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Prayer Corner

Why Pray? Part 3 If we are serious about prayer, we must be convinced of its importance. So I will examine additional reasons why we should pray. moreless

I have written of Jesus' example in praying and of biblical injunctions on the importance of prayer. Now I will briefly explore great men of the Bible to whom prayer was important. Abraham comes to mind. He prayed earnestly, despite lacking Christ's model—a tremendous advantage we have. On three occasions he built an altar to the Lord (Genesis 12:7; 13:4; 13:18). In addition, he spoke directly to the Lord about his concern over having no unequivocal heir (Genesis 15:2). When God answered, Abraham believed in the impossible, which God promised would occur. That belief was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

David's Psalms clearly were prayers or communications with God. The final example is Daniel, who, even when his life was imperiled continued his thrice-daily prayers beside visible, open windows. These three and many others give testimony to the tremendous importance of prayer. How important is prayer to you?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

 

Remembering Previously I discussed consistent time spent in prayer. Years ago, having read of John Welch, the Scottish preacher who spent eight hours a day praying for his large congregation, I decided to at least attempt such a prayer marathon. moreless

I failed. My knees ached; I was hungry, and I ran out of things to pray for. Then it occurred to me that the reason for spending much time in prayer was to be able to pray for all the people I was remembering regularly. Subsequently, as more and more people became targets for prayer, my prayer time increased substantially.

For years, I used a system that I termed prayer trees or prayers by association. For example, if I was praying for Bob Smith and I was concerned for his wife and children and a specific friend for whom he requested prayer, I would remember each of them by name and by association. This procedure allowed me to avoid using lists. Eventually, when the numbers reached the high hundreds, I simply could not remember all of them, and I resorted to lists.

I am not basically an obsessive-compulsive person except in the area of prayer, and because there are many for whom I believe I am the only one praying, it seems important to continue praying for them. I wish it to be that when I say "I will pray for you" I really will pray they can depend on it.

Do you pray for those you say you will pray for?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Adversaries Adversaries! What adversaries? I don't have any adversaries. I use the term here in a very general sense. Scripture tells us to pray for those who despitefully use us. We might think of such people only as those who treat us unkindly or maliciously. In a much broader category we might think of them as those who simply irritate or annoy us, not necessarily intentionally. moreless

Even more broadly we might think of those we judge despite the fact that we are told very clearly not to judge. You might have a particular peeve: Why do people let themselves become so obese, or why does he or she dress that way?

When I find myself judging others—and that is a problem many evangelicals face—almost immediately comes this thought: "With all the faults I have, who am I to judge?" The remedy for me is to start praying immediately for that person, whether he has offended me or I've unjustly judged him: "Lord, please bless him and draw him to Yourself." This usually minimizes or eliminates the judgment and at the same time blesses the person.

It would be nice to think that I never judge, but I do, and this practice helps me greatly in overcoming such an attitude.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Why Pray? Part 2 That Jesus prayed often to His Father is enough reason for us as His followers to be praying. There are other clear reasons for doing so, not the least of which are the numerous injunctions in Scripture to pray, some of them from Jesus Himself. moreless

We can see from Matthew 6:5 that Jesus assumed His followers would pray. He said, "When you pray." The fact that He gave His disciples a model for prayer is an indication of its importance.

Dear friends, prayer is not an option; the Lord commanded it. If we love the Lord, we will desire to communicate with Him frequently, just as we thirst for communication with any of our loved ones.

The more one prays, the greater the compulsion to pray still more. Paul often spoke and wrote of praying. Here are two examples: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a). "In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).

Do you think you are too busy to pray? Martin Luther once said, "I had so much to do, so I spent two hours in prayer." God does not gauge the validity of our prayers by how long we pray, but good communication takes time. Are you praying?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Faithfulness In a recent Prayer Corner I reviewed the prayer habits of great men of God, noting that they were accustomed to spending protracted periods of time in prayer. Two hours seemed to have been a common choice. I don't mean to imply that those who are unable or choose not to spend so much time were less spiritual or less committed. moreless

However, if our prayer habits are to be effective, it would seem important that we establish regular times that become an absolute priority. If we fail to do so, the enemy will do everything possible—and all too often with success—to disrupt our prayer life. In all areas of life, including spiritual matters, discipline is the key to success. A prime example was Daniel, who prayed three times daily.

