40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 13 – Prayer

1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1 – 4)

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)

 

Today we conclude our reflections on the Discipline of Prayer. We have looked at the Biblical direction to pray for a world in need and the confidence we should have when praying.  Today, we will examine a few verses that point us to some ideas for our “world” prayer list.  Please prayerfully read the passages above.

Sometimes, the last people we want to spend our time praying for are people we don’t like.  Politicians might readily come to mind or people who have done us or people we know harm.  In fact, we might wish people we don’t like would suffer misfortune.  Do you remember Jonah’s attitude towards the people of Nineveh?

Please consider the question below.

 

Question

How do you avoid being guilty of the “let them suffer” syndrome, instead of praying for those you don’t like?

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 12 – Prayer

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14 – 16)

 

The contributions to the blog were excellent again yesterday.  We will continue our reflections on the Discipline of Prayer as we consider the theme, A World in Need.

The following is an excerpt from an invitation for a National Day of Prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. almost 20 years ago:

“The United States is still trying to help the fledgling government of Iraq to take its first baby steps toward the task of governing their own affairs.  While this process continues, so does the violence with April being one of the bloodiest months on record for U.S. forces.  Iran continues its march toward obtaining nuclear weapons, thumbing its nose at a world community that seems to lack the resolve needed to stop them.  In the Sudan, genocide continues unabated as the Sudanese government seems unable or just plain unwilling to stop the slaughter.  North Korea hasn’t gone away and the United States is under serious attack from South America as more countries south of the border line up to join Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his anti-American rants.  And we haven’t even mentioned the possibility that millions could die if all the doomsayers are right about bird flu.”    

With just a few adjustments, note how the statement from almost two decades ago sounds current:

“The United States is still trying to help the government of Iraq to govern their own affairs.  While this process continues, so does the violence.  Iran continues its march toward obtaining nuclear weapons, thumbing its nose at a world community that seems to lack the resolve needed to stop them.  North Korea hasn’t gone away and the United States is under serious attack from Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro in his anti-American rants.  And we haven’t even mentioned the possibility that millions could die if all the doomsayers are right about COVID-19.”    

In world affairs, it does seem as if the more things change, the more they stay the same.  And, it could cause some to conclude that there is no point in praying, but what does the Bible say?

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the question below.

 

Question

Why should we be persistent and remain confident in our prayers for the world?

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 11 – Prayer

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:13 – 14)

 

Thanks to all the commentators last week who added so much to our review of the Disciplines of Bible Study and Spiritual Warfare.  Today we begin our reflections on the Discipline of Prayer as we consider the theme A World in Need.  A quick pause though, to make an announcement.  On Thursday and Friday of this week we will turn our attention to the Discipline of Fasting.  As we have done in prior years, on Friday we encourage all who can to fast.  We’ll say more about this on Thursday, but I want you to be aware of the day of fasting with sufficient notice.

Does the world need our prayers?  It might seem odd to even ask such a question.  However, from two perspectives it is a relevant question to ask.  First, many in the world don’t believe in prayer; and second, Christians don’t spend a lot of time praying for the world.  A 2018 survey performed by the Guardian newspaper in the UK found that non-believers typically only turn to prayer in a crisis, and Christians spend less than 25 percent of praying time focussed on topics other than themselves, family and friends.  It begs the question, who is praying for the needs of the world?

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the questions below.

 

Question

How much time do you spend praying for the world and how do you decide what/who to pray for?

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 13 – Prayer

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3 – 6)

 

As believers, we need to demonstrate love for those around us who have not experienced God’s glory in the person of His son Jesus Christ.  The passage above paints a clear contrast between those who have not seen the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ and those who have.  The more we learn about God’s glory the greater our desire should be for others to experience His glory, and our prayers should reflect this desire.  We cannot be selfish in this regard.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible verses above.

 

Questions:

  • Do you have a strong desire to see others experience God’s glory?
  • Who specifically can you pray for today that needs to “see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ”?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 12 – Prayer

17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17 – 18)

 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6 – 7)

 12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12 – 13)

 

We have provided three separate passages of scripture today to emphasize a very important relationship – the relationship between God’s glory and suffering.  Please read the passages above carefully and note the relationship between God’s glory and suffering in each passage.  What does this mean for our prayer life?  Suffering comes in too many stripes for anyone to offer a singular prescriptive prayer.  However, we need to recognize our natural inclination to avoid suffering, and ask God to help us see suffering in the context of His glory.

