Prayer: It’s the Heart That Matters

Few Christians would dispute the necessity of prayer (after all, the Bible is full of commands to pray), yet for many, prayer remains awkward and a bit mysterious.

For some, prayer is usually reserved for crisis moments, such as an illness, financial complications or family issues. The thought seems to be, “I don’t want to bother God with little things I can take care of myself.”

Others use prayer sort of like rubbing of a magic lamp, requesting God to grant their wishes. But for some, prayer consists only of following along when the pastor prays on Sunday morning.

The main purpose of prayer, though, is simply to have a relationship with God. It’s not your finely crafted words or your deep spiritual thoughts that get God’s attention – it is your heart.

For example, have you ever spent an enjoyable time with someone you love and realized that the words hardly mattered because the important thing was just being with them? That’s the kind of relationship God desires to have with us – to just enjoy being in His presence.

The focus is more on communicating what’s in your heart than trying to say a bunch of pious-sounding words.

Sure, there is a conversation involved but it doesn’t have to be long and elaborate to be effective. Martin Luther said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matt. 6:7)

That doesn’t mean your prayers should be short, but the focus is more on communicating what’s in your heart than trying to say a bunch of pious-sounding words.

And what if you can’t think of any words? Sometimes, especially in moments of distress or sorrow, we are so overwhelmed we don’t know what to pray for. God has provided a “translator” for those times.

In Romans 8:26-27, Paul tells us, “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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

There is no one right way to pray. Jesus provided a sort of template in the Lord’s Prayer, which includes praise, thanksgiving and making requests. There is certainly nothing wrong with making requests of God – Jesus tells us to ask God for what we need and Paul says that we should make our requests known to God.

Jesus set the example for how to do make requests through prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his arrest, he pleaded with God to take away the need for his sacrifice, but he concluded with “yet not my will, but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42) We can ask God for anything, but the reminder here is that His will for our lives comes before our own desires.

On the National Day of Prayer today and for the days to come, prayer will play a vital role in our personal and corporate spiritual development. It isn’t hard. All we have to do is open up to God and pour out our hearts.

National Day of Prayer has Long History in United States

Prayers are found throughout the Bible, and prayer was considered so important that the disciples asked Jesus how to pray correctly. It has also been a hallmark of United States history.

Thursday, May 4 marks the 66th National Day of Prayer, commemorating the importance prayer continues to play in our country. The day marks an occasion for the nation to humble itself before God and pray for wisdom for the country’s leaders.

The National Day of Prayer became official in 1952 with a proclamation during the Korean War. It was spurred by Billy Graham, who said, “What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. What a thrill would sweep this country. What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril.”

“From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history.”—Ronald Reagan

Each president since Truman has reissued the pledge, with President Ronald Reagan establishing by law the National Day of Prayer to be the first Thursday of May. Reagan said, “From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.”

But while it was made official in 1952, national days of prayer have been a common occurrence in the United States, starting before it became a country.

In 1775, the country’s leaders meeting as the Continental Congress, asked their fellow colonists to observe a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer on July 20 as they sought to obtain rights and justice from England. General George Washington called for the same in the springs of 1779 and 1780, and then again as President in 1789 in conjunction with Thanksgiving.

For the next 163 years, some presidents proclaimed a national day of prayer while others didn’t. In 1863, during the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for the first national day of prayer since 1815.

All told, there have been 145 calls for a national day of prayer issued by presidents. In addition, there have been more than 1,400 state proclamations for days of prayer.

Estimates are that more than 2 million people will gather in 30,000 locations on Thursday to observe the National Day of Prayer.

As expected, the National Day of Prayer faced a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2008, claiming it violated the Constitution. A District Court ruled that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, but that decision was overturned by the Circuit Court of  Appeals.

There is also a national student day of prayer, See You at the Pole, on the fourth Wednesday of September when students meet at their school’s flagpole before school to pray.


6 Tips to Increase Healthy Laughter in Your Life

Feeling depressed or even physically ill? The best course of action might be to search out a comedian on YouTube or Netflix.

Laughter has long been called the best medicine, and now medical research is showing it’s a valid statement. It releases endorphins that reduce stress and promote a feeling of well-being, may boost cancer-killing white bloods cells (according to a one study), relaxes tense muscles and even burns calories.

Laughter also has emotional benefits. It promotes bonding between friends and it can often diffuse tense, argument-inducing situations. It can even promote learning, since people tend to remember things better in the context of laughter.

So how do you get a prescription for some of this “medicine?” Here are six tips to increase your laughter dosage.

