There are no disciplines or practices that will make you magically love God. But the love of God will produce in us a desire to discipline ourselves to know Him more fully and experience Him more intimately. Just like exercise is profitable for our bodies in this life the discipline of getting in shape spiritually is profitable now and for the life that is to come. We are glad that you have chosen to join us during these 40 days as we seek to follow Paul's words to Timothy, "Discipline yourself...for the purpose of godliness."
Sunday, July 17
Why did Jesus Pray?Mark 1:32-35 "That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."
A study of 17,000 Evangelical Christians showed that on average they spent less than five minutes a day in prayer. Prayer is the second most important discipline. Jesus talked about prayer, He taught how to pray, but, most importantly, Jesus Himself modeled a life of prayer for us.
After a full day of healing the sick and casting out demons, Jesus woke up early to go and pray. Why did Jesus pray? Because prayer was a clear priority and was necessary for Him to accomplish His mission. He was fully God, but He was also fully man. As a result, Jesus had to overcome human temptation just as we do, needing power and wisdom from the Father. If the Son of God felt that it was important to pray, how much more important is it for you and me? Jesus is our example on how a powerful prayer life is vital to accomplishing the Father’s will.
Dallas Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines, says, “My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of the Father.”
Prayer: Lord, you are Holy. Thank you for you for how you provide in my life. Please teach me to pray. If you needed to pray to accomplish your mission and to be unified with the Fathers will, I know that I need to pray. I commit to you to pray and I ask for your help in disciplining myself for your glory.
Monday, July 18
Walk in the Spirit
Galatians 3:1-3 "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
Have you ever been to a prayer meeting that you felt like needed prayer itself? Perhaps you have tried to pray before and it just felt it was not being heard, not getting past the ceiling in the room.
It was by faith that we were saved and received the Holy Spirit, yet it’s amazing how often we try to live without faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the same way our life in Christ came through faith and the Spirit, that life is cultivated in a follower of Christ with the ongoing exercise of faith in God and the power of the Spirit. We must walk in the Spirit and pray in the Spirit.
Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Discipline of Prayer is an outpouring of the Spirit of God within us. It’s a conversation with God, and it’s one that God wants to have with us. The creator and all-powerful God desires to have a one-on-one conversation and relationship with us. The Spirit of God is enables and empowers us to pray. So pray to the Father, through the work of Christ, by the Power of the Spirit.
Prayer: God, you are creator and sustainer of life. Thank you for the forgiveness of sins that came through Jesus! Not only have you saved me, but you gave me a helper in the Holy Spirit. I need His help in praying and walking close and clean with you. Forgive me for times that I try to do things on my own and not dependent on your power and presence through the Spirit.
Tuesday, July 19
Sin of Prayerlessness
Matthew 6: 6-9 "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…'"
Recently, I was asking a friend how their prayer life was going and they responded, “You know I’m not a good prayer warrior. I think that’s a weakness of mine.” Perhaps many of you would feel the same. But this begs the question: Do we see prayerlessness as a weakness or a sin? If we are not moved to regular conversation with God and moved to compassion and intercession for His Church and others, are we “weak” or are we in sin?
God expects us all (not just “prayer warriors”)to pray without ceasing. He begins His teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 with, “when we pray.” It’s expected that it will happen! Again in verse 7 he says, “when you pray.” Then in verse 9 he says “pray like this.” What are we saying to the greatness of God that He wants to have fellowship with us but we are too busy or distracted?
There is no greater sin than the sin of prayerlessness and it is the root cause of a powerless spiritual life. If you want greater spiritual influence in your work place or home, then pray. Fervently. Constantly. Boldly. Pray.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for my prayerlessness. I confess the sin of prayerlessness. I know you want a close and personal relationship with me, and I allow busy-ness or distractions to keep me from you. I want to have a powerful prayer life, so I confess this sin and ask that you bring me into a closer walk with you that is covered with prayer.
Wednesday, July 20
Pray for Others
Colossians 4:2-4 "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak."
We simply will not fulfill the mission of God to reach the nations and make a gospel impact in the way we should if we are not a praying people. Prayer is powerful and makes a difference in us, in our churches, in our community, and in our world. Paul is asking for prayers so that the church would have maximum impact.
In James 5:16, it states, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Our prayers for each other create an environment where God is moving in power and accomplishing gospel advancement. We cannot know how many times have we stopped the advancement of the gospel simply because we did not pray through it.
