#17 – Fostering a Healthy Relationship: Prayer ft. Phil Collins

 In

It’s that difference between discipline and legalism. ~Phil Collins

And what does Paul say? He says -in 1 Timothy 4 verse 7 – he talks about that we should train ourselves and discipline ourselves. What is the Greek word there? It means: throw off everything that encumbers you, because in the athletic world, they would actually strip off and become naked and they would then do their exercise. And I think one of the problems is, is that we’re not willing to take off things around us that actually stop us from exercising the discipline we should spiritually. – Phil Collins

Seems like a no-brainer. I’m a pastor, of course I pray! But do you set aside time for this specifically? How many of us are truly confident in the richness of our prayer time and make it a priority in our busy lives? Would those we lead say with conviction, “He/She is absolutely devoted to prayer.” ?

This week’s episode highlights how prayer can enrich our lives, our ministry, and our relationship with God. Join Rob and Phil as they discuss some practical tips to help us develop this often minimized, yet critical aspect of our lives as Christians. Listen, as Phil challenges us to develop the discipline of prayer in our lives and to throw off those things that encumber us and prevent us from experiencing the joy, freedom, and self-care that this time can bring. No matter where your prayer life is at, we hope you will be blessed and encouraged by what you hear in their conversation.

Topics Include

  • Key moments that shaped Phil’s prayer life
  • A prayer routine
  • The freedom and value that comes from meditating on scripture
  • Where to start
  • How to add variety
  • Spiritual Discipline versus Legalism
  • Things that get in the way of a great prayer life
  • How to develop a prayer culture in the church

Show Notes

#17 – Fostering a Healthy Relationship: Prayer ft. Phil Collins
BCMB Pastor to Pastor Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 47:28
 
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Transcription

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Phil Collins:
It's that difference between discipline and legalism.

Phil Collins:
And what does Paul say? He says - in 1 Timothy 4 verse 7 - he talks about that we should train ourselves and discipline ourselves. What is the Greek word there? It means: throw off everything that encumbers you, because in the athletic world, they would actually strip off and become naked and they would then do their exercise. And I think one of the problems is, is that we're not willing to take off things around us that actually stop us from exercising the discipline we should spiritually.

BCMB Intro:
Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 17 'Prayer' with Phil Collins.

Rob Thiessen:
All right. Hey, everyone. Rob Thiessen here, I'm the conference minister with the BCMB Churches. And this is our Pastor to Pastor podcast. We're very, very glad that you've joined us for this important topic. Today we're chatting with Phil Collins from the Willow Park Church in Kelowna and our topic today is 'prayer'. So, Phil, why don't you just start by introducing a little bit about yourself and maybe weave in a bit of your prayer journey along the way? Who taught you to pray and, yeah, how did the Lord lead you on that path? But tell us a little bit about yourself and, yeah, welcome here.

Phil Collins:
Thanks a lot, Rob. Good to be here. Well, I, as you can tell from my accent, I'm not Canadian. From the great British Isles and I was there for many years as a pastor, a conference minister and also CEO of a mission agency, but really had a deep connection historically with Canada. And Michelle and I, our four children, Emily and Jessica and Bella and Josiah. We all moved to Willow Park Church over nine years ago now to be the lead pastor. And Willow is one church with four locations, six congregations, and also we've planted churches that we've released and we're situated there in the heart of British Columbia, Kelowna, Wine Country, the Okanagan. So that's my day job.

