Posts tagged ‘Daniel’

October 27, 2014

843 Acres: Freedom Is Not a Lack of Restrictions

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 12 (txt | aud, 2:21 min)
Ps 119:49-72 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119

Freedom: When we think about freedom, we almost always think about it in its negative sense—freedom from. In his 1958 lecture, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin distinguished between negative and positive freedom. “Negative freedom, as Berlin defines it, is freedom from—in essence, freedom from interference and constraint. Positive freedom is freedom for—in essence, freedom for excellence according to whatever vision and ideals define that excellence” [1]. What happens when we divorce the two freedoms and only think about freedom in its negative sense?

Essence: True freedom includes both the negative and the positive sense. As Os Guinness writes, “Neither positive nor negative freedom is complete without the other. They each describe complementary sides of the same full freedom, which always rests on two conditions: the complete absence of any abuse of power, which is the essence of negative freedom, and a vision of a positive way of life, which is the essence of positive freedom. In a free society understood in this way, free citizens are neither prevented from doing what they should (the denial of positive freedom) nor forced to do what they shouldn’t (the denial of negative freedom)” [2]. For example, he says, the American Revolution was both freedom from the British and freedom for the American experiment.

Bounds: The Psalmist celebrates full freedom: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways … I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” [3]. In other words, he is seeking freedom from the ensnarement of worthless things that demand his worship and freedom for the joy of running in the statutes of God and seeking the Lord with his whole heart. This is true freedom.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that true freedom is not a lack of restrictions; it is finding the right restrictions that fit our being. Like fish that find true freedom within the confines of the fish bowl and die when “liberated” from those constraints, we, too, seek true freedom within the loving confines of your statutes. For that is where we find true freedom—freedom from living as slaves to sin and freedom for living as children of God. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. (To see a 45-minute video of Guinness speaking on this book at Socrates in the City in NYC, click here.) | [2] Id. | [3] Psalm 119:37, 45 ESV

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October 24, 2014

843 Acres: Repentance in a New Light

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 9 (txt | aud, 5:36 min)
Ps 117-118 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Highlighted: Dan. 9.4-5

Disconnect: When Martin Luther pounded the 95 Theses into the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany he began with the simple but profound statement that, “the entire life of believers [is] to be one of repentance.” Luther’s actions began the Protestant Reformation, abandoning the then-current practice of indulgences for a lifestyle of repentance. Repentance requires a sometimes painful examination of our lives and submission to a standard outside of ourselves. Because of this, just a few hundred years later, and downstream from the movement which Luther’s words and sacrificial actions began, the idea of repentance ranges anywhere from foreign to offensive for many.

Immovable: The prayer that consumes most of Daniel 9 is, “aflame with the purifier of sincere repentance,” says F.M. Wood. Daniel cries out, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,  we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.” The contrast between a broken people and a God who is immovable in faithfulness could not be stronger. Because God’s faithfulness cannot be shaken or diminished he is able to both establish a standard for life and offer forgiveness without compromise, albeit at great cost to himself.

Repentance: Daniel’s prayer seeks repentance for national abandonment of the Covenant—it cut to the deepest part of the prophetic heart in his day. For modern Christians, our wounds run no less shallow and may feel intensely more personal. In many ways, repentance is the process of revealing our deepest hurts and asking God to restore us where nothing else can. The full process of repentance in Christ is re-humanizing, brimming with grace, and overflowing with love. It leaves us stunned by the grace that renews us. We walk away with a new name – one that speaks not of our pain, but of our journey and interaction with a God who is, as Nehemiah says, “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love – a God who does not forsake us.” [2]

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being slow to anger and abounding in love. Like Adam hiding in the garden we find hurt and shame driving us from the one who can heal us. Restore us, O Lord, let us see the joy of your salvation. Give us life and heal us through the power of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Wood, F. M. (1972). Daniel. In H. F. Paschall & H. H. Hobbs (Eds.), The Teacher’s Bible commentary (p. 532). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers. | [2] Neh 9.17

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October 23, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Sympathy of Jesus (Newton)

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 8 (txt | aud, 4:39 min)
Ps 116 (txt | aud, 1:49 min)

Psalm 116:6, 10 

The Lord preserves the simple … I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted.”

