and follow His Spirit and His ways. Spiritual growth will come when as our hearts learn that obedience is a gift of love and should be the first choice of those who belong to Jesus.

We all know that few of our students will go pro in their favorite sport, but by using a phrase they already relate to, we can help them learn through prayer, repentance and obedience how to go pro in their spiritual growth with the Lord.

Something’s Fishy—Focused Prayer for Kids (and Leaders)

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“And pray for my cat and my dog and my goldfish and bless all the world. . . Amen”

While children’s prayers can be heartfelt and sincere, part of our call in their discipleship process is to help children grow deeper in the discipline of prayer.

Because prayer is more than just talking to God, it is both an offensive and defensive weapon in the spiritual battles we face every day, this week in our children’s ministry, we used what we called “fish prayers” to help HiSKidZ grow in their prayer and spiritual lives and walks with God.

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, of course, we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids; and our leaders and parents loved it, too, since this isn’t just a great way for kids to pray, it’s a great way to pray for kids.

fish prayers

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, along the way we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids (and our leaders and parents loved it, too.)

F=Faith
Pray for faith. The disciples prayed for Jesus to increase their faith and we can learn from their example. We talked with HiSKidZ about how the world can chisel away at their faith, so we need to pray that God increases our faith and the faith of our friends.

I=Integrity
First we had to explain integrity. Our simple definition “doing the right things for the right reasons” helped kids to understand that they could pray to be honest, sincere, helpful, kind, forgiving, generous and more. Since we have used virtue based curriculum in the past they understood praying that the words adhered to our walls would be adhered to our hearts.

S=Salvation
As we talked we found that most of our kids were not praying for people to get saved. It didn’t take long to realize that prayers for people to “be saved” were most definitely in God’s will, and we became excited to see what God will be doing as we begin to pray for our family, friends and classmates to know Jesus as their Savior.

H=Holiness
HiSKidZ define holiness as “being set apart for God.” Again when asked, most realized they had never considered praying for their life to be set apart for God. Our older kids even concluded that one of the reasons many kids grow up and don’t follow God could be that there weren’t enough prayers being prayed for them to be set apart for their whole life.

Just as a fish can swim deep down into the water, HiSKidZ and their leaders went home this week with a new tool and plan to help them go deeper in their relationship with their Savior and Friend, Jesus.

Prayer Time Shouldn’t Be a Rare Time—Helping Kids Grow in Their Prayer Life through Prayer Posters

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This month HiSKidZ at our church are learning about prayer. It seems that while we pray a lot, we haven’t done the best job of teaching about prayer, and since even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, it’s something we should be giving some thought to as we disciple our children in their faith walks with God.

We are loosely using Discpletown’s How to Pray curriculum and tweaking it to fit our own format and structure. Each week this month we are looking at different aspects of prayer connected to the word pray—Praise, Repentance, Asking and Yielding. It’s nothing new, but it’s definitely worth bringing out to a new generation to help them grow in their conversations with the Lord.

This week, HiSKidZ in our Discovery/Sunday School hour will be making these prayer posters to help them understand each of the 4 aspects of prayer that we are teaching.

The idea is so simple.

All you need is four envelopes, a piece of poster board, some tape, some markers or crayons, a hole punch and a piece of yarn.

Tape the envelopes to the poster board. On each one write one of the aspects of prayer. Punch holes in the top corners and string some yarn through them so they can hang their poster up at home.

The idea is that children and their family can write out prayers and put them in the envelopes. Writing out prayers, even simple prayers helps us to focus and think about things like praise, repentance, what we are asking for and yielding to what God is asking us to do.

Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog http://www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

Just Ask God

I think the words, “Just ask God,” pretty well some up my children’s ministry philosophy.

I probably started my kidmin journey in Tennessee, but like every good journey, there was some packin up and movin on to be done. And so we packed up and moved backed to where we began in church as a couple in a small town in Southeast Iowa. We came back for my husband’s work. I was a stay at home mom with compulsive volunteer tendencies who began to help back at that local church. I had been asked to consider a position there as the children’s minister, but declined because of the ages of our children. We hired someone else, a great guy that I loved and respected because of his love and respect for our kids and the Lord. After he left it was determined that we needed to hire another additional staff person, outside of children’s minstry, at the time. So one of our elders came and asked me if I would be willing to oversee the ministry for a year and at that time they would again look for someone to lead our children’s ministry. I said, “Yes,” and the rest is, as they say, His-story.

