Thoughts from Canaan…

"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8

Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer: Petition and Confession

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15

Last week we looked at the praise and consecration facets of the Lord’s Prayer. This week we’re going to continue with our study on this greatest of prayers by examining the next two parts: petition and confession. Technically, each of the Lord’s Prayer’s sections could be considered a ‘petition’; however, we are going to define petition more narrowly. For our purposes, we’re looking at petitions as specific requests for God to fulfill a human need. While confession has an element of petition to it (there should be a request for forgiveness and empowerment moving forward), it is primarily our answer to God’s request for us to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).

1. What sort of requests have you made of God in the past? Have they been primarily physical? Spiritual? Both? Do you find it easier to request one or the other?

2. What kinds of things should we confess?

Petition

Jesus says that we ought to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). There are several elements to this phrase which are important to consider. We’ll look at each one in turn.

Give us…
Any time we come to God in prayer, we’ve already established that we need to begin with a recognition of who He is (praise). Before we can request anything of him, we must also recognize that he is the ultimate source of all there is. King David put it this way, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; / The world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Since the fullness of the earth is God’s, there is no provision, no possession, no good that we own or could own that doesn’t come from God. James says something similar when he writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Leviticus 25:23
1. What does God possess according to this scripture?
2. Should this fact have any bearing on our actions? What?

Haggai 2:8
1. What does God possess according to this scripture?
2. Should this fact have any bearing on our actions? What?

Psalm 50:10-11
1. What does God possess according to this scripture?
2. Should this fact have any bearing on our actions? What?
3. How should these passages affect how we pray?

This day our daily…
This phrase has a somewhat obscure Greek word in it and, as a result, has been translated and understood in a variety of ways. The most likely interpretation is simply that Jesus is telling his disciples to seek the day’s provision. This is important to consider because in our advanced, Western society we are often not satisfied unless we have the years provision in sight. It requires real faith to seek only daily bread and not annual bread. Just as the Israelites relied on God in the wilderness for their constant sustenance, Jesus hopes that we will too. The more dependent on him we are, the more likely we will continue to depend on him.

One of the best examples of seeking God’s daily provision in recent history is the life of George Muller. He felt a strong conviction to start an orphanage for the many children who lived on the streets of Bristol, England but he had no money to do so. He began praying that God would provide everything he needed. Muller spent many hours on his knees, seeking God for the needs of the hour. His autobiography testifies to the fact that God always provided, often at the last possible minute.

We shouldn’t see this kind of dependence as limiting or debilitating, instead we should look at it this way:“The prayer for physical sustenance frees disciples from becoming mired in futile worry over their subsistence (Matt 13:22) and frees them for the task of seeking first the kingdom of heaven (Matt 6:33)”[ Kuo, J. (2012). Lord’s Prayer. In (J. D. Barry & L. Wentz, Eds.)The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.]

Matthew 6:25-34
1. How does this passage relate to Jesus’ teaching on prayer earlier in the chapter?
2. Why do you think Jesus taught on anxiety right after teaching on fasting, prayer, and giving?
3. What are your thoughts on living in constant dependence on God?

Proverbs 6:6-11
1. How do these verses relate to what Jesus teaches in Matthew 6?
2. Is there contradiction between what Proverbs teaches and what Jesus taught? Why or why not?
3. How can we prepare without worrying?

Luke 12:15-21
1. What sort of attitude does the man in this parable exhibit?
2. What is the man condemned for?
3. How does this parable add to the discussion on preparation and relying on God?

Bread…
According to one commentary, “Bread was the normal and often only form of sustenance for the poor. It was the main course for the two meals eaten each day by Jews.”[ Hahn, R. L. (2007). Matthew: a commentary for Bible students (p. 100). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.] When Jesus tells us to pray for ‘daily bread’, he is telling us that we need to seek God for our every need. Martin Luther understood bread to include, “everything necessary for the preservation of this life… including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace.”[ MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 90). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.] Although it’s important to realize that Jesus is telling us to pray for more than physical bread; it’s equally important to recognize that he does put a limit on our requests. As Craig Blomberg notes, “It is also worth noting that the prayer makes request for our needs and not our greed.”[ Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 120). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.]

Romans 1:9-11
1. What does Paul say he is praying for in this passage?
2. How does it relate to what we’ve read and discussed?

Romans 15:30-31
1. What does Paul say he is praying for in this passage?
2. How does it relate to what we’ve read and discussed?

Ephesians 6:19
1. What does Paul say he is praying for in this passage?
2. How does it relate to what we’ve read and discussed?

2 Thessalonians 3:1
1. What does Paul say he is praying for in this passage?
2. How does it relate to what we’ve read and discussed?

1. What do these requests have in common?
2. Can you think of other prayers of request throughout scripture? What kinds of things did people ask for?

Confession

While Jesus does give us permission to ask things of God, he also commands that we confess our ‘debts’ when he prays, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”[ The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 6:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.] When we repent from our old way of life and turn to God, we will confess our sins. However, once we’ve been redeemed and made a new creation, we will not “continue in sin” (1 John 5:18). Sin will no longer be the defining characteristic of our lives. However, since we are still human beings, we will still make mistakes. We may, at times, neglect the reading of God’s Word or our prayers. We may misspeak or offend unintentionally. We may not consider some of these things active ‘sins’; however, they should still be confessed and repented of.

1 John 1:9 & Proverbs 28:13
1. What does John say about confession here?
2. What happens when we refuse to confess?
3. What does confession do for us?

Psalm 32:1-7
1. What does the psalmist say about confession here?
2. What happens when we refuse to confess?
3. What does confession do for us?

Homework – Write down any thoughts you might want to share as you work through the following activities.

Saturday – Try to spend 10-15 minutes today meditating on the fact that God owns everything in this world. How should this affect the way you pray? If you find time, go for a walk around your home and reflect on how you are using the resouces God has given you.

Sunday – Read the chapter entitled ‘George Muller and the Secret of his Power in Prayer’ in Andrew Murray’s book, ‘With Christ in the School of Prayer.’ You can find it online at the following web address: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/prayer.XXXII.html

Monday – Try to spend 10-15 minutes meditating on what you can do to trust God more day by day. As you go to God today, pray with a focus on the present.

Tuesday – Spend 5-10 minutes today asking God what you should be praying for. Listen in silence for a time. If God lays something on your heart, let that be your prayer focus today.

Wednesday – Read over the verses above from Paul’s letters (Romans 1:9-11, Romans 15:30-31, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and Ephesians 6:19). Let your prayer focus today be the same things that Paul prayed for.

Thursday – Spend 5-10 minutes today praying Psalm 139:23-24. Listen in silence for anything God might want you to confess. Then, confess it and ask God for strength going forward.

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This entry was posted on March 14, 2014 by in Discipleship and tagged , , , , , , , .
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