This past weekend we began a series entitled, “Unleashing the Power of….” The upcoming season is a big one at Eastside.
Fall is always a key time when lots of people join our community and find relationship with Jesus. This fall is especially full of opportunity as we open a new student center in Anaheim to reach new teens and their families; launch a new location in La Habra to reach a new community; invite new friends and neighbors to party with us in Park Rapids as we celebrate our one year anniversary there; and start a new small group system that will engage people far from God.
But before we do all of that, we need to prepare ourselves. This next few weeks is a chance for us to reset and re-engage spiritually as we transition from the travel and festivity of summer to our fall routines.
Next weekend we will kick off 21 Days of Prayer, a time of intense and focused prayer for one another and for our church.
We’ll have daily social media posts to encourage you through the 21 days, so make sure you’re following Eastside on Facebook (/eastsidecc), Instagram (@eastside_cc), or Twitter (@eastside_cc).
We’ll have five minute video devotionals online daily. We’ll have some nights of prayer and worship, and this coming weekend you’ll receive a prayer booklet to guide you.
But before we get there, let’s be sure to look back and express our gratitude to God for the experience we’ve had over the past couple of months.
What is the most memorable thing you’ve done this summer?
When it comes to prayer there’s a question many of us have wondered about but are often afraid to verbalize.
We ask ourselves questions like: If God already knows everything, then what’s the point of prayer? Can you really change the mind of God? Is He even listening?
If we’re honest, sometimes it feels like we pray and pray and pray, but God just isn’t listening.
Have you ever prayed for something and had God answer? How did you respond?
Are there any prayers you’ve prayed that God hasn’t answered? How did that make you feel?
Have a volunteer read James 5:13.
James tells us that we should pray if there’s something wrong. 9 out of 10 Americans say they pray regularly, and 3 out of 4 claim to pray every day. If we’re honest, the number one reason we pray is something goes wrong.
The great thing is that God is our heavenly Father, which means He wants us to come to Him when something is wrong. Just like any good dad, God wants us to come to him when we’re in trouble.
What do you think about this idea of God as a loving Father who wants to know when we’re in trouble? Does that resonate with you? Why or why not?
Sometimes when we pray and God doesn’t answer the way we want, we get the impression that God has made up His mind and isn’t going to change it. But the reality is that God’s “no” may sometimes be a “not now.”
Circumstances change and we change. If your 14 year old asked for the keys to the car, you’d probably tell them no. But if your 24 year old asked the same thing, you’d probably tell them yes. Just because God says no now doesn’t mean he’ll never say yes.
Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered initially only to have God answer it later?
Is there anything you’ve prayed for in the past that God didn’t do then but might do now or in the future?
James goes on to tell us that we should not only pray when something is wrong but that we should praise, that we should thank God when life is good.
Our focus determines our reality. If we dwell on everything in our lives that could be better or is negative or is problematic, it will have a profound impact on our psyche. We will be come discontented, dissatisfied, angry people.
At the same time, if we focus on the good things in our lives, if we look for all of the blessings God has given us, the things that we have to be grateful for, we will be content, joyful people.
The Apostle Paul led a hard life. He traveled from place to place telling people about Jesus, and he found himself imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. Through it all, he said “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
Paul knew that the secret to contentment was keeping his focus on Jesus, to praising God in all circumstances.
What are three things in your life that you are grateful for, and why specifically are you grateful for them? (In other words, don’t just say that you’re grateful for your friends, what is it in particular about your friends that you’re grateful for? What have they done to make you grateful for them?)
Have a volunteer read James 5:16.
There is enormous power in finding a few other people that you have fun with, that you become friends with, that you grow in faith with, and that you can be totally honest with.
But sometimes it’s really hard to be totally honest, because the issues are too deep, too embarrassing, or we’re too ashamed.
Sometimes we need to go to God with the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves before we’re able to bring them to others.
Sometimes we don’t even know exactly what’s wrong or what we need to confess, but God does. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what’s going on even when we can’t articulate it to others.
God is the one person we can go to and be completely open and transparent. If we’ll do that, we will begin to find freedom. If we try to hide things from God, we become slaves to those things.
Are you honest with God about who you are about your doubts, fears, struggles, and shame or do you hold back? For those who are completely open with Him, what has allowed you to be able to do that? For those who hold back, what keeps you from being completely open?
Power and Effectiveness
James tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Of course, none of us are righteous on our own. The truly righteous person recognizes their own shortcomings and understands that their righteousness comes from Jesus, that it was Jesus who made good on all of the things we’ve done wrong and so makes us righteous.
Time and time again we read about God performing miracles through people in Scripture. Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead, called down fire from heaven to defeat false prophets, speaks with God on a mountain, prayed for drought in order to shock people into turning back to God, prayed for rain to end the drought, and was taken up into Heaven without ever dying.
Have a volunteer read James 5:17-18.
Elijah wasn’t Superman. He was just a human being. The miraculous power of prayer is as much within our reach as it was in the accounts we read in the Bible.
Where in your life do you need a miracle?
What could God do in our lives, in our relationships, in our futures, in our church, in our families if we unleashed the power of prayer?
This week, commit to praying at least 10 more minutes each day than you do now. So if you currently pray 0 minutes per day, make it 10. If you pray 15, make it 25.
Pick a time and a place to do this. It could be right after you wake up in the morning. Maybe it’s during your lunch break or while your kids are down for a nap. You could do it on a walk right after work. Or it could be the last thing you do before your head hits the pillow at night.
Be sure to put this time with God on your calendar. We’re far more likely to follow through with something if we schedule it.