Beginning with his own testimony, Pastor Tyrone D. Gordon invites pastors and churches to F.O.C.U.S. by living the Lord's Prayer. Living and studying the prayer Jesus taught leads us to be faithful to Jesus, open to opportunities, centered on commitment, united in the power and ministry of reconciliation, and solid in the struggle toward power, justice, and love that come from God.
Each chapter includes questions for reflection.
"A focused prayer-filled life points to God, depends on God, and looks to God for its fulfillment. Everything in it, around it, and in between it is designed to glorify God. Our whole life is a doxology because we know what ultimate reality is. This is God's thing, God's doing, and ultimately, God is in control." from the book
Each chapter includes questions for reflection.
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Living the Lord's Prayer
By Tyrone D. Gordon
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2008 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
F.O.C.U.S.—Living a Life of Prayer
Lord, teach us to pray. —Luke 11:1
It all hit me one morning in the spring of 1992 in Wichita, Kansas. While serving the Saint Mark United Methodist Church, I had given all I had to give but I had drained myself in the process. That alone was part of the problem—I thought I needed to replenish myself. After five years in a fast-growing congregation and being touted as a "successful" pastor, I was running on spiritual fumes. On the outside, everything looked fine; but on the inside, I was sinking in a pit of despair, sinking fast! My tank was empty, and little did I know that morning, I was about to run completely out of spiritual gas. In spite of doing all the right things in moving that ministry forward and experiencing phenomenal growth in the process, I was doing all the wrong things to keep myself spiritually fed and nourished. I was trying to ride on the fumes of success, the fumes of church growth, the fumes of conference leadership, even the fumes of the applause of peers; but I soon discovered that those things won't keep you running for long. I was like a dehydrated marathon runner; I was about to crash and burn.
Sometimes life drives home lessons that we can never forget as well as things we should never forget. But more important, these hard times can help us grow into focused and committed disciples the Lord is calling for today. Some things will drive us to our knees, but being driven to our knees can be a good thing, because it is there that God will teach us to pray.
As I entered my office that Tuesday morning, I was completely overwhelmed by a spirit of frustration, emptiness, and depression. As I sat down at my desk I literally broke down in uncontrollable tears. I cried like a baby! I had given so much and there was nothing more left to give. While basking in the glow of success, I felt like a failure. As I look back on it today, I must have been on the edge of a breakdown. My secretary at the time, Rita, heard me; and I still don't know what prompted her to do this, but instead of coming to me, she quickly called my wife, Marsha. Marsha in turn called my dear friend and brother in ministry, the Reverend Henry "Hank" Wilkins, who at the time was serving a local church in Dallas. Within the hour, he jumped in a car and drove the six hours from Dallas to Wichita, Kansas, to get me! Thank God for friends and family who see you in a crisis and intervene before it is too late.
When Hank arrived, Marsha had a bag packed for me. Hank told me to get in the car, and then he took me to Dallas to reflect, retool, and refocus! I am so glad they and God stepped in right on time! That time away changed my life. I began to see the importance of pastors retooling and refilling themselves on a continual basis.
Prayer took on a new role in my life, my ministry, and in the church. I had always heard my mentor and predecessor, Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr., tell us in seminary that we preachers need to be in the Word to hear a word from the Lord for ourselves and not just to preach a word to others! Preachers need to hear God speak through the Bible and we should not just open it to find a sermon.
You Can't Give What You Don't Have
During that time of relaxation, reflection, and revival, it became clear that was exactly what I was doing! Here I had been trying to feed others while not allowing God to feed me. I was suffering from spiritual anorexia. Even now, I remember an old gospel song I used to hear the choir sing at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles: "Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!" I needed filling and I needed it fast.
Something had to be done! A refocus and retooling had to take place! A reexamination of my life, my heart, my faith, and my mind had to happen! I had to get back on track. So I resolved, then and there, that prayer had to be at the center of everything, including my ministry—yes, even my ministry! Funny that a preacher had to make that decision, but that was where I was in a dark and dramatic time of my life. It was during that time of prayer that God did what God does—God helps us see who we are in relation to God and reminds us that we are not all alone. All of our help comes from the Lord.
Prayer Allows God to Do Something with You
After spending several days with my friend and brother, the Lord began to restore my life and renew my spirit for ministry. It was as if the Twenty-third Psalm came alive for me once again. "You have bedded me down in lush meadows, / you find me quiet pools to drink from. / True to your word, / you let me catch my breath / and send me in the right direction" (Psalm 23:2-3 Message). It was at this point that I discovered prayer is not God doing something for us; prayer is not God becoming a spiritual, cosmic bellhop to entertain our whims and desires; prayer is not rubbing on a magic lamp or bottle and out pops a miracle at our request; but prayer is allowing God to do something with me, my life, and my ministry, and the church, God's church! Prayer causes us to look up to God, who is seen and who then becomes the source of our strength for abundant life and ministry.
