Small Group Curriculum

Expect His Answer

07.27.14 | Sermon Series: Engage


COACHING VIDEO


SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM  (Download PDF)

PREPARATION

Spend the week studying Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26, 1 John 5:14-15, John 14:13, Mark 11:20-26, and James 5:13-18. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.

Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.

Focus on the Main Point. Jesus commands us to pray as a means of conforming our will to His and trusting Him to work in our lives for His glory and our good.

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to help get the conversation going.

What comes to your mind when you think of prayer?

How do you think most people in our culture tend to think of prayer? When do people in our culture tend to pray?

People often only go to God when there is something they want or need. While God wants us to lean on Him for our needs, when we only pray to ask God for things, our prayers can be imbalanced and unhelpful. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to pray like this: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” This shows us that prayer is less about getting God on board with our agenda and more about asking God to conform us to His. When we are committed to His kingdom and submitted to His will, we will see Him do “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20).

LEARN

Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 6:5-8.

Jesus’ teaching on prayer implies that prayer is something that disciples are to engage in regularly. Jesus says, “When you pray . . . “ (v. 5, 7). Before giving His disciples a model prayer, Jesus first taught on the motivation and manner of prayer (Matt. 6:5-8).

How can we know if our motives are pure when it comes to prayer? What are some obvious indications that our motives might not be pure?

What three kinds of prayer did Jesus say to avoid?

If you only prayed in public and never in private, what might that reveal about your heart? Why are both types of prayer necessary?

The purpose of prayer is not to inform God. Rather, prayer expresses to Him (and to ourselves) the reality of our inability to meet our own needs. Biblical prayer is an act of faith—an expression of dependence on God. Meaningless repetition signifies dependence on oneself in an attempt to manipulate or badger God into compliance. God knows what we need and desire before we ask (v. 8).

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 6:9-13.

Why do you think Jesus told the disciples to pray “Our Father” instead of “My Father”? Why is that distinction important?

The pronoun “our” reminds us that a personal relationship with the Father brings us into relationship with all who are in the family of faith. Nowhere in the model prayer do we find the singular pronouns “me,” “my,” or “I.” Love for God and concern for others are bundled together for those who by faith know God as Father.

Take a look at the six specific things Jesus prayed for in His model prayer. What general aspect of prayer does each specific statement represent?

What do we learn about how to pray from Jesus’ example? Why do you think God approves of this type of prayer?

Jesus began by praising God, mentioning His role as Father and His holiness. He then stated His purpose—that the kingdom come and the Father’s will be done. The attitude of a person whose desire is for someone else’s will to be done is an attitude of humility. Christ, though fully God and equal with the Father, taught a humble prayer that aligned with God’s plan and God’s will. Believers should follow such an example because of the acknowledgement of the power and wisdom of God. Jesus gave a blanket prayer for God’s provision when He asked for daily bread (v. 11). Of course, Jesus taught in other places that we can bring all our needs to God. In stark contrast to the “many words” of the “idolaters” (Matt. 6:7), this is a noble and unadorned expression of simple faith. Next, He asked for God’s pardon and protection—specific prayers asking for God to work in the life of His child. He closed His prayer with another statement of praise.

How does praying as Jesus demonstrated help us keep our motives in check?

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 7:7-11.

How are asking, seeking, and knocking similar? How are they different?

What did Jesus say the results of these actions would be?

Asking, seeking, and knocking are activities that should be repeated, indicating constant or persistent prayer. The command to keep asking is tied to the promise of “good things” to those who ask in verse 11. God has given us many amazing promises in His Word, but the promise of this passage seems too good to be true: If we persistently pursue God, He’ll make us into kingdom people. When we’re in the mindset of the kingdom, the things we ask for are the things God wants us to have—things that bring Him glory—such as faith, wisdom, love, grace, and strength. Our prayers will focus less on the stuff we desire and more on the relationship we need with Him.

Based on these verses, why can we have confidence in God’s answers to our prayers?

How has God answered the prayers of His people in the Bible? How might these examples encourage us to trust God when we ask, seek, and knock?

Hezekiah prayed and his life was lengthened by 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-11). Moses prayed and God spared the Israelites (Exodus 32). Jesus prayed and Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:38-44). Jehosophat prayed and Israel’s enemies were routed (2 Chronicles 20). The early church prayed and Peter was miraculously freed from prison (Acts 12). These examples remind us of a simple but incredibly powerful truth: when we pray, God acts. God calls us to pray with confidence, because we know that the one to whom we pray has the power to change lives and break strongholds.

LIVE

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives. Create some talking points for the group by looking at the practical implications of the lesson. Get group members to talk about the real-life implications of the passage. Look at what can be applied specifically to Pinelake.

Why is it important to recognize the differences between our wants and our needs as we pray?

What differences do you see between the attitude of Jesus’ model prayer and the way you usually pray?

 LEAD

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage impact the way you lead at Pinelake and interact with people outside of Pinelake.

Share about a time when God answered your prayers. How might remembering such experiences from the past help us trust God in the present?

Read James 4:1-3. How can we guard against asking “with wrong motives”?

How might your prayer life need to change in order for you to be focused on living for God’s kingdom and glory?

PRAY

Thank God for teaching us to pray. Ask God to shift your focus in prayer to His Kingdom and glory. Pray that God would help us to trust Him to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine in the lives and ministry of the members of Pinelake.

FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following information:

Questions to consider as they continue to reflect on what they learned this week:

    • How has your prayer life changed this week as you’ve reflected on Jesus’ teaching and example?
    • How do you need to adjust your attitude to align with Christ’s?

The challenge to memorize Matthew 7:7-8.


COMMENTARY

EPHESIANS 6:18

Four times in this verse Paul used Greek forms for “all” or “every.” All kinds of prayer. There is more than one way to talk to God. Here, the apostle used both a general term (prayer) and a specific term (request). All times of prayer. There is no wrong time to pray! Morning prayers, mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, and battle-time prayers are all acceptable. Yet they are to be motivated by the Spirit, not just become a ritual or something perfunctory. Believers are to stay alert in prayer. All perseverance in prayer. Prayer is to be continual. Jesus Himself made this clear in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1- 8). All objects of prayer. Believers should pray for each other—all the saints— knowing that they are also experiencing spiritual warfare in their own lives.

ROMANS 8:26

Hope sustains and helps the believer through the present times of suffering. In the same way, the Spirit helps and sustains the believer in weakness, specifically through the ministry of prayer. The advocacy role of the Spirit was promised by Jesus, and this is part of the fulfillment of those promises (see John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). Paul’s description of the Spirit’s role in prayer is one of the most intimate glimpses we have in all of Scripture of the inner workings of the Godhead. When we are weak and trembling, confused about the purposes of God in our sufferings or our confusion, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

In language we cannot understand, the Father searches the human heart, the abode of the Spirit, to hear the Spirit’s prayer. When the Father hears His will being prayed by the Spirit (because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will), then the Father and Spirit are in perfect harmony for the purposes of God to be accomplished in the believer through the instrument of prayer.

JOHN 14:13

The word whatever covers a lot of territory, but it is qualified by Jesus’ words “in my name.” To pray in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula to recite or a mere formality with which to conclude a prayer. Instead, it means to pray in accord with His character and His purpose. To pray in Jesus’ name is to praywith the recognition of who He is,what He stands for, and what He seeks to accomplish. To pray in Jesus’ name involves the recognition that Jesus holds editing rights over all our prayers. Overcoming obstacles and accomplishing great deeds for Christ involve fervent prayer.

1 JOHN 5:14-15

Prayer was previously discussed in chapter 3. The Christian may have confidence in approaching God in prayer. Our confidence in prayer is a natural consequence of our assurance that we have eternal life (vv. 12-13). We may ask anything according to God’s will, and we will receive it. This leads many Christians to ask, How can I know what the will of God is? Sometimes Scripture will tell us what the will of God is, either explicitly or in principle. It may take spiritual maturation and discernment to learn which principles of Scripture should guide our prayers. Elsewhere, we are told that if we “abide (remain, NIV) in Jesus and God’s Word abides in us, we may ask what we will and it will be given” (John 15:7-8,16).

Prayer must be viewed not as our attempt to get God to see things from our point of view but as our attempt to see things from God’s point of view. When we grow, mature, study, and meditate on Scripture and seek the will of God, we try to ask ourselves not what we want, but what God wants. Then we make progress in prayer.

MARK 11

11:22. The Bible translations have this verse as the beginning of a new paragraph and a new section on the teaching of prayer. But this verse is actually a response to Peter and should finish the scene of the withered fig tree. The disciples understood Jesus’ metaphor and knew that the temple would be destroyed some day. Peter’s fear would have been a natural reaction to the loss of a way of life, no matter how burdensome. This is reminiscent of Habakkuk 2:4. Habakkuk learned that God would punish Israel by using the invasion of the Babylonians. He was horrified but testifies, “The righteous will live by his faith.”

11:23-24. This saying is not in Luke or Matthew, probably because Jesus taught on prayer more than once. Jesus was using hyperbole as He did in 10:25. He did not intend for Christians to try to move literal mountains. But He did expect us to believe that our prayers can overcome great difficulties.

We must have faith when we pray. But our faith is not in the strength of our prayers, nor in the size of our faith.

11:25. This is not Jesus’ only teaching on prayer. We know that Christians are to pray within God’s will, as taught in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:10). John states this clearly. “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” (1 John 5:14-15). God’s will is a prerequisite of the prayer of faith. We know that God’s will is for us to forgive as we have been forgiven. If we cannot forgive, then we are not praying in God’s will.

JAMES 5

5:13-14. James used a series of questions followed by commands as an effective way of exhorting the congregation to prayer and worship. Suffering in verse 13 is not a reference to physical ill- ness; it is instead a spiritual burden caused by misfortune or poor choices. Elders, who functioned in various capacities in the early church, should anoint any sick person with olive oil and pray over him. Olive oil was considered a cure-all ointment in the ancient world, but for James the real healing power is in prayer.

5:15. The prayer of faith echoes 1:5-8. Save refers to physical healing (as in Mark 5:23,28,34; 10:52; John 11:12). The Lord will restore him to health does not indicate that death is at hand (v. 14), but that once healed by the power of God the sick person could get up and walk (Matthew 9:5-7; Mark 1:31; 2:9- 12; 9:27; Acts 3:7). He will be forgiven indicates that perhaps the illness was connected with sin, and the prayers of the elders could bring spiritual healing as well.