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Author Archives: Kelli Sallman

About Kelli Sallman

Wife, mom, and bibliophile (not always in that order), Kelli studies the intersection of art, culture, and theology. With a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary (2010) and current pursuit of a PhD in Humanities at UT Dallas, Kelli regularly pirouettes between studying, teaching, writing, and editing, as well as serving on women's ministry leadership team at her church. Her home also keeps her hopping as she attempts to keep pace with her brilliant husband, three children, some fish, a dog, and a frog.

Chapter 26: Knowing When to Keep Praying

Isaiah 62:6–7: “You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest.”

Main Idea

When should we stop praying and accept God’s answer as “No”? Thrasher contends that “our sovereign God has purposed to sometimes require persevering prayer as the means to accomplish His will” (189–90). This chapter helps us know how to navigate this sort of prayer.

Chapter Summary

Whether the circumstances are George Meuller praying fifty years for the salvation of two men or a Canaanite lady begging Jesus for mercy on her demon-possessed daughter, sometimes God seems to ignore our prayers.  But rather than assuming that God’s seemingly “uncharitable” responses—or lack of response—mean “no,” God’s people need to recognize when God calls us to persevere in our asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7–11).

According to Thrasher, God might delay his response to a request

  • To purify our desires.
  • To prepare us for His answer.
  • To develop our life and character.
  • To be used of God in spiritual warfare.
  • To bless us with a more intimate relationship with God (190–191).

But how can we know when to persist?

We can have confidence to persist in prayer when we discern the Spirit’s prompting us to pray, when we set our hearts on God and His will more than ours, when we are praying the promises of Scripture, and when we are willing to submit to God’s timing.

My Story

One of my children consistently struggles with patience. (Don’t we all!)  Like his father, this child likes to work out and develop a strong body. So we have explained to him that patience takes the same effort as building muscles: work, weariness, and waiting. And like our physical muscles, the more we use our patience muscle, the easier such activity becomes.

I have to admit that while I have grown accustomed to engaging my patience muscle, the fibers of my perseverance-through-prayer flexors have grown slack. I look back to many a prayer begun in earnest and with a passion for God’s will and realize that it has been years since I repeated my requests—not because God has said “no” but because of weariness and jadedness and distraction.

If I were hungry, I imagine I would keep seeking food until I found it or died trying. By comparison, my lack of perseverance in prayer indicates a lack of hunger for God’s will being done on earth. Ouch! I would not have described myself as being indifferent to the divine will, but my prayer life reveals my true self-centeredness and faithlessness.

How I wish to be more like the psalmist or the Canaanite woman. Both looked beyond their circumstances and rejection and clung to the grace and mercy they knew they would find in God. They both had a vision for God’s greater mission.

History has shown that humans have a longing to belong in a story greater than themselves and their own meager existences. Persistent prayer is the porthole to the greatest story that ever has been or will be told. Thank you, Mr. Thrasher, for reminding me to step through it.

Discussion

How strong is your persistence muscle? Do you remind God of His promises and pray repeatedly for his will in particular situations? Sometimes our requests need refinement, but the only way we will understand this is if we bring our requests repeatedly before the Lord with a humble and submissive heart. Does your request line up with what He has promised and taught through Scripture? If you do not know, ask God for wisdom and study his Word for the answer. James 1:5–6 promises that God will give wisdom to those who seek it through faith.

Challenge

Think about a time when you have prayed that God would fulfill a promise in a very specific way–maybe that he would bring a friend or relative into his kingdom, or that he would relieve the suffering of one of his servants, or that he would glorify himself through a particular situation. Make yourself a reminder on your phone or computer or calendar to pray for this specific request at least once a week. Then be on the lookout for how God will work in you as you pray.

