Tag Archive | Bible Study

Learning About Prayer

I am the leader of prayer ministries for a large and growing ministry for ladies with chronic illness. I am currently leading a prayer study for the Sunday school class my husband and I attend. So prayer is important to me. But I do not consider myself an expert in prayer. As my responsibilities in the area of ministering to others in the area of prayer have increased, the knowledge that I still have a lot to learn has become foremost in my mind.  I am a learner in the area of prayer.

I shared in a recent article that my husband and I have been walking through some difficult circumstances in our lives. I don’t want to go into the details again, so I’ll share the link for anyone who is interested in this story.        https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/living-outside-my-comfort-zone/

God has been at work through these circumstances in both my husband’s life and my life, but in different ways. In my life, He has had me in what I would describe as the Holy Spirit School of Prayer

During the same period of time, I have been preparing to lead the prayer study in our Sunday school class using The Battle Plan for Prayer Bible Study materials from Stephen and Alex Kendrick, producers of the movie War Room.. What I share today is a combination of what God has personally been teaching me and what I’m learning through the study of these excellent materials.

Now I have a more balanced understanding of what prayer includes. Up until recently, when I thought of prayer, what primarily came to mind was confession of sin, lifting our needs up to the Lord (supplication), and intercession for the needs of others. I always felt like I was falling short in these areas, especially in supplication and intercession, because the needs were so overwhelming that it would literally take “prayer without ceasing” to cover all of them daily.

These are important parts of prayer, but prayer is so much more. I knew in theory that worship, praise and thanksgiving were all elements of prayer, but in my mind they were separate things. I had even tried using the A.C.T.S. acronym – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication – during my prayer time, but I saw this more as a formula for prayer, with worship, praise and thanksgiving more as preparation for prayer than as actual types of prayer.

I had also read of the importance of using God’s Word in prayer, but in my mind and on my daily schedule Bible reading and prayer were two separate things. As we have walked through this difficult season, I’ve begun to understand each of these things as a part of true prayer.

At it’s root, prayer is communion and communication with God. When Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are to pray without ceasing, he was not talking about what I used to think of as prayer. He was saying throughout the day we are to stay in open communication with God. The main way God speaks to us is through His Word, so we are to read His Word expecting Him to speak to us. And we are to respond to what He shows us in prayer. Bible reading and study are meant to be a part of our prayer life, not separate from it.

This season of my life has caused a major change in my daily quiet time. Instead of seeing it as composed of a series of things I do, I have begun to see the whole quiet time as a part of prayer. Praise and worship are no longer preparing my heart for prayer – they are prayer. Overcoming discouragement by looking for God’s blessings in the midst of our trials and expressing my gratitude to Him is also a part of prayer. And when I pick up my Bible or open a Bible app on my iPad to begin reading and studying, I do so with an attitude of prayer and expectancy.

One thing that has really helped me gain this new understanding is prayer journaling. I’m not new to journaling. I remember many years ago as a new Christian getting up and reading my Bible and writing in my journal every morning before leaving for my job as a kindergarten teacher. And through the years, I’ve filled hundreds of notebooks and journals from this habit. But again, I saw this as separate from my prayer life.

When we began walking through this season where the cry of my heart daily became “God, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬b‭ NIV)‬‬, I began prayer journaling. I now begin my quiet time with a prayer for God to speak to me through His Word, and as He began to do so regularly I grew into an expectancy that this would happen.

Now, as I read God’s word, I do so with a pen in my hand and my current journal open so I can put in writing the things God in showing me. This isn’t really much different than the journaling I’ve always done, but I no longer stop there. Those insights now become prayers of worship, praise and gratitude to God, of confession of sin, of honestly telling God where I am and asking His help, or of commitment to obey something He has shown me I need to do. Often as I’m reading a Scripture, someone with a need comes to mind and I intercede for them. Or I read a verse that gives a burden for Christians facing persecution for their faith and I turn this into a prayer. Or I read a passage that reminds me of how messed up things are in our nation , and I pray using that passage for our nation. Whatever God speaks to my heart during this quiet time in His presence is turned into a prayer of response.

