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The Day a Mentally Disabled Woman Taught Me How to Pray

The Day a Mentally Disabled Woman Taught Me How to Pray

The Bible says in Romans 8:26-27 that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Sometimes you preach sermons. Sometimes you watch them. I’m not here to split theological hairs over the interpretations and applications of Romans 8:26-27, I just want to share with you what I saw and heard last Sunday.  

After our late service two ladies approached me with some urgency and excitement about a conversation they didn’t know how to handle. One of the ladies, Julie, had brought with her two adults, a male and a female, who have mental handicaps and are under the care and supervision of one of her family members. Julie explained the situation.

The lady of the two was physically in her fifties, but mentally still a child. Sadly, Julie also shared with me that the lady's body is eaten up with cancer, but she cannot comprehend her diagnosis. 

At the end of the service this lady looked at Julie and said, “I want to be baptized.”

“Brian, I don’t know what to tell her.”  After Julie had explained to me the situation in full, I was thinking, “Julie, I don’t know what to tell her either” but I said, “Let me talk with her.”

How do you explain salvation to someone who doesn’t even comprehend that they have cancer?  How do you help a person understand the importance of baptism when they have are incapable of making any decision for themselves?

So I sat down.  Not sure of her and not sure of myself, but certain of God’s Word.  And so I began to read: John 3:16, then Romans 3:10, 5:8 and so on.  I wasn’t sure she could read, but the more I read, the more she looked on as if she were reading along with me.

She answered every question I asked her.  She responded to each turn of my presentation.  I explained to her the reason we are baptized is that we decide to repent of sin and receive Christ as our Savior.  I explained the incredible image of death being brought to life that we demonstrate in Baptism.  No problem there, I’ve done it countless times.

It was the next part that was a struggle for me.  Typically I encourage a person to pray on their own. I do not lead a person in prayer for fear that they would only repeat my words thinking them as a magic potion from a preacher necessary for salvation.  This is where Baptists can split hairs and I have split a head full of them.  It is ironic that we Baptists want to make sure everyone knows God saves but we trip all over ourselves trying to explain how the Almighty does it.  We claim God is sovereign, but we want to make sure that we don’t mess it up.  Go figure.

So there I am, once again, figuring out for God how “we” are going to do this.  In this special case, I decided that I would lead her in prayer.  So, I explained to her what that meant.  

“I will say a few words, and then you say them with your mouth, but mean them with your heart.”  

“I’ll try,” she said.

What I meant was, say what I say AFTER I say it.  What she thought I meant was, say what I say WHEN I say it.  What she said she would “try” was an intellectual impossibility of which she was especially grossly incapable. 

And then the Spirit interceded.

I said, “Dear God.”  She said, “Dear God” at the exact moment as I.  Coincidental, not impossible.  Not surprising that anyone would guess that you start out a prayer, “Dear God.”  

But there was no way she could have known the sentences that I would use next, but with each thing I said, she would pick up about midway through the second word and say verbatim what I was saying at the exact time I said it.  

“I know that I have done wrong. . .”

  “I know that I have done wrong. . .”

“and the Bible calls that sin.”

         “the Bible calls that sin.”

If I prayed 100 words, she might have missed five of them, but only in delay.  If there were 100 words, she prayed 95 of them AS they came out of my mouth, not AFTER.

This Sunday we are scheduled to baptize her.  I am tempted to let her baptize me! 

Jesus said that we turn and become like children that we would never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).  In sitting before a mentally challenged woman and trying to figure out what God “could and would” do for her, I received a three-fold lecture on what it means to be saved, what it means to pray, and what it means that the Spirit intercedes for us.  I was “knowledgeable, studied, prepared.”  She was yielded, willing, trusting, and child-like.

I set out to lead her.  Through her, the Spirit of God, lead me.  

How many of my prayers are spiritually handicapped but helped by the Spirit of God?  How many times have I prayed the words of a preacher, a pastor, a seminary graduate that lacked anything of substance that would move the kingdom of heaven?  I wonder how much of what I have prayed has covered up what I am and missed by miles what I need?  The good news is, despite the ignorance of my heart and what may have come out of my mouth, the Spirit said what needed to be said.  

Sometimes you preach sermons.  Sometimes you watch them.  He knows what I need according to the will of God.

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Don't Give Up On Your Job

Don't Give Up On Your Job

Most people are dissatisfied with their jobs.  A lot of men get so discouraged that they go from job to job looking for the perfect place to work.  Some men may eventually give up on work all together.  In this 90 Second Sermon learn why work is so hard and how you can make a difference instead of looking for something different.



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Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Marriage is hard. Most people start out in romance and end up with wrestling.  There is a reason marriage contains so much tension and the Bible explains it.  In this 90 Second Sermon learn why marriage is hard and why you should not give up on it. 



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4 Things Men are Prone to Give Up On, #1 Himself

4 Things Men are Prone to Give Up On, #1 Himself

A man can easily get discouraged with life and give up on himself.  Feelings of inferiority and a loss of significance become defeating.  He eventually feels as if he is not good enough for anyone and not good at anything.  


