LIFE group guide: steady prayer – how to make it a reality (2)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (May 25) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To offer practical guidance in the reasons for, and development of, daily prayers.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  … the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. (Luke 18.1 NAB)

•  … be patient in suffering; give constant energy to prayer. (Romans 12.12b KNT)

•  … to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever … (Ephesians 3.20-21 NRSV)

•  … be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6.18b NIV)

•  Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4.2 CEB)

•  Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.17-18 NAB)

•  You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it. Or, if you do, your requests are not granted, because you pray with wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures. (James 4.2-3 REB)

•  This is the bold confidence that we have before him: if we ask for something according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess the requests we have asked from him. (1 John 5.14-15 KNT)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. “Given the opportunity, I would love to be able to talk with ____, often and at length.”

2. “It seems to me that this attitude – ________ – is crucial to prayer.”

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Read Rom. 12.9-18. What actions keep steady company with steady prayer (vs.12b)?

2. Read 1 Thes. 5.12-22 (vs.17b-18’s context). In the midst of what specific sort of circumstances was Paul telling the Christians in the Thessalonian church to pray?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Think of prayer as a “thing.” What are some of the essential components of this thing?

2. Aside from time, how might, or how does, spontaneous and scheduled prayer differ?

3. We’re called to “guard” our prayers (Col. 4.2). Guard against what?

4. Can prayer ever be “dangerous?” Should it be? Explain.

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Keep a log for one month of when and what you pray in your scheduled prayers.

2. Work hard to make prayer the very first thing you do when you wake up every day.

doing something vs. praying (doing nothing)

 

If you’re a Christian, more than once you’ve likely heard, or thought, of prayer as the opposite of work.

God have mercy!

For prayer is surely some of the hardest work done on this planet. And we all know it. Perhaps we have just momentarily forgotten the fact.

  • Ever pray when your body was weary, your eyes were heavy, and there were a thousand things crying for your attention? Then you know prayer requires real effort.
  • Ever pray while you were so burdened with your own shortcomings, failures, and sins that your prayers seemed empty or meaningless? Then you truly exerted yourself.
  • Ever pray when the words simply would not come, no matter how hard you tried? Then you knew the industry of prayer.
  • Ever kept talking to God when he seemed silent and non-responsive when it was your loved one who was gravely ill or in danger? That was truly hard labor.

Still not persuaded? Then try telling Jesus, the one in whose name you pray, that prayer isn’t work.

  • Tell him as you recall him daily getting up before others did to walk to a quiet place to pray. This was not done without deliberate, disciplined effort.
  • Tell him as you see him sweating blood in prayer in Gethsemane’s Garden. This was not done without a workman’s pirit of love, determination, and grit.
  • Tell him as you overhear him pray the most difficult of prayers – praying forgiveness for one’s enemies – with labored breath on his cross. This was not done without years of toil and testing in the field ahead of time for that very moment.
  • Tell him as your grasp the fact he intercedes for you still. This is far from “nothing;” more like the most precious of “something.”

So shout it from the rooftop: prayer, rightly done, is difficult, daily labor. And perhaps that’s why more prayers are not offered – because it is w-o-r-k!

After all, it is not an effortless thing just to try to wrap our head around the idea that the Most High Holy One works at listening to us. And what are we? Dust. But surely the vainest of things is to work in his name without praying, for what are our efforts without the work of the Lord mingled with them?

Prayer is work; make no mistake about it. And make not the mistake of not working at it.

mothers I love to find

 

I love to stumble across – finding – mothers doing their “mothering” in a way that truly honors God. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s something exceedingly powerful to me about watching a mother train up a child in the way they should go. It speaks deeply to me and gives me great joy. And so, I especially love to find mothers who pray with, and for, their children.

  • Mothers who cannot imagine starting their day, and the day for their children, without carving out a minute to pray with them.
  • Mothers whose own prayers, as well as those she leads her children in, are composed with adoration and praise of God, as well as thanksgiving and request.
  • Mothers who jot down a sentence prayer for their child on a sticky note and stick it somewhere for their child to happen upon during the course of their day or who include a portion of their prayer in a text message.
  • Mothers who pray strategic prayers (planned prayers that address the broader, and particularly formative, matters of life; the forks in the road) as well as tactical prayers (spontaneous prayers formed, and said, in the moment regarding very specific matters; the mile markers).
  • Mothers who cannot imagine ending their day, and the day for their children, without carving out a minute to pray with them.