As a result of this growing understanding of all prayer includes, and of learning to make prayer an important part of my day and not just an add-on to my Bible study time, I have been walking through one of the most difficult trials of my recent life, one where my normal response would be fear and anxiety, in almost constant peace. There have been days when staying close to God was a battle – life as a Christian in this fallen world is like that. But by staying in communication with God by talking with Him throughout my day, walking in meekness and submission to His will and purposes in our lives, and resisting the devil and his lies, I’ve experienced God’s peace and strength as seldom before.

As I was praying this morning about this article, a picture came to my mind of someone throwing a large stone into a lake. When the stone breaks the surface of the water, it creates a ripple effect, with concentric waves of water moving out from the spot where the stone landed. This is a picture of the effect of true prayer in our lives. True prayer isn’t just something we do as a part of our daily schedule, or even throughout the day as we become aware of needs. True prayer is like breaking the surface to enter into the presence of God, and the result has a ripple effect. It changes every part of our lives and even spreads out to touch the lives of others.

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Living Outside My Comfort Zone

The Five Minute Friday writing community, led by Kate Motaung and in which I routinely post, is writing on the prompt COMFORT this week. This is technically not a Five Minute Friday post – the two guidelines for Five Minute Friday posts are free writing for five minutes and no editing, and what I need to share today cannot be written in five minutes and is too personal and important to post without editing. But seeing Kate’s prompt for the week showed me the direction for this article which I’ve been sensing God directing me to write this week.

 

If I were in charge of my life, I would never step outside of my comfort zone, that place where I feel confident and comfortable and function with ease and familiarity. But many years ago, I turned the control of my life over to another, to Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. One big thing I’ve learned in the thirty-five plus years since then is that God is much more concerned with my character than my comfort.

From the automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me with crippling injuries, to the birth of our son with severe brain damage and profound mental retardation, to my later development of a long list of chronic  illnesses as a result of the injuries I received during the accident, comfort has not been a word I would choose to describe my life. Yes, in each situation, there has been a measure of comfort from God in the midst of heartache, but my Christian life has not been lived in my comfort zone.

In recent months, my husband and I have been walking through another dark valley, another season of life where in ourselves we can see no way out. It all started on a Saturday in May when we decided to take some much needed family time and have a meal out. My husband, daughter and I enjoyed our pizza and were on our way home when our car broke down on one of the busiest roads in southeast Houston. God protected us from injury and provided a way home, while our car was towed to a shop. Later, we learned that repairing our car – our only vehicle – would cost more than it was worth. We began praying, asking God to make a way for us to buy an affordable but dependable used car.

Fast forward a few weeks, and a series of letters, phone calls, and one visit to the court house opened our eyes to another major problem. We learned that the house and property we had inherited from my mother-in-law, which we thought the probate attorney who handled Mom’s estate had taken care of for us, was still in the name of the estate, and another plot of land on which she owed back taxes and which we had been advised by our attorney to just turn over to the county had been transferred to our name, apparently brecause of an error made by some level of local government. In addition, we learned that the senior homestead exemption we filed in January on our home had been lost by the county tax assessors’ office. Because of all this, we suddenly owed thousands of dollars in past due property taxes and penalties, on property that wasn’t even officially in our names.

It’s now the middle of July, and so far neither the need for a dependable car nor the property paperwork and tax issue has been resolved. We are still in a time of waiting to see what God is going to do.

Yet while our prayers have not yet been answered, this doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been at work behind the scenes. I can’t speak about how God is working in my husband’s life through these circumstances – that’s his story to tell. But God is doing a major work in my life during this season, first in teaching me about the power of prayer, and also in helping me to walk in faith in the midst of uncertainty.

Nothing prompts us to prayer better than a crisis! When circumstances feel over-whelming and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change them, you learn how dependent upon God you really are. What began in my heart as a simple cry to God for help has become a major classroom on the discipline of effective, strategoc prayer. I’ve come to understand as never before the need to hear from God before I pray, and to be honest with Him in sharing the burdens of my heart. I’ve learned the effectiveness of praying God’s Word back to Him. And I’ve learned to keep praying and not give up until the answer comes.

