Persistence in prayer (Prayer day 24)

If I don’t get what I pray, does it mean God says “no!”? Or does it mean I pray wrong, have no faith or have sin in my life? Or is God not pleased with me?

Scripture

Luke 18:1-8

1  And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2  He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'”

6  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Observations and reflections

Context: In the first century, widows had no legal status or political power.

  1. What is the main point of this parable? (verses 1 and 8)
  2. How is God (a) different from the judge and (b) like the judge in this parable?
  3. What do we learn the widow about our prayers?
  4. What do you think is the meaning of verse 8? How will Jesus “the Son of Man” find faith?

Personal reflection and Application

We live in an instant world where you get what you want by clicking a button, swiping a card or making a phone call. Yet God does not seem to respond to our requests immediately.  Should I pray for something more than once? Jesus said yes! We should persist in our prayers, knowing that God hears and will answer.

  1. Few things challenge our faith like unanswered prayers. Think for a while of things that you have given up on praying for.  Tell God about these things, and how you feel about it.  (you can use the emotion-wheel again to help express yourself)emotion_wheel1
  2. Take some time and recall some answered prayers you know of in the Bible (Abraham’s son Isaac, Hanna’s son, Elijah’s prayer for rain, Moses’s Red Sea, manna, water in dessert, …). Talk to God about these answered prayers.
  3. Take some time and recall personal answered prayers in your life, family life or a friend’s life. (Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you). Talk to God about what he did and how you felt.
  4. Pick one of your unanswered prayers and passionately pray about it to God, asking Him to stir your faith.  Pray with thanks for what the Lord had done and with confidence that he hears you always.
  5. How will you remember to keep on praying about this? Who else knows about this need?
  6. dear_God_spring

 

 

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Prayer for breakthrough (Prayer day 23)

Resigning to all circumstances as though God wills us to live like this forever leads to passivity and indifference – the opposite of faith, hope and love. In contrast, the Bible is filled with prayers that lead to breakthrough.

Scripture

Daniel 9:1-23 – Daniel’s prayer for Israel’s restoration

2  In the first year of [Darius’] reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would complete seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

3  Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4  And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5  we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments… 8  O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him…

18  O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.

21  …While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22  And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. 23  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision…”

Observations and reflections

Context: Daniel had been exiled and enslaved along with the Jews for 70 years by the time of this prayer. In reading Jeremiah’s scroll he saw that God foretold their restoration was due, and determined to humbly pray for deliverance from slavery.

  1. What was the basis for Daniel’s determined time of prayer and fasting? (verse 2)
  2. What was Daniel’s attitude while praying? (verses 3-4a)
  3. With what does Daniel’s prayer start? (verse 4b)
  4. What does he pray next? (verses 5-9)
  5. What does Gabriel’s answer suggest about the duration of Daniel’s prayer? (verse 23)
  6. Why is Daniel so confident in his prayer? (two things: verse 2 and verses 9,18)

Personal reflection and Application

As a youth, Daniel and his friends were exiled and enslaved.  For 70 years, they endured and served two empires, but never stopped praying and waiting for God’s restoration of Judah. The prayer above lead to the miraculous return and restoration of God’s chosen nation.

Let’s pray according to this breakthrough-prayer of Daniel.  Which situation in your life, community or country do you yearn most for God’s breakthrough?

  1. WORD: Can you recall God speaking to you about this situation in Scripture or otherwise? If yes, remind God; if not ask God and listen/ read the Word.
  2. PRAISE: Thank and praise God for who he is and what he had done. (feel the faith stirring!)
  3. CONFESS: If the Spirit of God convicts you, or if your sins are pressing on your conscience, confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness – receive the gift of grace!
  4. DETERMINATION: Like yesterday, allow your heart and mind to stir with passion, and pray fervently. Clearly state what you desire from God (Consider fasting).
  5. CONTINUE: Persist in prayer – pray about this every day!  Are you serious about receiving this breakthrough? Hold on to God’s promise and person – he is willing and able!
  6. Tell a friend about this need for breakthrough; even invite him or her to pray with you regularly about this!

 

Leadership requires a leader

The world is always looking for methods. God is always looking for a person.