Phil Collins:
So your question was, how did I begin to pray? Well, instinctively, with the day I became a Christian - and when I became a Christian, I had no Christian heritage. One could say that I could go back several generations, back to perhaps the early nineteen fifteen before the First World War, when there's a first sign of a deeply devoted evangelist in our family. Her name was Emily. She used to preach in the streets of Birmingham, and she used to go and witness to the gypsies on the canals, and she used to drag the men out of the bars and make them marry their women and bring Jesus to them. Beyond that, our family is really a story of nominal church. When I heard the gospel, this is what people said to me, "When you give your life to Jesus, you have a relationship with Jesus." Strangely enough, I believed them. And so the moment I became a Christian, I started to enjoy this relationship. It was the relationship that engaged me. It was the relationship that inspired me, at that time. It was fantastic! What I discovered was that lots of Christians, it wasn't like Jesus was their best friend, who'd been raised in the church. It was like he was a second cousin removed from Manitoba. They never actually connected. So I've been on a prayer journey from that moment. How was my life revolutionised by prayer? Well it comes to Canada! I was in a place, I was 19 years old, I was in a place called High River in Alberta and I got on a Greyhound bus to travel to Regina, Saskatchewan. I was doing a speaking tour in schools. The lady I'd stayed with, an old lady, got me to the bus station and she thrust a book into my hand. I said, "Thank you!" Do you know what this was? It was the eighties. Got onto the Greyhound bus, was pushed to the back. It was the day when everybody would smoke.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah.

Phil Collins:
So I sat next to a drunk cowboy, and after a while he fell asleep on my shoulders and I pulled out my walkman, probably to listen to Michael W. Smith. And as I listened to my walkman, I pulled out this book and it was about George Muller. Inspiring! The German missionary to Britain. And I read that book as I travelled to Regina, and it changed my life. He told me about a way to pray, to open your Bible, to read it, to allow it to impact you, to allow it to speak to you. And when the Bible speaks to you, take that verse, meditate on it, pray it through, linger on it, and it opens up a doorway and God takes you around the world praying for the world. I arrived in Regina, and it's the only place that I've ever been where they had actual scheduled-in prayer time for the visiting speaker. Not had that since, or ever. And the youth pastor met me, he said, "How's your relationship with Jesus?" I said, "Fine, thanks." He said, "Well, you're speaking here, you're speaking here, you're speaking there, but here there's two hours of prayer. Here there's an hour of prayer." Like what? Cheeky. So I ended up in the basement of this house I was staying in, you know a classic Canadian basement with the washing machine going in the background. It's where the kids hang out. I had a room with no windows and I got into that room and I opened up the book of Isaiah. And that week I must have spent six hours in prayer each day. And I started to work through the book of Isaiah and God took me on a George Muller adventure that changed my life. And I learned to linger. I learned to think. I learned to be alone with Jesus. That was number one.

Phil Collins:
Number two, I ended up in Red Deer and I ended up at a Pentecostal church speaking. And the Pentecostal pastor was a little bit crazy. He was about 15 years older than me and he said to me, "Let's go and pray together." Okay. He took me down in another basement. This basement was not particularly kitted out well, I felt a little uncomfortable. He pulled out the Lord's Prayer and he started to pray through the Lord's Prayer and it was that movement at that time in the 80s, "Wilt thou not tarry for an hour!" I don't know if you remember that, Rob?

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah, sure.

Phil Collins:
I can't remember who it was. So, ten minutes on each point of the Lord's Prayer. And I prayed through it with him, I'd never done this before. I was 19. I came away and I learnt something remarkable: that, number one, I can linger in God's word and God takes me on an adventure. Number two, it's okay to be systematic. And from that point on, I always spent, as much as I could, an hour a day in prayer. And at that point, I followed that process of either the Lord's Prayer or the George Muller approach.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's brilliant. Thanks, Phil. So, you learned in Canada, in Alberta.

Phil Collins:
In Canada, in Alberta and I took it back to Britain.

Rob Thiessen:
Right, fantastic.

Phil Collins:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, that's beautiful. And the reference to the Lord's Prayer reminds me, I was just sharing with you before, Phil, that I've been looking at this Following In the Footsteps of Christ by Arnold Snyder, at what early anabaptist traditions tell us about their prayer life. And yeah, we were just reading here of a fellow that, also early Anabaptist evangelist, who also utilized the Lord's Prayer as a pattern; teaching people that with each sort of phrase or segment of the Lord's Prayer, that these were actually a paradigm to pray through. If we say "God, our father", then we meditate on that, like you said, linger. That's incredible, so...

