Pastor to Pastor

Fan into Flame: Make Appointments to Pray

Fan into Flame: Make Appointments to Pray

In this issue:
Fan into Flame: Make Appointments to Pray
Opportunities: Action Groups
Resources: Book Note –
When Trouble Comes, by Phil Ryken
Monthly Resource: John Calvin on “Building Christ’s Church”

Fan into Flame: Make Appointments to Pray
...pray without ceasing... 1 Thessalonians 5.17

With respect to this word of instruction, we have to face the question of whether Paul was literally intending us to pray without ceasing, or this is merely a bit of spiritual hyperbole.

Given that Jesus said as much as well (Lk. 18.1), I think we should err on the side of literalness: Paul meant for us to practice prayer without ceasing.

OK. But how can we do that?

I was reminded recently in a conversation with a friend, that prayer does not always involve talking. Sometimes prayer consists merely of being conscious that we are in the Lord’s presence, aware of His care and beauty, alert to any prompts from His Spirit, and ready to offer such words of praise, thanks, or intercession as might rise within us.

One way to nurture such a constant awareness and ambience is to pray more frequently throughout the day, perhaps by setting appointments to pray at different times. Saints in Scripture followed this regimen, and many believers have done so throughout the course of Church history.

Concerning this practice of setting appointments for prayer, Calvin observed, in a comment on Acts 10.9, “For because we are drawn away with divers businesses, and there is no end of turmoiling, unless we bridle ourselves, it is good to have certain hours appointed for prayer, not because we are tied to hours, but lest we be unmindful of prayer, which ought to be preferred before all cares and business.”

But how shall we find the time for such appointments in prayer? In Fan into Flame, I wrote, “Getting enough time for prayer begins by looking at our schedules. How much of what we do in the work of ministry doesn’t need to be done by us? Are we allowing a ‘tyranny of the urgent’ to drain off time we might otherwise devote to prayer? Are we depriving deacons and elders and other servants of God of opportunities for serving the Body of Christ because we insist on doing everything ourselves?”

Review your schedule; then, before your schedule eats up all your time, set some times each day for 10-15 minutes of waiting on the Lord in prayer. The benefits gained from persisting in this discipline will include nurturing a mindset and heartset of prayer for the rest of your day.

Opportunities: Action Groups
Beginning in September, we will be offering two Action Groups for pastors and church leaders. An Action Group involves 8-12 men who join to study a particular topic, gather monthly online to discuss what we’re learning, and then put those lessons into practice in our ministries.

This year we’re offering two Action Groups, as follows:

The Disciplined Life:We will take up a series of studies on learning to make the most of the time of our lives by learning and improving our use of five different kinds of disciplines. This Action Group will meet monthly, every third Thursday at 4:00 pm Eastern, September-May.

The Outreach Church: Learn how to fulfill your ministry by doing the work of evangelism and leading your entire church into an outreach mindset, orientation, and lifestyle. This Action Group will meet monthly, every third Wednesday, at 4:00 pm Eastern, September-May.

For more information about either of these groups, write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I’ll send you an overview and schedule.

Resources: Book Note – When Trouble Comes by Phil Ryken
(Crossway, 2016, $12.99)
Phil Ryken’s book on dealing with trouble is an excellent resource for pastors and church leaders, and that from two angles.

The first is learning to deal with the difficult times and trials that come our way in life. Phil Ryken is honest about his own struggles as he leads us through a study of saints in Scripture who had troubled times. Anyone who’s been in ministry for very long knows that trouble simply comes with the turf, so we’d better get ready to deal with it. Dr. Ryken’s meditations on Isaiah, Elijah, Ruth, David, Jeremiah, Mary, Jesus, and Paul are most illuminating, and help us to appreciate not just the teaching of these great saints, but the way they approached trials and troubles by looking to the Lord and trusting in Him.

We will all know troubles of various kinds in our walk with and work for the Lord. But troubles don’t have to “get you down and walk around on you,” as John Denver opined. Troubles should remind us of our frailties, expose our foibles and folly, lead us to foreswear all dependence on our own strength, and to seek refuge, relief, and renewal in the presence of the Lord.

Whether our troubles come from inward turmoil and sin (Isaiah), the threats of enemies or exhaustion (Elijah), want and uncertainty (Ruth), or the challenges of simply being faithful to the Lord (Mary, Jesus, Paul), we need to know how to recognize the trouble we’re in and take steps to make the best use of it.

Dr. Ryken counsels us always to remember that our triumph over trials of every sort can only be gained by resting in the Lord. “If Christ has overcome the world, then we can overcome the world. We can resist temptation. We can persevere through persecution. We can live for Christ…” By recalling the promises of God, fully realized in Jesus, and drawing on the grace of God through patient prayer, we can find strength from beyond ourselves to bear up under whatever comes our way

“Sadly, many people are not ready for all the troubles they will face.” Here’s the second angle from which this book can be useful – as a resource for equipping and caring for the people God has entrusted to your care.

The disciplines necessary for dealing with trials and temptations are not well understood by God’s people. Because they are merely provisional – that is, only needed at certain times or under certain conditions – many people never learn to master the set of mind and heart that allows us to rest in God’s grace and find His ways of escape when trouble comes. Phil Ryken’s book includes a helpful study guide that could be useful in leading people – individually or in groups – through the many excellent lessons found therein.

Get When Trouble Comes and read it into your soul. Then, when troubles come your way, as they surely will, you’ll be better prepared to dispatch them, and to serve those who look to you for pastoral comfort and care.

Monthly Resource: John Calvin on “Building Christ’s Church”
This month’s Pastor to Pastor resource features readings from Book IV of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Here Calvin outlines his understanding of and vision for the church. The 28 readings and meditations in this resource can provide valuable instruction and encouragement for your church leaders. Building Christ’s Church is free and can be downloaded at our website by clicking here.

Please let us know how we can serve you at The Fellowship of Ailbe. May the Lord’s blessings be with you in all things.

To learn more about prayer and its place in the work of ministry, order our handbook for pastoral ministry from our online store (click here). Here you’ll find excellent tools to review and improve your own work as a shepherd in God’s flock. Visit our bookstore to discover other resources for helping you improve your ministry of the Word.We’re happy to provide Pastor to Pastor and other online resources at no charge. If this ministry is helpful to you, please consider joining those who support our work financially. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.

You can download this month’s devotional readings, Building Christ’s Church, by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore