12. Mastering A Plan for Formal Time Together—Prayer
IA. A Bible Study on Prayer
1B. The Nature and Foundation of Prayer
1C. Matthew 7:7-11
7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. 7:9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 7:10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 7:11 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
2C. Acts 4:24-31
4:24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master of all, you who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them, 4:25 who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather,
‘Why do the nations rage, And the peoples plot foolish things? 4:26 The kings of the earth stood together, And the rulers assembled together, Against the Lord and against his Christ.’
4:27 “For both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 4:28 to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. 4:29 And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 4:30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 4:31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.
3C. Ephesians 2:17-18
2:17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 2:18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
4C. Hebrews 4:15-16
4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.
1. In Matthew 7:7-11 what does it mean to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock”? What are the images here? What sense about prayer do you get from them?
2. What do vv. 8-11 teach you about the heart of God, his goodness, and his willingness to give? How does this help you to persevere in prayer?
3. How did Peter, John, and the others “raise their voices to God” in Acts 4:24? What does “one mind” mean? How important is “unity with other Christians” to a prosperous prayer life? Note: You may want to wait until you have completed more of this study before you answer that question. Keep it in your mind for now.
4. How did the early Christians address God in Acts 4:24? Why is God’s sovereignty in creating, sustaining, and guiding all of creation important to recognize in prayer (see Acts 4:28)?
5. What Scripture passage do they pray in Acts 4:25? How does that inform and impact their prayers? What can you learn from this?
6. What do these early Christians pray for in Acts 4:29? What do they ask God to do (Acts 4:30)? What was the result of their prayer (Acts 4:31)?
7. Who gives us access to the Father in Ephesians 2:17-18? How is this the foundation for the possibility and practice of prayer?
8. When we are in need, what does Hebrews 4:15-16 teach us to do? How is God’s throne referred to here? How is that encouraging? What is implied with the use of the verb “find”? NOTE: As a needy creature, you will look somewhere for what only God can offer. Why not come to Him first?
2B. Perseverance in Prayer
1C. Psalm 88:1, 13
88:1 O Lord God who delivers me! By day I cry out and at night I pray before you. 88:13 As for me, I cry out to you, O Lord; in the morning my prayer confronts you.
2C. Luke 18:1
18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.
1. What emotional state is conveyed by the words, “I cry out” in Psalm 88:13? How do you respond to your suffering? Do you pray? Or, do you quit praying? Why? Read all of Psalm 88 and note the psalmist’s attitudes and struggles.
2. In Luke 18:1 Jesus teaches us that we should always pray. What does it mean, then, to “lose heart”? What things can cause us to become discouraged with prayer and give up? Read the rest of the passage, i.e., from 18:1-8.
3B. The Pattern of Prayer
1C. Matthew 6:9-15
6:9 So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, 6:10 may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 6:11 Give us today our daily bread, 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.
The “term” A.C.T.S. is an acronym developed to help us mentally focus while we pray; it keeps our minds from wandering. In general, it follows the pattern of prayer Jesus outlined for us in Matthew 6:9-15.
1. Why do you think Jesus, who was opposed to the mindless repetition of long prayers, gave this pattern for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13? Why is a pattern for prayer important? NOTE: “pray this way” implies, to some degree, that what follows is a model or pattern for prayer. But notice that while this pattern is followed throughout the NT, the prayer itself is not repeated verbatim anywhere.
2. Who does Jesus tell us to focus on first in prayer (6:9)? How are we to address God? What two things are we to pray concerning God (6:9-10)? Later in the study, come back and relate Matthew 6:9-10 to 1 John 5:14-15.
3. After we’ve addressed God and His concerns, Jesus leads us to pray for ourselves. What three things does he say to pray for in 6:11-13? How would you summarize these things and what conditions are attached in 6:12 and 6:14-15? Why is forgiveness so important to Jesus’ conception of true prayer?
4. Summary: What does A.C.T.S. mean? How is it helpful?
4B. The Preconditions of Prayer
1C. Psalm 66:18
66:18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the sovereign Master would not have listened.