John Newton, Letters of John Newton (1776) 

To Mrs. Thornton.

My Dear Madam, … Though I feel grief, I trust the Lord has mercifully preserved me from impatience and murmuring, and that in the midst of all the pleadings of flesh and blood, there is a something within me that aims to say without reserve or exception, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

It is a comfortable consideration, that he with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now forever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiserations, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state. The whole history of his wonderful life is full of inimitable instances of this kind. His bowels were moved before his arm was exerted; he condescended to mingle tears with mourners, and wept over distresses which he intended to relieve. He is still the same in his exalted state; compassions dwell within his heart … he still feels for his people …

With the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, he attends to their sorrows. He accounts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle, and when our spirits our overwhelmed within us, he knows our path, and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance … Still more, besides his benevolent, he has an experimental sympathy. He knows our sorrows, not merely as he knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation and who, though without sin himself, endured, when upon earth, inexpressibly more for us than he will ever lay upon us …

What, then, shall we fear, or of what shall we complain? When all our concerns are written upon his heart, and their management, to the very hairs of our head, are under his care and providence; when he pities us more than we can do ourselves, and has engaged his almighty power to sustain and relieve us. However, as he is tender, he is wise also; he loves us, but especially with regard to our best interests.

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October 22, 2014

843 Acres: On Freedom and Dominion

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 7 (txt | aud, 5:10 min)
Ps 114-115 (txt | aud, 2:17 min)
Highlighted: Dan 7.14

Freedom: “Throughout history, through all ages, all human beings have always sought two kinds of freedom, but today we’re after a third kind as well,” observes Tom Wolfe. The two foundational freedoms are those from tyranny (freedom of expression, religion, and political determination) and want (freedom of economic opportunity, class mobility, etc). “Today we are seeking, and even expecting, a third kind of freedom that is unprecedented… freedom from religion.” Wolfe says it’s no longer freedom of religion, but from it, adding, “That has never, ever been sought before. It’s the final freedom.”[1]

Enslavement: Where does freedom from all commitments and obligations lead? Over 150 years ago Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers recorded the natural enslavement of the human heart: “It is thus, that the boy ceases, at length, to be a slave of his appetite, but it is usually because the more mature taste has brought it into subordination. For example, the youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has gotten the ascendancy but even the love of money may cease to have mastery over the heart because it’s drawn into the world of ideology and politics and he is now lorded over by a love of power or moral superiority in his new politics.”[2] The pathway far too many people perceive as that of freedom is really one of submission to shifting affections.

Dominion: It isn’t the vivid imagery of Daniel’s visions that are most offensive to many today, but the threat that, “[God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” It is anathema, in a culture which perceives freedom as limitless self-determination, to think of God as the final authority to whom we have obligation. Yet it is only in God we have the opportunity for true freedom. The rest of Daniel’s prophecies, and all of Scripture, reveal a God who loves humanity so mightily he will not settle for enslavement masquerading as freedom. It is only under God’s lavish grace and rule that we find true freedom from enslaves us most deeply.

Prayer: Lord, too often we are like little children struggling to pull away from their parent’s hand. Forgive us for thinking our better life is away from you, like the child away from their parent, without you we would only be lost. Renew our hearts for you. Guide our lives in your ways. Show us freedom through your love.

