Prayer: Why Should We Do It? (Part 2) || Keisha Hill

A few days ago we spent some time looking at why we should pray. If you’ve been a believer for very long at all, what we discovered probably isn’t much of a surprise. We should pray because God tells us to. We’re supposed to faithfully pray at all times, devoted, without anxiety about what happens next, but full of thanksgiving.

Goodness.

If you find prayer hard that’s a BIG list to follow.

The good news is He is with us. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. We can have hope because God sent the Holy Spirit to be with us at all times, praying on our behalf when we don’t know what to say.

Today, spend some time thinking through what holds you back in prayer. Journal about it if writing is your thing, but really dig in. Is it a lack of hope in the eternal? A lack of peace that God will do the best thing in your circumstance? A lack of trust? You know what happened the last time you *really* prayed…are you afraid of hearing No again? What is it?

Maybe it’s a lack of confidence that God truly loves you and knows you by name. Prayer feels awkward if you think you have to start at the beginning every time. Did you ever read the book, Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret? I’ve spent so much of my life feeling just like that – like I have to reintroduce myself.

“Hey God.  It’s me, Keisha.  Remember me?”

I’ve been known to drop a few names I know He knows so God remembers how we’re connected.

“You know my husband Jonathan, and we have quite a few friends in common…”

No! That’s like your child or spouse reintroducing themselves every time they come home.

“Hey mom! Remember me? I’m that baby that took 9 hours to birth and didn’t sleep until I was two years old? I have that sister you really like…remember?”

That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s how we treat God at times – like the omniscient creator of all things developed Alzheimers or something. Like somehow the God of the universe has forgotten the baby He knit together in her mother’s womb…like He has forgotten the gifts He has given her…like it slipped His mind who He sent His one and only son to die for so she could live forever with Him in eternity.

Sweet friend.  You don’t have to reintroduce yourself to your heavenly father today.  He knows you.  He loves you.  And He has been waiting to hear your voice again.  He is right there with you.  Just talk to Him.

_________________

My friend Patrick preached a wonderful sermon recently that goes right along with what we’re talking about.  If you have time, watch this sermon.  It’s the whole service, including worship.  I encourage you to take time for the whole thing, but if you don’t have an hour, start the video at 21 minutes.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fvimeo.com%2F238289246%3Fref%3Dem-share&h=ATOhnlt1wbuQw2QyYRL_7fHAfnZZwvCgW-E54D6YyK1RflxzzK8Ymas9nl10rofuscDvM-nWiydjZnMBfBo48eckF0wRlBV5l2yCyPDhkXQXidCgm3YPMvTvaaprFRIhEqyJRj5y9c22NuFR

Scripture references for today: 

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Romans 12:12

Colossians 4:2

Philippians 4:6

Deuteronomy 31:8

Romans 8:26

Psalm 139:13 & 14

James 1:17

John 3:16

Why Pray- Thursday- Keisha Hill

 

                    

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Prayer: Why Should We? || Keisha Hill

The really simple answer to “Why should we pray?” Is because God said so.  Over and over again Scripture encourages us to spend time in prayer.

 

Take a few moments and write out these verses.

1 Thessalonians 5:17

1 Chronicles 16:11

Romans 12:12

Philippians 4:6

Colossians 4:2

What words stand out to you from these verses?  Go ahead and look them up in your concordance.  There just might be a richer meaning there than you’ve ever considered.

 

________________

Somehow, though, just being told to do it doesn’t always make it the easiest thing in the world, does it?  I don’t think I’m alone here – prayer can be hard!  Prayer is our way of communicating with God.  But, like any other relationship, when we don’t communicate, things get awkward.  Instead of fostering deeper intimacy with God, we get locked in a quick “wish list” sort of routine.  We ask for the things we think we need when life gets tough, and we kinda, sorta, maybe hope He’s going to come through.  The things we hope for don’t always happen and that makes us want to communicate even less.  It’s this awful spiral that ends up making us frustrated, unsatisfied, and bored in our Christian life.  It’s good to know that there are benefits for us in prayer, too.  And not just the benefit of God doing what we ask.  (Although I fully admit, I really want God to do the things I ask for in prayer.)

