Freedom in Prayer

Freedom in Prayer

By Erin Bird

Today, we are concluding our short three-week series on prayer. In week 1, we talked about how often you can pray to God (anytime!). Then last week, we discussed how we are to approach God in prayer (authentically!). But if I were to put this into a math formula, I think it would look like this:

Frequency + Fervency = Freedom

As we saw in week one, when the Apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica that they should “pray continually,” that would mean they could pray anywhere at anytime. They weren’t relegated to just praying in the temple, or at the dinner table, or at the foot of their bed before sleep. They had the freedom to pray to God at any hour in any location.

Likewise, as we saw in the psalms last week, we can come into God’s presence authentically. Having a bad day? You can tell Him about it. Have something to celebrate? Praise God for it! Angry at Him for allowing something hard in your life? Share your feelings honestly. (He can handle it!) In other words, you have the freedom to just be you before God.

But let me warn you: When you come to God freely in prayer, you are also giving Him the freedom to work in you and around you as He sees fit. When you pray, you are ultimately surrendering to God. This is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) However, I think you will discover that when you freely surrender to God in prayer, you will find your greatest joy as you see Him do what only He can do.

So even though our 21 Days of Prayer ends this Saturday, may you continue to realize you have the freedom to come to God at anytime, in anyplace, with anything on your heart. He loves you, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God welcomes you with open arms to approach His throne of grace with confidence.

Heavenly Father, help me to realize I have the freedom to talk with you through prayer. Forgive me for not coming to you more often, and when I do, for not bringing my full self before you. Grow me as a pray-er. Help me find joy in your presence and to trust you to answer my prayers as only you can. Thank you, though, for the freedom you have given me to come before you, the Holy One of Heaven, and bring my requests freely before you.

In Christ I pray,
Amen

Fervency in Prayer

Fervency in Prayer

By Erin Bird

Last week, I kicked off a three-week series on prayer. Our first “F” was “Frequency in Prayer.” (If you missed it, catch up on the Riverwood blog.) This week, we continue the series with “Fervency in Prayer.”The dictionary defines fervent as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.” This definition makes us think of sports fans, or protestors, or even a demanding child. But prayer?

Some of you grew up in (or at least were exposed to) church traditions where prayer was very solemn and subdued. After all, when praying to God, these church traditions taught us to be respectful to the Almighty. So our prayers were said with meekness, calmness, or even a “ritual-ness.” To be “passionate” in prayer, therefore, almost feels irreverent.

But an honest read through the book of Psalms reveals a type of prayer that could only be described as passionate. Take Psalm 42 for instance. The authors (the Korahites) express a deep longing for God. We see them openly share about their depression. We see them cry out to God for help. Psalm 42 is not a calm prayer. It is filled with emotion. The authors are very passionate (dare I say “fervent”) in their prayer.

But Psalm 42 is not the only example.

  • We see the Israelite people in Exodus 15 passionately sing a prayer of thanks to God after rescuing them from their Egyptian pursuers by bringing them through the Red Sea.
  • We see the same nation of Israel cry out intensely in prayer as they realize their sin in Ezra 10,
  • And we even see Jesus Himself fervently pray in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He is arrested, tried, and crucified.

In other words, it’s okay for you to bring your full self into prayer, to passionately lay before God your joys, your worries, your short-comings, your desires, or whatever is close to your heart. You do not need to manufacture emotion for God, as He is not swayed by fake intensity. But you also do not need to mute or minimize your emotion either. God simply wants your authentic self.

So it’s okay to be fervent in prayer. Let biblical precedent guide you into being open and honest with the God who loves you and wired you with emotion.

Heavenly Father, help me to be authentic before you, for nothing is hidden from you. You wired me with personality and emotion, so help me to bring my full self into your presence. Help me not to pretend with you, but rather to bring a passionate intensity to my times in prayer with you, for I have nothing without you.

In Christ I pray,
Amen

Frequency in Prayer

Frequency in Prayer

By Erin Bird

As he was ending his letter to the Jesus-followers of the church located in the ancient city of Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

If you are like me, you hear those words and think, “That’s impossible!” How is a person supposed to pray while they sleep, or while watching a movie, or while in conversation with a friend? And so because Paul’s words seem to call us to an impossible task, we just write them off as poetical or some ideal that’s only for super saints.

But I want to encourage you to not see these words as an impossibility, and rather see them as an invitation. Think about it. If Paul is saying, “Pray without ceasing,” he’s saying we can pray at anytime in any place in any situation.

Which means prayer isn’t just something you only do before a meal, or before bed, or after reading something in the Bible. Rather, prayer is something you can do while driving to work, or walking to school, or taking a shower, or enjoying a meal, or when you receive a text from a friend. Instead of seeing “ceaseless prayer” as an impossible call, see it as an invitation to connect with God at anytime, even all the time. God is omnipresent, so He is always there to hear you.

Prayer Reminders
If you want to increase your frequency in prayer, then let me encourage you to build some reminders into your day:

  • Set an alarm or timer on your watch or phone to remind you to pray every 30 or 60 minutes.
  • Use the Echo App to send you prayer reminders throughout the day.
  • Put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard.
  • Use fasting from food to help you remember to pray (every time you feel hunger, use that as your reminder to talk to God)

In other words, when can you pray? Anytime! Including right now. 😊

Heavenly Father, thank you that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, I can come into your presence at any time and bring my petitions to you. You tell me in Hebrews 4:15 that I can approach your throne of grace with confidence. You want me to pray. You want me seeking you and talking to you. So thank you that I can come to you at any moment, in any circumstance. Please increase my desire to talk with you through prayer.

In Christ I pray,
Amen

21 Days of Prayer to Start 2020

Happy New Year!
Tomorrow brings the year 2020, and with it, the 21 Days of Prayer. To help you connect with Christ during the first twenty-one days of 2020, we encourage you to:

1. Fast from something

For the past month, we have been encouraging you to ask God to show you something in your life you have allowed to come before Him and to fast from it for the 21 Days. So if you haven’t made a plan yet for what to fast, take a moment today to decide what to cut out for the next three weeks. Perhaps it should be sugar, TV, social media, the news, or even feed for one day each week.
If you’ve already made a decision from what to fast, plan to begin tomorrow. And share with at least one person, whether your spouse or someone from your Growth Group, from what you have chosen to fast.

2. Use the Daily Devotionals

Every day during this 21-day spiritual journey, we will send you a devotional to your inbox. If you already get our weekly News & Notes email, you’re all set! If not, sign up here. Each email will have thoughts from Pastor Erin, a Scripture passage (usually a chapter of the Bible) to read, and a suggested prayer that is designed to simply start your own prayers with God.

If you’d rather receive the devotionals in podcast form (to listen while you drive to work or get ready for your day), add this URL into your favorite podcasting app:

https://weareriverwood.org/category/21-days-podcast/feed

3. Come to the Sunday Worship Gathering

Lastly, because this is a church-wide spiritual journey, do everything you can to make it to our Worship Gatherings at Droste Hall at 10:00 am each Sunday. We will be studying the Lord’s Prayer and the context around it each Sunday in our Teach Us To Pray series. I really think it is going to help your prayer life as we go through these twenty-one days together.

Two Other Notes:

#1. If you have a friend who is not part of the Riverwood family, but would have interest in being part of the 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with us, send them this link.
#2. We will be taking a break from the blog during these 21 Days. We are pouring our time in creating content into the daily devotionals, Growth Group guides, and our Sunday Worship Gatherings. We’ll resume posting on the blog on Jan 23.
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