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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 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 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 9: Receiving Help in Prayer from Others

I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (NET Bible)

Galatians 6:2 “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (NET Bible)

Main Idea

In chapter nine, Thrasher brings us the idea that one specific way of aiding our prayer life is cultivating the affirmation and and blessing of godly companionship to help us cast our cares upon the Lord.

My Story

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, my world came crumbling down. “Overwhelmed” is an understatement when faced with the prospect of cancer and one’s own mortality. Had it not been for the many who came alongside as my husband and I cast our care (of this diagnosis) on the Lord, I think my we would have despaired of life itself. Many prayed for our well-being, our strength both emotionally and physically, discernment of options, and perseverance along with simple, gentle comfort from God.

We can honestly say we have never felt more uplifted in our spirit, strengthened in our resolve to fight on, and clarity in the decisions we had to make than at this time. If we had not had others around us who took on, felt our pain, and fought the battle alongside us we would have had a much harder time walking the path the Lord had set before us.

We had a peace and strength that “was beyond our understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  We knew it could only come from casting our cares and burdens upon the Lord with others right there alongside us. The Lord asks us in I Peter 5:7 ” to cast all our cares on Him (the Lord) because He cares for us.” While He cares for us and wants us to bring everything, humbly, before Him, we also need to grasp how important it is to have others stand beside us, praying for us and with us. Even the Lord himself in crisis (in the garden of Gethsemane), asked his friends to “keep watch with Him in prayer” (Matthew 26:37-38). God also encourages us in Galatians 6:2 “to carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Thrasher states “the Bible clearly affirms the blessing and need of godly companionship. Iron sharpens iron so a person sharpens his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Having others pray for and with you is a mighty powerful thing. Others can pray for your situation, strength, discernment for the road ahead, protection and comfort.

Discussion

How important is it for you to live in this crazy, busy world with a peace that passes all understanding? Do not be a lone wolf. Cast ALL your cares on the Lord but also have someone in your life come alongside and walk with you in prayer, sharing and caring as you walk this earthly life together.

On the flip side, be always aware of who you can come alongside and be in prayer for. Do you have someone you can pray with? If not seek and search out someone you can share precious prayer time before the Lord. Do it today! If you have someone you do pray with, touch base with them and continue to spend precious prayer time with them and with the Lord

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

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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Chapter 4: Turning Your Temptations into Victorious Prayer

Romans 12:21 ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NET Bible)

Main Idea

We can “turn back” a personal temptation by using it as a springboard for prayer for ourselves and others.

My Story

In this season, I find myself tempted to anxiety over the safety and well-being (physical, emotional, and spiritual) of my two college daughters. I am often distracted to tears and outright panic. I have already been using these times to pray and recommit my girls to God and to remember His promises from His word. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19, NASB)  I have a small Facebook group of several moms, who also have college freshmen and their own anxieties for their children. When the anxiety comes, I am now praying not only for my girls and myself, but for my friends as well.

Discussion

What are your temptations? How can you use this temptation as an opportunity to minister to yourself and others?

Challenge

Beware the second temptation! Satan might remove our first temptation because we are using that temptation to pray and turning it around for good. Hopefully, we can then avoid the second temptation to stop praying.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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