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Prayer Basics

for

Adults
Lesson 2: Who Should Pray?
(A study guide resource built to accompany the book Prayer Basics: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Prayer and brought to you by the Office of Prayer and Spiritual Care, a ministry of the General Council of the Assemblies of God.)

The Office of Prayer and Spiritual Care

Equipping the Church... ...Answering the Call
© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

Prayer Basics For Adults (A Study Guide)
LESSON 2: Who Should Pray? Everyone! STUDY TEXT:
Psalm 6:9;16:11; 34:15-18; Matthew 6:5-13; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:15-17; John 16:33; Acts 16:25-32; Colossians 4:2; Hebrews 6:1,2; 1 Peter 4:7 God wants each of us to make prayer a consistent spiritual practice, equipping us to resist sin and live according to His unique plans for us. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (NIV).

LESSON FOCUS:

KEY VERSE: Colossians 4:2 Open the Study

DISCUSSION STARTER: Begin by having students discuss the following, either in small groups or as a class: “If you were stranded on an island for one year, what are three things you would absolutely want to have with you.” (Possible responses include a Bible, a picture of loved ones, other favorite books, and a particular type of food. Some might even suggest a solar powered iPod or laptop.) Talk about why these particular items were chosen, and lead into a discussion about how many of the suggested items could relate to maintaining our spiritual health. EXPLAIN: While this discussion is lighthearted, and likely unrealistic, it does help us to examine our priorities. Sometimes when we think about those things we “could not live without,” we’re inclined to overlook the spiritual. That’s why it is vital to examine our priorities from time to time. Our days are usually filled with activities and responsibilities demanding our attention. In the noise of life, it’s tempting to overlook the quiet simplicity of spending time in conversation with God. We might even wonder if God really wants to hear about the things we’re facing. Yet He does. He invites us to share our days with Him, and we need that interaction. Prayer is intended to be personal. And God desires for each of His people to make it a regular part of their lives.

© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

Examine the Word 1. Prayer Is Our Responsibility—And Our Privilege
REFLECTION: Ask students if they agree or disagree with the following statement, and why: “While virtually all Christians recognize the value and importance of personal prayer, many struggle with the practice of spending extended time in prayer.” Discuss. Then, note that it’s not uncommon for believers to struggle in the area of prayer. Many of your students may fall into this category. Finally, have them reflect on the following question before you proceed: • If and when you struggle with a consistent practice of prayer, what are some common reasons why? (Note that common responses include a lack of time, a struggle to stay focused, boredom, and a struggle to know what to pray about.) READ: Matthew 6:5-13 EXPLAIN: This passage reveals two important principles regarding the personal nature of prayer. • Note that in verse 7, Jesus made it personal as He instructed His disciples on prayer: “When you pray....” It is assumed and expected that the followers of Christ make prayer a part of their own daily activities. • Jesus offers a wide-ranging list of topics calling for our prayers in verses 9-13. Note that there are a number of personal references in this list: We call God “Father,” we pray about physical needs, and we seek help on spiritual and relational issues. ASK: Read Psalm 16:11 Note that this verse offers a unique perspective on how prayer impacts us, no matter the situation. How might we see the personal nature of prayer at work in the message of this verse? (Sometimes prayer seems anything but joyful as a need, problem, or crisis overwhelms our thoughts. Yet the joy comes in knowing our Lord invites us to voice those concerns. Prayer isn’t empty, one-sided conversation. It’s vital and personal interaction with God.)

2. God Is Waiting To Hear from You
DISCUSS: Ask students if they feel their lives are getting busier. Are their lives busier now than they were 10 years ago? Twenty-five years ago? If so, why do they feel as though life has become busier? How does the busy-ness of life impact their relationship with God?
© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

EXPLAIN: We live in a hectic, noisy world. People rush from one commitment to another, often trying to squeeze in even more responsibilities along the way. Sadly, our frantic scheduling and multitasking often impacts our relationships with one another and, ultimately, God. READ: Psalm 34:15-18 EXPLAIN: These verses reveal God’s intense desire to see us rise above the din reverberating from all around us and hear the cries of our hearts in prayer. Because He is “attentive to [our] cry” (verse 15), we can be assured that our prayers don’t just bounce off the ceiling. God listens because He cares. And this compassion leads to powerful acts on our behalf when we seek Him in prayer. DISCUSS: The passages below teach important principles concerning the assurance we have that God does indeed hear our prayers. Read each, then discuss what they teach us. • Psalm 34:18 Sometimes the situations of our lives are so devastating, or so disheartening, that we are left feeling crushed in spirit. It is during these times that we most need to sense God’s presence, His interest in our plight. And, indeed, He is right there. This is a powerful promise that accompanies prayer. • John 16:33 Hard times are a part of life. They are, in fact, to be expected in this fallen world—and God knows our struggles. Thus, this reality need not leave us feeling hopeless. God cares about where we are, and He knows we need His help. No matter how dark our valley, God is there, waiting to hear from us.

