Bible

Allowing Scripture to Drive our Prayer Requests for Growth

By: Brad Rogers

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I have participated and led many Bible study small groups that end with the question, “How can we pray for you tonight?”  When I ask this question, people often mishear my question. They begin to share prayer requests that they have for other people. I think it’s good to pray for those who are not in the room, but I also want to pray for the people in the room.  When people struggle to come up with things to pray for themselves, I gently press on by asking them where they think it will be difficult for them to follow Jesus in the coming week. I usually joke that if they can’t think of any, they may be much closer to Jesus than I am.  Now, to be fair, this is a personal question. Depending on the small group, it may not be appropriate to share certain sin struggles you will face in the coming week. 

However, there is another problem here.  Not only do I not know the future, but it is the very nature of sin to deceive, which means that I don’t always know the sin in my heart.  Scripture reveals God’s heart and God’s will to me in such a way that it exposes sin in my heart that I did not know I had.  I long for the applications discussed when we are studying the Bible in small groups to drive the personal requests people make during prayer time. 

I think this is also a great practice to incorporate into our personal Bible reading time as well. As the Holy Spirit works by and with God’s Word, we see sin in ourselves we may not have realized was there.  We should confess newly revealed sin and ask God to transform us so we might become a person who continues to say “no” to this sin. We may have many other specific things in our lives for which we make requests to God. This is a great thing, and God desires us to do so. However, if we want our time of reading in God’s Word to help us grow to be more like Christ, it only makes sense that we ask God to help us change in such a way so as to live out what the Scriptures say.  

If you have been following along in our series, you will know that I have been writing about a particular way of meeting with God that seeks to wed Scripture reading and prayer. It utilizes what is called the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) not only as a means of prayer but also as a means of reading God’s Word.  Using a journal as I read a passage of Scripture devotionally, I note attributes of God, sins I need to confess, things I can thank God for, and any prayer requests I want to make to God as a result of this reading. I will then pray these things back to God when I am done reading my passage (or passages) for the day.  I have previously written about adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. This week, I am focusing on supplication - making requests known to God in prayer.

Supplication from the Word helps us apply the Scriptures in our lives

For me, the supplication section of my journal focuses on the applications I think I need to make in my life based on the Bible reading for the day.  Most often, they flow directly from the things I have written down in the confession of sin section of my journal.  Largely because I want the Holy Spirit to help me put the sin I confessed to death.  Here are some questions from Tim Keller, New York City pastor and author, which think through prayer requests based on Scripture reading:

  • What do I need from God to obey what he reveals here?

  • What specific problems result when this quality of God or this teaching is forgotten or denied?

  • Does my life demonstrate that I am practicing this teaching?

  • How will I be different if I begin to do so?

  • Where will I next need this teaching?

  • What kind of love toward God do I most lack and need --love of appreciation (praise and joy), love of complacency (rest and peace), or love of benevolence (zeal and boldness)? What “put on” will I need to practice in order to “put off’ this sin?

It may be that you want to make yourself a little cheat sheet of these questions that you keep with you in your journal.  The more you use these questions, though, the more you can use them instinctively. They are really helpful when you can’t immediately think of any to apply from the day’s reading.

Getting Practical

Here is a small sampling from my journal that could help you get started.  

“Show me where my hypocrisy lies and help me repent.  Help me not presume but rather rely on your grace.  May I not tempt others to sin with the attitude of my heart.  May I love sinners like you do.  Help me recognize that what I most want is found in your Word, may I have Christ-like character.  Help me believe your Word. May I be a person who turns at your rebuke and repents. May I never forget that my sins are forgiven. Help me seek the lost until they are found.  Clean my heart from the inside out.  Help me be gracious with others like you.  Help me serve others like Jesus served me.  Help me not to despise your discipline.  Lord, may I actually heed your warnings and not just merely read them with agreement. Help me walk as one who is wise making the best use of the time.  May I fear you above all others. Help me not grow weary and doing good. Lord, lift the veil from my eyes that I might live as one who is fully yours.” 