When I look back at those beginning years, I think the words, “Just ask God,” pretty well some up my children’s ministry philosophy. Back then, I didn’t even know such things as children’s ministry philosophies existed. I surely didn’t know I would ever need them as I entered the world of children’s ministry leadership quite by accident. I mean it was just for a year, afterall!! But those words have changed my life, and I hope the lives of at least, by now, a generation of kids. You have to remember that back then there weren’t blogs, and tweets, or social networking. GROUP was just getting their name out, and curriculum options were limited. So what’s a girl to do when she is called, but not really equipped??? Well, she just asks God.

The resource of the Almighty isn’t just for “professional ministry”, although we sometimes overlook Him. One of our small group members has shared recently that as she prays, she sometimes finds herself “stuck” not knowing what to pray, so she “just asks God.”

“God. What would you have me pray?” And she reports, not surprisingly, that He is always faithful to direct her prayer life. Imagine that?! We ask, and He answers. And yet, we often forget to ask. We trudge on in confusion, frustration, inadequacy, and doubt when we could be moving in power, clarity and confidence.

So through the years, “just ask God” has pretty much been my #1 children’s ministry method in planning and preparing.
“God. What would you have us do here in our little town in the corner of Iowa?”
“God. What do you think is the priority for our kids right here, right now?”
“God. What needs to be taught at this week of camp?”
“God. What do you want here?”

I believe without a doubt that going straight to The Source and “just asking God” is the key to knowing where we are going, not just in ministry, but in our families, jobs and everyday life. So if you are looking for a little wisdom today in your ministry, or in your life in general,let me encourage you to go back to the beginning, and “Just Ask God.”

James 1:5-6

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

First Daze

Today is our youngest son’s first day of school. Never mind that it is the first day of his last year of college. It’s still the first day of school. I’m hoping somehow, someone thinks to take a picture of him heading up the hill for that first class of the morning (or the 2nd class or the 3rd). It’s one of our family traditions that I miss the most. Later in the day he will head through the line at the caf for another school lunch, and then in the afternoon meet up with his friend for soccer practice. Ah! Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It seems to me those first days of school really are more like the first “daze” of school. Things are in a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, happiness, fear, joy, blood, sweat and tears. Many a mom has consumed many a bag of chocolates during the times when their little eagles begin leaving the nest.

But I know that I know that there is something that helps to clear the daze away. You see, today as Trevor starts his first day doing some of the same things he has done for years, I find myself starting his first day doing what I’ve been doing for him for years, since his first day of preschool in Mrs Marlin’s class (teardrop). Praying. Not out of fear or sadness or worry, but out of knowledge. A knowledge of the One who holds him in His hands, and of the evil one who would like to steal him away. Knowledge of the power of the God who directs our paths and who gives us life, and knowledge of our need for Him. Knowledge of the love God has for each of us and that I have for each of my sons. A love so great that it lays down its life, its time, its agendas for the good of someone else. The knowledge that the Creator of the Universe and the Creator of my children is listening and moving and working in ways I can’t always see or understand, but am confidently sure of.

I was a little sentimental about this last first day of school until I realized that our other son now teaching abroad will soon have his first day of school. So will his beautiful new wife. And so, someday, Lord willing, there will be first days of school and first day of school prayers for grandchildren and great grandchildren for generations to come. (Okay, okay, so I’m still being sentimental–I’m a mom! It’s my job!)

Today I’m praying not only for my kids, but for you and your kids, too, as they begin their first days. If, as you begin, you are finding yourself in the “daze,” may the God of peace give you clarity and focus as you lead and pray for your children each day as they head off to school.

If you have time to share. . . .How are you praying for your kids this year? I’d love to hear.

Ever Feel Like You Are Going Around in Circles?


Ever said these words? “My life is just going around in circles.” I sure have, and I hope it continues to. I hope my life is now defined in part, by the things I choose to circle in prayer. The ladies’ small group I lead met tonight and made the decision to begin Mark Batterson’s Circle Maker study. We’ve been looking for our next adventure and decided to preview the first session to get an idea of whether The Circle Maker may be something God would be leading us to do next. The answer???

YES! Absolutely, yes! We are excited to get this show on the road. I mean excited. Like milk chocolate and marshmallow excited. Like hope springs eternal excited. Like “Holy Cow, let’s not wait to get started excited.” Batterson’s book is a great encouragement to pray boldly, take God at His word, start praying promises and waiting and watching to see His will and His way come to pass in His time. And the videos bring to life the heart of what God has been doing from the streets to Jericho to the streets of Washington, D.C. in response to the prayers of His people.

