Enjoy your prayer life – a book review

Enjoy your prayer life by Dr Michael Reeves
Published in 2014 by 10Publishing
ISBN 978-1-909611-64-1

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to encourage others to pray and so for this update I’ve decided to provide a review of a book that I’ve found particularly helpful. In my opinion it has lots of reasons to recommend it but here are few –

  1. It’s small, portable and will fit snuggly in a jacket pocket or handbag.
  2. It’s only 46 pages long so there’s no reason why anyone can’t finish it!
  3. It has 14 short chapters which neatly divide into a manageable two week daily encouragement on prayer.
  4. It’s a delightful read which I’m confident that all Christians will find encourage from.
  5. At just £1.99 it’s also very cheap!

Of the 5 reasons for why you should make this small investment, I think number 3 is the most compelling. Michael, the book’s author opens with this statement – “This is not a new revelation but sadly most of us are not good at prayer”.  It’s certainly a sentiment I share with the author which is why I recommend reading one chapter a day over a two week period. Taking this approach affords one the opportunity to reflect on and be challenged by the issues with our own prayer lives and attitudes to prayer that this book seeks to help and encourage us with.

In terms of what the book covers, Michael has included chapters about –

  • The problem with prayer
  • What is prayer?
  • Prayer springs from God’s word (the major subject of my blog!)
  • Praying like Jesus
  • Praying to God as our Father
  • The Spirit helps us

As the back cover says – Enjoy your prayer life is a delightful read; and as you turn the pages, it’ll show you that prayer doesn’t have to be a duty to be performed, but is rather a gift to be enjoyed.

If you’re feeling challenged about your own prayer life then hopefully this mini book review has enticed you into a wise investment with the promise of a significant return.

Copies of Enjoy your prayer life can be purchased from Amazon –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enjoy-Your-Prayer-Michael-Reeves-ebook/dp/B00JELXJMC

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A prayer for Boldness – Acts 4:23-31

Over the last nine months the home groups at my church have been studying the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. We’ve been considering the life of the early church, how it grew and what spiritual characteristics it demonstrated. One of these characteristics was a commitment to prayer and in Acts 4 we have a record of how the people prayed for boldness. Acts 4 records that Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the Jewish council because they had been teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When questioned by the council under whose authority they preached this message and healed the sick, Peter being filled with the Holy Spirit boldly proclaimed that it was in the name of Jesus Christ whom this council had crucified.

Acts 4:13 then states that ‘Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Unable to find any way to punish Peter and John, the council threaten them not to continue to preach in the name of Jesus and then release them. Peter and John return to the other believers and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.

Acts 4:24‭-‬31 ESV says –

24. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25. who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  26. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—  27. for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28. to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30. while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 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.

http://bible.com/59/act.4.24-31.ESV

So what can we learn from this prayer to encourage and instruct us in our own prayer life?

Well the first thing we can observe is that pray was their natural response to the situation they faced. It was also an immediate response and one that they were united in doing. Note also how they began their prayer. They didn’t just launch into a request for help or for God’s intervention, no they began by extolling the wonder and majesty of the one they were addressing (v24). After praising God the believers continue their prayer by quoting scripture (v25), the words of David from Psalm 2:1-2. They recognise the Holy Spirit speaking through David as a messianic prophecy fulfilled in what they had witnessed in Christ’s persecution and death at the hands of king Herod, Pontius Pilate and people of Israel (v27). But they also see in that the work and purposes of God being fulfilled (v28).

From this we can see how important it is that we have an understanding of Scripture and can therefore include it in our own prayers. By doing this we are able to claim God’s promises to us and acknowledge His sovereignty and the mighty work of His hands in our lives.

The believers conclude their prayer, not be asking image3God to remove the threat they faced but in asking for boldness so that they may continue to witness for Christ (v29). They put the honour and service of God ahead of their own well-being. In the light of what these earlier church believers prayed we are faced with a challenging question – do we seek the same thing when we pray – are we concerned for the honour of God and the salvation of others even if it comes at a personal cost to us? I would suggest that this is something we all need to spend time reflecting on particularly as we live in an age where belief in the Bible and the name of Christ is increasingly ridiculed and frequently resisted.

God answered their prayer in a mighty way as verse 31 says that the place they had gathered for prayer was shaken, they were also filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. How great is our God!

Almighty and sovereign God, I praise you because you are in control of all things and that your purposes are being worked out day by day; none can stand against you. By your grace I ask that just like your people in Acts 4, I too would have boldness to declare the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ and hope of the gospel of salvation through Him and His death and resurrection. May your people rejoice, your kingdom be increased and your royal name be honoured this day.

