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Did You Pray Today?

 

A Four-Lesson Bible Study About One of the

Most Powerful Forces Available to Every Christian...

PRAYER!

By Rodney Pry

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

“Prayer is not an easy way of getting what we want, but the only way of getting what God wants us to be.”

            Studdert Kennedy

 

“Prayer takes the very highest energy of which the human is capable.

            John Coleridge

 

“The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe.”

            Augustus Toplady

 

“Prayer is releasing the energies of God.  For prayer is asking God to do what we cannot do.”

            Charles Trumbull

 

“I have so much to do that I must spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.”

            John Wesley

 

“When we work, we work, when we pray, God works.”

            Oswald Smith

 

“None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.”

            Martin Luther

             What does prayer mean to you?  Is it just an emergency “hot line” to God that you use only when you or a loved one has a major need, or is it an ongoing conversation with your best friend?  Every Christian should know that there is power in prayer.  But, how and when we pray, and how we engage the power of prayer, can vary greatly from individual to individual.

            In one of the Pennsylvania State Sunday School Association’s most popular training workshops, “Steps To Sunday School Success” – a workshop on involving every member in Sunday school growth and renewal – we focus on some of the most important elements of “preparation for growth.”  These elements include the spiritual commitment of the members, teachers and leaders; the welcome that is extended to visitors; the training that we provide for teachers; and others.  And, we note that all of these different areas of “preparation” are very important, but perhaps the most important thing that we can do is to PRAY!

            As a church works to bring about greater Sunday school awareness, growth and renewal, it is extremely important that those efforts are supported with a vigorous, coordinated program of prayer.  Every member of the church needs to be reminded of the power of prayer.  They need to be challenged to take a close look at their own personal prayer life and things that they can do to strengthen it.  And everyone needs to be encouraged to pray for their Sunday school, their Sunday school teachers and leaders and all other programs and workers within their church.

            Through the “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study, we will try to help you increase your awareness of the importance and power of prayer.  We will also try to encourage all persons to pray more and to look for ways of harnessing the power of prayer so that they, as individuals, and as members of your church and Sunday school, may be even more effective workers within your Christian education ministry.

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LESSON ONE: “PRAY MORE!”

 

“Seven days without prayer makes one weak.”  (Allen E. Bartlett)

 

            The story is told of a little boy who was getting ready for bed.  He put on his pajamas, brushed his teeth and then jumped into bed and pulled the covers up around his head.  His mother, who was there to tuck him in, commented, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”  The boy thought a moment and then said, “No, I don’t think so.”  “Didn’t you forget to say your prayers?” the mother asked.  “Oh,” the boy responded, “It’s okay.  I don’t want anything today!”

            In “The ABC’s of Prayer, Walter A. Mueller says, “Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble.  Prayer is a life attitude.”  What is your “attitude” about prayer?  Is it something that you, like the little boy in the story above, only do when you need something?  Is it something that you do only when there is a major emergency in your life or the life of a loved one?  Or, is prayer an ongoing part of every facet of your life?

            John Wesley once said, “I have so much to do that I must spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.”  Unfortunately, that is not the attitude of most modern Christians.  For far too many people today, their lives are so busy and their schedules so hectic that prayer ends up being pushed aside and neglected.

            Surely every Christian should know that there is power in prayer.  Hopefully they can all point to dozens of examples of how their prayers have been answered and how regular communication with God through prayer has brought them strength, comfort and an increase in their faith.  But still, even with all of this evidence of the importance and power of prayer, many Christians fail to take the time to go to our Lord in prayer.

            “Did You Pray Today?” is the title of this special Bible study program.  But it’s also an important question that each of us should ask and answer each day.  Surprisingly, many people in our churches today would have to answer “no” to the question.  Why?  Maybe they think they are too busy.  Maybe they think they don’t need anything today.  Or, maybe it’s carelessness or unconcern.

            Prayer has often been described as one of the most powerful – if not the most powerful – forces in the universe.  If there is, indeed, such a power that is so easily accessible to each of us, why aren’t we making better use of it and the tremendous potential that it holds?

            During each of the four lessons of the “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study, we will be looking at ways that we can harness prayer to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to use this powerful force to help us build and strengthen our church, Sunday school and other Christian education programs.

            Stop and think about your current prayer life.  How often do you pray?  Praying at mealtime and at bedtime are great, but there are so many other times when we could be putting the power of prayer into action.  Think about those times when you are out walking or jogging or when you’re alone driving in your car or when you’re standing in line at the supermarket.  And when you have a few minutes to find yourself tempted to grab the newspaper or turn on the TV, go off alone to a quiet place to read your Bible and pray.

