You Can Pray commendations

Here are some commendations for my latest book, You Can Pray (available from amazon.com and thinkivp).

“The subject of prayer can raise profound questions, fears, guilt and frustration in us all. Tim Chester answers with rich theology and practical wisdom. As ever he is Trinitarian, gospel-shaped and pastorally-hearted. By the end you won’t just believe the title, you’ll rejoice that, in Jesus, You Can Pray.” – Glen Scrivener, an ordained minister and evangelist.

“You may be thinking ‘not another book on prayer’ and so was I.  What I found was a book that challenged and stretched how and what I pray for. It was a refreshing reminder of the fundamentals of prayer and the end focus of glorifying God; however he chooses to answer our prayers.  Whether you’ve read a lot of books on prayer or none – this is well worth the read.” – Charmaine Muir, Minister for Workplace, All Souls, Langham Place.

‘A very encouraging and enjoyable read. It put a spring into my step and got me praying more than I had been.’ – Sam Allberry, Associate Minister, St Mary’s Church, Maidenhead; and author of Connected, Lifted and Is God Anti-Gay?

‘I am so grateful to Tim Chester for writing You Can Pray. It is gracious yet challenging, accessible yet theologically robust. If you’ve ever wondered why we need to pray, or how to get better at it, this book will help you enormously. In a crowded market, this is one of the few books on prayer I shall recommend unreservedly.’ – Pete Greig, founding champion of the 24-7 Prayer movement, Director of Prayer for Alpha International and Lead Pastor of Emmaus Rd church in Guildford, UK.

‘Enjoyment and prayer are words that are not normally associated together, but after reading You Can Pray you will not be able to separate them! Tim’s book is full of helpful insights into how we should pray, why we should pray and what we should pray. It’s simple to read, yet not simplistic, as it engages deeply with the biblical text and also with contemporary issues. The book addresses many of the challenges that hinder us from praying and is jam-packed full of encouragement and tips on how we can become great pray-ers. Having been in full-time Christian ministry for over twenty years, both in Africa and in the UK, I wish this book had been available when I first started out! It is a must-read for anyone who wants to make prayer easy, biblical and God-glorifying.’ – Andrew Chard, European Director for AIM International

For the next couple of weeks ThinkIVP are offering a special discount on You Can Pray for readers of my blog. Order through these links and you will get the hard copy for £6 and the ebook for £4. This offer does not apply to orders from North America.

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You Can Pray – the movie

Here ‘s a short video introducing my new book, You Can Pray.

You Can Pray is available from amazon.com in the US and thinkivp elsewhere.

For the next three weeks or so ThinkIVP are offering a special discount on You Can Pray for readers of my blog. Order through these links and you will get the hard copy for £6 and the ebook for £4. This offer does not apply to orders from North America.

 

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New Book: You Can Pray

Today sees the launch of my latest book, You Can Pray – a title which so effectively summarises the book that it doesn’t have a subtitle. It is published by IVP.

Here’s the blurb …

If you’re easily distracted when praying, you’re not alone. In fact, if you struggle to pray in the first place, that’s not unusual either. Tim Chester tells us how we can be great pray-ers. And he admits that that’s a really bold claim.

‘The secret of great praying has nothing to do with human effort or skill,’ he explains. ‘Lots of people would like to think that it does because they want to make prayer an achievement.’ But the secret of great praying is …
Knowing three things about God:

  • That God the Father loves to hear us pray
  • That God the Son makes every prayer pleasing to God
  • That God the Holy Spirit helps us as we pray

Tim looks at: why prayer is easy (how we pray), why prayer is difficult (why we pray) and the arguments and priorities of prayer (what we pray). Prayer is a child asking her father for help. And that’s not beyond any one of us.

I’ll post some of the commendations in a future post.

You Can Pray is available from amazon.com in the US and thinkivp elsewhere.

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Can you help me think about prayer?

I am considering writing something on prayer and how people relate to God. I would love to know what people find helpful in this area and what they struggle with. So I’ve put together an online survey.

It would be a great help if you could fill this in and also pass on the link to other people.

The survey should only take a few minutes to complete and you can skip any of the questions.

All answers will be anonymous.

Thank you.

The link is http://prayerlife.questionpro.com/.

I’ll keep the survey open until the end of May.

Available for pre-order – Into His Presence: Praying with the Puritans

My new book Into His Presence is published on 1 September, but it available for pre-order from The Good Book Company.

It’s a collection of 80 prayers. About half of updated Puritan prayers and half are adapted from Puritan sermons. While I hope they offer a good introduction to Puritan spirituality, my priority has been to bring together prayers that people will want to pray, either individually or corporately. So they are organised around the occasions when you might want to pray them. All the sources for the prayers of given so you can go back to the sources.

