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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 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 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 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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