40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 13 – Prayer

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8 – 11, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

It was really helpful to read the feedback on the passage yesterday.  Thanks! 

As we close out our consideration of the Discipline of Prayer in the local church we will reflect on the impact of corporate prayer as attested to by the Apostle Paul. 

Bible Passage:

Today’s passage is 2 Corinthians 1:8 – 11 (presented above).  Please take note of Paul’s strong link between the prayers of the church and the continued deliverance of those labouring in ministry.

Question:

There are many places around the world where God’s ministers are enduring tremendous pressure.  What strategies do you employ, or can you employ to ensure your local church is helping by praying?


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 12 – Prayer

1On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.  (Nehemiah 9:1 – 2, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Thank you for taking the time to consider the questions about the local church and prayer yesterday.  As always we are truly grateful for the comments.

As we continue with the Discipline of Prayer we will be looking at Nehemiah again just as we did last week while considering Bible Study.  Nehemiah presents a great Old Testament example of what can occur in a corporate setting when God is obeyed. 

Bible Passage:

Today’s passage is Nehemiah 9:1 – 2 (presented above).  The passage is a subset of a much longer prayer in Nehemiah chapter 9.  We know from last week that God worked miraculously during this time for the Children of Israel, and it is no surprise that prayer was a key activity for the assembly.  What is striking about the short passage we are considering today is the confessing community.  Their confession seems to be much deeper than the generic confessions we often experience in corporate church settings.

Questions:

  1. What do you believe are key variables that would have contributed to the public confession by the Children of Israel?
  2. What lessons can we extract for ourselves and our local churches?


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 11 – Prayer

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

As we now turn our attention to the Discipline of Prayer we will begin by considering some questions about the role of prayer in your local church. 

Before we consider the questions, it is worth remembering the reaction Jesus had to those who were buying and selling in the temple courts.  He was not happy that God’s proclamation in Isaiah 56:7, “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”, was being perverted.   

Primary Questions:

  1. Does your local church consistently teach biblical principles about prayer?
  2. Fill in the following blank for your church.  My local church is a house of ____.  Was prayer one of the first words that came to mind?
  3. Does your local church consistently have group prayer meetings where all members are encouraged to pray (i.e., not just the “prayer warriors”)?
  4. Are the leaders of your church fully committed to prayer in their personal lives?

Optional Secondary Questions (if you have the time):

  1. Does your local church pray with an attitude of expectancy?
  2. Does your local church practice visiting and praying with the sick?

Your Feedback:

While you are not expected to share your answers to the questions above, we would still love to hear from you.  Based on your answers to the questions, do you sense that prayer is the lifeblood of local churches?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 13 – Prayer

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”  Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”  (Nehemiah 2:4 – 5)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

The results of the Prayer poll are in and 60% of you normally maintain an ongoing dialogue with God throughout the day, 20% of you normally follow a schedule and the remaining 20% didn’t think that any of the categories provided described their prayer habits.  I am very grateful for all the responses and my prayer is that wherever each of you are, you keep growing.

As we conclude our review of the Discipline of Prayer, Nehemiah provides a particular lesson that we can all benefit from. While working for God, how diligently do we “check-in” with Him?  Today’s passage demonstrates how much Nehemiah relied on God. 

If we reflect on the passage we studied yesterday, we will recall that Nehemiah literally had spent months praying about the wall before getting the chance to talk to King Artaxerxes. Despite spending all that time in preparatory prayer, when Nehemiah stands before the king and is asked “What is it you want?”, it is interesting what he does.  The Bible describes Nehemiah’s immediate action as follows: “Then I prayed to the God of heaven”.   What a powerful picture of faith and reliance.

Questions

  • Since God already knows what we need before we ask, why is Nehemiah’s approach to prayer important?
  • How does it make you feel to know that God is always available?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 12 – Prayer

1The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.  They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.  “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’  10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”  I was cupbearer to the king.  (Nehemiah 1:1 – 11)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

The book of Nehemiah is rightly known for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.  It is also a great book of prayers and very relevant to our theme.  Nehemiah’s approach to prayer is inspiring and convicting.  Today’s passage captures Nehemiah’s prayer as he contemplates his role in God’s mission to rebuild the wall.  There are some key lessons in the prayer with regards to our communication with God when contemplating our call to action.

Please read the passage above and answer the question below.

 Question

What are the components of Nehemiah’s prayer that resonate with you as you think about your contribution to God’s kingdom?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 11 – Prayer

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  (Psalm 25:4 – 5)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:5 – 6)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Today we begin a 3-day review of the Discipline of Prayer.  God blessed us richly in our review of the disciplines of Bible Study and Spiritual Warfare last week and I am looking forward to more of the same this week.

Back in the 1960s (yes, I am dating myself), there was a popular TV series called Mission Impossible.  In each episode, a team of secret government agents known as the Impossible Missions (IM) Force would be sent on a daring mission.  They would get their orders from a mysterious government official known as the Secretary.  At the start of each episode, the lead agent would get instructions for the mission via an audio taped message, which would include the following statement:  “As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.  This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.”  In other words, the IM Force were on their own.

It is comforting to know that when we sign up for God’s service, He doesn’t leave us on our own and He never disowns us.  And, unlike the Secretary, God wants to maintain communication throughout the mission. 

This makes the prayer in our passage from Psalm 25 and the promise from Proverbs 3 very potent.  Like David, we can and should communicate with God every step of the way and like Solomon we can be confident that as we trust God, He will direct us.  “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear.  All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!” (from the hymn, “What a Friend we have in Jesus”).

Question

Even though God is willing and ready to guide us, we often forget to maintain communication with Him.  From your experience, what are some of the reasons why we don’t stay in communication?


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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”?