 

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Chapter Sixteen: Understanding Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer

Mark 1:35: “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

Main Idea

For Christ-followers, prayer is both gift and obligation. How can we pray better in light of these simultaneous, contradictory motivations? When we look at how Scripture records Jesus’ prayer pattern, we see that he prayed 1) before important events and decisions, 2) after significant achievements, 3) during unusual busyness, and 4) whenever needs overwhelmed. In other words, his words and actions were merely the needlepoint design threaded through the warp and woof of his prayer life. Prayer provided the sturdy canvas for everything else and allowed the world to see clearly the design he intended. His faithful communication with the Father bestowed confidence in decisions and actions, ongoing fruit from achievements, strength and guidance for navigating circumstances, and provision for demands beyond human ability.

My Story

Thrasher writes, “No one ever just decides to be a man or woman of prayer. God awakens people through their sense of needs” (117). How true I find that statement. We habitually rely on our own or others’ human resources until we recognize a deficiency—and some of us (me) regularly take longer than others to reach this point. As I read this chapter, God gently prodded me to fall on my knees.

Facing relocation to Kansas in coming months along with shoulder surgery and my standard motherhood and PhD work, I am experiencing a time of decisions, achievements, busyness, and needs. How I wish my prayer discipline matched my desire for God’s resources! I find myself wallowing in emotional fogs and mud pits of self-pity. This behavior might suit a hoary porker headed for the slaughterhouse, but not a child of the King. Not a child whose father has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5 NIV), “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28–29 NAS95), and “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34).

As Peter preached, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26–27 NIV, my emphasis).

Am I overwhelmed by tasks? Pray for priorities and stamina. Am I anxious about finding a house? Pray for God to prepare a place for us where he can use us to his glory. Am I peevish about what I must release from my tight fist? Pray that God will remind me of his purpose and that he directs my steps. Pray that I will seek my father. For I know if I will seek, I will find.

God commands me to pray so that I will know he superintends the outcome, not me. In the process, I receive his assurance, his mercy, his perspective, and his power.

Discussion

Do the threads sewn each day by your words and actions create a clear picture of the God of the universe working on your behalf? If not, perhaps your foundation fabric needs strengthening and straightening. Do you pray before decisions, after achievements, during times of busyness, and whenever you see a need? This prayer discipline prevents broken or skewed threads that result from gaps in the warp or uneven tension in the woof. It recognizes that “‘in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28a).

Challenge

Thrasher recommends that we “write down the four patterns of prayer in Jesus’ life, and ask the Lord what application and guidance it gives.” Have you done this yet? In what times do you avoid seeking the Lord? Seek his face and receive the gift.

Psalm 10:17: “O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear” (NAS95).

 
 

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Chapter 11: Learning George Mueller’s Secret

Joshua 1:8 “This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. then you will prosper and be successful. (NET Bible)

Main Idea

George Mueller lived an adulthood dedicated to the preeminent priority of prayer. His dedication to this necessary discipline enabled him to pastor, evangelize, and care for orphans in a way that showed the world a God who answers his children. And the secret to Mueller’s prayer life was his “devotion and delight in God’s Word” (79).

My Story

In my early adult years, I found myself often crying out to God in prayer. I wanted to know his will with certainty. Should I go to this school? Should I marry this man? Should we buy this house? How even should I pray? Did I have the right questions? The right focus? I prayed and prayed for answers and certainty, but failed to find them. Eventually I realized this principle that Thrasher mentions in our current chapter: praying from Scripture. So I prayed, “Lord, show me in Scripture your answer to my concerns.” Then, opening my Bible to passages that I thought might apply, I expected God’s answer to leap off the page. It did not.

What had I missed about this praying-from-Scripture principle? Over time, my ears began to hear the full message of Joshua 1:8–9 and Psalm 1: 2–3: “meditate on it day and night.” If I avoid regularly reading, studying, and contemplating God’s word, I will lack his words and his will on my tongue when I cry out. I will lack wise fingers to find the right pages among many. I will lack his answers when I need them.

I know this, and still when the schedule spills over with activity, I let the busyness crowd my time in Scripture. I notice my prayers growing shallower. I hear God’s answers as if through ear plugs in my heart. I lower the shades on his glory.

I think George Mueller had it right: one hour of prayer and four hours of work beats five hours of work. I look forward to Thrasher’s next chapters on how to make the steady “practice of meditation a reality” (81).

