As we announced a few months ago, over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to complete and publish an 8-week study on prayer, called More Than Enough. I thought it might be good to share that study through our blog over the course of the next several weeks, for anyone who might be interested in working through it over the summer break.
Also, if you would like to have this study together in its entirety, and as a way to help support the work we are doing in Europe, it is also available for sale electronically through itunes, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Thank you for your love and support! Peace today.
(Copyright © 2016 by Miki Chastain
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the publisher, except where noted in the text and in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Editors: Frank Decker, Ruth Burgner and Charlie Chastain)
How this study came to be…
From within my earliest memories, I can recall watching my grandmother pray. I think as a result of her example, prayer never seemed strange or awkward for me. I have always felt drawn towards a life of prayer. But, it was not until I was pregnant with our first child, in 2006, that I first began to recognize some of the deepest areas of brokenness and fear in my own life, and to feel the pull of the Lord into new depths of prayer and intimacy with Him.
In 2009, I moved with my husband and our daughter from our home in the U.S. to begin our lives as missionaries overseas. It was about a year after that move when God’s purpose for my calling to prayer begin to take some shape. It came pretty simply, through my offer to pray with a local pastor who was hurting and desperate to hear from her Heavenly Father.
Since that experience, I have had the privilege of praying with many brothers and sisters from various nations around the world. I have enjoyed new opportunities and challenges to commit more of myself, my time, and my energy toward seeking authentic communion and relationship with my Heavenly Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Fall of 2015, through God’s grace and the love and support of several brothers and sisters, I was given an opportunity to open a “prayer room” in the little European city my family and I called home. Shortly after its official “opening,” I invited a handful of leaders and teachers from the local church to come together for one morning. I wanted their prayers and discernment about the prayer ministry into which I sensed God was leading me.
One of the points of direction that surfaced in that meeting was that I needed to articulate and write out the vision of “intimacy with God,” which I felt was at the core of His purpose for the ministry. This project is the result that endeavor.
In the bit of traveling I have been able to do, it has been my experience that most – if not all – people deeply desire to know true, authentic intimacy with their Maker. The thoughts I offer in these pages do not present a “quick and easy” way to “experience” or “feel” God. I believe many have grown weary of seeking out shallow, emotional experiences, which are essentially centered around “self.” More than simply an emotional experience, true intimacy with God transforms us. It frees us. It deepens our faith and leads us into the eternal truth, the Word Himself, Jesus Christ.
So I offer no “quick fixes” or “methods” for hearing from God or deepening one’s prayer life. Instead, I have endeavored to simply build this project around teachings found in the Scriptures, to the best of my understanding, and with only a few exceptions.
No teaching produced by man can eclipse the immeasurable value of time spent waiting upon the Lord God Himself, and meditating on His Holy Word. This project is designed to be considered slowly, and to be paired with extensive prayer and meditation on the scriptures presented. Try to fulfill the suggested prayer activities for each week. Ask God to give you discernment as you read, and to reveal Himself and His own Word to you in your times of prayer and meditation.
With love in Him,
Before You Begin…
As you begin this study, following are a few suggestions for preparation:
1 – Consider keeping a journal throughout this study, in which you can jot down any thoughts, images, or scriptures that come up during your reading or prayer times, which you feel may be from the Lord.
2 – Each week concludes with a “Weekly Meditation”, which consists of a prayer exercise, scriptures for meditation, and questions to consider in prayer during the week. Weekly Meditations 3, 5, 6, and 8 involve getting away from regular work and responsibilities for an extended period, and may require prior scheduling.
3 – It may be good for you to share some of your experience during this study with someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature. Consider either finding a prayer partner who will be willing to meet and pray with you regularly throughout this study, or forming a small group committed to going through the study together.
Week 1 – What is prayer?
Prayer is communion with our Holy Father, the Source of our life, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Every aspect of the life of a believer is dependent upon the depth and sincerity of his or her prayer life.
