The Art of Prayer

The Art of Prayer

Hey all!

I’m currently working on training materials for a ministry I’m developing. When looking for volunteers in ministry, it’s important to me that they have a vibrant walk with God. How can people reach and inspire others for the gospel if they feel empty themselves?

I’ve posted below what I’m calling an evaluation and self discovery exercise. If you’d like to fill it out and send me feedback that would be awesome and super helpful! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions. 🙂

PRAYER EVALUATION AND SELF DISCOVERY

  1. Give three words to describe your prayer life currently.

 

 

  1. Write below why you chose those three words.

 

 

 

  1. Do you feel like God’s love and engagement with you is conditional based on your prayer life? Whether yes or no, why?

 

 

 

 

  1. What three words would you like to use to describe your prayer life?

 

 

  1. Write below why you chose those three words.

 

 

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages his readers to pray without ceasing. This could bring to mind a seemingly impossible task of speaking to God every second of the day. However, I believe this kind of praying without ceasing to be a state of being, rather than an ongoing essay of sorts. God has given each of us unique ways to communicate with Him. We are not all the same. Some people love to journal their prayers, others like to go on prayer walks and speak with God or sort through their thoughts with Him, some like to sing prayer and praises to God, and others use art to express their feelings and desires. There are ways I cannot even think of because I don’t know you and how God made you!

  1. Write down some of your strengths, gifts, or pleasures below. What do you enjoy doing?

 

 

  1. How could you incorporate these into your prayer life? Prayer is all about engaging with God. He is not limited to one form of communication!

 

 

 

Another element of prayer is surrender. We cannot fully experience the freedom of God’s grace until we give Him our weaknesses, obstacles, and troubles. After becoming a Christian, it’s all too natural to continue carrying the weight of our responsibilities, dreams, and issues. When we do that, we are missing out on one of the greatest gifts of salvation! Accepting Jesus as Savior begins an adventure of trusting God in every step and having Him work through us. It’s all very exciting.

Jesus urged His listeners and disciples to not worry or be anxious. The apostle Paul followed that same thought in his letter to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer places you under the protection of the peace of God. This peace can only come through Jesus Christ. Any time you are struggling with an emotion, specific life situations, or fear over upcoming obstacles, surrender it to God! He will accomplish His work through you and take care of you. As you watch God do this for you on a daily basis, the prayer without ceasing will flow from you naturally. You will find yourself living in the joy of God’s peace more and more with those worries and troubles having less of a hold on you.

Once you start consistently experiencing the joy and peace of God, there will be times when you once again feel overpowered by life. Do not be discouraged! Do what you did at the beginning. Surrender! We are not perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. Our imperfections are a reminder of our need. Our times of fear and pain bring us back to God if we have wandered off a bit. We need these negative emotions to warn us when we’ve gone outside of God. Don’t run from them, but embrace them and take it all to God.

Watercolor Beginnings

When planning a watercolor painting, I like to have everything in place before beginning the actual watercolor. The paint dries so quickly that if you don’t have everything planned out, you may not get the effect you’re looking for in the final result.

The sketch in my blog post, “Living Creatures“, is a draft of a future painting. My sketches never look exactly like my final product. It’s just a nice way to get my ideas out in the open and do some testing.

My goal for this piece of art is to admire the handiwork of God. I want there to be simplicity to the piece but still include all the created elements mentioned in Genesis 1 and 2. Something helpful about sketching it out before applying watercolor is the ability to plan out just where the color is going to go. I don’t want the color to be overwhelming, but more like the creativity of God weaving in and out of His own art.

So there’s a little bit of the thoughts that go through my head when starting a new watercolor!

The Man Became a Living Creature

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2

 

Stumped?

When preparing for a Bible study or simply reading the Bible for your own quiet time, you will stumble on questions you don’t have the capacity to answer. Don’t let it stop you from reading! We live in a fantastic age of on demand resources that can help you in your scripture pursuits.

Below are the resources I use most often when I’m feeling stumped by scripture:

1. Lumina: This site is awesome! Not only can you look up scripture in your preferred translation, but on the right side of the screen is pretty much any information you could possibly want for whatever scripture you’re reading. There are five tabs on the right side of the screen to help with your study. The tabs are labeled, “Notes”, “Bibles”, “Greek/Hebrew”, “Library”, and “Search”.

