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Based on the keynote message that so moved government leaders at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black’s Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven shows us how to pray prayers that God will hear.Now more than ever, we are fighting for our voices to be heard on earth. We march, we tweet, we advocate on behalf of the voiceless, calling those in power to listen and come alongside us.Sometimes it feels as if we’re never going to be heard and nothing will ever change.Known for his powerful prayers, Chaplain Black challenges us, individually and collectively, to make ourselves heard in a way that really changes thingsby calling upon the one who holds ultimate power. Through personal story and practical insight, Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven helps us learn to pray in a way that releases God’s power and unleashes His blessing.
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
On June 27, 2003, Rear Admiral Barry C. Black (Ret.) was elected as the sixty-second chaplain of the US Senate, an office established in 1789. Prior to coming to Capitol Hill, Chaplain Black served in the US Navy for more than twenty-seven years, ending his distinguished career as the chief of navy chaplains. Commissioned as a US Navy chaplain in 1976, Chaplain Black's first duty station was the Fleet Religious Support Activity in Norfolk, VA. Subsequent assignments included Naval Support Activity, Philadelphia, PA; US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD; First Marine Aircraft Wing, Okinawa, Japan; Naval Training Center, San Diego, CA; USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3), Long Beach, CA; Naval Chaplains School Advanced Course, Newport, RI; Marine Aircraft Group 31, Beaufort, SC; Assistant Staff Chaplain, Chief of Naval Education and Training, Pensacola, FL; and Fleet Chaplain, US Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, VA. As rear admiral, his personal decorations included the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and numerous unit awards, campaign, and service medals. Chaplain Black is a native of Baltimore, MD, and an alumnus of Oakwood College, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Eastern Baptist Seminary, Salve Regina University, and United States International University. In addition to earning master of arts degrees in divinity, counseling, and management, he has received a doctorate degree in ministry and a doctor of philosophy degree in psychology. Chaplain Black has been recognized for many outstanding achievements. Of particular note, he was chosen from among 127 nominees for the 1995 NAACP Renowned Service Award for his contribution to equal opportunity and civil rights. He also received the 2002 Benjamin Elijah Mays Distinguished Leadership Award from the Morehouse School of Religion. In 2004, the Old Dominion University chapter of the NAACP conferred on him the Image Award, "Reaffirming the Dream—Realizing the Vision," for military excellence. Chaplain Black is married to the former Brenda Pearsall of St. Petersburg, FL. They have three sons: Barry II, Brendan, and Bradford.
Read an Excerpt
PRAY WITH ASSISTANCE
If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.
On July 7, 2003, I began work as the sixty-second chaplain of the United States Senate. When I walked into my Capitol Hill office for the first time, with its mesmerizing view of the Washington Monument standing majestically on the Mall, my eyes traced a path beyond it to where shimmering sunlight glinted on the surface of the reflecting pool that provides a mirror for the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial's stately pillars brought to mind Dr. Martin Luther King's involvement in the 1963 March on Washington, when he aroused the nation's conscience by articulating his dream of freedom and equality. How fortunate I was to now have a job that provided me with an office from which I could gaze upon such beauty and have a front-row seat to human history.
I surveyed the beautiful mahogany bookcases that would soon provide a residence for my personal library — allowing my mentors to join me in my work: Aristotle, Epictetus, Boethius, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, Adler, Augustine, Aurelius, and Aquinas, to name a few. They had been my companions since my sojourn to college in Alabama in the 1960s, and subsequently traveled with me to eleven churches I pastored and on numerous military deployments. They wouldn't forsake me now. I felt very much at home.
As chaplain for the upper chamber of America's legislative branch of government, I offer an invocation at the convening of each new session of the Senate. This is a wonderful opportunity to frame the day for the members, using a one-minute prayer to remind them of the importance of the spiritual, moral, ethical, and religious aspects of their work. I view this prayer as a conversation with God, evolving from the overflow of my daily devotional reading, my pastoral outreach to the thousands on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, and my daily commitment to "practice the presence" of our transcendent God.
I remember my knees knocking together the first time I ascended the steps to the Senate podium as a guest chaplain, trying to forget that countless viewers would be watching me on C-SPAN 2, in addition to the august assembly in the Senate chambers. But knowing that I would be speaking to the sovereign God of the universe, and that my voice would be heard in heaven, I felt less intimidated by my immediate surroundings, enabling me to enjoy my guest-chaplain responsibilities.
But on that July day, as I stood nervously on the Senate floor, listening to Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the president pro tempore, gavel me in, I was no longer a guest chaplain; this was my new calling.
"The Senate will now come to order," Senator Stevens intoned. "The chaplain, Dr. Barry Black, will lead the Senate in prayer."