Lord, may I find more mothers like this. More and more. Amen.

“Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time.” (Ephesians 6.18)

how to pray for your church’s leaders

 

Do you have a deliberate, regular plan you work as to how you pray for your church’s shepherds and staff? Or if you’re a church leader, how would you like fellow church members to daily pray for you?

I recently noticed that Thom Rainer relates in his fine book I Am a Church Member (p.51) that he has for many years regularly asked church members to deliberately pray five minutes a day, every day, for their leaders. Imagine every church member praying daily for their church’s leadership. Amen!

But if you were to start praying for shepherds and staff, what would you pray about each day? If you don’t already have a plan, let me suggest a plan I follow whereby I talk to God about seven specific matters regarding our church family’s leaders. To keep it simple and steady, each day of the week has a specific point of focus. Pick up this plan – or let it spark one of your own – and run with it!

  • Sunday – guidance from God’s Spirit and godly influence with people
  • Monday – spiritual development, growth & maturity
  • Tuesday – purity & holiness of life, protection from Satan’s traps, & escape from temptation
  • Wednesday – provision for their physical needs & ways
  • Thursday – discernment, insight, knowledge, tendencies & wisdom
  • Friday – family (marriage, children, extended family & closest friends)
  • Saturday – strength of emotional, mental & physical health

putting skin on the sermon: pray this way

 

Today marks the start of a new series of regular posts here. Starting today, and always on Mondays, I’ll post (1) a brief summation of the gist of my sermon from the previous morning and (2) some random thoughts as to how to apply some aspect of the sermon to daily life.

My sermon yesterday morning was from Luke’s account of Jesus’ answer to the request of one of his disciples to teach them how to pray (Luke 11.1-13). After a look at the “what” of this basic, foundational prayer (the prayer’s five statements – vs.2b-4), we thought about “why” we regularly need to pray such.

For the sake of application, we summed that up with a paraphrase of the prayer with some of the “why” in mind. That paraphrase read: “Father, help me live holy before you. Override my self-seeking agenda. Give me what I need to live another day here for you. Show mercy to me the way I’m merciful to all who wrong me. When I’m distracted and lured from you, don’t leave me that way: arrest my attention and lead me home.”

Now, what can you do with that? Here are seven ways you can put some skin on this sermon:

1. Memorize this prayer our Lord told us to pray in Luke 11.2-4. Use the rendering of your choice, of course, but let me suggest the CEB for its simplicity and clarity here. Learn it so well that you come to say it just as easily and as naturally as you might already be able to quote the KJV’s rendering of The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.9-13.

2. Identify any and all excuses you make for not praying. Write them down. Then set out to kill these excuses. Mercilessly.

3. Make a very simple, but specific plan each week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray. That is, create the skeleton on which you will put some skin.

4. Find and designate a specific place where you’ll often go to pray. Maybe it will be a chair on your back porch. It could be when and where you go to exercise or walk. Perhaps the driver’s seat of your car or a certain room in your apartment would work. The place matters not so much as the fact you have a specific place. After going there regularly for awhile to pray you’ll likely find your mind has become trained to almost naturally kick into, or more easily gravitate toward, prayer.

5. Select one of the five statements of the basic prayer in Luke 11.2b-4 and mull it over, reflecting on it throughout the course of a weekday. Let your heart and head chew on it throughout the day the way you’d chew on a piece of gum. The next day, select a different statement and do the same with it. Throughout each day discuss them with someone or, at the end of each day, jot down some of your ponderings in a journal.

6. Compose a prayer of your own. Write it down, using the basic prayer (vs. 2b-4) as your guide. You’ll likely find you’ll choose your words of prayer much more carefully when you write them down.

7. Brainstorm your own list of ways you could apply this basic prayer in vs. 2b-4 to your everyday actions and habits. Answer this question: “Since Jesus told me to pray this way, I will ____.”

Remember: God’s word is for our life, and our living is for our great God!