Prioritize Prayer (BEING CHALLENGE)
March 17, 2021
WHERE DO I ?
A lot of people don’t know what direction they are going. If you were to look at the movement of their lives on a map, it’s filled with zigzags, twists, and turns. When we are struggling with which way to go, the habit of prayer, which we are exploring this week, will direct us.
We want to get to the feet of Jesus, but we’re blindly following the directions of the world.
Why do we follow the directions of the world? Seriously, why do we? What are we chasing that the world offers?
Some things look appealing on the outside, but following the world’s directions will just make you another normal worldly person.
Here is the life that God invites us into: 1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT
God has chosen us to be His, and He has called us to stand out as we live a life of love instead of hate, joy instead of resentment, and purpose instead of drifting. As we grow in our relationship with God, others will see, and others will glorify God. So be different.
Unless we are intentional and determined, the world will pull us in its direction. Prayer gives us direction in a confusing world. God gives us the gift to talk to Him at any time. He will never steer you in the wrong direction.
James 1:5 NIV
CHALLENGE : Assess how you “PRIORITIZE PRAYER.” Scale of 1-5 (5 represents mastery, 1 represents improvement needed)
- I prayed every day last week.
- I believe in the power of prayer.
- Prayer is the first thing I do in the morning.
- I pray often and continually throughout the day.
- When I need direction, prayer is the first thing I do.
Based on your answers, where is your greatest opportunity for growth?
FIRST OR LAST ?
Let’s learn to pray first… in two specific ways:
- Let prayer be the very first thing you do every day when you wake up
- Let prayer be your first response when you face life’s difficulties or demands
We see both in the life of Jesus: Mark 1:35 NIV, Luke 5:16 NIV
What would it look like for you to pray first thing in the morning? To prioritize, literally means to make something “the very first thing.” When we say, “I’ll get to it when I get to it,” we’re not making it a priority.
A priority is something regarded as more important than anything or anyone, and it goes before other things. Is prayer that for you? Early in the morning? The first thing?
The second way to prioritize prayer is when life’s demands and difficulties come upon us, and our first response is to pray. God is with us, and He has the power to help us in our moments of need. We have an amazing resource to communicate in real-time with Him, and He promises to act on behalf of His children.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
CHALLENGE: Reminder to Pray – Set up your house in such a way that you’re reminded to pray early and often. You could do things like:
- When you go to bed, put your phone across the room so it’s not the first thing you see in the morning.
- Put new wallpaper on your phone to remind you to “pray first.”
- Post encouraging notes in the first places you go in your house.
HOW YOU PRAY
In the first week we were encouraged by the disciples’ request that Jesus teach them how to pray. It shows us that prayer can be taught, it can be learned, it can be an area of growth. When the disciples asked Jesus, He taught them how to pray using what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13 NIV
Christians have memorized it and even some non-Christians can recite it word-for-word. However, I don’t believe Jesus intended for it to be recited thousands upon thousands of times, especially without thinking about what’s being said. He was giving us a model to show us how to pray. Praying the Lord’s Prayer is a good practice but Jesus is giving us more than a “from memory” prayer – it is an example, a jumping off point, for communication with God.
CHALLENGE: Write out the Lord’s Prayer, line by line, and pause after writing each line. As you pause, pray to God in a personal way using the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer as a guide.
The best way to learn how to pray is simply by praying.
When you pray, you may not see the direct change in yourself or in those you pray for. You may be discouraged because you don’t feel like your prayer life is getting any better. You may not sense God’s presence as you pray, but God assures us that He’s at work. While feelings are real, they aren’t always true. The truth is that God is always working, whether we feel Him or not. Our part in prayer is to continually come to him, trusting that He’s listening to our prayers.
Hebrews 4:16 NIV
We can get so caught up in praying the right way that we lose the joy and expectancy of connecting with a loving and powerful Father. Prayer is an invitation to inhabit God’s space. There’s not a right or wrong way to pray. Just pray.
CHALLENGE: Pray Scripture – One of the best sections of the Bible to pray through is the book of Psalms. The Psalms are a mix of Praise, Petition, and Repentance. Your challenge is to pray through the entirety of Psalm 23.
What people praise is a good indication of the contents of their hearts. To see what people are praising, just glance at social media. It usually involves a lot of photos – family, friends, vacations, meals, workouts, concerts, sporting events, favorite quotes or verses, or sunsets. When people post these pictures, they’re praising these things.
C.S. Lewis writes in, A Reflection of the Psalms, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”
Praising helps us reach the highest level of enjoyment. We shouldn’t be upset at people celebrating and praising. However, the question must be asked: “What are you praising?” While delicious food, sports teams, and cat photos may be praiseworthy to you, there is Someone who is most worthy of praise.
John Piper: “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied with Him.”
Two reasons why praising God is crucial:
- Praising God reminds us Who God is.
- Praising God adjusts our perspective.
Beginning with praise reorients us so that we can look at our struggles, our requests, and even our sins in light of Who God is and what He has done.
When you’ve spent time considering that God has created a universe that’s billions of light-years across, how He sent Jesus to be our substitute to die in our place, how He has protected His people, and how every good thing we have comes from Him, by the time we come to Him with our needs, we already have our answer: God is supremely faithful, so we can trust Him.
CHALLENGE: Name Study – The verses below contain names or characteristics of God. Look for His names in Scripture to remind you of who He is. Use them to inspire your “praise” prayers.
Psalm 18:1-2 NLT
Isaiah 9:6 NLT
Does prayer change us or does it change God? The answer is YES!
You benefit from praying. When you pray, you’re connected with God. Being more connected to Him has many upsides: You live with more purpose and direction, and you gain a peace that passes human understanding, a joy that’s unspeakable, and even a confidence in the midst of what can feel like chaos.
But, prayer also changes God. How is this possible? It is a paradox. God’s nature is unchanging… but He is unwilling to change in His will, which is to save all people. He longs to forgive those who repent and call on Him… but He isn’t stuck or powerless: our God is willing to change His response to people. In other words, He is not unchangeable when he relates to His people! God is at the same time constant in His will, but changing in ways that He interacts with His people.
Our prayers matter – they actually make a difference! When we’re in conversation with God, we have the ability to affect Him and bring His mercy to people in a lost and broken world.
James 5:16b NIV
Did you ever think that your greatest impact you could make in this world would be through your prayers?
CHALLENGE: Three Big Prayers – In Week 1 we asked the question: If God answered every prayer request of yours from the past week, what would be different in the world today? Knowing that prayer changes things, write out three BIG prayer requests that you want to see God answer below.
THE OF PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER
The Parable of the Persistent Widow – Luke 18:1-5 NIV, Luke 18:6-8 NIV
To get more personal: Will Jesus find faith in you?
In our “instant” culture, it’s hard to be persistent in prayer. We expect complete and satisfying results, and we expect them instantly. Thank God for all these advances, but with the progress, I believe we have lost the art of persistence. It’s easy for us to bail out on when we don’t see the answers we expect. Jesus point through this parable: don’t stop praying!
Do we have the faith to keep praying even when we don’t see God moving? When Jesus returns will He find faith in us?
Dallas Willard: “We don’t believe in something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
If you really believe in the power of prayer, you’ll pray… and you’ll keep praying. And as you do, you’ll see how God acts on your behalf. That’s His promise.
CHALLENGE: Three Persistent Prayers – What’s a prayer that you have stopped praying? Pray for it again today. Perhaps using the three BIG prayers as a start, commit to praying for three BIG things over and over again for an extended period of time. It will probably help to post reminders in strategic places.
I commit to praying for these three things over and over until God answers these prayers for His glory.