We can pray with hope because God promises to hear us.

Psalm 102:17  He will ___________ to the prayer of the ____________; he will not despise their plea.

Psalm 17:6   I call upon you, for ______________________________________________________, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.

1 John 5:14  This is the _________________ we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to ________  __________, he hears us.

Which of these verses do you connect with the most?  Take a moment and write out your thoughts.  It’s okay if those thoughts are questions or even disbelief.  God is big enough to handle your doubts.  If that verse bolsters your faith, write a quick prayer of thanks!

_______________________

Not only does He promise to hear us, He sent the Holy Spirit to help us.  

Romans 8:26  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Ephesians 6:18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

______________________

See?  It’s okay to not know what to pray.  You don’t have to worry about having the right form or words.  You don’t have to be afraid. Just seek God and let the Holy Spirit help you.

Write out Isaiah 41:10 and keep it with you today.  If you don’t know this one by heart, read it daily until you have it memorized.

______________________

On Thursday we’re going to talk about some of our hang ups about prayer.  Until then, just talk to Him.  God loves you and wants to hear your voice.  You don’t have to worry about it being perfect or even good.  Just talk.  And listen.  You just might be surprised by what He has to say.

 

Why Pray- Keisha Week 1- Teaching

 

                    

 

 

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Jonah – Our Story || Marissa Dodgen

Jonah. The guy swallowed by a whale. That is probably the extent of what many of us know about Jonah. He was swallowed by a whale, spit on the shore, and then went and told that people of Ninevah whatever it was he was supposed to tell them.

If you’re a Veggie Tales watcher, you may know a bit more. But even then, not much. So who was this guy? Who was he supposed to tell and what was he supposed to tell them? Was he really swallowed by a whale? What did he do after that?

The book of Jonah is the 8th to the last book of the Old Testament. We have gone through a lot of stories in this series and this is our last one, so pull up those straps, lace them tight, and let’s do this.

First things first, read Jonah.

Yes, the whole thing!

**pssst: don’t worry. It’s only 4 short chapters, and not even 2 full pages in my Bible.**

So right off the bat, what do we see happens to Jonah (verse 1)?

He hears from God. Plain and simple. What does God tell him in verse 2?

I wish I had a map to show you the difference between Tarshish and Ninevah, but since I don’t I will just tell you Jonah was said to be in Gath-Hepher. If you are looking at the map think of that as center. Tarshish is west, across the Mediterranean Sea. Ninevah is North East. He didn’t just run away either. What did he do in verse 3 that shows he wasn’t just confused or misguided, but that he was running?

He went to Joppa – which is South West – and hopped on a boat set to cross the water. Wow! That is some serious running.

Before we look into God’s response to Jonah’s running – is it possible to run from God? In case you’re not sure take a look Psalm 139:7-10.

Now that we have that covered, how did God respond to Jonah’s disobedience to a direct command? (I mean, it was pretty clear. There wasn’t really room for interpretation.)

Look at verse 5. What do you notice about the word god, used in verse 1?

A little “g” refers to idols or false gods, not to God. The big “G” is no different from an actual name, and isn’t a title like king or emperor. It is a proper name. Make sure you don’t confuse the two. Alright, let’s move forward.

The men on the ship eventually do what to Jonah?

Does he claim responsibility for his actions?

Well, at least he has that going for him.

Before we move on, let’s recap Jonah’s actions thus far:

  1. He runs away, as if his hiding is going to change what he has been clearly instructed to do.
  2. He sleeps it off, continuing his effort to hide from God.
  3. He knows his wrongdoing and instructs the others to throw him overboard to calm the seas, and they do.

Verse 17 contains all that most, if not all, of us know about Jonah. What does it say he was swallowed by?

One of the things that will help you the most when reading the Bible is to read what’s there. Read the actual, physical words that are on the page. Not recall what we remember or assume we know, but to actually read the words on the page. Read verse 17 in these very different versions: NIV, CSB, ESV, KJV, NLT, Message. Even The Message (which is a paraphrase & not a Bible I recommend studying from) says “fish”. Some say great fish, some say huge fish…but all five say fish. So that tells us there is no actual evidence that it was a whale. All we know is that it was a big, water creator like a fish. We 100% know that.

