A Church That Prays

“A Church That Prays.”
--from December 3rd  --

Day 1

Read James 5:13-20

What exactly is prayer?  Are you able to nail that idea down in a few words? 

This passage in James is a great place to build a definition of what prayer is.  The trouble is, that some people have latched on to singular specific parts of this passage and the culture of what we call prayer has been shaped in the church.  For the modern day church, prayer, as highlighted in the times of prayer that the church has, is nothing more than the hotline connection to God for things that are needed.  Prayer is synonymous with asking for something.  As if it is the motivation piece that gets God up out of His seat and moving.  Therefore, in the church, when we pray, we pray about the prayer requests.  Because we model this at the church (and yes, I am also talking about Keystone Church here!), when we go home and pray, we do the same thing. The model carries over into how we pray with our kids as well and therefore they learn the same thing.  It is an endless cycle and in order for a change to happen, we have to know what is worth changing the cycle.  So let’s start there…what should we change?

What percentage (a guess) of your prayer is asking for things?

What else can prayer be than just asking for things?

By way of practice, not as a new habit for all the time, but try to pray without asking for anything.

Day 2

Read Matthew 6:5-14

A really good practice to have is praying in public. This will look different for different situations. I certainly think that there is plenty of biblical evidence showing that prayer should be corporate, in a group.  That makes this set of teachings we just looked at a bit strange.  If Jesus were talking about specific practices, then this would create some issues, because here He certainly seems to be telling us to only pray in private.  But I think a careful reading of what is being said here lends itself to the realization that Jesus is talking about what is going on in the heart once again. The moments that our prayers become for a show or even to impress anyone, then we have lost sight of what we set out to do.  Jesus is not interested in our well orchestrated words and impressed with our flow and call of Biblical knowledge.  Prayer like this doesn’t reflect the heart the follower of Jesus is supposed to have. Jesus then took the time to teach us a prayer.  

What are you supposed to learn from this prayer of Jesus?

How does this prayer look different from your prayers?

How does forgiveness and your view of forgiveness affect prayer?

Day 3

Read Psalm 51

So far this week, we have talked about prayer that has flowery language meant to impress everyone and how praying in private shows the opposite of that.  James 5, the text from the sermon Sunday, also encourages us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other.  So let’s bring those two ideas together here.  David is confessing his sin in this Psalm, that reads a lot like a prayer.  There is something I notice that is very different from my prayers in this Psalm, the words.  Where I would be tempted to pray a simpler prayer of “God, I am sorry.  I should not have done that.” David seems to unload a poetic explanation of theology while also confessing his sin.  So what do you do with this type of prayer after reading what Jesus said in Matthew 6 yesterday?  I mean, it is fair to say that a lot of words were used to describe David’s sin and asking forgiveness for that, and I do mean a lot.  

Here, David was praying from his heart, I doubt anyone would really argue against that.  Maybe it was from that place that the deep explanation was coming from?  Maybe it is us that needs to consider what exactly our sins are costing us and those around us, and this would flow out of our prayers in good theology as we work through it all?

What do you notice in David’s prayer that you should consider for your own prayers?

Why do you think it would be important to be so detailed and spend so many words on confession?

What do you think David is trying to say in verse 13?

Day 4

Read Acts 12:1-20

When it comes to things that have happened to you that you have to share with people when you are in a group, this seems like it would top the list for me!  What a crazy set of events.  When you are sitting in prison and trying to hang on to hope, thinking of ways you could be freed, walking out the door following an angel probably isn’t given too much head space. 

We are focusing on prayer in our study this week, so I encourage you to pay attention to that.  One of the struggles that I think people have is hearing a story like this and then looking for the exact same thing to happen.  In other words, that is what God did, so I am going to pray that relative out of prison.  This story may be comforting in some ways to that story, but don’t get lost in the weeds trying to find meaning here.  There is a highlight that is made on people, especially the church, praying corporately for those in difficult times. I think it is safe to take it that far, but be careful after this.  Our bottom line point for the week has been “True reliance on God can’t happen without prayer.”  

Do you think that the surprise to see Peter was an indication of the church’s faith in what they were praying for?

Do you think God would have done the same thing without the church praying? Why or why not?

What is something happening in your life right now that you could apply this idea of the church praying about it together?

Day 5

Read Psalm 147

When we were reading our main passage from James 5:13-20, verse 13 ends a bit differently than the rest of the context.  James is talking about praying, then all of the sudden he throws in this one thing about praise as well.  The reason that it seems so strange to us, is because we have prayer and praise in two different categories.  Prayer is where we bring our requests before God, and praise is what we do to music in a song.  Both of these are not good definitions of what they are trying to represent.  Prayer, as we have discussed, is more than just bringing requests to God and praise is more than just music and singing.  

There are so many Psalms like this one, that just spin words and thoughts over and over again, highlighting the goodness of God and his work and words.  This is a lost practice among us followers of Jesus that requires more than just a habit to correct.  We are too busy to make these kinds of thoughts for too long and therefore we do not break out into praise quite like this.  

By way of an example, when you see a sunset, is your response to proclaim about the beauty and goodness of God because of what you are witnessing, or do you snap a picture and prepare a post for everyone to get to see and comment on what you captured?  The question is not do you do one or the other, because one is right and one is wrong, but rather what is the motivation behind what you are doing?

Look around you right now, considering events going on, sights you have seen, or even how you have been blessed, proclaim God’s goodness like the Psalmists did here.  Just spend some time reminding yourself of the truths that you already know about God and declare those back to Him in prayer.  That’s a great way to end the week’s discussion!

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