Prayer 9 – Wisdom and direction

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on one’s need to inquire of God, and to pray for wisdom and direction.

Scriptures

James 1:5-8

5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  7  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 4:13-15

13  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– 14  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Observations

Context: James is writing to a poor church that is suffering and scattered because of severe persecution (1:1-2).

  1. Read James 1:5-8 again and note the promises and instructions regarding prayer for wisdom in times of uncertainty:
    1. What is the motive for this prayer? (v5)
    2. Whom should we approach for wisdom? (v5)
    3. What should we do to get wisdom? (v5)
    4. To whom does God give wisdom? (v5)
    5. In what measure does God give wisdom? (v5)
    6. With what attitude does God give wisdom? (v5)
    7. What is the condition for an answer of prayer for wisdom? (v6)
  2. James expressed strong imagery about one who prays without faith:
    1. What does James mean to convey about a man who “is driven like a wave of the sea” if he prays for wisdom without faith? (v6)
    2. Why does James call one who asks for wisdom without faith “double-minded”? (v8)
    3. Why does James call one who asks for wisdom without faith “unstable in all his ways”? (v8)
  3. James 4:13-15 is written in the context of humility (see 4:6-10) in which he quotes from Proverbs 3:34 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
    1. Considering the context of the poor, scattered, suffering church he is writing to, why would he need to write this instruction in 4:13-15?
    2. What sinful attitude is James addressing in 4:13-15?
    3. What does James imply a Christian should do before making plans for the future?

Application and prayer

  1. Present your current life challenges to God: what is difficult or seem impossible?
  2. Pray in faith: remind yourself in prayer to God how big and wise God is by looking at His creation, his miraculous acts in recorded in Scripture, as well as His faithfulness to you in the past.
  3. Petition God for wisdom: Ask God to know His will in this situation – ask Him to speak to you and give you wisdom in this situation. Write down what you think and what you hear.
  4. Present your plans to God: the Proverbs below say to “commit your ways/work to the Lord”. So present you plans or ideas to God and ask Him if he approves.  Listen to God’s Spirit.  (it is always wise to get counsel from wiser Christian leaders and friends before you make an important decision).

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Advertisements

Prayer 8 – Praying as Jesus taught

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on and pray as Jesus taught his followers.

Scripture

Matthew 6:9-13

9  Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

10  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11  Give us this day our daily bread,

12  and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Observations and Prayer

Follow Jesus model prayer and pray in your own words – line by line – as he taught the principles of prayer to his disciples.

  1. Person
    1. Pray to God the Father, with sincerity and confidence, knowing He is your Dad
    2. Start by praising Him for Who He is. Take some time giving thanks and remind yourself how great God is.
  2. Purpose: pray for God’s Kingdom to come, his will to be done.
    1. Start by submitting your will and your day to him – invite Him to reign in every area of your life.
    2. Pray for your family, workplace and neighborhood, and pray for God’s Kingdom of “righteousness, peace and joy” (Romans 14:17) to manifest in it.
  3. Provision
    1. Thanks God for all the blessings he richly gives to you.
    2. Then bring your needs to God with faith and confidence.
  4. Pardon: Ask the Lord “to search me and know me” (Psalm 139:23), to reveal any sin and unforgiveness in your heart.
    1. Confess your sins and shortcomings to the Lord, asking and thanking him for forgiveness.
    2. Forgive those who have wronged you “form your heart” (Matthew 18:35), and bless them.
  5. Protection
    1. Pray God’s protection over you, your family and your city today.
    2. Acknowledge your vulnerability and fallibility to God and ask Him for grace to keep you from giving in to temptation and deception.

PRAYER 7: God’s Protection – Seeking guidance and deliverance through prayer

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on God’s intervention to guide and deliver a person in need.

Scripture

Acts 12:1-11

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads if soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals’; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by die angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and second guard posts, they came to the Iron Gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.

Reflection

  1. Upon reading this text, what would have been the most likely outcome for Peter had the angel NOT rescued him from prison?
  2. What measures did Herod take to insure that Peter does not escape from prison?
  3. Peter’s rescue from the prison was so 100% miraculous. List the things that happened in this account that would account for miracles.
  4. What do you think was the key in preserving Peter’s life vs James that died at the hand of Herod?
  5. Can you think of a view other instances in the Bible where prayer saved lives from death or destruction?

Personal Application & Prayer

  1. Have you heard testimonies of contemporary Christians relating miraculous deliverance and protection? List these instances.
  2. Do you yourself remember a time that God supernaturally guided and protected you from harm? Recall those events.
  3. Do you take this protection from God for granted or do you make a point of asking God regularly to guide and protect you?
  4. Where in your life do you feel you need to start praying for specific guidance and wisdom in order to not fall into the enemies trap?
  5. Is there an area in your life that you still experience fear or dread? Confess it before God and start praying for his deliverance, knowing that it is His will that you be set free from all fear.

