Prayer to Deepen Faith

Life in Tension by Stephen W. HiemstraBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God. Cleanse me of this sin, renew your Holy Spirit within me so that I will not sin any further. Bring saints and a faithful church into my life to keep me honest with myself and draw me closer to you. Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the Father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always. In Jesus’ previous name, Amen.


Prayer to Deepen Faith

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Prayer of Faith

Cover, Life in Tension

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God.

Cleanse me of this sin, renew your Holy Spirit within me so that I will not sin any further.

Strengthen my faith. Bring saints and a faithful church into my life to keep me honest with myself and draw me closer to you.

Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations.

May I  freely welcome God, the Father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always.

In Jesus’ previous name, Amen.

Prayer of Faith

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Prayer for Faith of the Newly Baptized

Baptism, Broad Run, Manassas, Virginia
Broad Run, Manassas, Virginia

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gift of faith that we might be baptized.

Thank you that you are willing to enter our lives and recreate us in your image,

in spite of our rebellion and sin.

Thank you that, through your Holy Spirit, we can take a small step of faith

and choose a new path, not knowing where it will lead, but confident that you will be with us.

Thank you for washing away our sins through the blood of the lamb

and that we might die to those sins and be born again in your spirit.

Thank you.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit,

guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ and grow our faith,

that we might inch closer to you with each passing day.


Prayer for Faith of the Newly Baptized

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Prayer to Increase Faith 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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Augustine’s Confessions, Part 3—Coming to Faith

Augustine's ConfessionsAugustine’s Confessions, Part 3—Coming to Faith

Foley, Michael P. [editor] 2006. Augustine Confessions (Orig Pub 397 AD). 2nd Edition. Translated by F. J. Sheed (1942). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (Goto Part 1; Goto Part 2; Goto Part 4)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In part one of this review, I gave an overview of Augustine’s life and Confessions. In part two, I focused on his attitude about sin. Here in part three, I will look at Augustine’s journey of faith.


Augustine comes to faith at the age of thirty-two having struggled with sin, as discussed earlier, and giving up his career as a teacher of rhetoric and his betrothal to a younger woman to be ordained as priest. His conversion to Christianity is remarkable, not only because of the things that he gave up, but also because he actively considered the Manichean philosophy and because of the active influence of his Catholic mother, Monica. The timing of his conversion also coincided with a mystical experience.

Conviction of Sin

Augustine’s struggle with sexual passions caused him great anguish before his conversion and the story of the conversion of Victorinus, a fellow professor of rhetoric in Rome (142) weighed heavily on him. Augustine writes:

“Now when this man of Yours, Simplicianus had told me the story of Victorinus, I was on fire to imitate him: which indeed was why he had told me. He added that in the time of the Emperor Julian, when a law was made prohibiting Christians from teaching Literature and Rhetoric, Victorinus had obeyed the law, preferring to give up his own school of words rather than Your word, by which You make eloquent the tongues of babes.” (147)

These are not the words of a stoic philosopher. Augustine writes like a man in chains to his sin saying:

“Thus I was sick at heart and in torment, accusing myself with new intensity of bitterness, twisting and turning in my chain in the hope that it might be utterly broken, for what held me was so small a thing.” (167).


As Augustine then confessed his sin to God in private, he writes:

“Such things I said, weeping in the most bitter sorrow of my heart. And suddenly I hear a voice from some nearby house, a boy’s voice or a girl’s voice, I do not know, but it was a sort of sing-song, repeated again and again, ‘Take and read, take and read.’” (169)

Augustine borrowed a book of scriptures from his friend, Alypius, and opened it randomly coming to this verse:

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Rom 13:13 ESV)

Convicted immediately of his sexual sin, he took this passage as a word from God to him personally and went to his mother to announce that he was a Christian (160).


He later prays:

“O LORD, I am Thy servant: I am Thy servant and the son of Thy handmaid. Thou hast broken my bonds. I will sacrifice to Thee the sacrifice of praise.” (163)

Having prayed for his conversion his entire life, Augustine’s mother died later that year.


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The Christian Memoir 

Karr Voices Memoir Clearly 

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Prayer to Increase Faith

Oak Tree in Oakton, Virginia

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

I praise you for the gift of another day,

let the newest of the day (Isa 43:1) be expressed in new faith.

I confess that I have to  frequently blocked your access to my heart

in despair, in self-pity, and in cynicism not worthy of your love.

Thank you for not giving up on me (Eze 37).

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

give me instead a stronger, more vibrant faith (2 Cor 4:8-9),

where I am able to make you Lord over increasing parts of my life (Acts 4:36-37)

and drain the despair, self-pity, and cynicism by laying my griefs at your feet (Ps 31:9-14).

In Jesus’ name, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), Amen.