As I began my first prayer, I once again experienced reverential awe in light of the privilege I had to speak to God on behalf of the Senate and our nation. The sound of my voice, a natural baritone I've had since puberty, brought a soothing rush of relief as the words of the prayer flowed easily. I found myself thinking, This may work out just fine.
With my inaugural prayer, my purpose was to announce a new beginning, celebrate God's sovereignty, acknowledge the contributions of my predecessor, Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, encourage bipartisan cooperation, and challenge our lawmakers to reach out to the marginalized — to the lost, last, lonely, least, and left out. My fervent hope was that all this would be accomplished with a standard of excellence — as captured in the words of the apostle Paul: "I pray that ... you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives."
Help from Heaven
Living pure and blameless lives is not something we come by naturally. The Bible says we were conceived in sin and "brought forth in iniquity." In the words of the apostle Paul, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't." The good we desire to do, we often don't do. The evil we hate, we find ourselves doing. We encounter a civil war inside of ourselves, and we cry out with Paul, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Fortunately, we serve an all-wise God who "knows our frame" and "remembers that we are dust." God knows we need help, and he has not left us unprepared.
Jesus, during his last days on earth, knowing that his disciple Peter would be tested, said to him, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." Imagine the leverage of having God's Son interceding on our behalf. Well, according to the book of Hebrews, we don't have to imagine it — because it's true! What Jesus did for Peter, he continues to do for us today. Thank God for this assistance, because as humans we indeed have infirmities. We have blind spots and often act in ignorance. As Jesus prayed for those who crucified him, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." Those who drove the nails into his hands did so in ignorance.
We're born with these blind spots and shortcomings. Some of us are born with physical infirmities, and all of us are born with moral weaknesses. Hereditary moral infirmity may be what "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation" means in Exodus 20:5 (ESV). Our infirmities can be exacerbated by poor education, bad habits, and other negative environmental factors. Praise God that the Holy Spirit is willing to help us with our infirmity.
Think about how, throughout human history, God has helped humanity with its infirmities. He helped Moses, who murdered a man in a fit of rage. He helped Peter with his impulsiveness and vacillating. He helped Saul of Tarsus with his misplaced zeal, and Thomas with his doubting, and he unburdened Mary Magdalene of the oppression of seven devils. God also empowers us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" so that we may overcome our hereditary and cultivated tendencies to sin.
God not only helps us in our weakness, but he also gives us a fresh start when we turn to him in faith. He is the author of new beginnings, as declared in the very first verse of Scripture: "In the beginning God created. ..." The apostle John speaks of the Creator's power with these words: "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."
God's authorship of beginnings means that we can trust him to have a plan for what he starts — even the varied journeys of our lives. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, "I know the plans I have for you." Imagine that. The sovereign, omnipotent, and omniscient God of the universe has a detailed strategy for each of our lives. I found this promise to be very reassuring as I began my service as chaplain of the Senate, confident that God would choreograph my new vocational journey, just as he would guide the steps of the legislators I now served — if we would but acknowledge his sovereignty.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
I knew I had so much to learn, but I clung to the prophet Zechariah's admonition: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Yes, I had little experience in the legislature, but I served a God who equips people to walk through the doors of opportunity he opens. He gave Joseph and Daniel the ability to interpret dreams, he provided Samson with remarkable strength, and he blessed David with amazing hand-eye coordination. He gave Esther great beauty and courage, equipping her for an assignment to help her people escape the genocidal intentions of Haman.
When I remembered how Jacob, Moses, and David started as humble shepherds and God splendidly used them for his glory, I became more optimistic about what God could do through me. I recalled that when Jesus chose his disciples, he didn't select them from among the aristocracy but from the blue-collar ranks. That was my echelon, making me feel optimistic about what the future might hold.
Striving for Excellence
In my first prayer before the Senate, I wanted to mention the indispensability of excellence, establishing this value as a motif in subsequent prayers. Excellence has to do with finding the superior path, a practice that is certainly needed by lawmakers. It usually entails striving for great preparation, expending one's energies in a worthy cause, seizing life's opportunities, and refusing to settle for less than our best.
As I reflected on the attribute of excellence, my mind wandered back to the events of May 6, 1954, when Englishman Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile. Many people at the time believed it couldn't be done, that it was a physiological impossibility, but Bannister did it nonetheless, recording a time of 3:59.4. What's interesting is that his record stood for only forty-six days before Australian John Landy lowered it to 3:57.9. Over the next five years, another twenty runners bested Bannister's mark as well. Today, sub-fours have become almost commonplace among elite distance runners — which would seem to suggest that the standard of excellence was set too low to begin with.