As I read Scripture, I see various ways that I fall short of loving God and loving people as God has called me to do; and these are the areas where I ask God to help me grow. May God bless your reading and praying of God’s word so that you grow closer to him and become more like him.   

 

Praising the God of the Bible

By: Brad Rogers

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Here at Redeemer Presbyterian in Raleigh, we are using a Community Bible Reading plan complete with a handy journal as an aid to help us personally commune with God, know the Scriptures, and grow in community.  The journal is laid out in such a way as to help us pray the Scriptures back to God.  As such the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, & Supplication) is utilized as a way to engage with God through the Scriptures.  The idea is that as one reads a particular text; he/she writes in the journal things for which they find God praiseworthy (adoration), sins the text reveals they may need to confess (confession), aspects of God’s saving work the text reveals for which to be thankful (thanksgiving) and any requests that one would like to make to God in response to what they find in God’s word that day. A person can then take what they have written in each of these four sections of the journal and pray them back to God. This model of reading and praying the Scriptures can be a little clunky and awkward at first, but I have found that pushing past that initial uncomfortableness has yielded much fruit in my life personally. In the humble interest of helping those on this plan and anyone else desiring a closer walk with Christ by praying the Scriptures, I am beginning a 4 part series today taking each aspect of the A.C.T.S. model of prayer one at a time.

Adoration: The Importance of Praise

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, the first thing he modeled for them was asking that our heavenly Father’s name might be hallowed. He was showing us that we should pray that God’s name would be revered, or regarded as holy. It is praying that all people everywhere would praise and adore God.  Over and again in the book of Psalms we find God calling His people to praise His name.  We don’t need to get bent out of shape as if this is some other human asking us to give them honor. 

God has revealed who He is to us, and He is a God infinitely beyond us in holiness, power, and glory.  C.S. Lewis has helpfully pointed out that failing to admire that which is truly admirable is a flaw in itself and causes one to miss out on the full experience of something wonderful.  In his Reflections on the Psalms, he writes that if God is the great object of admiration behind all other beauties and magnificence, then to praise and admire him would be “simply to be awake, to have entered the real world … but not to do so would be to be deaf, blind and bedridden with respect to the real world.”   It is important not to merely think God is worthy of praise, but to actually praise him for those attributes for which He is worthy as this honors Him and moves us beyond knowledge of facts about God into a loving relationship with Him that changes our hearts.  James K.A. Smith says that “we are what we adore” (and maybe we can say that we are becoming that which we adore). 

Practicing Adoration through Bible Reading

As you are reading any text of the Bible devotionally, it is good to jot down those attributes of God you see in that Scripture that are worthy of praise as a means of understanding the text itself, but also so that you can take those praises up in prayer once you have completed your Bible reading.  Throughout the Bible, God is redeeming people prone to wander in sin back to himself.  When we are thinking through the category of praise it’s helpful to ask ourselves as we read, “What is it about God’s nature and character that leads Him to the redeeming work that I see in this particular passage?”  In a paper, I was told New York City Pastor Tim Keller wrote that he asks these questions of the Scriptures to help identify particular attributes of God worthy of praise.  What does this (Scripture) teach me: of God’s excellence? Of his majesty/greatness? Of his grace/tenderness? Of his wisdom/symmetry?  In sum, in the adoration section of your journal, you are looking to write down what kind of God the passage in front of you reveals. 

I tend to write out praise worthy attributes down as I read the text.  You might prefer to read through the whole text for the day (or for a section at a time) and then write down praise worthy attributes you notice about God.  It could be one word, or it could be several words. I tend to write down something short that I can expand on when I begin to actually praise God in my prayers. Looking through recent entries into the adoration section of my journal I find words and phrases like: healer, the holy one, Lord over the fish in the seas, searcher of hearts, Authoritative One, Creator, Mighty One, supplier of food, revealer of truth and one for whom nothing is impossible.  Even if you don’t journal or don’t have a journal with you, it’s still possible to make mental notes of things regarding God’s character that you can then reflect back to Him in prayer.  In these times, I find myself praying such things back to God as I read rather than waiting until I finish.  The journal is aimed at helping you engage with God and commune with Him as He speaks to you in the Scriptures.  The Community Bible Reading Journal is just a tool and a means towards this end, so I wouldn’t get overly concerned with the particulars.  The ultimate goal is to become more comfortable with the method so that you better understand, appreciate, and adore God as He reveals himself to us in the Bible so that we become more like the God we praise.