Challenge

The Christmas season, ironically, often becomes a season when we tune out God due to our busyness. May these days leading up to the holy-day find us in the Word and on our knees.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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Chapter 6: Receiving Strength to Believe God

Ephesians 3:16–17 “I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (NET Bible)

Main Idea

This week, Thrasher reminds us that “the Spirit empowers us to believe God.” Not only does God want us to pray, and to pray within his will, but he wants us to believe that he will answer. The story that Richard Harvey recounts of the unbroken flask reminds us that God does work in mighty ways on His behalf and ours—when we pray and believe. But we must remember that “in his will” part. When we pray outside God’s will, we must expect the answer “no.” When we come to God in prayer and “ask Him what He desires us to believe Him for,” then we can and must expect the answer “yes.”

My Story

Dare I pray for an unbroken flask?

I struggle with knowing how to pray within God’s will, don’t you? Is it God’s will that my friend miraculously recover from cancer? Or is it his will that she continue to die with such grace that others desire the hope she has? Both answers glorify him. How can I know how to pray?

When I pray for our country and pray that our leaders will honor God through the laws they enact, I know God desires this. But does he will it? Does he promise it? How can I know what to believe? How do I know when God has answered, “Not yet, keep praying,” and when he has answered, “No.”

When should I expect God to keep the flask from breaking?

I believe we find the first answer to this question in the Spirit’s leading through prayer. Thrasher says, “In prayer we are to come to God and ask Him what He desires us to believe Him for.” We must depend on the Spirit to make clear God’s will, God’s word, and God’s promises. We must believe that he will tell us. And we must listen. We will know when to pray for the unbroken flask because we measure our relationship with God in seconds rather than days or weeks. We will know when we seek and study his heart.

And we find the second answer to this question in the unbroken flask’s context. Like Nehemiah praying for to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, or David believing that God would give him victory over Goliath, the context of the college freshman’s prayer was an expectation that God would defend his own name and honor against those who maligned it. Time and again, scripture shows God mightily defending his name–against Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s army, against the Philistines in the times of the judges, against Assyria’s attempt to invade Jerusalem. In all of these instances, God’s people had experienced devastation and a sense that God had forgotten them, but at the right time, through the prayers of repentant, righteous people, God defended his name. Dr. Lee’s students endured his open mocking of God and prayer for twelve years. Maybe he was right, they thought. Yet it only took one man willing to believe that God would—and could—defend himself for God to prove Dr. Lee wrong.

Discussion

Do you know what God is asking you to believe this year? Have you asked him? When you think about God’s promises, what obstacles keep you from standing firm in your belief? Mocking? Penalties? Fear? How are you working to overcome them? How does the Spirit encourage you to believe?

Let us know your thoughts. And don’t forget to journal!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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Chapter 1: Transforming Fear into Faith

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” (NET Bible)

Main Idea

In this week’s chapter, Thrasher cited O. Hallesby’s definition of prayer: “an attitude of our hearts toward God…an attitude of helplessness” that drives us to God rather than to anxiety (19). He encouraged us to look in scripture for “specific promises that can transform our fear responses into faith responses” (20), and to trust God with our “Isaacs.”

My Story

To have a God upon whom we can cast our cares—what a blessing! I imagine many of you out there are “strivers” like me. As I pick up the kids’ dirty laundry, write the next story, or prepare the next lecture, I often have a goal of excellence in mind. Now I think God enjoys excellence—but not when the idea of excellence controls us and produces anxious barking at family members or stress-related disease. Unfortunately, these unwanted results often accompany my pursuit of success.

I have a full schedule this semester, and as a new PhD student, of course I want to perform well. Even so, I have found myself smiling and laughing more than I have in a long time. What has made the difference? This time I began praying specifically about each fear and looking intently for the small blessings that keep me putting one word after another, those serendipitous circumstances that teach me that He hears me. And He cares.

Discussion

Have you found your “Isaacs” this week—those gifts that you cling to and try to control all by yourself? What do you find is your biggest obstacle to trusting God with what you find most precious?

Let us know your thoughts. And don’t forget to journal!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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