            And, as you pray, remember to pray for your church, your Sunday school, all of your Sunday school teachers and leaders, all of your members and all of your potential members.  To be successful, everything that we do as individuals and as a church must be totally wrapped in prayer.

            As E. M. Bounds once wrote, “What the church needs today is not more machinery or new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use – men and women of prayer, men and women mighty in prayer.  The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men and women.  He does not come on machinery, but on men and women.  He does not amount plans, but men and women – men and women of prayer.”

 

What Does The Book of Psalms Say About Prayer?

            According to Ken Anderson’s “Where To Find It In The Bible” book, there are 39 direct references to prayer in the Old Testament book of Psalms.  We don’t have time to look at all 39, but I have chosen three for us to examine.  Please read each of the passages indicated and then think about or discuss the related questions.

Read Psalm 37:3-6

  • What does this passage say about our attitude toward prayer?

  • What does it say about the connection between our actions and our prayers?

  • What promises does the passage contain and how can you claim those promises today?

 

Read Psalm 66:16-20

  • Who wrote this Psalm?  Why did they write it?

  • What are the central points of the passage?

  • Why did God answer the Psalmist?

  • What does this passage say to us today?

 

Read Psalm 103:1-22

  • What is the first thing that the Psalmist did?

  • Make a list of all of the things that the Psalmist says God did for him.  Does he still do these things for us today?

  • This Psalm is often listed as being about “The Forgiving God.”  How is that message presented?

 

Close With Prayer

 

 

What Billy Graham Once Said About Prayer…

            The Christian should have an appetite for prayer.  He should want to pray.  One does not have to force food upon a healthy child.  Exercise, good circulation, health and labor demand food for sustenance.  So it is with those who are spiritually healthy. They have an appetite for the word of God, and for prayer.

            Sin breaks fellowship with God.  A little girl committed a certain offense and when her mother discovered it, she began to question her daughter.  Immediately the child lost her smile and a cloud darkened her face as she said, “Mother, I don’t feel like talking.”  So it is with us when our fellowship with God is broken by sin in our lives.  We do not feel like talking to Him.  If you do not feel like praying, it is probably a good indication that you should start praying immediately.

LESSON TWO: “PRAY BETTER”

 

“Prayer is to ask not what we wish of God, but what God wishes of us.”

 

One morning a man prayed the following prayer: “So far today, God, I’ve done all right.  I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been selfish, grumpy, nasty or overindulgent.  I’m really glad about that.  But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot more help.  Thank you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

            Do you pray as you get out of bed each morning?  Do you pray as you go to bed each night?  And, do you pray on other occasions throughout the day?  Praying often is important, but what we pray for and how we pray are also important.

            The very best example of a prayer that we can hold up as our model is found in Jesus’ teachings.  In Luke 11:1, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Teach us to pray.”  Why did they make this request of Jesus?  Surely they must have heard Jesus pray on many occasions.  But, if they were keen observers of Jesus, they surely noticed that his prayers were much more effective than theirs.  Was there a reason for this?  With this in mind, they probably realized that they needed to learn more about prayer and how to pray most effectively.

            The model prayer that Jesus gave them is what we know today as “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Within the few short lines of the prayer, we find an outline that we should all try to follow every time we go to the Lord in prayer.

            The word “ACTS” can help us remember these important elements:

  • A – Adoration – Adore God, love Him land praise Him for who He is.

  • C – Confession – Admit your sins to God; ask for His forgiveness through faith that Jesus died for our sins.

  • T – Thanksgiving – Thank God for answered prayers and for all of the good things that He has done in your life.

  • S – Supplication – Submit your needs to God.  Pray for your family, for those who are sick or sad.  Pray for those who are not Christians yet.  Pray for your own spiritual growth and other needs that you may have.

            It is important for all persons of all ages to know how they should pray, why they should pray and the elements of a prayer, but perhaps the most important thing that each of us must learn and/or remember is that God is our Heavenly Father, and like a father, God watches over us and will take care of us.  He wants to help us.  But first, we must come to him in faith through prayer.

            An important part of what we are trying to do through the “Did You Pray Today” Bible study is to help you help your Sunday school grow in numbers and to see it grow in effectiveness as we endeavor to teach all persons of all ages about God, His Word – the Bible, and His will for their lives.

