I began our review of this summer’s study of prayer reading the quote by N.T. Wright which I had read when we began about two months ago. It was my hope that this focus on prayer would help us to “… become real grown-up praying people” (you can see the whole quote by scrolling back down nine weeks). We then used the outline of our study to recall a few key thoughts from each week.
(Psalm 139) Who are we talking to?
(Matthew 6:5-15) a model prayer to guide our words
(Psalm 23) the good shepherd cares for the sheep
(Psalm 32) unconfessed sin blocks fellowship
(I Chronicles 29) true praise offering involves a heart willing to give all
(Colossians 1:3-14) pray for others: wisdom, knowing God, Holy Spirit power
(Psalm 86) call for help; God does answer! (read Isaiah 65:24)
(Psalm 107) God is good! He loves us always!
Next week we will review the first three chapters of I Thessalonians
I was not in class this week, but I do have a few thoughts to share about the lesson. The passage begins with a simple but profound statement: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” How wonderful it is to know that our God is good (unlike many gods in ancient legends) and that we can depend on His love!
The psalmist continues by describing four situations or groups of people. In each case they call out to God; He answers them; and then they are instructed to thank Him for His love. Some were lost, some in prison, some sick, some in danger, but all needed God. He answered them all, even those who were in trouble because they had rebelled against God! God continues to love us no matter what difficulty we get into, and He enjoys hearing our thanksgiving.
The Psalm concludes with a noteworthy thought(verse 43): “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.”
This Sunday we will finish our summer focus on prayer by reviewing what we have learned from the eight passages in this study.
This week in class we spent a larger portion of time “catching up” as I talked about the vacation my family had just returned from on Saturday. I felt a little like the apostle Paul as he traveled between the churches sharing greetings with believers. On our quick journey we stayed in five different cities and visited with fellow Christians at each stop. Many had previously been part of the fellowship at Memorial Baptist Church (Justin, Scott, Beth, Kathryn, Sky, Mahina, Johanna, Paul, Sally, Bonnie, Tom, Robert, Lillian; and that’s just the adults). It was a privilege to be a conduit of God’s love, and it seemed to fit well with the lesson last week: supporting each other in prayer.
We read the scripture passage this week divided in three sections (verses 1-7, 8-13, 14-17). As David calls out to God in the first section, does he sound confident or wishful? And what about us when we pray? We should rest assured that God can and will answer our prayer. How silly we seem when we are surprised by God’s answer to our call.
The remaining two sections provide insight into God’s character. His activity is consistent with who He is. As we grow closer in fellowship with God, we then better understand His way and His will for us. Our prayer becomes more effective as we learn to reflect His nature.
Next week: Giving Thanks (Psalm 107)
While I was away with my family this week on vacation, Michael led the class discussion and wrote this summary:
The passage for this lesson, “Supporting Each Other in Prayer,” was Colossians 1:3-14. In addition to this passage, we also looked at other prayers by Paul in Ephesians 1:15-19a, Ephesians 3:14-19, and Philippians 1:9-11. We looked at what was common in these prayers and noted the repeated themes of praying for
- spiritual wisdom and understanding
- knowing God, his will and his love
- strength and the power of the Spirit
We also noted what was not in these prayers: requests for physical needs—not that these needs are unimportant, but these prayers show another side of praying for others, asking for their spiritual growth and maturity. We closed with thoughts about how these prayers of Paul can inform our prayers for other believers. We ended by sharing prayer concerns and praying for one another.
Next week: Calling for help (Psalm 86)
The setting of this passage is the preparation to build the temple. You could also call this David’s farewell and retirement party as he passes the crown to Solomon. David describes how delighted he is to contribute his wealth to build the house of God, and he calls on the leaders of Israel to join in the offering. The people rejoiced (verse 9) as they offered willingly with a “whole heart” to the Lord.
The first part of David’s prayer (verses 10-13) is all about praising God. He proclaims the glorious majesty, power, and exalted greatness of the Lord. He then acknowledges (verses 14-16) that all they offer to God is from God. David continues speaking about the “heart” and “offerings made willingly”(verse 17). He concludes this prayer (verses 18-19) asking God to preserve a perfect heart in the people and Solomon.
In class we discussed the words “offering praise” or “praise-offering” and how they fit together. We can indeed praise God with what we offer to Him. This can mean words and music, but it should also whole-heartedly include everything we’ve been given: our time, our talents, our treasures, yes, our money too. We also mentioned the idea of praising God (as in the words of the song) “because of who You are” focusing on His nature. We concluded our time reading Hebrews 13:15-16 which echoes many of the ideas presented in the lesson this week.
Next week: Supporting Each Other In Prayer (Colossians 1:3-14)
This psalm starts on an upbeat note with the “happy” (blessed) place of the one who is forgiven. The assurance that God does forgive is a good point to begin. We took a little time in class to discuss the end of verse 2: “in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Does this refer to man or to the Lord? It could make sense either way. God’s Spirit is not deceitful; therefore we are confident that He has paid our debt, and we can be free from guilt. If we understand the deceit referring to man, then it could relate to the struggle in verses 3-5.
David makes clear the negative effect of unconfessed sin. Although we may successfully hide our sin from people, it is foolish to try to hide from God. We rob ourselves of the joy in forgiveness when we fail to acknowledge and confess our sins. Confession removes an obstacle to fellowship with God, and leaves us free to let go of guilt.
Verse 6 directs us to prayer and then the results of restored fellowship in the remainder of this psalm. God protects us (verse 7) and teaches us (verse 8). The avenue of prayer provides two-way communication with God. The illustration of a horse or mule (verse 9) is enlightening. Unlike the animal compelled to move in the direction they are forced to turn, we are free to choose our path. We are given understanding to know the Lord’s will. Don’t resist God’s direction, but instead trust His love (verse 10). Finally, be glad; rejoice; shout for joy! We are indeed blessed.
Next week: Offering Praise to the Lord (I Chronicles 29:1-22)
The 23rd psalm is likely one of the most frequently heard chapters in the Bible. People recall this psalm of David often in times of need or sorrow. It has brought comfort to many. The first part of the passage paints a peaceful picture; (perhaps too much alliteration?) a serene reassuring image. We explored this relationship of God as our shepherd. He does take care of our needs. Green pastures, quiet waters, guidance, protection; what more could a sheep want? Even in the dark valleys of our lives, our fears are calmed knowing God is always with us.
In verse 5 the imagery changes: the words here cause me to imagine a royal banquet table; a feast in our honor! Where all our enemies can see, God is throwing a party for us! Why is it then that Christians can seem so glum? Our cup is overflowing. The world should see something different in us. The joy of the Lord must shine through us. His goodness and love (verse 6) follow us, and we get to live in His house forever!
So how does this all relate to prayer? If we just don’t feel “right,” if our soul needs a little restoration; prayer can bring us back where we belong. Because we know God can meet our needs and that He cares for us, we can bring our needs to Him. And what about the others around us? Often when we focus on the needs of others, we then forget our own concerns. Perhaps our role at times is to bring the “Good Shepherd’s” love to those in need. It all can begin with prayer.
Next week: Confessing Sin (Psalm 32)