The richest marriages are a consequence of husband and wife spending much time together on a regular basis; we want to be with those we love dearly. We should pray that God would give each of us a fervent desire to be with our Lord and then arrange our time accordingly. It's surprising how well that will work if we are determined and yielded.

Please don't delay; start today. Consistent prayer will change your life.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Praying Scripture Even as prayer is the spiritual equivalent of breathing, so Scripture study is the equivalent of eating. Both are necessary to sustain life. Scripture study—private and corporate—is essential for all believers. moreless

In addition to our regular Bible study, we also can benefit from praying through Scripture. Most of us know some Scripture by heart. If we deliberately memorize pertinent verses that speak to various areas of need in our lives, and use them daily, those verses will become great assets in dealing with the challenges we face daily.

I have found the following passages very helpful when life's pace is frantic:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6, 7).

"Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

"My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

"I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Fifty to 25 similar verses memorized and recited daily should address almost every situation.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Why Pray? Part 4 Our final thoughts on why we should pray will center on post-biblical-era saints to whom prayer was absolutely essential. moreless

Great servants of God can be distinguished by one great feature: They are people of prayer. Borrowing from E.M. Bounds, I will mention several and their examples (and prayer habits).

Charles Simeon, the great English revivalist, devoted the hours of 4 A.M. to 8 A.M. to God. Joseph Alleine, an English clergyman, followed the same pattern. John Wesley spent two hours in prayer each day. Martin Luther said, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day." Bishop Asbury said, "I propose to rise at four o'clock each morning … and spend two hours in prayer and meditation." David Brainerd loved to be alone in his cottage, where he could spend much time alone with God.

The prayer habits of George Mueller and Amy Carmichael are well-known.

We might say, "But those were the greats; I am not among the elite." Such prayer habits are not just for "the greats." Scripture admonishes all believers to "pray without ceasing."

Why not ask God to guide you into the appropriate prayers habits for you?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Revisited and Renewed We are told that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. If prayer is indeed to be fervent, it must be because we have a strong desire to pray, and that's often where we face the first obstacle to fervent prayer. moreless

I have learned that the means of achieving that strong desire is by praying. In other words, it came by praying faithfully that God would give me the desire to pray and that He would enable me to arise at a time allowing me at least a brief time to pray before facing the day.

The best time to pray varies with individuals, but beginning every day with prayer (even if briefly) is important. More prolonged prayer time may be reserved for the time most suitable for each person. For me, early-morning prayer time has become inviolate, more important than sleeping, eating, or recreation.

Prayer can and must become a habit. Prayer and Scripture study are absolute keys to spiritual growth and maturity. If they are not currently priorities in your life, please pray that they will be. Consistent, fervent prayer will be the beginning of a new chapter in your walk with the Lord.

Next we will explore the "whys" of prayer.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Why Pray? Part 1 Why should prayer be a holy compulsion? There are so many answers to that question, that one short devotional will not begin to cover the subject. moreless

The most compelling reason is that, on numerous, occasions Jesus spent time in prayer (which is noted particularly in Luke's Gospel). Most noteworthy was His prayer prior to choosing His disciples: "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them" (Luke 6:12).

Granted, this was a momentous decision, even for our Lord. But if He who was God in human form found it important to pray, how much more should we pray? Moreover, as prayer becomes imperative in our lives, we learn to pray about everything. Maybe it's a function of age, but the longer I live the more I feel compelled to pray about the smallest responsibility. Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing."

Dear readers—aside from your regular prayer time—please take advantage of every opportunity to commit every part of your day to our Lord.

On another occasion we shall delve into the compelling reasons to pray always.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Unplanned Times I wrote previously of the vital importance of consistent prayer times as an absolute requisite for maintaining a close relationship with our Lord. Now we turn to another area that is infrequently addressed. moreless

Though we often think of ourselves as too busy to pray—aside from personally assigned times—we forget all the nooks and crannies of time each day, times that may be used very profitably to address the Lord and hear from Him. These may be times of waiting for an elevator, walking to work, running an errand, cooking or cleaning, shaving or showering, or even performing such an essential responsibility as nursing a newborn. I knew a young mother who, though often busy with many other duties, found nursing to be among the rare opportunities she had for quiet contemplation and prayer. With a little creative thinking, each of us can find such times.

