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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)

 

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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.

 

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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 15: Realizing the Struggle of Prayer

Isaiah 30:15: “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” (NIV).

Main Idea

One of the truly beautiful things about Christianity is intimate prayer with Jesus Christ. But prayer should be focused and centered on the living presence of God. A key difficulty many Christ followers struggle with is quieting their minds in prayer. But when we can, we form an unbreakable, cherished bond with God.

Story

We all receive up to 3500 sensory stimuli a day. With wireless and technological advances, we are bombarded with so many messages, we can easily overload. One of my greatest assets in working with children is my ability to do twenty things at once. I can talk to a co-worker, do my daily paperwork, treat my clients, all while arranging travel itineraries to yet another conference. Being an ADHD individual, my mind is at its best going twenty different directions. But when I sit down to pray, this “asset” becomes my greatest weakness. I can’t let go of the five loads of laundry demanding my attention in order to listen to the still small voice that God uses to speak to me. I find my most excellent rest in the small hours of the morning after I have exercised and before everyone is awake and the distractions are at a minimum. Only then do I stop and feel God’s beating heart, and we are one. I find peace and intimacy with the One who created me, the One who molded my personality. From this experience, I can say that in my weakness, God gives me rest.

Discussion

As a Christian grows in Christ, her status evolves from acquaintance to friendship to a deep relationship. But this only happens through prayer. Prayer is what binds our hearts and minds to the spiritual world, yet keeps us in the physical world. Therefore, it is crucial for every Christ-follower to devote time and effort in prayer.

Challenge

Every day, morning and night, give a certain amount of time to God, just praying. Focus your mind completely on Him. That may sound easy, but it is not. But with persistence, faith, determination, and the mighty power of God, you will overcome the barrier of distraction. It will not be a fight anymore, but only a pure joy to speak to the Author of your story, the Finisher of your faith, the King of your soul.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Chapter 14: Learning to Pray Scripture

1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

Main Idea

This week Thrasher helps us to understand what it means to learn to “pray scripture.” For many this is an idea not often used when we pray. We just come with our laundry list of needs and people, and we pray through the list of “I want…” or “please bless these people.” Thrasher tells us regarding the practice of prayer that “the greatest help did not come from these excellent books [on prayer] but rather from the Scriptures themselves. The most significant aid came from going through the Bible and praying the prayers of Scripture” (95). That is a powerful statement!

The prayers that Thrasher lays out are the beginning examples of what he learned. He writes, “there is a difference in knowing a truth of God’s will or desire and being controlled by this truth” (102).

He shows us in Ephesians 1:3-14 that this prayer is praying for spiritual enlightenment through praying for hope in “one’s own life and the lives of others.” This prayer also brings about the understanding of the “inheritance among the saints”—how God considers us and communicates to us about being His treasure and that we also would know His power. This power is shown through the resurrection power, which gives “victory over sin and death,” and the power of His authority over all creation and that all things are under Him.

The prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 is a prayer for us who have the Spirit living within us, to lay hold of God’s power and to embrace the depth of the riches of His love for us.

Philippians 1:9-11 is another way in which we can know and understand God’s great love for us and how “God would help us put our stamp of approval or choice on the most excellent ways to express our love” (101). Thrasher goes on to say that “we will never be able to make these correct choices apart from the help of God” (and His love).

The last prayer that Thrasher shows us is Colossians 1:9-12. In this Scripture we see that God’s desire for us is to know Him. In knowing Him we will bear fruit for others with whom we are in contact. This becomes abiding in God, which is our ultimate goal as we glorify God through our walk with Him.

My Story

I think for many as well as for myself we do not think to pray, either silently or out loud, the prayers that God has given us in Scripture. As we look, read, and then fully give ourselves to embracing and internalizing the prayers that God has given us, we will begin to sense more of what God wants for us in and through His will, and not so much what we may think we need to bring before the Lord. There is nothing wrong with bringing our needs before the Lord. Scripture tells us that in many places. I think, though, that as Thrasher has shown us in this chapter and the prayers that he lays out, there is great depth that comes in our walk with God when we pray through the prayers He has given us through Scripture. We come to know His will in a defining way as opposed to wanting our will to be brought to God and have our way accomplished.

