Nehemiah 4

  /   Bolton Community Church

Session 7: The Discipline of Prayer:                                          

SESSION GOALS

Every session has a point—what each participant should walk away from the discussion knowing, feeling, and doing.

Main Idea: Prayer and fasting can help us walk closely with God so that we can better enjoy and exalt him in the world around us.

Head Change: To know that prayer and fasting can help us remain close to the heart of God.

Heart Change: To feel more confident incorporating prayer and fasting into our regular spiritual practices.

Life Change: To commit to praying faithfully and including regular fasting as a part of our spiritual disciplines.


OPEN


How do you keep in touch with far-away friends?

Staying in touch with old friends, especially those who live far away, takes intentionality and creativity. Our methods have changed in some ways, with technology like social media, but letters and calls remain favorite means of communication between many friends. When we value those relationships, we make the effort to keep in touch. In today’s session, David leads us through a couple of strategies for maintaining a close relationship with God, who can seem far away and hard to connect with sometimes. But prayer and fasting can help.

Watch Session 7: The Discipline of Prayer (10 minutes).


REVIEW

The short description in Genesis 5:24 summarized the life of Enoch, who “walked with God.” He knew and followed God so thoroughly that people recognized the fruit of his faithfulness. His godly reputation was spoken of through generations. It’s the kind of reputation every believer should want to cultivate. How would you describe your relationship with God? What characteristics best define the way you connect to him and express your faith outwardly?

Enjoying God and exalting him with our words and actions does not come naturally. We must be intentional in staying connected to him. David shared two ways we can remain close to God. The first is prayer. What has your experience with prayer been like? How does prayer affect your sense of communion with God? To what extent have you struggled or thrived in making prayer a regular practice?

 

In Matthew 6:5–13, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. Praying is a humble endeavor between us and God, who already knows what we need. Yet he desires that we talk with him anyway. What questions have you had about the purpose of prayer? If you’ve ever wondered why you should bother praying when God already knows what you need, how did your questions impact your prayer life?

Prayer is less about getting something from God and more about knowing him more deeply. As we spend time with him regularly, whether alone for a period of time or on the go throughout each day, we develop a deeper connection with him. What strengths and weaknesses do you see in your current prayer habits? What changes do you think would make your prayer time more effective?

In the acrostic David suggested, he began with P for Praise, echoing the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9. Remembering what God has done in the world and for us should motivate us to praise him. What can you praise God for today?

R stands for Repent. After praising God, we confess our sins and repent of them, coming clean before God. Our humility shows that we understand our rightful standing in his presence. And we can trust him when we repent because he has shown us his great love. Do you find it difficult or easy to repent of your failings? Why?

Now it’s time to Ask (A). Tell God what’s on your mind. Make requests for yourself, friends, family, world events, work, etc.—whatever is on your heart. He’s ready to hear us. Looking to him for help is right and good. Think through the requests you typically bring to God. How many are personal to your life? What percentage would you say are devoted to others’ practical needs or spiritual struggles?

Finally, to finish out PRAY we should Yield (Y) to the Lord’s leading and will. We entrust ourselves to him and how he sees fit to answer our prayers and direct our lives. What’s your usual response when God answers your prayers the way you asked him to? How do you react when you do not get the answer you sought?

The second discipline, and acrostic, that David shared was FAST. After Jesus demonstrated how to pray, he explained the right way to fast in Matthew 5:16–18. Prayer and fasting typically went together in Jewish culture as complementary disciplines. Before this session, what did you know about fasting? To what extent have you practiced fasting?

David’s acrostic began with F, Focus on God. Fasting is meant to bring us closer to God, not show ourselves to others as super spiritual. What activities help you focus on God more than your surroundings, worries, or tasks? How might fasting help you narrow your attention primarily toward God?

The most memorable aspect of fasting is Abstaining from Food (A in the acrostic). As David described, how often we set aside meals can vary—one meal, a full day’s worth of meals, one meal a day for several days, or any other pattern. Setting aside those mealtimes is an act of trust that God meets your needs more than even food does. If you have fasted in the past, how did you structure your experience? What challenges did you face? If you have never fasted, what questions do you have about the spiritual benefit of it?

As we abstain, we Substitute (S) the time we would be eating with prayer and Scripture. Fasting isn’t a weight-loss strategy but a discipline to draw us closer to God so that we “Taste (T) and see that the Lord is good” (an allusion to Psalm 34:8). What situations in your life have kept you praying long and hard? How could fasting help you focus on seeking God for a specific circumstance?

As David said, it is good to walk with God through prayer and fasting. When we seek the Lord, we will find him. What can you do today to move one step forward toward a more abundant prayer life? How will you incorporate fasting into your spiritual walk with God?

LAST WORD

Every relationship requires communication. When it comes to communicating with God, he invites us to pray and sometimes fast as we seek his counsel and accept his loving care. David gave us helpful acrostics to remember how to think of prayer (Pray, Repent, Ask, Yield) and fasting (Focus, Abstain, Substitute, Taste). As we establish regular patterns of prayer and fasting, and encourage others to do the same, our relationship with God will strengthen. Consider your own habits around prayer and fasting this week as a way to deepen your spiritual journey.

 

DEEPER WALK


Pray:
Choose a time each day for the next week or month to devote to prayer using the Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield (PRAY) method. Consider asking a friend to begin the same pattern of prayer to help you continue this habit. Encourage each other as you go.

 

Plan: Make a plan to begin or continue fasting if your health allows it. If you are new to fasting, start small, perhaps by skipping one meal. Think about what you will focus on during that time period instead of food. Will you study Scripture or pray about a specific issue? Determine what your motivation for fasting will be. Consider asking a friend to fast with you or to support you during your fast.

 

Commit: Mark your calendar, alert any family or friends who may be impacted by your adjusted meal schedule, and commit to when you will fast. Prepare yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As the time approaches, continue to pray that God will allow you to hear from him during your fasting experience.

 

 

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