HABIT 1 - PRAYER
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- Begin developing positive relationships within your small group
- Encourage and motivate participants to practice daily prayer
- Enrich participants prayer lives, so that they begin to experience what it means
to "pray without ceasing"
For Your Information:
A) Psalm attitudes - Keep in mind that positive expressions in
the psalms reflect the response to an opposite emotion.
- Psalm 6.1-7 speaks of languishing, terror, weariness, grief, weakness.
- Psalm 8 reflects awe of and gratitude towards God.
- Psalm 9.1-2 reflects thankfulness, gladness, praise
- Psalm 13 begins with questioning, pain, and sorrow. It ends with trust,
rejoicing, and singing.
- Psalm 22.1-2 reflects a sense of abandonment and isolation.
- Psalm 23 expresses trust and confidence in God.
- Psalm 38.1-4 speaks of being rebuked and chastened, of being sick, and
burdened by sins.
- Psalm 44.15-16 reflects the feelings of being disgraced, shamed, taunted,
- Psalm 56.1-5 reflects fear (v. 3), yet the person expresses trust in God.
B) New Testament examples:
The point here is that the psalms give voice to the whole range of human
emotions. No matter what we are feeling, the Psalms give us words and encouragement to
bring it to God in prayer. The Psalms are somewhat unique in the Bible, therefore,
because, whereas most of Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.
C) Lords Prayer:
- Matthew 5.43-45: Here Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us.
This is not an easy thing to do, but I think that Jesus gives this command mostly for our
own sake. When we are hateful and angry, we are the ones who get hurt. In praying for our
enemies, we are made better.
- Matthew 6.5-8: Personal prayer is a relationship with God, not a show for
others to see. In our relationship with God, we are encouraged to speak plainly and
directly from our heart. Even when you have trouble putting your thoughts into words, you
can be confident that "your Father knows what you need before you ask him.."
- Mark 11.23-24: "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you
have received it, and it will be yours." There are two things needful if we are to
experience the truth of this saying. 1) Believing Jesus promise, and thus
recognizing that our faith always needs strengthening, and 2) Having our will in line with
Gods will, and thus recognizing that our prayers will always be answered when we
pray for Gods will to be done
- Mark 14.32-38: What Jesus taught us to pray in the Lords Prayer, he
here puts into practice himself. Jesus acknowledges Gods power, prays simply and
directly the concerns of his heart, submits his will to Gods will, and recognizes
human weakness and the trials we experience while praying for our strengthening.
- Luke 11.5-13: Jesus encourages persistence in prayer. We are also
encouraged by the assurance of Gods love for us in giving us what is best for us.
- Luke 18.1-8: The point of this parable is expressed in v. 1. We are
taught about our "need to pray always and not to lose heart."
- Romans 8.26-28: This passage is a great encouragement for those times
when we are not sure how to pray or what exactly we should be praying for. Keep this
passage in mind when praying with or for someone who has had a stroke or is in a coma. V.
28 is a reminder that Gods good will always be accomplished. This good may
not always appear immediately to be good for me, but by faith, I trust that it is
ultimately the highest good.
- 2 Corinthians 12.6-9: This is an example of "unanswered
prayer," though we really cannot call it that. Paul did not get what he prayed for,
but he discovered something even better through the way in which God answered his prayer.
- Philippians 4.6-7: The NRSV speaks of "prayer and
supplication." (Your translation may differ.) The first term is the usual term for
prayer. The second reflects a somewhat more urgent request that is not formally designated
as prayer but does have the same intent and effect. Note the direction to accompany all
such prayers with thanksgiving. We also learn that we need not worry, because our
relationship with God expressed in our prayers will always reflect Gods peace.
- James 5.16: "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and
- Note that the Lords Prayer is a community prayer. It uses
not "my," "me,"
Especially keep this in mind when praying for our daily bread. The prayer is not
just about me getting fed but about all of us getting fed. It is a similar matter when we
talk about the forgiveness of our sins.
- Note that the prayer starts with God and Gods name being hallowed,
Gods kingdom coming, Gods will being done. Only after acknowledging the
priority of God do we begin to pray about our concerns.
- The Lords Prayer is distinctive for its use of ordinary and
personal language. It is the phrasing of a child speaking to a parent. The prayer
reinforces the closeness and personal-ness of our relationship with God.
- If you stop to think about it, in this prayer we are quite bold in
telling God what God should be doing! The reason we can do this, though, is that the
things for which God would have us pray are the very things God wants to do for us.
- The Lords Prayer is both a model of prayer and a model for life.
