Stone Soup for Five: Book Club { The Hidden Life of Prayer } Week 2

Book Club { The Hidden Life of Prayer } Week 2

Welcome back to Book Club!  I hope you enjoyed reading chapter 3 and 4 this week!  Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and let's get started!  (If you missed week one, you can find it here.)

CHAPTER THREE:  The Direction of the Mind

Chapter three was all about our mindset in prayer.  Realizing that God is there, being honest in your prayers, and coming to Him in faith.  

Realize the Presence of God
In this section I kept noticing words such as stillness of heart, hushed, worship, adoration, behold Him, fix on Him, place thyself before Him.  All of these require a separateness, time alone, a time to pull your thoughts in and focus your mind.  It can't be done with the prayers we toss up to Him while we're going about our normal tasks of the day. (Please understand that I'm not saying that it is worthless to pray those short "arrow" prayers, not at all!  But I think what the Puritans are encouraging is to do the harder thing.  If it's easy to toss up a prayer or two without pausing to realize the presence of God and form your prayers thoughtfully, then it's probably not the best we can do.  Excel still more, right?)

Can you carve out some intentional quiet time with the Lord?  If you have your hands full with toddlers and young children, maybe right now it looks like five minutes in your room before everyone gets up, or 15 minutes during nap time (remember in chapter two where it said sometimes even profitable things must be given up for prayer time--maybe that's taking 15 minutes during nap time that you could be catching up on house work to pray instead.) Or if you work outside of the home, maybe it could be packing a lunch and going to your car to eat and pray rather than driving to a restaurant or going out to lunch.  Think through your day and find some time to get quiet enough that you can realize the presence of God.  Don't try to add another duty to your day, but instead think of capturing "in between" moments to use.  

Honesty in Prayer
You have all been great in responding to my request for prayer questions!  I've seen a lot of similar themes come up and I ache under the weight and reality of them because I have been (and still am) there.  Honesty in prayer is especially important when praying for those who have hurt us (praying for our enemies) and in being real with God on other issues we struggle with.  For example:  Honestly praying for enemies or those who have hurt us (or those we love) might start out being honest like this:

"Lord, I think I can honestly say I hate this person.  I hate what they did to me (or my kids, etc).  But the great paradox is that You love this person I hate.  I don't understand it Lord and I don't feel it.  Help me understand Your love and forgiveness.  Right now I don't want to forgive, but I know you ask me to, so help me forgive.  And though I can never fathom loving them, help me see them how You do..."

Being honest is stating your feelings completely bluntly and honestly with God, then stating the truth.  After that, the wrestling starts.  It won't be pretty and it won't be easy.  But it's honest.  And the Lord is the only hope we ever have of being forgiven and truly forgiving others.  But, the struggle and wrestling in prayer is worth it.  I can say from direct experience, that the freedom the Lord gives from hate is not only beautiful because of what it does in your heart, but it will take your breath away with showing you just how much He loves you.  It is so hard to enter into praying honestly.  It is not a fake it till you make it mindset, but it is giving God room to work in your heart and life.  Unforgiveness takes up too much room.  Trust Him and keep coming back to Him, He can handle your complete unedited honesty.  

What have you been stuffing down or ignoring or flat out dishonest about in your prayers?  It might be something as seemingly little as not telling Him how hard prayer is, or how you honestly do not delight in His word like you should.  Or it could be something like the example above where you need to wrestle through your struggle with forgiveness.  Take a few moments to search your heart and then go to Him honestly in prayer.

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Ah, faith.  Faith in prayer goes back to honesty in prayer, which goes back to time in the presence of God.  Faith in prayer hit me hard a couple years ago when I realized that I had greater expectations of sin than I did of God.  I was praying as if sin were unconquered and was way more powerful than God.  Sin is so HUGE and sometimes, honestly (again with the honesty) God seemed very distant and incapable or unwilling to deal with it, especially when more and more people I knew and loved started going the way of the prodigal.  It was (and sometimes still is) overwhelming and heart breaking.  That is why I made a separate section for prodigals in my binder.  It's not so that I can see answers and change, but so that I can reinforce my faith and throw out the lies!  Faith is knowing that God alone is the heart starter.  He alone can raise the dead and He can do it in an instant.  I need to have the faith to wait.  I love this quote from R.C. Sproul:
"God just doesn't throw a life preserver to a drowning person.  He goes to the bottom of the sea and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the back, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive."

That, friends, is having greater expectations of God than of sin.

Where do you lack faith? Where does sin seem too big?  With what do you struggle to pray with hope?  Where are you growing weary?  Take it to the feet of our Savior.

CHAPTER FOUR:  The Engagement: Worship
I think this next chapter flows beautifully from the previous.  If we are realizing the presence and power of God, if we are being completely honest with Him in prayer, and if we have the faith that He is greater than any problem we have, it naturally leads to worship.

I was convicted and inspired by the sentence that said we can praise Him in the acknowledgment of daily mercies, or in thanksgiving for the great redemption, or in contemplation of His perfection.  

We are to Acknowledge Daily Mercies: 
"But how often do we thank God for the mere joy of living in the free and healthful use of all our faculties?"

