I am reading With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. The depth and power of this book are difficult to describe. I am half way through it and I already know that I will have to read it again. I am more convinced than ever that I know very little of the real power and purpose of prayer. Here is a passage to consider.
Some Christians are afraid they are going to miss God's will for their lives. But they have nothing to worry about. The first way to be sure to find God's will is by following the first foundational principle we discussed:
1. We can discern God's will by surrendering our lives to him.
There are two other important ways we can be sure to discern God's will.
2. We can discern God’s will by studying Scripture (Psalm 19:7–11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–6; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
The more we understand Scripture and have his wisdom, the clearer the right paths will become for us (Hebrews 5:11–14). Paul has this to say about discerning God’s will:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
How are our minds renewed? How are our thoughts and attitudes changed? We learn from the psalmist that we are changed by God’s Word.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
If we want to know God’s will, then our first task ought to be to discover what he has already revealed about his will in Scripture. God has already revealed to us that he wants us to love him, love people, and make disciples. He has also shown us many specific ways that he wants us to do these things. Many believers are seeking God’s will on something, when they really just need to get busy doing what God has already revealed in his Word.
If we are seeking his direction about a matter that is not specifically addressed in Scripture, we can be sure that he will lead us in a way that is consistent with what he has already revealed. The Bible is authoritative in the believer’s life, so anything that we believe to be true and right should be tested by Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1–6; Titus 1:9).
3. We can discern God’s will by seeking him in prayer (Philippians 4:6–7; Jeremiah 29:11–13; James 4:2b).
God loves for us to seek him and his will in prayer. When we ask for anything according to his will, he hears and answers us (1 John 5:14–15). So here is a simple question: does God want us to know and do his will? Of course! We can have absolute confidence and peace that God will direct us as we seek him.
I meet believers who are afraid that they are going to miss God’s will. They worry that God is trying to speak to them, but they just can’t hear it. However, God is not playing games with us. He is not leaving hints to a puzzle we must figure out. He knows what we know, and he is able to communicate with us. We can have the confidence and peacefulness of a child who knows that his Heavenly Father can handle it! If we are stressed and afraid as we seek God, then we are not trusting that he is able and willing to show us his will.
[This is the the third post in a series. The first two are:
I have already recommended to you Donald Whitney's book Praying the Bible. Here is a brief video in which he explains how to pray the Bible. As he says at the end of the video, try it yourself! Even if you understand what this means conceptually, you won't understand its effectiveness and power until you try it.
“Will you marry me?” The young man on his knee looked up into her bright eyes.
She beamed and squealed, “Yes!”
“Sweetheart, I am so excited to be your husband! But I need you to understand that I enjoy long distance relationships. I would really prefer not to live with you. While I do want to marry you, I don’t really want to have to talk with you all that much. And I am not much interested in sharing my stuff, my space, or my time with you.”
I do not know of a woman who desires this kind of marriage. We can learn how to love God by observing our hopes and expectations for marriage. An obvious part of any significant relationship is spending time together. This is also true of our relationship with God.
God asks us to seek him. This means that we spend the time and energy necessary to know him. When the Lord says, seek my face, he is talking about intimate fellowship. Our faces are one of the most intimate parts of our bodies. There we find the eyes, which are the window to the soul. It is amazing to think that God desires this kind of closeness with us!
We know that an intimate relationship requires time together. We can see this in Jesus’ close relationship with the Father. The Bible says that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).
“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.”
Jesus taught his disciples to do the same.
“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.”
As we see in these passages, when we spend time alone with God we are communicating with him. Communication is one of the most important parts of developing an intimate relationship with someone. We speak to God through prayer and we listen to God through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe that your relationship with God is the most important thing in your life? Are you convinced that spending time with him in intimate fellowship is critical for that relationship? If so, let’s resolve to spend time with him every day!
The Bible has often been described as a letter from God to his people. One important difference between a letter and the Bible is that we usually write letters to people who are not with us. We figure that if we are with someone we don’t have to write, we can just say what we want to say. But when we read the Bible, we are reading what he has written to us and we are with him! The Bible is part of our conversation with God. As mentioned above, the Spirit of God is present, helping us understand and apply what the Bible teaches.
When we pray the Bible, we respond in prayer to what we are reading. We listen to what the Spirit is saying to us and how he leads us in prayer as we read Scripture. We are participating in a conversation with God.
Praying the Bible is an important concept to understand because we so easily make Bible reading an intellectual exercise. That is, we are only using our brains to figure out what the words are saying. Reading the Bible certainly includes using our brains, but it is much more. If we turn Bible reading into only an educational or intellectual exercise, instead of a personal conversation with God, then we have missed its fundamental purpose. This is what Jesus said to the religious Jews,
“You search the Scriptures
because you think that in them you have eternal life;
and it is they that bear witness about me,
yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
So, what does it mean to pray the Bible? Praying the Bible means immediately responding to the words and ideas in the Bible through prayer. Talk to God about what you are reading. Be sensitive to the ways that God is speaking to you through the Scripture and respond to what he is saying and bringing to your mind. What you read might even trigger a thought that does not seem to be directly related to the Scripture. You can pray about that too.
You can learn more about this kind of conversation with God in the book Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney.
Many of us would describe prayer simply as talking to God. This is true, but it is much more. Any way that we relate to God is a part of prayer. Prayer includes worshiping God through music and singing, enjoying his love and presence in silence, and listening to him speak to you by his Spirit. Prayer is rejoicing, weeping, waiting, bowing before him, resting in him, and surrendering your heart to him. As we broaden our understanding of prayer, it is easier to understand how we can “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17).
Dr. Frizzell, author of How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, describes prayer this way, “From God’s perspective, prayer is the expression of that which He desires most—your personal relationship of love, surrender and trust. Prayer must be viewed as your commitment to spend meaningful time in personal relationship with God.”
I am finally reading a book that my mom gave me 15 years ago. Not that I have not tried to read it before, I just never finished it. The book is The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer, written by Dick Eastman in 1978.
Mr. Eastman made a commitment to pray for one hour every day after reading Matthew 26:40-41 [ESV]:
"And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.
And he said to Peter, 'So, could you not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”
I have often come to the realization that prayer is the key to an intimate relationship with Christ, to joining with God in his work in the world, and to unleashing his power in my life. This book has reawakened this understanding and fanned my passion to seek God in diligent prayer.
He suggests that you can easily pray for one hour by dividing sixty minutes into ten five minute increments devoted to different aspect of prayer.
This format is not intended to be a strict structure to which we must adhere. It is a beginning point for understanding the various aspects of prayer and committing a particular amount of time for prayer. Many will find that an hour is just not enough!
I have been impressed and challenged by this book. It is simple and well written. It contains many powerful quotes and stories from historic prayer warriors and books on prayer. My understanding of the various parts of prayer has been broadened significantly.