 

Questions

  • Do you struggle with praying about suffering?
  • How are your prayers impacted by the realization that God uses suffering for His glory?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 11 – Prayer

9 This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  11 Give us today our daily bread.  12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Luke 18:9 – 14)

 

We had a blessed time last week considering the Disciplines of Bible Study and Spiritual Warfare.  This week we focus on the Disciplines of Prayer and Fasting, starting with Prayer.

How does our theme of God’s Glory relate to the Discipline of Prayer?  There is a very strong relationship, and no clearer evidence of this than the priority Jesus gave God’s glory in the prayer He taught his disciples.  “Hallowed be your name” is a clear reference to God’s glory.  This should be very instructive to us because often our tendency is to focus on making requests.

 

Question

Think about your prayer life.  How do you make God’s glory a priority in your prayers?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 13 – Prayer

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.  11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.  12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” (Daniel 6:10 -12)

 

We end our focus on Prayer this week by looking at an example from the Bible.  The story of Daniel in the lions’ den is a popular one.  The passage above describes the circumstances leading up to Daniel being thrown into the den.  It is likely that none of us have ever faced a challenge to our commitment to prayer of the severity that Daniel faced.  Of course, we know that Daniel never wavered from his commitment.

Please prayerfully reflect on the example of Daniel and compare his resolve to yours.

 

Something to think about:

If you were accused in a court of law of being truly committed to prayer, what evidence from your normal practice would the prosecutor present to find you guilty?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 12 – Prayer

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

pray continually, (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

 

Last week as we reflected on Bible Study we saw clearly that the Bible is the best manual for our Identity.  It is, therefore, important to note that the Bible leaves no doubt about the essential role of prayer in the life of the believer.  In each of the verses above, there is an expectation of full commitment where prayer is concerned.  Note the words associated with prayer: “faithful”, “devote”, and “continually”.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible verses above.

 

Something to think about:

From your personal experience, what are clear indicators that you are either fully committed or not fully committed to prayer?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 11 – Prayer

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9 – 14)

 

As reminder, the theme for our 40 days journey this year is Our Identity.  Last week we had a blessed time considering how the Disciplines of Bible Study and Spiritual Warfare relate to our identity.  This week we focus on the Disciplines of Prayer and Fasting, starting with Prayer.

In the passage above, Jesus uses a parable to provide a stinging rebuke to self-righteous and judgmental people.  Interestingly, the parable illuminates the power of a humble and honest conversation about identity when praying.

Please prayerfully reflect on the Bible verses above.

 

Something to think about:

When you pray, how honest are you with God about who you are?  Why does this matter?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 21 – Prayer & Fasting

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Jesus was certainly passionate about praying and fasting, and seeing that kind of passion in present day saints is encouraging.  Just this week, I was inspired by the story one of our commentators (ToniHD) told about praying one night from 10:00 p.m. until daybreak without recognizing it. So that the rest of us wouldn’t feel too intimidated she did go on to say it only happened once :-). Having found inspiration in Toni’s story I thought I would wrap up our discussion of challenges to Prayer and Fasting with another inspiring story.  I have again selected an excerpt from the book entitled “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected” by Nik Ripken.  The author tells of sharing stories one night with believers in the underground church in China. He told them about the oppressive circumstances some Muslim-background believers had to live under.  The excerpt below recounts what happened the next morning:

“At 6:00 the next morning I was awakened by screaming and shouting outside in the compound.  My first thought was that the security police had come……. I spotted my friend David across the way and I rushed over to him.  I demanded to know: ‘what in the world is going on?’  He told me to be quiet and listen. ‘ You know I don’t know a word of Chinese,’ I told him.  ‘What do you mean “just listen”’?

Again he insisted, ‘Just be quiet, Nik!’  Before I could protest again, he took me by the arm and began to walk me among these people who were crying and screaming.  Because I was now silent, I actually began to hear and recognize the names of the two Muslim countries that I had told them about the night before.  The names of those two countries were being repeated again and again in passionate anguished prayer.

When David stopped and turned to look at me, there were tears streaming down his face. He said, ‘They were so moved by what you shared last night about believers who were truly persecuted, that they have vowed before God that they will get up an hour earlier every morning to pray for those Muslim-background believers”.

 

Today’s Question:

When have you been driven to exhibit this kind of passion in prayer and possibly also fasting?