AUGUST WEEK 2

PRAYER

This week in The Whole Story, we will bring focus to the role of prayer in the lives of God’s people. Prayer, along with the study of the Scriptures, is one of the primary ways God communes with his people. To that end, prayer is not simply speaking out loud the things we want, or even the recitation of a written statement. Because in prayer God chooses to meet with his people, prayer is fundamentally a supernatural act.

Through prayer, God’s family fellowships and communicates with him. Prayer can take the form of expressions of thankfulness, admiration, petition, repentance, and faith. By seeking God’s will in prayer, the Holy Spirit will guide his people into all truth (John 16:13).

 

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DAILY READING

DAY 1 - 8/12

Day One: Prayer as Demonstration

Instituting a regular prayer habit in our lives is a way that we demonstrate loyalty to God. Prayer refocuses our attention upon God and, in turn, aligns our priorities with his. We see this clearly in the story of Daniel. In today’s reading, you will see how Daniel’s loyalty to YHWH nearly cost him his life. Indeed, many Christians throughout history and even today have sacrificed their lives to remain loyal to Christ.

 

Similarly, our regular attention to prayer demonstrates our dependence upon God. Through prayer, we can repent for areas in our life in which God must form us into his likeness. We can express thankfulness and gratitude for his generosity toward us. We can express our admiration of him through the overflow of our hearts. And it is through prayer that we ask God to intervene supernaturally into situations in which we require his grace.

 

Daniel 6:10-28 (ESV)

 

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 

 

12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 

 

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” 

 

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

 

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 

 

23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. 

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, 

       for he is the living God, 

enduring forever; 

       his kingdom shall never be destroyed, 

and his dominion shall be to the end. 

27    He delivers and rescues; 

he works signs and wonders 

in heaven and on earth, 

       he who has saved Daniel 

from the power of the lions.” 

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

 

To read more about the demonstration of prayer, see Matt. 21 and 1 Cor. 2.

DAY 2 - 8/13

Day Two: Praying in Times of Trouble

 

The Book of Psalms

No matter how much we’d like to avoid pain and suffering, humanity is plagued by it. If no one we know personally is walking through a painful time, we hear about unthinkable atrocities going on in our world nearly daily. In response to being delivered from the hand of his enemies after a time of intense trial, David penned Psalm 18, our reading for today. David speaks of his trust in the Lord and the Lord’s faithfulness to save in even the most dire of circumstances.

When we model the pattern of King David, bringing our troubles to the Lord in prayer and laying them at his feet, trusting him with the outcome even if it is not what we desire, we can experience the peace of the Lord in the midst of life’s hardships. Our faith can be built up as we seek his will and bear witness to his answering of our prayers, even amid hard times.

 

Psalm 18:1-6, 16-19 (ESV)

1I love you, O Lord, my strength. 

2    The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

3    I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, 

and I am saved from my enemies. 

4    The cords of death encompassed me; 

the torrents of destruction assailed me; 

5    the cords of Sheol entangled me; 

the snares of death confronted me. 

6    In my distress I called upon the Lord; 

to my God I cried for help. 

       From his temple he heard my voice, 

and my cry to him reached his ears. 

16    He sent from on high, he took me; 

he drew me out of many waters. 

17    He rescued me from my strong enemy 

and from those who hated me, 

for they were too mighty for me. 

 

18    They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

but the Lord was my support. 

19    He brought me out into a broad place; 

he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

 

To read more about praying in times of trouble, see Ps. 102 and Jam. 5.

DAY 3 - 8/14

Day Three: Prayer in Desolate Places

Despite the mounting pressures of his ministry, Jesus withdrew to pray. Despite the demands on his schedule, Jesus withdrew to pray. Despite the needs around him, Jesus withdrew to pray. Why?

We find the answer to the “why?” in the context. Jesus modeled for us just how he could bear the burdens of the masses. He modeled for us how he had the power to cause the lame man to walk. His power came from prayer. 

The pattern of Jesus reminds us that our strength, both in the natural and in the supernatural, comes from a life that frequently retreats to the desolate places––a life rooted in prayer.

 

Luke 5:15-26 (ESV[AS1] )

 

15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.

 

18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 

 

20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 

 

24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

 

To read more about praying in desolate places, see Mark 6 and Galatians 1.

DAY 4 - 8/15

Day Four: Prayer for Direction 

In today’s reading, we find the apostles in uncharted territory and in need of some divine direction. For several years leading up to this point, they were under the direct guidance of Jesus himself. Now, in Acts 1, Jesus has ascended to heaven. They are left to backfill the spot in their group left vacant by the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. Not only did God answer their prayer and directed them to choose Matthias, but as they continued to spend time in that upper room over the next several days, continuing to devote themselves to prayer and worship to God, the Holy Spirit poured himself out upon them, infusing their united prayers with power from heaven.

These early Christian leaders who walked alongside Jesus recognized how important prayer is because of its shaping power. That is why many Christians speak of prayer as a habit that not only opens us to receive direction from the Lord, but also in shaping the way we believe, which in turn shapes the way we live.

 

Acts 1:4-26 (ESV)

 

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 

 

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

 

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

 

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 

 

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 

 

18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, 

       “ ‘May his camp become desolate, 

and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and 

“ ‘Let another take his office.’ 

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 

24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

 

To read more about prayer for direction, see Ps. 37 and Prov. 14.

 

DAY 5 - 8/16

Day Five: Prayer for Wisdom

James 1 provides a practical framework by which God’s people should seek to live their lives in loyalty to King Jesus. James begins most of his discourse in a call to seek wisdom. Wisdom was a highly prized commodity in the ancient world (and still is in many parts of the world today). Seeking and acquiring wisdom was thought to be a virtue of the godly. And most of all, wisdom was believed by many to reach its highest expression in YHWH himself.

 

As God’s people, we can eagerly come to the source of wisdom, who lavishes upon each of us who ask, a free supply of what we need through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We receive that wisdom, as James notes, by asking in prayer. James’ words are cemented proof that prayer is not one-way communication, as though we were simply speaking monologues out into the universe. Instead, it is through prayer that God chooses to communicate with us and experience his presence.

 

James 1:2-18 (ESV)

 

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

 

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 

 

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

 

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

 

To read more about prayer for wisdom, see Job 12, Prov. 1, and Col. 2.

 

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