            How can you help your Sunday school to be better and more effective?  We want to make sure that our teachers are doing their very best.  We want to be sure that we tell our friends, neighbors and others about how Sunday school has positively affected our lives.  We want to make sure that the Bible and Jesus Christ are at the center of every lesson that is taught in every class in our Sunday school.  And there are many other things that we will try to do to make all of our Christian education programs their very best.  But, still, the one most important thing that we can do is pray!  Every member of your church should be praying for your Sunday school.

            “Did You Pray Today?”  That’s a question that we hope that you will be reminded to ask yourself many times during the week ahead.  As you pray, strive to pray better – using the A.C.T.S. model as your example.  And, when you pray, pray for your pastor, your Sunday school workers, your children and youth, those persons of your church who do not attend Sunday school and more.  There’s power in prayer!  Use it often…use it effectively!

 

Let’s Look At Prayers Found In The Old Testament…

            One of the best ways to learn about prayer is to study actual prayers found in the Bible.  Listed below you will find three different prayers found in the Old Testament.  Please read the prayer and then answer the ten following questions about the prayer:

  1. Who was praying?

  2. Why were they praying?

  3. What were the circumstances and/or situation of the person?

  4. What was the person praying for?

  5. Re-state the prayer in your own words.

  6. Which of the “A.C.T.S.” prayer elements does the prayer contain and how?

“A” – Adoration (Adore God, love him and praise him.)

“C” – Confession (Admit your sins and ask for forgiveness.)

“T” – Thanksgiving (Thank God for answered prayers and the good things he has done

for you.)

“S” – Supplication (Submit your needs and requests to God.)

    7. How did God answer the prayer?

    8. Did God speak to the person who was praying?  How?  What did he say?

    9. How was the person, their circumstances and/or situation changed?

  10. What is the message of this prayer for us today?

  • Read II Samuel 7:18-29 (David’s prayer)

  • Read Daniel 2:20-23 (Daniel’s prayer)

  • Read Jonah 2:1-9 (Jonah’s prayer)

 

Close With Prayer

 

 

What Else Can You Do?

Keep a “prayer journal.:” Write out your prayers in the journal and keep a record of the answers that you receive to your prayers.

Create prayer reminders to distribute to the members of the congregation, the shut-ins of the church or to the persons in a local nursing home.  These could be anything from a hand-made card that says something like “Did You Pray Today?” or a candy bar to which you have added a special “over-wrapper” that contains a prayer reminder message.  Use your imagination!

Enlist “prayer partners” for the children and youth of your church and Sunday school.  Put the names of the children and youth in a basket and allow adults who are willing to pray for the kids on a regular basis select the name of one of the children or youth.  (Note: Some people may not know all of the children and youth of your church and Sunday school.  For this reason, you might include some basic information, like parents’ names, age, school that they attend, likes and dislikes, school involvement, etc. on the slip.)

Pray for others in your Sunday school class or Bible study group by having “weekly prayer partners.”  At the start of each week’s class, put all of the names of all of the students in the class (those that are there and those that aren’t) in a basket and allow each student to pull out a name.  If there are still names in the basket, pass it around again until all names are gone.  Ask students to pray each day for the person or persons listed on the slips they selected.  Next Sunday, put all names back in the basket and select new partners for next week.

LESSON THREE:

"PRAY WITH EXPECTATION"

 

 

Each prayer is answered, That is so; But for our good, It may be, “No!”

A deeply religious man was perched on his roof loudly praying while flood waters licked at his feet.  A friend came by in a boat and said, “Get in!”  But the religious man replied, “No, I’m up here praying, and I know God will grant me a miracle.”

            Later the water was up to his waist and another boat floated by with rescuers yelling for him to get in.  The man declined, responding that God would answer his prayers and give him a miracle.

            With the water chin high, a helicopter threw down a rope ladder and told him to climb up to safety.  He again turned down the offer.  “My prayers will be answered,” he proclaimed.

            Finally he gulped his last breath and found himself at the gates of heaven.  With broken faith he cried to St. Peter, “I thought God would grant me a miracle.  He let me down.”

            I don’t know what you are talking about,” St. Peter responded.  “We sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

            When you pray, how do you expect God to respond?  Do you know exactly how, when and where you want God to answer?  And what happens if he doesn’t answer your prayer exactly as you expect?

            As most veteran Christians will tell you, God rarely responds exactly as we expect him to when he answers our prayers.  He always answers, but that answer might be “yes,” “no,” or “wait a while.”

            Today we live in a fast moving, instant this and instant that world where we expect things to happen immediately.  But God has his own plan and his own timetable for the universe.  Just because we think that something should happen right this instant is no guarantee that God’s plan calls for the same response.