Discussion

The quote at the beginning of chapter fourteen I think is an excellent thought to bring all of this to a focused conclusion.

“The key is to pray according to God’s will. To know His will we must know His thoughts. To know His thoughts we must saturate our minds with His word. Then we will begin to experience the authority of God in our prayers.”—Charles Henley

I do not know about you, but for me this has been enlightening and encouraging to make the effort, take the time, go back, focus and pray through these prayers in Ephesians I:15-23, 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12. This week take some quiet time and pick one of these prayers. Read, embrace, digest and pray through these scriptures so that your spiritual eyes may be opened to the depth of God’s love for us and the understanding of HIS will in our lives!  There are many more prayers in the Scriptures that continue to teach us more of who God is and His will for us—search them out! Let us know your thoughts. And don’t forget to journal.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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Chapter 13: Learning How to Pray for Christlike Growth

Luke 2:40 “And the Child continued to grow and became strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”

Main Idea

So, far we have seen how our weaknesses, the power of the Holy Spirit and the companionship of others can help us in our prayers. In this next section, the author discusses the help of the word of God.

The Scriptures help us to grow in our faith, expanding our capacity to pray and providing powerful motivation. When we read the word of God we can also learn from the example of others.

Thrasher calls upon our Supreme example given in the above passage. Here we see that Luke describes the young Jesus as becoming strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God. It is also probable that this passage can be better understood by comparing it Luke 2:52 which describes Jesus as growing in wisdom and stature in favor with God and man.

Jesus grew in strength and was physically strong most likely because of His profession as a “tekton” which is often translated “carpenter” but could also mean a stone-cutter or mason. Thrasher makes a case for Him growing in strong in spirit which is no doubt also true. I found it particularly interesting to ponder what it means to be “strengthened in our spirit or in the inner man” as it states in Ephesians 3:16. Though there is much more here than meets the eye and much more than I can attempt to explain or understand. There does seem to be a sense in which the believer can be strengthened in his spirit through the exercise of faith as the body can be strong through physical exercise.

The young Jesus also increased in wisdom which carries the idea of skillful living and discernment that is rooted in seeing life from God’s perspective.

Lastly, “the grace of God was upon Him.” We see from other passages of Scripture that it is possible to get “more” grace.

Peter says that we can “grow” in grace. (2 Peter 3:18) The writer of Hebrews says that God gives grace in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) Paul writes that gave him grace in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and James says that God has a “greater grace” that He gives to the humble. (James 5:6)

There is a grace that leads to salvation, but that is a mere introduction to the grace in which we stand. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1-2) Like Paul in his exhortation to Timothy, Thrasher encourages us to grow and be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)

My Story

At this point, I am pondering the meaning of what I just wrote. Sometimes, I find it easier to be content with where I am at and not push for the “greater grace.” This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that states “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and lust and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to keep making mud-pies in the slums…because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the beach.”

Discussion

1. Have you already experienced the grace that God offers that brings you into a right relationship with HIm? If so, are you ready to take the next step and “grow” in the grace that He offers?

2. If not, what’s hindering you? Ask God to search your heart and help you to be willing to take that next step whatever that might be.

“Dear Lord, I ask you to give me a whole-heart. Don’t let me be content with making mud-pies when there is infinite joy waiting for me.”

 
 

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Chapter 12: Experiencing True Prosperity

John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Main Idea

True prosperity, as I can best discern from this chapter, describes a “prosperous” relationship with God. Prayer and Scripture go hand-in-hand when it comes to developing our relationship with God. Prayer is our way of speaking with God, and the Scriptures allow us to hear His voice.

Thrasher says, “Without prayer the study of Scripture can turn into a merely intellectual exercise. Prayer without Scripture will lack needed motivation and guidance.”

In this chapter, several points come to mind:

  1. Prayer is essential to time spent in the study of Scripture.
  2. Meditation on these readings is integral to our understanding of God’s intention and the application of His Word in our lives.
  3. The Scriptures offer examples of what to pray for and how to go about it.

My Story

I have had the privilege to sit under the teaching of many gifted, God-directed, Bible teachers and disciple-makers. Below is a link to a wonderful Christian Study aid created by The Navigators Christian Organization. This document demonstrates five ways to incorporate the Scriptures into our lives.

The “Word Hand Illustration by the Navigators Christian Organization.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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