Prayer to Increase Faith

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Kinnaman and Lyon Research Faithful Living, Part 1

Kinnaman and L:yons, Good Faith

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. 2016. Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme.[1] Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 2; goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

During periods of philosophical transition, old verities no longer work and the new ones have yet to be discovered. In the early stage of a transition, the focus remains on the past. The middle stage begins once the obsession with the past subsides, but the future still remains murky. This middle stage holds the most uncertainty, but it also offers the most potential for innovation; that is, until the final stage comes into focus. Because the church currently finds itself in this middle stage, statistically-based research adds great value to the conversation.


David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ new book, Good Faith, starts by posing this question:

“What does the future hold for people of faith when people perceive Christians as irrelevant and extreme?” (12)

The purpose of their book is “to make a case for good faith” (15) which they described as having “three essential ingredients”, which are: “how well you love, what you believe, and how you live” (72).  Kinnaman and Lyons explain these three ingredients in terms of loving God and loving others, remaining biblically orthodox, and living a lifestyle consistent with the two (72-74).

Irrelevant and Extreme

So why do people perceive faith to be irrelevant and extreme?


Kinnaman and Lyons see the perception of irrelevance as a combination of apathy and ignorance (21-22).

Apathy jumps out of some basic statistics. Three out of four Americans have some Christian background, but only two in five Christians actively practice their faith (27). The good news is that the share of Christians who practice their faith has remained relatively stable over the generations (224).The decline in the share of nominal Christians, however, normally dominates the headlines.

Role of the Church in Charity

With little or no social pressure to maintain ties to the church, many American remain ignorant of the role of the church in our culture. For example, many people do not realize that religious groups “make up the largest single share of national charitable giving” (30). When the Obama administration wanted to make progress on prison reform, hunger relief, combating sex-trafficking, and fighting poverty, they called on Christian-led organizations who did the most work in these areas (21). The Christian influence is not understood, in part, because people do not know that many American institutions, including school and universities, hospitals, labor unions, public libraries, voting rights for women and minorities, and endowments for the arts and sciences, began as Christian initiatives (33).

Halo Effect

If you still believe that faith does not matter, consider a secular study done by economists at the University of Pennsylvania which looked at the economic benefit (or “halo effect”) of a dozen houses of worship (ten Protestant churches, one Catholic, and one Jewish) in Philadelphia. The study estimated the economic benefit to be $50 million per year (238). Another study, sponsored by World Vision in 2014, found that people generally believed churches should be involved in public issues like child protection and human rights, but were less tolerant of church involvement in their own spiritual lives (239).


Christian faith appears extreme, not because it is dangerous, but because it is different (22). Pluralistic culture presumably preaches love and individualism, but endless corporate advertising homogenizes perceptions around consumerism and conformity, debasing real love and making a mockery of individual gifts, differences, and preferences.

Kinnaman and Lyons ask a pointed question: “Is it extremism when people live according to what they believe to be true about the world?” (40) Many Americans apparently would answer yes. Kinnaman and Lyons observe:

“While not majority opinions, millions of adults contend that behaviors such as donating money to religious causes, reading the Bible silently in public, and even attending church or volunteering are examples of religious extremism.” (41)

Conversation Difficult

Because many Americans believe that Christian faith is extremist, conversation across the faith divide has become more difficult. A majority of Americans, for example, find it is more difficult to speak with an evangelical (55%) than someone in the LGBT community (52%) (45).

In part 1 of this review, I have provided an overview of the author’s problem statement. In parts  2 and 3 I will look at their suggestions for how to deal with the problem.


In their new book, Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons explore the perceptions that Christian faith is both irrelevant and extreme, employing empirical studies and data to make their case. Their analysis bears examination and discussion by practicing Christians, seminary students, pastors, and researchers.

[1], @BarnaGroup,, @DavidKinnaman,, @GabeLyons

Kinnaman and Lyon Research Faithful Living, Part 1

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Why We Care About Epistemology

Our concern with epistemology is simple: faith is a lifesaver and, when faith is undermined, people suffer.

To see why faith is a lifesaver, let us return to our earlier discussion of the scientific method, when we consider the steps—problem definition, observations, analysis, decision, action, and responsibility bearing—the key step typically is the first one: problem definition. Glenn Johnson (1986), a friend and former professor, used to talk about how researchers would get stuck on a pre-step in problem definition—having a felt need—which does not mature into an actionable, problem definition. A good problem definition requires insight in the problem and creativity that is frequently absent.

Viktor Frankl offers an interesting problem definition in reflecting on faith and the meaning of life. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl shares both his concentration camp experiences during the Holocaust and his observations as a logotherapist (meaning therapist) on the meaning of life. He observes:

“Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to copy with it. The existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as a contention that being has no meaning.” (Frankl 2008, 31)

He defines neurosis as an “excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession”[1] while an existential vacuum (lack of meaning in life) “manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom” which afflicts 25 percent of European students and about 60 percent of American students, according to Frankl’s own statistics. He concludes that meaning comes not from looking inside one’s self, but from transcending one’s self (Frankl 2009, 110,131). In his book, he repeatedly associates this existential vacuum with despair and suicide, based on his experience both as a concentration camp survivor and a professional psychiatrist.