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The last two months have also been a time of taking hold of the fact that I am loved and accepted by God, even when I’m struggling. It has been a season of having my trust in God stretched to the breaking point, but also of my trust becoming stronger as I spend time in His presence and Word daily. Daily prayer journaling has become a way of life, as it my weakness I recognize my need for God’s strength to make it through another day. My relationship with God is now stronger than it’s ever been in the past, and my morning quiet times have become the biggest blessing of my days.

We still don’t know what God is going to do in either of these situations. We have done everything we know to do, so now both problems are in His hands, awaiting His answer in His timing. I want to close with a verse God gave me about a week ago, from 2 Chronicles 20, the last portion of verse 12. It says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” That’s where we now are, as we wait on God to work on our behalf.

Where are you today? Is God asking you to live outside of your comfort zone and trust Him? If so, let my story encourage you to seek Him with your whole heart and hold nothing back. Even before your prayers are answered, you too may be amazed at the work He is doing in your life.

Five Minute Friday: Walking Steady

As a woman with knees badly damaged from an auto accident and feet crippled from peripheral neuropathy and degenerative arthritic conditions, walking is a challenge. I use a walker daily to keep me steady on my feet, and when I’m going somewhere that will require extended walking my wheechair is needed.

This week, God has been speaking to me about a different kind of walking steady, about spiritually walking steady. Difficult circumstances such as the ones we are currently facing add great stress to our lives, and as Christians this puts us in a battle. Will we give into our emotions, or will be continue to stand strong and walk steadily in the Lord? God’s Word makes the correct choice clear.

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For many years, I’ve had the habit of spending the first part of my day as a type of spiritual prep time for the day ahead. So this week, doing this came naturally. But on the other hand, this wasn’t a typical week in this area. My sense of need to spend time in God’s presence and hear from Him was so intense that it got me out of bed earlier than usual. And each day, God graciously met me in the place I have set aside for this.

On Monday, before I even got out of bed, God spoke to my heart that I was to study the first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12, which was not on my scheduled reading plan for the day. As I obeyed, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths in this passage that I had never noticed before.

Verses 12-13 especially stood out to me: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Sensing God wanted me to take the time to really understand what He was saying here, I did some word studies in the original Greek. Where the English translation says “weak knees,” the Greek says “palsied knees.” As the mother of an adult son with extremely severe cerebral palsy, this had special and clear meaning to me. And for the rest of this week, during my quiet times God has continued to bring new insights to my heart all coming out of these first thirteen verses of Hebrews 12.

I don’t know what circumstances you are currently facing, but perhaps God is also speaking to your heart of a need to walk steady spiritually. If so, I pray you will set aside an unhurried time each morning of this coming week to hear from God. Whatever the need, God is waiting to open your eyes to exactly the truth you need to continue a steady walk with Him in your current situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From Job: With Friends Like These…

Few things hurt worse than being misunderstood, wrongly judged. These words penned by David also express well what Job must have felt when his so-called friends started talking. But for Job, it wasn’t just one familiar voice speaking words of condemnation, but three.

As I read the daily posts on the chronic illness prayer group that I moderate, the pain of being wrongly judged is an issue that repeatedly comes up. As I came to chapter 3 in my study of the book of Job, this is what immediately came to mind. And often, the hurtful words come from those to whom we should be able to look for support, our family and friends. 

I don’t know any people with chronic illness who would not love to be healed. As a Christian, I believe God has the power to heal and I pray continuously for healing and relief from symptoms for myself and others. This is definitely not an area I fully understand, but experience tells me that some are healed physically in their earthly bodies and others are not. If you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, keep asking for healing. But DO NOT turn your back on God if you are not healed!  Keep seeking His face. Continue living to please Him in everything you do. Don’t give into doubts about His love when the pain continues. Know you are loved, and respond to His love by loving Him with your whole heart.

