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Weekly Devotional | "Prayer"

 This devotional is based on C.J. Mahaney's sermon, Prayer, given on July 31st, 2016.

 

Day 1: The Praying Christian (verse 13)

Quotes:

  • “Heaven’s great harbor of refuge is [prayer]; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.” Charles Spurgeon
  • “Our whole life, as we might say, should be so angled towards God that whatever strikes upon us, whether sorrow or joy, should be deflected upwards at once into his presence.” Alec Motyer

 

Questions and Reflections:

  • What could be the lasting spiritual rewards of cultivating the kind of habitual reflexive prayer to the ups and downs of life that James talks about in verse 13? How would such a discipline shape your understanding and reaction to life’s circumstances?
  • Why might it be even more important to turn to God in times of prosperity than in times of suffering?

Prayer Recommendations:

  • Meditate on Psalm 62:8. Praise God for giving his Son for you so that he could be your strong refuge against all circumstances in this life. Ask God to give you a greater hunger for prayer, continually taking refuge in him.

 

Day 2: The Praying Pastor (verses 14-15)

Quotes:

  • “I must point out that these verses assume each and every Christian is part of a local church where they know the elders and where they can call upon the elders if necessary. The New Testament writers just didn't envision genuine Christians who are not a functioning part of a local church.” C.J. Mahaney
  • “Somewhere in our prayers we must find a balance between never expecting God to heal and requiring him to heal on demand.” Craig Blomberg

Questions and Reflections:

  • James’ command to sick Christians in verse 14 presumes their involvement in a church. Why is active membership in a local church so important in the midst of suffering?
  • How can we know that James’ “prayer of faith” in verse 15 isn't intended to be a formula for physical healing?
  • Neither requiring God to heal nor never expecting him to heal reflects a proper view of God’s character. How do both these extremes fail to show honor to God?

Prayer Recommendations:

  • Take some to time to ask God for healing of those in our church facing sickness. Additionally, pray for our pastors to be men of the Word, prayer, integrity, and wise leadership.

 

Day 3: The Praying Church and Praying Prophets (verse 16-18)

Quotes:

  • “James ‘means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to himself.’” John Calvin
  • “James wants the original readers to confess their sin and be reconciled. Why? So that they will benefit from the power and effect of prayer because the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. They aren’t positioned to experience that power if they haven’t first been reconciled to each other by confessing their sins to each other.” C.J. Mahaney
  • “[Elijah] could rise to the heights of faith and commitment (1 Kings 18:36-38) and fall into the depths of despair and depression (1 Kings 19:4). He could be brave and resolute sometimes (1 Kings 18:17-19) and then fly for his life at a whiff of danger (1 Kings 19:3). He could be selfless in his concern for others (1 Kings 17:19-24) and then filled with self-pity (1 Kings 19:10). In other words, he was an ‘ordinary person’, but he was right with God... his faith was active in his works.” Alec Motyer

Questions and Reflections:

  • How does a culture of confession and prayer work together to heal a church rather than divide it? How would it help fellow saints see the grace of God more clearly?
  • Do you have any big, bold prayers that you have given up on? Read Romans 12:12 and ask yourself whether you should remain patient and constant. What are some big, bold requests you could make for God’s glory and the good of the church?
  • Is there someone in the church struggling to endure his or her trials? Consider finding time this week to pray with them through a specific passage of Scripture in order to encourage them.
  • It is easy to fall into the erroneous assumption that our present godliness or earnestness determines the likelihood of our prayers beings answered. How does Elijah’s example teach otherwise?

Prayer Recommendations:

  • Modeling after the prophets, spend time petitioning God for our church’s courage in evangelism and prayer. Ask that we would see sincere conversions and boldness in our supplications. Also pray that we would pray corporately, in our community groups, men’s prayer meetings on Wednesdays, as well as before and during our gatherings on Sundays.

 

Group Discussion Questions:

In reference to verse 12, C.J. stated, “You can’t be the church, you can’t build a church, if there isn’t integrity of speech within the church.” How have you seen this verse missing in your life? How have you seen it used well within our church?

In his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Timothy Keller uses Hallesby’s illustration of mining to highlight the importance of persistent prayers:

  • Demolition to create mine shafts took two basic kinds of actions. There were long periods of time... “when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.” To bore the holes deeply enough into the most strategic spots for moving a main body of rock was work that took patience, steadiness, and a great deal of skill. Once the holes were finished, however, the “shot” was inserted and connected to a fuse. “To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting.... One sees ‘results.’... Shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction.” He concludes that while the more painstaking work takes both skill and patient strength of character, “anyone can light a fuse.” This helpful illustration warns against doing only “fuse-lighting” prayers, the kind that we soon drop if we do not get immediate results. If we believe both in the power of prayer and in the wisdom of God, we will have a patient prayer life of “hole-boring”.

Ask the group to introspectively reflect on prayers they may have given up on. Then ask if anyone could share “hole-boring” prayers that came to fruition in God’s timing.

Take some time to pray with the group, asking that everyone consider lifting up bold prayers for (including, but not limited to) the church, the city, or Christians suffering around the world.