DURING THIS THANKSGIVING MONTH WE WILL CONCENTRATE ON PRAYER, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON GIVING THANKS.
THIS WEEK WE WILL CONSIDER “THE PARADOX OF PRAYER.”
DAVID CAUGHT ONE PARADOX WHEN HE SAID:
WHEN I CONSIDER THE HEAVENS…
WHAT IS MAN THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF HIM?
God is AWESOME
DESIRES INTIMACY WITH US
This is one of the two paradoxes
we will ponder and practice this week.
Consider this short clip from Tim Keller:
His Spirit seems to be leading us on this journey —
is that not in itself an illustration of awesomeness and intimacy?
I think of how He led us to consider the ten lepers,
how all were thankful, but only one was in awe.
Let us continue our journey of thankfulness all month,
but also let us allow the thanks to lead us to awe.
When Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to begin with awe:
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
This reminds me of Solomon’s warning:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.
To draw near to listen rather than offer the sacrifice of fools for they do not know that they are doing evil.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God,
for God is in heaven and you are on earth.
Therefore let your words be few.
Yet this same Solomon encourages us that God wants intimacy.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Song of Songs 2:14
Another paradox Keller mentions is that prayer is a
Struggle, A Battle!
If your prayer life is lukewarm, as mine often is, let us help heat up one another this month, these 30 days of November, until it becomes a delight. I have been on the road and listened to the book, The War Room, on which the movie was based. (I have yet to see the movie.) I enjoyed this scene and found it on you-tube.
We can help each other on this blog turn duty to delight.
One log on a fire dies.
But together we can blaze.
On a personal note, thank you for your prayers. I had an encouraging conversation with the editor at Waterbrook on my Song of Songs manuscript. Now they pitch it to their owner, Random House. I’d be thankful for continued prayers in that process!
Thank you for your patience with our blog problems. You were so gracious and David and his team, as usual, were great. Let us know if we aren’t there yet and keep praying. It seems the devil often worms his way into the technical aspects, so pray for victory over that snake.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Comment on the two paradoxes and how you see them in your prayer life.
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Prepare your heart with this:
I find the contrast between Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs fascinating. Ecclesiastes is a sad poem, portraying a man who feared God but lacked intimacy with Him. That void in his life caused him to keep looking for meaning “under the sun,” and finding that to be in vain.
Yet he did fear God, knowing only the fool takes God lightly. In Ecclesiastes we see the importance of revering God, but in the Song, we see the importance of intimacy with God. We must do both!
3. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
A. In verse 1, Solomon contrasts the man who listens to God to the one who goes to the Temple and offers “the sacrifice of fools.” (It might help you to consider Malachi 2:13-14 who were bringing sacrifices and making God angry.)
B. Why do you think it might be important to listen to God about your life before you begin petitioning Him?
C. What other warning is given in Ecclesiastes 5:2 and what reason is given?
D. One way to listen to God is by contemplating His Word — and then to take His Word an incorporate it into your prayer life in confession, thanks, or petition. Do this now with Ecclesiastes 5:1-2.
4. Practicing thankfulness that leads us to be in awe of God will also transform your prayer life. Continue doing that daily this week.
Here is one from me: Lord, thank You for the closeness I have with Sally, which is only because of You, considering how we were estranged for a season. Thank You for the beautiful weekend You gave us together, and for the GLORY of autumn which reminds us of Your GLORY, and how you are as faithful to us as the seasons You set in place.
The paradox is that an awesome God wants intimacy with us. He tells us to come to Him, for He wants to be with us, He wants to hear our voice. He is not offended by specific petitions, if they have been considered carefully, and submitted to His will. My friend Lyle was teasing me that I had “prayed a selfish prayer” when I prayed that Beth’s baby would come around her due date and not much earlier, “unless God had a better idea.” I admit I was thinking of my schedule, and Lyle may have been right! But I believe my merciful God worked it out for all. The baby came a week early, but Beth’s in-laws were free to come, and I could still come as planned. When I make a request, I have always learned to say, “Unless You have a better idea!” I liked what “Miss Clara” said in “The War Room.” God is bored by bland prayers — we must dare to be specific! But never ever should we demand — for we are on earth and He is in heaven, which is certainly a broader perspective!
5. Read Psalm 37:1-7
A. Read all seven verses and see if you can find a reoccurring pattern. If so, what is it?
B. What must come first before you express the specific desires of your heart to God?
C. Cautiously and reverently, petition God here.
6. Another paradox of prayer is that it is a struggle, yet can become a delight. If you have had an experience of delight, share it briefly here.
7. Remember to be sharing your thanks and letting them lead you into awe.
I’m excited to introduce you to an Alpha video — a ministry that has been changing lives around the world for decades. God has anointed this ministry, a ministry that may seem quite simple (a meal, a short video, and small groups) but has THE POWER OF GOD ALL OVER IT. Lives are being changed. It is a ministry bathed in prayer, a ministry open to all denominations, and in India alone this year 50,000 new groups were meeting. We have experienced it with our church plant and are also seeing God move. As one of our attendees told his wife “In the beginning of the Alpha course I didn’t believe in God and now I do.” (I love particularly the closing illustration in this video and want us to practice this.)
8. Share your notes and comments.
9. Nicky said that he writes down questions and waits for answers and records both. Try it.
10. Keep letting your thanksgiving lead you to awe.
11. What is your take-a-way and why?