Pray for your spouse, your family, and your neighbors. This is known as intercessory prayer. Continue steadfastly in praying for gospel advancement. Pray that as we share the gospel with others and as we minister the gospel as a church that it will be clear and understandable and effective and Spirit-empowered. Pray people will have ears to hear. Pray that there will be spiritual victory in those around you. Pray, as Paul requested, that “God would open to us a door for the word” in our neighborhoods, community, and world.
Prayer: God, you sent your Son who humbled Himself to serve me and all creation. Jesus is the example of being and living “others-focused.” Help me to fill my prayers with petitions and request for others. Help us as Your church and people to have eyes to see the needs of others and pray for them and pray for effectiveness in ministering the gospel to them. Amen.
Thursday, July 21
So What Do I Do?
1 Thessalonians 3:10-13 "As we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."
One of the things that often keeps us from praying is not always knowing how to pray or for what to pray or where to start with our prayer. Paul was telling the Thessalonians that he prayed for them earnestly night and day, and his goal was to have them grow in the Lord so they would do the same. So for us who want to commit to more prayer in our lives, what do we do?
Here are a few tips to help:
* Start with a time of thanksgiving. Thank God for all that He has blessed you with. Even if you don’t “feel” like praying, thank God that He hears your prayers and turn your heart toward Him.
* Pray through Scripture. Read a passage and talk to God about it; let the Scripture begin to move and motivate your heart. Apply the Word to yourself and talk to God about it.
* Ask God about important things or concerns in Your life. Try not to get in a routine of asking God for the same things every day. He wants You to lay Your heart out before Him; he wants to know You are depending on Him.
* Pray for others. Pray for your Church, your family, your neighborhood, and your friends.
Don’t pray thoughtlessly. Don’t enter into this time passively. Enter into the throne room with boldness. Confess your sin to God and pursue His grace and presence in your life in a fresh way. When we pray like this, God’s presence will remain with us throughout the day.
Prayer: God, thank you for your patience in my life. You love me and want to talk with me, and I desire to grow in my prayer life, not just in obedience but in a deep desire to know You better. Just as Your disciples, I ask you to teach me how to pray, so I can draw closer to You and be more effective at accomplishing Your will through my life and in the world around me. Amen.
Friday, July 22
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
I’m sure all of us have been around “that” group prayer time - a prayer meeting where majority of the time is spent talking about people who have health needs and then the prayer time is over. Maybe your prayer time has become like that. It’s filled with needs and wants and has been tainted by the negativity of a fallen world. That is not the spirit-filled, life-giving, presence of Jesus prayer time that God intended for you and I to have. No matter what we are praying over for ourselves and the people of God, pray with a spirit of thanksgiving.
How thankful would you be if you were in the middle of war and bullets were flying all around you, yet in your pocket to find a walkie-talkie that went directly to the Commander-in-Chief! We are in a spiritual war, and we get direct access to the ultimate Commander-in-Chief with one of the greatest weapons of our warfare – prayer! Let’s fall on our knees and call on him with desperation, with passion, but mostly with thanksgiving because we have direct access to Him through redemption in Jesus.
Prayer: How amazing are you God that I can call on you! You are my ever-present help in time of need. Even in my trials and struggles I can live with thanksgiving because you have blessed me eternally!
Saturday, July 23
A Praying Church
Acts 2:42 "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Often time we think the most indispensable thing for the church is missions, giving, attendance, or teaching of the Word. But one of - if not the most important thing - we do is fellowship with God in prayer. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled the believers while they were praying together. In Acts 12, Peter was arrested and the church gathered at someone’s house and prayed. In James 5, we are told if we are sick to call the Elders of the church to pray for healing. The Church is called to be a praying people.
Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of the Victorian era said of prayer in the church, "If the spirit of prayer is not with the people, the minister may preach like an angel but cannot expect success. There may be in that church wealth, talent, labor and many outreach efforts, but the Lord is not there. Prayer is as sure evidence of the presence of God as the rising of the thermometer is evidence of an increase in temperature. If God is near a church, it must pray. If he is not, one of the obvious signs of His absence will be lethargy in prayer."
The Church suffers great loss at the effect of prayerlessness. Let’s be a praying people!
Prayer: God, help us to see the need for prayer! Deliver us from prayerlessness by the blood of Jesus! Teach all of us the great blessed place we can be after we have been rescued from a passive prayer life. Let us be bold in our prayer efforts that the nations would be touched with the power of God in a way this world has never seen.