1. Imitation of Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:6: “This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”
The prayer life of Jesus Christ was the perfect example of the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus was in communion with God in every moment. Whether He was teaching, healing, or away praying in a solitary place, Jesus never turned His attention away from His Father.
In John 12:49-50, Jesus says, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father Who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”
In everything He did, Jesus acted only according to the guidance of His Father, spoke only what He heard the Father tell Him to speak. And this is the model of the prayer life we are to strive for – an unbroken communion with God throughout our day, every day. True prayer results in an intimacy and trust in our Father so that we do nothing, say nothing, which we do not first confirm through the gentle whisper of His Holy Spirit to our own spirit.
2. Learning the voice of our Father.
In John 10:1-5, we have the words of Jesus Christ:
Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
As we enter into prayer, we begin to recognize the voice of God, and we learn to trust His voice alone. This is crucial for anyone who desires to walk out his or her life according to the purpose and desire of the Father. Additionally, as we learn to recognize and follow only the voice of God, we find that the authority of all other words of deception and darkness weakens, and eventually is removed from our lives all together.
3. Knowing God and knowing His will for our lives and for the places we serve.
In John 17:3, we find the prayer of Jesus Christ: “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”
In Jeremiah 9:24, we see the word of God through His prophet: “But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…”
Jeremiah 31:34: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”
Many of us can barely conceive a true image of the concept of “knowing” or “being known” by someone else. Our world is filled with deceptions about what it means to be “acceptable” or “valuable” as a human being. The false images of “perfection”, “success”, and “relevance” with which we are bombarded effectively convince each of us that we are not worthy to be known.
None of us measure up to the corrupted, ever-changing standards of the world. Consequently, we spend much of our lives working to cover up our deficiencies. At the deepest part of us, many of us are terrified that if our true nature were ever revealed, the people in our lives would see that we are unworthy of their love, and they would leave us.
We build walls around ourselves, which are intended to shield off any exposure of our shortcomings, and to protect us from the pain of the disappointment and rejection of our peers. These walls we put up effectively separate us from each other. Our efforts to protect and defend ourselves generally result in deep feelings of isolation, rejection, and fear.
In John 17:20-26, Jesus prays that all believers would be one, saying, “Father, just as You are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us.” He continues in verse 26, saying, “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them, and that I Myself may be in them.”
The image Jesus lays out in His prayer – of our being one in God – is intensely intimate. This type of “knowing” requires that we keep nothing hidden, hold nothing back from Him, or from one another. This depth of intimacy and vulnerableness is uncomfortable, even frightening for many of us.
But we have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and so are designed to live in perfect intimacy with Him, and with one another. However, the process of walking through our fear of intimacy, seeing our walls come down, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with God is not something we can accomplish in our own strength or effort.
God never intended for us to rely solely on teachers to bring us revelation on Who He is, or the truth of His will for our lives. His desire is to reveal Himself to each of His children personally. It is through prayer that we begin to see fulfillment of this desire of the Father in our lives. As we spend more of our time indwelling the throne room of the Father in prayer, we truly begin to know Him, to know His love, and to know His perfect will for our lives. Through time in prayer, the verses we read about God in the scriptures become more than just words we have memorized. By communing with our Father, we begin to see for ourselves that He truly is who He says He is. He is just. He is good. He is holy. He is love.
As we get to know God personally, we begin to trust Him to do His work of healing in our lives, and to set us free from our self-made prisons. By knowing God, we receive the faith and strength from Him to walk in the freedom of truly being known by Him.
4. Participation in the coming of God’s kingdom and revelation of His glory on earth.
In Matthew 6:10, we have the example of Jesus Christ when He prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Prayer is not simply understanding the perfect will of God, but it is our active participation in His plan and purposes. Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ is an act of faith, and our most powerful and effective means of seeing the will of our Father fulfilled:
– For our own sanctification (walking out a life in the freedom that we have in Christ).
– For the salvation and healing of others in our lives.
– For the establishment of His Church, and revelation of His glory throughout the earth.
