Chapter 13: 'Fasting & Fainting' - the rule of Desire

In Chapter 13 we discover just how important earnest desire is for effective prayer. Is prayerlessness a consequence of a loveless heart? What does the discipline of fasting say about the vital place of desire in prayer? In what way can God’s own desires transform and deepen our own?

Sermon accompanying chapter 13

Preached by Chris Band at Headington Baptist Church, Oxford on 26th August 2012
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  1. Ask the group to reflect and then share on the topics that feature most frequently in their prayers. What do their prayers reveal about their desires?
  2. We learn from surveying the letters of the Apostle Paul that our highest priorities in prayer are to be for matters like salvation, righteousness, wisdom, the power to grasp God’s love, peace, holiness, service, mission and unity. In the light of this list, do the group feel that their prayers (and hence desires) are too narrow and self-concerned? Have they tried to remedy this?
  3. Just as our prayer requests reflect our desires in prayer, so our prayer habits reflect our general desire for prayer. Jesus’ often prioritised prayer over food, sleep and even ministry. What do our own practices of prayer reveal about the priority that we give to prayer?
  4. Ask the group to read the following verses about people in scripture who prayed with earnest desire. Take a moment each time to share comments that arise: Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10-17); Elijah (James 5:17-18); Jesus (Luke 22:39-44 & Hebrews 5:7).
  5. How does God appear to respond to prayer that is fuelled by desire (see Jeremiah 29:11-14 & Hebrews 11:6)? Is prayer, without an accompanying desire, a waste of effort? Does earnest desire guarantee that specific prayers are answered (NB Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer)?
  6. Edward McKendree Bounds wrote: “Prayer is the oral expression of desire. The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer.” [p.219] To what extent does the group agree with this statement?
  7. Have folk within the group ever experienced difficulty praying due to an overwhelming sense of desire? In what sense might desires that we wordlessly lay before God be called prayer?
  8. Read Mark 12:18-20 & Matthew 6:16-18. Jesus assumes here that his followers will fast. Do you agree that at its heart, fasting is about demonstrating and intensifying desire? [p.222]
  9. Ask the group to share their own experiences of fasting. Why did they choose to fast? What impact did their fasting have on their praying? Did it increase their desire?
  10. As we consider not only the things that we pray for but also those things that we don’t, what measures might we put in place to both deepen and broaden our desire in prayer? How can our own weak and wavering desires be reignited by God’s own heart?