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Lesson 3: Discipleship and Prayer *

Introduction: How is your prayer life? If you are like me, your answer is "inadequate and needs improvement." When I walk in the morning, I try to pray and look for God's leading in writing this lesson. However, my mind is like a squirrel constantly trying to dart off onto other matters. If you think your prayer life could use improvement, let's race into our Bible study to see how we can improve our conversations with God!

  1. Prayer Preparation

    1. Read Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:1. Who is speaking here? (Jesus.)

      1. What principle of life is He telling us? (Work done for personal glory is not rewarded by God.)

      2. What kind of reward is being discussed here? (This cannot be salvation, for then our works would earn salvation. It must be some personal reward given by God here or in heaven.)

      3. In recent years I became friends with a great theologian who is incredibly humble. My motives are mixed whenever I preach and teach. Part of my motive to do my best is to have others think I'm very good, and part of my motive is to help people better understand the Bible. I asked this humble saint about this and he said he also had mixed motives. If this is true for you, what does this text mean? (Either you try to reward yourself or you have God's reward. Which would you prefer?)

      4. What prayer principle do we learn here? (Prayer should not be about personal glory. It should not be about "tooting our own horn.")

    2. Read Matthew 6:6. Why is closet prayer the best? (It avoids the problem of praying to be heard by others - and God rewards us.)

      1. Does this problem extend to other aspects of church service - that people are involved to be seen? (I've noticed that people who are making a prayer request in church, want to preach. People who have special music, want to preach. No matter what specific part of the church service, some want to turn it into a mini-sermon. Why is this? I suspect it has to do with personal glory.)

    1. Read Matthew 6:7-8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. On one hand we are told not to be babbling, and on the other hand we are told to "pray continually." How do you reconcile these two ideas? (Right now I have a top prayer priority for a close relative. It is hard for me to avoid "babbling" (just repeating my prayer). One thing I've learned over the years is an attitude of prayer. To have one part of your mind in contact with God for His continual guidance.)

      1. Have you thought about prayer being like someone talking to you? Would you appreciate the other person repeating the same thing continually, like they had Alzheimer's? (No! I'm sure God does not appreciate it either.)

      2. If repetition is out, how do we let God know that something is really important to us? (We can just say that. At the same time, I think God understands when we want to repeatedly talk about something that is very important to us. However, we should not mindlessly repeat the same words.)

    2. Let's look again at Matthew 6:8. If God already knows my needs (and I certainly believe this), then why do I need to pray at all? (This helps unlock the solution to the problems in our prior discussion. If prayer is not to alert God to things He already knows, then prayer must mostly be for our benefit. Babbling would not encourage us, but sharing our deepest concerns with God would encourage us.)

  1. Model Prayer

    1. Read Matthew 6:9. What, exactly, do you think Jesus means when He says this "is how you should pray?" Should we repeat this specific prayer?

      1. If we just recited this prayer, would we be mindlessly babbling?

      2. If you were teaching someone to pray, how would you do it? (We provide examples of things to help people learn. In my own prayer life, I consider each part of the Lord's Prayer to be an example to teach us both the order and the topic of our prayers. Let's explore this next in more detail.)

    2. Read Matthew 6:9 again. How should our prayers start? (The first thing is praise. I think every prayer should start with praise to God.)

      1. Why? Does God need compliments to grant our requests? (It turns our mind to the fact that our first priority in life is to give glory to God. It reminds us of the greatness of our God - who is also our Father! What a thought!)

    3. Read Matthew 6:10. What topic comes next in our prayers? (When Jesus comes again, God's goal will be reached and sin, death and sickness will be gone. We want God's will to be done in our life and in our world right now. This is where we can talk to God about our goals and our problems in life.)

    4. Read Matthew 6:11. What does God encourage us to pray about here? (Our needs! Give us what we need, Lord. It is great to pray for others, but God also encourages us to pray for our self.)

    5. Read Matthew 6:12. In your typical prayer, what topic do you discuss first? (My normal instinct is to pray for the forgiveness of my sins. Somehow I think that should be the first order of business before I get into anything else.)

      1. Why do you think forgiveness of sins should come after praise, problems and needs? (Asking for forgiveness does not reflect God's first priority for our prayer life.)

      2. Notice the qualifier on forgiveness. On what does the forgiveness of our sins rest? (Read Matthew 6:14-15: forgiving others.)

        1. Do you have someone you have not forgiven? If so, what do Jesus' words suggest? (That God will not forgive your sins. This is a serious matter.)

        2. Do you have a forgiving attitude in general toward those who fail to meet your standards?

    6. Read Matthew 6:13 and James 1:13-15. Jesus asks God not to lead us into temptation, but James says that is impossible. Should we just cross out this part of the prayer because we don't have to worry about God tempting us?

      1. Read Matthew 4:1. Here, Jesus is being led by the Holy Spirit into temptation. Is James just confused?

    7. Let's read a couple of other texts that might help us. First, read Matthew 26:38-39. What is Jesus requesting here? (Jesus is moving into a time of terrible temptation. He naturally wants to avoid this. He prays that God will remove the temptation.)

    8. Second, read Job 1:9-12. What is God's role in the temptations that follow in Job's life? (God permitted them.)

    9. Can you see common ground between James 1:13 and these other texts, especially Matthew 4:1? (In none of these texts do we see God tempting anyone. It is always Satan who does the tempting. I've long thought that in Matthew 4:1 the Holy Spirit led Jesus to Satan before Satan was fully prepared. That first temptation does not seem to be the result of the kind of preparation that we saw in the Garden of Eden. Thus, temptation will come to all of us, and I think Jesus is asking that the temptation not be allowed to come to us when we are less able to handle it. Of course, what James says about temptation and our thought process should ring true to all of us.)

    10. Let's look at the last part of Matthew 6:13. How does this fit into the discussion we just had about God controlling when we are tempted? (Jesus asks for victory over sin and over Satan.)

      1. What topic does this suggest for our prayers? (We should pray about our sin problem. We should ask for God's help live holy lives.)

      2. In what other ways can we be delivered from Satan? (This is the place where I pray about my family, myself and the needs of others to be delivered from Satan.)

    11. The New International Version of the Bible (the one we use here) does not contain the language "for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." That is because none of the ancient manuscripts contain this language. It seems someone copying the Bible got carried away and added it. However, I like it so I end my prayers just like I started them -- with praise to God.

    12. Friend, will you set aside some quiet time with the Lord's Prayer (the prayer in Matthew 6) and use it as an example for your prayer to God?

  2. Next week: Discipling Children.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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