Recall the powerful promise we find in 1 John 3:21-23, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
This is the difference that believers offer when serving others. Prayer changes things. James 5:13-16 tells us that the prayer of a believer is powerful and effective. Prayer has much more authority than our human efforts and wisdom towards seeing the fulfillment of God’s purposes in this world. We must never endeavor to do anything that has not been first constructed on the foundation of faithful, sacrificial prayer in the name of Christ Jesus:
a. Humanitarian service – Take a moment to re-visit the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21. We can see that by deepening our prayer lives, we become more effective at providing humanitarian needs – including food, shelter, or clothing – to others in need. In this way, we allow our humanitarian service for others to spring up from our own submission to the Father, as we learn to rely on Him as the provision in our own lives. Through prayer, we see miraculous provision occur for the needs of others. We find we are equipped to provide for a person’s basic needs much more effectively than we are without prayer.
b. Healing – In John 4:13-14, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Through our own committed prayer lives, we become better equipped to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people we serve. This supernatural authority becomes evident as we learn to discern and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit in all moments of our day. Through constant intimacy with the Father while we are teaching, or sharing a meal, or serving and ministering to the poor, we begin to see miracles of salvation, deliverance, and healing occur in the lives of people all around us.
We see an example of this in Acts 3:1-6, when Peter addresses the lame man begging outside of the temple: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”
Through deepened prayer lives, we may see miracles occur as we are led to lay hands on the sick, as instructed by James 5:14. At other times we will witness the glory of God revealed through miracles in the lives and communities for which we intercede privately. These types of intercessory prayers may be lifted up while we are alone with God in our prayer closets, or even silently to Him in our spirit in the midst of our serving and fellowshipping with others who are hurting. Miraculous works naturally spring up from a life of submission and intimacy with the Father through prayer.
c. Building up of the Church – “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7. Throughout it’s history, the Church has witnessed many outpourings of the Holy Spirit, which have led to great revivals. Consistently, these revivals have at their beginnings a renewed commitment to prayer within the Christian community.
In Acts 2:1, we read that at the time of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the people of the church were all together in one place. This commitment of gathering and waiting on God together as the body of Christ is vital towards seeing a great movement of the Holy Spirit within our churches.
Many in the Church today desire to see a great revival in their community, with great revelations of the glory of the Father, so that men and women will be drawn to Him and His love, repent of their sins, and receive the forgiveness which we all have in Jesus Christ. We must follow the example that has been given us consistently since the early Church. Our greatest role towards seeing a revival in the Church, a strengthening in the faith of the believers, and a sending out of workers filled and empowered with the fire of the Holy Spirit is that we humble ourselves, come before the throne of God, and recommit ourselves to prayer.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
Practicalities – How to Begin?
1. The Blood of Jesus Christ
Romans 5:8-9 and 11: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!… Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation.”
1 John 1:8-10 tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.”
God our Father is holy, and we are not. Each of us is guilty of sinning against people who love us with our words and actions of bitterness or rejection.
Because of the stain in our own lives of the sin we have committed against others and God, none of us is free to enter into the presence of our Holy Father. Covered in our own carnal nature, we can never experience real communion with God.
However, when we submit to Jesus Christ with a heart of repentance, confess Him as our only Savior and Lord, and allow Him to wash us with His blood, then the filth of our carnality is covered over. When we are covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, we receive the right to enter into God’s presence. We receive reconciliation with God. We are free to enter into the holy throne room of our Heavenly Father, and to commune with Him. This is the essence of prayer.
2. Private Prayer
The instructions Jesus gave the disciples on prayer were very simple:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Why is this so difficult for us to do today?
We are given many examples of Jesus getting away to be alone with His Father, including:
– Luke 5:16 – “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
– Matthew 14:23 – “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.”