God gave me a new lease on life and ministry through the power of prayer. Developing a personal time of prayer and devotion became a pressing priority; but it also became more. Prayer became a lifestyle, essential to my spiritual survival. The power of prayer began to teach that this is not petty, human business—this is God's business! It is not dependent upon us, but it is dependent upon God. Prayer, then, takes a load off of our shoulders because we now know that we are not carrying this load alone. Jesus bears the yoke; we simply walk beside him obediently. It makes us, as Dr. Zan Holmes would preach, "Check our egos at the door!" Once again, the vernacular of the elderly members of the church while I was growing up came to mind and reminded me that, "Prayer is the key to the kingdom and faith unlocks the door." Wow! That experience taught me something about prayer that I had long overlooked. Prayer is a lifestyle and not just a certain moment in the day or evening. We breathe prayer. We live prayer. We move in the power of prayer. We operate through prayer. Our ministries should be the product of prayer. Our lives should be a reflection of prayer!
The importance of prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines once again became a part of my spiritual diet. They had to, if I wanted to continue to grow as a spiritual leader of God's people. They have to be, if you want to be a spiritual leader of God's people. We must all learn that we cannot give what we don't have. We cannot put out what we have not taken in. So often we preachers, pastors, and spiritual leaders try to go it alone and do it by ourselves. But we cannot do God's business without God's power! God's power is unleashed through us and works through us only as we are connected to our spiritual source, which comes through prayer, the Word, worship, and the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Prayer brought me back! Prayer refocused me! Prayer centered me! This experience taught me that what we do, we do not in our own power and strength, but through the power of God. That power is available to us and unleashed through us in prayer.
God Will Equip You with Power
From that point on, I began to reorganize every ministry around prayer, and it began a journey that teaches the very aspects of prayer in the life of the spiritual leader, the leadership, and the congregation and its ministries. Before my crisis I knew Jesus' admonishment, and Paul's, that we should pray without ceasing, but it baffled me. How does one stay in a constant state of prayer? Does that mean we stay on our knees or at someone's altar at all times? How can we stay in a perpetual state of communion with the holy and go about our everyday routines, ministries, and lives? What does it mean to always pray or pray without ceasing? Then it hit me, prayer is not something we do— prayer is who we are! There might be designated times of prayer, but it must go further and deeper than that. Prayer shapes our lives and penetrates our thought processes; it informs our decisions, influences our conduct, and inspires our actions.
Prayer is not a magical incantation that opens up heaven and gets God to do what we want God to do! Prayer is not our route to easy money, success, fame, or acclaim. Don't get me wrong. I do believe God can move in powerful and miraculous ways when we pray. But even if God moves in ways I may not want, I still believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is not designed to get God to do what we want; rather, prayer empowers us to do what God wants. Prayer is not for God; prayer is for us! It helps us stay connected to the power source of our ministry and the power source of the church. Prayer is the connection between ourselves and the holy so that God can move us in ways that we did not know we could be moved. God empowers us to do things we once thought were impossible to accomplish! In prayer, not only do we hear the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). We are also able to respond as Mary, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." (Luke 1:38). Through prayer, we not only see God at work in the world; we allow God to be at work in us!
Prayer Is a Lifestyle
Prayer is a lifestyle inspired, informed, and directed by the Holy Spirit to do God's will upon this Earth through us and with us. Prayer moves the church and its ministries to be in line with God's purposes for that particular place. When prayer becomes the lifestyle of individuals and the church rather than simply a set-aside time or a particular ministry that tells God everything God already knows, we then learn to pray without ceasing. Our lives become our time of prayer. We begin to see God's power unleashed in the congregation and in the life of the pastor and leadership. Through prayer we become focused on our mission, clear in our vision, and undying to our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When a church's very foundation for ministry is prayer, a new spirit takes shape. The church births new life and a new sense of optimism—even more, a strong faith takes hold! A church that bathes all it does in prayer is an exciting church. It is a church that can't wait to see what God is about to do next in its midst. A praying church is a church that does not depend on itself, its name, or its buildings and budgets to get ministry done; rather, it depends on the power of God that is at work among the people who are busy doing what God has called the church to do.
Prayer Empowers You to Live for God
Prayer is the very lifeblood of the pastor and congregation as we together commune with the God of heaven and are empowered to live out the gospel in ways that make God known on Earth through our words and deeds. The power of prayer keeps the ministry F.O.C.U.S. within the church and its leadership. It helps us live by the power of prayer and not just say our prayers. There is a difference!