Seek out humorous people. As mentioned above, YouTube, Netflix and other sites on the internet provide a wide variety of shows put on by comedians. You’ll want to use discretion because some comedians use crude humor that can be offensive to some. Tim Hawkins, Chonda Pierce and Michael Jr. are examples of clean comedians or type “clean comedians” in YouTube’s search bar.

Read funny stories and jokes. Whether it’s a compilation of jokes or stories about humorous life situations, these can provide smiles and even laughter. Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone stories or James Herriott’s tales about the life of a country veterinarian are examples of amusing tales.

Share with a friend. When you find something that helps you laugh, tell friends with a similar sense of humor. It can often be the boost they need. That’s why people say, “I really needed a good laugh today.”

Find the humor in situations. Life can be filled with frustrations, from traffic to work to raising a family. But almost all situations have some intrinsic humor or potential humor involved. And while your mind is trying to find the humor in the situation, it’s also thinking less about the frustrating part of the situation.

Take yourself less seriously. We all make mistakes but many can be quite humorous, like trying to dial a phone number on a calculator or using a word that doesn’t mean what you thought it did. They can turn into funny situations that have everyone laughing. You don’t want to come across as a moron, but don’t be afraid to share those funny little foibles that everyone can relate to.

Enjoy life. Get out and do things with friends and family. Hiking, bowling, dining in a restaurant, even chores, can create situations where laughter abounds. Whether it’s a wide grin or a full-on belly laugh, it puts your mind and body in a much better place.

The Bible and Science

On April 22, people around the country gathered in a March for Science to raise awareness of the importance of science. It seems sometimes as if science and Christianity are opponents – that you have to pick one or the other to believe in.

But that isn’t true.

The Bible doesn’t contradict science, and often affirms scientific discoveries. That’s because, if God created everything as we believe, then He created science as well. Everything from the largest ball of gas in the universe to the protons and neutrons inside an atom were created by Him.

In fact, the Bible often has supported science before scientists did. Here are a few examples:


There was a time when scientists felt they had numbered the stars. But now it’s known that they are beyond a person’s ability to count, which is what God indicated to Abraham in Gen. 15:5 and confirmed in Jeremiah 33:22 when He says plainly that the “hosts of heaven” cannot be counted.

Readers of scripture have always known that the earth is round (Isa. 40:22) and is suspended in space (Job 26:7), something that science didn’t confirm until the Middle Ages. And black holes, only confirmed in the past 40 years, may be mentioned in Jude 1:13.


It wasn’t until the late 1800s that scientists discovered that virtually invisible particles called atoms make up all matter. Yet the writer of Hebrews apparently already knew this truth when he wrote, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.” (Heb. 11:3)


Medical advances that are less than 150 years old were already known in ancient biblical times. For example, many people over the centuries have died from the spread of germs through improper waste disposal, poor personal hygiene and unawareness of how diseases can spread from one person to another or from improper handling of the dead. Yet the Levitical law already prescribed methods for avoiding those problems, speaking to quarantines for those with potentially infectious diseases (Lev. 13), washing of garments contaminated by mildew (Lev. 13) or bodily discharges (Lev. 15), bathing after a disease or infection (several references), washing after coming in contact with someone with a disease or a dead body (Lev. 15, Num. 19) and proper disposal of human waste (Deut. 23:13).

Modern science has confirmed eating undercooked pork, shellfish and various carrion birds can be dangerous. All of those were prohibited as food to the Jewish nation in the Old Testament.

Environmental Science

The Israelites were commanded to let their fields stand empty every seventh year. This allowed the soil to regenerate. Modern science now knows that planting the same crop year after year can deplete the soil of nutrients. The Israelites were also commanded to let their animals rest every seventh day, and to take proper care to them.


Modern psychology tells us that stress and sorrow can cause illness, possibly even leading to death, while a positive outlook can overcome stress and even illness. That was something known in the Bible (Prov. 17:22, Prov. 18:14, Mark 14:34).


Wind and sea current cycles are still relatively new discoveries, yet Solomon wrote about them in Ecclesiastes 1:6,7.

6 Ways to Honor Administrative Professionals

In most companies you’ll see listings of the leaders – the president, vice presidents, board of directors. But in most of those successful companies there are the unsung heroes that make the job of those leaders possible – administrative professionals.

This is Administrative Professionals Week, and Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day. Administrative professionals, or admins as they’re sometimes referred to, are those who handle many of the typing, correspondence, filing, receptionist and other valuable office jobs that support the rest of the company.

There are about 22 million administrative professionals in the United States and 97 percent of them are female. That wasn’t always the case, though. Before 1900, it was primarily a male entry level position, then usually called clerk. But after World War II, more women entered the work place and preferred the administrative jobs, then usually called secretary positions.

