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May 29 15

by Michael Catt

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“Praying will do more to make the Church what it ought to be than anything else we can do. Prayer will do more to root out heresy than all the heresy trials ever held. Prayer will do more to straighten out tangles and misunderstandings and unhappy complications in the life of a church than all the counsels and conferences held. Prayer will do more to bring a deep and lasting and sweeping revival, a revival that is real and lasting and altogether of the right sort, than all the organizations ever devised by man.” – R. A. Torrey

We are in a battle. The enemy hates the gospel, the church, revival, and families. He hates your children. He hates a God-fearing nation. He loves disorder, chaos, confusion, guilt, fear, and anger.

In prayer, we don’t talk to the devil. Some folks think that praying is telling the devil off. NO! The only time you see Jesus talking to the devil was on the Mout of Temptation – and He quoted Scripture to the devil, He didn’t pray to him. You can remind the devil of the Word of God, but don’t pray to the devil.

Prayer is to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. The Model Prayer is clear: “Our Father who is in heaven, holy is Your name…lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” The devil is never mentioned. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray against the devil; He taught us to pray to our loving Father. We don’t boldly approach the devil in prayer; we boldly approach the throne of grace in prayer. Talk to God.

Nothing would turn this community and this nation back to God more quickly than a praying, prevailing church. Summer is a time when we think about vacations. But at this crucial point in our nation’s history, this is no time for us to take a holiday from intercessory prayer.

E. M. Bounds said, “The church never will be wholly for God until the pews are filled with praying men. The church cannot be what God wants it to be until those of its members who are leaders in business, politics, law, and society are leaders in prayer.”

The bottom line is this: our problem is not the devil; our problem is prayerlessness. Often our issues have more to do with our own carnality than they do with evil. Have faith in God. Ask in Jesus’ name. Pray with a surrendered heart.

May 26 15

by Michael Catt

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The danger of talking about prayer is it has been defined in terms that are often not biblical. Prayer is not a magic wand that you wave to get what you want. Prayer is not rubbing a magic lamp and God popping out as a heavenly genie to grant you three wishes. Prayer has been trivialized, distorted, and redefined in ways that are not biblical.

Don’t let anyone tell you that if you pray you’ll get everything you want. Prayer is to see that God’s will is done on earth, not yours. Prayer is not about you, it’s about HIM. Prayer is a partnership, and you are the minority partner. You don’t hold controlling interest in the company. Some of the books I’ve read on prayer border on arrogant demands that God submit to our will, wants, and wishes. That’s not praying to God, that’s talking to yourself. God is no man’s busboy.

Jessie Penn-Lewis says, “The enemy pushes truth too far, so that it becomes error; and even what is true can absorb you too much, so that you can become blind to all else. Whenever one thing possesses your mind so that you cannot think of anything else, it has gone too far. Because if one truth occupies your mind entirely, it closes it to God’s fresh revelation, and this is not a healthy spiritual condition.”

Someone has said, “If Satan can’t stop you, he’ll push you too far.” Real biblical praying is free from an agenda that promotes self. John Knox didn’t pray, “Give me success.” He prayed, “Give me Scotland or I die!” The late Samuel Chadwick said, “Go back! Back to that upper room; back to your knees; back to searching of heart and habit, thought and life; back to pleading, praying, waiting until the Spirit of the Lord floods the soul with light, and you are endued with power from on high.”

Don’t view prayer as a way to get God to see things your way. That’s not how you fix your life, your marriage, or your finances. God’s way of praying is for us to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Get in the Word and learn to pray Scripture, not self.

Don’t fall prey to the deception that if you pray, everything will turn out like you’ve planned. We live in a fallen world. God answers prayer in numerous ways: Yes…No…Not now…I’ve got something better…If I did that, you’d miss My best for you. He’s got so much more in store than we can possibly imagine!

Let’s be a church that prays biblically!

May 21 15

by Michael Catt

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St. Augustine said, “Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.” How does God reach the lost and restore lives? He uses people. Praying people are motivated to love, share the gospel, forgive an offense, and reconcile. The reason we have so many churches that fight, fuss, and split is because they are run by carnal, prayerless people. You can measure the health of a church by her Prayer Ministry. If that’s the case, it means the health of a church is determined by the individual health of her members. So, how healthy are you spiritually? The church can never rise above the level of praying done by or the spiritual health of the membership.

In the church, we need revival. Don’t dismiss that word. Revival brings into reality all the things we say we need God to do in our lives. Outside the church, we need a harvest of souls. Please note: a revival is not a harvest, although a revived church will have a harvest. A harvest is accomplished by members, laboring in the fields during the week and bringing the unsaved or recently saved into the church. Prayer is the environment where we are empowered to do both.

E. M. Bounds said, “If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs and prevents Him from working. In reality the denial of prayer is a denial of God Himself, for God and prayer are so inseparable that they can never be divorced.”

As you think about prayer, remember that the Great Awakenings began with extraordinary praying. In that environment, God turned this nation’s heart to Himself. Countless numbers were saved, government and order were restored, colleges and hospitals were built, and missionary movements exploded. The wave of revival is started by the wind of prayer.

The question today is simple: if the future of Sherwood Baptist Church is dependent on me, am I an asset or a liability? Every member of the body can and should contribute. Every member of the body needs to embrace the necessity of prayer. If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Praying for a move of God.

Apr 28 15

by Michael Catt

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One of the great blessings of my life has been to know some great men of God, including Vance Havner, Ron Dunn, Lehman Strauss, and others. They were not only mentors and heroes…they were friends. They loved me unconditionally, and I am forever indebted to them. One of the last of that generation died this past week. He was one of a kind.

On April 22, Don Miller, a great prayer warrior, went to be with the Lord. He was 93 years young. More than anyone else, Don helped me to understand the importance of Intercessory Prayer Ministry in the local church.

Every time I hear someone mention the Intercessory Prayer Ministry of Sherwood, I think of Don Miller. Every time I see someone praising God for an answered prayer or I see a HIM-possible prayer request laid on the altar, I remember Don Miller.

When I knew God was moving me out of youth ministry and toward the pastorate, I accepted a position at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth. We were only there two years, but they were pivotal years for me because 1) I was able to preach consistently, and 2) I got to know Don Miller.

During those two years, I realized if I was a pastor, I needed to make prayer a first priority in the life of the church. And not just your typical prayer meeting of organ recitals (livers, kidneys, ears, noses, and throats), but true intercession for the spiritual needs of people inside and outside the church.

Don helped me establish two Intercessory Prayer Ministries, one at the church I pastored in Ada, Oklahoma, and the other one at Sherwood. For 25 years, the Prayer Ministry has been the DNA of all that we’ve been able to accomplish at Sherwood. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude for God sending Don and Libby Miller down our path.

Through the years, Don’s son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Dana, have become dear friends. We’ve shared this journey on multiple levels. Gary has been used of God to encourage me and pray for me at times when I couldn’t pray for myself.

On our 20th Anniversary at Sherwood, Don and Libby surprised us at the celebration service. Don was suffering from shingles and had fallen backwards down the escalator in the Atlanta airport. He said, “I wouldn’t ride backwards on an escalator for just anyone.” That was Don, always finding a way to see the bright side, even when he wasn’t feeling his best.

Don and Libby have faithfully lifted my family and this church before the throne of grace. I am tied to this family as much as if we were blood kin. (We are, in fact, blood kin because the blood of Jesus binds us together.)

This past Monday was a celebration service of the life and ministry of Don Miller. His children, Roger, Gary, Joy and Ken, were the speakers. There was no casket at the front of the church and no body to stare at – all a typical Don Miller reminder that the focus needed to be on Jesus, not the shell.

Roger said, “If you cut dad open, you’d have found God. He practiced what he believed.” Gary referenced Matthew 26:41, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Don called that the greatest prayer PACKAGE in the world.

Don Miller took his last breath on this earth on a Wednesday evening at 5:32 pm. I like what Gary said, “Dad wanted to be sure he got there in time for prayer meeting.”

