Once I attended a prayer conference held by a sincere group of people. The hours of messaging about prayer finally ended with a brief blessing over the meal, the only prayer of the conference.  A bit ironic?

The National Day of Prayer is a call to pray, and not just talk about it. Dr. T. W. Hunt is considered by many an authority on prayer.  Hunt was a seminary professor who died in 2014 at the age of 85.  He published several titles and spoke extensively on the subject.

Hunt credits a Christian businessman for influencing him. Bob Maulden used prayer rooms in his home and business.  Hunt wrote, “I had never known anyone so completely given to prayer.  Bob’s faith so intrigued me that I began studying the prayers of the Bible, and my own prayer life was transformed.”

In his book, “The Doctrine of Prayer,” Hunt follows the Lord’s Prayer (Mat. 6:9-13) to summarize most prayers as one of five forms. We do not dialogue with God in only one way.

Adoration, or worship, acknowledges who God is. “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.”  Thanksgiving is related to this form of prayer, and is a response to what God has done.  A Psalm can prompt you, such as, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O most high” (Psa. 92:1).

Intercession is what Hunt sees in “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” He writes that “prayer on behalf of others reaches its highest goal when it is intended to bring the kingdom and accomplish the will of God.”  The best way to pray is for someone to embrace the rule and will of God.

Petition is praying for your own needs, as in “give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus said, “Everyone who ask receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:8).  Hunt explains that such prayers express dependence, earnestness, and persistence.

Repentance is implied in “forgive us our debts.” Hunt points out, “For the Christian this is not asking for a legal cancellation of sin” since Jesus took care of that at the cross.  Confession reminds us to be wary of the desires of the flesh that are contrary to our identity as Jesus-followers.

Deliverance from evil is as great a need today as ever. The devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), and we see that on the news each day.

Enrich your prayer life by using all the forms of prayer in Jesus’ model prayer. Join other believers in your community to pray on the National Day of Prayer.  The date for 2017  is Thursday, May 4.


Written into the mindset of Americans is the pursuit of happiness as a natural, God-given right. That doctrine is oft thought to originate in the Bible, but the language actually appears in the Declaration of Independence, and is perhaps its most famous phrase.  So, how do we pursue happiness?

Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has described social science research that indicates a path to happiness includes four values: faith, family, community, and work.

Faith helps you make sense of the world we live in, including death and suffering. It gives you identity, and provides ultimate answers like where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going.  Having a family that loves you means there are people who feel your pain and share your joys.  This doesn’t preclude a single person from finding happiness because there is also the benefit of community.  Having a group of friends who know you very well and enjoy your company is the antidote to the pervasive loneliness in our cocooned society.  (Social media doesn’t count!)  Happiness from work is counter-intuitive because we think of it as drudgery.  But you are more likely to find happiness if your occupation (paid or unpaid) is a means to making the world a better place.

Looking for happiness from politicians who create rights is a futile pursuit. America has been called a “city with foundations,” i.e. God, not government gives rights.  Senator Ben Sasse, speaking recently at the Gospel Coalition national conference, told Christians, “We have the task of setting up an embassy that says your yearning for a city with foundations is natural, but the king that you yearn for is supernatural.  And he is coming again as a liberator.  He has already arrived on a distant shore.”  Government can secure your right to pursue happiness, but your deep yearnings are actually for the love, community, and purpose that God provides.

French philosopher Blaise Pascal identified the true object of your pursuit like this: “What else does this longing and helplessness proclaim, but that there was once in each person a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  We try to fill this in vain…  This infinite abyss can only be filled with something that is infinite and unchanging – in other words, by God himself.  God alone is our true good.”

Jesus did not prioritize the pursuit of happiness for its own sake. What He modeled, sacrifice for the benefit of others, doesn’t sound much like the immediate gratification that popular culture pursues as happiness.  Christian joy and happiness comes from the hope and promise of a fulfilled, purposeful life of following Jesus.  “How blessed (happy) are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psa. 144:15).

Mister Rogers

What TV personality walks into the house, removes his jacket and dons a colorful cardigan, then puts on his sneakers, all while singing a song? Of course it’s Mister Rogers.  Fred McFeely Rogers didn’t create a character for TV.  He believed children could spot a phony, so he was just himself.  “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self,” he said.

Rogers said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.” TV still needs the spirit of Fred Rogers.  We lost this cultural icon in 2003.  He began in TV in 1951 and produced almost 900 episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” during 1963–2001.

Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963.  After ordination by the Presbyterian Church, his ministry was to children and families through mass media.  That year, he accepted an offer from Canada to begin his children’s program.  In 1966, he moved the program to the U.S.

He based his show on the deeply Christian themes of neighbor, love, and acceptance. His goal was to make children feel valuable and loved, and to help them cope with simply growing up, and the complexities of life with grownups.