In chapter 2, we see Jonah praying to God. He is confessing, basically. I have spent a whole week studying this chapter before. There is so much more depth to it that it seems on the surface, but if you take just a minute or so to read and reread it to yourself, you will get the gist of what his prayer is.

Let’s move onto Chapter 3. What does God do in 3:1, and what is different about Jonah’s response this time?

Jonah doesn’t hesitate or run this time. Instead, he takes the 3-day journey to Ninevah to do what he has been told twice to do. What message does he deliver in verse 4?

When you really dig into the Bible there are some really interesting themes or patterns stitched throughout scripture. One of those is numbers. What number does Jonah specifically reference in verse 4?

Pause here for just a minute with me and think more about the significance of the 40 days. What other story do you remember that was also 40 days? A few we have even studied in this series are in Genesis 7:12, Deuteronomy 8:2, 1 Samuel 17:16. The number 40 usually signifies of time of testing. So remember: anytime you see the number 40 in scripture, pay attention to what is happening. There is a test happening somewhere to someone.

How did the people of Ninevah react to Jonah’s proclamation?

How did God react to the people of Ninevah?

How did Jonah react in 4:1?

Alright, let’s spend the rest of our time today looking at this final conversation between God & Jonah….

Chapter 4 opens with Jonah not just being peeved, but the ESV says “displease…exceedingly…and angry”. The Hebrew word for displeased is yara` (yaw-rah’) meaning “to be broken up (with any violent action)”. The Hebrew word for angry is charah (khaw-raw’) meaning “to glow or grow warm”. So Jonah wasn’t just a little upset; he was incredibly upset. His face was turning red and his body was beginning to react. This is the part that just throws me for a loop. He was throwing a temper tantrum. But why?

Let’s look at verse 2 together in the NLT:

So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

How does Jonah describe God here?

Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, filled with unfailing love, not quick to kill. Those all seem like good things don’t they? But Jonah is basically reacting like this:

And how does God respond in verse 4?

So what does Jonah do in response? Does he even answer?

Nope. He does this:

And y’all, look at how God responds in verse 6. He covers Jonah, so he could pout in the shade. Does this blow your mind? It does mine. He let his child pout it out. That really makes me think twice about getting mad at my kids for pouting. If God let Jonah pout it out then maybe I should back off mine own a little about bad attitudes. But does God let Jonah stay in his mood?

Nope. He gave him a day and then He said…that’s it. You’re done. Let’s move on. Look at the last few verses, what did God ask Jonah that He had asked him before?

Is it right to be angry at this plant? 

As if Jonah hasn’t been dramatic enough through out his assignment, he tells God he is “angry enough to ___________”. In verse 10 my Bible uses the Hebrew word for pity, meaning to look compassionately onto spare”. Jonah wanted God to blow Ninevah to bits. He wanted to sit back & watch it burn. Was that his motivation for going the second time? “Well,I can’t run away, so I might as well go get a good seat to watch people die”. But God’s response says it all:

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

We can learn a lot from Jonah about how not to act, but one of the greatest lessons in this story is that even in Jonah’s anger and bitterness and tantrums he knew the character of God. He said it himself in 4:2 : that God was merciful, compassionate, and abounding in love. He had obviously seen the destruction & the wrath before, as well as knowing the mercy and compassion. We don’t know what happened to Jonah after that. Maybe he just laid there and continued to pout or maybe he drug himself back to Gath-hepher, walking around the rest of the day with slumped shoulders and full knowledge of God. We don’t know. We can see, though, that God let His child, Jonah, throw a temper tantrum. He let Jonah sulk and moan. God didn’t punish him or, from what we can see, really even correct him. He appealed to his heart and seemingly left it there. Maybe that should be a lesson for all of us when life doesn’t go our way or our kids act like Jonah…or the next time we act like Jonah.

                      
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Daniel & The Lion’s Den – Our Story || Keisha Hill

Daniel’s life story in a nutshell?

Daniel got the short end of the stick and then some guys tried to beat him with it.  But God…

Daniel was a good-looking young man of promise in his homeland, Jerusalem, said to be “without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning and competent to stand in the king’s palace.”

