Lesson 3 - Prayer
Conversation between you and God
The goal of this lesson is to help your new believers understand that there is supposed to be natural conversation going on in this new relationship that they have with God, just as any relationship has conversation. Prayer is that means of conversation and communication.
Just remember that as a leader, your role is not just to teach about prayer, but to model it. So, just telling your group how to pray is not enough. Of course, you will do some praying together as a group, but also plan to model your prayer habits. Show them your prayer journal. Or plan a prayer walk together as a group – with you leading the group. Or choose a special place in the forest or village that you can call your group’s prayer place – maybe a garden or the top of a building or out in an open field. Make a habit of taking your group there just for prayer. You might want to begin by using the praise, confession, thanksgiving, request format. Another idea is to assign a person in the group as the keeper of the group prayer journal. Here, things can be written down that the group wants to keep before God and to track over time.
There are 4 good questions here to get your group talking about this subject of prayer. Remember that this part of the lesson is only to get them thinking and talking. Don’t worry if they say something wrong or strange. Just listen, explore and learn what they have already experienced in prayer. Ask follow-up questions about what they say and the stories they tell.
Matthew 6:5-13 – This is a key passage where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. Often this prayer can be said without meaning or can become a ritual. So, take the time to write it out for yourself and break it down into individual sentences or phrases. Try to understand or define the meaning of each phrase, as well as the words used like – forgive, temptation, kingdom, etc.
Key Questions to Answer
- The text does not say how God will reward us for this kind of prayer. So, a variety of possible answers are welcome.
- The point of part A of #2 is about being relational with God in your conversation to him as opposed to being somehow manipulative like pagans and also some Christian prayers. This could open a good discussion about how we might be tempted to manipulate God in our prayers by praying some request over and over, or begging or lighting more candles or making extreme promises to God if he will only help in our crisis. These are all attempts to manipulate God.
The second part is all about authenticity in our communication with God. It’s not about the form or place that we pray, but about what is in our hearts. It should be real and sincere, not religious and fake.
- “Hallowed be your name” – This is an acknowledgment of God’s holiness and an expression of his greatness.
“Your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” – This is a request for God to make his truth known here on the earth, in the same way as it is in heaven. God’s kingdom will eventually be set up on the earth for 1,000 years when Jesus comes back to the earth in the future (Revelation 20:4-6).
“Forgive us …as we forgive” – This does not mean that God has not forgiven us if we don’t forgive someone else. This was spoken by Jesus before his sacrificial death for us. So now we have been forgiven, but it is still our duty to forgive as we have now been forgiven.
“Lead us not into temptation” – This is a way of saying to God that we want to be a part of the truth and not a part of evil. Our desire is for him and his life to be lived through us. God does lead people into temptation for testing as he did Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11, but he does not lead people into sin. Temptation is not sin.
These four exercises are very practical and simple, but if you as the leader don’t help your group get started in all these areas (ie. specific place for prayer, journaling prayers, tracking prayers and prayer partners) it probably will not happen. Take some time before the lesson to think about how you can help each group member take these action steps. For example, write down (so that you can remember to ask later) each group member’s choice of a prayer place. Maybe buy each group member a prayer journal and write a personal note inside.
Val from the Ukraine speaks about prayer while she is shopping for groceries. In her video she emphasizes the need for prayer, how she prays and why we should pray. Andrej from Slovakia talks about some of the disciplines of prayer in his life and how perseverance in prayer pays off. If you have time, use both of these videos for your lesson. Again, watch both videos beforehand and think of some key questions that could help the group remember this lesson.
Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Through the Week Study: There are so many topics here that can raise questions like about not being anxious, the Holy Spirit’s role in prayer, praying continually and others. Don’t let all these topics scare you. You can’t know all the answers to these issues. So, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know what that means” or “I don’t know that answer”. Then you can go and do your own research or ask a person who will know the answer before the next group session.
Try to take some time in the next week’s group meeting to ask for their thoughts on these readings from the “Habits” section. Ask questions like, “Did you experience giving your anxieties to God?” or, “What did you experience as you tried to pray continually?” or, “Can you tell us about a person who mistreats you, that you decided to pray for?” If no one asks these kinds of follow-up questions, this whole Elements study could become just a formal activity that has no life-changing value.