For the past few weeks, we have been learning about and discussing prayer. First, Bret talked about the “How” of prayer and highlighted praying with “BOLD PERSISTANCE.” The following week, Ben Stewart led us in the “Why” of prayer, highlighting the fact that prayer is all about relationship. This week marks week 3 of our prayer study. This week we cover the “What” of prayer…what type of things should we be praying for?
- We are entering our last week of the Daniel Fast. Even if you are not fasting, we invite you to pray with the community in this last week.
- Our “Centered” series begins next week and we are challenging everyone to engage in 4 ways.
- Attend Every Service
- Get in a group (if you’re here, you’ve already got this box checked!)
- Participate in the daily Bible readings (they can be found on the app)
- Listen to the weekly Podcasts
(Leader Note: These questions are meant to simply begin conversation. There is a lot of content this week so you may want to limit this section to 5-10 minutes)
- We are entering the last week of the Daniel Fast. Is there anything you are learning from the experience? Anything God has revealed to you about Him, His will, or have you learned anything about yourself?Maybe it is something super deep or as simple as, “I really love coffee!”
- The “Centered” series starts next week. During this series, we are going to explore the Christian Worldview’s answers to some of life’s toughest questions. Which of topic/question sparks your interest the most? Why?
- The Nature Of Belief—Why do we believe the things we do?
- Where did it all come from?
- Who are we?
- What’s wrong? –How does each worldview explain what’s wrong in the world.
- Who is Jesus?
- What’s the Cure?
- Is there Hope?
TOPIC INTRODUCTION—WHAT DOES PRAYER DO?
- If someone asked you what effect prayer has on the world, how would you answer him or her?
- Do you think that God does things in response to prayer that He would not have done if you didn’t pray about those things? What makes you think that?
SCRIPTURE ENGAGEMENT—READ 1 JOHN 5:14-15
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
- What stands out to you about this verse? When you read it/hear it, what type of feelings to you get? (i.e. memories of answered prayer, doubt, hope, disillusioned, etc).
GROUP ACTIVITY—SCRIPTURE THEMES
Leader Note: You can break down into smaller groups or go through these passages as a large group. If you breakdown into smaller groups, give each group a few passages and then have them report the general idea back to the group when you come back together.
If you do it as a large group—assign different group members to read each text out loud. Have them read, and then move on to the next verse without much commentary/discussion in-between. We will have a larger discussion at the end.
- Matthew 18:19—(Jesus Speaking) “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
- Matthew 21:21-22—(Jesus Speaking) “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
- Mark 11:24—(Jesus Speaking) “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
- John 14:13-14—(Jesus Speaking) “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
- John 15:7—(Jesus Speaking) “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
- Ok, everyone take a collective breath…sometimes these passage conjure up a bit of anxiety. Why?
Leader—Read For Transition (Includes rhetorical questions not meant to be discussed)— So why don’t we see this happening regularly in our own lives? Was this just a promise for Jesus’s earliest disciples? Are we getting the formula wrong? Do we have too much doubt? Was Jesus just speaking in hyperbole? Is the meaning lost in the context?
These verses seem to say without a shadow of a doubt that the answer to our introduction question…does pray have any true effect?…is a resounding yes. However, at the same time, we experience an array of different emotions as we read these texts because…they don’t always seem to be true in our lives.
GOD’S WILL AND ITS RELATIONS TO PRAYER
Intro: As we contemplate passages like those we just read, we will always be living in some kind of tension with them. We will never fully resolve our mixed feelings, our questions, and the doubts we have surrounding them. However, the Bible does provide us deeper ways to consider them. One of the ways that we can look deeper into the meaning of prayer, is to consider them in relation to God’s will.
- Do you ever remember asking your parents (or if you have children…them asking you) for something as a kid, getting mad that your parents didn’t get it for you, only to find out they got you something even cooler? If so, share your story.
(Leader Note: For example, asking for a skateboard but they bought you a 4-wheeler).
- Or…have you ever asked for something (or have your kids…if you have children) you never thought you’d get, only to then get it?
Leader Read: When we consider these questions, we can use it as an analogy of God’s will. Kids have a will. Anyone who has witnessed a child throwing an absolute fit in the cereal aisle can confirm that kids have a will. But…parents also have a will for their children. And…as adults that have lived through childhood and transitioned into adulthood, parents have what could be called a “higher will” for their kids.
Our “higher will” for our children (or you parents “higher will” for you) is concerned with what we want for our children’s lives. For instance, I want my children to have good character, be well-adjusted, be gainfully employed, contribute to society, etc. So, when my child asks for a skateboard, I consider it through my “higher will” for his or her life. If it is not in opposition to that higher will, then I’m free to buy him a skateboard.
What if God has a “higher will” for our life that he filters our requests through. How would we determine that “higher will?”
WHAT GOD WANTS FOR US—HIS HIGHER WILL
READ COLOSSIANS 1:9-10
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, (10) so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.”
- What does this verse tell us that about the purpose of prayer?
- How would you explain what it means to “live in light of something’s worth?”
(LEADER EXAMPLE: An example of NOT living in light of something’s worth would be to buy a ticket to Rome, walk into the Sistine Chapel and say, “Eh…I’ve seen better. Looks like 5-year old scribble to me.”)
READ COLOSSIANS 1:10-19
“So that you may live a life worthy or the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
(LEADER NOTE: If you are running out of time, you can just move through quickly as a large group)
Break down into groups of 3. If we described verses 10-19 as a description of what God wants for our lives…his “Higher Will,” what does that include? Have each group make a list and then come back together after 5-10 minutes and discuss.
(LEADER EXAMPLES: There may be a lot of answers, but they should at least include: “live a life worthy of the Lord,” “Please Him in every way,” “Bearing fruit in every good work,” “Fill you with his power,” “Live a life of Joyful thanks”
- Which of the items of the list you came up with do you crave in your life the most? Why?
- Look back at verse 12, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
What do you think it means that God has qualified you? What does it take to be qualified by God?
Again…this insight of “higher will,” while helpful, does not resolve all of the tension. This is partly because even though we can’t understand the eternal wisdom of God, it still seems like surely there have been things we have asked in line with God’s “higher will” for our lives that have still gone unanswered. While that tension remains, it gives us the ability to process through some of it. The Bible is full of stories, examples, and insights to continue to process that question as we see it played out in the lives of the Biblical characters and writers. All of this leads to us slowly being more comfortable and more able to live in the tension faithfully.
- We have spent the past few weeks praying that we would understand the knowledge of God’s will. This week, instead of asking, we will focus on “listening prayer”…sometimes also called “Centering prayer” or “meditation.”
- To engage in “listening prayer,” find some quiet time in the morning—5-10 minutes—and in silence, breathe deep and quiet the interior of your life.
- Once your heart and mind become quiet, either sit in the quiet presence of God or contemplate the presence of God in the world around you.
- Sometimes it’s helpful to repeat a phrase to redirect your heart/mind as outside thoughts sneak in. An example might be the word “peace” or “stillness” or a phrase like “speak Lord for your servant is listening.”
- The goal is simply to quiet the interior of our lives in the morning that we might be open to the presence of God throughout the day.
CLOSE IN PRAYER