Here’s an extract that gives a good feel of the contents. And here’s what some kind people have said about it …

BOB KAUFLIN, Director, Sovereign Grace Music

“Having read Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision multiple times, I’ve always hoped someone else would mine the writings of the Puritans for more Scripture-drenched, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, heartfelt prayers. My wait is over. Tim Chester has produced a volume eminently useful for private devotions, public gatherings and personal reflection. I expect his carefully chosen, thoughtfully organized, and beautifully edited prayers will serve the church for many generations to come.”

CHRISTOPHER ASH, Writer in Residence, Tyndale House

“These superb prayers model and teach a rich, deep devotion to God— Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Soaked in Scripture, they are wonderfully realistic about the life of faith. From a prayer for unbelieving children to a prayer with a dying Christian, with every style from the gripping logic of John Owen to the passionate warmth of Samuel Rutherford, these old believers walk with us in deepening our own lives of prayer. Tim Chester has done us a great service in editing and updating them so beautifully and clearly.”

LEE GATISS, Series Editor, The Complete Works of John Owen

“I greatly appreciate the effort Tim Chester has gone to in this beautiful book, not only to organise and translate the biblically and doctrinally rich words of the Puritans into a language I can pray myself today, but also to note where these exquisite treasures can be found in their original settings. Full of arresting images and comforting truths, this is a precious resource to come back to time and again for spiritual refreshment, pastoral challenge, and pure adoration of our gracious and sovereign God.”

SINCLAIR B. FERGUSON, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“These pages are a great gift from Dr Tim Chester to help us ‘to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever’ and to experience the love of Christ, as Paul says, ‘together with all the saints’. There is something in Into His Presence to help all of us to experience communion with God in every situation of life. Tim Chester has given us a treasure trove.”

ERIC SCHUMACHER, Pastor, author and songwriter

“The apostle Paul wrote that ‘we do not know what to pray for as we should’. All Christians find themselves, from time to time, knowing they need to pray but not knowing how. These prayers, taken from the writings of our brothers and sisters of the past, are a blessed guide to prayer when we lack words of our own.”

JOEL R. BEEKE, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

“The Puritans knew their God, not just in their brains, but in the bruises of life’s afflictions, and they sought him with all their hearts. Tim Chester brings us into the Puritans’ prayer closet to learn from their devotion. Some of these selections are Puritan prayers, some are the thoughts and phrases of Puritan teachings freshly woven into prayers, and all are fervent pantings of the soul after the glorious, triune God.”

You can order it here from www.thegoodbook.co.uk (UK), www.thegoodbook.com (USA), www.thegoodbook.com.au (Australia) and www.thegoodbook.co.nz (New Zealand).

Top ten tips on leading a time of prayer

A friend recently asked me for advice on leading a time of prayer. Here’s what I came up with. The context they assume is a small group, Bible study or gospel community. But you could adapt them for other contexts.

  1. Say that anyone can pray, but nobody has to pray.
  2. Suggest people keep their prayers short, but don’t wait for others.
  3. Don’t get people praying in groups if unbelievers are present so they are not pressured into praying before they are ready.
  4. Suggest people pray for one thing at a time (but pray more than once) and encourage people to listen to others so the time of prayer has the feel of a conversation.
  5. Invite people to identify matters for thanks as well as matters for request.
  6. If people are poor at giving thanks, split the time into a time of praise and thanksgiving and a time for prayers of request.
  7. Invite people to pray through the passage, reading a verse or two at a time and suggesting people respond in thanks, praise, confession or request as appropriate.
  8. Use any discussion of prayer needs to reinforce a gospel culture and gospel priorities. You can doing this asking how we should pray for a need that it is raise or what we’re going to ask God for.
  9. Avoid spending a lot of time discussing what we might pray for and no much time actually praying – our job is not to problem-solve each issue, but to present it before God.
  10. Don’t let a time of prayer drag on – leave people wanting more not less.

Which member of the Trinity do you natural relate to the most?

A few years ago I realised my relationship with Jesus felt somewhat distant and remote. I have a strong sense of living in relationship with God the Father. After all, I direct my prayers to him and believe he hears those prayers. I believe he organises all the circumstances of my life, using them to shape me more into the image of his Son. I also have a sense of relationship with the Spirit. It’s not that I regularly have tingles down the spine or anything like that. It’s more that I’m conscious that any good I do is not done through some power inherent in Tim Chester. Left to myself I would be a horribly selfish specimen. So it must be the Holy Spirit working in me, giving me new desires to please God and love others.

But Jesus, the Son of God… Jesus felt more remote. I’m fully aware that he died for my sins and rose again to give me life. But that was 2,000 years ago. And in the meantime he’s ascended into heaven. What he did for me was a long time ago and now he’s a long way away. I was (and I am) truly and deeply grateful for all that he’s done for me. But there was not much sense of a present experience of Jesus.