God gave Adam significance when he was created and restored his significance after his biggest mistake.  When we seek significance outside of what God gives, it turns to dust.  Watch this 90 second sermon and don't give up on yourself.  



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5 Questions to Keep you From Making a Big Mistake

5 Questions to Keep you From Making a Big Mistake

In 1 Samuel 24 David has an opportunity to take Saul’s life and bring an end to a long, dangerous, abusive episode.  But instead David decides to cut only the corner of his robe.

Small decisions can lead to big mistakes.  David explains the ‘why’ of what he did by saying, “I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.”  As much rage, anger, and frustration as there must have been in David in that moment, he made a clear headed decision that kept him from committing a personally damaging sin.

Our bodies are full of feelings, our mind filled with fantasy, our ears are filled with condoning voices, our eyes are filled with gratification, our lives are full of passion; all of which make us easy prey for temptation.  But we are not animals, we are living souls that are capable of self-control. If you can question yourself, you can control yourself.  Here are five questions to ask before you make a small decision that may lead to a big mistake.


  1.  Will I hurt or embarrass my family?

In the moment what you feel or think to be harmless may be extremely shameful to your family.  It may be gratifying to you, but it is embarrassing to them.  Sin is never an act of self, it always impacts others.  Think of them before you do for you!

Take it a step further.  In your mind you may be able to justify what you are about to do, but ask this question before you lose control, can I tell my family what I’m about to do?  Before you visit that website, can you tell you wife without it bringing harm to your relationship - probably not.  Before you give yourself to that conversation with that guy, clear it with your husband - no chance.  Before you go to that party - ask your parents!  If you have to hide it, it is harmful!  Good questions help you get control. 

2)  Will I fuel slander and gossip?

There are plenty of people who feed on failure.  Starve them!  For the Christian, the stakes are even higher.  We know the battles that rage within us.  We know we are not perfect.  We know about the struggles, but we are also well aware of the standard - Christ!  Will your decision give people something to talk about that would diminish the glory of Christ?  Would it hurt the witness of your church?  Does it give people more reason to turn away from the gospel?  Be careful before you lose control.

Let’s give them something to think about rather than something to talk about.

3)  What will I have to give up if I get caught?

When David made the decision to spare Saul’s life he did so because he knew what he would gain in the ‘now’ would cost him most ‘later.’  He could have ended Saul’s life and become the king he was anointed to be, but he could have also incited civil war.  This was a way to become the king, but this was not the right way to become the king. 

Temptation promises pleasure now, but it blinds you to the coming chapter of the consequence.  The immediate gain is not worth what you really stand to lose.  It’s not about what you get, but about what you give up.    

4)  What is the clear Biblical teaching?

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand that bother me.”  The Bible is more easily understood that we desire for it to be.  Most of the problem we have with the Bible comes down to the fact that we don’t want to do what it says.  

Because the Bible is God’s inspired word, disobeying the Bible is disobeying God.  Temptation would lead us to exile the Bible from our minds and hearts and to place it back on the shelf of forgetfulness.  The Bible gives clear, simple guidance about the goals of Christ-likeness in all things that it draws clear boundaries of morality for those who would dare to love God and live for Him.  

5)  Can I get permission rather than forgiveness?

It is a humorous quip, “I had rather get forgiveness than permission” but it is a massive mistake.  We would presume that God gives forgiveness for anything, at anytime, to anyone.  That is a mistaken assumption.  The Bible is very clear that you are playing with fire when you commit presumptuous sin.  Presuming on God’s grace is deadly ground.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26–31 (ESV)

Many call that a hard saying of the Bible.  It may be hard to fully explain, but I think it is very easy to understand.  I may not be able to offer you a satisfactory explanation of every nuance of it, but the big picture is plain to see - don’t mess with God’s grace.  I can summarize it like this, don’t go there - it’s bad!

So before you lose control, why not reverse confession?  Confess to God what you are going to do rather than confess to God what you did.  What do I mean?

Many people make a mistake in confession.  They simply say something like, “God forgive me of all my sin.”  That is a statement, that is not a confession.  A confession is an explanation of what one has done.  The essence of the word confession is agreement.  You agree with the authority that what you did was wrong.  

Confession is an ugly conversation with God.  You are naming your sin before holiness.  In true confession sin has a name - fornication, adultery, gluttony, perversion, violence, envy, jealousy, slander, rebellion.  

So before you do what you are about to do, go before a holy God and see how it sounds.  Tell Him what the temptation promises and what is in your heart that entices you to disobey him. That is indeed a sobering moment that may just save you from a tragic mistake.  It is worth the pause to get control!



What are the questions you ask yourself that help you make decisions?  How do you establish accountability and control in your life?  Leave a comment, I want to hear from you.

This content was taken from the later part of a sermon I preached entitled Personal Fouls.  Watch it here:

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