Bible study lesson 22 - Prayer
Purpose: To learn about the power of prayer.
Theme: Prayer is foundational to the lives of all Christians and we need to incorporate heartfelt prayer daily into our lives to communicate with God.
Bible verses to read:
- Matthew 5:4-6
- Romans 8:32
- Isaiah 44:3
- Psalms 66:18
- Romans 7:19-25
- Proverbs 28:13
- Matthew 7:7-8
- Mark 11:24
- James 4:1-3
- Luke 11:1-13
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17
- Philippians 4:6-7
Have you ever had finals and had to stay up all night because you felt that the time spent studying was more important than sleep? Well, there were times in Jesus' experience where He felt that time spent in prayer was of the utmost importance, even moreso than sleep. Jesus had a radical prayer life. Even He felt the need to go to His Father in prayer. If Jesus felt such a need for prayer, how more should we?
Some people think that because of circumstances in their life, they would never have never prayers answered. They might feel that they don't have a foot to stand on in coming to God in prayer. However, we need to realize our spiritual poverty before God and our need of Him. Knowing our need is the first step to acceptance.
I don't know if you have ever felt this way, but when you read about some of the people in the Bible, you can get the idea that these people are like super holy. Sometimes that can be discouraging when you come to God because you can see how bad your own life is - who hasn't ever felt that way? I just want to let you know that today Jesus has good news for you if you feel that you are not worthy enough to come before a Holy God.
Let's turn to Matthew 5:4-6.
- According to these verses, what does Jesus say about those who mourn, those who are meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness?
- Answer (highlight to read): Jesus says that they are blessed.
Jesus says these people are blessed! A Bible commentator likened the word "blessed" to the phrase "happy is the man" in this context. Happy are those who realize how unworthy they are and how far they are removed from the ideal. The awareness of this condition is a good thing. Verse 4 even says that the mourning we feel about our condition will allow God to comfort us. Furthermore, having this hunger and thirst to be better will lead us to be filled. It's like we are giving God permission to fill us.
If you are hungry, it shows that you have a need for something. On the other hand, if you have eaten, you never feel the need for that thing. This text shows us that we do not inherently possess righteousness. God knows that we are not naturally like this, and in knowing this, He promises to fill us.
Many of us have the mentality that God is a withholder. However, Scripture shows us that God is a Giver and wants to bless us with every good thing.
Let's turn to Romans 8:32.
- According to this verse, did God withhold Jesus from us?
- Answer: No
This verse shows us that God interacts with us not on the condition of how good we are, but on the premise of how good He is. God is not going to hold back on anything good for us if He was already willing and did send His only Son to die for us. God is not a withholder, but rather, He is a free and willing Giver. So the next time you ask, "God, do you love me?", look at the cross for the answer. God is not holding back anything good from us!
Let's turn to Isaiah 44:3.
- According to this verse, who does God pour water on and where does he send floods to?
- Answer: God pours water on the thirsty and He floods the dry ground.
Prayer is foundational. Prayer is not for those who are righteous and think that they have it all. It's not about what we have or what have done. Rather, it's about a recognition of what we don't have and what God has already done for us. We need to recognize that we are dry ground and that we need God to water us. This is the first condition of acceptance in prayer.
Let's turn to Psalms 66:18.
- According to this verse, will God hear us if we cling to our sins?
- Answer: No
Let's be clear - we cannot be clinging on to our known sins and expect God to answer our prayers. We need to make sure our lives are consistent with what we are praying for. There is a difference between wanting victory over sin and being done with it versus just managing/controlling sin. The latter case shows that we are still clinging to that sin.
Let's turn to Romans 7:19-25.
- According to these verses, why are we in a wretched state?
- Answer: We want to do good, but we end up practicing evil.
How do we reconcile these verses with Psalms 66:18? If we know and recognize that sin is sin, and we continue in it, God is not obligated to answer our prayers. This text in Romans does not mean that if you are struggling, God isn't going to hear you. This text is about the disposition of your heart, i.e. your attitude towards sin. There is a difference between submission and rebellion.
Let's turn to Proverbs 28:13.
- According to this verse, who does God show mercy to?
- Answer: God shows mercy to those who confess their sins and forsakes them.
The sincere prayer of confession and repentance will always be heard by God. Confess your sins, but also forsake them! Flee from them!
