Category Archives: Prayer

Praying the Church Forward

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In our recent annual elders’ church evaluation and strategy meetings we came to the unanimous understanding that several challenges lie before our local congregation. Of course, this is consistently the case for every local church. There is always some challenge on the horizon. But it is important to stress that while identifying what needs to be done is a healthy exercise for church leadership, prayer is never the last step.

Before anything is done our intents and needs must be set before the Lord in corporate and prevailing prayer. I want to publish some of the major challenges facing our congregation here with the hope that they will be circulated among the flock and stimulate prayer, while we continue to develop goals and specific plans for moving forward.

I have purposefully left out details at this point and will devote the remainder of the entry to the subject of prayer. We will provide more information and seek the congregation’s input and involvement in the near future in a less public forum.

  1. The development of near and far term elders/pastors.
  2. The development and revitalization of the diaconate.
  3. Deepening and improving our discipleship of both men and women.
  4. The division of labor among ministerial staff.
  5. The resetting and recasting of vision regarding church growth/planting (mission) beyond the Hispanic ministry (which has been our focus for two years).
  6. Various facility improvements and the need to address our space limitations.

Praying for the Temple

In 1 Chronicles 29 David gives thanks for the offerings collected for the construction of the new temple. I find this chapter instructive and illuminating as I ponder the challenges that lay ahead for us. I hope you will also find them to be insightful and encouraging.

What stands out in my mind is not so much the amount collected but the heart attitude of the people and the theology of David’s prayer. I invite you to read the chapter and consider both of these principles. Whatever plans we develop for improvement in the areas mentioned above and others, it will require deep faith and church-wide involvement.

The Heart Attitude of the People

“Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart…” (29:9). The success of what we accomplish in ministry should not be measured in monetary value, but by the heart attitude with which our gifts are given and ministry is carried out. Their offerings were given with a “whole heart.” This pregnant expression deserves a brief explanation.

A careful study of 1 & 2 Chronicles will reveal a special emphasis on the concept of a properly disposed heart. While the Hebrew term heart occurs 850 times in the Old Testament it is found 63 times in 1 & 2 Chronicles. The phrase “with a perfect heart” or “with a whole heart” occurs 21 times. This prompts commentator Roddy Braun to rightly see “the disposition of the heart” as one of the main themes in 1 & 2 Chronicles. We should also point out that a note of joy is frequently struck in connection with this attitude of a whole heart. The expression, therefore, depicts the undivided enthusiasm in which the project was taken up by David’s generation. It underscores that what matters is that our obedience be done with a willing, generous, undivided and joyful heart. Think about how far this heart attitude could take us.

I thank the Lord that He has given His New Covenant people a new heart from which the obedience of faith springs. Our efforts should outshine the world’s examples of “teamwork” a “human spirit” and “dedication.” We are the family of God! Christ is our brother! We realize that true and lasting joy is not found in what we KEEP but in what we GIVE! This applies to our wealth, gifts, talents and energies.

He has taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). It will take nothing less than our whole hearts joyfully submitted to God to move forward in our mission. May God profoundly unite our hearts in this effort.

The Theology of David’s Prayer

Read David’s prayer (29:10-19) and note the following:

(1) We human beings don’t truly “own” anything. Wealth comes from God and He is the ruler of all things (29:10-12). Hence, David will say, “For all things come from you, and from your hand we have given to you” (29:14). Whatever we give and offer to our local church ministry is “for the Lord’s sake” and belongs to the Lord as it is. We are stewards of our “possessions” and abilities, not owners. This prompts D. A. Carson to note, “Such a stance utterly destroys any notion of us ‘giving’ something to God in any absolute terms. It becomes a pleasure to give to God, not only because we love Him, but because we happily recognize that all we ‘own’ is His anyway!”

(2) Our human experience is transient while God Himself is eternal (29:10, 15). Here is the king of a powerful and enduring dynasty settled ‘in the land” God had given him and still he recognizes that they are just “tenants.” This theology is grounded in the truth that only what is rooted in the eternal work of God will have lasting value. The temple to be built was significant only because it was to be built to His “holy name” (29:16). We are all just passing through the Bay Area on our spiritual journey with Christ.