PRAYER 6 – God’s Pardon Obtaining: Mercy through prayer

The aim of this devotional study is to discover God’s heart and our responsibility concerning mercy for ourselves and other people.

Scripture

Ezekiel 22:30-31

30 “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me of behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their heads,” say the Lord God.

Observations & Reflection

Israel have once again walked away from God and the people oppressed each other, committed robbery, mistreated the poor etc. (see Ezekiel 22: 23-29 for a list of their wrongdoings)

  1. What two parts of God’s character are illustrated through this portion of scripture?
  2. Why did God punish them in the end?
  3. How does that make you feel?

Personal Application & Prayer

  1. When you read this Text, which individual, family, group (such as a school, community) comes to mind? Try to articulate what the person / group’s vulnerability is, and why.
  2. Now pray for this person and community. Don’t just “list the request” but sincerely pray as the Spirit guides you.  Appeal to God’s mercy.
  3. Make some reminder/ marker (such as a bookmark in your Bible/ sticky card on mirror/ calendar reminder on your phone) and pray for this person/ community daily for the next week (or until the Lord releases this burden).

Thanks to Ester Venter for this devotional series on prayer.

PRAYER 5 – God’s Pardon: Obtaining Mercy through prayer

The aim of this devotional study is to discover God’s heart and our responsibility concerning mercy for ourselves and other people.

Scripture

Genesis 18: 20-33

20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether  according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not I will know. 22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.

23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there where fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 suppose there were five less than fifty righteous; would You destroy all the city for lack of five? “ So He said, “If I find there forty five I will not destroy it.” 29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “suppose there should be forty there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.” 30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: suppose twenty should be found here?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more. Suppose ten should be found here?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for ten.”

33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

Observation & Reflection

A righteous just Judge could not have left the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stand. Various scriptures confirm their wicked conduct and moral depravity, yet God was willing to spare the city on the terms that Abraham interceded for.

  1. How many times did Abraham appeal to the Lord?
  2. What does Abraham’s boldness in approaching ‘the Judge of all the earth’ (v25) on behalf of sinners reveal to you about a) Abraham, b) God and c) their relationship.
  3. Why did God NOT spare Sodom and Gomorrah in the end? (You can read the rest of the story in the following chapters)

Personal Application & Prayer

Can you think about an organization, system or person/s that you sometimes wish would just cease to exist or perish or at the very least get a righteous punishment for their deeds.

  1. If you see God’s willingness to spare Sodom and Gomorrah in spite of their wickedness how does that make you feel as a) a fellow Christian called to intercede for others and b) as a human being who makes mistakes.
  2. Praise God for his heart that is willing and ready to extend mercy. Think of someone who is in need of God’s merciful intervention – stand before God and plead their cause.

Thanks to Ester Venter for this devotional series on prayer!

PRAYER 4 – God’s provision: The necessity of Prayer

The aim of this devotional study is to encourage you ask for God’s provision in order for His purpose to manifest in your life.

Scripture 

Luke 11:9-13

9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks receive, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks you for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  OF if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Observations & Reflections

Note how Jesus encourages prayer by reminding us of the nature of the One whom we are praying. The person of God is indeed the foundation of prayer. Note also how Jesus uses what is familiar to us – earthly fathers and children – to point us toward a revelation of who God is.

  1. What are the things that the children ask their fathers in this passage?
  2. What does He promise that our heavenly Father will give those who ask Him?
  3. How do the words “How much more” reassure us concerning our daily spiritual AND physical needs?
  4. Jesus instructs us to ask AND seek AND knock in order to receive. What does this imply about our prayer life?

Personal Application

  1. How often do you pray for or thank God for daily provision?
  2. Have you ever trusted God for specific provision – physically or spiritually? What happened?
  3. Is there something you believe God wants you to do but you do not have the resources to do it?
    1. Take some time and ask God to ‘feed where He leads’. Ask Him to provide for you in that specific area.
    2. Ask and wait on God for guidance concerning this in the next two weeks. Ask Him to make you sensitive to the opportunities He might be sending your way.

Thanks again to Ester Venter for this series of devotional studies on Prayer.

Prayer 3 – God’s purpose: Prayer’s desire

The aim of this devotional study is to discover and/remember God’s promise for your life.

S

Scripture

1 Kings 18:1-2, 41-45

 

1 And it came to pass after many days that the Word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”  2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria.

(For the purpose of this devotional we now skip to verse 41 BUT if time permits do read the verses in between too. Not only do the account of Elijah and the Baal prophets make for wonderful entertainment but it serves as another example of someone praying to have God’s purpose met.)

41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of mount Carmel; then he bowed on the ground and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now and look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 Then it came to pass the seventh time that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’”  45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel.

