#688. EFFECTIVE PRAYER (11/11/22)
This week’s devotionals are based upon our ’New Ground Sunday’ and our recent Leadership Conference. Both of these events are focused on encouraging churches and leaders in the New Ground family of churches but I trust that anyone will find these devotionals helpful.
Summary: For prayer to be effective, it must be in agreement with God, united, humble, and persevering.
In his teaching at the New Ground Leadership Conference, Pete Anderson spoke of four keys to effective prayer:
1. PRAYER + AGREEMENT WITH GOD = EFFECTIVE PRAYER
‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.’ (1 John 5:14-15)
‘You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.’ (James 4:1-3)
1 John 5 is God-serving prayer and James 4 is self-serving prayer. Powerful prayer if we prayer what God wants!
2. SOURCES OF KNOWING, SO AS TO PRAYER, GOD’S WILL
I. His word - We read so as to pray His word.
II.His Spirit - We feel the Spirit giving us faith and conviction to pray for something.
Pete gave an example of going for a prayer walk and feeling inspired by the Spirit to pray for a building at a certain street corner. Throughout the rest of that day, God put him into contact with various people which led to the church purchasing a building on the corner where he had felt compelled to pray that morning.
2. PRAYER + AGREEING WITH PEOPLE = POWERFUL PRAYER
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:19
God moves through the united prayers of the church.
‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer’ (A.T. Pierson)
If we want to see God moving in power in nations and communities, let’s be proactive in uniting together and with other churches to pray. Pray the promises of God together. For example, you might want to pray together:
‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ (Matthew 9:38)
3. PRAYER + FASTING = EFFECTIVE PRAYER
‘Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.’ (Daniel 10:12-13)
‘Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting.’ (Psalm 35:13)
Daniel’s ‘humbling himself’ involved fasting (10:12). Fasting is a mechanism to ‘humble yourself’. If we want to grow in humility, fasting is a way of doing so.
The biggest barrier t prayer is pride. The self-sufficient will not pray - they don’t need to!
‘But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ (James 4:6)
‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Matthew 23:12)
‘When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting…But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ (Matthew 6:16-18)
Do you see that Jesus is teaching us that ‘when we fast’ (not if!) that there is ‘reward’ if done correctly?
This is a universal truth. humility is one of the greatest keys in the Christian life and in leadership. Fasting is a God-appointed mechanism to trigger humility.
Pride attracts the demonic. Humility opens the way for God to move.
4. PRAYER + PERSEVERANCE = EFFECTIVE PRAYER
‘So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Luke 11:9)
Jesus teaches us to pray with perseverance. We are to be like the persistent widow in Matthew 18:1-8; this account begins with these challenging words:
‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ (Matthew 18:1)
Prayer must be maintained. Prayer is like putting our foot on the accelerator; if we take our foot off of the power of prayer, we will coast but ever so slowly come to a standstill. Many Christians and churches have come to a standstill!
Pete warned about the effects of discouragement over time:
‘We can have a big dream but experience a small reality. Over time we can become jaded and shrink our dream.’
Pete Anderson taught about the need for conviction if we are to persevere in prayer:
‘What fuels perseverance in prayer? Conviction.’
Conviction or faith keeps us praying. Knowing God’s promises and humbling ourselves under His word and character, will give us the conviction to pursue what we believe He wants for us.
Praying God’s word. Praying in unity with the church. Praying with humility and fasting. Praying with perseverance. These things will lead to effective and powerful prayer. Are you seeing answered prayer? Are you seeing God’s fruitfulness? Are you growing in prayer or have you taken your foot off of the accelerator? How do you need to respond?
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What has God been speaking to you about from His word recently? How would you like prayer?
3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
NEW GROUND SUNDAY - THE KINGDOM IS GROWING
On Sunday we had Dave Holden speaking at our New Ground Sunday. He spoke about the need for fresh faith that God is building His Kingdom and that He wants us involved.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
The Kingdom of God, put simply, is God’s rule. Whenever someone becomes a Christian, they enter the Kingdom as they come under the reign of Christ. Whenever the church effects the world in any way, the Kingdom is expressed as God’s will in done. To see the Kingdom come means more people becoming Christians and more light being shown through he acts of the saints.
GOD IS EXTENDING HIS KINGDOM
It’s God’s will for the Kingdom to grow. Isaiah promises that the success of the Kingdom, ultimately, depends upon God’s power and zeal:
‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.’ (Isaiah 9:6-7)
God’s kingdom is going to be extended from generation to generation and nation to nation until the end comes. Jesus taught us to pray:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”
This prayer will be fully answered at the return of Christ. Then, and only then, will the Kingdom be fully expressed in this fallen world and universe.
THE KINGDOM STARTS SMALL AND GROWS
Jesus spoke of the growing nature of the Kingdom with these 2 parables:
‘Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’ Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’ (Luke 13:18-21)
Jesus is promising that the Kingdom of God will affect more and more people and places. Each generation is to expect to see the Kingdom extended. Again, as with The Lord’s Prayer, the full growth of the ‘tree’ and the full mixing of the ‘yeast’ is about the final consummation at Jesus’ return.
GOD WANTS YOU AND I INVOLVED
God is committed to His Kingdom coming. The final outcome is inevitable if the process of growth has started. The Spirit is at work to complete the work that He has started. However, He wants His church involved in this work. Through us, the Kingdom comes to more people and places.
RESPONSE - DIG AROUND IT!
Jesus gave us this parable:
‘Then he told this parable: A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’ (Luke 13:6-9)
This parable was confronting and challenging God’s people, many of whom were religious but unfruitful. Many were rejecting Christ. Jesus was speaking to them of God’s judgment, patience and call to repentance. God was giving them time to dig around the soil of their lives and come back to Him. God is calling us to dig around the soil of our lives. Are we being fruitful? Are we seeking first the Kingdom? Are we paying lip service but our hearts are not engaged? How does God want you to be more involved in 'seeking first the Kingdom of God'?
i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?
ii) How would you summarise the Kingdom of God?
iii) How does one enter the Kingdom of God?
iii) When we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” what are we asking to happen?
iii. How does God want you more involved in seeking the Kingdom?
SIV - Let's keep praying and planning for how we can invite people to our carol service on 11th December (4 pm).
SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith with your friends?
SIV - How do you plan to 'serve, invest and invite' into your friendships?
SIV - Let's pray for the Spirit to lead us in reaching our community.