(3) Though the responsibility to persevere in this heart attitude belongs to man it is made possible only by the intervening grace of God (29:18). This was a tremendous day! The people had given so liberally and wholeheartedly. But this was just the beginning! The work to be accomplished was “great” and would require sustained commitment. Hence David prays, “preserve this forever” and “direct their heart to you.”

As I sit here today I humbly recognize the need of God’s powerful, gracious and sovereign hand. This will be my twentieth year as pastor-teacher of GBC. In some ways we have plateaued. In many other ways we are still growing. But moving forward will require greater teamwork, sacrifice, faith and wisdom.

Addressing these areas looms over the horizon like nearby Mt. Diablo. It will entail much from each and every one of us. Yet, I have hope because I know that David’s God is our God. He still owns all things. He is still the Chief Shepherd of the Church. He still walks among the candlesticks as the all knowing, omnipotent Lord and Savior (Rev. 1-3).

What we seek to accomplish we seek for the sake of His holy name. He can still direct all our hearts and the hearts of those with whom we will partner. May He make our hearts and hands strong for the work ahead that all praise might be given to Him alone.


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Praying for Effective Preaching During Summer Sabbatical

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By God’s grace and the loving support of our church elders I have been granted a three month sabbatical for this summer. It will be a welcome respite after 20 years of ministry seeing this local church planted, discipled and multiplied. It will not be a working retreat so I won’t be doing a whole lot of writing and absolutely no preaching (so I’m told). I will take a hiatus from this blog but will be posting some updates on our family time and adventures via Facebook and Twitter (@TonySanelli). You can follow us there. Please pray for deep spiritual renewal, the reinforcing of our marriage and family and a whole lot of good fishing!

While my wife and I covet your prayers for a restful and restorative time I also request your prayerful support of the elders. They, along with a few others, will be fulfilling the preaching responsibilities throughout the summer. The series will be taken from the Gospel of Mark and they have already worked hard at organizing and bringing continuity to the pulpit.

I would like to set before you a portion of a handout we produced several years ago entitled, “How to Pray for Effective Preaching.” It was and remains adapted in part from the Westminster Assembly’s Directory of Worship and an article by David Eby. I’m convinced that all will profit greatly from this summer because the Lord loves His people and is attentive to our prayers.


1. Be careful and persistent to attend every service. Give the meeting of the church a priority over all other human institutions.

2. Listen carefully to the sermon. Take notes of important points.

3. Prepare your heart and pray for yourself and others before you come to worship.

4. Pray for the preaching of the word before, during and after the service.

5. Evaluate what you hear by the Word of God.

6. Humbly receive the truths proclaimed as God speaking to you, not just the human speaker.

7. Think about the sermon. Mull it over and think of ways to apply it in practical terms.

8. Talk about the sermon with others after the service. Discuss the truths with your family. Use the outline as a basis for discussion.

9. Read ahead as each week will cover one chapter of Mark.

10. Seek to obey what you hear. Pray for the grace of God to be a doer of the Word.


Pray to God for your pastors in these specific ways:

1. Help him to realize his absolute dependence on YOU, that apart from you he can do nothing (John 15:5).

2. Help him to pray for his preaching continually and depend on your Spirit for power.

3. Anoint him and fill him with your Spirit for preaching. Bring him under complete submission to you.

4. Enable him to preach the Word with accuracy, clarity, boldness and love.

5. Anoint the ears of listeners to be humble, hungry hearers of the Word.

6. Bring conviction of sins and true conversions by the preached Word to unbelievers.

7. Bring conviction of sin, ongoing repentance, encouragement, edification and growth/sanctification to believers.


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When God Says No

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We have all experienced God’s “no” in answer to a prayer request. This doesn’t always mean that our Lord has not heard our cry, has nothing to say about it nor that He doesn’t care. I know it feels like your prayer never rose above the ceiling. But rest assured, the all-knowing King of heaven is not deaf to you.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” Psalm 116:1 (ESV)

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…” Isaiah 59:1 (ESV)

Prayer is largely petition. Most of the time we believe our petition would be the best solution to our predicament or needs. But our view and perception of what is best, not only for us but for all those touched by our prayers, is severely limited. We simply cannot see with the wisdom of our infinite God. It is the difference between the perspective of an ant and the perspective of a bald eagle.

So before you descend into frustration or worse yet bitterness; consider the words of  pastor Tim Keller:

“When you pray to God, God will always give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows.” 

Better yet, consider Holy Scripture:

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NASB)

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