RSS

Category Archives: Growing in Christlikeness

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chapter 24: Discovering God’s Purposes While You Wait

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”

Main Idea

That we can experience God’s blessings in the midst of waiting on God in prayer.

Chapter Summary

There is more to prayer than putting in a request and getting what we want. The author cites three examples of people who asked God for a variety of things that He did not see fit to give. One was for the healing of a loved one, another for a touchdown in a football game, and the last for a relationship that went sour. All three where disappointed when God “did not come through.”

Thrasher reminds us that we come to God as His servant, not as His master. Prayer is not telling God what to do. For how can the servant know better than the Master or one who is finite better than the Infinite?

When we come to God, we come to Him on His terms recognizing who He is… understanding that “our desires are based upon our knowledge and perception, which are always limited – but our trust is in the omniscient God who loves us.” (p. 171)

When we pray, we seek for His will to be done on earth. We don’t always understand what that is. So, we take the burdens of our hearts and lay them before Him, trusting Him to do as He sees fit.

There are times when we pray, that we end up waiting for God to work. During this time, we can experience God’s purposes which are far beyond the mere getting of what we want. These purposes include a wrestling with God that places us under His authority and a gaining of perspective, as the Word of God sheds light on our situation and our own hearts.

My Story

This past year, I have wrestled with God over a loved one moving to another country to minister in the Middle East. To make matters worse, a mutual friend was diagnosed with cancer. Why the Middle East in the midst of political instability, confusion, and hatred for the West? Why cancer and why the timing of all this?

My need has brought me to my knees. This place has become holy ground as I have poured out my heart to God. I was reminded that He knows what I do not. The Word of God shed light on my own heart revealing hidden thoughts of selfishness and lack of commitment. I began to gain a perspective on this life that gave me hope and understanding as I viewed the eternal.

As I prayed and I waited on God to work, I experienced the blessings of God…as did my loved ones, and so did my friend.

She is still waiting on God to heal her cancer, if He sees fit. In the meantime, she has experienced the blessings of God. He has helped her deal with her fears and worries, and has given her amazing strength and peace. He has given her good health in the midst of her chemo treatments, so that she is able to live a “normal” life. He has also supplied her with wonderful friends who have strengthened her and loved her during this journey.

Yes, I am still waiting to see how all of this works out, but in the meantime, I have experienced the blessings of God while I wait. I am learning, though much more slowly than I’d like…that waiting on God can be a good thing.

Discussion

How can we learn to trust God more fully when He does not answer our prayers the way we think He should? Do you think we can be so fixed on what we think God should do, that we cannot see God working in any other way? Can this lead to missed blessings? What are some things we can do while we wait for God?

Challenge

I cannot say this more beautifully than my friend, Laurie. So, I will conclude with her challenge from the previous post. Thanks, Laurie.

Where in your life are you being demanding of God and His timing in the activities and situations of your life? Do you feel like you are waiting? Rejoice! This is a good place! God is teaching and loving you! Lean heavily on Him, spend time hearing and listening to His Word and know the JOY that only He can bring in the waiting!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chapter 23: Experiencing the Joy of Waiting

Luke 10:42  “. . . . but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Main Idea

That we can experience joy in the midst of waiting on God and what he is doing in our lives.

My Story

Many years ago I had planned to marry a fine young man. When things did not turn out the way I had expected, I went through a long time of wondering what had happened. I wanted God to answer me in my time frame and give me what I wanted. When He did not, I began a journey of waiting. It was not easy—at times a real struggle—but as I began to spend much time with God and in His Word, I began to have a different perspective. God ultimately brought another wonderful man into my life who is now my dear, beloved husband. If I had not waited, and if I had demanded my own way, I do not think things would have turned out as they have. Nor would I have learned some deep lessons on the goodness of God’s love and direction in my life.

Discussion

How can we learn to enjoy life fully, be free of anxiety and worry, and know true love? When we learn to wait on God. This is not always easy, but it is something the Lord desires for us to learn and know.

Thrasher shows us in this chapter how waiting on God develops in us characteristics that teach us how to find joy in the waiting. He uses the story in Luke 10 about Jesus visiting his friends Mary and Martha. They each desire to serve Jesus but do it in different ways. Martha wants to serve Jesus and Mary waits at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Jesus speaks to Martha and is not necessarily upset that she is wanting to serve. He is more concerned with her attitude about how she is serving and the motive behind it. Martha is distracted, worried and anxious. Jesus wants to calm Martha in her frazzled state.

On the other hand Mary is waiting in expectancy to what her Lord will teach her.  She is willing to do whatever Jesus would ask of her but her state of being is in waiting. Thrasher reminds us that waiting is not inactivity but obedient faith, and can also be found in an attitude of prayer. This is what God calls us to. Most of us live in a “frazzled” state as Martha did. Jesus does not want us to be in a frazzled state, but waiting on Him, abiding in Him, as He teaches us to lean on Him.