I read The Circle Maker earlier this year, and after watching just one of the videos (I haven’t even started the participants guide yet) I’m excited–yeah, yeah, I know I mentioned that already–because not only is our small group going to do the study, but one of our Adult Bible Fellowships is as well. As we, as a church, as the church, begin circling our homes, our schools, our businesses, our nation, our towns, our churches and our families in prayer and as we continue praying them through, I know God will be at work in ways we could never imagine.

If The Circle Maker is news to you I hope you find a enough excitement in this post to check out Batterson’s book and study for yourself, so that the next time you feel like your life is just going around in circles it will be in intentional, power filled acts of prayer.

Oh! Interested in a little circle praying around your kids? You can check out Batterson’s Praying Circles Around Your Children, a great read for back to school time.

Hit Me Again

If yesterday was fill ‘er up, today is most definately “Hit me again.” Reading on in Acts, this girl just loves the “rest of the story.” (Well, there is even more “rest of the story”, but this is the next “rest of the story.”) Anyway, I love THIS story, in part, because I love all the stories that involve Peter. Ask just about any HiSKiD at church and they can tell you that Ms Dawn’s favorite Bible character is Peter. My favorite book of the Bible is Acts, and Genesis, and Judges, and Chronicles, Ruth. . . . .well, the favorite book is a bit harder, but my favorite character is by far MR Peter! And one of the reasons is because of things that happened like the things that happened in Acts chapter 3.

While everyone is looking on in amazement, ooohing and ahhhing, Peter blurts out,

“Hey, really???? Why in the world are you so suprised? I mean, do you think we did this ourselves? God did this. Yup, God. Same God who sent Jesus and glorified Him. Yeah, that God, that Jesus. The one you handed over to be killed. The one you disowned. The one you decided should die instead of a murderer who you asked to be released. You know, you killed the author of life. Well, you tried. God raised him from the dead. We know cuz we’re were there. We saw it all. And this man, he’s definately not lame–figuratively or literally. He’s completely healed, but not because of anything we did, but because of the absolute awesomeness of the very name of Jesus, and his faith in Him.”

At this point, I imagine jaws dropping. (a sight I have recently witnessed on numerous occassions as certain surprising disclosures have come to light in our lives) After the jaws drop, and the fog in their brains begins to clear, and the truth and weight of what Peter is saying begins to sink in, I think their heads probably dropped, eyes unable to make contact. At which point Peter lays the smack down.

WAIT!!! NO HE DOESN’T. . . . Well, he does. But what’s so awesome is how he does it–it’s gently, with grace, and without condemnation that he continues

Now, brothers, I know you were clueless. You had no idea what you were doing. You acted in ignorance, and so did your leaders. But it had to be that way, God had to fulfill the prophecies. But look, now you know. I’m telling you, God is showing you and because God loves you so much we are here warning you that once you know what you’ve done, you need to repent, turn to God and let your sins be wiped out and times of refreshing start coming in. Plus you gotta understand that He doesn’t want anyone to perish. But, and this is a big but, anyone who does not listen will be completely cut off.

Peter went on to explain how prophets from days gone by have been telling this basic message for years. We know that God still has people telling this message. He understands that we can be ignorant of the truth, so He is sending people right and left to help us see and understand what our sin has done and that He has the answer to this problem and that answer is Jesus. He loves us enough to warn us of the consequences of what will happen if we choose to reject Him or fail to believe what He is saying.

I love Peter’s “good news-bad news” approach. The good news is God healed this man. The bad news is you killed God. The good news is all you have to do is repent, believe, follow and you can be saved. The bad news is if you don’t you will be completely cut off.”

But I mostly love Peter’s compassion. “Now, brothers, I know you acted in ingnorance, and so did your leaders.” I love how Peter didn’t condemn them, he didn’t judge them, the didn’t belittle them, or shut them out. Peter just loved them enough to tell them the truth. “Hey I know you didn’t understand what you were doing, but you need to know, because this knowledge will save your soul.”

So Jesus, “Hit me again.” Today I desire to be filled with that kind of compassion, that Peter kind of, Jesus kind of love that says, “Hey, I just love you enough to let you know what’s at risk here.” Maybe that prayer is being answered today when someone reads this, maybe it will be answered through some place I teach, or by some chance happening. But I pray that God continues to fill His people up with the boldness to speak His words as we ought with compassion, love and truth, so that those around us might know the truth and be set free.