It has been helpful for me to pray specifically each morning that God would make me aware of these prayer opportunities as they present themselves each day. A little praying and thinking along these lines may open up wonderful nuggets of prayer time for you each day. Try it. You'll like it and you'll be blessed.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Shepherding and Prayer Those of you who are a part of leadership in Community Bible Study are acquainted with the term shepherding. Different groups and individuals practice this shepherding in different ways. moreless

I have seen shepherding serve two principal purposes: First, it reveals the shepherd's care for those for whom he is responsible. Second, it allows him to discover the prayer concerns on the minds and hearts of his charges. Calling and praying should go hand in hand.

At a conference early in my CBS experience, two leaders convinced me of the importance of shepherding. A Core Leader told of a woman who had come to CBS reluctantly. The woman continued to attend, prompted by the Core Leader's faithful weekly calls and prayers. At a sharing time at year's end, the woman said that when she first came to CBS she had been suicidal. She said her leader's weekly calls and obvious concern for her had prevented her taking her life.

In another setting, a man shared that someone had urged him to attend CBS. That person told him the people there would really care and that he would be called regularly. He dropped out after a few months and when asked why, he said nobody cared; nobody ever called him; apparently nobody knew his prayer concerns and prayed for him. Shepherding is serious. Each of us should act as under-shepherds in our love and prayers for our sheep. Are you an under-shepherd?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Communal Prayer There is no substitute for private, personal prayer, preferably in a quiet place undisturbed by distractions. Communal prayer is, however, often blessed in a special way. We see this in the early church. In Acts 4:31 we read that after Peter and John had been confronted by the Sanhedrin and delivered, they returned to their own people. Then, after they prayed, "the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." moreless

In China and Korea believers often pray simultaneously. This is a different form of communal prayer, but surely heard by our loving Lord.

Many of you know of Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In the early days of that congregation, just 17 people gathered for prayer on Tuesday evenings. Through their faithful and fervent praying, those prayer times grew to 1,100 meeting regularly. Needless to say, those united prayers resulted in some remarkable answers, including the deliverance of Jim's daughter from a deeply troubling situation.

If CBS is to be greatly blessed, prayer must become our habitual pattern. God, please make us a truly praying community.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Practicing the Presence From time to time, as we think on prayer, it seems appropriate to consider some of the giants in the faith, especially as prayer was particularly important in their lives. I can think of no better place to start than with Nicholas Herman, a 17th-century Frenchman, who became known as Brother Lawrence. A war injury left him crippled and in pain for the remainder of his life. moreless

After his military service Herman lived for a time in the wilderness, and then he spent time in private service prior to entering a monastery. In his typical self-deprecating way, he described himself as a footman who was clumsy and broke everything. At mid-life he entered a new monastery where he cooked for more than 100 members. He became known as a "pots and pans monk."

Because his life was so filled with God's presence, people came from considerable distances to learn from him. We know him best from the many letters he left behind, and it is from these letters that we learn what he believed and practiced. The essence of his life is seen in these words: "There is not in the world a life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God." This he lived and this should be our desire.

The book called Practicing the Presence of God, which Father Joseph de Beaufort compiled from Brother Lawrence's teachings, is still available. Please read it; you will not be sorry.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Songs as Prayer That songs or singing were important forms of prayer is very apparent from the book of Psalms (and from other books of the Bible as well). I have noted the importance of praying the Scriptures. We may use the Scriptures very effectively in the struggles we face each day. moreless

From a different perspective, praying hymns and songs may add a rich dimension to our devotional life. Though there are other categories, let's think for the moment in terms of devotion and praise: "I have one deep supreme desire: that I may be like Jesus. To this I fervently aspire, I want to be like Jesus. I want my heart His throne to be so that a watching world may see, His likeness shining forth in me. I want to be like Jesus." This song of devotion resonates with me.

For praise, there are many songs, but Praise My Soul the King of Heaven is a great hymn of praise. Hear the first stanza: "Praise my soul the King of heaven; to His feet Thy tribute bring; Ransomed, healed restored, forgiven, Who like me His praise should sing? 
Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise the everlasting King!"

Each of us may choose the most meaningful for us—in word and melody—of the great church hymns or praise songs. Then, memorize them.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer as a Priority Years ago, when we were in language school in Costa Rica, preparing for service at a mission hospital in Ecuador, we attended a Billy Graham campaign that had been prepared in the usual fashion, with months of prayer by hundreds of believers. But because of opposition from the majority church, the stadium booked for the event was canceled. moreless

Undismayed, volunteers fashioned makeshift bleachers and the meeting proceeded as scheduled at another site. The Spirit worked mightily and many people came to Christ, including the niece of an important church dignitary. The following morning, Dr. Graham met with the campaign workers and spoke of his own unworthiness, and then he said, "The most important thing is prayer. The second most important thing is prayer, and the third most important thing is prayer."