- For a fuller study of the Lord's Prayer, see my 5 part study on it available from the CrossMarks Christian Resources site.
- Prayer is an attitude and a way of being in relationship with God. When
our whole life is in harmony with God, then, in all that we say or do or think, we are
praying without ceasing.
Folding hands and closing eyes are simply one way of trying to
keep from being distracted while we pray. While kneeling is mentioned as a posture for
prayer which indicates a humility before God (1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chr. 6:13; Ps. 95:6; Isa.
45:23; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; Eph. 3:14, etc.), the Bible also describes praying
while bowing and falling prostrate (Gen. 24:26, 52; Ex. 4:31; 12:27; Matt. 26:39; Mark
14:35, etc.); spreading out the hands (1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 88:9; 1 Tim.
2:8, etc.); and standing (1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings 8:14, 55; 2 Chr. 20:9; Mark 11:25; Luke
- Certainly you wont pray for any evil or things that arise out of
evil motives. But do you pray for your favorite team to win? That you will get a green
light when you are in a hurry? On the other hand, Paul did write in Philippians 4.6,
"In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known to God."
- The Bible does speak clearly that prayer can truly change things. God
hears our cries and resolves to help us. More importantly, though, as Søren Kierkegaard
once said, "Prayer does not change God but changes the one who prays." To put it
another way, when we pray, it is not a matter of telling God what to do, but asking God to
tell us what to do.
- When we pray for others, we are, of course, again praying for them in
accordance with that will of God with which we have aligned our own hearts. But in praying
for others, it is not only a matter of our faith or fervor. It is also a matter of our
compassion and empathy. We cannot pray for others unless we in love are truly
praying with them.
- What we find in the Bible is that when Jesus and other early Christians
prayed for others, they always did so in full confidence that it would happen. We may
indeed have occasion to pray for guidance and desire to know Gods will, but the
deeper issue here is one of attuning ourselves to Gods will. "Listening to God
is the necessary prelude to intercession." (Foster, Celebration, 39) Once
Gods will becomes our will, we can pray for everything in full confidence of being
- We can always pray that Gods will be done. In doing so, we can be
confident that the best and highest good will be accomplished. We can also remember the
promise of Romans 8.26: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how
to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."
- God always answers our prayers, its just that sometimes the answer
is "Yes," sometimes "No," and sometimes "Later." Again, when
our will is brought into harmony with Gods will, all our prayers will be answered in
the best way. See the comments on 2 Corinthians 12.6-9 above for another way of looking at
this issue. While these are all ways of trying to explain for someone why their prayers do
not seem to be answered, such explanations are not appropriate, caring responses to
someone who is asking the question in a difficult situation. At such a time, a better
response might be to listen for the persons deeper question and find ways of
assuring that God is indeed present with them.
Note to leaders: Try to use the last 15-20 minutes to do one or
two of the exercises. The first exercise is fairly easy to try. Compared to the third
exercise, the second is a bit less threatening for people new to a group, but
the third does offer a way for the group to get to know each other better and pray for
each other. So, look over each exercise and decide which would work better for your group.
The strips of paper needed for the third exercise will be available for you to pick up
with this Leaders Guide.
- Exercise 1: This is self-explanatory. You will need to judge the amount
of time you give for each part. As the leader, begin the prayer with something like,
"Lord, we turn over to you the concerns of our heart." After a time of silence,
say, "Lord, we turn our hands and our hearts to receive from you all that we
need." After a time of silence, say, "Lord, we put our hands together and pray
that you would speak to us." You might close with, "Into your hands, O Lord, we
commend all things. Amen."
- Exercise 2: The point of this exercise is for people to start seeing that
everything in our world and daily life can and should be the subject for prayer. Read the
newspaper as the source of prayer inspiration for others, not just news about others.
Its another way to remember to pray without ceasing. Make sure that someone in each
group has planned to take responsibility for each of the petitions. When you as the leader
start the prayer, you may wish to use something like this: "Lord, we bring before you
the concerns of this world
" (petitions) We bring before you the concerns of our
" (petitions) etc.
- Exercise 3: The point of this exercise is to learn more about someone
else in order to be better able to pray for them. You may, partly for times sake and
also to make the exercise less threatening, tell people to choose just 3 or 4 of the
strips that they are willing to share with someone else. When you as the leader start the
prayer, you may wish to use something like this: "Lord, we bring before you the
concerns of NAMEs heart
" (petitions) etc.
A good way to end each of your small group sessions is with
everyone praying the Lords Prayer together. TLbwy!