06 Pray with a listening heart!

In the early 1980’s Karen and I were working hard to become totally debt free. We did not have car loans, credit card debt, or any other debt except our mortgage. So, we lived in a small 1400-square foot house in a very modest neighborhood. We eliminated almost all expenses, except for  food, gas, and clothing, but we did continue to give our tithes and other offerings. We prayed daily for God to help us become debt-free. Our prayers were that we would become debt-free in seven years, which was the longest debt period we saw in scripture. One morning as I was praying, the Lord said very clearly, “I want you to pray to be debt-free in three years, not seven years.” So, from that day on we prayed to be debt free in that three-year time frame. Three years later, we received a call from a man who asked what our remaining balance was on our mortgage. We told him, and he sent us a check and we paid it off. It was exactly three years from the day the Lord spoke to us about praying to be debt-free in three years. When we pray, we need to take time to listen to the Lord’s responses to our prayers. Sometimes, He will give us further guidance about how to pray specifically.

Thanks giving meal

05 Pray with thanksgiving!

Karen and I have prayed together every morning for many years. We begin our prayers with thanksgivings, and then we begin to praise God and hallow His name. In Psalm 100:4, we are told to enter His gates with thanksgivings and His courts with praise, so we have tried to begin our prayer times that way. In 1 Chronicles 16:4-7 David assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord. That was their main job, to continually give thanks to the Lord. In Psalm 50:23 God tells us that those that offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving honor Him. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 we are told to pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. In Hebrews 13:15 we are told to continually offer a sacrifice to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. The scriptures are clear in the Old and New Testament that we are to continually give thanks to the Lord; that is His will for our lives.

Some mornings we may spend thirty minutes just giving thanks and praising His name. We do not even get to praying for our daily bread, for His protection, and the many other things that we usually pray about. But, God already knows those needs of ours, and He also knows that we have taken time to honor Him with our prayers of thanksgivings and praises. I encourage you to take time to thank God for all the things that He has done and continues to do in your life.

04 Pray for souls!

In 1997 Karen and I were planting our first church. Our church placed an ad in the Marietta Journal. The next week I received a letter from a man named Steve, who was serving time in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center. He asked if I would come visit him in jail. Because of Hebrews 13:3 and Matthew 25:36-39, I had a desire to reach out to those in prison. But, before I went to visit Steve, our church prayed for Steve for two straight weeks. We prayed for his salvation and for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully. When I met Steve, God did move powerfully. The Holy Spirit came on Steve, and he began crying as I shared the gospel with him. He prayed to receive Christ. I did not know it at the time, but Steve was a leader. His bunk mate received Christ the following week when I came to do some follow-up ministry. Every week thereafter men were receiving Christ.

God wants us to pray about everything, but God did not send His Son to die for cocktail trees, oak trees, and the many other things that He freely gives us. He sent His Son out of His love for people. The early church prayed for boldness, for open doors to share the gospel, and for souls and God answered their prayers. I encourage you to pray for your lost family members. I encourage you to pray for your neighbors and co-workers. I encourage you to pray for souls. I received a call from Steve last year, 22 years later. He is walking with Christ, and he called to say thanks for reaching out to him in prison. Oak trees and cocktail trees are temporal, but souls are eternal.

03 Pray specifically!

In 1986, I had seen God answer lots of specific prayers. He was really encouraging us to pray about everything. After receiving the oak trees, I began to pray for a cocktail tree. A cocktail tree is one that has had several kinds of fruit trees grafted into it. Since I was living in Florida, I prayed for a citrus cocktail tree, one with oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.

Shortly after our sixth child, David, was born, I received a phone call from Fred Dunn, who lived in Apopka, Florida. At that time he owned Dunn Nurseries. Fred was an elder in his church, and he had heard from someone at our church in Orlando that the Murchisons had just had their sixth child. Even though Fred did not know me, he called me to congratulate us on our sixth child. He said that he wanted to give us a special baby gift. He added that I would probably not know anything about what he was going to give us, but God had moved on his heart to give us a cocktail tree. I told Fred that I had been praying for a cocktail tree, and that this was an answer to prayer. I was really excited. I drove to Apopka, Florida and introduced myself to Fred Dunn. He showed me their selection of cocktail trees and let me pick out the one that I wanted. I thanked him for it, and went home and planted the tree. Once again, God had answered another specific prayer. We enjoyed the fruit from that tree for the next seven years, which is when we moved from Orlando to Atlanta. Pray specifically. Trust God to provide your every need and desire. He delights in our prayers and loves to give good gifts to His children.

02 Pray Specifically

In 1985 Karen and I moved into a house at 1340 Boreas Drive in Orlando, Florida. The developer had not planted any trees in the yards, so looked rather bare. I began to pray for God to give me an oak tree for the front yard. I prayed every day for this oak tree for nearly a year. It would have been easy to go to Home Depot and buy a $10.00 oak tree, but I was asking God to provide an oak tree. One day I drove up to my house and could not help but see two Water Oak trees in my front yard. On my door there were instructions on how to take care of my newly planted oak trees. Orange County had come and planted these two oak trees and they left the instructions on our front door. None of the other houses in the neighborhood received an oak tree or any other kind of tree. Our house really stood out because of the oak trees. My neighbors wanted to know why I got oak trees. I was happy to pull out my prayer notebook and show them that I had been praying for God to give me an oak tree for the past year, and He was behind it. I never told anyone except for Karen that I was praying for an oak tree. I never contacted anyone at Orange County. I simply prayed and asked God to provide, which He did. He gave me two oak trees, not just one. Pray specifically. Pray persistently. Pray expectantly. Our Father in heaven loves to answer our prayers.

Ford 15-Passenger Van

01 Pray Specifically

Pray specifically!

In 1989, Karen was expecting David, our sixth child, and we were out of room in our Chevrolet Celebrity wagon. So, we were praying for a 15-passenger van. We heard our friends, Ken and Gail Barnes, needed another bench for their tan van. We did not want the last bench in a van, as we needed it for strollers, groceries, etc., so, we asked God for a tan back bench for the van that we would buy. We found a used maroon 15-passenger that fit our budget, and when the salesman showed it to us, it was missing the back bench. I asked the salesman where the back bench was, and he said they did not have one, but they would be glad to give us a back bench, and they did. And you guessed it, the only bench they had to give us was a tan bench for our maroon van. The salesman apologized that it didn’t match, but we were excited. God had answered a very specific prayer for a tan bench. We were able to bless the Barnes with a tan bench that matched their van, and we had a van that fit our family needs.

Person praying

Motivation to Pray (Ps 116:1-2)

(Psalm 116:1-2) “I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my supplications. {2}  Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.”

  1. God hears our voice. He knows us and our voice. We have relationship with God and we regularly talk to Him, so He knows and hears our voice. He is interested in us personally.
  2. God hears our supplications. He knows the content of what we are praying about. He knows what we are going to ask before we ask it, but He still listens to our prayers, supplications, and requests.
  3. God inclines His ear to us. God is interested in us and the things that concern us. His leaning towards us, and His intentional action of inclining His ears to carefully listen to what we are saying demonstrates His love, concern and interest. God honors us by inclining His ears to listen to us. God prioritizes us by focusing solely on us and inclining His ear towards us.

Two Decisions That I Am Thankful For

Today is a VERY special day for two reasons. First, it is Thanksgiving, a day to stop, reflect, and give thanks to our Father in heaven. Second, today is Karen’s birthday. Earlier this morning I was giving thanks to God for my salvation, and for reaching out in love to me, and drawing me to Himself. I was also giving thanks for Karen, my beautiful bride for the past forty years. She is an anointed woman of God, full of life, and an incredible partner in life and ministry.

As I was giving thanks to God, I remembered an incident on a Saturday morning at the Greater Hartford Open in 1993. I was getting ready to tee off on the seventh hole, and I noticed a young man in the gallery wearing a sweatshirt with the following message: “College is where you learn to make good decisions.” In that instant the Holy Spirit gave me a message for him. After I nailed my tee shot down the middle of the fairway, I went over to my golf bag and pulled out a Titleist golf ball for a souvenir, and one of my testimony tracts that had a picture of our family on the cover. I handed these two items to the young man and said, “College is where I made the best two decisions of my life. I invited Jesus Christ into my life to be my Lord, and I decided to marry this incredible young lady that God brought into my life.” Today, I am still giving thanks to God for these two decisions that were made in college. I am a blessed man and have much to be thankful for.