2C. Mark 11:24-25
11:24 For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 11:25 Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.”
3C. John 16:24
16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete.
4C. James 4:1-3
4:1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? 4:2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; 4:3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.
5C. 1 John 5:14-15
5:14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 5:15 And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.
1. What does Psalm 66:18 teach us about the relationship of answered prayer to known sin in our lives?
2. What two conditions are placed upon prayer in Mark 11:24-25? How are they related to each other? Mark 11:24 seems to be a carte blanche or free ticket to get whatever we want. All we need to do is believe! But is this true? How does v. 25 place a restriction, to some degree, upon v. 24 and how do the other passages in this section (i.e., 4B) round out Jesus’ meaning here? What, then, is Jesus’ point about the centrality of faith in our prayer lives?
3. What does it mean to ask for something from God “in the name of Christ” (John 16:24)? What is the result of answered prayer in John 16:24? How does John 16:24 relate to the same author’s words in 1 John 5:14-15? What is the number one delimitation placed upon prayer? How does this relate to some peoples’ concept that God is simply a nickelodeon waiting for someone to put in a nickel’s worth of prayer? On the other hand, what does God say he’ll do if we ask according to his will?
4. According to James 4:1-3, what are some other reasons for God refusing to grant our requests?
5B. The Power of Prayer
1C. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
7:13 When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, 7:14 if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
2C. James 5:14-16
5:14 Is anyone among you ill? He should summon the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up—and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.
1. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the chronicler lists three things that must go with prayer if we want God to respond from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land. What are they and how are they related to each other and other verses in this section? What does 7:14 teach about God’s willingness to respond to sincere and truthful prayer? Do you think the church is currently availing itself, to the degree that it could, of God’s wonderful promise of restoration, forgiveness, provision, and divine enablement?
2. What does James say about prayer in 5:14-16? We have seen all throughout this study that there is an explicit connection made between ethics and prayer in Biblical teaching. Indeed, this was made clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Are you surprised to see James make the same connection again at the end of 5:16? What does he say about the relationship of answered prayer and the condition of one’s spiritual and ethical life? We often focus on the power of prayer and forget that God listens to people not prayers, per se.
6B. The Practice of Prayer
1C. Mark 1:35
1:35 Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer.
2C. Luke 6:12
6:12 Now it was during this time that he went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.
3C. Acts 1:14
1:14 All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
4C. Romans 12:12
12:12 Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer.
5C. Colossians 4:2-3
4:2 Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. 4:3 At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.
6C. Colossians 4:12
4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ, greets you. He is always struggling in prayer on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
7C. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
5:16 Always rejoice, 5:17 constantly pray, 5:18 in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1. What does the example of Jesus teach us about the necessity of focused and regular prayer? Why would the Son of God need to pray so much? What does that imply about us?
2. What is Paul’s basic point about prayer in his letters? How does this relate to Jesus’ teaching in, say, Luke 18:1?
3. How did Paul characterize Epaphroditus’s prayer life on behalf of the Colossians? How does this relate to Luke 18:1 and Paul’s teaching on prayer? Have you ever sustained this kind of ministry for others? What would it be like to do so? Who could you pray constantly for, to see them mature in their Christian faith?
7B. The Petitions of Prayer
1C. Jeremiah 33:3
33:3 ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’
2C. Matthew 9:37-38
9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 9:38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”.
3C. Luke 6:28
6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
4C. John 14:13-14
14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
5C. Acts 26:29
26:29 Paul replied, “I pray to God that whether in a short or a long time not only you but also all those who are listening to me today could become such as I am, except for these chains.”
6C. Romans 10:13
10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
7C. Ephesians 3:14-20
3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. 3:16 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man, 3:17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, by being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 3:19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 3:20 Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, 3:21 to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
8C. Philippians 4:6-7
4:6 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. 4:7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
9C. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
2:1 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2:2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
9C. James 1:5-8
1:5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him. 1:6 But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind. 1:7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, 1:8 since he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
1. What did God encourage Jeremiah to ask for? What promise did He attach to it? How can that apply to us today? Read the context of Jeremiah 33.