Phil Collins:
Yeah, it was good. And I think, you know, I've applied that principle that before I preach, I always pray through and linger in the same way. In Isaiah 61, the spirit of the sovereign lord were upon me to preach good news to them, Paul. I'm freedom to the captive. So that my gospel presentation is infused with that knowledge of spending that time praying before I preach, has been really important to me. And the other practice that I developed was - when I was Youth For Christ evangelist - was that for one day a month, every month, and three days a year, I would always go on a day retreat, praying. So even to this day, twenty five years later, I spend one day a month away in the wilderness, walking and praying with the Lord for eight, nine hours. And sometimes I take people with me. But back in England, I used to have my little route, ten miles, marked out. I'd walk, leave in the morning, and I'd end up at a little coffee shop with a bacon sandwich (I didn't fast on those days) and then up over the hills and I pray at a small, thousand year old church, sit there for an hour in meditation and then carry on with the rest of the day. And that was a ten mile loop that I did for over 15 years, the first Wednesday of every month going out and spending that day with God. And I think it rescued me, it saved me, it kept me afloat. And where many of my friends burnt out, I think it was that devotion to a day away with God a month, that kept me on course with the Lord.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Hearing you talk about it, it obviously was a day that you enjoyed.

Phil Collins:
I loved it.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So there was something about the walk, something about nature or something about a coffee and a sandwich and the fellowship with God, that was sweet.

Phil Collins:
Yes. And I think we've all got to find a way to engage with our relationship with the father in a way that works for us.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Phil Collins:
For me, walking has always been - it's not as simple in Canada, I've discovered! Because I keep bumping into bears and cougars and I've been on the high trails and I'm being followed by a pack of coyotes. But somehow it makes it a little bit more Franciscan in that way.

Rob Thiessen:
Sure.

Phil Collins:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Maybe adds an element of desperation to your prayer life, at times! (*laughter*)

Phil Collins:
It certainly does as I pull out my Bible and my bear spray. (*laughter*)

Rob Thiessen:
Okay, awesome. That's beautiful. Well I, when I pastored in Ontario, the first church that I pastored there for seven years, there was a tree stump in the back of the vineyards actually. The church, we owned 10 acres of, I think they were, grapes that the farmer was farming. And out in the back was a stump and that used to be my spot, to go out there and enjoy a place for fellowship with God. You've touched on a few things; you said, you know, it was your strong sense that that prayer time was really sustaining for you in your walk with God and in your ministry. What are some other things that you have come to value about prayer for your life, as you look back, and your ministry? Why is it important to you? What makes prayer important and valuable to you?

Phil Collins:
Well, I think, first of all, as a pastor, there are two good gifts you can give your church: The first good gift is a great prayer life, and the second gift is a great marriage. We can't always control the second one as easily, for a lot of brothers and sisters, but we work hard at that. But the first one we can really work on. And I think, if you can give to your church and your devotion and your pastoral ministry, a devoted, wonderful prayer life between you and the Lord, that is a gift to the church that you lead. Because you can't speak about prayer. You've got to model it and you've got to lead yourself really well. And I do think that we have to lead ourselves well. We have to lead our families well, our spouse well, within that relationship. And that's a very important thing for both Michelle and I - that we we have devotions, that we spend time listening to the Lord, that we go on prayer walks three or four times a week when we go out together. And we always spend time when we have a problem, setting time aside to listen to what we're sensing the heart of the Lord is. So we have to lead ourselves well and we have to lead our families well. We have to lead our boards well. I think a part of the role of the shepherd is to create a prayer culture at the highest level of church governance, and that is the board. And I think if we don't do that, we're going to let our church down. I think our churches really want to know that our elderships are praying elderships. They're not just good businessmen, but they're good also on their knees. And then we have to lead our staff well. I think we've got to build a culture of prayer within our staff. And when we've got those areas right, our life, our boards, our staff, it then affects the whole culture of the church.

