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Session 1
Study Guide

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Session Objectives:

For Your Information:

A) Psalm attitudes - Keep in mind that positive expressions in the psalms reflect the response to an opposite emotion.

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.

B) New Testament examples:

C) Lord’s Prayer:

For Discussion:

  1. 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.
  2. … 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 18:11, 13).
  3. Certainly you won’t 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."
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 God’s will, but the deeper issue here is one of attuning ourselves to God’s will. "Listening to God is the necessary prelude to intercession." (Foster, Celebration, 39) Once God’s will becomes our will, we can pray for everything in full confidence of being answered.
  7. We can always pray that God’s 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."
  8. God always answers our prayers, it’s just that sometimes the answer is "Yes," sometimes "No," and sometimes "Later." Again, when our will is brought into harmony with God’s 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 person’s deeper question and find ways of assuring that God is indeed present with them.

For Practice:

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.

A good way to end each of your small group sessions is with everyone praying the Lord’s Prayer together. TLbwy!