Amen

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Prayer in the Bible – where to begin?

Having mentioned in my first post that the primary focus of this blog is to consider what we can learn about prayer from those recorded in the Bible, then perhaps the place to begin this study is in Genesis chapter 4 where we find the first mention of prayer.

Genesis 4:26 says –

At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
http://bible.com/59/gen.4.26.ESV

This verse comes right at the end of Genesis 4 and concludes a chapter in which we start to see the terrible consequences of the sin that through Adam and Eve now taints the lives of every human being. At the beginning of chapter 4 we are told of the first sons born to Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. We are also told of their job roles; Abel a shepherd and Cain a farmer. In time both brothers make an offering to the Lord but only Abel’s offering is acceptable to God and so in anger Cain ignores God’s warning not to sin, murders his brother and then lies when confronted about Abel’s whereabouts.

As a result Cain is cursed and banished from God’s presence. He eventually settles in the Land of Nod and builds a dwelling for himself and his family.  The chapter then records the descendants of Cain and 5 generations later we are introduced to a man called Lamech. Again with Lamech we encounter further evidence of the effects of sin. Unlike the pattern God gave through Adam and Eve he has taken two wives and it’s to these wives that Lamech confesses to murder. Just one chapter after the account of the fall and the awful consequences of man’s sin are fully evident.

But yet as the chapter closes we find this  glimmer hope. God blesses Adam and Eve with another son Seth, who in turn goes on to father Enosh and it is during this time frame that verse 26 records that people began to call on the name of the Lord.

I find great encouragement in this verse because although the sinfulness of men and women will rapidly bring the human race under God’s judgement (flick forward to Genesis chapter 6) yet there are those who have seen the consequences of sin and called out to the only One who could save them from it, the Lord God their Creator. Just like them we too can call out to God and worship Him but unlike Cain we must be mindful of our heart attitude and alert to our sinfulness. For our worship must not be boastful, arrogant or false but we must come in humble penitent prayer as grateful recipients of God’s unconditional love, grace and patience.

Heavenly Father as we call on your Name today and bring our petitions before you, help us to be mindful of our heart attitude so that with the help of the Holy Spirit our prayers and every aspect of our lives may be an acceptable offering to you.

Amen

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First blog post – the challenge

We certainly live in an age of affluence and that extends to our choice of reading material. Whether your preference is for flicking through the virtual pages of an ebook, thumbing the pages of the ‘real thing’ or just browsing an occasional blog like this one then one thing is certain, you’ll not be stuck for choice. That affluence extends to Christian literature with no shortage of books being published on a myriad of subjects and that includes the subject of prayer. As with most forms of literature published today when we consider its content, depth of teaching and perhaps more importantly its scriptural inerrancy then unsurprisingly there’s good, average and stuff we should avoid at all costs. I trust that this blog won’t be one of the latter.

So why have I created this blog? Well firstly as I’ve reflected on the life of the Christian in this day and age then there’s one question that keeps nagging away and it’s this:

With such a wealth of sound Christian  material available to us why is prayer still a daily activity that many of us (if we’re being honest with ourselves) struggle with?

Well I hope and trust that with the Holy Spirit’s leading and as time permits, I’ll be able to tackle that question as well as tackle other issues that I’m sure like myself we all find ourselves struggling with in relation to our daily prayer life.

I may indeed even recommend further books or other reading material on the subject of prayer however the primary reason for starting this blog was in response to a recent challenge from our Pastor in his Sunday evening sermon (and yes we hold firm to the value, joy and privilege of being able to meet for corporate worship, spiritual encouragement and the expounding of God’s Word twice on a Sunday).

I’ve already alluded to the wealth of Christian literature that is ours today but our Pastors challenge was to search the Bible and study the numerous prayers we have in both the Old and New Testaments. After all what better guide to prayer could there be than for us read and learn from the prayers of God’s people recorded for us in God’s own Word to us?

Of course some of these prayers may be quite familiar to us particularly when we think of Christ’s prayers recorded in the four gospels.  However what you may not appreciate is that virtually every book of the Bible contains them.  In 1959 Herbert Lockyer published a book called ‘All the Prayers of the Bible’ in which he states that there are over 650 prayers in the Bible. Therefore it would be fair to say that we are not short of examples to instruct, guide and grow us in this important daily activity in the life of the Christian. My desire therefore with this blog is to be able to share what the Lord reveals to me through the Bible’s amazing library of prayers.

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