Phil Collins:
So for me, you know, obviously, I kind of say to my pastors, we do need to be praying at least an hour a day. I even write that into my job descriptions of what I do for my pastors when they come for a job. Are you praying? Are you praying for an hour a day? An hour is the floor, not the ceiling. Are you pushing in with your relationship with God? You know, I can't imagine being called to the ministry and not living in a way that is what was so radically modeled by the very nature of Jesus Christ. The disciples didn't go, "Teach us how to preach, teach us how to do this." They said, "Teach us how to pray." And when we teach people how to pray, we help them become deep, deep disciples of Christ. Of course, the love of the Word, and he who reads the words the most often hears God's voice the clearest and consuming scripture is also key within my own walk as well.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So there's an interaction between the scripture and prayer. Talk to us a little bit about that. You said early on that you were meditating on the book of Isaiah and praying through, you talked about, the Lord's Prayer. I know for me, the life journaling has often been, you know, an important gateway into prayer. And sometimes, like, every life journal entry that I do in terms of my reading, you know, ends with a prayer section. Although one of the things that I have tried to do that I think has been more helpful is, is to spend some time asking what the Lord might be speaking to ME, rather than just turn it around into my prayer to him. In other words, to sort of insert a prophetic element, if you will, I don't know if you could call it that, but it is kind of asking, "So if it was the Lord's voice or the Lord's word to me, what would he be saying to me in the passage that I'm reading?" And then I write that out as a prayer, but not my prayer to him. It's his words over me. So share with us a little bit about the intersection of scripture and prayer, how that's been important both in your life and maybe even in how you teach the church to pray.

Phil Collins:
Yeah, I think, that connection between the Word of God and between prayer is critical, it's critical in a number of ways. You know, the Bible says that He is the vine, we are the branches and remain in me and I will remain in you. And I like to think that He is the vine, of course, I am the branches and the Holy Spirit is the sap that comes between us and connects us. So for me, it's really important to seek after the presence of the Holy Spirit in the whole process of of praying. And then when I open scripture and I start to read scripture, allow that to play a very big part in terms of my own prayerfulness, meditating on scripture has become a massive part of my prayer life. It's also become a massive part of my freedom life, because as I memorize scripture and as I linger on scripture and as I allow scripture to fill my mind and fill my heart, it has such a powerful impact on that communion with Christ. It feeds it. It is there, you know if I'm particularly worried about an aspect of my life and I'm praying into this, I'll memorize a number of scriptures around that problem that I'm praying into and I'm battling with personally. And I find that the combination of memorizing, meditating on the word of God and allowing time to sit in his presence and allow the spirit of God to be present in that intimate place. So sometimes, you know, I'll take a scripture and I'll spend an hour just allowing it to fill my mind.

Rob Thiessen:
Share an example, if you can think of one. What are some scriptures that have been meaningful for you recently?

Phil Collins:
Well, one of the great scriptures that has been, it's been powerful in my life is Psalm 125. But it talks about, just, the idea that those that trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion; they will not be shaken and they will endure forever. And as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people. I love that verse because it reminds me that God calls me to be - He calls me a mountain. I'd never thought about that. I'm the mountain? I thought you were the mountain. But he says you're like Mt. Zion. And that's important because I need to keep reminding myself the identity of who I am in Christ, my outer man, my "I" is not wholly true who I am. It is my image of Christ within me, it's that glorious image of God within my life. And I often... I've sat on a lot of mountains in my life, climbed a lot of mountains, and I've watched the clouds swirl around. And those are like thoughts and emotions, negativity and problems and our propensity to think negatively. So I've been lingering in this scripture and thinking about that the Lord calls me a mountain. And I see that negative thought and I see those things that might be floating around, but I remind myself that they don't define me. But actually, what defines me is who I am in God, my identity in Christ. My relationship with him and I'll think about this scripture for half an hour and I'll say it, I'll pray it, I'll linger in it. And I know that Christ dwells within me and I just love that fact that I am then remaining in him and I am a branch and I'm connected to him, and something profound and beautiful and deep often happens in those times of meditation. It's like the Lord commanded Joshua to meditate on the word of the Lord day and night and meditating on scripture brings freedom. It changes our character, it brings revelation, and it brings that connection. So that's an example of where I've been at recently, meditating on a particular couple of verses and allowing myself to connect with them. I think we have to take away the mask. I think we have to get rid of the "I". We have to deal with our idols and we have to come close to the Lord and put our concentration on the truth of scripture and His presence in our life.

