As we begin 2017, our church has taken January to focus on a handful of spiritual disciplines—personal and public. The first in our series is prayer. But instead of just commending its importance and techniques to help, I took the route of seeing how God forms desire for prayer in our hearts.
By drawing near to God, by remembering the promises of his Word, and by desiring with increasing anguish Christ’s kingdom to come, we grow more passionate in our prayer. Indeed, passion is not a word that simply means “with heighten emotion.” Rather, its original sense relates to suffering (hence “Christ’s passion”), and this is what we do when we pray—we entering into the sufferings of Christ and weep for his will to be done.
At first glance, this kind of praying may seem off-putting, but I believe, Scripture—Psalm 126 especially—teaches us that this is the kind of prayer that endures. So if you want to grow in prayer in 2016, consider what Psalm 126 says and how it fuels prayer. You can read the sermon notes or listen online. Discussion questions and resources are below.
A Song of Ascents.
1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
4Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
5Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
- Where is Psalm 126 ‘located’? What is the shape of the Songs of Ascent? (Hint: 15 songs, centered on Psalm 127; 2 Davidic Psalms on each side; movement towards Zion). What does this teach us about praise and prayer?
- What are the similarities between prayer in the Old Testament and prayer in the New Testament (in Christ)? What are the differences? If you were talking to a faithful Jew, what would you tell them about Christian prayer?
- How do we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14)? What role does Scripture play in prayer? What part of Scripture motivates us best and induces us to pray with faith? (Hint: it’s not so much the commands of the Law but the testimony of God’s faithfulness combined with his gracious promises that grow our faith/prayer).
- What role does suffering play in prayer? How does knowing that prayer is meant to be a struggle (see Colossians 4:12) help you pray, or keep you praying in difficult times?
- In what ways will you take steps to increase prayer this year? Personal prayer? Corporate prayer? Thankful prayer? Deliberate prayer?
- What resources do you use to help you pray? See the list of resources below and take turns sharing how God has taught you to pray.
- What are some immediate action steps you can take to grow in prayer at Occoquan Bible Church?
- Seek out a fellow member and commit to praying together once a week for the next month. (Don’t commit to an indefinite season of prayer. Start with this monthly commitment).
- Join us for OBC’s Annual Meeting (6pm on January 8), a time of prayer for 2017. Continue to join us for our monthly times of Great Commission Prayer.
- Join us for OBC’s ‘Concert of Prayer’ (3pm on January 14), a time of song and prayer for needs in our congregation.
Books Prompting Prayer
- Valley of Vision — a collection of Puritan prayers collected by Arthur Bennett
- Pray for the World — a list of global, evangelistic needs; it is the condensed version of Operation World (7th Ed.)
- A Journal — one of the most effective ways to pray is by writing
Books on Prayer
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller — if you want to know what prayer *is* and what it can be, read this
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller — this is my commendation for those just starting to pray
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney — a great help for grounding our prayers in God’s inspired word; here’s little bit more about it
Lord, give us hearts that burn with prayer for your glory and for the good of your people.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds