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Max Lucado Reveals His Struggles with Prayer

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Author; Before Amen (2014)

Lead Pastor of Oak Hills Church for over 25 years

Max’s words have traveled the world in more than 54 languages via more than 120 million individual products, 92 million of those are books

Dubbed “America’s Pastor” by Reader’s Digest

Named one of the most influential leaders in social media by “The New York Times”

Served 5 years as a missionary in Brazil

BA: Mass Communications, Abilene Christian University

MA: Biblical and Related Studies, Abilene Christian University

Max and his wife Denalyn (of 32 years) have three grown daughters, two in ministry, one in publishing, and one son-in-law also in fulltime ministry

Max grew up in a small town in Texas and went to church with his family often. When he became a teenager he walked away from Christianity. One night, after he downed a six-pack of beer, he started to ponder if there was more to life than partying and chasing girls. Soon after, Max joined a Bible class at a university where his heart was moved by the love of God. Max got his Master’s in Biblical Studies and had a deep desire to share the gospel with others. He ended up as an associate pastor at a small church in Florida where he met his wife Denalyn and through writing the weekly newsletter realized his passion for writing. Max and Denalyn moved to the mission field in Rio de Janeiro and planted churches. Through his experiences there, Max wrote his first book and launched his extensive writing career. In 1988, Max and his family moved back to Texas and have been at Oak Hills Church ever since.

THE POCKET PRAYER

Though a bestselling author and pastor, Max considers himself a “recovering prayer wimp.” Several years ago, Max found himself frustrated with his prayer life. It seemed to him that prayer was easier for others. He struggled to stay on track when praying and got easily distracted, while others seemed to be able to pray for hours and stay on target. Max wanted a prayer life like that. He began studying scripture looking for help, knowing there was something more to prayer. He began to uncover truths in scripture that helped him understand prayer better. Max says, “The first followers of Jesus needed prayer guidance. In fact, the only tutorial they every requested was on prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them a prayer. Not a lecture on prayer. Not the doctrine of prayer. He gave them a quotable, repeatable, portable prayer (Luke 11:1-4).” Max realized that most of the prayers in the Bible could be distilled into a 6-sentence framework that he calls the “pocket prayer.” “Father, you are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.” Using this simple prayer framework helped him to stay on track and led him into all the areas of prayer. Max doesn’t treat it as a formula though, he believes that it is just one trail that helps lead people into the forest of prayer.

The first part of the “pocket prayer” is “Father, you are good.” Max believes that it is important to acknowledge God as your father because it reflects the character of God. Years ago, when Max’s eldest daughter messed up in her piano recital she hugged him afterwards with a heartfelt, “Oh, Daddy.” Max shows that recognizing and coming to God as our father as his daughter did to him, is what Jesus did. Believing He is our father keeps us humble and our prayers simple and honest rather than wordy and prideful. Max also believes that recognizing God’s goodness is crucial in prayer. Years ago, he boarded a plane that his good friend, an expert pilot that he trusts greatly, was flying. When they took off they were hit by turbulence and many people were afraid on the plane. However, Max was not afraid because he knew and trusted the pilot’s goodness and skill. He likens that to our relationship with God. If we trust in His goodness, skill, and authority then we can trust Him in and through our prayers.

The fifth line of the “pocket prayer” is “Thank you.” Max believes that it is essential to thank God during our prayers. He poignantly says, “Thanks proclaims, I’m not disadvantaged, disabled, victimized, scandalized, forgotten, or ignored. I am blessed. Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems.” He believes that gratitude is the antidote for anxiety. By remembering in our prayers what He has done keeps us grateful and causes us to trust Him more. However, Max realizes that it can be difficult to be thankful when our prayers go unanswered. He realizes that each and every one of us is living with an unanswered prayer. We can either get mad or frustrated at God or we can choose to believe that He is good and He must have something better for us. God doesn’t always answer requests in the way that we expect Him to. Max says that when Jesus walked the Earth, “He never grew impatient at the requests. But He did grow impatient at the lack of one.” Max encourages people to keep praying because, “we do not change God’s intention, but we can influence His actions.”

PRAYER STATS

  • ½ of American sports fans believe supernatural forces are at work in sports–either praying for their team or believing they’re cursed.
  • 48% of churchgoers pray every day.
  • Most common things Christians pray for: God’s guidance, giving thanks, health and safety, God’s forgiveness, general strength, and stronger faith.
  • 87% say they believe that God answers their prayers at least some of the time.
  • 42% believe the most important purpose of prayer is intimacy with God.
  • 1 in 5 unbelievers pray daily.
  • 92% of Americans believe in God yet only 83% believe that God actually answers prayers.
  • 34% believe prayer can avert natural disasters.
  • The Bible contains 377 references to praise and 375 references to prayer.
  • Prayer has a fan page on Facebook and has amassed 1.4 million likes.
  • Prayer is a common religious practice in America, with nearly 60% of adults in the U.S. saying they pray at least once a day.
  • 73% think prayers for help in finding a job are answered.
  • This week more of us will pray than will go to work or have sex.
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