Jesus spoke on neighborliness with a story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). His challenge is to be a neighbor especially to those in need. Rogers appealed to the human need to belong, to be part of a community, at the beginning of each episode.  “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor.  Would you be mine?  I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,” he sang.

Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God, and to love your neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). He demonstrated love and acceptance while calling people to faith and holiness.  Rogers thought about love this way: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring.  It is an active noun like struggle.  To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”  The call to faith and holiness is most effective in the context of love and acceptance.

In 1997 Rogers accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Emmys saying, “All of us have special ones that have loved us into being,” and asked for ten seconds of silence to think of them. The Hollywood glitterati wept.  He continued, “Thank you for allowing me all these years to be your neighbor.  May God be with you.”  God loved you into being.  In memory of Mister Rogers, take ten seconds and thank God that you are loved, neighbor.

Empty Tomb

Restoring the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb, the workers meticulously removed layers of history in order to stabilize and reinforce the structure. On March 22, 2017, the caretakers re-opened the site with a ceremony that focused on a well-known fact to Christians.

The tomb is surrounded by a small structure (Edicule) within a church building, known as both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Basilica of the Resurrection. The repairs were long overdue.

This site has been the focus of attention throughout history. In the fourth century, after his conversion to Christianity, Constantine built a church on the site.  In the twelfth century during the times of the Crusades, a new structure was built on the earlier remains.  In 1808, fire destroyed the Crusader-era building, and it was rebuilt in 1810.  In 1947 the British governor built a cage of iron girders to reinforce the Edicule.  Intended as a temporary fix, the ugly supports lasted these 70 years.

Working at night, the conservators removed the exposed girders. Inside the Edicule, they removed a marble slab placed over the tomb in the 1810 repair.  Below that marble slab, they found yet another placed 500 years ago.  As they prepared to remove it, they knew they were about to see what human eyes have not seen for hundreds of years.  As the marble began to move, the workers watched as the original rock that held the body of Jesus became visible.  What they found is our well-known fact.

The tomb is empty!

Another site, the Garden Tomb, is also thought to be a possible burial place of Jesus. It is empty too.  The empty tomb matters because Christianity is based in historical events.  It is not just a philosophy of religious thought, but truth about God and humans to which history bears witness.

Paul, who saw the resurrected Christ, understood this. He wrote, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:13-17).

To dismiss the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as only a “spiritual” resurrection is to remove the power and meaning from the gospel truth. It also ignores the ample evidence that it actually happened as described in the Bible.

Christians will gather on Easter Sunday around the world to celebrate our Resurrected Savior! We are not “still in our sins” and we have the hope of our own resurrection to eternal life.  That historic truth is witnessed by the empty tomb.


“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hastening to its place it rises there again” (Ecc. 1:5). But sometimes the routine is interrupted by eternity breaking into the confines of time.

I once knew a farmer who was out early on a Sunday morning checking on livestock. Driving down the county road, he thought he noticed something.  He turned around and found a car upside down below the bridge.  He hurried down, and found the shocked driver sitting beside the car, repeating the words, “O God, O God.”  He knew the driver to be an atheist.

The events of 9/11 interrupted the rhythm of our nation. As we desperately rejected this monstrous evil, church attendance swelled.  Philip Yancy in his book “Rumors” observed, “What Americans learned on that day, and are learning still, is that sophisticated moderns have not renounced transcendence but rather replaced it with weak substitutes.  Unlike past generations, many are unsure about God and an invisible world.  Even so, we feel the longings for something more.”

History has revealed that invisible world we long for. The brother of two sisters passed away as a young man and they buried him in a tomb. Days later a friend came to them and visited the grave site.  As a crowd of people watched, the friend wept, told them to open the tomb, then cried out loudly, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And he did!  A few weeks later when friend Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was no surprise that the people waved palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  It was such spontaneous worship that jealous critics groused that the whole world was following him.  When they demanded Jesus stop it, He responded, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!”  We celebrate this event on Palm Sunday (John 11-12, Luke 19).

Interruptions good and evil, common and sublime draw you to the Divine, in whose image you are made. The 17th C. English poet John Milton wondered, “What if Earth be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein each to other like, more than on Earth is thought?”  Life on Earth has hints of heaven because He is near.  Ravi Zacharias wrote, “No true worship of God is possible without the qualities of transcendence and immanence existing together in Him.  He is worthy of worship only because He is transcendent; we can truly relate to Him in worship only because He is close to us (immanent)!”

Spontaneous worship happens! When the Lord calms the vexing worry or comforts the wave of grief, when He speaks in majestic vista or grants the joyful blessing, don’t let the stones cry out for you.  When beauty or burden, hope or hurt compel you to reach for God, when the transcendent is immanent, the heart leaps heavenward and cries out, “Hosanna!”