21st Century Discipleship Resources

Session 7: See how they grow (1)

Growing as a Christian: prayer and Bible reading

Ice-breaker

Q) What are some of the things that a child needs for healthy development?

Growing healthy Christians

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a, NIV

Q) Toddlers have to learn to walk and so do we. Talk about some of the ups and downs you have experienced as new Christians.

Q) What is needed to help us grow?

We need good relationships, particularly with our human parents, to help us grow. God is our spiritual Father who feeds us and teaches us. We build up our relationship with him as we spend time with him through prayer and Bible reading. In John 7:37 Jesus says, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’. The initiative is God’s but we still need to respond ourselves.

Bible reading

This is a discipline you will need to practise and refine, all through your spiritual life.

Health check

In Session 2 we talked about the Bible, its importance and the different ways of reading it. How are you getting on with reading the Bible?

Q) Talk about the pleasures and the difficulties you have experienced in doing this.

Q) Everyone has stumbling-blocks. Think about ways to get round them.

Prayer

Prayer is a conversation with someone who loves and likes us. Like all conversations, it is composed of both listening and talking.

Think about the following questions:

Q) What is your experience of prayer?

Q) Who is it do you think that should do most of the talking?

When and how to pray

Read Matthew 6:5-8.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. NIV

Q) When is the best time of the day for you to pray? (This could be different for each of us).

Q) Can you imagine yourself praying aloud in a group?

See Matthew 18:19-20.

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. NIV

What to pray about?

Read Philippians 4:6.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. NIV

What sort of things should we include in our prayers?

There is so much that we could say about prayer! Think about the message of these passages:

Luke 18:1-8.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said:“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth. NIV

We should be persistent in prayer and not give up.

Mark 11:24.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. NIV

We should also be expectant in prayer.

Answers to prayer

Q) Have you experienced any answers to prayer in your own life?

It is natural to think in terms of ‘answers’. But if prayer is a conversation with God, it is not just about making requests – it is about engaging in a relationship.

If your prayers seems unanswered, what could some of the reasons be? Look up the following passages:

James 4:3.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. NIV

We ask for the wrong things

Mark 11:25.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. NIV

We need to forgive someone first.

Read 1 John 5:14-15.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. NIV

Sometimes God’s answer to a prayer is ‘No’ or ‘Not yet’. This can be difficult if you are praying for specific guidance about something in your life. We will be looking more closely at the whole area of Guidance in the next session.

How Jesus prayed

Jesus demonstrated a model prayer to his disciples in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Look up Matthew 6:9-15.

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. NIV

Q) What different aspects of prayer can you see there?

Notice the emphasis on forgiveness in verse 15 – as we have already seen that is often the hard part!

Practising prayer

This may be a good time for you as a group to start praying together. Talk about what you would like to pray for and then, perhaps, the leaders can pray aloud for you. If you are comfortable with the idea then why not pray aloud yourself.

Your choice (home study option)

In the coming week, try and set aside a regular time each day for reading the Bible and hearing from God. Write down what you gained from doing this and what you found difficult. We can compare our notes next week!