Let's turn to Matthew 7:7-8.
- According to these verses, what happens to those who ask, those who seek, and those who knock?
- Answer: Those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who knock will have the door opened to them.
The Greek translation refers to a continuous action, so ask and keep asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. This shows that the answer to prayer is not always an instant thing. It is a persistent and dedicated action. Our prayer life should be characterized by perseverance and a persistence of ASKing.
Prayer was never given to be outside of a relationship with God, but rather, prayer was given to be an experience with God. Prayer is a recognition of our spiritual need and dependence on God. Prayer keeps a healthy interaction between us and our Father. Prayer helps us by keeping us humble.
Let's turn to Hebrews 11:6.
- According to this verse, what must we have to please God?
- Answer: Faith
Perhaps it is time to analyze how we pray and what we pray for. Sometimes in our Christian experience, we are governed more from feelings and dependence upon sight. We may ask God to do such-and-such thing for us, then we will believe that God exists. I tell you this is a completely wrong way of looking at prayer. We must instead believe He exists and not base our prayer on physical evidence. God is a reward for those who actively seek Him.
Let's turn to Mark 11:24.
- According to this verse, what should we do when we pray?
- Answer: We should believe that we will receive the things we ask for.
When we ask for God for something in prayer, our faith in Him should be as such that we have faith that He has already given us what we need. We need to have faith that God has already answered that prayer, regardless of circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
Let's turn to James 4:1-3.
- According to this verse, why are our prayers sometimes not answered?
- Answer: We are asking for the wrong things.
We should not be praying for things on this earth, but rather, praying for things that God wants us to pray for. When we ask for things for selfish motivations for our own pleasures, we are not going to get those. When we are told to ask and we shall receive, we must understand that these prayers must be to the glory of God, rather than self.
Let's turn to Luke 11:1-13.
- According to these verses, will God give good gifts to those who ask Him?
What are things we should pray for? We should pray for the Name of God to be glorified. We need to approach God with an attitude of reverence and humility. We should pray for the soon return of Jesus, but also that the kingdom of God should be present on the earth now. This is a state of mind that should motivate the followers of Jesus to be carrying out the will of God that it will be a present reality, that His kingdom should be advanced on earth.
We should pray that things on earth would reflect the order of heaven: unity, love, and mutual forbearance. We should also pray for practical and day-to-day things. Also, Jesus is the Bread of Life - we should ask for Jesus to be in our lives every day, too.
Jesus is teaching us in these verses to pray for forgiveness and to show a spirit of forgiveness to others. We should live in the way that Jesus lived, to reflect His image and character to others around us.
We should be praying for the priorities of heavenly things to be here right now on earth. God wants us to ask Him for the Holy Spirit, so that we can be empowered to work for Him and to be in His likeness.
Let's turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
- According to this verse, how should we pray?
- Answer: We should pray without ceasing.
Prayer is a condition of being in communion with God always. It should not be a thing that we only do in the morning or if we need something. We should live in an attitude of communion with God.
Let's turn to Philippians 4:6-7.
- According to these verses, what does God promise to give us?
- Answer: God promises to give us His peace.
Friend, is it your desire to have the peace of God that is beyond understanding? Do you want to have a Best Friend who you can talk to about anything and everything, and to know that you will be heard and answered according to His will? Do you want to not have to worry about anything that life can throw at you? Do you want to have your troubles swapped for His peace? It can be yours, if you simply request it!
You may be asking yourself, why should we pray anyways, if God is working all thing out according to His will? God has ordered the universe in such a way that we can have an impact upon it. God care about us and wants our lives and choices to matter and to have consequences. There are certain things that will be done as an answer to prayer that otherwise would not have happened. Our prayers matter and make a difference and God is giving us the opportunity for us to make a difference in our lives through prayer.
Praying and asking for things allow God to answer us and show us how He is working our lives. Prayer affirms our faith in His love and interest in us.
If God is your Best Friend, then you should want to talk to Him. Just because God is all-knowing and all-powerful doesn't mean that we don't need to talk to Him. Friend, I invite you to come to God in prayer! Praise Him for all the wonderful things He has done for you. Confess and repent of all your sins to Him. Ask Him for guidance and bring all your supplications to Him. Will you seek God out in prayer and see how prayer can change your life?