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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 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 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 8: Receiving Help When You Don’t Know How to Pray

Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…”

Main Idea

In our weakness and human limitations, we don’t always know how to pray.

We often struggle with knowing what is best in a given situation. The Spirit of God helps us to pray. He who knows our hearts and the very mind of God, pleads the deep desires of our heart and helps us to pray according to the will of God.

In this chapter, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is our helper and brings the longings of our hearts before the throne of God.

The author gives a story of a personal friend who visited a bitter old woman. She wanted nothing to do with the church. So, he offered to pray. His heart was so broken for her situation, that tears rolled down his cheeks and no words could come from his lips. He felt like an utter failure. However, in his weakness “he leaned upon the Spirit of God who poured out tears of compassion.”  It was his tears that began to turn the heart of this bitter old woman.

Often, it is in our weakness that we pray our best prayers.

My Story

I remember a time when one of my daughters was dating. She had two young men pursuing her for marriage. I did not know how to pray.

I specifically remember being in a food court at a local mall and crying out to God from the depths of my heart. “You know all things. You know all hearts, what do I pray?”

Then, as clear as day the thought came to me. Pray that she seeks Me and loves Me with her whole heart. If she loves Me, she will love what I love… and the right decision will be made clear. When I came home, I found her on the sofa in tears. She had her Bible opened and was holding a missionary biography that she was reading. She asked if she could get a hotel room for the night, so she could spend some time alone in prayer.

It been over five years, since she and her hubby have said “I do.” Each passing year gives testimony of what we did not know, but He did. She chose well. One of the greatest joys outside of bringing our children into the world is watching them continue in what they’ve been taught and delighting in the spouses God has seen fit to give them.

Discussion

Are you in a situation where you do not know how to pray? Ask God to help you pray and listen.

Challenge

Sometimes what appears to be right at the moment, is not always the best. We need God’s help when we pray.

Is there a longing in your heart that is not being answered? Could it be that God is desiring to grant you an even deeper longing and desire of your heart?

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Book Study, Prayer

 

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