– Luke 6:12 – “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
– Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”
Private prayer is necessary for learning to let the Holy Spirit teach us and to transform us through:
a. Discernment – It is good for us to read in our bibles, or to hear others tell us about God’s love. However, in our private times of prayer, we turn our focus onto God’s own voice, and we wait for Him to speak to us Himself, through the voice of His Holy Spirit. When we are able to discern the voice of God speaking His own unfailing Word into our lives, it brings us new life, and it transforms us.
b. God’s Word – Jeremiah 31:33: “’This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.’”
Private prayer is also important in our study of the bible, as we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Word of God. In this way, the scriptures come alive and begin to change our hearts. As we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His Word to us in the verses, we find they are no longer simply words on a page to be memorized, but they become like bread to us – nourishing our souls and bringing us new life.
3. Intercessory Prayer
Throughout our journey as followers of Jesus Christ, we naturally experience a deepening compassion and calling regarding the struggles and suffering we witness in the lives of people around us. Through intercession, we bring these struggles, which others are experiencing, before the Lord in prayer on their behalf.
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship” (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1960, 88).
Practical steps for intercessory prayer over other people, places, and situations:
a. Listening. Romans 8:26-27 tell us that the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding for us according to the will of God. So, when we begin praying for others, we must first learn to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and to wait for His guidance on how to pray for the person or situation, which we are lifting to Him.
b. Speaking. Once we have discerned the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the way we should pray, we then speak out that truth over the person or situation, in the name of Jesus Christ. When we pray out God’s Word over a person’s life, it is very powerful:
Romans 1:16-17 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from the first to the last..”
Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 55:11 – “so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
God’s Word saves us, as it cancels the effects of countless words of darkness and deception in any situation or life. Intercessory prayer includes lifting up the needs of others to our Heavenly Father, seeking His Word for that person or situation, and then speaking out that Word, in the name of Jesus Christ.
An unhindered prayer life is one in which we submit our lives and wills to following Jesus Christ alone:
a. Denial of self – In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Christ says that those who desire to follow Him must deny themselves. This is the posture we must take in prayer. When we come into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, we must be willing for our hearts (this includes our passions, our perspectives, our opinions, our personalities – every aspect of who we believe ourselves to be) to be broken and poured out at His feet. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20)
b. Commitment – Often we do not believe that we will be able to discern God’s voice, or we may feel that hours spent waiting on His voice is wasted time. But we must keep trying! All truth is found in God (John 14:6), and He wants to share it with us through the voice of His Holy Spirit. We must be steadfast, not giving up, but continually returning our focus to Him. (Job 33:14)
c. Faith – Prayer requires faith. In order to be saved, we must believe (John 3:16). This means we believe that God’s Word is unfailing, and we trust that He desires to share His Word with His children. Prayer is the process of letting go of our own understanding, assumptions, and agendas, and turning all of ourselves to God. In times when our trust in God and His Word is weak, then in prayer we ask the Father to increase our faith, by His grace. (Mark 9:24) We will go into the topic of faith further in our reading next week.
Week 1 Meditation
This week, set aside 1.5-2 hours for prayer, breaking your schedule into 30-40 minutes of prayer a day, for 3 days.
Begin each time of prayer with a few minutes of silence, asking God to clear your mind of any distractions and worries that are keeping you from hearing His voice. Then, read through one of the following verses, focusing on a different verse each day. Read through the passage a few times. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His Word to you through the scripture. Write down anything about the passage that “sticks out” in your spirit, or any parts of it which you’ve never noticed there before.
Day 1 – Matthew 14:12-13 (The death of John the Baptist) – “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
Day 2 – Matthew 21:12-16 – “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ He said to them, ‘”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do You hear what these children are saying?’ they asked Him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise.”‘
Day 3 – 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 – “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.”
In each session, after you have meditated on the passage, ask the Father to reveal to you truth about the following questions:
– How did Jesus Christ view prayer? Why was it such a high priority in His life?
– If I consider my daily and weekly routine, how high of a priority am I giving to prayer? What are some of the things in my life that are taking a higher priority?
– What are some of the areas of doubt in my spirit, which keep me from approaching God in prayer?