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Footnotes

[1] Harvard Class Day, 1988. As quoted by Timothy Keller, The Freedom of the Christian. Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 1998. | [2] http://www.amazon.com/Expulsive-Power-New-Affection-ebook/dp/B003TZLQ9M/

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October 21, 2014

843 Acres: God’s Sovereignty as an Excuse to Sin or Trust?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 6 (txt | aud, 5:48 min)
Ps 112-113 (txt | aud, 1:51 min)

Sovereignty: Our manipulative subconsciouses frequently tell us that our sins are inconsequential because God is sovereign. We think, I should have prayed about that situation before I jumped into it. But then we quickly justify ourselves, Don’t worry. God is sovereign, even when you don’t seek him first. Yes, this is true that God is sovereign, gracious, and forgiving. Yet his sovereignty is not intended to give us an excuse to sin or to take sin lightly. What, then, is it for?

Conspiracy: As the new king of the massive Median-Persian Empire [1], Darius recognized that Daniel “possessed an extraordinary spirit” and decided to give him charge over the kingdom [2]. Jealous officials, however, feigned interest in Darius’ decision in order to destroy Daniel. Knowing that Daniel worshiped God, they convinced Darius to issue an injunction prohibiting anyone from praying to any god or man besides the king for thirty days—punishable by being cast into the lions’ den [3].

Risk: When Daniel heard about the injunction, he could have used God’s sovereignty as an excuse to obey the statute and disobey the Lord. He could have said to himself, “Surely the Lord did not call me into this position merely to lose it so quickly? What is thirty days anyway? I can pray when the exile is over, when it’s safe.” Yet he did not. Instead, he used God’s sovereignty as a reason to take a risk by continuing to honor God—praying three times a day, kneeling towards Jerusalem [4] and giving thanks to God [5].

Praise: When the officials caught him, they turned him over to Darius, who was forced to throw Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel was calm as he faced his punishment, while Darius was distraught [6] – he fasted, refused entertainment and could not sleep [7]. Yet Daniel survived and even Darius recognized that his survival was due to God’s sovereignty: “ … He is the living God and enduring forever … His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed … His dominion will be forever … ” [8]

Prayer: Lord, You are sovereign. Yet we often use your sovereignty as license to sin rather than trust. Prepare us to take risks of obedience, as we trust you, believe in you, and put our faith in you. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] At sixty-two years old, Darius reigned over the Median-Persian Empire, which was the largest kingdom ever known at this point in world history, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean and past modern-day Libya, east towards India and north towards Turkey. Its massive expanse required efficient organization and, thus, Darius appointed bureaucratic officials (e.g., Daniel) to keep the kingdom intact.  |  [2]  Daniel 6:3 NASB  |  [3]  Daniel 6:7 NASB  |  [4]  He faced Jerusalem because it was a reminder of God’s promises to Israel, a reminder of the prophecies of Jeremiah and a reminder of the presence of God.  |  [5]  See Daniel 6:10  |  [6]  Daniel 6:16  |  [7] Daniel 6:19  |  [8] Daniel 6:26-27

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October 20, 2014

843 Acres: The Tension of Justice

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 5 (txt | aud, 5:46 min)
Ps 110-111 (txt | aud, 1:59 min)
Highlighted: Ps 110.6

Wages: When Paul says, “the wages of sin is death,” in Romans 6.23, he echoes what the psalmist speaks, on God’s behalf in Psalm 110, “He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.” Reading of God’s action against an entire nation is difficult for modern readers. We long for justice, yet watching it carried out — in full force — is terrifying.

Justice: Among the nations this passage speaks of is that of ancient Edom. The Edomites rebelled against God, savagely pursued his people, and ultimately condemned Christ to death (the line of the Harrods descended from Edom). Although God’s judgement falls on the rebellion of specific nations in this passage, it ultimately extends to the rebellion in all of our lives. All of us have inherited the brokenness of generations past, all of us have found ourselves at opposition with God, and—as passages like this show—not one of us could stand under the judgement of God. We love the justice of God when it acts on our behalf; we fear the reality that, in order to be fully just, it has to move against the sin in our lives as well.

