I just signed up to take Jiu Jitsu classes. If you know me, you would be laughing right now (it’s okay, my kids laughed too when I told them I wanted to learn how to fight!). I know I’m not very strong or coordinated, and there’s nothing in me that wants to harm anybody, but I’m learning in each class how to have confidence. As I practice each new technique, I am taking baby steps to learn this martial art. I have to train, practice weekly, and be willing to learn from others if I want to grow and get better.
Our faith is the same—we start by taking small steps to keep growing and maturing in the Christian life. We have been talking about faith for the last three months, and last month, we focused on how we can nourish our faith through reading and studying God’s Word. This month, we want to look at the role that prayer and worship have in helping our faith grow. We read in our previous newsletter that we are commanded in Scripture to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). As believers, we need to be growing in faith, and there are spiritual disciplines to help us do this, like prayer and worship.
Prayer is how we communicate with God. Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving. We pray to praise God and thank him, we pray to ask forgiveness, we pray to be able to forgive others, we pray to tell him what is in our hearts, minds, what worries us, we pray for others, we pray to enjoy his presence. We pray to tell him something wonderful that just happened, or something that hurts us. As I sit writing this newsletter, I’m praying he can guide and direct me (believe me, without him, I couldn’t do this). We pray for everything! Yes, God wants and invites us to tell him everything.
Prayer puts us in a place of humble reliance on God and it aligns us with the reality that God is Creator and we are not. Prayer is the beautiful, relational way we get to express our dependence on God and our need for him. In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller says: “If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else—a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it.”
Hand in hand with prayer, worship then becomes a way that I respond and declare who God is and what he has done for us. Both prayer and worship put us in a posture of humility. The value of corporate worship is that it reorients our hearts and minds towards God as we are reminded of the truths we often forget. But we have to fight the battle of thinking of worship only as the songs we sing on Sundays. Minimizing it in this way keeps it from spilling out to other areas of our lives.
In Romans 12:1, Paul’s view of worship is much more expansive and inclusive than merely singing songs: “So, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
Worship then is not an action constrained to songs we sing in a service, but a sacrificial posture towards God in how we live out our daily lives. Cooking a meal for others, giving money with a cheerful heart, studying for a test, coming home after a long day at work yet conserving energy to engage with family, helping our neighbors with projects, serving in the nursery and holding a crying baby—all are actions that can be offered in worship to God. When we do what we do for Jesus, we worship him, and it is a lifestyle that should define us as we follow him.
Just as I am growing and taking the necessary steps to learn Jiu Jitsu, we hope this month's newsletter will help you take steps to intentionally pursue prayer and worship in a way that nourishes your faith and builds your confidence to entrust yourself to God.
For The Ezer Women’s Discipleship Team
Take some time this month to dig deep and study these Scriptures. Read them slowly and ask some of the following questions. 1. What does this passage say about God? 2. What does this passage say about myself and the human experience? 3. How does this passage lead me to pray and worship?
Matthew records Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In verses 5-15, Jesus teaches us how to pray and gives us an example, a simple model for prayer, known as The Lord’s Prayer.
"Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one."
This Psalm contains three different Hebrew words for our English word “come.” It is an invitation to God’s people to respond to his saving work and supreme sovereignty. As you answer the questions above, look for the ways this passage shows us how much we need him—including when our hearts are hardened!
"Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care."
Lament is one of the most intimate forms of prayer as we expose our deepest needs and cry out to God for help. As you answer the questions above, look for ways the psalmist describes his pain and longing as well as how he describes God. Prayer gives us the opportunity to be honest with God while we struggle. Confessing our deep longing and need for him puts us in a place to humbly receive his comfort and care and be reminded of his faithfulness to us.
"I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help."
The author concludes this letter written to the believers who are scattered abroad by encouraging them to share their joy and hardships with one another. He also reminds them of the power of prayer and the healing that comes from admitting your need and confessing your sins to one another.
"The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."
Check out the new worship page where you can find several resources to promote deeper engagement in worship. You’ll find the new worship EP from Grace Church (No One Else) that includes “The Lord’s Prayer”, a song that helps us pray this meaningful prayer in a new way. You’ll also find access to other songs, instrumental music for prayer, and playlists curated by our worship team.
There are some seasons where it is difficult to pray—either because we are in so much pain or we feel distant from God. We created this playlist for times like this. These songs might be the tool that God uses to comfort your soul in a season of suffering.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- As you think about how you currently engage with God through prayer and worship, what are some of the obstacles and challenges for you right now?
- How would your view of prayer and worship change if you incorporated it into your daily life instead of compartmentalizing it to just when you are having a “quiet time” or sitting in a worship service?
- Both prayer and worship realign our hearts with God. They are relational ways of connecting with God and remind us of our need for him and his supremacy over all things. How do these disciplines help us push back against self-reliance and idolatry?
- We are quick to tell someone we are “praying for them” and then forget to pray! We are called to carry one another’s burdens. Consider the impact it might have if when someone texts you to ask for prayer, you type out a quick prayer for them instead of sending praying hand emojis. Or at the end of a phone call, ask, “How can I pray for you today?” or “Can I pray for you right now?”
Scripture warns us not to be just hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- As you go through your day and something comes to mind, maybe it is something you are thankful for or maybe it is something that is weighing heavily on you—turn those thoughts into a conversation with God where you express your gratitude or cry for help.
- One of the struggles we have when we pray is that we get distracted by thinking of other things that pop up in our minds and interrupt our prayers. Instead of trying to force ourselves NOT to get distracted by them, what if we viewed all those random thoughts running through our head as signals for what we should actually be praying for! Those distracting thoughts may be the very things we need to be entrusted to God through prayer.
- The Psalms beautifully combine prayer and worship. They give us the words to help us navigate the full spectrum of human emotions while giving us glimpses of God’s faithfulness and hints of how he may be at work. Work your way through the Psalms this summer and allow them to nourish your faith.
- There are times where we don't know how or what to pray for—times of difficulty, times of emotional hardship, times of exhaustion, or maybe even times where we have few words. God knows, and small prayers can capture our needs as we move towards our Father in dependence. Take a deep breath and breathe out a short prayer like: He is with me, I am held, Be still my soul, I need you Jesus, Your grace is sufficient.
- We are accustomed to working out with someone and exercising together. Yet somehow meeting with others to pray feels awkward. Reach out to one or two friends and ask them to pray with you this summer. Try it for 30 days! You can do this in person, on the phone, or via text. Make a plan for how you will pray for others and for our church.
A Praying Life By Paul E. Miller
A Praying Life has encouraged thousands of Christians to pursue a vibrant prayer life full of joy and power. A life of prayer invites you to a life of connection to God. When Jesus describes the intimacy that he seeks with us, he talks about joining us for dinner (Revelation 3:20). This book reminds readers that prayer is simply making conversation with God a rhythm of life.
Dive into this resource, which includes teaching on the Lord’s Prayer, practical suggestions to cultivate the habit of prayer, and ideas for engaging your family in prayer.
This resource was created to help us understand the connection between prayers of lament and gratitude and how one makes room for the other. You can print a copy, use your own journal, or pick up a copy at your campus.