SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM (Download PDF)
Spend the week studying Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26-27, 1 John 5:14-15, John 14:13-14, 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. Praying with power requires that we pray in the Spirit, in Jesus’ name, in faith, in obedience, and in the will of God.
As your group time begins, use this section to help get the conversation going.
If you had to pick one word to describe your prayer life, what would it be?
What is the greatest struggle you face in your prayer life?
Last week we looked to Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in order to answer the question, “Why pray?” We learned that we are to pray because God commands us to pray as a means of growing in our relationship with Him and because prayer changes things. If we are honest, however, many of us would probably admit that our prayer life needs work and doesn’t seem to make as much of a difference in our life as we would like it to. Today we will see that the key to a powerful prayer life is to pray in the Spirit, in Jesus’ name, in faith, in obedience, and in God’s will.
Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ EPHESIANS 6:18 AND ROMANS 8:26-27.
What does it mean to pray “in the spirit”?
Why does the Holy Spirit get involved in our prayer lives?
What is encouraging to you about the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer? How should we feel knowing that the very Spirit of Christ is praying for us?
As Christians, we’ve all faced times when we weren’t sure what to pray for. Paul assured his readers that the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. We can trust the Spirit to pray for us when we don’t know what to pray, and we can trust Him to pray for us according to God’s will. This truth can take so much of the pressure off when it comes to prayer. The Holy Spirit is our prayer warrior, interceding whenever we need Him. Thus to pray “in the Spirit” as Paul commands in Ephesians 6:18 simply means to pray with the recognition that the Holy Spirit lives in us and will guide our prayers. The God of the universe prays for and with us. This should make us want to spend even more time with Him in prayer.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ JOHN 14:13-14 AND 1 JOHN 5:14-15.
What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13)?
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 pray with 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. Because of the promise of Christ, believers can be confident that God will do great things through them and their faith in Jesus.
Describe some of the differences between praying according to your will versus praying according to God’s will. What do we communicate to God when the majority of our prayers are rooted in our will?
John tells us to pray in line with God’s will, but how can we know His will?
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 study and meditate on Scripture and seek the will of God, we will ask ourselves not what we want, but what God wants. God has given us two ways to know His will—Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Decisions in line with God’s purposes will glorify Christ, bring us into conformity with His image, and free us for ministry. We can be confident that God will answer our prayers when we pray in faith, according to His will and prompted by His Spirit.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MARK 11:20-26.
What was Jesus’ lesson to the disciples about the fig tree?
What does it mean to pray in faith? How might one misuse Jesus’ words about prayer in v. 24?
Jesus gave a simple lesson with the fig tree: “Have faith in God.” Fruit and genuine worship comes because there is faith in God to remove anything that can hinder such fruit and genuine worship. Only when people are motivated and driven to God by faith can the faith yield the proper fruit. Praying in faith does not mean that we blindly trust that God will do whatever we say and give us whatever we ask for. Praying in faith means trusting God to move in our lives and conform us to His will such that we will begin to ask for those things which will glorify Him and advance His kingdom.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ JAMES 5:15.
In what situations or circumstances does James command believers to pray?
What does this tell us about prayer? What does this tell us about God?
James commands believers to pray when they are sick, cheerful, suffering, and in sin. In other words, we are to pray “at all times” (Ephesians 6:18). The fact that Scripture commands us to pray in all circumstances of life reminds us that our God is a loving Father who stands ready to guide, strengthen and forgive us when we pray. Prayer is a powerful tool because the one to whom we pray is powerful.
Look at verse 16 and read 1 Peter 3:7. How might disobedience to God’s command negatively affect your prayer life?
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.
Are your prayers focused on Jesus’ name and submitted to His will? What might need to change about your prayer life for this to be true of you?
If you were to analyze the content and frequency of your prayers, what would they communicate about your understanding of God and your faith in Him? What steps can you take to ensure that your prayers more accurately reflect Jesus’ teaching in this passage?
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.
Read James 5:16 again. How might confessing our sins to one another and praying for one another help us to grow spiritually?
How might we as a group encourage one another to pray more regularly and more fervently?
Thank God for showing us how we can pray with power. Ask God to give your group members a passion for God’s glory and a desire to do His will. Thank God for the gift of prayer. Ask Him to use our prayers to deepen our faith and equip us for kingdom work.
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:
- What do you typically pray for? Does it reflect a confident faith that God can do what He promises to do?
- Of the five ways we were challenged to pray (in the Spirit, in Jesus’ name, in faith, in obedience, and in the will of God), which is most difficult for you? How might you change the way you approach God in prayer to address this deficiency in your prayer life?
The challenge to memorize 1 John 5:14-15.
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.
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.
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 pray with 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.
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.
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.