Throughout Scripture we are shown that we are to wait continually (Hosea 12:6), to wait silently (Lamentations 3:26, to wait patiently (Psalm 40:1) and to wait eagerly (Isaiah 26:8). In this day and age waiting is hard for any of us to do. We want things done “right now.” Or we want to know “why?” right now.  The Lord teaches us deeply in the waiting. But how we do it determines the blessing of gaining the joy of the Lord. We have to abide in Him, rest in Him, and not demand that God show us what we want. He is the master—we are to love and serve Him.

The benefits of waiting are numerous as Thrasher shows us. We gain freedom, courage, strength, deliverance, vindication, God’s favor, salvation and support. When we can let go of our agenda and wait on what the Lord may have for us, then and only then do we begin to experience the joy the Lord gives in knowing Him and seeing the good He has for us in a given situation. Then we can know the joy of waiting!

Challenge

Where in your life are you being demanding of God and His timing in the activities and situations of your life? Do you feel like you are waiting? Rejoice! This is a good place! God is teaching and loving you! Lean heavily on Him, spend time hearing and listening to His Word and know the JOY that only He can bring in the waiting!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chapter Twenty-One: Experiencing the Benefits of Fasting

“When I heard  these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4

Main Idea

In this chapter, the author relates a story of a church that experienced major spiritual oppression. They had a history of short pastorates. There seemed to be a spiritual smog that hung over the church.

Several people, independent of one another had commented on how they felt despair and depression when they drove up the long church driveway. When a new pastor arrived, he sensed the same phenomena. Driving to church one morning, he literally saw a darkness hovering over the building. The sense of despair was so powerful that he literally had to hold on to the edge of his desk to keep from getting up and walking out.

He began to pray.

He began to preach a series on prayer and fasting. At the end of one of his sermons, he asked others in the congregation to join him to fast and pray in a spirit of repentance, asking God to lead them to restoration. Not long afterwards, the spiritual smog began to lift. People testified to conquering long-term habits and visitors once again attended the church.

The spiritual battle was so intense that it left the new pastor feeling unloved and unappreciated. He described it like a fifteen-round boxing match, in which he felt he had reached his limits and had no strength to get up off the mat.

He began to weep and cried out to the Lord to forgive him for his lack of love for the church. He asked God to give him a new heart for his people, the heart of a shepherd. Just then the sun broke through the clouds. He looked at the beauty of the sun rays and said, “Lord, do the same thing in my heart.”

Gradually the work that was done in his heart began to spread throughout the congregation.

We see in the Scriptures that when Jerusalem was destroyed, a remnant was left in Jerusalem for 70 years. Though, they had survived the captivity, they were distressed and mocked by others around them. The city was destroyed and the walls were broken down.

An air of hopelessness loomed over the people.

When Nehemiah heard the words, he wept and mourned for days and began to fast and pray. God moved in response to his prayers and gave him success in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

Fasting has both physical benefits and spiritual benefits.

Physically, it gives the body a rest aiding in the cleansing of the body and in the elimination of toxins. This helps us to focus. In the same way, fasting helps us to eliminate distractions and concentrate on God. It strengthens and intensifies our prayer life and helps to purify us spiritually. During times of fasting and prayer God may reveal areas of our lives that we need to give over to God. Areas such as…fear, anxiety, greed, jealousy, pride and/or anger, etc. It is during times of prayer that God may show us what is hindering us and give us a renewed sense of His power that is at work in our lives.

It is important to note that nowhere in the Scriptures are we told that fasting is meritorious. We don’t fast to earn brownie points with God. We fast and pray to eliminate distractions and to focus on God.

My Story

It is so easy to be distracted. I have found that even a simple fast…such as denying myself a Starbucks during the day or a couple of meals enables me to be more aware of God and my need for Him throughout the day. When I am prompted by hunger or a hankering for a Starbucks, I am reminded to pray.

Being more conscious of God during the day makes me more tender to the needs of those around me and more in tune, if I might say, to the things that please God. I also find it easier to share my faith with a clerk or a person standing in the grocery line.

It is also during these times that God ministers to my spirit…He comforts me, gives wisdom and understanding  when I’m going through difficult times, and gently reveals areas of weakness or sin that hurts me and others.

Though, the way to joy is often through pain…it is at that place that I often receive my greatest blessings.

Challenge

Prayer and fasting is a life-time journey. What small step can you take in this direction? If possible, journal your experience. It will be an encouragement to you for years to come.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Chapter 20: Learning When to Fast

Daniel 9: 3 (ESV) “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”

Main Idea

Fasting helps enable a follower of Christ to become closer and more connected with his/her Creator. Fasting also restricts the desires of the body in order to focus our energy on God.

My Story

I recently had to make a hard decision that would impact the lives of several people. God called me to fast from television, social media, and do day fasts from food. This fast aided me to pray more fervently and discover God’s will in a situation. God’s words resonated more clearly in the silence.

Discussion

Though the Bible primarily discusses fasting in terms of food, it also implies fasting in other areas of life. The point of fasting is to give up something in order to use that energy focusing on God and listening to him. Fasting is a crucial part of the process of becoming a stronger follower of Christ. When we fast, we can break through barriers and take down strong holds that have been built up as a hindrance between God and his people. We are called by God to fast, in order for God to say something to us that requires undivided attention.

Challenge

The first step in fasting is to listen to God to know when and from what to fast. When he tells you to fast, do so immediately. Remember, fasting is meant to be challenging, but at the same time peaceful and relaxing. Make sure to spend time with God using the extra opportunities created by the fast. Focus completely on God whenever you feel the deprivations of your fast and listen to His still, small voice.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Chapter Eighteen: Realizing God’s Desire to Bless You

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him…and to keep the LORD’s commands and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Main Idea

God’s ways and His commands are for our good!

Like a loving father who holds the hands of his small children while navigating a mine field…his instructions are not meant to bring them harm. His intent is to protect them and to bless them. Though his children may not understand the limits on their freedom, nor why he says to walk this way and not that way. They learn to trust his heart.

In the same way,God loves HIs children and wants to bless us!!

Prayer is a means of reaching into the storehouse of God’s treasures and receiving His blessings.

Thrasher reminds us that when we pray it is important to remember who God is…that He is a loving Creator and our Redeemer. We must remember to view God through the glasses of His Son whose blood washed us from our sins, rather than through the glasses of our guilty conscience. When the glasses get dirty, and they will…we come to HIm for cleansing! Then we can approach His throne boldly, because we come in the name of His Son who pleases Him. (Hebrews 4:14-16; Luke 3:32)

Think about it. God is kind to men who are ungrateful, and even gives good gifts to evil men. (Luke 6:35) When it rains, He doesn’t just rain on the fields of the righteous, nor does the sun only shine for the just. God loves His creation.(Matthew 5:43-44) He is good and desires to bless all men, how much more so His children!

My Story

When I first came to Christ I was very aware of my sin and my unworthiness, and so grateful that He had forgiven me. I was clean, my guilt was lifted and I was full of joy…I walked on air!

Somehow over the years, I began to expect more of myself and less of Him. My unworthiness began to overwhelm me. How can I say I’m a Christian and do this or do that? It is as though my focus began to shift from looking upward, to looking inward.

All the while, God’s wonderful treasure box lay dormant.

I was too proud to admit that I had failed again. I forgot that He still stands ready to forgive and to bless. How wonderful to be reminded that our LORD has done the work and that He encourages me to come boldly before Him in the name of His Son who intercedes for me.

As I have learned to reach into the treasure box through prayer, I am often giddy with joy. Just this past week, I brought to Him a burden on my heart. He brought Scripture to my mind so I that I could walk in truth, and trust Him to deliver. Later, I called a friend to share how God had encouraged me, then found out that very day that God had already prepared an answer to my prayer. By the time I got off the phone, both my friend and I were rejoicing in the goodness of God!

What a difference it makes to know that God delights in our prayers and wants to do whatever He can to encourage our faith. For the Scriptures say, that His eyes move to and fro all over the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Discussion

Do you see God as good? If not, this might be a good place to begin. Ask God to open your eyes to see Him as He is. This cannot be done without spending time in His Book. It is there that the curtains of heaven are drawn back and He gives us a glimpse of who He is.

For “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Then start praying. I have found that that the very thing that weighs me down is a good place to start. There is a knowledge of God that comes through prayer and actually seeing God work!

Challenge

Ready to visit God’s storehouse? Let’s pray…one of the gifts in the treasure box is peace.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by PRAYER and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Chapter 17: Gaining Strength Through Prayer

Luke 18:1—”Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.” (NET Bible)

Main Idea

“As you study the lives of godly men and women you will see that ‘prayer was no little habit tacked onto the periphery of their lives, it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years.'” 1.

This chapter highlights several well-known Christ-followers whose ministries have made a vital impact in our world today. Prayer played a vital role in their lives and unique ministries. While these stories are encouraging, often we feel overwhelmed because “praying like them” seems like an impossible task. Thrasher writes, “It is often the case that the study of prayer and its importance only leads to discouragement because the prayer lives of some of these ‘spiritual giants’ are so far beyond our experience that we despair after trying to imitate it for a short time.” 2.

My Story

I am reminded of an expression I heard often from Christian friends as I and my family navigated the waters of setting up house and learning a new language and culture in South America. “Poco a poco” (little by little) we start out to learn new things and become strong in them.

Probably all of us have watched the progress of an infant learning to crawl, pull up on things, and taking those first steps. It doesn’t take long before that same child is running.

So it is for prayer. We just need to start somewhere and not lose heart.

Discussion

What are the things that overwhelm you in your prayer life?

What are some ways you can poco a poco begin to grow stronger in your prayer life?

Challenge

Find and read this booklet: (and it is FREE*)

“Practice Of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence

In this short booklet a simple-minded monk journals about his every day life of service and continual prayer/conversation in the presence of his Lord. Simple. Touching. Inspiring.

*Project Gutenberg offers a kindle download for free: (of course Kindle software is free for Mac, PC, etc)  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=the+practice+of+the+presence+of+god

————————————————————————————————————————————————————– 1. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978), 31.

2.Thrasher, William (2003-05-01). A Journey to Victorious Praying: Finding Discipline and Delight in Your Prayer Life (Kindle Locations 2972-2973). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,