If our culture obsesses about individual freedoms, encourages individuals to look within themselves for meaning, and rejects faith out of hand,[2] then Frankl suggests that we should observe epidemic levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide, as we observe. Lucado (2009, 5) puts it most succinctly: “ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s.” Frankl and Lucado’s observations about the emotional state of a society are hard to quantify in a statistical sense, but the New York Times recently reported that suicide rates in the United States had reached a thirty-year high.[3]

How did we reach this point?

Part of this story is one of a stagnant economy where about half of all Americans have seen no increase in real income since about 1980. Families under economic pressure have increasingly both spouses working full time which implies both smaller families and fewer economic and emotional reserves, especially for those with only a college degree or less. When both spouses work, it is harder to set aside Sundays for family and church, reducing spiritual reserves. When a family crisis emerges for families already stretched to the limit, the absence of reserves—economic, emotional, and spiritual—can be stressful. Remove faith from this mix, the absence of reserves can be devastating.

Faith is more than a spiritual reserve, but it is certainly no less. If faith functions as a reserve, then its removal leaves the family more prone to stress. We accordingly care about maintaining the vitality of our faith at least as much as our economic and emotional vitality. If our faith informs our work ethic and our devotion to marriage, as indeed it does, then the vitality of our faith is actually more important than our economic and emotional vitality because it is more primal. Attacks then on our faith are the most basic threats to our life both here and now, and eternally. So we care about epistemology because our lives depend on maintaining our faith.


Frankl, Viktor E. 2008. Man’s Search for Meaning: A Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust (Orig Pub 1946). Translated by Ilse Lasch. London: Rider.

Lucado, Max. 2009. Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Tavernise, Sabrina. 2016. “U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High” New York Times. April 22. Online:, Accessed: 13 March 2017.


[2] Guinness (2003, 145) describes prevailing attitude when he was a philosophy student during the 1960s as ABC—anything but Christian.

[3] Most surprising, the largest increase among men aged 45-64 (Tavernise 2016).

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A Roadmap of Simple Faith


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The New Testament pictures Jesus as someone who enters our life, calls us into discipleship, and gives us kingdom work to do. In Matthew’s Gospel, for example, Jesus finds Peter and Andrew at work fishing and calls them with these words: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19) As a rabbi, Jesus offers his lifestyle and teaching as a model to follow, but, unlike other rabbis, Jesus seeks out his students and redirects their life in terms of what they are already doing. Their response is remarkable—they drop their nets and follow Jesus (Matt 4:20)—because their simple faith in Jesus amounts to only two things: obedience (responding to Jesus’ invitation) and action (following Jesus). Other than obedience and action, they only know that he is a rabbi (Matt 4:17). Their roadmap was the person of Jesus.

What is Faith?

Knowing only that Jesus was a rabbi and that he invited them to follow him suggests that their faith consisted of taking the risk of enrolling in a class of religious instruction. The content of Jesus’ instruction was not necessarily obvious nor was it obvious that this instruction would provide gainful employment, because Jesus not from the priestly tribe of Levi. Furthermore, Peter and Andrew were already Jews so their faith in Jesus did not constitute an obvious conversion experience. Jesus offered them a study opportunity and they accepted. No strings were attached; no tuition was required; Peter and Andrew just had to accept Jesus’ instruction. The fuller meaning of this instruction only comes later as Jesus’ full identity is revealed because knowing who Jesus is raises the stakes in accepting his instruction.

Why Epistemology?

This model of simple faith—obedience and action—extends also to us, but how do we know? In this age of suspicion and doubt, this question has particular significance because Jesus’ call—“follow me”—comes to us at least second hand. We read an English text translated from Greek which was itself copied by hand for almost two thousand years after the Apostle Matthew wrote it based on the testimony of others, having himself been called later (Matt 9:9), and, then, only after the resurrection made it obvious that these events had eternal significance. The epistemological question—how do we know?—is therefore a reasonable and interesting question worthy of study even in the absence of doubt.

The Four Philosophical Questions

The epistemological question is one of four questions typically posed in philosophy that must be addressed by any serious spirituality. Those questions are:

  • Metaphysics—who is God?
  • Anthropology—who are we?
  • Epistemology—how do we know?
  • Ethics—what do we do about it? (Kreeft 2007, 6)

As an author, my first two books—A Christian Guide to Spirituality and Life in Tension—address the metaphysical question and my third book—Called Along the Way—explores the anthropological question in the first person. In this book, I explore the epistemological question writing not as one with specialized training in philosophy (I have a master’s of divinity and a doctorate in economics) but as one cognizant of the need, both as a Christian and an author interested in Christian spirituality, to have a reasonable answer to the question—how do we know?