 Observations & Context

 Ahab was the 7th and worst king Israel had. His marriage to Jezebel, a zealous Baal worshipper, led to the official endorsement of this immoral and idolatrous worship. Three years prior to this account Elijah told Ahab that there would be a drought until further notice. When the drought came Ahab blamed Elijah for the trouble and searched for him fervently.

This piece of scripture clearly shows us how God desires that His plans and purposes be prayed into being.

 Reflections

  1. God sends Elijah to Ahab, a potentially dangerous mission. Why was Elijah not afraid to go?
  2. Elijah had a promise of rain from God, yet he prayed for its fulfillment. What does that teach us about God’s promises for us?
  3. What posture of prayer did Elijah take up throughout his intercession? What prayer posture do you take up when you pray?
  4. Elijah prayed for rain because of God’s promise and yet six times the report from his servant was negative. What does that teach us about praying?
  5. Elijah announces the answer to his prayer even before he started praying.  What did it take from him to do that?  (Hint: James 5: 15-18)

Personal Application

  1. The promises of God come to us through His written word or through personal revelation through the Holy Spirit, such as prophesy or dreams.  Take some time to think back upon promises you have received from God.  Write these promises down again.
  2. Which of these have come into fulfillment? Praise God for His faithfulness to perform His purpose in your life.
  3. Which of these promises are you still waiting to see fulfilled. Have you lost faith in them ever being realized? How often do you pray about these promises?
  4. Repent of not believing God’s word for you and ask Him to restore your faith. Then start to pray fervently for God’s purpose in your life to be fulfilled. [Commit to do this for a season, as Elijah prayed seven times until the rains came].

[Thanks to Ester Venter for this devotional study, part of her series on Prayer].

Prayer 2 – God’s Person as Prayer’s Foundation

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the Person of God as a foundation for all faith filled effective prayer.

Text

Psalm 145: 1-21

  1. I will extol You, O God, My King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
  2. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
  3. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.
  4. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.
  5. I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.
  6. Men shall speak on the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness.
  7. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness.
  8. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.
  9. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.
  10. All your works shall praise You, O Lord, and your saints shall bless You.
  11. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power,
  12. To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His Kingdom
  13. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
  14. The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.
  15. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season.
  16. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
  17. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.
  18. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth.
  19. He will fulfil the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.
  20. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.
  21. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh shall bless His holy name forever and ever.

Observations and Reflections

David communicates with God in this Psalm about His greatness in various ways. Notice how he stresses the fact that prayer and praise is a deliberate and ongoing action, something to be done with your voice primarily!

  1. List the things that the author does or promises to do concerning God. [hint verses 1,2,4,5,6,7,10,11,12,21]
  2. List the things that the author contributes to God. (Take one verse at a time. For example: Verse 1 God is King, Verse 3, God is great etc.)

Personal reflection & Prayer

  1. Consider your own praise life.
    1. Direct Praise: When and how do spend time actively praising God for who He is?
    2. Indirect Praise: When and how do you purposely tell other people about what He does for you and for others?
  2. If you set your heart and mind to do this daily, how do you think it will affect your prayer life?
  3. Read this Psalm 145 as a personalized prayer of praise to God.  Take you time and insert personal examples from your own life.
  4. Choose two other Psalms that you can do this with during the rest of the week to get you started. [Consider Psalm 92, Psalm 103, Psalm 144, etc]

Prayer 1 – Jesus’ Instructions

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on Jesus’ instructions regarding the discipline of prayer in the life of the believer.

Text

Matthew 6:5-15

5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 “ But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father, who sees in the secret place will reward you openly.

7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray:  Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.10 Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Observations and Reflections

Note: Jesus’ teaching on prayer does not condemn public prayer (v 6) nor does “vain repetitions” (v 7) refer to repeating requests when praying.  Instead He teaches, by way of contrast, focussed prayer which acknowledges God’s needed reign in every area of our lives.

  1. Jesus uses the words “when you pray” (v 6, 7) and “pray therefore” (v 9) instead of “if you pray”. What does His use of words imply?
  2. What instructions does Jesus give concerning time, space, method and content of prayer? Try to put each of these instructions in one or two words.
  3. Why do you think Jesus values prayer in the ‘secret place’ specifically vs prayer that attracts attention?

Personal reflection & Prayer

  1. Consider your own prayer life:
  • How often do you talk to God?
  • Do you have a special place or time set aside for prayer?
  1. Consider Jesus’ promise of reward for disciplined prayer:
  • Ask God to show you how and where He wants you to create a ‘secret place’ where the two of you can communicate without distractions.

Share you intent and plan with your accountability friend or some trusted mature Christian and ask him/ her to help you cultivate a place of private prayer by keeping you accountable.

Acknowledgement: This devotional series on prayer was developed and complied by Ester Venter.