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Jean Boonstra
is the Associate Speaker of Voice of Prophecy, the writer of two series of Adventist Girls books and the creator of the It Is Written online interactive Bible studies for children—My Place With Jesus. She has been involved in team ministry with her husband, Pastor Shawn, for years. They live in Loveland, Colorado with their two daughters, who are growing up far too quickly.


 
First Things First
Nurturing Ourselves, Our Families, and Our Churches
(pdf)
 
 
Pastoral spouses are a diverse group. Some of us work full-time, supporting our spouses on Sabbath mornings and at special events. Some are busy with the demanding daily activities of raising a family. Still others are able to dedicate most of their time to working side-by-side with their pastoral spouse. The demands of life often dictate which group we fall into, and our level of involvement can shift over time depending on our own life commitments.
 
No matter our level of involvement, we are all growing Christians, and growing Christians need spiritual food. What follows are some practical approaches and resources for a healthy, dynamic devotional and prayer life. We need this for ourselves, our families, and our churches.
 
Personal Journey       
 
We know we need to make time for spiritual growth, but knowing and doing are not the same thing. How do we ensure a healthy walk with God? We read in Colossians 3:1, 2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Here are a few practical tips for setting our minds on heaven:
 
  1. Devotional time: Life is busy, and the time demands on a ministerial couple or family are practically endless. Setting aside a quiet hour or even twenty minutes can feel selfish when the needs of the day press on us. But never feel guilty about the time. Regularly scheduled time carved out just for you and God is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your spouse’s ministry. Try varying the Bible versions you read from. If you haven’t tried paraphrases such as The Message or The Clear Word, try alternating them with a traditional version such as New King James.
 
  1. Scripture memorization: Revisit childhood and memorize favorite scripture verses. As you get back into the habit, challenge yourself! Learn a whole chapter or more. You’ll find all kinds of free resources for memorizing scripture. Here is a great place to start: http://mintools.com/blog/adults-memorize-scripture.htm. Include the kids and make it a family affair.
 
  1. Share: Sharing our faith with others has a way of refreshing our commitment and reminding us of why we became Christians in the first place. Places to share include children and adult Sabbath school classes, Bible studies, literature distribution, and evangelistic outreach events. Find a comfortable place to share your unique talents and testimony.
 
  1. Cultivate Fellowship: Fellowship with other Christians can provide a tremendous spiritual lift. Book a weekend away for a spiritual retreat. Meet a Christian friend for lunch or join a small-group Bible study. Mentor a new Christian. Carve out time in your schedule to cultivate fellowship.
 
  1. Prayer: Martin Luther King, Jr., is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” A healthy prayer life is critical to our entire Christian journey. We will dedicate the entire next section to prayer.
 
Resources:
 
The Desire of Ages or any of the Conflict of the Ages series, by Ellen G. White
Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby
The Hour that Changes the World, by Dick Eastman
The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie Omartian
Prayerwalking, by Steve Hawthorne
Robber of the Cruel Streets and Obstacle to Comfort videos about George       Mueller’s life
Various videos by Louie Gigleo
 
[SURVEY: COULD BE PULLED OUT AS A LINK OR DOWNLOADABLE PDF]
 
Tell us about your devotional time:
 
  1. I have personal devotional time:
    1. Daily
    2. Several times a week
    3. Weekly
    4. As often as my schedule allows
 
  1. The best time I find for quiet devotions is:
    1. Early in the morning
    2. At night after the house is quiet
    3. I take a break during my work day
    4. I struggle to ever find quiet time
 
  1. I love to share my faith:
    1. Witnessing to neighbors and others in my community
    2. Leading a small-group Bible study
    3. Teaching children’s Sabbath school classes
    4. Speaking up front at church and at events
 
  1. I enjoy Christian fellowship best through:
    1. Church social events
    2. A shared meal with a small group at my home
    3. Pastoral spouse events
    4. One-on-one fellowship with close friends
 
[END OF SURVEY]
 
 
 
Prayer
 
Why pray?
 
God invites us to connect with Him through prayer. He invites us to open our hearts to Him as to a friend. We are nourished and grow through prayer. We are also actively involved in ministry when we intercede on behalf of others. God will use prayer to change our hearts and to minister to our families and our churches.
 
Is prayer always practical? Can its outcome be measured?
 
Certainly, prayer is a practical experience. It has been said, “When we work, we work, but when we pray, God works!” There is a wonderful return on the time invested in prayer.
 
 
Practical tips for your personal prayer time
 
1. Make time for prayer. Just as time to study the Bible is necessary and unselfish, so it is with prayer. Set aside time to pray. You can pray during your morning commute (just keep those eyes open), while washing dishes, or while jogging on the treadmill. The key is to make a time to regularly talk to God.
 
2. Find a quiet place for prayer and Bible study. In some homes this is more challenging than others. Think creatively. You might find that getting up a little earlier than the rest of the family allows you to have a quiet corner. If you’re a night owl, you might carve out some time after everyone is asleep. If your lunch hour in the quiet of your car is the only space you can find in the day, use it. Keep a prayer journal to track your prayers and His answers.
 