As you prepare for todays devotional, this short video will help sketch a wider contemporary context to bring the truth of the Biblical example a bit closer to home (https://youtu.be/RybILYQ7DUo).

Scripture

1 Timothy 4:12-16

12  Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.  14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  15  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  16  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Observation and reflection questions

Context: Paul left young Timothy to oversee a large church in Ephesus.  Apparently he felt out of depth and intimidated by his youth and his big task.  In this section Paul again instructs Timothy how to reaffirm his leadership over this big church.

  1. Read through the text again and phrase-by-phrase suggest synonyms for the character qualities that Paul exhorts Timothy to develop. In other words find one word that describes a person who does these things.
    1. “let no one despise you” (v12a)
    2. “example in speech, conduct, love, faith, purity” (v12b)
    3. “until I come devote yourself to…” (v13)
    4. “Do not neglect the gift you have…” (v14)
    5. “practice these things” (v15)
    6. “keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching” (v16)
    7. “persist in this” (v16)
  2. Paul calls Timothy to be an example to the church in Ephesus (v12). What do you understand with his instructions
    1. “be an example in speech”
    2. “be an example in conduct”
    3. “be an example in love”
    4. “be an example in faith”
    5. “be an example in purity”
  3. Notice how Paul’s instruction to Timothy starts with conviction in his heart, then his personal devotional life, then his public example, and then his leadership responsibility and influence. What does this suggest about the way to developing a godly character?

Personal relfection and application

Young Timothy was intimidated to lead such a big church in Ephesus, but Paul did not suggest methods to handle this big congregation. Rather, he challenged him to find confidence from conviction, to be an example in godliness, and remain faithful in devotion and duty.  Paul’s answer to unsure leadership was character growth – after all, Timothy’s conduct is what will be emulated.

  1. How would you describe your character in 5 words? (Think of how people close to you would describe you.)
  2. When you consider your public reputation vs your true character – in which areas are there discrepancies? What aspects of your character will cause shame if being exposed publically? Write down one or two aspects.
    1. Talk to a mature Christian friend about these discrepancies; confess it all to him/her and pray together about your character.
  3. Look at Paul’s instruction to the young leader Timothy. How have you grown and how could you still grow in:
    1. Confidence through conviction.
    2. Example in godliness (“in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”)
    3. Devotion, faithfulness and persistence.

Prayer

Pray about your example as a leader – your real character.   Thank God for the growth that you have enjoyed until now, and pray that God will help you grow Christlikeness.

 

 

Healing the Brokenhearted 9 – Your attitude towards healing

The aim of this devotional study is to consider one’s attitude and persistence in search of healing in Christ.

Scripture

2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-14

1  Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.  2  And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.  3  Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”…

9  Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10  And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”  11  But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’  12  Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.

13  And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  14  So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Observation

  1. What do you learn about Naaman from this portion of Scripture? [hint: read through the text and record everything it reveals about Naaman’s position and problem, character and attitude.]
  2. Explain the lesson behind the following ironies in the Text regarding Namaan’s healing:
    1. Naaman’s success and his problem
    2. The wisdom of Namaan and his slaves
    3. The mighty clean, Syrian rivers and Jordan River
    4. What Namaan expected of the prophet and the simple path to (cure for) his healing
  3. What are the major lessons of healing in this historic account then? [look carefully at verses 10 and 13]

Personal reflection and Application

  1. Consider your own life in the light of Namaan’s success and problem:
    1. What personal problem do you have that, in spite of your worldly achievements, you could not solve? What is your “leprosy” that might ultimately cause shame and isolation if it is not healed?
    2. Whom will you seek for guidance to find healing from God? Make that appointment now.
    3. Do you know what the simple steps of obedience is?
    4. Have you started with the process and stopped at some point? (dip yourself “seven times!”
    5. Pray to God for fullness of health – don’t give up with this process until you are fully healed!
  2. Consider your own life in the light of Namaan’s slave girl:
    1. Whom do you know closely that has a (shameful or private) problem so big it could destroy them?
    2. Pray and ask God for a gap to share a testimony, to point this person towards Christ for healing. Where can you refer them?

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.

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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].