Following Jesus: Some Assembly Required – Week 3

Pray

Week of March 27, 2022

Opener
Evangelist and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, believed that living holy lives required believers to share their lives in intimate fellowship on a regular basis. His development of small groups revolutionized 18th century England and continues to influence us today as we gather to learn together in CoreGroups. For Wesley, small groups provided a framework to help people grow in 'holiness of heart and life.' Wesley used a series of spiritual questions to guide the groups’ time together. Over the course of this series, we will open our time together by responding to one or two of these questions.
  1. Am I enjoying prayer?  (What makes it enjoyable or not? Why is it even relevant that we enjoy prayer?  What changes might affect how you experience prayer?)
  2. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  3. Do I thank God that I am not as other people - especially as the Pharisee who despised the Publican?  (see Luke 18:9-14)

Opening Prayer: 
God, we come to you in prayer seeking to learn to pray.  We confess that prayer often seems awkward to us, and we think our words are all wrong.  We don’t know if we ask too much or too little; we don’t know how many words are enough.  But we know we want to talk to you and know that you hear.  Would you be with us as we study together?  We need your presence.  Amen

Historical Context:
Luke writes his gospel from the unique perspective of a Gentile and one who would have been excluded from the Jewish community apart from the grace of Jesus.  Perhaps it is because of this that he makes note of the ways in which Jesus draws all men into the community of faith.  One significant practice that fosters relationships both with God and with others is prayer. These first two passages in Luke, which mark the beginning and the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry,  mirror how God has chosen to reveal himself throughout Biblical history.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the One who is always working and the One who finishes the work he began. In prayer Jesus demonstrates his own relationship to the Father while he was on earth –first as he prays submitting himself for baptism, a first step in the life of a believer and ultimately as he hangs on the cross, yielding his life unto God having finished the work of salvation.  In the third scripture Jesus was teaching his disciples about prayer.  There are numerous references throughout the gospels that tell us Jesus often went away from the crowds and even from his core disciples to pray alone.  Perhaps it was observing his practice of spending time with the Father that prompted the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  There are also plenty of times when Jesus would tell them how to persist in prayer, how to both honor and trust God in their prayers.  

Scripture Reading:
Luke 3:21-22
When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Luke 23:46
Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.
Matthew 6:5-8  When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Engaging Scripture:  
Let’s pause before we think about how this passage makes us feel or how it applies to our context. This section can help ground your group in talking about what is written and consider its impact on the original audience. 
  1. According to this scripture, God speaks directly to Jesus.  Have you ever experienced what seemed to be a tangible response from God as you have prayed?  In what ways have you seen or heard God respond to your prayers?
  2. What does this final prayer from the cross tell you about the relationship Jesus had with the Father?  Jesus speaks to God two other times while hanging on the cross. – see Luke 23:34 and Matthew 27:46.  How are these phrases both distinct prayers and yet part of the same experience?  How do they reflect different aspects of the relationship Jesus had as a human with his Father/God?
  3. Why is it important to pray in secret?  Why do words get in the way sometimes?
 
Application Questions:
1. Do you see a need to schedule time for prayer as you might schedule time to spend with a         friend?  Why or why not?  How do you keep a scheduled time from becoming rote?
2.  What / Who do you pray about most?  Does prayer impact relationships? 
3.  What are prayer concerns within your group?
 
Closing Prayer:  
Father, we do not understand the mystery of prayer.  We do not know how or why an infinite and holy God would bend down to hear our words.  But we know that Jesus sought out time with you while he was here.  We know he spent time teaching his disciples to pray, and we believe that you desire a relationship with us.  Holy Spirit, would you lead us each day into moments of prayer.  Would you remind us when we need to confess our sins; bring to attention those close to us and those far away who need your blessings, show us all that we have to be thankful for and teach us to walk constantly in touch with you.  We pray in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Taking it Further: 
  1.  Brennan Manning has suggested that simple one line prayers are effective in beginning a sustained sense of belonging in relationship with God.  This week you may want to try one of the following prayers or one of your own repeated several times throughout the day.  

        Abba, I belong to You!

        God, You see me!

        I want to know You, Lord.
  1.  On The Gathering App in the Hub there is a weekly meditation, A Prayer Practice.  Find a quiet place and listen to what Kelly has to offer.  It might be a habit you’ll want to keep.

 

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