Discipline of Prayer {Book Club Thursdays}


We’re jumping into Barbara Hughes’, Disciplines of a Godly Woman (affil. link).
For your convenience, all the posts in the series will be archived here. Or, to make life even easier, subscribe to our Book Club Thursdays newsletter and receive all book club posts directly to your email. 

You will also receive a link to our private FB group where we can chat through some of the concepts in this book and a free PDF downloadable Study Sheet

I hope you’re ready for the ride, because it’s going to be filled with encouragement, insight, and God-inspired wisdom.

Chapter 4: Discipline of Prayer, Submission’s Lifeline

Thus far we’ve talked about Discipline for Godliness, Discipline of the Gospel, and Discipline of Submission. I don’t know about you, but I continue to be challenged as I seek to learn and grow in these disciplines of a godly woman. God’s word stretches us and shapes us, if we’ll allow it to. Perhaps that’s the most difficult part of all this–submitting or bending to God’s will that He’d work it out in us.

I suppose it makes sense that since the Fall of man in Genesis, rebellion runs through us. We continuously want what we want. Though we see the benefits of disciplining our lives for godliness, and though we see the important part that the Gospel of Jesus Christ plays in this, and though we understand that our lives need to bend in humility and submission to God’s will, we continue to walk in sameness. This, my friend, is counter to the very message of the Gospel. The work of the cross brings us hope and power. 1 Corinthians 1 reminds us that through the cross we have been chosen, confirmed in Christ, and called to the fellowship of His Son, Jesus.

But how is this cultivated? How do we get from knowing to living “in” Christ? I believe the answer is prayer. Let’s talk about that today, yes?!

Why Pray?

Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kind of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

I suppose the first response to the question of “Why pray?” is that God’s word tells us to. Obedience to God’s word is a step in trust and faith. We believe that God–who created us and knows us intimately and perfectly–has all wisdom to know how we best function. If He calls us to prayer, it’s because He knows prayer is vital for the abundant life He offers us.

Barbara shares that prayer is “the source of power for growth and perseverance in our spiritual lives,” and that “prayer bends our wills to God’s will, which is what submitting our lives is all about.”

In prayer we do not manipulate God. He’s not our personal genie in a bottle. He’s not waving a wand in His hand causing our every wish and whim to appear before our eyes. Rather, prayer is a tool we use to help us cultivate beauty, goodness, virtue, and truth in the inner room of the soul. Prayer is a means by which God makes it possible for us to sit and converse with Him. Prayer, at any time and in any place, is a direct lifeline to God.

For those of us who’ve ever felt alone, or worried, or fearful, or desperate, or ___fill in the blank___, this is good news. There’s not an operator on the other line, or worse an automated response asking me to “press 1 if this is an emergency” or “press 2 if my problem is not life-threatening”. There is such hope and gratitude that I have been given access to the throne of grace and that God promises to be available, to hear, and even more astonishing–to respond.

So how do we cultivate this life of prayer? Barbara gives us some help in this area.

How To Cultivate The Interior Spiritual Life

“Before we go deeper, let’s understand up front that the prayer life cannot be reduced to a few simple rules. These areas of spiritual experience are far too dynamic and personal for simplistic reduction. What is good for one person many not be right for another…there is no prescribed order,” (p.42). 

Meditation- With Meditation we read God’s word and we allow the words to do it’s work in us. By memorizing Scripture and thinking on it, it begins to transform us. We take that very word we’re reading and memorizing and we use it to pray back to God. When we do this, we can know without a shadow of a doubt that we’re praying God’s will. This gives confidence to the words we pray. It also gives direction to how we pray and what we pray for.

“Slowly and prayerfully turning over Scripture in this manner engages the eyes, the ears, and the mouth, and drills through to the heart. The effects of meditation bring revival, wisdom, and increased faith,” (p. 43). 

Confession- With confession we pause to inspect our hearts, thoughts, and actions. Meditation on scripture will naturally expose the sin in our lives. It will reveal to us the obvious, and sometimes hidden, sin of the heart and allows us the opportunity to do something about it: 1) Own that we’re sinners 2) Recognize that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the answer 3) Confess our sin and receive the forgiveness of God and the washing away of our sin.