Thank Him for our Redemption:
It wasn't in this book, but I love the saying attributed to preacher and martyr John Bradford "But for the grace of God, there go I."  He was noted for saying this over and over again when he saw criminals being led to their death sentence.  And I loved the sentence in the book "It is right also that we should search into the riches and glory of the inheritance of which we have been made partakers."  If you struggle with constantly questioning your redemption, or forgiveness of your sins, start thanking Him for your salvation and forgiveness instead.

Contemplate His Divine Perfection:  
"Praise addressed to God in name and memory of Jesus Christ rises inevitably into adoration."  and I loved this ending sentence:  "Love to Christ may express itself more naturally in right conduct than in a tumult of praise.  But it is probable that to each sincere believer there are granted seasons of communion [and nearness to] Him Who dies for our sins, Who rose for our justification, Who now awaits us at the right hand of God."

Can you set aside a special prayer time on each Sunday to just praise and thank God?  No requests, no petition, just praise and thanksgiving?  (See footnote about Richard Baxter's practice in the Chapel Library edition.)

That was my long winded takeaway from these two chapters, now it's your turn!  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I loved the reminder that we are to be honest in prayer, as were the psalmists. God does not want us to merely show up in our best clothes with our fancy words. He values our true selves. I also like that he begins with adoration in our prayers. I got a lot out of the discussion of the three areas where the saints can render praise. I need to work on all three!

  2. As I sat and read through these two chapters this week I was constantly reminded of how I got started praying on my knees. I had been reading the book of Daniel (chapter 6) and it stated "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down upon his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days." I remembered pausing and thinking "Wow! Why am I not doing this, too? I know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8). If Daniel was honored by God would He not do the same for me as well? (See Prov.3:3-6 and Matt.6:6) For a while I struggled with the very thought AND action of doing this very simple thing...getting on my knees. Prayer had always seemed to be somewhat easy for me, but getting on my knees seemed to strip my mind of thoughts for it was rather awkward. After trying this for a few days my honesty came out..."Why? Why God did You reveal this to me and now I struggle? I am fully content with what we have had all these years." It wasn't a hard request to fulfill nor was it burdensome. But boy did I struggle. I must say when one asks in true honesty God does reveal! First I was given Romans 14:10-12 with the key being "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." And secondly, (now that some time has passed) I have found that my heart pours out more. My praises, thanksgivings, and burdens for self and others are lifted off my shoulders for I know in my heart I have truly and completely humbled myself before Him. Don't get me wrong, I still pray while doing housework and home-schooling my children, while I lie on my bed at night and in the mornings. There’s just something very special about my prayer time during those "on my knees" quiet moments. In the darkness of trials, hardships, and streams of tears God reveals Himself so that I may know Him better, how He works, how much He loves me (and others), and constantly how much He gave up for me.
    These chapters were a reminder for me to become more consistent in my boldness (honesty) when approaching the throne of God through Jesus Christ my Savior. To let my fear of the Lord be with reverence and not with intimidation. James 1:5 tells us (in faith) "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." And in Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.”

    1. Wow. So much truth here. I, too, never prayed on my knees, and over the last couple of years (it started when we entered into a big trial) I've prayed more and more on my knees too. It definitely helps me remember what I'm doing and stay more focused. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. In Chapter 3 I was directed to “But, oh how rare it is!” cries FĂ©nelon, “How rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak!” and then “So many of us have mistrained ears.” That is me—getting up in the wee hours of the morning for my “quiet” time only to hear what our Lord spoke loud and clear to me the day before.
    I was led to affirmation in Chapter 4 with “Let us thank God for our trials.” and Chrysostom’s “Thank God for everything.” and “If we imitate him we shall never have a bad day.” I have been redirecting my thankfulness in my prayer binder to first recall a trial to be thankful for and this has had a profound outlook toward trials as they arise in my day. The trials no longer color my day!
    Again, thank you for taking your time to share with us.

    1. I love LOVE that first quote "how rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak!" I need to read that every day!

  4. I was impressed by chapter 4 a) where he says "Let us take trouble to observe and consider the Lord's dealings with us" and where he says "Those benefits which recur with so much regularity that they seem to us "common" and "ordinary" which penetrate with golden threads the homespun vesture of our daily life, ought to be most lovingly commemorated". Because of this I think I will start a section in my prayer binder for Gratitude and Mercies, where I can begin listing these in the back of my Worship section.

    1. I love the idea of starting a new section for gratitude and mercies! So, so good!

  5. Thank you to Kari and all those who commented. This has been a great session with a lot to think about. Most of us have an idea about what our prayers should be and we try to conform to that ideal, but honesty in prayer requires a whole different thought process. I have noticed that my work adds a level of anger into my heart. I am often disappointed in the choices other people make. It does not occur to me to think on them as someone who is loved so dearly by Jesus. I need to work on this. I usually see only one side of that person--that side that is causing a problem and making more work for me. There is more that is required of me. Forgiveness is so hard, but so necessary and I can get help with this from the Lord.

    1. Praise God for that wonderful insight He showed you! You are exactly right. It is so easy to focus on what irritates us and not on love! No wonder John stressed that so much in 1 John!

  6. I have always struggled with worshiping God - not wanting to be too limited, too repetitive or not awestruck enough. I have never been short on gratitude though! How liberating to discover my gratitude is worship!


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