You're invited to sit at the feet of Jesus Himself and listen—and learn (and yearn)—as He prays. Seventeen chapters share the exciting, empowering, and enlightened Red Letter Prayer Life as Jesus spoke it, lived it, and shared it with His followers. Jesus uncovered secrets of prayer that could make the lame walk, open prison doors, and break down barriers between people. He did it for His followers then, and He does it for you today. Join award-winning pastor and author, Bob Hostetler, as he takes you on an unforgettable journey to a more fulfilling prayer life than you ever hoped for or imagined.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
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About the Author
Bob Hostetler is a writer, editor, speaker, and consultant from southwestern Ohio. His twenty-nine books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell)and The Bone Box, have sold over 3 million copies. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is the founding pastor of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife, Robin, have two grown children, Aubrey and Aaron, and four grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
The Red Letter Prayer Life
17 Words from Jesus to Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer
By Bob Hostetler
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Bob Hostetler
All rights reserved.
The Riches of the Red Letter Prayer Life
* * *
I want to fly first class.
Go ahead, judge me. I don't fly as much as some people do, but I log many thousands of air travel miles every year. And I'm not the only one to notice that sitting space on planes seems to be shrinking and comfort is disappearing. Have you ever had a leg cramp while seated in a non-exit row in coach? Well, I have, and while I'm sure it doesn't compare to childbirth or a kidney stone, it's no picnic at the beach, let me tell you.
In all my years of air travel—and I started flying just after the Wright brothers—I have had a first-class seat only once, and that was an unexpected upgrade. I can't remember how it happened, but I didn't turn it down. It gave me a glimpse into all the blessings I'd been missing: legroom, armrests all to myself, a free newspaper, hot hand towels, actual silverware, and more. I would have felt like the king of Siam except I think he was sitting across the aisle from me.
So, yes, I want to fly first class again. Someday, at least. Whenever possible. It's not just about comfort for me; it's also about luxury.
I think most of us want to fly first class. We want to be comfortable. We would even welcome a little luxury. It would be nice. To coin a phrase (or more precisely, to use a phrase that has been coined and spent many times), it would be "a blessing."
We want a blessed life. And while some of that desire for blessing can be sinful, even idolatrous (if it translates into such things as consumerism or instant gratification, as I wrote about in my book American Idols ), it can also be understandable, even righteous. There's nothing wrong with preferring the first-class cabin to the nonreclining last row on the plane. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a great meal or a good book. There's nothing wrong with dressing well and traveling widely. No less an expert than wise King Solomon said:
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don't skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
We shouldn't be selfish, of course, but we can admit to craving the best things this world and this life have to offer. Even our first parents, Adam and Eve, must have craved and consumed a lot of good fruit—with no ill effects—before they eventually sank their teeth into one bad apple, so to speak. And it's not only material comforts we long for but also intangible things. Who wouldn't like more confidence at times? Who wouldn't welcome more time and more strength? Who doesn't need a little more peace? And patience? And laughter, and love, and beauty? Talk about a blessed life! Where do we sign up? How do we qualify? What does it take?
Some Sources Are Better Than Others
Years ago, when my two children were in grade school (they're almost as old as me now), I took them on occasional backpacking trips in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, one of my favorite spots on earth. I would map out our route on a trail map, usually choosing a scenic spot such as a waterfall for our destination. We would each carry our own bed, food, book (always a book), and other necessities in our packs. We would hike for a few hours each day and then set up camp, play, cook, read, and relax until the sun went down. On most trips we hiked two days in and two days back before heading home.
Those were precious times. I enjoyed not only the many hours of closeness with my kids but also imparting some spiritual insights and a little trail of wisdom to them. They learned how to pack wisely and how to make and break camp well. They learned to carve a willow whistle and cook over a campfire. They learned how much better food tastes on the trail. They learned to dig a latrine and purify drinking water.
On one backpacking trip, however, we all became a little lax in our water purification efforts. By "a little lax," I mean "completely neglected it." We drank the cool, clear water straight from the stream along which we hiked. For mile after mile, we didn't boil or filter our water. We didn't use purification tablets either. And we suffered no consequences. Everything was peachy. Until we reached our destination.
We took our time hiking through the sylvan scenery along Abrams Creek, seldom losing sight of the stream as we followed the moderate trail. We could hear the thunder of the low falls before they came into view, and then a footbridge allowed us to keep our feet dry as we crossed Wilson Branch. A moment later, we arrived and saw not only the beautiful waterfall but also the broad pool at its base ... where a dozen or so people not only waded and swam but even stood shampooing their hair!
The kids and I exchanged glances. No words were necessary. Our foolishness was too obvious. For two full days we had been drinking unpurified water from a contaminated source.
That was the last time we did that, because you can't get clean water from a nasty source. You can't draw pure things out of something impure. As Jesus said, "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit."
It's a pretty fundamental principle. But we ignore it all the time. We look for good stuff in bad places. We try to build the good life out of bad materials. We want blessed lives, but we try to cobble them together ourselves rather than seeking them from what hymn writer Basil Wood called the "source of every blessing."
The Most Blessed Life
If anyone exemplifies the blessed life, it is Jesus. Though He never owned a home or car and never held season tickets for His favorite baseball team (the Cincinnati Reds, in case you were wondering), He lived a singular life. A rich life. A healing life. A life filled with laughter and song. A life that exuded beauty and blessing.
If you read the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—carefully, you'll see the portrait of a man who commanded the very elements of earth and sky, wind and wave, to do His bidding. He was supremely confident and at ease, whether He was in the presence of a leper or a Roman governor. He was uncowed by demons. He was unfazed by storms. He was the quintessential "blessed man" of David's psalm:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
His life was the epitome of Balaam's Spirit-inspired prophecy concerning the people of Israel:
"Like palm groves that stretch out,
like gardens next to a river,
like eaglewood trees that the Lord has planted,
like cedar trees next to water.
Water will drip from his branches;
his seed will have plenty of water."
Jesus could have been the poster boy for Jeremiah's depiction of the blessed life:
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit."
He could endure intense temptation without giving in. He could withstand violent opposition without buckling. He could sleep through a storm. He could heal with a touch or a word. He could charm children and mesmerize crowds. He knew how to work hard, and He knew how to rest well. He owed nothing and owned little but never wanted. He constantly gave but never suffered the least diminution.
Imagine a life like that. A blessed life. The richest life there could ever be.
But how did Jesus live such a life? How did He get those riches? Was He born to such blessing? Did He bring those things with Him from heaven? Were such blessings His because He was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah? Or did He access those blessings in the same way we can?
The More Blessed Life
As blessed as Jesus' life on earth was, He told His followers that they couldn't enjoy the same blessings He did; they could enjoy more! He not only said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" and "I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you," but also said, "Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works."
Those words seem to mock us. They sure don't seem to reflect reality. Who among us is enjoying the kind of peace and authority Jesus displayed in His life? Who of us is doing greater things than He did? There is clearly some disconnect between His words and our reality.
I think that's because we've missed something key, something important, something absolutely crucial. I think the snapshots of Jesus we see in the Gospels show us exactly how He—who was thoroughly human in every respect, yet without sin—managed to live the kind of life He did. I think when Jesus bequeathed to Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," so that "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," He referred to keys that are available to all of His followers. And I think at least one of those keys is repeatedly mentioned in no uncertain terms in the accounts of Jesus' life and ministry on earth:
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
At about that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God.
Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him.
And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed.
Keep in mind, those lines are drawn from first-century accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, written by men and to people who would have assumed that any observant Jew—let alone a rabbi—would have prayed at least three times a day. And yet the Gospel writers made a point to mention Jesus' frequent prayer retreats. Why?
Because it is necessary to notice His prayer life if we are to understand His blessed life. Prayer was critical to Jesus. It was essential to His connection with the Father. It was vital to the water-to-wine, walking-on-water, lunch-for-the-multitude, and victory-over-sin-and-death kind of life He lived. It was the source of His ability to speak like no one else, before or since. It was the conduit by which He healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead.
That was probably why the earliest followers of Jesus came to Him one day and asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." They weren't saying they had never seen anyone pray before. They'd seen their parents pray. They'd seen priests pray. They'd seen rabbis pray. They also weren't saying they never prayed themselves. They were Jews, after all. They had prayed all their lives. They prayed every morning as soon as they awoke. They said a prayer as they dressed. They prayed before leaving the house. They prayed the Shema three times daily. They probably prayed the Birchot HaShachar—the "eighteen blessings"—every day of their lives.
I think Jesus' first followers asked Him, "Lord, teach us to pray," not because they knew nothing about prayer but because they saw the fruits of His prayer. They discerned that to Jesus, prayer was "the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings." They recognized that His connection to His Father was key to His enjoyment of life, command of the elements, authority over sickness and Satan, and more. They understood—because they saw it proved in Jesus' life—that "to pray well is to do all things well."