He was also extremely devoted to the Lord. Sounds like the Homecoming king, president of the debate team, and that boy from church your mom wanted you date, all wrapped up in one guy.  The world seemed to be his to conquer.

Instead, this incredible pedigree got him kidnapped and in exile for the rest of his life.

Good thing God was also on his side.

I guess that’s what we’re talking about here, isn’t it?  What happens when everything feels like it’s gone desperately wrong, but God is still in the middle of it all?

Daniel’s story is entirely too long to go into all of it here.  You’ll have to check it out for yourself.  Basically, by chapter 6 Daniel is an old man.  He had the ear of the king and a place of privilege on his staff.  Sure, he was still a Jewish exile in Babylon, but life seemed pretty good by this point.  And then it happened. 

“Then this Daniel because distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him.  And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’” (6:3-5)

Can you imagine how their jealousy boiled over with anger when they realized they couldn’t find any dirt on him?  Daniel was a good guy! He was faithful in everything.  Completely infuriating.

So they did what they felt had to do.  Appealing to his pride, they scammed the king, who obviously admired Daniel a great deal, into creating a law specifically to hurt Daniel.  Check out 6:6-9.

Did you catch it?  The part you probably never heard in Sunday School?  The part you may have even read before without really seeing it?

This law to only worship the king was only effective for 30 days!  One month.  That’s it!  Daniel must have been incredibly faithful in his practices for these men to believe they could clean up their problem in just a couple of weeks.

Obviously Daniel heard the law.  He may have even been in the room at the same time.  He had been around long enough to know that no law of the Medes and Persians could be changed or revoked.  Not even by the king himself.  So what did he do?

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem.  He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”  (Daniel 6:11)

Goodness.  Lots of days I struggle to give prayer it’s proper place in my life even once.  And here Daniel is, keeping his three-times a day prayer practice going just like he always had.  Quietly and alone, but still very visible to anyone who cared to notice.  And these men noticed, all right.  They marched right back to the king, demanded “justice”, and got poor old Daniel a sleepover with a pride of lions.

How easy would it have been for Daniel to just take a month off?  To compromise a bit and just shut the windows when the sun was up? How many of us would have at least thought about cutting corners or changing our ways, just for a few days?  I know for sure it would have crossed my mind.  All alone like Daniel, I wouldn’t even be shocked if I bent out of fear of what could happen.

Daniel was strong, but King Darius was not.  The Bible tells us that Darius waited as long as he could before punishing Daniel, and then he spent the whole night sleepless and fasting.

We know the rest.  When daylight broke, Darius rushed back in his anguish and asked the question they all wanted to know: “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continuously, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

And he had.  God showed up in a miraculous way and Daniel didn’t even have a scratch, “because he had trusted in his God”.  Darius was quick to praise God publicly too, writing a new decree.  Not for his own ego to be stroked some more, but that all people would know of the mighty God Daniel served.

Daniel had seen more than his share of hard times and persecution, but his faith never wavered.  I brought it up earlier, but what does it mean when everything feels like it’s gone desperately wrong, but God is still in the middle of it all?  I think it’s a question we all have to at least consider long before the bottom falls out.

Trouble will come.

God will be faithful.

Will we praise God with the windows open or try to hide from the lions we know are coming our way?

                              

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Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego – Our Story || Jessica Bolyard

Today we’re plunging into the book of Daniel. Yeah – the guy known for his little adventure in the lions’ den. We’ll get there later this week, but for now, we’re going to take a quick look at who Daniel was, and then we’ll meet a few of his friends.

If you’re like me, you’re familiar with Daniel and know some things about him. If you’re asked to quickly flip to his story in the Bible, though? Not so very much. Where in the world is Daniel? I took an embarrassingly long time finding him this morning, so if you have to flip to your Bible’s table of contents, that’s okay. (Here’s what I learned: Psalms is in the middle of the Bible…after that are Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lamentations – a pretty big chunk of stuff…then Ezekiel, which is forever long…and then there’s Daniel. He kind of hides there after those bigger books.)