            We must remember that prayer is not just about asking God for what we want, but it is also about what he wants of us.  As we pray we should not be trying to change God’s mind, but rather we should ask him to change us to better accept his plan for the world and for us.

            As we continue with our “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study, we should strive to pray according to God’s will; his will for our church, our Sunday school and each of us as individual Christians.

            Prayer changes things!  Prayer can change each of us and it can also change our Sunday school and other Christian education programs, to make them even better and more effective for our Lord.

            During the week ahead, we truly hope that each of you will pray as often as you can, as effectively as you can and with great expectation.  We may not know exactly how or what God will do through our church and Sunday school and through each of our lives, but we can be sure that – if we are truly open to his leading – he will use us in a great and mighty way…to his glory!

 

What Did Jesus Say About Prayer?

            Jesus is the Master Teacher!  It is important for every Christian to read and study his words as a way of truly learning about prayer.  Listed below are four different scripture passages from the Gospels.  Please read each of the passages and then think or discuss the questions listed.

Read Matthew 7:7-12

  • What does Jesus want the disciples…and us…to know about his heavenly Father?

  • Jesus said, “Everyone who asks receives…”  Do that mean that God always says “yes” to our prayers?  What does it mean?

  • What does verse 12 say about the relationship between how God answers our prayers and our attitudes and actions?

 

Read Matthew 21:21-22

  • Is Jesus saying that if we have enough faith, we can even change God’s mind and plans?

  • Why does God sometimes answer our prayer with a “no?”

  • Why is faith an important element of prayer?  How can we increase our faith?

 

Read Luke 18:10-14

  • What do you think Jesus wants us to learn from this parable?

  • How are Christians often like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story?

  • Why is it often hard to pray like the tax collector?

Read John 17:1-26

  • Where and when did Jesus pray this prayer?

  • Who was Jesus praying for in his prayer?

  • What did he want for each?

  • What message does this prayer have for us today?

Close With Prayer

LESSON FOUR:

"LISTEN AS YOU PRAY"

 

 

“Pray to God, but row for shore.”  (Russian proverb)

The kindergarten Sunday school class was learning about how God cares for us in times of trouble.  The teacher asked the class to draw pictures of things that make them afraid.  After they finished drawing, each child explained to the others what he or she had drawn.

            Five-year-old Scott had created a vivid crayon drawing of a looming funnel cloud, a car, and a man.  He described how the man could not get his car started and a tornado was coming toward him.

            “The man really needs to pray, doesn’t he?” asked the teacher.  “No,” Scott disagreed.  “He needs to run!”

            It’s true.  There is a time for prayer and a time for action.  But, how can we know what God wants us to do?

            God speaks to each of us in a wide variety of ways, but one of the ways that he most often speaks to us is while we are praying.

            Missionary and writer, Dr. Frank C. Laubach, once wrote, “Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation – and for me the most important part is listening to God’s replies.”  And an anonymous writer once said, “The most important thing in any prayer is not what we say to God, but what God says to us.  We are apt to pray and then hurry away without giving God a chance to answer and talk to us.”

            Prayer at its most intimate level is a conversation with a friend.  Just as a conversation that you have with an earthly friend should not be all one-sided, our conversations with Jesus in prayer should not be all one-sided either.

            Some people think that God does not speak to men today, but he does!  The trouble is that we don’t take the time to listen.

            In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said this: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”

            Jesus still wants to speak to each of us today, but the question remains, are you taking the time to listen?

            As we come to the fourth and final lesson in the “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study, we hope that you and every other member of your church or Sunday school who is involved with this study will continue to focus on the importance of prayer.

            It is important for each of us to pray often.  Don’t just pray when you are facing an emergency in your life or when you really need God’s help with something.  Prayer should be an ongoing attitude and activity that we pursue many times throughout the day.

            It is important for each of us to pray better.  Our prayers shouldn’t only be a “wish list” of things that we want God to do for us.  As we approach God in prayer, we should come adoring him and praising him for who he is.  We should come confessing our sins.  We should come thanking him for everything that he has done for us in the past and everything that he continues to do for us each day.  And, then we should bring our needs and concerns to him.

            One of the most important things for each of us to remember is that prayer should not be about us trying to change God, but rather opening ourselves to God’s will and allowing him to change us to fit his eternal purpose.

            We hope that through the “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study you have tried to make changes and improvements in your prayers and your prayer life.  And, we also hope that each of you have been praying throughout the past several weeks for your Sunday school and other Christian education programs.

