Gather your sisters and a Bible, let’s talk about Pray. If you’re on your own, grab your journal and a pen to vocalize your answers on paper.
Let’s start by reciting or writing the Pray memory verse…
One reason I chose this memory verse for Pray was the Greek word translated sick. It means “to be ill, with a possible implication of being worn out or wasting away,” “to be sick, to be very sick” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains/Louw-Nida).
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. James 5:15
The word in Greek is very generalized and the context usually provides the precise nature of the illness. But here we have the word standing alone for any general illness. Physical diseases are not the only things that make us sick. We can be sick at heart without needing a cardiologist. Many things in this broken world make us sick. What happened in Nice, France last weekend… in Dallas two weeks ago…
There is much disease in the world. Think about the word disease for a minute, break it down: dis-ease. I didn’t discover this on my one, someone else taught it, I don’t remember who. It made a huge impact on me and I can’t think of it any other way now. Anything that causes us dis-ease — disturbs our ease, our peace — is a disease, a sickness. So, the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, whether they have a physical, emotional, spiritual, relational ailment.
God heals all dis-eases, and for the most part they are all the result of sin, which He forgives.
Devoted to Prayer:
Today, we’re not only going to talk about prayer we are going to pray.
Read: Luke 11:1
We’ve probably all done some searching on how to pray. The disciples did, too. It’s important to remember the disciples weren’t new to prayer. Jewish boys were raised learning to pray. Something about the way Jesus prayed left them yearning for more… wanting to pray the way He prayed. Each of us have someone we might think of who has a powerful rich prayer life. Like the disciples, we want to know what that is like, how to pray like them. Maybe, it’s not so much how we pray, but in the way we approach our conversation with God.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that as we completed this week on Pray, I attended a church and the message was… prayer. The preacher reminded us the Bible is full of prayers we can consider when we are seeking how to grow our prayer life.
Turn with me to Psalm 130 and let’s take a look at how the psalmist talks to God.
From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. —Psalm 130:1-2 NLT
If you could describe the one praying these words, what would you say? Are the words neat and tidy… void of emotion? When I read them, I can almost hear his pain and desire for relief. I was reminded through the preacher’s words, we should be authentic when we talk to God. We often try to say the right words, clean up our language, take out the emotion in order to hide our true selves from God. Silly isn’t it? God knows our hearts. He’s not looking for a perfect pray-er. He’s looking for a sincere heartfelt conversation. Creating us with emotion was His plan. He can take whatever it is we think and feel. Being real with God opens the door for lasting transformation in our lives… the very beginning of a powerful prayer-filled life.
The Psalms are a great place to learn how to pray. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the psalms are where He teaches us.
The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word…
In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ’s prayer. The Psalter is the great school of prayer.
Here we learn, first, what prayer means. It means praying according to the Word of God on the basis of promises.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
When Bonhoeffer refers to the Psalter, he is referring to the book of Psalms.
Where did you learn to pray?
Like the psalmists, the most important thing about approaching God in prayer is an honest heart. Remember, He already knows what’s in it: anger, jealousy, fear, confusion, doubt. So go ahead and pour it out before Him. He can take it and we do not need to fear repercussions when we vent directly to Him.
What have you tried to hide from God when you approached Him in prayer?
He wants us to come to Him with our heartaches and uncertainties, because when we do He will change our hearts. You may have noticed it as you’ve read through some of the Psalms. The writers go from doubting God, questioning His presence, His love, His goodness… then in the next line they’re busting out in praise! It’s like they have split personalities. This is the work of God when we come before Him openly and honestly.
God is good, perfect, and righteous. We can trust Him to be who He says He is. We can come to Him with whatever darkness is in our hearts and lay it all out before Him, because He understands who we are and responds with compassion and mercy. He loves us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
—Psalm 103:13-14 NIV
As we go through the session today, there will be prayer exercises along the way. Whether you are alone or with sisters you’ve gathered, we encourage you to pray. If possible out loud (especially if you are studying with a group).
Many are uncomfortable with the idea of praying out loud. I’ve heard people tell me they just don’t do that, pray out loud. Praying out loud is uncomfortable, especially for our flesh. Talking out loud to an invisible God you can’t see or hear and others hearing you do it. Yes, it’s uncomfortable.
But early on in my walk, when I realized the price Jesus paid for us to come before Him in prayer, I decided I would be willing to pray out loud when no one else would. He died so we could pray. He was definitely uncomfortable on the cross. So I figure I can take a little discomfort to practice the privilege of prayer.
There is no right or wrong way to pray if we come before God honestly, but the four steps of prayer we talked about in Week 2, the ones we will practice today, can help put form to our prayer. I know for me, in the struggle of praying out loud, they helped me know where to start my prayer and where I was going next. These four steps help me pray with confidence as I listen to the Spirit to direct my prayer.
So let’s start with….
The Psalms are a great place to start when studying the character of God through praise. The traditional Hebrew title for Psalms was tehillim which means praise.