Let’s look at the words of Job’s friends in a little more detail:

  • The first fact revealed about Job’s friends in Job 2:11 is after hearing of his troubles they met together by agreement and went to sympathize with Job and comfort him. A good goal! They then sat with their friend for seven days before they began offering their opinions.
  • The first friend to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite. Some of what Eliphaz said is true; for example, his statement in Job 4:8, “those who plow evil, and those who sow trouble will reap it” is true. But Eliphaz’ conclusion that Job’s suffering was because of his sin was wrong. In simple terms, Eliphaz looked at Job and said, “You’re only getting what you deserve.”
  • Next, we meet Bildad the Shuhite. He begins, “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind.” (Job 8:2) In essence he says, “Job, if you would just admit you have sinned, all of this would stop.”
  • The last friend to speak is Zophar the Naamathite. He goes even a step further than the first two in saying, “Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.” (Job 11:6)  In other words, Zophar was saying, “Job, your sin deserves even more suffering than you’ve experienced.”

Job’s three friends had reputations for being wise, yet any wisdom in their words was negated by judgmental attitudes. Their explanations of Job’s suffering lacked compassion. They lacked correct understanding of the true nature of God. Later in the book, God rebukes them, saying to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)

My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the physical and emotional strain of chronic illness. And it aches even more for those who don’t have family and friends to encourage and strengthen them as they walk this difficult path. 

If you have a friend with chronic illness, please don’t be like Job’s friends. Take every opportunity to encourage and help lift the load of those who hurt. If you personally suffer with chronic illness, don’t judge yourself and conclude that you have done something terrible to bring this upon yourself. 

God does convict of sin, but His conviction is specific and leads to repentance. If God shows you an area of sin, confess it to the Lord and receive His forgivenss. But recognize God is not the source of condemnation. Remember the truth of Romans 8:1-2. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”


Making Bible Study a Priority

We live in a rushed, high input culture, where distractions are non-ending. This is true, whether you are a Mom with young children or a senior adult as I am. To have an effective time of Bible study requires being purposeful.

Several years ago, I learned this important truth. Since then, Bible study has been a part of my daily schedule. I have a regular place and time for Bible study. For me, the place is my lift chair, mainly because sitting at a desk or table causes pain from my chronic illnesses to be a distraction. You know what place works best for you. The tim is as soon as I finish breakfast. And my Bible, journal, pen, and reading plan are on a shelf next to my chair, ready to use. My iPad is also available since many of the resources I use during my study time are online, but I’ve made a commitment not to be distracted by checking email or social media until my study time is over. Each of us have different distractions to deal with, but the key is finding the time and place where they are minimized.

Each year, I choose a specific reading plan. In 2015, I used a chronological through the Bible reading plan. This year, I’ve chosen a plan that covers one book at a time, one chapter a day, allowing me to spend more time digging into the chapter. And I’m supplementing this with a Bible study through God-Living Girls, a group of ladies who all suffer with chronic illnesses.

Now, with the plan ready and supplies waiting, what do I actually do?

  • I start with a brief time of prayer, asking God to speak to me and to open my ears to listen. If I’m aware of any sin that would separate me from God, I confess it before starting.
  • Next, I read the chapter for the day, from start to finish. Sometimes, I use the YouVersion Bible app to listen to the chapter and follow along in the text. This gives me an overview of the material that I’m studying.
  • Then I ask God to show me which verses He wants me to focus on today. I’ve already read the full chapter, so I’m aware of the context of the shorter passage. I also reflect on what the passage meant to the original readers. I take notice of key words in the passage. Often, this step includes studying one or two words in the original language so I fully understand the meaning.
  • Now it’s time to slow down and listen. Usually God has a specific application for me in the passage, but if I rush through this step I might miss it.
  • Finally, I journal about what God is showing me from this passage. This might be a brief as one or two paragraphs, or if God is dealing with a major area of application I’ve sometimes written several pages.
  • After I complete my study of today’s passage, I use an app called Scripture Typer to review verses I’ve been working on memorizing. If God is speaking to me from a specific verse from today’s passage, I might add that to my list of verses. This app not only helps me memorize the verse, but it sets up a regular schedule of reviewing verses so I don’t forget them. Then I close my quiet time with prayer.

Bible study by itself doesn’t change our lives – we must follow thought with the applications God has shown us. D. L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”  The effectiveness of your Bible study can best be seen by the positive changes in your life.