He may have been echoing Edward Payson, a great man of God, who wrote to a young pastor, "Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother, pray, pray, pray." This is good counsel, not just for ministers; it is for all of us.

Sir Thomas Buxton wrote, "You know the value of prayer: It is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it."

Is prayer our first priority?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Giving Thanks A great prayer warrior once said that when we taste defeat the most important thing we can do is give thanks. Even when things are grim and we are in despair, most of us still have many things for which we can give thanks. As we give thanks our spirits are lifted and we realize how blessed we are, despite our disappointments. moreless

Scripture speaks eloquently of this truth:

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart" (Colossians 4:2).

The Philippians passage clearly indicates that as we give thanks to the Lord, we will experience peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. We will be blessed and profit much when on occasion we devote time simply to thanksgiving. Lord, help us to do this on an ongoing basis.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

For Needs Our loving Father knows every need we have before we even think of asking. Even so, He has instructed us to present our needs to Him. Matthew 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find." James says we have not because we ask not. moreless

Sometimes we think our needs (not wants) might be unimportant to God. But this is the same God who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and who knows the number of hairs on our heads. One of the great joys of faith history is seeing the number of remarkable answers to specific prayers.

Amy Carmichael and her fellow believers prayed for specific needs only to find in the mail a check that had been sent months before and arrived just at that time of need.

I recall reading of one incident in the life of George Mueller, who cared for hundreds of orphans. He steadfastly refused to publicize the ministry's needs. When others voiced concerns over the barren cupboards and nothing for breakfast, Mueller replied that God would provide. Soon, a bakery truck had an accident just next to the orphanage; the goods were unsalable but edible. So the food was donated, providing enough for all to eat. God's timeline may be different from ours, but He will provide.

God, help us to remember to bring our needs in faith, believing that You will provide.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Intercession Many—if not most—of us spend more time in intercession than any other type of prayer, especially as we become increasingly concerned in prayer for a large number of people. But this focus should never be to the neglect of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, which we will address another time. I also will address effective interceding elsewhere. What we will consider here, however, is meaningful intercession. moreless

Probably many of us are praying for people we do not personally know, so we do not know specifically how we should pray. Scripture speaks directly to this in Romans 8:26-27: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:34 is equally important: "Christ Jesus … is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

Thus, when we don't know how to pray, it is reasonable and appropriate to pray simply by name, knowing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who know all things, will intercede most effectively. This may be most liberating as we seek to pray for people about whom we know little.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

For Forgiveness Beyond salvation, of which this is a part, scarcely anything is more important in a believer's life than forgiveness. We must consider forgiveness from two perspectives: first, God's forgiveness of our sins and, second, our forgiveness of the sins of others. We cannot have the former without the latter. moreless

God's forgiveness of our confessed and repented sins is unequivocal: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

What a fantastic privilege—to be forgiven all our sins and to be cleansed! But there is a condition. Matthew 6:14-15 says, "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

We love God for His love and our salvation, which includes our forgiveness. I believe we should pray for forgiveness daily. I love Him deeply because He forgives me, and as He forgives me I can forgive others and love them. I believe forgiveness is the prerequisite for loving others.

What a wonderfully freeing thing forgiveness is. Do you need to forgive someone?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

For Guidance Many struggle to discern God's will. Prayer is, of course, vital as we seek God's will. We have been told that if we pray according to God's will, He hears us. All too often we receive no clear guidance, despite our fervent prayers, and then we must rely on other means to determine God's will. moreless

One approach I have used on occasion is to pray something like this: "Lord, I do not know what your will is, but I want it with all my heart. Lacking clear guidance, I will do what seems best to me, and I ask that you close the door if what I am choosing to do is wrong. If I make a poor decision, please enable me to face the consequences, knowing that I have sincerely sought your will."

On other rare occasions I have used a fleece, as Gideon did, but only with certain provisions. First, the fleece should not be an easy one, but one that requires the working of His Spirit. If the fleece conditions are met, we should honor the guidance scrupulously. I have done this rarely but very effectively. Being at peace about the fleece is important.

But the most important thing is having a true desire for God's will. We must ask, "Do I truly desire God's will?"

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Praying Specifically Intercessory prayer may be general or specific, but the prerequisite of all prayer should clearly be "according to God's will." Perhaps that caveat should precede all devotional prayers. moreless

I have previously discussed intercessory prayer when we simply don't know how to pray but when we know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who know all things, can pray according to the needs of the ones prayed for. Sometimes, however, we might be aware of situations or individuals we need to pray for specifically. There are certain times when we can pray specifically, being certain that we are praying according to God's will. This would include prayer for the salvation of a loved one or some other individual. We read in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God wants all men to be saved.

We may also pray very specifically for the healing of someone near death, but at the same time we must remember to include "according to God's will." No matter how desirable the result we are praying for, only the Lord knows the best outcome for each circumstance. Thus we must understand that He will bring about what is best and that we should surrender to His will and give thanks for His loving care.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Praying for Witness As believers, aside from our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nothing is more vital than an effective witness. No one would dispute the importance of an effective, Bible-based message, but even more important than the message is the messenger. Without a Spirit-filled life, the message rings hollow. moreless

The great preacher Robert Murray McCheyne said, "Give yourself to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God." Martin Luther spent his "best three hours in prayer." Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and George Mueller were all people whose very lives were saturated with prayer, and their lives spoke even louder than their words.

The ultimate example of this prayer emphasis was the Lord Jesus Christ, who communicated faithfully with His Father through prayer. If He, being both God and human, found this necessary, we must pray that we will be prayer-saturated believers so that our lives will speak louder than our words.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer Worship A little girl climbed up on her daddy's lap, gave him a bunch of scrawny dandelions, put her arms around his neck, squeezed him, and said, "Oh, daddy, I love you so much!" moreless

Perhaps you are a parent who has been the recipient of a child's similarly spontaneous expression of love. The dandelions aren't much, but the words and the hug are expressions of love that are enough to melt the heart of any father.

It seems to me that spontaneous expressions of love are the purest forms of worship and prayer to our loving, heavenly Father. I think of the song that says, "I love you Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship you, Oh my soul rejoice. Take joy my King in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear."

Being the all-loving Father that He is, can't you see how much that means to Him? I pray that I may never forget simply to express to Him, daily, how very much I love Him—even if accompanied by scruffy dandelions.

Have you told Him today that you love Him?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer and Preparation There is no question that lesson preparation is important and should never be neglected, but a lesson purely from the head will never have the penetrating power of one that is from the heart as well. In Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds wrote, "But nothing reaches the heart but what is from the heart or pierces the conscience but what comes from a living conscience." Similarly, Richard Cecil wrote, "A sermon that has more head infused into it than heart will not come home with efficacy to the hearers." moreless

For a time I attended a prominent church in which there were two principal preachers. The senior preacher could be counted on for messages that were invariably intellectually stimulating, but seldom stirred the heart. As he himself indicated, his sermons were "straight from the head." The other pastor, an able preacher as well, obviously preached from the heart and touched his listeners' hearts.

The means by which Teaching Directors will be most effective is by bathing every lesson in prayer—before, during, and after the lesson. We need always to remember that real power in speaking for our Lord is only through prayer.

Is prayer preparation important to each of us?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer Retreat For Evening Community Bible Studies, where the Leaders Council meets prior to the regular weekly meetings to review the questions and to pray, often the prayer time seems limited. Not long ago, in the study we attend, our Leaders Council held a separate time solely for prayer. Those who participated felt the time was especially rich and rewarding. moreless

CBS has always emphasized prayer. Scheduled prayer retreats are profitable. Praying together also seems to provide meaningful fellowship. The early church was noteworthy for its participation in communal prayer. Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 4:24a says, "When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God." Acts 4:31 says, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." And before Peter's miraculous escape from prison, we see in Acts 12:5 "The church was earnestly praying to God for him."

It seems that a part of the strategy of CBS classes might well be regular, if not frequent, times specifically devoted to prayer.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Answered Prayer Please indulge me as I share a personal and very influential answer to prayer from my childhood as a missionary kid in China. moreless

A wonderfully mature and committed Chinese seminary teacher was commissioned to make a tour of outlying ministries in the countryside with a more junior member of the staff. Late one day they arrived at the home of an extremely poor pastor and his wife. The couple's residence consisted of one room with an attached hut, which contained a kang (Chinese bed) that was built right against the wall. The men looked at their accommodation for the night and both were aware that the wall undoubtedly harbored hundreds of bedbugs that would emerge at night to feast on sleeping victims.