Under the “Notes” tab, there are the footnotes for your chosen Bible translation, there’s the option for Constable’s notes, and then a place for your own personal notes. Dr. Thomas L. Constable has written a commentary for every book of the Bible, among other achievements. For more information on him, click this link and it will take you to a short career biography. His commentaries are excellent and have answered many questions for me.

The “Bible” tab allows you to read different translations parallel to each other. The “Greek/Hebrew” tab lets you see the scripture you’re reading in Greek or Hebrew. If you have a question about how a word was translated, you can hover over the English word and the site will highlight where that word is in the Greek or Hebrew text. A definition of the word will pop up at the bottom of the screen.

I love this site and it’s what I use the majority of the time when writing a Bible study.

2. Pick Your Favorite Pastor: This resource caters a little bit more to your own preference. When I’m writing a Bible study, I like to hear other pastor’s takes on the book or topic I’m writing on. It helps my mind process and keeps me thinking on the subject throughout the day. My favorite pastor to listen to is Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church. I like him because he teaches straight through a book of the Bible. If I have a question on a particular chapter in a specific book, it’s almost certain that he has a sermon on it. I also trust his interpretation of scripture.

I don’t listen to sermons to steal material. I listen to it for inspiration and clarification on work I’m already doing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel or make up a meaning to scripture you have a hard time understanding. There are some well-seasoned pastors who have done a lot of the work for you. Look to them for direction when you feel like you’ve hit a wall in your study.

3. Read More: Sometimes a scripture can be difficult to understand because there were points made in previous chapters of the book that led to the particular topic. When you read around the text of choice, it will oftentimes lead you to the meaning of what you’re reading.

4. Pray: Ask God to show you what He wants you to see in the scripture. Don’t feel like you have to force an answer from Him right when you ask. God may lead you to the answer through one of the resources listed above.

Obviously this list is not exhaustive, but this is the basic approach I take when stumped. What are some of your go-to methods when you need answers? Comment below if you have suggestions or questions!

Keeping It In Context

Topical Bible studies are tricky, because instead of letting a book of the Bible speak, you’re needing scripture to back up your point. A lot of pastors preach mainly topical sermons – and that’s fine – the important thing is that you don’t make scripture absurdly relevant to your current message.

We’ll use Acts 16:25-34 since it was the scripture referenced in this week’s study.

An example of twisting scripture to make your point would look something like this: We are Paul and Silas. We are imprisoned for our Christian faith. However, we know that God is going to send His angel down to break open those prison doors.

Here’s the problem, you and your group are not literally Paul and Silas. And I’m guessing the chance is very slim that y’all are shackled in a first century prison in Philippi. Plus, the troubles you’re experiencing could hang with you to kingdom come.

The key is finding timeless truths. Paul and Silas were experiencing persecution due to the impact they were having on the town for Jesus. They were a light in the dark. God came through for them because He is faithful.

As Christians, the truth is that we will experience forms of darkness. It could be persecution, it could be difficulties in home or work life, or it could be the struggle we face with our own character defects. Whatever it is, the next truth is that we are a light in any darkness because of Jesus. And third truth is that we can have hope because God is faithful. He was faithful to Paul and Silas and He will be faithful to us. It may not look the same. We may not see an angel busting down some prison doors, but we know we can trust God with any circumstance. He knows what He’s doing.

We don’t have to force ourselves into the Bible. We can be amazed by scripture without turning the whole Bible into an allegorical tale. So, when looking for scripture to use for your Bible study, find timeless truths that connect with the truth you’re looking to communicate in your study. You’ll get to share an awesome story and make your point at the same time!

Planning Your Study Schedule

When you are prepping for your next Bible study, it’s important to get the details worked out ahead of time. In the midst of the Bible study you will get busy and will thank your past self for doing the hard work before the study begins. So what’s involved in creating a solid structure for your Bible study? Welcome to the three T’s of planning.

Table! Theme! Time!

Table: The Trees Before the Forest

Deciding what route you’re going for the study is essential when putting together the schedule. The details are what make creating a schedule easy.

If you decide to go the exegetical direction and teach through a book of the Bible, you’ll need to chart the book first, and then use the subsections to schedule out the study. I’ll put a post out soon on charting books of the Bible. It’s tedious, rewarding work and totally worth it!

If your study is topical, think on the main points you want to get across and write them down. Topical studies are great because you can pray through what your group would need to hear and be interested in. Then, you can go as detailed or broad as you like. For more information, take a look at my post on choosing a topic.

Theme: What’s your main message?