3. Recognize God for who He is. Reflect on the wonder and majesty of God. Here are some good verses to start with: John 1:14; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 21:23; 2 Corinthians 3:18; and Matthew 24:30.
 
4. Confess your failure. Confession is good for the heart, and God happily takes our burdens from us. Too many of us carry around guilt, shame, and fear unnecessarily. God’s shoulders can carry the burdens of the world, so give it all to Him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
 
5. Thank God. Spend time praising God for His work in your life and for His answered prayers. Praise keeps us centered on the goodness of God, even when the present moment might be difficult. Keep a thanksgiving journal, or write quick thank you notes to people who have made a difference in your life.
           
6. Don’t give up. God will always answer. His answer could be yes, no, or wait. Pray until you hear His answer—it won’t necessarily come right away. Persist.
 
7. Meditate in God’s presence. Prayer is as much listening as it is speaking. Quietly meditate and listen for God’s still, small voice. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
 
8. Sing a new song. Music can speak to our hearts in ways that words often cannot. Include some favorite spiritual music in your devotional and prayer time. “Often [Jesus] expressed the gladness of His heart by singing psalms and heavenly songs. . . . He held communion with heaven in song; and as His companions complained of weariness from labor, they were cheered by the sweet melody from His lips” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 73).
 
9. Pray for your church. You know the needs of your church better than almost anyone else. Pray specifically for the church leaders, struggling members, and also for specific outreach events. Spend some of your prayer time focusing on the specific needs of your flock.
 
10. Find a prayer partner. A prayer partner can be a tremendous source of strength and support. Find someone you trust and who will uplift and encourage you and your family.
           
 
 
Ways to help your church grow strong in prayer
 
1. Make prayer a priority. Encourage leaders to make prayer a key emphasis in your church. Reflect this priority from the front of the church, in Sabbath school classes, and in events.
 
2. Establish a prayer room. If at all possible, designate a room in your church as a prayer room. Make it a special spot where individuals can pray alone or with small groups.
 
3. Designate a prayer coordinator. This person will plan activities to encourage the growth of prayer in the church.
 
4. Plan regular days of prayer and fasting. Special events that bring the whole church together in a common mission will bind them together and strengthen their faith.
 
5. Try prayerwalking. To walk while praying is probably not a new activity, though it seems different from the well-known formats of prayer. Prayerwalking is simply praying on-site with insight. It is genuine prayer—God working with and through people on earth. It is directed intercessory praying. Prayerwalking helps pray-ers learn how to pray for others, deferring urgent matters in their own lives and moving others to the top of their prayer agendas. While many believers enjoy communing with God during private walks, prayerwalking focuses intercessory prayer on the neighborhoods, homes, and people encountered while walking.
           
How does prayerwalking help?
 
• It will thaw the ice in your neighborhood. The climate of steady prayer can warm the atmosphere of friendship. Hearts opened by prayer can lead to doors opened for God’s healing touch.
• It will help you overcome fear of the troubled parts of your city. Prayerwalking provides a way to re-enter your inner city with Godly confidence. Prayerwalkers find that they belong to the places they pray for.
• It contends with evil. Rising crime and open hostility to Christ are energized by spiritual evil. It makes biblical sense to step out from a defensive, fortress mentality and come physically near to the people whom God longs to redeem.
• It brings progress in prayer. Most Christians sincerely desire to pray more. Prayerwalking offers struggling intercessors a stimulating way to stretch themselves in prayer.
 
 
Resources:
 
Andrew Murray on Prayer, by Andrew Murray
House of Prayer, a video by Cymbala, Gaither Praise Gathering
The Prayer Saturated Church, by Carol Sachs
Let’s Pray, a weekly live prayer program on Hope Channel, Tuesday nights
What Happens When Women Pray, by Evelyn Christensen
Bridges 101, by Ruthie Jacobsen
Conspiracy of Kindness, by Steve Sjogren
Prayerwalking, by Steve Hawthorne
 
 
 
 
 
[SURVEY: COULD BE PULLED OUT AS A LINK OR DOWNLOADABLE PDF]
 
Spend a little time understanding your prayer experiences:
 
  1. I feel like God hears and answers my prayers:
    1. Always
    2. Usually
    3. Some of the time
    4. For others, but not for me
 
  1. As I pray, I enjoy connecting with God by:
    1. Journaling my praise, requests and answers
    2. Listening to spiritual music
    3. Prayerwalking
    4. All of the above
 
  1. My church’s prayer ministry includes:
    1. Special days of prayer and fasting
    2. A prayer coordinator
    3. A prayer room
    4. All of the above
    5. None of the above
 
  1. In my experience, prayerwalking is:
    1. A great blessing to me personally and to my church and community
    2. Personally satisfying
    3. Not really my prayer style
    4. I don’t know, I’ve never tried it
 
[END OF SURVEY]