Allow me to share a few of the nuggets the kids shared regarding their father:
• His personal intimacy with God fueled a fire for personal evangelism.
• When he could no longer go around the world, he went across the street. He led neighbors and nurses to Christ.
• When he started Bible Based Ministries in the late 1970s someone said to Don, “Nobody is doing Prayer Conferences anymore.” Don replied, “That’s why I’m starting them.”
• Don believed that “God and I make a majority.”
• He said in the last days, “Prayer! Peace! Power! We can have all three.” He defined peace as being right with God. When we are right with God, anything can happen.
• Don said, “Awakening is a prayer away.”
• Don underlined and marked the 5,486 references to the word all in the Bible.
• He consistently prayed three prayers: 1) Lord, make me humble. 2) Lord, make me real. 3) Lord, make me honest.
• One of the closing thoughts was from Ken who said, “When Dad entered heaven, he needed no introduction to the Father when he walked through the gates.”

At the end of the service, Gary invited a pastor and a layman to the front to stand by Libby and to pray for her. Only, it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. I had the privilege of being that pastor. Instead of us praying for Libby, she prayed for us and asked God’s blessings on us. Standing there, being prayed over by Libby, representing the pastors of 1,000 churches where Don did a prayer conference, was overwhelming to me.

I will miss Don Miller. I will miss his smile. I will miss that booming voice. I will miss his positive attitude no matter what he faced. I am blessed to be in that small circle of pastors who have become the “sons of Don.”

Prayer warriors are an endangered species. We have people who pray, but we don’t have enough praying people. We have churches that pray, but we don’t have enough praying churches. Because of the impact of Don Miller on my life, I cannot imagine having a church without prayer at the core of her ministries. If it’s not birthed in prayer, it’s probably illegitimate. If it’s not birthed in prayer, we can’t ask God to bless it. If we aren’t doing the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to do, then how can we say we are His disciples, committed to His will on earth as it is in heaven?

Thank you Don Miller. I know, even now, your prayers have not stopped. Just because the saint dies, doesn’t mean his prayers die with him.

Apr 24 15

by Michael Catt

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If you are in leadership, you’ve gotten one. They are never positive. They are laced with anger, sarcasm, mocking, and most of all self-righteousness. I’ll bet the Pharisees taught classes in how to misuse and abuse Scripture in anonymous parchments.

Back in my early days of ministry at Sherwood, there were many battles. I often got anonymous letters. Some were written by “concerned” members who used profanity to tell me what they thought about me. Some were “disappointed” and others were just outright dumb.

I’ve been accused of being liberal, carnal, worldly, and arrogant. I’ve been attacked for not preaching from the King James. I’ve been attacked for using humor in a sermon. I’ve had notes for not wearing a tie. I’ve been told I make too much money, condemned because I don’t drive a car that a humble preacher should drive, and criticized for letting my girls be normal Christian girls growing up.

I’ve had letters written to the editor and have been named in our local newspaper’s “Squawk Box” – a column for cowards to attack others anonymously. It’s okay; it goes with the territory. One letter to the editor blamed me for “countless people going to hell” because I chose not to participate in an event.

I believe it was D.L. Moody who said, “I got a letter. I’ve often gotten letters criticizing me that are unsigned. But this one was unusual. There was no letter, just the person’s name in all caps: FOOL!”

#1: Anonymous letters have no place in the body of Christ.
It is a clear violation of the Word of God. Nowhere in the Bible can you find justification for an anonymous attack on another believer. If you are a writer of anonymous letters, you do not have the Spirit of Christ.

#2: There can be no resolution.
The person receiving the letter has taken a verbal blow but has no ability to respond, explain or seek reconciliation. A writer of anonymous letters is a coward. They have no moral values and no Biblical approach to relationships. They would whine like a baby if someone did to them what they so easily do to others.

#3: Writing an anonymous letter does not give evidence of the fruit of the Spirit.
There is no love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and certainly no self-control. Rather, they are filled with self-righteousness, pride, an air of superiority, and venom.

Leaders must have the hide of a rhino and the heart of a lamb. The danger is getting the two reversed. If you are going to lead, don’t be surprised if you get anonymous letters. If you read them, you are allowing a nobody to speak into your life. The devil will drive their words into your heart. After all, anonymous letter writers all have the same father – the Accuser of the Brethren.

The first thing I read when I open a letter is the name. If there is no name, it goes in the garbage can. I don’t take the time, energy, or effort to read anything from anyone who lacks the biblical grace and moral courage to sign their name. If you believe in something strongly, have the courage to sign your name.