The first Administrative Professionals Week was held in 1952, with the Wednesday designated as Administrative Professionals Day. It is a time when many companies show their appreciation for this often unsung work by doing something special. Here are six ideas of how to honor your company’s administrative professionals.

Broadcast. Use your social media outlets as a way to express your gratitude by name to your admins. Include photos if you can.

Lunch date. Depending on the size of your admin staff, take them to lunch or have it catered. Another alternative is providing a gift card to a local restaurant then allowing them to take a long lunch.

Gift baskets. A small gift basket shows appreciation. This can include food, coffee, lotions or gift cards. Knowing your admins’ preferences will help you choose the right items to include.

Bouquets. Most women enjoy receiving flowers as a sign of appreciation. There are also other creative options, like edible fruit arrangements.

Personal thanks. Public recognition and gifts are a fantastic way to boost your admins, but nothing beats a personal word thanking them for all the things they do. If possible, recall a specific instance when their contribution made a difference to the success of the company.

Don’t stop. To really show your appreciation, make your thanks known throughout the year, not just one day a year.

Follow Up to Big Church Event is Just the Beginning

You had a great Easter service. The church was packed. People committed to following Jesus, and others who were already saved indicated an interest in returning.

Great. So now what?

Follow up to a big event is frequently the most difficult portion of the event. Church members are gung ho about planning and executing the event, but the event itself often becomes the end game. In reality, for a church to grow and increase its ministry in the community, the follow up becomes the beginning.

Follow up assumes that you had a way to obtain information from the visitors. Surprisingly, this is something churches forget to do, especially if it is a non-worship service church event.

Make a follow-up plan. Ideally, this will have been in place prior to the event. Process and evaluate the visitor information quickly. How you proceed will often depend on the number of and quality of the responses.

Respond quickly to conversions. If a person indicated that they gave their life to Christ, make plans to meet with them as early as possible, within the week. Decide who will make the visits, whether the pastor handles them all or a team of leaders divides them up. Repeat the plan of salvation to make sure they understand what they’re committing to. Make clear that committing their life to Christ does not automatically mean they are committing to your church.

Send additional information. This can be through email, if they indicated they are agreeable to receiving emails, or through the post office. With snail mail, you can include a brochure, information about service times (especially if the Easter service was at a special time) and ways they can begin to get involved in the church. Make sure to include contact information if they have questions, concerns or prayer requests.

Home visitation. This should be a set appointment time, not an unannounced visit and should happen within the first two weeks. Depending on the number of responses, you may need a visitation team to meet with the visitor, although many people prefer a visit from the pastor. Keep the visitation to 30 minutes or less and use it as an informational time – both to give information and to receive information. Spend time listening. Don’t ask for any commitments to the church, simply show that you care. Take prayer requests and pray for them before you leave.

Follow-up again. A few days after a home visit, send a postcard (or email if they’ve agreed to that) thanking them for their time, reminding them what you’re praying for them and contact information for further questions. If the visitor seemed agreeable to another meeting, especially if they were undecided about making a commitment to follow Christ, seek another home visit.

Welcome them back. When the visitorsreturn to church, make sure to greet them warmly. Ideally, you can call them by their names.  This creates a sense of family and increases the desire to commit to the church.

5 Reasons Why Easter is Christians’ Most Important Holiday

What is the most important Christian holiday? Based on the amount of time and money spent on it, you would think Christmas. But according the Bible, it’s Easter.

While the Christmas story is mentioned briefly in two Gospels, the resurrection is referenced dozens of times, in all four Gospels and in most the epistles. Paul makes it the central theme of his writings. He insists that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17).

Even Good Friday, which celebrates the death of Jesus on the cross, is meaningless without the resurrection.

Why should the resurrection mean so much to Christians? Here are five reasons.

It validates everything Jesus said and did. The son of God came to earth to show us how to live a completely new life. But if he had simply taught the things he did then died, he would have been no better than any other religious leader. It was only by his rising from the dead – conquering death – that everything he said and did took on significance.

It gives us new life. When we commit to following Jesus, he doesn’t just make our lives better. We die to the old life we had and through his resurrection we begin living a brand new life through his power.

It sealed God’s plan to send the Holy Spirit to all humanity. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came to only a few people who God selected. But the plan all along had been to send him to all people. The resurrection made it possible to fulfill that plan.

It gives us eternal life. Jesus’ death on the cross meant the punishment for our sins had been fulfilled. His resurrection meant that he had conquered death, and through him, believers have also been granted freedom from eternal death. While our mortal bodies will die, our souls will live on in eternity in God’s presence.

It gives us a source of joy. The resurrection is a historical fact; nothing can take that away. When we find our joy in that fact, we will always be able to experience joy, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus was nailed to a cross on a Friday during Passover and died. It seemed like the end of a dream for his followers, who believed he would change the world.

