Prayer Changes Us – Relationship with God

Readings for this week May 14 – 18
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Call Upon the Name of the Lord

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:23-31

The main observation to make is that initial prayer of the Jerusalem church focuses on God himself working out his plans[…]As a result, their prayer is framed by the conviction that the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection were ordained by God himself. This, then, means that everything else they pray for is conditioned by the fact that God is continuing to work out his purposes. That becomes plain in Acts 4:29-30[:]. In this prayer the earliest church continues to ‘call on the name of the Lord’ to act in power, revealing Jesus through the eyewitness message of the apostles. Interestingly, there is no direct appeal for safety or protection – their main concern is for the spread of the gospel. God clearly answers their prayers, which is made obvious in 4:31: ‘And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.’

There is significant continuity in the understanding of prayer in the minds of the Jerusalem church and the Old Testament[…] The main preoccupation of our prayers should be the outworking of the promises of God, which all through the Scriptures is linked to God’s working through his Word, which is now written on the hearts of these new covenant believers.

J. Gary Millar, Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer, pp.193-4.

Question to Consider
How are God’s promises working themselves out through your prayers?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your presence, for always being with us, even closer than our nearest breath away. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Two-Way Street

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 John 3:22

God has not left us to struggle in prayer on our own. Prayer is not solely our responsibility, a one-way street upon which we are expected to have all the tools and do all the work. God is fully aware of our occasional struggles with prayer, so he gives us the Holy Spirit to help. The Spirit triggers things we need to pray about and help us put our concerns into words. The gift of tongues is one way this can happen. When a person speaks in tongues they are using a language given by the Holy Spirit. As well as being for personal prayer, these tongues are a gift to the community. It is important to remember that God has gifted his Spirit to the entire community. When a message in tongues is interpreted we are all encouraged, and the entire community is edified and built up. And this dependence on someone else for the interpretation bonds the community together.

Whether we speak in tongues or not, God’s Spirit is there for all who seek his help to pray. We never have to rely on our ability to know what to say. God’s Spirit has been sent to comfort and guide us. All we need to do is be open and honest enough to ask for his help. He is more than willing to comfort and guide us. Through his Spirit he shows us how willing he is to help us communicate with him and stay close to him.

Questions to Consider
How important is the active work of the Spirit in your prayer life? How does he help you in your prayers?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, deepen my prayer life even more. Through your Spirit, work in me and continue to transform me in every way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Work of the Spirit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 5:16-26

If transformation and renewal are gradual and God shapes us a little at a time, how do we know it is happening? The qualities listed in today’s passage can’t be achieved through hard work. They come when God changes us, part of his renewal process. And prayer is a highly significant way in which we are changed. If prayer is truly transforming us, then we will be moulded and shaped into this very likeness of Jesus. We’ll become more patient, we’ll show greater self-control, we will be kinder, more trustworthy, and so on. These qualities, often called ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, are the result of God’s Holy Spirit living in us.

Prayer does change us – open-hearted prayer that takes us deeper into God’s presence and that allows his Spirit – the same Spirit interpreting and presenting our prayers, of whatever stripe, to God – to transform us into the image of the one whose Spirit we have been gifted. Our selfish and rebellious desires lose their grip. Being renewed involves submitting every part of our lives to God and then letting his Spirit work in us wherever he sees fit. We need to learn to allow the Holy Spirit to be in charge every day, and we need to do this through prayer. When we do we begin to notice small but significant changes, evident by the fruit of the Spirit that will be seen in our lives and, through us, also seen in the lives of others and in the world around us.

Questions to Consider
What fruits have been growing in your life recently? How have you noticed this? What has changed?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you again for the gift of your Spirit and the fruit the Spirit grows in us. Continue to water and tend the fruit within all of us, for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Deep Groans of the Spirit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 8:26-28

Sometimes prayer is not easy, and not just because of the circumstances surrounding us either. There are times when the words or the thoughts or the prayers simply don’t come. We are at the end of our tether. We have nothing left, no energy, nothing that we can actually articulate or pray. Maybe our reserves are empty. Or maybe the situation we are trying to pray into, that we are straining to bring to God, is simply too painful for us. We don’t always know exactly what to pray or even how to pray it.

These times, as difficult as they are, as painful as they can be to experience, are nevertheless deeply important for us – and for God. The Holy Spirit takes our deepest pains and longings and presents them – even better, he interprets them – to God. These deep groanings and longings within us are vital communication with our Heavenly Father. These moments when we cannot utter a single intelligent word, think a clear thought or articulate a deep felt prayer are, through the Spirit’s presence and work, still making a connection with God. The Holy Spirit connects us with God through prayer, and not only the prayer that falls from our lips and bubbles in our mind, but also the deep groans of our heart.  God creates space for us to groan, allows time for us to experience these harder times, so that we can grow into deeper prayer by falling deeper into him. We learn to throw ourselves upon his mercy more. We learn to trust him more, and we truly learn how to pray – from deeper within than we ever have before.

Questions to Consider
Have you ever experienced the deep groans of the Spirit? What were the circumstances?

Prayer
Father God, when I cannot speak and words are too much for me, your Spirit is there to guide the way and take and offer what I cannot. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Changing Who I Am and How I Pray

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Peter 3:9

The power of the Holy Spirit working through me changes who we are and also changes how we pray. Why does this happen? Because our experience of God and our experience of his prayerful connection with us changes who God is for us, changes the way we see him, and changes the way we look at our lives and at the world around us. We see God more clearly and therefore begin to love him more deeply. This in turn changes the way we approach him in prayer. If we are more aware of the overwhelming, all pervasive love of God, and if we become more aware of how he is God for others as well, not just us, then the horizons of our prayer life will also expand. We begin to develop the same love he has for his people and his world. We will begin to pray for this same world and its people.

Prayer is no longer a shopping list offered to an ATM in the sky, but a relationship lived and prayed with God on behalf of others and his world. Yes, needs (ours included) are still important. But never just our needs – the Kingdom coming in all fullness takes on new resonance and importance when we experience the nature of prayer changing, when we start to understand the breadth and depth of God’s love for everyone and the part we can play in bringing the needs and desires and cries of others to our God in prayer.

Questions to Consider
How have you noticed your love and concern for the world and its people growing over time? How has this coincided with a deepening of prayer for others?

Prayer
Lord God, grow your heart in me. Transform the world before my eyes into the world that you want to see, and continue to call me to play my part in the coming of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)