“Only by prayer…”

Our study in Mark 9:14-29 brought us to the following conclusions.

1. The failure of Christians to experience the promised power of God is linked to diminished faith.

2. Diminished faith is a direct result of diminished communion with the Lord Jesus.

3. Communion with Jesus is maintained primarily through talking to him (prayer) and listening to him (intake of the Word of God).

Thus, the answer to the question of the disciples (who had been tagged with the same faithlessness that had marked their generation) as to why they had failed in their attempt to exorcise a demon was not meant to point to something mysterious, but something simple–they had not yet become men of prayer.

When Jesus says “this kind” only comes out by prayer, does he mean a special kind of demonic possession?  Possibly, but I think his point is that serious kingdom work that goes head to head with satanic forces must be done in the strength of a strong relationship with Jesus.  There are some things that even the weakest of Christians may find that they can do with little prayer and Bible intake–perhaps out of the overflow of what they hear in messages and the testimonies of others.  But the “heavy lifting” cannot be accomplished in this way.

I’m going to post this now, and may edit it later.  My next post will focus on how to increase our intake of the Bible with positive results.

 

So, then how do we who believe we must change our current practices in order to become the usable servants Jesus calls us to be ?  First, let us make sure we are not being “mercenary” about this, with an attitude that says, “OK, so if I do this, then I can get what I want?”  The answer there is no.  God wants us to delight in Him, and as we do so, we find that we receive our heart’s desires–which have been shaped by Him. 

Let me suggest that we choose one improvement immediately to make, and consider others each week.  Below are some helps for you.

Related to Prayer

1.  If you need to broaden your prayers into more than just request, consider the A-C-T-S acrostic as a model to follow.  Set a goal of spending two minutes in prayer for each of the following

A-Adoration.  This is praising God for who he is.  It is what psalms often do in describing God’s being–“You are high and lifted up…the Lord is righteous…” etc.  It may seem hard at first but try to think of five attributes of God’s character that you can complete the following sentence with:  Lord, I praise you for being… ”  Adoration is saying, “Father your name is holy” (the first petition of the Lord’s prayer).

C-Confession.  Take time to specifically confess sins and failures to God.  No relying on “forgive me all my sins.”  Name them, and repent of them.  If you can’t think of any, ask the Spirit to convict you.  Trust me, after the first time you do that honestly, you will not have to ask again!

T-Thanksgiving.  Thank God for specific blessings, provisions, lessons, etc. that come to mind.  You should have no trouble coming up with these, but if you do, think of things that have kept you alive, sheltered, and fed as a start.

S-Supplication.  Ask God for things.  But make it balanced.  Intercede for someone else as often as you ask for something related to yourself.  And be sure that whether you say it or not, what you are asking qualifies as something that is viewed as bringing God glory.

2. If you get discouraged by having more people to pray for than you can possibly cover in a day, consider the “six cards” method.  Take 3 3×5 cards, and cut them in half to create 6 3×2 1/2 cards.  Take one and list the people that you absolutely should pray for every day.  Take the other five and divide up your list of people you want to pray for regularly.  Then, Monday through Friday, carry your everyday card and one other and pray through those names.  The next day, keep your everyday card, but take a different card and pray through that set of names.  So, Monday through Friday, you are praying for the everyday card every day, and each of the others one day of the week.

3. If you think you need to deepen your prayers and find ways to keep them on target with God’s will, consider praying scripture back to God.  When we pray things that God has said to us back to him in petition, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, or intercession, we know we are “saying it right.”  I have used lots of materials by Ken Boa (www.kenboa.org) with great results.  His Handbook to Prayer: Praying Scripture Back to God has been a favorite of mine.  Also, go to his website and look at the Daily Growth email.  You can sign up and get new daily readings and prayers from Scripture to pray every day.

4. If you are ready to try praying for one hour straight, I strongly commend Dick Eastman’s book The Hour That Changes the World.  I require my Spiritual Formation students to try this, and the response is overwhelmingly positive–they say that they cannot believe how quick the time goes.  Eastman divides the hour into 12 five minute segments, and while you may struggle to fill one or two, you will find others that are hard to keep to five minutes.

5. Consider the following as additional tools for your prayer life

  • A Journal to keep track of specific requests and specific answers.
  • Prayer walks–walking around specific places to remind you to pray for those there.  I know of parents who walk around their children’s schools (outside, not as an uninvited guest) to pray for their kids, their teachers, etc.  A confession here:  I walk through our sanctuary at various times praying for those who will come, and praying for God’s power in our gatherings.  I need to do it more.
  • Creating prayer groups for specific concerns.  It is not the church’s intent or our desire to think of everything that you ought to be praying about.  Don’t wait for a program–get busy.  If you are talking with someone about specific concerns and you find you share a burden, commit to getting together to pray for that concern.  Just do it!

6.  If keeping focused when you pray is an issue, try one or more of the following.

  • Pray out loud–speaking is one way to keep yourself on track.
  • Write out your prayers–again, this requires greater concentration and focus
  • Choose a setting free from distractions.  Don’t pray near people, radios, TV, etc.  This is why some people resorted to the closet (often called the prayer closet).

I am going to go ahead and post this now, and may edit it later, so you may have to check back.  I’ll create a second post later on how to increase effective Bible reading.

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Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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