And Jesus answered their request. He taught them to pray. He gave them the keys. He instructed them in prayer that would make the lame walk, open prison doors, and break down barriers between people all over the world. He did it for them, and He did it for you.
"This is what we need to be taught," wrote Andrew Murray. "Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that the feeble child can pray, yet it is at the same time the highest and holiest work to which [we] can rise. It is fellowship with the Unseen and Most Holy One. The powers of the eternal world have been placed at its disposal. It is the very essence of true religion, the channel of all blessings, the secret of power and life."
That is the goal of the pages that follow—to install in your life the root, the fountain, the channel of a thousand blessings through the words of Jesus on prayer. Each chapter will focus on a single word or phrase from the teachings and prayers of Jesus—the "red letters" of some Bible versions—and help you begin to fashion a red-letter prayer life that will open wide "the channel of all blessings" and unlock "the secret of power and life" for you.
Lord, teach me to pray. Like You. Through You.
With You. In You.
Teach me to want to pray. Teach me to love to pray.
Teach me to seek the fellowship of the Unseen and
Most Holy One, to find solace and strength, power and
pleasure, in prayer.
Teach me to grasp all that is placed at my disposal.
Teach me the very essence of true religion, the channel of
all blessings, the secret of power and life. Amen.
* * *
I was young.
Let's just go with that.
I was no more than twenty years old. I had been married for less than a year. I had no training or experience in home maintenance or kitchen repairs. But I was smart enough to know that drains are supposed to drain and the kitchen sink in the house we rented for $125 a month had filled with water.
I tried pouring Drano down the drain. Didn't work.
I tried Liquid Plumber. That didn't work either.
So more drastic measures were called for. You know what's coming, don't you?
Yes, I calculated that an unfolded wire coat hanger could be plunged into the drain and moved around to dislodge all sorts of drain-plugging materials. I discovered, however, that a wire coat hanger could also pierce an old U-joint as if it had been designed and sharpened for that very purpose.
I tried to convince my wife that, having located the problem, I could successfully replace the faulty U-joint and all would be well. She didn't buy it. We called a plumber.
I've learned a lot since then. And one of the things I've learned is this: When you want to learn how to do something, it's always a good idea to consult someone who has successfully done it. Preferably someone who has successfully done it many times. And even more preferably, someone who does it so well that he or she makes it look easy.
We do it all the time. "How did you do that?" "What's your secret?" "Can you show me?"
Whether it's losing weight or playing the guitar or throwing a curveball, most of us are smart enough to at least consult an expert when taking on new tasks or learning new skills—or even taking an existing skill to a new level.
That is what the first followers of Jesus did when they came to Him and asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." It was not because they had never prayed but because they saw Him doing it either differently or with better results. Or both. On that occasion—according to Luke, one of Jesus' earliest biographers—He responded with what we have come to call the Lord's Prayer (which we will get to in a few chapters). But that was just one time. Jesus' example of prayer and instruction on prayer pervaded His life and teaching. In fact, early in the Sermon on the Mount—what some scholars believe comprised the mishnah of Rabbi Jesus, the summary of his teachings presented in a format conducive to memorization and repetition—Jesus gave a short lesson in what we might call the red-letter prayer life:
"When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
That is a mere snippet of what Jesus taught about prayer. It is probably among His earliest teachings, but it is brief—only seventy-three words in English (just sixty-six in Greek!). But it says a lot about prayer and offers a clear, concise start in the pursuit of a red-letter prayer life.
When You Pray
Everyone prays. Some people say grace at meals. Some recite bedtime prayers. Some pray with beads or knotted ropes. Some pray in Jesus' name and others in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some pray to Yahweh while others pray to Allah or "the universe." Some pray daily and others pray sporadically. Some pray knowingly; others pray without realizing it, characterizing their practice as sending out "positive energy" into the world around them. I even knew an atheist who occasionally prayed, saying it was a way of more or less hedging his bets.
Excerpted from The Red Letter Prayer Life by Bob Hostetler. Copyright © 2015 Bob Hostetler. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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
Contents1. The Riches of the Red Letter Prayer Life,
2. Pray Privately,
3. Pray Simply,
4. Pray Communally,
5. Pray Relationally,
6. Pray Confidently,
7. Pray Cooperatively,
8. Pray Practically,
9. Pray Specifically,
10. Pray Contritely,
11. Pray Graciously,
12. Pray Submissively,
13. Pray Purposefully,
14. Pray Worshipfully,
15. Pray Gratefully,
16. Pray Biblically,
17. Pray Persistently,
18. Pray Boldly,