Rob Thiessen:
Phil, you know, when it comes to prayer, even reading someone like, say, George Muller for people or maybe, you know, Desert Fathers or, you know, sometimes how Luther talked about prayer or whatever. And even in some current cultures, like, say, for example, Korean culture, and I've not been to Korea, but I think most of us have heard stories from, you know, previous decades - The Prayer Mountain, the role of prayer, you know, I know from Korean folk who are at my church, that their habit is early in the morning while it's dark, they have prayer meetings often maybe daily Like, how does that not become a treadmill for people? You said, like with your staff, you say, "Hey, this is the expectation. This is a part of your work. You should be praying for an hour a day." How does this not slip into a sense of duty, a sense of "Oh, now I'm guilty, I missed my prayer time" Yeah. How does it remain or be a delight - because obviously for you, it's something you're passionate about. You find joy in it. It gives life to you - and yet, yeah, it can easily slip into, "Oh, gosh, that's something that I ought to be doing. I'm not there. How in the world would that work in my life?" How do you answer those questions? How do you wrestle with people and keep them from slipping into, you know, some kind of a duty checklist, guilt-motivated thing?

Phil Collins:
Well, I think there's two issues there. I think the early church prayed for 10 days, preached for 10 minutes and 3000 people gave their lives to Christ. I think we pray for 10 minutes, love to preach for 10 days, and we're fortunate if three people give their hearts to Jesus. I don't know of a move of God in the history of Christianity that hasn't been birthed at a prevailing prayer. So, we have a problem there, that we have people going. I think it's that difference between discipline and legalism. Legalism is a religious activity for yourself to make you somehow spiritually better. Discipline is a discipline within your life because you are going to increase in your ability and become better. And what does the what is Paul say? He says, you know, we should - 1 Timothy 4 verse 7 - he talks about that we should train ourselves and discipline ourselves. What is the Greek word there? It means: throw off everything that encumbers you - because in the athletic world, they would actually strip off and become naked and they would then do their exercise.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Phil Collins:
And I think one of the problems is, is that we're not willing to take off things around us that actually stop us from exercising the discipline we should spiritually. And I know that's probably not popular. And I don't know the answer to that, apart from, we need to pray that the Lord gives us a very deep, profound love for him, that what we want to do is be in his presence and that we learn to be in his presence. So there is a discipline aspect of it and there is a taking oneself and - Hebrews 12 verse 1 - throwing off, running the race, going to it. At 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9, you know, that we discipline ourselves. We don't - we go in the direction - we don't beat the air. So, yeah, I'm afraid there is a - in my mind - a discipline that needs to be birthed in the life of our spiritual life that says, "You can find me with Jesus." But then there needs to be a joy that comes. It needs to be the oxygen, it needs to be the life. And I just love being with Jesus, I actually prefer to pray a lot of the time. And people will then say, "Well, that's an anointing and that's your character." Well, if you get to know me, that's not my character. But I know that the closeness to Jesus is so critical. I can't do ministry without prayer. I can't understand a paradigm of which one could say you could do ministry without prayer. I don't know. A pastor without prayer is a contradiction of terms. It's like saying you can be a Christian without servanthood. So, I don't want it to appear to be legal. I want it to be something that is joyous, glorious relational, that you can't wait to be alone with the Lord. And when you crack your journal open and you start journaling, it's like you're panning for gold. And in the middle of all the gravel of your life, out pops the most beautiful golden nuggets of the Holy Spirit, speaking to you through his Word or through a whisper or through a sense of something, a sideways thought - that prophetic you spoke about, that suddenly comes and you go, "Wow!" And it brings life, it brings energy, it brings real strength to you.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Phil Collins:
So I can't, kind of, give you a get-out-of-prayer card. And I do think Koreans have got it a lot right. I mean, they do have the biggest church in the world in Korea. So I'm like, maybe I need to get up a bit earlier in the dark and pray like Jesus.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's good, Phil. Thank you for sharing that. So, but clearly there are lots of things operative in our own minds. Maybe a legalistic approach would be one way that we get ourselves tripped up and off base with what we're being invited to. What are some of the other things that you refer to? There's a lot of things that our modern world that mitigate against our spending time with God. They just distract us. What are some of those prevailing things that you face in your life? Thoughts? You know, the challenges of pastoral ministry and maybe in the life of your people, too, that you feel are there, tugging them away, robbing us of time with God?