            Sunday school remains one of the most effective vehicle for Christian education that we have in the church today.  In Sunday school persons of all ages come together to learn more about God, the Bible and God’s will for their lives.  Sunday school is important!  Sunday school is for everyone!  Sunday school is for YOU!

            Do you attend Sunday school each week with the other members of your family?  We hope that you do!  If you don’t, please accept our invitation to join us in Sunday school this week and every week.

            Don’t forget Sunday school!  And, don’t forget to pray – every day!

 

Let’s Look At Prayers Found In The New Testament…

            Jesus taught his disciples about prayer and they learned the lesson well.  How do we know this?  Because of the prayer that the Apostles prayed.  Below you will find scriptures that show us Jesus’ teaching about prayer and the Apostles praying for guidance as they prepared to replace Judas and as they faced a time of trouble.  Please read the passages, one at a time, and then answer the following questions about what you have just read.

1.         Who was praying?

2.         Why were they praying?

3.         What were the circumstances and/or situation of the person?

4.         What was the person praying for?

5.         Re-state the prayer in your own words.

6.         Which of the “A.C.T.S.” prayer elements does the prayer contain and how?

  • “A” – Adoration (Adore God, love him and praise him.)

  • “C” – Confession (Admit your sins and ask for forgiveness.)

  • “T” – Thanksgiving (Thank God for answered prayers and the good things he has done

  • for you.)

  • “S” – Supplication (Submit your needs and requests to God.)

7.         How did God answer the prayer?

8.         Did God speak to the person who was praying?  How?  What did he say?

9.         How was the person, their circumstances and/or situation changed?

10.       What is the message of this prayer for us today?

- Read Luke 11:2-4 (Jesus teaches about prayer)

- Read Acts 1:24-25 (the Apostles pray about replacing Judas)

- Read Acts 4:23-30 (a prayer in the time of trouble)

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS…

            As we come to the end of the “Did You Pray Today?” Bible study, I hope that you will continue to think about the importance of prayer and that you will continue to pray for your church, your Sunday school, your teachers and leaders, and all of your church and Sunday school members and friends.  Even though this special prayer study has ended, your efforts to make your Sunday school better and more effective should not end.  And remember, prayer is one of the most important elements that will be involved in your efforts to make all of the Christian education efforts of your church better and more effective.

            “Did You Pray Today?”  Your church and Sunday school needs your prayers and they need YOU!  So please attend Sunday school and the other Bible study programs of your church this week and every week.

 

Close With Prayer

 

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR RELATED ACTIVITIES…

 

If you are holding the “Did You Pray Today” study with a Sunday school class or special Bible study group, the following is a list of optional special events and activities that your group may wish to hold or sponsor…

Hold a special prayer event such as a prayer marathon (a 12 or 24-hour event when people come to your church in 15 or 30-minute shifts to pray for your church, Sunday school and other suggested special needs), a prayer breakfast, prayer luncheon, or a special mid-week prayer service.  You might also establish a program of prayer partners for your Sunday school teachers and/or the children and youth of your church.

Urge your pastor to speak on prayer and related themes in his sermon during each of the weeks of your “Did You Pray Today? Bible study.

Create a “Sunday School Prayer Calendar” for your church and then give one to each of your members and friends.  Start by creating either an actual calendar layout or simply a list of dates.  Then write a different prayer suggestion for each day of the month.  (Examples: “Pray for our pastor”; “Pray for the parents of our church”; “Pray for all persons who are sick”; “Pray for the teens of our church and community.”  The calendars can serve as a reminder about the importance of both prayer and the needs of the people of your church and Sunday school.

Work to bring about personal spiritual growth and renewal within your group and your entire church.  Only when Jesus Christ is truly the number one priority in each person’s life will God truly be able to work His will through those persons.  Urge your pastor to speak on the topic and urge each of your members to read their Bible more, pray more, develop closer relationships with other Christians, read Christian books and magazines, listen to Christian music, radio and TV, and become even more involved in the work of your church and Sunday school.

Encourage each of your members to read the entire New Testament.  Did you know that only about 5% of all Americans – including many Christians – have read the entire New Testament?  The 27 books of the New Testament contain a total of 260 chapters, so if you read just a little over 8 chapters each day, you can read the entire New Testament in the month.

Do all of the children and youth of your church and Sunday school have a Bible?  If they don’t you might consider giving Bibles to the kids.  Give an easy-to-read children’s Bible to children in kindergarten and the early elementary grades.  Give the older kids a youth study Bible.