3. Overcome the Barriers to Personal Prayer
DISCUSS: A variety of issues and concerns threaten to force prayer from the top of our priority list. Yet these obstacles can be overcome if we’re willing to invest the time and energy necessary. Here are a few examples. (As you proceed through each barrier, discuss with students which ones seem more common, and why. Also talk about ways to overcome these barriers.): • I struggle to stay focused when I pray for a long time. Many Christians struggle with fatigue, focus, or even boredom during prayer. They set out with the best of intentions, only to find their minds wandering after just a few minutes. Several practical steps can help to overcome this barrier. Below are some questions designed to assist us in making prayer time more focused. * Do I devote a specific time each day to prayer? (Prayer becomes more consistent when we make it a regular, daily activity. Set your prayer time at an hour when you’re most likely to avoid distractions and stay focused.)
© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

* Do I have a plan when I set out to pray? (It’s hard to stay focused when our minds are searching for things to pray about. Assemble a prayer list, including requests from yourself, your family, your church, etc. But don’t limit your prayer time to requests. Be sure to also include time to meditate and listen for God’s voice. Prayer is a conversation; it involves both talking and listening.) * Have I removed distractions from my prayer time? (Prayer time is more effective and meaningful when we’re fully focused on God. Simply turning off the cell phone, the television, and the iPod can make a big difference. It also helps to find a place where we know we’ll be undisturbed for an extended period of time.) • I’m too busy to pray. The “busy-ness” of our days is a common reason prayer is neglected. And life does include many important responsibilities: job, family, church. Time is a precious commodity. And, too often, prayer is left off the schedule. Perspective is the key to overcoming this barrier. We must view prayer as a normal and natural activity in our walk with God rather than a task to be completed. (Read and discuss the following Scriptures, highlighting what they teach about how God views the role of prayer in our lives.) * Colossians 4:2 A good prayer life is an act of devotion to God—one that springs from a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him. We make prayer a priority because we want that relationship to grow stronger. * Hebrews 6:1,2 Intercession—prayer for others—is deemed to be “elementary” to the faith. It is a fundamental, intended to exist from the beginning. Thus, a growing walk with God will have established the practice and habit of prayer, and moved forward into disciplines that rise from this foundation. • I don’t have a special calling to prayer. Many churches have a number of ministries devoted to prayer: a group that gathers early Sunday morning to pray for the services, prayer teams interceding for needs in the congregation, the community, and the world, prayer chains that receive, pray over, and share needs by phone or e-mail. While these specialized prayer ministries are vital to the health of any church, we must be careful not to conclude that only some Christians are called to pray. Note that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus defined prayer in simple, relational terms. Sharing needs with and offering praise to God, even as we affirm our desire to surrender to His will. So, while some individuals have a stronger burden for the ministry of prayer, the basic discipline of prayer is not confined to certain individuals—pastors, deacons, spiritual leaders. Thus, any believer struggling to grasp if he or she belongs in the ministry of prayer, ought to keep these two principles in mind: * Prayer is not a special gift. In Paul’s listings of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; Ephesians 4:11-13), he never mentioned prayer as a unique role of ministry. It is, in fact, not a gift intended for a select few. Prayer requires no unique enablement or calling. It is universal; we all can do it; we all must do it.
© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

* God hears the voice of the righteous—His people. Proverbs 15:29 is instructive. Prayer is the trademark of all who genuinely follow the Lord, the by-product of a close walk with Him. • I’m not “good enough” for God to listen to me. This barrier reflects a misconception about prayer. God’s desire to hear from us isn’t based on some merit we’ve earned, like an accomplished artist or businessman would earn access to a president or a king. Instead, God wants to hear from us because we’re His children. Once again, the privilege of prayer is based on relationship founded in love. Therefore all believers have equal access. * Read Luke 18:15-17. When Jesus talked about our interaction with Him, He didn’t point to any qualifications that had to be met. Instead He declared that “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (verse 17). Childlike qualities such as sincerity, humility, and simple trust—though often overlooked—are exactly what He’s looking for. * Discuss the following verses. Note what each tells us about the identity of those God listens to: > Mark 10:46-52 > Psalm 6:9 > Acts 16:25-34

3. Prepare Yourself for Effective Prayer
DISCUSS: Ask students to share personal testimonies of why prayer has proven to be a vital part of their lives. Talk about what it means to them to know that their prayers can be effective. Finally, pose this question: “How can you prepare yourself for the ministry of effective prayer in the future?” Take time for discussion, then READ 1 Peter 4:7. • Recognize the urgency of prayer. Christ’s return is imminent. And as that time draws closer, several facts come to the forefront: 1) Life will become increasingly hard for Christians as they face mounting persecution; 2) People desperately need Jesus; 3) Many things in this world can distract us from spiritual priorities. We need to be people of prayer, now more than ever— for our own sake as well as for the sake of others. • Refocus your attention on God’s kingdom. One of the biggest challenges we face in prioritizing prayer is that it deals largely with the unseen, spiritual realm. Prayer directs our focus outside the five physical senses and into God’s kingdom. It’s no wonder Peter exhorted us to be clear minded and self-controlled. Daily issues and problems continually seek to divert our attention. We need prayer to keep our minds fixed on Christ.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS > Why do you think many Christians struggle to make prayer a consistent part of their personal walk with God?
© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org

> What are some things you can do to overcome distractions or feelings of boredom during prayer? > As Christians, we sometimes encounter friends who struggle in the area of prayer. How would you respond in the following situations: • A friend has just confided that he doesn’t see himself as a prayer warrior. He believes only certain Christians have a gift for prayer. • You’re helping to disciple a new believer in your church who feels unworthy to have personal prayers heard by God. She struggles to believe God would take her seriously, considering all the mistakes of her past. > What are some struggles you face in establishing or maintaining a consistent personal prayer life? > How can you overcome these barriers?

© 2011 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802. All rights reserved. Permission to replicate for personal, church and/or educational use only, may not be used for commercial intent. Electronic Edition published 2011 at www.prayer.ag.org All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.