We begin our prayer with praise. Scripture teaches us who God is and that is where we’ll start. Praising Him with His own words about Himself.
How do we choose what to praise Him for? You can ask Him how He wants you to praise Him. Or you can choose an aspect of His character that speaks to a burden on your heart. For example, if you are struggling with fear and anxiety you could praise Him as the source of peace. When you begin with an attribute of God — good, faithful, Savior — you can find a Scripture by looking in the concordance, which can be found at the back of many Bibles. These days, you can also find extensive ones online. A concordance is an alphabetical listing of principle words in the Bible and the verses where they can be found with part of the text written out.
For today, open up to the Psalms, begin to skim and find a verse describing God’s character. Write it down in your journal.
Next, choose the single attribute of His character you desire to praise Him for from the verse you chose. Write it down.
I used to think I knew what a word meant, one as simple as good, but through the practice of looking up the definition in a dictionary I discovered I didn’t know as much as I thought. Looking up the actual definition can give us a much richer understanding of who God is and praise Him more clearly.
Using a dictionary, look up the definition of the attribute you chose. Write the significant parts of the definition next to your chosen character of God.
Take a moment to think about this aspect of God’s character and what it means to you. Why is it important? What benefits come from it?
Praise God in prayer.
[If you are gathered with sisters, choose who will open up the prayer. This time of prayer should be like a conversation between you, your sisters, and God. If you hear someone praise Him for the same attribute as you’ve chosen, then speak up when that person is finished. There will be times of silence and that’s OK. Use the Scripture you chose to help you form a prayer of praise. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s direction and His pressing for when you should pray and what to pray.
If you are alone. Be bold. Praise Him out loud.]
Amen. Praising God is a choice. It’s our choice to remember what amazing wonders have been done for us, what an amazing God we have.
No matter what circumstances we find ourselves, as Believers, we have reason to praise God: Jesus. Isaiah told us Jesus came to exchange our spirit of despair for a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:1-3). Choose to put on the garment of praise and be a witness to the world of the good news of Jesus.
Our second step of prayer is…
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened… —Psalm 66:18 NIV84
cherish — 1.a. to hold dear: feel or show affection for b. to keep or cultivate with care and affection: nurture 2. to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely
—Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
It seems unthinkable that anyone would cherish sin in their hearts. But many things the world deems acceptable, God calls sin.
- Gossip (2 Corinthians 12:20-21)
One of America’s favorite pastimes, which often leads to anger and slander (make false charges or misrepresent —MW) are also mentioned in these verses.
According to the dictionary a gossip is: a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about another; a rumor or report of an intimate nature; chatty talk (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Ed.)
- Drunkenness (Romans 13:13)
Drunkenness is just having a good time in our culture.
- Sexual immorality (Galatians 5:19-21)
Casual sex is not a benefit of friendship, it is sexual immorality. Even in the church, living together before marriage for many couples has become acceptable.
- Crude humor (Ephesians 5:4)
Most comedians today base their humor on filth. It’s all crude.
The last movie I saw had a preview for an upcoming live showing of a popular comedian. Of course the trailer was approved for all audiences. The only things you heard come out of the comic’s mouth was laughter or screaming. I pretty much decided those were the only parts of his act that were acceptable for all audiences. But not one intelligible word.
- Dressing provocatively (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Modesty. There’s something that’s lacking in our culture. Scantily clad women are used to sell products and entice people to watch movies or television shows. Our culture encourages young women to dress in a manner that uses sex to attract attention. Hot is the term used. God calls godly women to clothe themselves in good works.
Most of these verses have long lists of sinful behavior. These are just a few our culture deems socially acceptable, you could probably add more. But the thing we need to consider is…
Do I cherish sin in your heart?
If we look forward to something God calls sin, then we can be sure we like it, have affection for it. Cherishing sin closes God’s ears to our prayers.
Once we commit our lives to Christ there are some things we don’t have a choice about anymore. One of these is who defines sin. We are called to come into agreement with God and not the world regarding sinful behavior.
Sin is defined by God. Not culture, society, or tradition.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:2 NIV
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. —Colossians 2:8 ESV
Pray: Day 3 included Vocabulary to Revive. Did the revived definition of sin change your perspective on the sin in your life?
Does seeing a greater degree of sin in your life, make you see a greater need for Jesus and what He has done for you? How does that affect your faith?
We’ve talked about sin, now let’s take a moment to have a time of confession.
[If you are gathered with sisters, choose who will open the prayer. Consider beginning with a general confession. Then move into a time of silence. For group prayer, specific personal confession before God is generally done in silence. Sinner to Savior. If you feel pressed by the Holy Spirit to confess out loud, so be it. We won’t encourage anyone to quench the movement of the Spirit. Whoever began the prayer can close the prayer when it feels complete.
If you are alone and in a place you can pray openly, consider voicing your specific confessions to your Savior. But silent is fine too. He hears our hearts.
Whether alone or with sisters, ask Him what you need to confess. Be open to what He reveals. Confess and seek His forgiveness specifically where you have recognition of sin in your life.]
Amen. We have praised God, coming face to face with who He is, which often reveals our sins and need for confession. Now that we have confessed, the natural next step is to be thankful…
…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
Wednesday I had to help my middle child with some college stuff that needed to be done on campus. We left late because he had to print something out and even though he knew about it he decided we would handle it before we left. The problem was we just bought a new printer and it wasn’t set up and we had no paper. By the time I got in the car I was frustrated. On the way I began to pray. I moved through praise and confession. I began to give thanks when I hear the Spirit nudging me: Give thanks for Dakota’s ADHD. I just couldn’t do it. Why would I give thanks for something that creates so much distress in our lives? I struggled with it in that moment and still do. It is hard to give thanks in this circumstance. I shared with my sister later. I gave thanks because God asked me to. I didn’t feel like it, but His way is better than mine. Sometimes giving thanks in a circumstance is obeying in spite of your feelings.
His Word says: give thanks in all circumstances.
Can you think of a circumstance in which you could not be thankful? What?
In the Greek, the tense of give thanks is imperative. God gives it as a command.
How can God command us, will us, to be thankful during painful experiences?
Read: Colossians 2:6-7
The answer: Christ Jesus.
When our lives are rooted in Him, built up in Him, and strengthened in faith we begin to see things from an eternal perspective. When we remember His sacrifice for us. How Father God used painful circumstances to make the way for salvation. We can be thankful. Even overflowing with thankfulness. We remember He’s not done. He creates wonders from nothing.
Please notice, God calls us to be thankful in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
What are ways we can be thankful during a difficult time?
Thank Him for His purpose, His presence, His work in the situation.
Pray a thanksgiving prayer to God in Christ Jesus.
[Whether with your group of sisters or by yourself, voice your thanks to Him today for whatever comes to your mind. But we also challenge you to give Him thanks in the midst of something difficult you are going through now.]
Our final step of prayer is intercession…
Jesus is the ultimate Intercessor.
…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
—Hebrews 7:24-25 NIV
Christ lives to intercede for us. He stands at the right hand of the Father making requests on our behalf. He perfects our prayers.
Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew how to pray for each person perfectly. He knew the Father’s will for their lives. Through the Holy Spirit we can find out how to intercede on behalf of people we pray for.
God has a way and not the way for every situation. He has a specific will and it can often be found in His Word. Praying scripturally helps us to pray according to His will.
The first step in interceding for someone with Scripture is to ask God how He wants us to pray.
When I first began seeking God’s will for the people I was praying for He would put a word or phrase in my mind. I would then go to my concordance, find the word, and read the verses containing the word until I found the one that felt right. Then I would pray that word of God over the individual or situation.
Listening for His direction is a step of faith. Trusting what comes to mind is from the Spirit. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Jesus will perfect our prayers. He knows our hearts and He knows we are seeking His will. He will honor our faithfulness.
Today, the same process still takes place, just a little differently. I know more of His Word so the Spirit can remind me of a passage or story and I’ll be able to go to it more quickly. I’ve also come to recognize His voice and have more confidence in what He’s calling me to pray.
Next, turn the verse into a prayer for the person or circumstance.
Listen for the Spirit’s guidance as you pray.
We hope you will begin to practice praying scripturally in your personal quiet time. But we would like to practice here too.
Pray His Word in intercessory prayer.
[If you are gathered with sisters, choose someone to lead, and enter into a time of prayer interceding for a situation or person based on the Pray memory verse:
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. —James 5:15 ESV
Pray for what God is pressing on your heart, sister. You can pray for the person by name or simply say, You know who/what is on my heart. Pray specifically too. Others in the group pray silently in agreement as each voices their intercessory prayer.
If you are by yourself and have time, seek God for what Scripture to pray over the situation or person He is pressing on your heart. If you are short on time at the moment, use the Pray memory verse.
Close the time of prayer as led by the Spirit.]
Prayer takes trust. Trust that He hears us. Trust that He will answer.
Trust is our faith action for Week 3. Trust is an essential part of faith, because if we don’t trust God we won’t take steps of faith.
Often times, trust feels shaky. When I step out in faith I move about as quickly and confidently as if I were walking on thin ice. Trepidation is the word that comes to mind when I think about putting my trust in God. But that is not what biblical trust is all about.
The Hebrew translated trust in our memory verse for the week is batach.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 ESV
Batach means not only to trust in, but feel safe, be confident, careless (Theological wordbook of the Old Testament).
Care-less. Without care.
When was the last time you felt care-less?
This is the kind of trust God calls us to have in Him. Bold, confident, carefree trust.
Over the next week we’ll be talking about trust and why we should be care-less because He is our God.
Father God, grow our faith this week. Bless us with opportunities to exercise our faith and the boldness to step out in faith.
Have a great week.