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Category Archives: Prayer

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 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!

 

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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!

 

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Chapter 22: Getting Started (The Help of Fasting)

“Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast…” Joel 2:15 (NASB)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)

Main Idea

In this chapter we are encouraged to follow these principles when preparing to fast:

1) Prepare yourself spiritually

2) Prepare yourself physically

3) Identify a purpose for your fast

4) Plan the particulars of your fast

Spiritual preparation involves making sure our motives are pure. Thrasher states that “Fasting is a humble response that puts us in a place to receive the life and victory Jesus has won for us.”* Fasting is not meant to curry God’s favor or impress others. It can never be used as a substitute to appease God for our lack of obedience. On the other hand, Thrasher reminds us that we should be thankful that God has created us for enjoying the food with which He blesses us.

Physical preparation involves making sure we are healthy enough physically to endure the type of fast we wish to undertake. This includes having good eating habits to begin with. We are also encouraged to consult a doctor if we have health concerns.

Identifying our Purpose may be the most important element in fasting. Our intention should be self-denial for the purpose of drawing near to God. The two scriptures mentioned above speak to this. In Joel we find an exhortation to “consecrate a fast.” The informal definition of “consecrate” from the New Oxford American Dictionary is “to devote (something) exclusively to a particular purpose.”** We need to define clearly why we want to fast and determine the object of our devotion. The chapter mentions several good spiritual purposes highlighted in scripture.

1) Fasting during a time of spiritual warfare (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

2) Fasting to express your intense concern for the work of God (Nehemiah 1:4).

3) Fasting to express your grief (2 Samuel 1:11–12; 12:16, 21–23).

4) Fasting to keep your desires under the control of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Romans 13:14).

5) Fasting for direction or a spiritual breakthrough in your life or ministry.

In our practice of fasting, Thrasher reminds us that, “God honors any effort of setting aside time to seek Him.”*  In 1 Samuel we see that God looks at our heart motives in whatever we do. We must always remember that the fast is designed to draw our hearts, thoughts, and prayers toward God.

Planning the particulars of our fast is also an important element in fasting. Several well-known Christian and Secular speakers have quoted this expression: “If you aim at nothing you are bound to hit it every time.” It is important to spell out the duration and the nature of your fast. The duration of your fast could be abstaining from anything from a single meal or snack to all foods for several days or weeks. The nature of your fast can range from a singular type of food to all food and drink. Your fast may even be from a non-food item. Fasting from favorite activities, such as the Internet, television, shopping, and books can all be included. Again, our intention is self-denial for the purpose of drawing near to God.

My Story

My story is a work in progress. I am just beginning to explore the spiritual discipline of fasting.

Recently, God has allowed my circumstances to place me on a compulsory fast.  A month ago I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. If I want to feel well and symptom-free, I need to abstain from gluten, which means all wheat and wheat-derived ingredients. Who really wants to eat a salad at a fast-food restaurant? I mean, why am I at a fast-food restaurant to begin with? A burger is not a burger without a bun!

It is obvious that it is God’s will that I fast. It is up to me to turn it into a spiritual opportunity to draw near to God. I have been using this as a springboard for prayer. Every time I realize that “I can’t eat that,” I try to turn the moment to prayer and thanksgiving.

Challenge

Do you fast? Have you found it to be a time of drawing near to God? If not, consider how you might fast in a more purposeful way in the coming month.

* Thrasher, William (2003-05-01). A Journey to Victorious Praying: Finding Discipline and Delight in Your Prayer Life (Kindle Location 1648). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

** (2010-04-01). The New Oxford American Dictionary (Kindle Locations 173832-173833). Oxford University Press.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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Chapter 19: Understanding How God Works

Luke 11:1—”…one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray'” (NET Bible).

Main Idea

Thrasher comes to us with the idea that one of God’s ways of accomplishing His work is to place a prayer burden on someone’s’ heart. If that person is sensitive to the prayer burden, she can pray in response, and the work of God is set in motion. As A.B Simpson wrote, “There is no wonder more supernatural and divine in the life of a believer than the mystery and the ministry of prayer…the hand of the child touching the arm of the Father and moving the wheel of the universe.”

My Story

What an awesome thought—that we have the ability to work with and alongside God in accomplishing His work and His will in others’ lives. I do not think any of us fully understand or comprehend the power that is at hand when we come humbly before God to help in His work through prayer.

When I was going through my treatments for breast cancer, my husband and I were consistently amazed at daily situations that in our own strength were difficult, but easier, less stressful and not as overwhelming as they could have been. We attribute that to the power of prayer from many others who were praying on our behalf.

Thrasher tells us some points that are pertinent to God’s working in one’s own life or in the lives of others. First,  prayer is to be of first importance, not just for ourselves but also in the church as it gathers together. We need to be drawn into His presence as He impresses on us that for which we should pray. Secondly, we see that what God impresses on us is prayer burdens for others. What we do not realize is the magnitude of the power of God through prayer. Andrew Murray said so well, and it should give us much to think on, that “we understand then that our true aim must not be to work much and have prayer enough to keep the work right, but, to pray much (emphasis my own) and then work enough for the power and blessing obtained in prayer to find its way through us to men.” Thrasher finishes by encouraging us once again that the fruitfulness of God’s ways comes through us realizing that God “desires you and me to commit to Him the prayer burdens that He entrusts to us.” This is an amazing concept that God would entrust us with prayer burdens to accomplish His work in the world. “Prayer strikes the winning blow” says S.D Gordon. When one fully comprehends this truth, it should sober us to be more diligent in acting upon the prayer burdens with which God impresses us.

Discussion

We need to ask ourselves—what prayer burdens has God put on my heart? We need to realize that others are blessed beyond measure by our desire to pray for them. But it will be a battle. Corrie ten Boom said, “The devil smiles when we make plans. He laughs when we get busy. But he trembles when we pray, especially when we pray together.” Richard Foster encourages us in saying “that just because you do not think that your prayer life is important does not mean that God thinks it is not important.”

Therefore, Thrasher encourages us to be wise in asking God to “teach us to pray.” As we do this we can trust that God will work and lay on us the prayer burdens for which we need to be praying. This will accomplish His work in the world as we are faithful to Him. There is nothing more important! We need to lay hold of this incredible opportunity: that we “can cooperate with God and lift the spirit of an individual, half a world away” from ourselves.

So I ask you—what prayer burdens is God putting on your heart? You need to ask yourself—am I sensitive enough to “hear” God’s spirit and to be praying for what He asks me to pray for? Do I follow through with actually praying and continuing to pray (I Thess. 5:17) for those He has placed before me? Be aware this week as He brings prayer burdens to you and “just do it!.” This helps us begin to understand how God works in other’s lives and in our own.

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

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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