Phil Collins:
Well, gosh, I mean, there's a whole range of cliches that become cliches. There's the phones that we hold, you know. There is the Netflix that we watch. There is the endless driving from one event to another, and one sports event to another, and our pace of life and our way we organize our life and the way that we plan it. Whether it's a digital 'precious', whether it is 'precious' of the appointment-driven life, the workaholic within us, there's so much. And I think we have to create a culture when we say it's okay to create Sabbath and to create space within our life where we push things aside and we allow God to become creative within us.

Phil Collins:
You know, when my little boy, he loves to get all his toys out on the floor, soon as I walk into his bedroom and there's toys everywhere, and he'll say to me - I mean, he's 12 now, so he used to say to me - and the girls do, they say, "Dad, come and play with us." And I say, "Well, there's no room to play with you." And then suddenly they'll stand up and they'll push all their toys to the side and create a big space. And they'll go, "Come now and play with us." And I think sometimes there's no room for God to work, and we wonder why God's not working. And we need to push everything to one side and we need to then come into that space.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. It's a maybe, you know, the Lord is waiting for us to give him the time that he's worthy of. Right? As opposed to just always on-call. And God IS always on-call, which is an amazing grace of God, that he's available and will always condescend - every time he relates to us, it's condescending that he comes to us, you know, he comes our way and puts up with our foibles. But he is worthy of the best that we can offer, is what you're saying, it's making space in our life to prioritize him.

Phil Collins:
I don't know why, as pastors we don't, why we feel we can't schedule our time with God. I mean, yes, the morning. And then in the day, I'll often plan an hour and I'll go, "That's my appointment with Jesus Christ to pry into this particular issue, this particular problem." And I'll plan for this day away for my prayer day. And I think we need to schedule ourselves better. And we need to build in a rhythm of retreat. And we need to be willing to, when we face challenges in our churches, if we actually not only strategically planned to solve the problem, but strategically planned to pray into the problem, we'll see a lot more happening in the life of our churches, I think.

Rob Thiessen:
Something that I've observed, and I really appreciate the challenge that you've given, Phil, and often when you speak, you do that. And I feel challenged myself, saying, "Rob, where is you know, YOUR life, your dependence on God?" And I'm encouraged about that. And one thing that I have found, sometimes, like, pastors want to know, "Well what's being accomplished?" Because we're very productive oriented, you know, "So I'm going invest this time. What's the reward?" So, I spend some time in prayer, maybe a day in prayer, and I have a particular thing I'm praying for and then I'm looking for some results, I'm looking for some action, some answers. And maybe you can speak to this, but sometimes I find that, you know, what I'm expecting is an answer isn't what comes at all. And there is a sense in which a day of prayer with God, even around a goal or an issue that I'm struggling with, it's more about the surrender and actually gaining God's perspective on something, than me coming and getting my agenda, you know, sort of front-and-center before the Lord.