There is power when God's people live prayer and not just say their prayers. Therefore, we are invited by Christ to grow into a life of prayer. The disciples seemed to grasp this concept as they watched the power of Christ unfold and be displayed in his preaching, teaching, his love, and his miracles! Jesus did not just say "his" prayers; he lived a life of prayer. Everything he did was done because he stayed connected with God, not just for an hour or two a day, but without ceasing! No wonder the disciples asked in Luke 11:1, "Lord, teach us to pray." Teach us, Lord, to live with the same power that you have! Teach us, Lord, to be in constant communion with God, who in turn will help us be in a dynamic relationship with one another and the world around us. Teach us to be and stay connected! That was the opening Jesus needed to introduce us to what we know as the Lord's Prayer.
My journey taught me that the Lord's Prayer is key to living a focused life of prayer. It gives us the ingredients for a prayerful lifestyle, one that relies on God, works for God, enhances the kingdom of God, and is guided and protected by God! This gives us the pattern of a prayer-full life! It has in it the ingredients for a powerful witness to the world through spiritual leadership in and through the local church. It is a powerful church that sees its standards for living, giving, and witness in the Lord's Prayer! It is a church and pastor with F.O.C.U.S.!
F.O.C.U.S. calls us to be Faithful, Open, Centered, United, and Solid in our mission, vision, commitment, witness, and discipleship. This book will help you learn the lifestyle of prayer by studying the prayer that Jesus taught us. Through living the Lord's Prayer, a congregation will find itself on the cutting edge of ministry and proclaiming a relevant gospel in this contemporary world. A spiritual leader will find renewal and refreshment.
Let us pray. I mean, let us live in the manner that Jesus taught us! I can hear Jesus say, "When you pray or as you live, say ..."
Questions For Reflection
1. Share a time when you needed God.
2. What do you want God to teach you about prayer?
3. Who is someone you know who lives a lifestyle of prayer?
4. Where do you need God to equip you with power?
5. How is God moving in your church today?
6. If God unleashed more power for love and service in your church, how would it be different? How would you be different?CHAPTER 2
F.O.C.U.S.—Faithful to God!
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. —Matthew 6:9
We pray not to get God's attention, but so that God can get our attention. Prayer is our interaction and dialogue with the God of the universe. So often we have made prayer a monologue where we do all the talking and presume God does all the listening. In this view, God takes our orders and responds when we get ready for God to respond. This treats God as though God is a cashier at a spiritual drive-through restaurant. That is not prayer at all! Prayer is a dialogue between ourselves and God, a time when God hears us, but more important, a time when we listen to God. Even more so, prayer is best when we get up off of our knees and live in its power. That is when prayer becomes a lifestyle.
Focus on God's Will and God's Way
As we live out the Lord's Prayer in its fullness in our lives and through our ministries in the church, it becomes clear who is in charge! As we begin in faith, it becomes clear to us who the focus is: God—God's will and God's way. After all, it is the Lord's church and not our church! It is the Lord's agenda and not our agenda! When we are clear on who we are and whose we are, we come before the Lord without any agendas because the focus is on God and not on us.
When God is the focus, we can better resist the temptation to make prayer an outline or wish list, but rather a time of total surrender and submission as we give ourselves to God's will—for God's work—to build God's kingdom. The Lord's Prayer places the focus on God so that we can learn to be faithful to the God who calls us in the first place. Jesus taught us that this is God's business and not ours! It is about God and not us! Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). God's church is built on a secure and solid foundation. Nothing can destroy or uproot it. Waves of doubt, apathy, hate, or ineffective ministry can't wash it away. This is something we all must be reminded of from time to time.
The burnout experience I mentioned in the previous chapter taught me that there are times we get ahead of God. Sometimes we think we can function on our own and sustain ourselves by our own power. That is a lie from hell! We cannot do this on our own. Living the Lord's Prayer helps us come to grips with the reality of our limited abilities and God's unlimited power! This is God's doing and God is faithful to bring to pass what we in faith place in God's hands. One passage of Scripture that keeps me together when it feels as though the ministry load is too heavy and about to unravel is Philippians 1:6. The Apostle Paul says, "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." It reminds us that God, through Jesus Christ, has assumed responsibility to empower us to ensure that kingdom building proceeds, often in spite of us!
Excerpted from F.O.C.U.S. by Tyrone D. Gordon. Copyright © 2008 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. F.O.C.U.S.—Living a Life of Prayer,
2. F.O.C.U.S.—Faithful to God!,
3. F.O.C.U.S.—Open to the Opportunities,
4. F.O.C.U.S.—Centered on Commitment to Faith,
5. F.O.C.U.S.—United in the Power and Ministry of Reconciliation,
6. F.O.C.U.S.—Strong and Solid in the Struggle,
7. Living the Doxology,
Appendix: St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church: Our Mission, Our Vision, Our,
Core Values, Our Church Motto,