In approaching the epistemological question, it is easy to get lost in the weeds. But the young seeker curious about God and a hardened old atheist should take note. It is interesting that Copernicus’ observation that the planets revolved around the sun simplified the mathematics of planetary motion, because the earth was not the true center of the solar system.[1] In the same manner, our lives are simplified when we acknowledge that we are God’s creation, not the creators of our own universe. Simple is good; weeds are bad. As life is short, the need for a proper focus is instrumental to coping with life’s many adversities.[2]

What Does Holy Mean?

The act of knowing brings us closer to a holy God because holy means both sacred and set apart. Thinking sets us apart from the object of our reflection just like God was set apart from his creation, not part of it. Yet, knowledge is also at the heart of sin, as we learn in Genesis 3 when Satan tempts Eve. Scripture praises knowledge when its object is God, but cautions us when it leads to pride.[3] So we should take the attitude of the Apostle Paul vigorously defending the faith and pointing people to God (2 Cor 10:5-6).


In this writing project I propose to look at the epistemological question analytically by breaking it down into a series of questions, including:

  • How do we approach thinking?
  • What does the Bible Say About God?
  • How do we argue God’s existence?
  • What can we say about the criticisms of faith?
  • Why do we care?

This last question may seem out of place in this discussion, but it is, in fact, a critical to our evaluation of faith arguments. Faith is a life and death matter because, as human beings, we strive for meaning and cannot face life without it. When the Apostle Paul repeats an early Christian confession—

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Cor. 15:3-5)

—he starts by describing it as being “of first importance”. Paul is not writing about a philosophical hobby-horse. He is talking about faith as something worth dying for, which he later did. Faith is both our compass and our anchor. And anything worth dying for, is worth living for.

Soli Deo Gloria.


Kreeft, Peter. 2007. The Philosophy of Jesus. South Bend, IN: Saint Augustine Press.

Lotz, Anne Graham. 2000. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Word Publishing.

Polanyi, Michael. 1962. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


[1] Polanyi (1962, 3-5) argues somewhat differently: “This would imply that, of two forms of knowledge, we should consider as more objective that which relies to a greater measure on theory [Copernican theory] rather than on more immediate sensory experience [Ptolemaic system].”

[2] Some stories bear repeating. One story concerned a dinner party where Ruth Graham learned that an older gentleman sitting next to her was the former head of Scotland Yard, the British equivalent of the FBI. Because his responsibilities included dealing with counterfeit money, she remarked that he must have spent a lot of time examining counterfeit bills. “On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spent all of my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I saw a counterfeit, I would immediately detect it.” (Lotz 2000, 3) The punch line here is that the best apologetic for the Gospel is Jesus himself.

[3] Compare, for example, (Prov 1:7; Isa 11:1; 2 Cor 4:6; Phil 1:9) with (1 Cor 8).

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Also see: Incentive to Examine Faith

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Pammel Court, Dog, and Yellow Wax Beans

What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:13 ESV)

Pammel Court

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I ran, ran, ran.
Mom was in the other room and the door was open.
So I ran, ran, ran.

I ran around the buildings—
The corrugated alleys [1] that I had played in many times.
Around and around.

I found an open door and in I ran.
There was a bulletin board in front of the counter.
And pool tables everywhere.
And Mom came to pick me up.


In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
(Ps 22:4 ESV)


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The apartments were a playground—
A guinea pig lived underneath the recreation center that was across the street and down a ways
Behind the recreation center was a baseball field and then a creek with soft black mud which disappeared in a tunnel under the road.

The creek was mysterious.
I remember being tempted there—a friend dared me to step into the water deeper and deeper.
I remember he left pictures of a woman without any clothes—down in the creek.
She must have been really poor…

Among the apartments, not down so far, was a tree that I used to climb.
It wasn’t very tall and I could not climb it very high.
But a mad dog chased me there one day and I climbed that tree.
That dog bit a girl I knew and she had to have stomach shots.


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21 ESV)

Yellow Wax Beans

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I like yellow wax beans.
They are easy to weed
and grow in all kinds of different soil.

Grandma packed them in plastic containers every summer
and put them in the freezer
and we ate them all year.

Apples make good sauce
and peaches require canning.
Chickens require cleaning.

But I always went for the yellow wax beans
when Grandma sent me to the basement to grab something for dinner.

[1] The quonset huts in Pammel court were built during the second world war by the military.

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1. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra


Holy Spirit,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.
Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God.
Cleanse me of this sin, renew your spirit within me so that I will not sin any further.
Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always.
In Jesus’ previous name, Amen.

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