Confession is a way to mark the slate clean before God. In confession we make our accounts clear with a holy God who demands nothing less than holiness. We’re incapable of such a state. Only through Jesus can we approach such a holy God. Confession, then, prepares the way for us to enter into a relationship, a conversation, we’d otherwise be (understandably) excluded from.

“The importance of confession cannot be overstated. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18; see also Pr. 28:13). Unconfessed sin makes us avoid prayer because God seems distant, but confession restores our relationship with Him and brings us back to His favor,” (p. 44).

Adoration- In Adoration we learn to thank God and praise Him for who He is, what He’s done, and how we see Him alive and active in our lives. Meditation in God’s word opens our eyes to His wondrous ways and attributes, confession opens the way for us to walk in relationship and favor. We learn perspective. We get a right view of ourselves and a right view of God.

Adoration takes the focus off of us and puts it where it belongs–on God who alone deserves all glory, all honor, and all praise. We contemplate the goodness of God and the evidence of God’s grace all around us. We might speak it in words, sing in song, or declare it with a joyful expression. Adoration is the evidence of hearts swelled up with gratitude and thanksgiving for what God has done. Adoration is the posture of the heart that bows down in reverence to an all powerful, all knowing, ever-present, all good God!

Submission- In submission (as we spoke of last week) we learn to bend our will to God’s will. As we pray by meditating on God’s word, confess our sins, and move with hearts full of adoration, God continues to do a good work in us. We learn that His way is the best way. His commands and decrees are for our good, because He loves us. We learn that what our hearts desire is not always aligned to His desire. Soon, the things of this world begin to lose their luster, and we learn that the real treasure is Christ. Submission to God and His will is our bending to the truth of God’s word. We posture our hearts not towards what we want, but towards Jesus and what He’s asking of us.

“Our devotion results in a conscious yielding of every part of our personality, every ambition, every relationship, and every hope to Him. Submission to God’s will is the true heart of worship,” (p. 46). 

Petition- This is the place in prayer where we offer our requests to God. Barbara walks us through 5 elements necessary “to experience fully the power of petitionary prayer.” We won’t go into detail here on the blog, but for reference these include: praying in the Spirit, continual prayer, varied prayer, persistent prayer, and intercessory prayer. (See pages 47-50 for further detail and Scriptures concerning these five elements of petitionary prayer.)

Making Prayer Happen

“Ok, I see why prayer is important and I understand how to cultivate the interior spiritual life. However, what I can’t see is how I can make all this happen. Where do I even find the time?”

These are the real questions, right? Because we tend to know when there is value in something. It’s the hard word of making it happen that trips us up and keeps us from moving forward. Here’s the thing, every life, every circumstance, every family or person, every situation is unique.  Hence, formula doesn’t work. What works for me may not work for you. Though strategies may not be interchangeable, the truth remains: prayer is both effective and necessary.

And what do we do with important things? Make time.

Sounds simplistic, eh?

We do it for everything else in life, why not for prayer, which is the lifeline God offers us? We make time to eat, to dress, to workout, to spend with friends. We make time for reading, for playing, for leisure, for book clubs, and reading about prayer. In the same manner, we must prioritize prayer and simply make time for it. It will require work. It will require attention. It will require consistency.

(We have  a whole series on the blog regarding prayer, FERVENT, if you want to learn more specifically about this discipline.)

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The Discipline of the Prayer is necessary if we are to live victorious lives in Christ. Without prayer we lead empty and powerless lives. In prayer we’re invited into sweet fellowship with Christ, we’re empowered in our faith by the Holy Spirit, and we walk in the beauty of love and communion with God, our Creator.

Take some time to read through what Scripture has to say about prayer. Accept God’s invitation into a new level of intimacy with Him. Grab hold of the lifeline available to you as you discipline your life with prayer.  Then meet me here next week when we’ll talk about the Discipline of Worship.

{Thoughts to Ponder}

Q1: Are you spending time in prayer with God; Why is this an important part of your Christian walk?

Q2: We didn’t talk about Warfare today so take time to read Ephesians 6:10-18. With this knowledge, how does this demonstrate the importance of this discipline in your life?

**Some discussion questions taken from Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes. All quotes by Barbara Hughes unless otherwise noted. 

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© 2016 Darlene Collazo | {In Pursuit} My Quest

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