Small Group Curriculum

Experience His Presence

07.20.14 | Sermon Series: Engage




Spend the week studying Mark 1:35-39, Luke 10:38-42, and James 1:19-21. 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. Prayer is communion and conversation with God. God has given us prayer as a means of submitting our lives to Him and deepening our delight in Christ.


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

What is your process for making big decisions? Do you tend to seek the counsel of others or handle the decision on your own?

Why are we sometimes hesitant to seek the counsel of others when it comes to making such decisions?

Jesus prayed to the Father before every major decision and event in His earthly ministry. Jesus did so not merely for counsel, but because He delighted to be with God and to do His will (John 8:29). Sometimes we are hesitant to seek the counsel of others because we are pressed for time or because we know we probably won’t like the counsel we will get. Jesus, however, always made time to seek God and submit to His will.


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


The events of Jesus’ ministry up to this point had been rapid, coming one after the other. They also would have been emotionally and spiritually exhausting. The humanity of Jesus is evident in these words: Jesus got up and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Even Jesus needed to recharge His batteries by withdrawing from the crowds and talking with His Father. This was a time of renewal and preparation for Jesus. Two other times in Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus getting away to pray (6:46; 14:32-41). Each time, He was preparing for a crisis.

After a hectic day of helping others (vv. 29-34), Jesus needed some time to be alone and pray. What do you think He prayed for?

When did Jesus pray? Where did He go to pray? What does this tell us about Jesus’ priorities? About His prayer life?

How might this time in prayer relate to Jesus’ decision to move on (v. 38)?

Jesus rose, departed, and went to a desolate place to pray. Jesus dedicated Himself to spending time with God even when it inconvenienced His disciples (vv. 36-37). Jesus’ dedication to pray in the morning and His commitment to praying in a “desolate place” illustrates that Jesus prioritized spending time with God. To Jesus, prayer was an opportunity to connect with God and enjoy His presence. Jesus’ time in prayer energized Him to move on to the next towns and continue preaching the gospel. Similarly, God has given us prayer so that we might connect with Him and be empowered to join Him in His mission.

When it comes to your day-to-day mission as a disciple of Christ, how much of a priority is time alone with God?

What is the greatest obstacle you face in your devotional life?


Compare and contrast Mary and Martha. Which sister do you resonate with more and why?

What was Jesus’ reaction to Martha’s interruption (vv. 40-42)? What was “the one thing” Mary chose? Why was it better?

The one necessary thing was to be ministered to by Jesus. Jesus knew that spiritual nourishment was far more important than physical nourishment. Jesus’ commendation of Mary reminds us that our most precious possession is the relationship we have with God through Christ. Prayer is valuable because Christ is the most valuable gift in the universe. God has given us prayer to increase our joy in Him.

John Ortberg said, “The goal of prayer is not to get good at praying . . . The goal of prayer is to live all my life and speak all my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God.”1 What does Mary teach us about being joyfully aware of the presence of God?

How might keeping this goal in mind change your perspective on prayer? How might it change the way you pray?


Chip said, “Most of us never take time to listen to God. Our prayer lives are a monologue and not a dialogue.” What is wrong with praying this way?

How might James’ command to “be quick to hear and slow to speak” apply to prayer? How should Scripture inform and direct our prayers?

What does it mean to receive God’s “implanted word” with meekness (v. 21)? Why is it important that we approach God with meekness in prayer?

Chip said, “listening to God is the key to a transformed prayer life.” While God speaks to us through His Spirit and through the wisdom of other believers, the primary and most authoritative way God speaks to us is through the Bible. Thus when we study Scripture, we must recognize that God is speaking to us. If we truly hope to pray according to God’s will and in a manner that glorifies Him, we must look to Scripture to inform and direct our prayers. When prayer becomes a dialogue, its stops being about getting God to do what we want and becomes about us delighting in God and submitting our lives to His glory.

1 John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2009), 134.

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.

Do you tend to think of prayer as “communing and communicating with God.” Why or why not? How might keeping this definition in mind change the way you approach God in prayer?

What is one step you might take this week to prioritize drawing near to God in prayer?


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.

As you evaluate your day, what can you conclude are your main priorities? Starting tomorrow, what needs to change about your daily routine in order to help you prioritize your relationship with God in prayer?

Are your prayers filled with joy? How might you cultivate a joyful heart when you pray?

How can you be more thoughtful about how you approach God in prayer?


Thank God for giving us the gift of prayer by which we might commune and communicate with Him. Ask God to help the members of your group to deepen their connection to Him through prayer.


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 have you heard from God in His Word so far this week? How should that inform your prayers?
    • What have you done with what you’ve heard?

The challenge to memorize Mark 1:35.


MARK 1:35-39

1:35. The word translated “solitary place” is the same that is translated “desert” in 1:3, 4,12,13 and perhaps suggests the same kind of spiritual testing described in the last two. There was no desert near Capernaum, and obviously Jesus wanted to find a secluded place apart from the crowds and even the disciples. The imperfect tense suggests prolonged prayer. In only two other places did Mark indicate that Jesus prayed, in 6:46 after walking on the water and in 14:32-42 in Gethsemane. All three were times of crisis when Jesus was tempted to take an easy way rather than that of suffering and death.

1:36. Mark perhaps referred to “Simon and his companions” (Andrew, James, and John?, vv. 16-20) rather than the disciples because they did not act as disciples should (though Mark did not use the term disciple at all until 2:15). The verb translated “went to look for” usually means to pursue with hostile intent. Of course it reflects Mark’s point of view, not that of the disciples.

1:37. Here Mark indicated the error of the disciples. They wanted Jesus to take advantage of His growing popularity and perform more miracles. However, Jesus’ primary mission was not to be a miracle-worker but a redeemer. The disciples failed to understand that the popularity itself made Jesus want to withdraw. The people of Capernaum apparently had no interest in Jesus beyond His miracles or any interest in coming under the reign of God. The verb Mark chose near the end of verse 37 is filled with irony. Whatever Aramaic verb the disciples used, they meant it in a good sense. Everywhere else in Mark, however, the Greek verb, which is not the same as in verse 36, translated “looking for” means to seek with evil or inappropriate intention. Mark recognized that the acclaim of the crowd was not good. Verse 37 is the first instance in Mark where the disciples failed to understand the mission of Jesus.

1:38. Jesus’ answer contains an ambiguity. The last statement could be translated literally, “For this [purpose] I have come out.” The question is whether the reference is to leaving Capernaum, going into all of Galilee, or having come from God. Luke’s parallel (4:43) takes the third possibility, and Mark probably meant the same thing (cf. Mark 1:24).

1:39. This Markan summary characterizes Jesus’ ministry as one of synagogue preaching and exorcisms. “Their synagogues” possibly reflects the separation of the church and synagogue in the time of Mark, or it may have been a reference to Galilean synagogues.

LUKE 10:38-42

10:38-39. The village in v. 38 was Bethany, just over the Mount of Olives and two miles east of Jerusalem. Martha and Mary were the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (Jn 11:1-44). Sat at the Lord’s feet... listening was the posture of a committed disciple.

10:40-42. Martha was distracted from what should have been her highest priority—learning from Jesus. She was worried and upset about all the household chores that needed to be done and irritated with her sister Mary because it was the role of women to serve men in such a setting. Jesus indicated that Martha’s exclusive focus should be the same as her sister’s—discipleship, an eternally commendable choice (it will not be taken away from her).