Now that we’ve found him, we meet Daniel in chapters 1 and 2. Here’s what we learn there:

  • Daniel is an Israelite from the kingdom of Judah in what is called the Babylonian Captivity. (You can read about that debacle in 2 Kings 24.) He’s from Jerusalem but is in exile in Babylon.
  • Daniel stands out among the young men from Judah, was selected for royal service, and was given a new name: Belteshazzar. Three of Daniel’s friends were chosen as well: Hananiah (who was renamed Shadrach), Mishael (renamed Meshach), and Azariah (now called Abednego).

Note: Throughout the rest of the story in Scripture, Daniel retains his Hebrew name, while the others are alternately referred to by their Babylonian names. It’s confusing, but it’s important later.

  • King Nebuchadnezzar, under whom Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego serve, had a dream that greatly disturbed him. Daniel was the only one who was able to interpret it for him, and thereby earned the king’s favor. He was then made ruler over the entire province of Babylon, and chose his three friends for high positions under him.

Note: Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of another Israelite in a foreign land, perhaps? One who interpreted dreams? And who was a favorite of the king? If you’ve made the connection to Joseph, well done!

This is where we pick up today’s story: that of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the fiery furnace.

What, if anything, do you already know about this story?

 

Read Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2:29-47. How does the king respond when he is told what the dream means?

 

Now read Daniel 3:1-3. What stands out to you? When I read it, I find it pretty interesting that the king interpreted the dream so literally. His dream had a symbolic statue…while Nebuchadnezzar clearly thought it was a good idea to built a real one. And he didn’t stop there.

Read Daniel 3:4-7. What are the instructions to the people?

 

Go back to chapter 2, verses 46-47, and contrast those to chapter 3, verse 5. What are your thoughts?

It’s easy to shake our heads at Nebuchadnezzar’s fickleness, but can you remember a time when you experienced God but then quickly turned back to your old ways? (Personally, I don’t have to search my history very long before I find a few examples.)

Read Daniel 3:8-12. What do we learn about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

 

Why do you think the three of them – who, remember, were in high positions of service to the king himself – refused to worship the statue?

 

They’re favorites of the king…but how do you think someone like Nebuchadnezzar is going to respond to their disobedience?

 

Read on to Daniel 3:13-15. (Don’t get sidetracked by the constant repetition of this chapter! I know it’s hard and kind of annoying. Stay focused.)

 

Nebuchadnezzar is angry, and reminds them of the punishment if they won’t worship the statue. Read verses 16-18 and prepare to be inspired by their response.

Fill in the blanks: If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, ____________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

But even if He does not, ________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but I wish I had this kind of attitude when life gets hard. The kind of attitude that stays focused on what I know to be true. The kind of attitude that won’t be swayed by fear. The kind of attitude that takes the focus of others off myself and turns it to God.

Read Daniel 3:19-23. It’s hard for us to imagine what kind of furnace this was. Scholars believe that based on Babylonian culture and the artifacts archaeologists have found, the furnace was likely a brick kiln. For normal operation, such a kiln could reach 1300 degrees Celsius – and Nebuchadnezzar ordered it to be even hotter. It’s clear that things were not looking good for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Read verses 24-27.

What does Nebuchadnezzar see in the furnace?

How does he describe what he sees? It “looks like _______________.”

Read Isaiah 43:2.

Who does it sound like the fourth person was? Why do you think that?

If that IS who it was – Jesus, the Son of God, as scholars generally agree – what does that tell us? How does He care for us during our times of suffering?

 

Friends, we don’t have a God who is content to stay a safe distance from suffering. We have a God who sees the suffering of His children and enters it to be with them.

Are you going through a painful situation right now? What evidence have you seen that God is with you in the middle of it?

 

For your information and to wrap up the story, read Daniel 3:28-30. This sounds familiar – like Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration of who God is in Chapter 2. For everyone’s sake, I hope his revelation sticks this time….but I have a feeling it won’t.

What can we take from this story? We might not be facing death in a blazing kiln, but we, too, can be brave. We can refuse to cave in a world that is increasingly divisive and hostile to mindsets like ours. We can stand firm in faith regardless of how it is that God shows up. We can do that because we know that He will show up – like He did for Daniel’s friends – and we can trust His faithfulness even if things don’t look like we wish they would.

                    

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