Persistent Prayer

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. What do you hope and pray for?
  2. Do you think God answers prayer?  How?  How do you know?

Our Study: the necessity of remaining in prayer

“pray without ceasing”

1 Thes 5:17 (NASB)

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints”

Eph 6:18 (NASB)

“I have so much to do (today) that I should spend the first three hours in prayer.”

– Martin Luther

Objectives

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Understand the Biblical foundation for continuing in prayer
  2. Commit to being both instant and constant in prayer and be transformed through that commitment
  3. Experience God’s love and presence through prayer

Introduction

These last three weeks Daniel, Katie, and Ash have been speaking on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  One of the most concrete ways we can experience God’s presence and love is through prayer – every week we spend some time in prayer and worship and in small group you hopefully have time to pray and minister in a more intimate setting so we will now look at personal/private prayer.  I cannot stress enough that private prayer is an essential part of growing in Christ; Luther said “to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing”.

Prayer may not be the fuel we run on, but just because a car doesn’t run on oil doesn’t mean a car will run without it;  we can be Christians without committing and practicing regular prayer but there is no reason to settle for mediocrity.  It is not a bad idea to emulate the prayers in the Bible that God has responded to.

Study

  1. Intercession

    1. Read Genesis 20

      Abraham can pray for Abimelech and his household to be healed so that they may have children even while Abraham and Sarah cannot have children. While this is noteworthy in itself – that Abraham is a prophet, that we may intercede on behalf of others for blessings we ourselves do not have – it points at a deeper truth:  the only reason we may give that which we do not possess is because in prayer we are not giving our advice or our thoughts or our power but we are seeking and giving God’s blessing.  All of humanity – corporately and individually – has one pressing need: to receive God’s blessing.

    2. Read Daniel 9:1-19

      Daniel’s motivation for his prayer is his reading of Jeremiah – that is, his understanding of Scripture.  Just like Abraham the prophet who intercedes (Gen 20 above for Abimelech, Gen 18:16-33 for Sodom and Gomorrah) Daniel is a prophet who confesses and intercedes for his people’s sins.  Daniel spares no expense to humble himself – sackcloth, ashes, fasting, and extended periods of prayer.

    3. Read Exodus 32:1-14

      Moses intercedes for the people by interposing himself between them and God’s wrath.

    4. The link between prophets and intercessors

      The title might be a misnomer because you are not one without being the other; it is not a one-way flow of communication between a person and God. Every prophet in the Bible not only represents God to the people (with prophetic utterances (“words” or “oracles”)) but also represents the people to God.

      What is notable about those prayers? Do the great prophets of the Old Testament use language is alien to our prayers? What is the basis of their petitions before God?

  2. Spiritual nature of prayer

    1. Read Daniel 10

      Depending on your translation, you may have something like “the prince of the Persian kingdom” (NIV) or “the spirit-prince of the kingdom of Persia” (NLT). These are metaphors for a shocking truth – Daniel prayed and Satan launched an all out war with heaven for three weeks. Our prayers are not good intentions that warm the heart, but are powerful weapons of the Kingdom: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 NLT)

      The parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:1-7, 8-10) both emphasize that there is celebration in heaven over the one sinner who repents. Job highlights that there is an unseen, spiritual element behind suffering.

    2. Read Mark 9:14-29

      Immediately after coming down the mount of transfiguration, Jesus is confronted with a man whose son could not be healed by the disciples. Specifically, they could not cast out an evil spirit afflicting the young boy. Jesus says that this kind can only be cast out with prayer (v. 29). (Jesus himself doesn’t need to pray to cast out demons but that’s probably because He’s Jesus.) While this tells us that there are different kinds of evil spirits (or at least some more difficult to cast out than others) it points at the ultimate spiritual reality of prayer: it is powerful and effective.

    3. Read James 5:13-18

      Again we have the prayer of faith being powerful and effective in the context of healing. It is the prayer offered in faith, not faith in prayer in general that is efficacious. We are to pray with and for people, not at them.

  3. Persistence in prayer

    1. Read Luke 18:1-8

      The point of the story is not that if we nag God enough He will eventually cave and do what we want, but one of analogy and degree – if an unrighteous judge will eventually do the right thing, how much more so will the righteous Judge of the cosmos do right? Note that the story contains three characters – the judge, the widow, and the enemy – the prayer of persistence is that to be given justice against the enemy.

    2. Read Philippians 4:6-7

      In this passage the peace that passes understanding is contrasted with being anxious because of the source – our anxiety is the result of our own human way of dealing with burdens while the peace that passes understanding is the result of giving those to God. Giving these burdens to God is a constant and continuing event but we are invited and even commanded to do so (1 Pet 5:7; Matt 11:28)

  4. Evangelism

    1. Read Colossians 4:2-4

      More than our money (but not instead of!) missionaries and pastors need our prayer support. There are many who are preaching who have given up many comforts that we enjoy to preach Christ to those who are hostile in places where it is illegal.

    2. Read Matt 9:35-38

      We do not send missionaries; we pray that God might raise them up from among us and that we can echo the church in Jerusalem “it seemed good to Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). We can either go (Matt 28:16-20) or send or be disobedient – there are no other options for Christians.

Application:  What does persistent prayer look like?

I believe that we can describe the Biblical mandate for prayer with two adjectives: instant (Neh 2:1-5) and constant (1 Thes 5:17).  We are commanded to have times set aside to pray privately and not to be flashy or long-winded (Matt 6:5-8) – Jesus uses “when” and not “if” in relation to these times.

Become familiar with several different forms of prayer – liturgical, extemporaneous, journaled, and even reciting the Lord’s prayer regularly.

Hebrews 11 is almost a mandate to read biographies of heroes of the faith.  Read over the biographies of some giants and learn to pray like them.

Write down the names of two people you know who are not Christian and pray that they might come to know Christ on a daily basis.

Prayer Time:

  1. We are commanded to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, for our enemies, for our government, and for “workers” that is, missionaries. Open up prayer time asking God to make His concerns our concerns, and then pray accordingly.
  2. The only answer ever given to prayer will be more of Jesus Christ.  Ask that we might receive a deeper revelation of His love, His work, and His person.
  3. Healings are one sure sign that the Kingdom is here and now. There are often a complex of issues surrounding our brokenness – physical, emotional, spiritual (including sin and being sinned against).  Take James 5:13-18 to heart and gather together to confess and pray for one another.
  4. We have been saved not that we might be put on display but that we might be instrumental in furthering the purposes and Kingdom of God.  Spend some time interceding for those who do not know Christ.
  5. Prayer is worship.  End your prayer time proclaiming the ultimate supremacy of Christ. “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
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