Re:New Prayer Guide

Introduction 

Left alone, everything tends to cool. Set your coffee cup on the counter, it becomes lukewarm. Remove an ember from a fire, it goes ashen gray. Stay in Michigan through January, you’re likely to freeze to death! It’s a law of nature: everything tends to cool. You and I are not exempt. God’s people are not exempt.

 

For years Yvonne and I have observed that the Bible relates cycle after cycle of apostasy and renewal. Each time His people cooled off, God would warm them up with renewed vigor and vision. We’ve also observed this process in the history of the Free Methodist Church: the Roman Catholic church was renewed by the reformation, the reformation was renewed by the anabaptist movement, the anabaptist movement influenced Wesley who brought renewal to the Anglican Church by forming the Methodists who were subsequently renewed by the Free Methodist!

 

Some of us can also see the renewal right here in Spring Arbor. The Stone Church is the first church building I remember. Then we met in E.P. Hart for a while, then moved to the “new sanctuary” in 1963, followed by the “new, new sanctuary” in 1979, followed by the Community Family Center in 1993 and so on. I find it easy to celebrate those milestones, although each one involved leaving some cherished elements to better pursue our sense of God’s leading. I wasn’t old enough to be aware of it, but I’m pretty sure there would have been extended processes of discernment around each of those milestones. “Extended Processes of Discernment” is a nice way of saying folks might not have all been of one mind!

 

It seems to us that renewal helps God’s people re-establish their destination...where they’re heading, rather than where they currently are. Faithfulness to God doesn’t mean staying faithful to the place our parents took us, it means staying faithful to their journey with God, but now for our children and grandchildren. This is the story of renewal...beginning the journey anew for our children and grandchildren.

 

May this guide lead us together deeper into the story of God’s desire for renewal for us all. And by the way, if you stick around Michigan long enough, you’ll notice that sometime between March and June, God himself sends renewal. We call it spring!

 

David and Yvonne Roller

(We’ve used the New Living Translation as our Bible version.)

 

 

Week 1: Renewal in the founders of faith

 

Because we know the endings of their stories, we’re not accustomed to feeling the struggles of people in the Bible. It’s easy to skim over the kinds of sacrifices they made, or leaps of faith they took, or long periods of uncertainty they endured, because we know it all worked out in the end. But their renewed journeys were every bit as costly as ours. Yet they walked on.

 

Monday, October 24: Abram takes a walk

Settle yourself by praying for illumination...Father in heaven, may your divine light shining into my mind and heart, expose where I am “too settled,” and lead me to “set out” anew.

 

Genesis 12:1 “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”

 

Recalling the story: 

Terah heard from God and began the journey to the promised land. But he stopped halfway there, in Haran. After Terah’s death, God renewed the call to his son, Abram, who responded by reinitiating his father’s journey. This began Abram’s habit of always believing God, even when the destination was unclear. Abram became the “father of faith” because throughout his lifetime he didn’t demand proof or even evidence before believing. He simply trusted God’s character.

 

Reflecting on the story:

  1. Why is it that “going” always requires “leaving?”

  2. Have you ever been intimidated from an adventure with God because the destination was uncertain (a land He “will show you.”).

 

Pray for courage for yourself and our church family to leave the familiar and beloved for the adventures of journeying with God.

 

Tuesday, October 25: Our future lies within our children 

Pray that the children and grandchildren of The Arbor Church might benefit from our steady prayers for them. Pray that we might be conduits of blessings for them, long after we’re gone.

 

Recalling the story: 

After 29 years in the promised land, Abram and Sarai still had no children of their own. When God renewed to them the promise of children they both laughed to themselves (Genesis 17:17 and 18:12) at how ridiculous that would be (he at 100, she at 91). Yet it did happen, and Isaac was born.

 

Genesis 17:17 “Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought.”

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. How long have you been praying your most fervent prayer? More than 29 years?

  2. What do you conclude about God by noticing that he still gave them Isaac even though they both laughed at His promise?

 

Pray for a non-skeptical spirit when it comes to the good God will do as he renews you and us. Then practice believing rather than being skeptical.

 

Wednesday, October 26: Jacob at Peniel

Slow down enough for a few moments with God. Pray that His Spirit may give you insight to understand your own personality and places where a tweak here or there might be a good thing.

 

Genesis 32:24 “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.”

 

Recalling the Story: 

Years after fleeing from Esau’s death threat, Jacob was returning home with the four mothers of his eleven sons and one daughter. The night before the fateful reunion with Esau, Jacob was alone near the Jabbok ravine. A “man” appeared and wrestled with Jacob until daybreak, finally blessing him and renaming him Israel. Jacob was both wounded (after that he walked with a limp) and changed. No longer the tricky deal-maker, he was tearfully reunited with Esau and they buried their father in peace (after he died, of course!).

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. If Jacob’s identity as a sharp-dealing businessperson was the part of “who-he-was” that got changed, are there any parts of your identity that could benefit from a tweak?

  2. When was the last time you wrestled with God and left being changed?

 

Pray (only if you mean it) for an encounter with God that will free you from habits that we often excuse by calling them “human nature.” Pray to partake instead of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

 

Thursday, October 27: Judah redeems Benjamin

Pray that the one eternal God may lend his ear to your requests as you approach his throne of grace.

 

Genesis 44:33 “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy.”

 

Recalling the Story: 

When the 11 sons of Jacob traveled to Egypt to buy food during a famine, their brother Joseph, who was overseeing the food distribution, tested them to see if they were still the same rascals who human-trafficked him to Egypt in the first place. Judah, the one who originally sold him, was the one who stepped forward and offered himself as a prisoner in place of younger brother Benjamin. All this apparently a result of the embarrassing lesson he learned from Tamar, his daughter-in-law in Genesis 38.

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. Might this story explain why the descendants of Judah become the tribe of kings, rather than those of the firstborn (Reuben) or the third-born (Levi) or the most loved (Benjamin) or the apparent hero of Genesis, Joseph? (spoiler alert, the answer is “yes!”)

  2. Can you think of at least one way you could be like Judah in giving up your own freedoms and desires for the good of others?

 

Pray for a renewed spirit of sacrifice, like that of Judah. May we think of others first, as Judah did (thereby becoming the tribe out of which Jesus comes as the ultimate redeemer).

 

Friday, October 28: The first Building Committee

Pray that your mind and heart might quit racing long enough to hear from God and respond to His words.

 

Exodus 26:32 “Hang this curtain on gold hooks attached to four posts of acacia wood. Overlay the posts with gold, and set them in four silver bases.”

 

Recalling the story: 

Moses had led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt into the desert where God began to organize them. This included constructing a new thing...a place of sacrifice and worship called the tabernacle. It wasn’t only functional, it was also appropriately beautiful, ornate even, for the worship of the only true God. This portable “church” was the first example of God designing a unique place for people to approach His holiness. The construction was overseen by a man named Bezalel (Exodus 31:1).

 

Reflecting on the Story:

  1. Moses was the executive, Aaron the priest, Bezalel the builder. Do you have clarity on your role in God’s church? What are you able to contribute?

  2. Moses’ people didn’t have the internet to listen to sermons. What other activities of the tabernacle helped renew the people and might still be good reasons for gathering together?

 

Pray that as you participate in church services this week you might benefit from more than teaching and preaching. Notice and celebrate the beauty of the place of God, the majesty of the presence of God, and the encouragement of the people of God.