The work you do by charting your book or praying through your topical study will get you to your main theme. This is the forest view.

If you are doing a Bible chart, it will lead you directly to the theme of the book. All you need to do at that point is word it in a way that will draw people into your study. For example, once charting the book of James, you may find that the theme of the book is, “Stand Firm”. However, when forming it into a theme for your study, you may title it, “Know Yourself”. You will be communicating the message of standing firm but in a context that may draw more of a picture for your audience.

For a topical study, you’ve basically chosen the theme, but like with the Bible chart, you’ll need to depict the theme in a way that reaches your audience. Look at the points you have created and organize them into a cohesive flow. Find that one main message that ties them all together.

Time: How long is your study going to be?

Once you have your main theme and the subsections of that theme, you can adjust them to any length of Bible study. If you’re doing a six week Bible study, take the top tier subsections of your theme and there are your topics for each week! If it’s a twenty week study… no problem! You have the material for it! Doing the detail work upfront will help you out in the long run. Keep the work you’ve done for later use.

Writing Discussion Questions

Writing discussion questions is not an easy task. As you get to know your Bible study group, finding out what gets them talking will require a lot of trial and error. Don’t get discouraged if you ask a question and it falls flat. Have more questions prepared than you need so that you can move on easily. There are many great tips for writing effective discussion questions, but I’m only going to list three. I like the number three. It keeps things simple.

When writing discussion questions, you want them to be:

Open-ended: An open-ended question contains more than a one word answer. Examples of a one word answer would be, “Did Jesus die on the cross?” or “Who was Jesus talking to in this passage?” You want your questions to encourage discussion. For example, from this week’s scripture reference: Psalm 119:105-112, one of the questions for discussion was: How does the word of God affect David? The answer is within the parameters of Psalm 119:105-112, so it’s not too broad of a question, and it’s asking the reader to look at the information given and draw a conclusion. There’s room for discussion in this question. A one word answer would be something like, Who wrote this psalm? Or What is a lamp to David’s feet? Try and stay away from these types of questions. You want to guide people in thinking through the text.

Educational: Discussing Bible study tips in group will help your group members learn how to read their Bible effectively and accurately. You can use discussion questions to teach your group new ways to see hidden gems in scripture. For example, you can show them they need to be on the lookout for emphasis in scripture. If something is mentioned over and over again in a book, it’s worth paying attention to. A couple of great resources for finding different Bible study elements are, Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks and Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck.

Engaging: Group discussion has many benefits, among those are connection, exchange of opinion, and potential spiritual growth. This time will help people retain some of what they heard and hopefully think over it after they leave the Bible study. Engaging questions give people the opportunity to reflect and share with one another. Since the Bible study this week is still in the topic introduction phase, most of the information is from the article and not so scripture focused. A question suggested in this week’s study was: What are some ways you have made the short days better in the past? This question allows the group to learn more about a person while gleaning helpful information to use in their own lives.

I hope this information is helpful! If you would like more details or have further inquiries about forming discussion questions, please comment below or e-mail me.

Choosing a Bible Study Topic

When sitting down to write a Bible study, the easiest part is choosing a topic. Sometimes topics are given to you by a church leader and you have no real choice in the matter. Other times, your Bible study group will request a particular topic. Then, there are the golden times when you get to select what’s going to be covered.

There are two important steps to choosing a topic wisely.

First, Seek God. You could have the best idea in the world, but if it’s not sought out in prayer, you  may find it falling flat when presented. It can be tempting to choose topics that have the potential of manipulating an audience into a desired action.

For example: your church has an issue with tithing. So, you do an eight week series on giving. What’s the motive behind the series? Changing people’s behavior to meet your standard. If your motive is coming from a place outside of God, not only will the members of the group see right through your teaching, they will resent the message.

So, first: pray and wait. Give God the chance to speak to you and guide you to your topic. Having a topic empowered by God will be much more rewarding and carry greater impact.

Second, Seek Timing. God may grant you many ideas for Bible studies, so the next thing you want to work out with Him is timing. What needs are currently going on in your church?

For example: the natural disasters going on throughout the world right now. Maybe God has inspired you to write a study on the institution of marriage, but the timing is off. What people need to know right now is how to cope in the midst of disaster.

You are a vessel being used by God to share His word. This requires connecting to God and being flexible to His guidance. Be open and willing to go wherever He leads.

If you have more specific questions on choosing a topic, please comment below. I’d be happy to further discuss!