In this week's Bible study, Hugh Osgood illustrates the importance of putting the Kingdom first, looking at Chapter 6 in the book of Matthew.
READ: 2 Chronicles 32:9-21
A QUESTION OF TRUST: When we are under pressure the enemy seeks to challenge our faith (v10). He ridicules us by pointing out that results are not always instant. Let's pray for patience under pressure, confident that our faith will not fail.
CONVICTIONS UNDERMINED: God's ability to deliver is always bad news for the enemy and he will seek to challenge it (v11). Let's praise God for those who are prepared to speak out and persuade us of the truth.
WORSHIP UNDER FIRE: True worship always involves a rooting out of old idols (v12). It is good to declare that we will never go back to such things, no matter how great the pressure.
UNFAIR COMPARISONS: It is easy to point to other people's failure and imply that we will suffer the same fate (vs 13,14). Let's defeat this strategy of the enemy by praising God for His uniqueness and worshipping Him for the difference He makes in our lives and circumstances.
ACCUSATIONS OF DECEPTION: It can come as quite a blow when the enemy tells us that we are being deceived (v15). So far we have mainly been praising God for our own salvation but now let's pray for those who need to be assured that the Word of Life being presented to them is in fact the life-changing truth. Before we pray, let's share the names of some we know who struggle with commitment because of these kind of doubts.
A CHORUS OF COMPLAINT: It is amazing how many negative comments come to reinforce the doubts the enemy seeks to sow in our minds (v16). Let's pray for wisdom not to be swayed.
PUTTING IT IN WRITING: The enemy is not very original. God has given us His written Word so the enemy thinks he can gain an advantage by getting things down in writing too (v17). Let's declare that we will not be intimidated by any negative thing the enemy might circulate knowing that it is better to rejoice in the positive Word of the Lord.
PUSHING THE POINT: The enemy seems to find it hard to know when to quit. He tries to get his point across to as many people as possible by any means possible. His aim is to frighten and trouble (v18). Let's pray that the mass media will promote the truth.
BREAKTHROUGH IN PRAYER: After all these challenges it is good to see that breakthrough comes in response to prayer. Hezekiah and Isaiah came together before God in agreement (v19). Let's discuss key issues where we need to see breakthrough and come before God together in agreement.
READ: Luke 10:30-37
NO BLAME: People with problems need not be at fault (v30). It is important to be free of negative attitudes when dealing with difficult situations. Let's pray for a positive attitude towards people who are facing difficulties.
NO TIME: Jesus tells of two people who, for whatever reason, were not prepared to give time to a needy man (vs 31, 32). One even came and looked before moving on (v32). Let's pray for an ability to rightly prioritise our time.
COMPASSION: The key to the third man's involvement was compassion (v33). He came, looked and was inwardly moved. Let's be honest with each other about our own reactions to people with problems and pray accordingly.
TREATING WOUNDS: The bandages, wounds, oil, wine, animal and inn (v34) have often been explained in terms of spiritual parallels. The important thing is to treat the wounds - regardless of their type or cause. With emotional wounds, the oil and wine could be truth and kindness and the bandages ongoing support. For a victim of crime different remedies may be required. Let's pray for the ability to be relevant in every situation.
PROVIDING TRANSPORT: Sometimes we think that we need a degree in counselling before we can be of any use to anybody - it is tempting to point out that even the Samaritan's donkey had a part to play (v34) but imprudent though such a comment might be it reminds us that if transport is the need, a car (or even the bus fare) is more important than a qualification in psychology. Let's pray that we will never be intimidated by the circumstances but will always find a way to play our part.
STAYING ALONGSIDE: Once the Samaritan had taken the injured man to the inn he stayed and took care of him overnight (v34). This is a different kind of caring. Being alongside is as relevant as treating wounds and providing transport. Sometimes the hardest thing about being alongside is dealing with our own feelings of inadequacy. So often we long to do more. Let's be open with each other about these kind of feelings - even if they only occur as a result of impatience in waiting for a response from those family members and friends we have come alongside to lead to the Lord. Maybe on this it would be good to pray for each other's encouragement.
ENLISTING SUPPORT: The Samaritan was wise enough to know when he had come to the end of his time resources and so handed over responsibility to another (v35). We need wisdom in our caring too so that we do not become unhelpfully overloaded. Let's pray that the Lord will make us into good team players.
MEETING THE COST: Giving our finance when we cannot give our time is also a way of caring (v35). Let's pray for a spirit of generosity.
READ: Micah 6:8
HE HAS SHOWN YOU: We have a God who has an open heart towards us. He does not leave us ignorant of His plans and wishes. Let's begin by praising God for His revelation into our lives.
WHAT IS GOOD: God's plans for us are good. There are many people in the world who do not realise this. Let's pray for people we know who need such a fresh understanding. If appropriate, let's share some names first so that we can pray specifically.
KNOWING WHAT THE LORD REQUIRES: God's expectation on us is not unreasonable. He expects us to come to faith in Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. This opens the way for us to fulfil the three requirements listed by the prophet Micah. Let's focus on this key point of the reality and simplicity of God's plan of salvation and pray that we have a really clear grasp of it.
DOING JUSTLY: Although Micah addresses his comments individually ("O man") he intends them to apply universally - to every individual man and woman. We will take the opportunity to pray for society in general. Let's name some areas in society where injustice needs to be dealt with and then go on and pray about these in particular.
LOVING MERCY: Again we will take the opportunity to pray for society in general. Let's name some areas in society where mercy is a must and pray that those responsible will have a renewed love for it.
WALKING HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD: Once again let's pray for society, that there will be an end to arrogance, but let's pray for ourselves too that we will increasingly fulfil this command.
READ: Luke 13:10-17
A HEART OF COMPASSION: Jesus took notice of all around Him. Even when He was teaching the Word He saw the woman who was not able to help herself His heart went out to her (vs 10-12). Let's begin by praying that we will be able to see situations compassionately.
A WILLINGNESS TO PRIORITISE: When Jesus called the woman to Himself He demonstrated just how much He valued her (v12). Let's check ourselves out on this and pray that we will always know how to prioritise others.
A POINT OF CONTACT: It is hard to estimate the level of rejection this woman must have experienced in her past Jesus broke through all of this when He laid His hands on her (v13). If there are people known to us who we sense have been rejected (we may prefer to think of groups of people rather than individuals, e.g. refugees, offenders, etc.), let's mention them to each other and pray for them together.
GLORIFYING GOD: Jesus always ensured that His Father received the glory and credit (v13). Let's pray that those whom God uses to minister healing to others will be equally careful in ensuring the glory all goes to God.
STAYING FOCUSED: Jesus attracted a lot of criticism in His ministry (v14). When this happens it is very easy to lose focus. Let's pray for ourselves that we learn how to handle criticism without taking offence.
BEING CONSISTENT: It was not difficult for Jesus to point out the inconsistencies in His critics complaints (v15). They obviously thought more of their beasts than they did of their neighbours. We need to constantly remind ourselves that people matter more than things. Let's pray for a re-prioritising in our own lives where necessary.