Praying with Praise [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)

The Lord’s Prayer ends with a brief statement that returns our focus to the power and presence of God. This ascription does not appear in the earliest biblical manuscripts and is usually seen only in footnotes within our contemporary Bible translations. As John Calvin notes, however, “it is so appropriate to this place that it ought not to be omitted.”[1]

These final words are appropriate because they return attention to God at the conclusion of prayer, which is where Jesus taught us to begin our prayers. Jesus teaches that our prayers should be book-ended with Godward praise. After moving through the second half of the prayer’s petitions related to the needs of our earthly lives, the Lord’s Prayer concludes with deep assurance of God’s stability, faithfulness, and rule over all the earth. This assurance includes all that we have presented to Him in prayer. After all is said and down we enter into a place of rest and peace in the presence of our holy and good Father to whom all praise belongs.

When we pray, we go on a journey with God. The journey of prayer begins with His holy and good presence, meanders through our requests related to His kingdom and our needs, and concludes with attentive trust in God’s faithful character. And so, we begin to enter into what the psalmist proclaims:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Jesus teaches us to pray in such a way that from start to finish, in all our praise and confession, in all our gratitude and petition, we are held in the gracious power of our kingly God, who is also our loving Father.

Lord, receive the praise in me
that You truly deserve,
for all the praise truly belongs
to You before and after all others.
You are so holy and so good.
You are so righteous and so just.
You are my Rock and my Fortress.
You are my King and my Father.
And I trust You above all.
Receive the praise You deserve in me.

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 915.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

When We Feel Like Running Away

There are times in our lives when we feel like running away. I still remember when I was an elementary school kid and one of the bullies came after me during a recess football game. I definitely felt like running away…and I did! As fast as I could go.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve encountered much more threatening things that make me and others want to run away. I’ve seen a father of four crushed by lack of work. I’ve seen parents helplessly lose a child they love. I’ve seen a single mom struggle to parent teenage children in rebellion. I’ve seen students feeling overwhelmed by confusing decisions. I’ve seen churches challenged by dire situations. These things and more can make us feel like running away.

In Psalm 11, we hear of a similar situation. The writer is struggling with the advice from a friend to simply run away:Read More »

Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fifth and final part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 3:1-19.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What sorts of things have lifted your spirits when you have gone through troubling times? Why?
  2. This weekend we conclude our series from the book of Habakkuk, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” by studying Habakkuk 3:1-19. This closing prayer to God full of rich imagery and declarations of faith. Before you read the passage aloud, ask God to clearly speak to you.
  3. Verses 1-2 show a change of tone in Habakkuk from the previous two chapters. How would you describe Habakkuk’s tone in prayer before God in chapters 1 and 2 as compared with these first two verses of chapter 3?
  4. With verses 3-15, we see Habakkuk mingling together reflections on what God has done in the past and what He will do in the days to come. There are many references to the exodus of Israel from Egypt during Moses’ time in these verses. Take a moment to search out references to the Exodus that are found here, particularly in verses 3-7.
  5. Why do you think the Exodus imagery was important for Habakkuk in his day and time? What could it convey?
  6. Beginning in verse 8, Habakkuk depicts God as a warrior. What descriptors of God show His might and power as a warrior here in verses 8-15? Given the pending judgment God outlined in chapters 1 and 2, why might this picture of God speak powerfully to Habakkuk and his hearers?
  7. In the midst of these words about God’s past and future deliverance, Habakkuk mentions the ‘anointed one’ (Hebrew: messiah) in verse 13. Often the Messiah was a reference to a king or ruler. This is one of the clearest references to the Messiah as a person who will bring deliverance and will be delivered by God. Why would Habakkuk be looking for a Messiah in the circumstances of his day?
  8. With verse 16, we read Habakkuk’s final words in this psalm to God. The Hebrew word for ‘trembling’ appears twice in this verse (NIV: ‘my heart pounded’ and ‘my legs trembled’). Why do you think Habakkuk is trembling, even as he waits patiently?
  9. The last three verses (17-19) reveal a deep faith in troubling times. The fig tree, grapes, and olives are luxuries of the land, while the fields, sheep, and cattle are essentials for life in the land. What sort of faith declaration is Habakkuk making in light of what we read here?
  10. Have you endured a time of great trouble? How have you learned to rejoice and trust God in the midst of that season of life like Habakkuk?
  11. As we draw this series to a close, take a moment to reflect on some of the ways God has been speaking to you through Habakkuk’s message. If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Next week we begin a series, “One Church,” focused on the unity we have in Jesus Christ. Prepare for next weeek by reading Ephesians 4.]

Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church I concluded our series “Turning to God in Troubling Times” from Habakkuk. In my message this weekend, “Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation,” I walked through Habakkuk 3:1-19, where Habakkuk comes to a point of resolution and faith in the midst of life’s troubles. Sometimes, when we find ourselves in the midst of trouble, the best thing we can do is to sing ourselves into the place of trust and joy in the Lord. This is what we find in Habakkuk…and it’s something we, too, can access.

You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here.

Connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Faithfulness in a Confusing World (discussion questions)

TTGITT Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Faithfulness in a Confusing World,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fourth part of our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” from the book of Habakkuk. This week we looked at Habakkuk 2:2-20.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you seen someone get what they deserved for doing something wrong? Did it make you feel good or bad? Why?
  2. This weekend in our series, “Turning to God in Troubling Times,” we look at Habakkuk 2:2-20, where God replies to Habakkuk’s second prayer. Take some time to pray, asking God to clearly speak to you, before reading the passage aloud.
  3. Habakkuk 2:2-20 has two major sections: 1) an announcement of a vision, or revelation, from God (2:2-5), and 2) five illustrations of that vision. In verse 2 what does God tell Habakkuk to do with the vision and in verse 3 what does God say about the timing of the vision? Why is this important given the troubles around Habakkuk and his people?
  4. In verses 4-5, we face a strong contrast between the way of living against God and for God. How would you summarize what God is saying through Habakkuk here about these two ways of life?
  5. What do you think it means for us to live out the phrase: “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (2:4b)?
  6. Background: Habakkuk 2:4 is one of the most important Old Testament verses quoted within the New Testament. The Apostle Paul references this verse as a central part of his teaching on justification by faith alone (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). The writer of Hebrews draws upon it to encourage pressured believers to persevere (Hebrews 10:36-39). Later, you may want read those passages as you reflect on how Habakkuk’s message shapes our understanding of faith as followers of Jesus.
  7. Beginning in verse 6, we encounter five illustrations of the pending judgment upon those who disobey God. Each of these illustrations is highlighted by a Hebrew word usually translated as ‘woe’. Take a moment to see where the word ‘woe’ occurs in verses 6-20 in order to get a sense of the structure of this passage.
  8. Based on what you just did, summarize each ‘woe’ found in verses 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, and 18-20. Answer questions like: what is the main issue being addressed by God?; what wrongs are part of this?; what is the end result?
  9. According to verse 20, how does Habakkuk seem to resolve his complaint-prayers before God?
  10. Psalm 73 echoes much of what is found in Habakkuk. Read Psalm 73 aloud, and then do one of two things: 1) consider how these words help you step into the message of Habakkuk personally, or 2) pray parts of Psalm 73 back to God as your own declaration of faith.
  11. How is God speaking to you about living with and for Him through Habakkuk 2:2-20? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

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