Grace: Yet we are not without hope. Dr. Barry Davis notes, “Psalms 107—109 express anguished pleas for deliverance; Psalms 111— 113 overflow with praise for Yahweh. Psalm 110, the connecting psalm, reveals that the Messiah is both a King and a Priest.”[1] Moreover, the Messiah was the suffering servant. That Christ would face the full judgement of God on our behalf — at such immense cost — is stunning. That he would offer it for free to all who choose him leaves us breathless. There is truly no other way. “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved,” wrote John Newton in “Amazing Grace.” The Christian understanding of justice leaves us humbled by the grace we’ve received and empowered to join God in the restoration his justice brings.

Prayer: Dear Father, how we long for your justice in our world; for through it we are healed from our greatest affliction. We realize how costly it is — thank you for your son, who endured all things, even excruciating separation from you as he died on a cross, on our behalf. We are renewed and hope-filled by your grace.

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Footnotes

[1] Barry C. Davis, “Is Psalm 110 a Messianic Psalm?” Bibliotheca Sacra 157:626 (April-June 2000):168.

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October 17, 2014

843 Acres: Child Sacrifice and Counterfeit Gods

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 2 (txt | aud, 9:13 min)
Ps 106 (txt | aud, 4:30 min)
Highlighted: Ps 106

Finite Gods: “When I interpret some particular possibility as a threat to some value I consider necessary for my existence, I experience anxiety,” writes Thomas Oden. “Anxiety becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values that properly should have been regarded as limited. The more I worship finite gods, the more I make myself vulnerable to intensified anxiety” [1]. Yet our worshipping finite gods does not stop with anxiety. Where else does it go? 

Child Sacrifice: The Psalmist laments that our idol worship can hurt the next generation: “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood” [2]. In other words, we sacrifice our sons and daughters to our counterfeit gods.

Counterfeit Gods: Tim Keller writes, “Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones. Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols … We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image. We may not actually burn incense to Artemis, but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige” [3].

Prayer: Lord, You are the only God that leads to joy, not anxiety, for you offered yourself as a sacrifice to save us. Yet we confess that we worship finite gods and, as a result, we sacrifice our families and friends at their false altars. Lord, break the bond that they have over our hearts and reveal their lies to us. Cause us to hate our sin—not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of those around us whom we love dearly. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, October 18: Dn 3 (txt | aud, 6:25 min) & Ps 107 (txt | aud, 3:55 min)
Sunday, October 19: Dn 4 (txt | aud, 7:42 min) & Ps 108-109 (txt | aud, 4:54 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Thomas C. Oden. Two Worlds. | [2] Psalm 106:36-38 ESV | [3] Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods.

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October 16, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Greatness and Real Success

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dan 1 (txt | aud, 3:28 min)
Ps 105 (txt | aud, 3;47 min)
Highlighted: Daniel 1.5, 8-9

Daniel 1.5, 8-9

 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.

Joseph Augustus Seiss, Voices from Babylon, (1879), abridged from, Ch.1, “The Forming Prophet”

You have been indulging many a fond and anxious dream of success, honor, and greatness in the world. You would like to do something good and noble for yourself and for your race. You are often absorbed with thinking over plans, movement, and methods of operation by which to conciliate the favors of fortune, to reach distinguished positions in life, and to leave behind you some good record when your race is run.

I would have you think with all seriousness, make up your plan of life with the deepest fixedness of purpose, and then pursue it unswervingly through thick and thin, never faltering and never surrendering. True and great men and great an honorable successes never come by accident. He who leaves out of his plans and purposes an honest and devout regard for his soul, his God, and eternal judgment, leaves out the very seed-grain from which all true greatness and real successes grow.

You may not like such sentiments. You may consider it manly and independent to throw off restraints and shackles of this character, and despise them as only in your way. But let me tell you that all the proper success and glory of your life is wrapped up in them. There is no right life in merely caring for this dying body and pandering to its appetites, while the soul and its high being are wilted by starvation and neglect. Better fail a thousand times, and fail in everything else, than attempt to shape for yourself a life without God, without hope in Christ, and without an interest in heaven. No one can afford such an experiment. You may think it independent, dignified, and noble, but you can no more succeed in it than you can dwell with devouring fire.