Phil Collins:
Yeah, I think first of all, what we need to realize is that our prayer life is connecting with God, who is the source of all life. And often on these days, it's what God does in us that makes the difference to the life of our ministry and our heart. It's the layers that are peeled away. It's the change. And as we connect to the true source of life, to the true connection with our intimacy with Jesus Christ, something remarkable happens. And it has to happen. We have to die. We start to die. We start to die to our opinions. We start to die to our ego. The scripture calls it flesh. I start to, and instead of me asking the question, "What about me?" I start to ask the question - and you know that question that says, "Who are you?" and the Lord says, "I am who I am." And I think days and time with God gets our perspective back away from ourselves and on to "He is who he is. I am who I am." And so we die in that. And prayer can't be measured in a scientific experiment, although they've tried, prayer and its impact can't be measured in a kind of psychological way, although they've tried. But it changes you because you're willing to take off your mask and all that you are and come to God and say, "Here I am." And it's those times away when we deal with the 'I' in our life - and the middle letter of sin is 'I' - and we deal with the self, we deal with the 'I'. We come and we are before him and, you know, our selfish nature and our sinful nature and our own ego is so powerful in our lives, but it's like a smoke that will disappear. But what doesn't disappear, is the glorious connection with our Lord. And I think it's what's done inside of us, as much as anything, that changes the way that we minister with people and connect with them. And we tear down, on these days away, we tear down those idols and we connect with the Lord. And that's been my experience. I tend to lose myself in prayer. And I learn to die. And I learned to tear down the idols of my own ambition. And I'm a pretty lively, passionate, task-driven person. But I have to die and no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives within me.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Well, that, and Jesus gives us that promise of rest, right? With him. We abide with him. We rest in him. Certainly pastoral burnout, stress, anxiety is a big issue that is affecting, well, it affects all of us, our congregations and pastoral leaders, too. And it seems to me that, you know, when you tell somebody who's burning under stress or struggling with anxiety, "Oh, you should pray more," it maybe can feel like a trite answer to them or more, not really the medecine that they need. And yet, when you back the bus up a little bit, to just the way we live our lives day in and day out, if we WERE spending time with the Lord, offloading our worries and concerns, the idols that are built up in our minds, it would seem kind of obvious that more peace, more rest, more joy would flow in and through our lives. So, I think there's something really profound about pastoral health and self-care that's tied up with prayer.

Phil Collins:
Well, the issue is that it's like Vancouver traffic. When you're in the traffic, you're only seeing what's in front of you, behind you and beside you and you get frustrated with that. And there's reasons for the backups; there might be an accident, it might be roadworks, it could be just the sheer volume. But when you're always sat in the traffic jam of your ministry, you're always seeing what's in front of you and that becomes tiring and frustrating. When you have a rhythm of prayer, it's like you go from that traffic jam and you go above it. I call it, you know, the 'hot air balloon experience' and suddenly you see the traffic jam in its whole and you have a different perspective on what is in front of you. And prayer always gives us a different perspective. And it lifts us above the traffic jam of stress and burnout in front of us and gives us that perspective. We see that in the story of Lazarus; you have that relationship between Mary and Martha and they are struggling, but Jesus comes in with a different perspective that changes everything. And I think it's that different perspective that helps us avoid the burnout. Because we've given ourselves permission to be quiet by the still waters, led by the Shepherd, remaining in Him and abiding. Boy, that's gotta be good for us and help us not to burn out.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. Hey, let's in the remaining couple of minutes that we have, talk to us a little bit about developing a prayer culture in the church, because as much as we're focused on our own lives as pastors and shepherds - and that's super important - there's a lot of joy in gathering to pray together as a community. How has the Lord led you to cultivate per ministry at Willow Park and what are some, you know, some things that you could share with our listeners?