Yet this week Christians from around the world will celebrate the event with a holiday known as Good Friday. As non-Christians look at the event, though, it may raise the question, “What’s good about the death of Jesus?”

Here are four reasons why Christians can consider the death of Jesus to be “good.”

It pleased God. Isaiah 53 predicts the sacrifice Jesus would make, bearing the punishment for our sins even though he had done no wrong. Then in 53:10 it says, “Yet the LORD was pleased to crush him severely.” (HCSB) This seems like a wrong thing for God to be pleased by, but He had some good reasons.

It served justice. Because all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, they have to be punished. With his death on the cross, Jesus took on all those sins and paid the penalty for all who are willing to follow him.

It fixed a broken relationship. When Adam and Eve sinned, it broke the fellowship God longed to have with His creation. When Jesus paid the punishment for our sins, it restored the path for us to have fellowship with God again, which is why He was pleased by the death of His son.

Death wasn’t permanent. The followers of Jesus didn’t know it at the time (although Jesus had told them it would happen) but Jesus’ death was only temporary. He was sealed in a grave on Friday, but by Sunday morning he was alive and free from the bonds of death. That gave an entirely new perspective on his death. What had seemed to be awful on Friday suddenly became good when viewed in light of his resurrection.

While having nails hammered into his hands and feet didn’t make for a very good Friday for Jesus, it did turn out to be not only a good Friday, but a great Friday for those who believe in him.

Palm Sunday Still Has Meaning for Christians

On Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate Palm Sunday. Most people know this primarily as a day when students in the primary children’s department carry palm branches to the front of the sanctuary, which kicks off Holy Week.

But what does Palm Sunday mean?

Biblically, the story of Palm Sunday is found in all four Gospels, and was predicted in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In these accounts, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. People ran ahead of him, laying down palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the king of Israel.” In those days, a palm branch signified victory and a king on a donkey symbolized peace.

This was an important event for the people of Israel at the time. Israel didn’t have a king, and hadn’t had a real one in about 600 years. But they really, really wanted one.

They had been living under various foreign rulers for centuries, and currently were under the jurisdiction of Rome and the Caesars (at that time Tiberius). But the people knew the Old Testament stories of the glorious kingdoms of David and Solomon, when Israel was one of the world’s superpowers. They longed to return to those days.

When Jesus came speaking with authority and performing miracles, all the while speaking of the Kingdom of God, it was a natural assumption by the people that he would depose Rome and restore the kingdom of Israel, with himself as the ruler.

But as the week following Palm Sunday went on, Jesus didn’t plot a coup and didn’t take on the Roman government. Instead, he continued to speak against the religious leaders and tell stories that many didn’t understand. When Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, agreed to betray him, the religious leaders were able to turn the majority of the crowd from shouting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

Although the people at that time misunderstood the kingship of Jesus when they made a pathway of palm branches for him, today Christians continue to celebrate Palm Sunday because it symbolizes the beginning of Jesus becoming king of world. He just did that in a far less spectacular fashion than the first century Jews thought, but in a way that continues to have a worldwide and eternal impact.

7 Tips to Manage Effectively in an Emergency Situation

As a leader, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to manage people during an emergency. Whether it is a tornado or other natural disaster, hazardous material contamination, an active shooter or a medical emergency, your employees and staff will automatically look to you to get them through it. But how do you do that? Here are seven emergency management tips:

Calmness. Above all else, stay calm. This will help you think more clearly and lead to better decision making. It will also help keep everyone around you calm.

Confidence. While vulnerability can be a positive trait in a leader, an emergency is not the time to share your feelings of inadequacy. People need someone to rally around in an emergency who they think will lead them through it, and they want someone who exudes the confidence that everything will turn out right.

Decisiveness. Don’t be wishy-washy in making a decision on what needs to be done. Make sure you’ve given your options some thought, but during an emergency you will have to assess them quickly and act on the best one.

Education. Taking time to learn how to deal with various emergency situations before they happen will improve your confidence in your decision-making skills during a stressful time.

Resourcefulness. Each situation will be unique, so it may present a challenge that you weren’t prepared for and which requires a new strategy. You don’t have to be McGyver, but be prepared to think quickly and take advantage of the resources you have at hand to provide the best outcome.

Empowerment. In any group, a few people will be willing to step forward and help out. Empower them to do so with specific tasks, but also be willing to listen to their ideas. This eases your burden and creates a wider sense of confidence among the group.

Empathy. Recognize that people in your group will have different responses to stress – crying, angry outbursts, denial, pessimism, even joking. In all likelihood, they are all scared. Put yourself in their place and think what you’d want out of a leader in that situation.