So I started asking other people about their relationship with the triune God. Everyone I met and everywhere I went I asked people: “With which member of the Trinity do you have strongest sense of a real, experienced relationship?” I wasn’t asking people what they thought should be the case. I was asking them to talk about their actual experience. I would pose the question to whole groups of people, even asking for a show of hands.

It’s been a fascinating exercise. I’ve had a huge range of answers. Some people share my experience of relating to the Father and Spirit, but less so to the Son. Others identify primarily with Jesus. For others the focus is mainly the Father or the Spirit. And some people think of God in a rather undifferentiated way. And, no, before you ask, it’s not that charismatic Christians all pick the Spirit. The answers have not really correlated to people’s theological background or denominations allegiance.

Even more interesting has been the conversations that have emerged from asking the question. It’s a great way to get people talking about how they actually experience life in relationship with the triune God. I recommend it. Ask the question of yourself and then ask it of other people.

What I’ve discovered is that most Christians don’t have much of a sense of an experience of God at all, outside of Sunday mornings or a moment of crisis. They’re kind of aware that God is there, off to one side and available if needed. But he’s not a big feature of the nitty-gritty of daily day life.

But I believe in more. I think we can experience more of God. And as it happens, thinking of how the Father, Son and Spirit each relate to us in a distinctive way and how we can respond is a really important way to start experiencing more of God—Father, and Son, and Spirit. Enjoying God is my attempt to flesh out what that looks like on the ground in everyday life.

Enjoying God: Experience the Power and Love of God in Everyday Life.

Available from smarturl.it/enjoyinggod.

We can’t be more generous than God

In a previous post I looked at the need to be generous if small churches are going to work together to plant churches. Looking at 2 Corinthians 8, we saw that we can’t be more sacrificial than God. Now in 2 Corinthians 9 we discover that we can’t be generous than God.

Look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. There is a danger that these verses misinterpreted as advocating some kind of prosperity gospel in which we earn blessings from God. The harvest Paul that promises here is a harvest of ‘righteousness’ (9:10).

But the prosperity gospel is not our danger! I suspect our danger is much more likely to be a functional deism in which we operate as if God is not present and active in a dynamic way in our lives and churches. So let’s take these promises seriously.

Look at verse 6: ‘Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.’ The imagery is clear: if you plant 100 bean seeds you’ll get a bigger harvest than if you plant 10. But there’s a straight-forward cause and effect between planting seeds and harvesting fruit.

It’s not so clear that the money you give to the poor in Jerusalem, the greater the harvest you will reap in Corinth. Unless, God promises to bless your giving. Unless, God is no man’s debtor. Unless, we can’t be more generous than God.

Look at how Paul goes on in verses 7-8: ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’

‘Every good work’ is literally ‘all good works’. So there are five ‘all’s in this verse: ‘all grace … all things … all times … all you need … all good works’. How would you like this to be true of your church? ‘In all things at all times, [we have] all that we need [so that we] abound in all good works.’

If you want that, then sow generously and give cheerfully. You cannot be more generous than God. When you sow generously, when you give cheerfully, God ‘makes all grace abound to you’. And what happens then? ‘You may abound in every good work.’

How do this work? I think we can identify some lines of cause and effect:

  1. Generosity encourages generosity. Generosity in one area encourages generosity elsewhere because giving loosens the grip of wealth. A generous church creates a culture of generosity in which its members are generous.
  2. People replace people. Churches often testify that, when they have sent people, others have come to replace them. But there’s a also a natural sense in which people leaving creates gaps for others to fill. It creates opportunities for people to step up.
  3. Mission inspires mission. Involvement in mission leads to involvement in mission. It changes mindsets. It makes them missional. It encourages creativity. It gives courage.

These are the natural lines of cause and effect. But there is also something supernatural going on here. God is generous to those who are generous.

Look at verse 10: ‘Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.’ If you sow generously then God will give you more seed! And what do you do with seed? You sow generously.

Verse 11 is even more explicit: ‘You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.’ If you give generously then God will give generously to you so you can continue to give generously. He entrusts us with his resources. If we’re generous then he entrusts more – so that we can be more generous.

The economy of God

There’s almost a sense in which resources move backwards and forwards. In 8:14 Paul says: ‘At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.’ There’s a constant circulation of resources. My church gives to your church. Your church gives to another church. That church gives to my church. And we end up back where we started. And you’re tempted to say, Why bother? Why is the economy of God like this? Why this circulation of resources with everyone giving to everyone else? Three reasons to close:

  • Verse 13: It evokes God’s praise: ‘Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.’
  • Verse 14: It connects God’s people: ‘And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.’
  • Verse 15: It highlights God’s generosity: ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ All the time we are remembering God’s generosity to us in Christ.

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