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October 26, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Persistent and Repetitive

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:34-36
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25-48

Delay: As we have seen this week [1], although spiritual disciplines do not save us, they do lay us in the way of allurement of the gospel, which is the good news of Jesus that does save us. In particular, the spiritual discipline of prayer brings us into joyful communion with the Lord, as we pour out our hearts to Him in praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. On Tuesday, we thought about unanswered prayers [2]. But sometimes we experience delayed answers, not unanswered prayers – although we may not know it at the time. Yet why would the Lord delay in answering our prayers?

Reasons: In A Body of Divinity, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson offers four possible answers: (1) Because he loves to hear our prayers: “You let the musician play a great while before you throw him down money, because you love to hear the music.” (2) Because He wants to humble us lest we too easily think that we have earned a ready answer or that we think He is our butler, not our Sovereign Lord. (3) Because we are not yet fit or circumstances are not yet ready for the blessing that we seek. (4) Because He longs for us to prize the mercy we seek all the more when it finally comes. [3]

Persistence: In other words, without offering persistent and repetitive prayers for what we want, we may become proud when the blessing comes. In Romans, Paul teaches that one of the most dangerous things God can do is to give us what we want without prayer [4]. For it confirms what our hearts already want to believe – namely, that things are going well for us apart from God. Then, when the blessing comes apart from prayer, we rob ourselves of joy in God because we are not filled with gratitude for His provision.

Prayer: Lord, We know that you have good and wise reasons when you delay to answer our prayers. Therefore, we pray as the Psalmist did, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” [5] Increase our faith in you as our Provider and guard us against pride by tethering our blessings to our prayers. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012. 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered.” 25 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [3] Thomas Watson. “A Body of Divinity.”  |  [4] See Romans 1.  |  [5] Psalms 119:34-36 ESV

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October 25, 2012

Prayer as Discipline: Word-Centered

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24
M’Cheyne Text: Daniel 10; Psalm 119:1-24

Aspirations: As we begin to pursue prayer as a spiritual discipline [1], we often come with high aspirations to create spontaneous and meaningful prayers – even grandiose prayers like the one offered by Daniel [2]. When that does not happen, however, we can get discouraged and confused, which can lead us to stop praying altogether. Thus, we must learn to pray so that we persevere in it. For although we thought about unanswered prayers on Tuesday [3], “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer” [4].

Guides: Thankfully, in the Bible itself, God has given us more than 650 prayers to use and enjoy. The Psalmist delighted to go to God through the Word: “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways … Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law … My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times … Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” [5]. Today, we can rejoice in the Word even more than the Psalmist. For we know that it points to the Word Made Flesh – that is, Jesus Christ.

Scriptures: In Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Repeating God’s own words after him, we begin to pray to him. We ought to speak to God and he wants to hear us, not in the false and confused speech of our own heart, but in the clear and pure speech which God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ. God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God” [6].

Prayer: Lord, Teach us to pray according to your Word. Teach us the difference between the things that our hearts produce by themselves – wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – and prayer, which is produced only by the cross of Christ and the work of the Spirit. Cause our hearts to delight in your Word so that we find our way to you. Amen.

(Optional) Post-Reflection Prayers: We have created a one-page sample set of morning prayers (here) and a one-page illustrative list of prayers in the Bible (here). If helpful, use these to pursue an intentional prayer life and let us know what you think.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Goal of Godliness.” 22 October 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Kingdom-Centered for the City.” 24 October 2012.  |  [3] 843 Acres, “Prayer as Discipline: Unanswered Prayers.” 23 October 2012.  |  [4] F.B. Meyer (wiki)  |  [5] Psalm 119:14-15, 18, 24 ESV  |  [6] Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Kindle Location 34-35). Kindle Edition.

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