2. What does the Lord encourage us to pray for in Matthew 9:37-38? How is this related to the pattern for prayer he gave us? Cf. Matthew 6:10?
3. According to Luke 6:28 how are we to treat our enemies? Who is an enemy and what would you pray for him/her/them?
4. Why does the Son answer our prayers according to John 14:13? How does that relate to asking in “Christ’s name”?
5. What does Paul pray for King Agrippa? How does this relate to Romans 10:13?=
6. Praying for the growth of believers can be very exciting as we watch God work in their lives. What is the ultimate goal for which Paul prays for churches in Ephesians 3:14-21? How does verse 20 relate to his prayer? We often detach verse 20 from its immediate context, and it is true that God can do amazing things, but what is Paul’s point in verse 20 as it stands in Ephesians 3:14-21? How does this relate to the basic point of 2:11-22 and living with Christians who are in many ways different than we are?
7. According to Philippians 4:6 what attitude does Paul prohibit us from sowing to? What, instead, are we to do? How does “thanksgiving”—a common theme in biblically oriented prayer—relate to anxiety and what do both thanksgiving and anxiety reveal about the nature of our belief concerning God’s goodness and power?
8. What does God promise us in Phil 4:7 and how does it relate to our circumstances and His sovereign control (see Romans 5:1-5 and 8:28-29)?
9. Who are we commanded to pray for in 1 Timothy 2:1-2? Why should we pray for them (2:2b-4)?
10. James says that we can ask God for wisdom to know how to live righteously in any and every circumstance. What is the condition for such a prayer to be answered?
11. We are told by James to ask for wisdom from God and that God will give freely. But people easily doubt the wisdom that comes from God (James 1:6-8). Why is this so? Could it be connected to the nature of God’s wisdom for us (James 3:17)? NOTE: It is fallen human nature to ask for something and then doubt the answer when it seems difficult or unpleasant. For example, James’ advice to “rejoice” in our trials hardly meets with approval among most people, yet it is God’s wisdom. To doubt it is to walk in unbelief and eventual chastisement. To do it is to trust and be rewarded (James 1:22). To rejoice in our trials is to walk in the Spirit wrought conviction that God cares, is wise, and knows what he’s doing.
8B. The Problems of Prayer
1C. Mark 14:38
14:38 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
2C. Luke 20:45-47
20:45 As all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 20:46 “Beware of the experts in the law. They like walking around in long robes, and they love elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 20:47 They devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. They will receive a more severe punishment.”
1. What is the problem in Mark 14:38? Have you ever experienced this? Why is preservation from temptation linked with prayer? What does this teach you about our responsibility in sanctification (see e.g. Phil 2:12-13)?
2. Luke 20:45-47 presents another problem in prayer. What is it? What does Jesus say will happen to those who flaunt their prayers in this way? Why? What do they demonstrate about themselves when they consistently pray with open and flagrant demonstrations of personal religious achievement? Are they stealing the glory due to God alone (Isa 42:8; John 5:44).
IIA. Synthesis, Practical Applications, and Training
1C. Review the Truths about Prayer
2C. Organize the Truths in Your Mind
1C. State the Essential Truth about the Meaning of Prayer
2C. Bring in Other Biblical Ideas about Prayer
1C. To Other Biblical Doctrines
2C. To Your Life: How? When? Where? Why? Who? What?
1C. Ongoing Applications
1D. Daily Prayer in Quiet Time: ACTS (Time, Place)
2D. Developing a Prayer Journal (Attention/Purpose/Watchfulness)
3D. Spontaneous Prayer throughout the Day
4D. Praying Psalms
2C. Special Applications
1D. Prayer Map of the World
2D. Praise Prayer (Music)
3D. Prayer Partners
4D. Extended Times in Prayer
5D. Special Family or Church Prayer Times
6D. Read Books on Prayer (e.g., George Muller; Missionaries)
3C. Training Objectives and Activities
Objective: To help the person establish the habit of concentrated prayer each day as well as the habit of routinely initiating spontaneous prayer.