In the Bible, when Daniel and his friends were examined by King Nebuchadnezzar after they had completed three years of specialized training, the monarch found them far superior to any of the other students in the program. "Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom." Could it be that the standard for excellence is actually that high? If it is, we all must do more to passionately pursue God's best. One way we can do that is by praying with God's assistance.
We need God's assistance when we pray because we don't know the future. We can't see even one hour ahead. I remember talking to a friend who was contemplating an assignment that would take six years to complete. But we had no idea that he would die eleven days later. The Bible says, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."
We also need assistance with our prayers because we rarely know what is best for us. In the eleventh grade, I asked God to make a certain young lady fall in love with me so that we would eventually marry. I'm certainly glad that God didn't answer in the way I had hoped. I didn't know what was best for my life, but he did.
The mother of James and John came to Jesus, requesting that her sons be permitted to sit on his right and left in the new Kingdom. Jesus responded, "You don't know what you are asking!" You see, Jesus had no intention of setting up an earthly kingdom, as the disciples' mother (and others) had assumed, and what she requested would probably bring martyrdom to her sons. So often, we really don't know what is best. We're like children who get upset because our parents won't let us play with knives, when all our parents are trying to do is keep us from harm.
We also need to pray with assistance because two are stronger than one. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble." Moreover, Jesus declared, "If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you."
We also need to pray with assistance because God's Spirit is willing to intercede for us. Romans 8:26-27 puts it this way: "The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will." What a marvelous way to ensure that our voices are heard in heaven! When the Holy Spirit pleads our case, we can be certain that God's purposes for our lives will prevail.
We need to pray with assistance because it enables us to follow God's strategy for praying with power. We can take advantage of the sympathy and help that God provides to remedy our defects. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus provided his disciples with seven petitions. When we pray the "Our Father," we are praying God's Word. It is God who takes the initiative in causing us to even desire to pray: "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Then the Holy Spirit, through God's Word, reveals God's will to us. With the aid of scriptural inspiration, we pray according to God's will. We find ourselves responding to what God is impressing upon our hearts, giving him the courtesy of starting the conversation and assisting us in our prayers.
When we pray before an open Bible, we receive assistance as we cry out with Samuel, "Speak, for your servant is listening." I can tell you that praying with the assistance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit has energized my prayer life.
We need to pray with assistance because we cannot grasp God's infinite plan with our finite minds. In Isaiah, God reminds us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. ... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." In the final analysis, perhaps we would do best to pray Jesus' last prayer on Calvary: "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit!"
Just as I Am
The knowledge that God offers us divine assistance with our prayers should motivate us to come to him just as we are to receive his gifts and blessings. I know of no better way to do this than to "stupid-proof" our lives by praying for the wisdom that God makes available upon request. James says, "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking." I marvel at this promise, for wisdom covers every critical area of our lives, and we need it in order to live well. We don't have to go forth in our own strength. God's Spirit will help us in all of life's seasons.
When we appeal to God for wisdom, he promises to generously provide it. In short, we'll receive more than we need, but we must ask without doubting. The Bible says, "Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Faith, then, is a critical force in receiving God's wisdom and in making our voices heard in heaven.
Without God's wisdom, how can we live well or pray with power, particularly when we realize how little we actually know? When we, with great faith, make a request of God for wisdom, he will provide us with all that is necessary to make our voices heard in heaven and for living lives that will glorify him. This is the assistance from heaven we need in order to pray with power.
With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I daily attempt to remind our lawmakers of God's providential power over the course of the nation — and the nations. It's not enough to have a strong military or competent governmental branches; we must look to God as the source of our nation's ultimate survival and success. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." What is true for houses and cities is true for nations as well. Proverbs 14:34 says, "Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Unrighteousness, therefore, is a national security issue.
Because righteousness emerges more from unity than division, from concord than discord, I encourage our lawmakers to build bridges, to find common ground. The Bible says, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!"
True unity usually entails a humility that esteems others as better than ourselves and is "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." It's a humility that reflects bipartisan cooperation, which the American framers attempted to build into the upper chamber of our government's legislative branch, where a simple majority would usually be insufficient to win the day.
Excerpted from "Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven"
Copyright © 2018 Barry C. Black.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
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 Pray with Assistance 1
2 Pray the Model Prayer 15
3 Pray with Purity 31
4 Pray Fearlessly 35
5 Pray with Effectiveness 45
6 Pray to Escape the Squeeze of Temptation 61
7 Pray When God Is Silent 67
8 Pray When You Don't Feel Like Being Good 75
9 Pray with Patience 85
10 Pray with Celebration 93
11 Pray with Intimacy 107
12 Pray with Fervency 113
13 Pray with Perseverance 123
14 Pray with Submission 129
15 Pray with a Partner 141
About the Author 155
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