By all natural custom the younger man should have offered to sleep next to the wall, but he said nothing, so Brother Cho planned to sleep there. As he knelt to pray before retiring, he said, "Oh, Lord, You know how tired I am and how badly I need sleep. You closed the mouths of the lions when Daniel was in the lions' den. Please close the mouths of the bedbugs." He went to bed, slept soundly, and awoke unmolested. In the morning his junior partner immediately exclaimed, "Those bedbugs were terrible; they gave me no rest at all. How could you sleep?" Brother Cho knew how and why.

I heard his story when I was 11 years old, and it made an indelible impression on me. Is it any wonder I believe in prayer?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer Dependence Age has certain advantages, especially for slow learners. Perhaps I can share with younger believers something I needed a long time to learn. In earlier days—when I was more self-confident and perhaps full of myself—when I was given an assignment, spiritual or secular/professional, my first thought was how I would deal with it. Only when I found myself stymied or frustrated would I turn to prayer. moreless

As the years have passed, I learned the literal truth that without Him I can do nothing, and that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. It has become my instinctual habit now that whatever the task, regardless of how large or small, prayer is my immediate resource.

Because God is concerned with the smallest details of our lives, He is an immediate resource, whatever the issue we may be facing. Again and again, He has given me insights simply because I sought His guidance. When we face challenges, however frequently or infrequently, remember to turn them over to Him immediately. We will never lose by doing so.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer and the Laity One of the weaknesses of the church today, and this certainly includes the conservative or evangelical church, is the perception that the work of the church is primarily the responsibility of the pastor or other "professional" clergy. The work of the clergy is to train and prepare members to carry out the work of the church. To understand this we need only think of the apostles, who were, with the exception of Paul, largely untrained. moreless

This is where prayer played such an important part. When there were complaints about inequities of food distribution in the early church, the apostles appointed others to correct the problem so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). The effective ministry of the kingdom is not limited to well-trained professionals. Far more important is faithfulness in prayer and Scripture study. Being filled with the Spirit occurs only as we devote ourselves to prayer and Bible study. John Wesley said, "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."

Prayer prepares the lay person for a Spirit-filled ministry. Does prayer have the highest priority in your life?

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Prayer of Surrender The ultimate act of prayer is complete surrender to our Lord. Romans 12:1 (NLT) says, "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him." moreless

This is much easier said than done. When our class was studying Romans, one of our older, but only recently believing, members said to me, "Every time I try to die to self, the devil gives me CPR." A rather picturesque way of putting it, but it emphasized the importance—the necessity—of praying in surrender, not only on a daily basis, but sometimes several times in a day.

Surrender may be so much a challenge that we have to begin by asking God to give us the desire to surrender completely. We might remember the words of the hymn, "All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all." May that be our daily prayer!

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Self-Examination Sometimes, those of us who make confession a regular part of our prayer lives fail to include sins of omission. I have often failed to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for such sins. Amy Carmichael called them "unlove." That may mean failing to do something we know we should have done. moreless

One cold day, when I was in a hurry to catch a Boston transit, I saw a shivering ne'er-do-well lacking the money for a train token. I told myself that surely others in line would give him the nickel or pennies he needed. So I rushed for my train, and as the car left I saw the man going up the subway steps, shivering against the bitter cold. No one had helped him. I did not love enough to stop for him. I will never forget that failure.

In direct contrast, a businessman on his way to an important appointment, with his train about to leave, saw a little boy get off a train and spill a game with many pieces all over the platform and burst into tears. The man looked at his train and then at the little boy. He stopped and picked up all the pieces and restored them to the crying lad, missing his train in the process. The little boy looked at him through his tears and asked, "Mister, are you Jesus?" I'm sure the man felt wonderfully rewarded.

It is helpful for me to pray each day, "Lord, help me to be sensitive to every opportunity to serve."

Often, serving is love, and love is serving.

Dr. John Woods (a retired physician at Mayo Clinic), taught the evening class in Rochester, MN for over 20 years and has always had a passion for prayer.

Trophies of His Grace

It's Just Stuff

I’m not kidding the heat was intense, the wind and the debris flying through the air as we drove through crazy traffic was intense, our emotions were intense as we realized our new reality we were not going home!!! [read more]