Phil Collins:
Well, the areas that have really worked well - I think first of all, that often what pastors do, they give over the prayer ministry to a prayer leader and their prayer leader runs a prayer meeting and that prayer leader ends up with about six people gathered at some corner of the room praying for the life of the church. I think, number one: you need to tell your congregation that the prayer leader of this church is the senior pastor. I think when the senior pastor becomes the lead pray-er, I think things start to change. I think, number two is: that we need to disciple intentionally our congregation in how they can increase their prayer effectiveness. There's gotta be some way of modeling it and training it. And we've ran, I guess we've put, over these few years, about 700 people through a course in how to hear God's voice, through scripture, through journaling, through listening. And an education is key to build that foundation within our churches. I think, thirdly, whenever we lead prayer meetings as senior pastors, we need to treat those times - we have a monthly prayer meeting, all of our campuses have monthly prayer meetings, and I tell my campus pastors, "This is your opportunity, not just for a prayer meeting, but this is your opportunity to disciple the people that come to these prayer meetings, in how they can go deeper with God." - So when we have prayer meetings as the pastor, we use it as a time to model prayer, to train prayer and to develop prayer. So the prayer meeting's not just a prayer meeting - but the people think it is - it's a training prayer meeting because people don't know how to pray. So we train in that way. So the lead pastor is the lead pray-er. We train and equipped through seminars. We have prayer meetings, which we use as a time to teach prayer as well as to pray. And then we develop, and have developed, teams of intercessors and prayer people in different areas. And I think that's really important to have. The first place, is that the pastor should develop a prayer ministry around himself and his family. So there's a group of people that are praying for you, who you trust, and then that builds for the staff. So you build layer after layer of a prayer connection, prayer activity. One of the best places to start in prayer activity is the time before the service. If you can get in a couple hours before, have an hour and invite people to come and pray with you as a pastor. You will find out who the real keen ones, who are the committed ones, and they become your leadership of the future as well.

Rob Thiessen:
Do you have any sort of written resources or recommended books on the subject of teaching your church to pray, that would be helpful or you'd recommend? I know there's guys like Peter Greig has written stuff out of Britain. Any that you could think of that are go-tos?

Phil Collins:
Well, I think you know, I think what Ray Duerksen is developing in Steinbach. He's got something like 200000 words written in kind of mentoring for pastors and most of it is around building prayer culture in your life and in your church. I mean, that has been impressive in Canada. It's the only prayer meeting I know in Canada that meets monthly with over 1500 people that come out every month,.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's at Southland.

Phil Collins:
Yeah, in the heart of Manitoba. That's impressive. And the prayer mentoring movement that they're developing has been, has affected a lot of pastors in that way. You know, I think there's... I can, you know, give you a list if you've got show notes or different things. But, you know, the Divine Mentor has been used well and...

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, Wayne Cordeiro.

Phil Collins:
Yes. That's a very good entry level start to work with. We've seen that with our students in our school of evangelism and mission - Pursuit School - that's been well received. But I think we have to take lots of models, adopt them and then adapt them and that's always our phrase, "Adopt these ideas, but adapt them to your location and what works really well."

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. You can't just read a chapter in a book and tell everybody, "Hey, do this." So it's implement something, see what fits you and then share it with others.

Phil Collins:
Yeah. And have intentional conversations with other pastors that are running prayer cultures within their churches.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Well Phil, I know you're very open to that, and certainly we could leave our listeners with that option if they would like to contact you over at Willow Park. And I know you're going on this weekend to speak at a men's retreat for one of our churches here in the Lower Mainland. But your passion is to teach about prayer. You've taught your church well to pray and are continuing to teach them. And we're really grateful as a community, for the example you set, the exhortation that you give us. And by God's grace, we want to grow in a deeper and deeper connection with Christ through prayer. So thanks for being our guest today.

Phil Collins:
Thank you, it's been great!

Rob Thiessen:
The whole family here of believers, let's all take to heart what God has been speaking to us by his Spirit today, to spend time daily in his word, to realize it's an essential part of our work, not something added on, but maybe it's the place that our work begins as a time with God. And don't be shy to schedule it into your work day. Take time for a walk with the Lord. Take time to commune with him. So, have a great week and we'll look forward to being with you again on the podcast. Thanks, everyone.

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