 

 

 

 

Advent Season

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By: Rachel Rogers

Do you feel bombarded this time of year by pictures of happy families in matching sweaters, spending quality time in beautifully decorated homes? My own experience of the holiday season tends to include fewer matching sweaters and more hectic moments searching for the “right” gift, with my cluttered tree in the background. (Have you ever noticed there are never slightly dilapidated homemade ornaments on the trees in those pictures? Never.) Just the word “Christmas” tends to bring a cacophony of emotions in me ranging from excitement to dread, usually landing on overwhelmed. I find myself longing for everything to slow down, for time to enjoy the more meaningful parts of the season.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations to unpack is the Advent wreath. As I put it on our table, it comforts me that in December our hectic and cluttered family will slow down for just a minute (on most days), as we light a candle and read a few verses to remind ourselves what the season is really all about: Jesus, God’s promised One, coming to earth as a baby, the fulfillment of so many prophecies. These family advent devotion times give us some perspective back when we are tempted to get caught up in the shiny, shallow beauty around us.

Maybe you, like us, struggle to do regular family devotions (just setting aside time to read and learn from the Bible as a family). For our family, it is usually just plain hard to work it into our schedule. May I suggest that the Advent season is a great time to start? I get it: the last thing anyone needs is one.more.thing. on their holiday “To Do” list. But if you’re going to start reading the Christmas story is a beautiful starting place. And if you actually pull off reading regularly during the holiday season, how much more possible does it seem to keep it up after the holidays?!

“Advent” is simply the weeks leading up to Christmas day. The word literally means “coming” and although the origins of the celebration are unclear, the ideas around it are really beautiful. Timothy Paul Jones says, “The purpose of the (advent) season was to anticipate the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting.” God’s people had been waiting for the Promised One for hundreds of years. We remember that when we slow down during the Christmas season. Jesus promised to come again and we are waiting for Him now. I am fairly certain I do not focus on the waiting very often. Sometimes I wonder if we even know how to wait, let alone if we know how to teach our children how to wait. Waiting is hard. Waiting for Christmas is good practice for some of us. Reading God’s Word together and remembering what it all means while we wait, is good too.

(If you want to learn more about “advent,” Timothy Paul Jones has a helpful article, “Why Celebrate Advent?” (Read it here.)

I’d love for your family to join ours this year as we attempt to read through our devotional. There are several advent devotional books or lists of readings out there that make it easy. (See the list at the bottom for starters.) If you decide to incorporate the wreath and candles, I should warn you: my kids fight regularly about whose turn it is to blow them out. Just saying. Cool tradition, lots of arguing. The main thing to remember about all of the little books and lists is that they are just tools. If they work for you, use them. If not, find something that does work. No matter what, don’t give up. Getting into God’s word together is worth fighting for particularly when Christmas can easily be swallowed up in shallow consumerism. So break out the matching sweaters! Put up some beautiful decorations and plan some quality time together! Encourage one another with the grand truth that right in the middle of our dark sins and deep sorrow God took on flesh and came for us.

Here is a short list of Advent devotional books you might want to check out. My family will be using “Good News of Great Joy” again this year. It’s nothing fancy, but it gives us some structure and is easy to use. Typically a devo book will give you a passage of Scripture to read each day and a quick commentary on it to help you connect the ideas. Don’t get bogged down in the “every day” part –if you miss a day, just pick it up when you can. Here are a few ideas to get you started. If you find a great one, let me know.

Good News of Great Joy: A Family Advent Devotional by Beth Meyers

Little Hearts Prepare Him Room By Holly Mackle

All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas by Nancy Guthrie - PCA

Barrs Advent Readings, Covenant Magazine