Introduction: I just finished reading the book “Fresh Wind, Fresh
Fire” by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan, 1997). It is a terrific book about
prayer. The thesis of the book is that if you want a church to grow
you need to cultivate the prayer life of the members. My timing for
reading the Cymbala book was perfect because this quarter we begin a
study on prayer. I need to improve my prayer life. If you need to
improve your prayer life, let’s jump into our new study!
- Approaching Prayer
- Read Luke 11:1. What do you think motivated the unnamed
disciple for guidance on prayer? (It seems two things.
First, he saw Jesus pray and was reminded of his need for
help in that area. Second, it seems he knew that John’s
disciples had been instructed in this area, so he thought
he deserved instruction on this from Jesus.)
- Matthew 6 parallels Luke 11 in reporting the model prayer.
However, Matthew 6 has a further introduction, so let’s
look at it by reading Matthew 6:5-6. Is prayer a personal
matter between man and God?
- Is public prayer forbidden here? If not, what is
forbidden? (What is forbidden is “praying” to others
and not God. If you are trying to make yourself
appear more holy by your public prayer, then you are
simply feeding your own pride. In that case the
opinion of others is your entire reward!)
- See the picture painted by verse 6? You go into your
room, close the door and do something secret. Why do
you have to close the door? Why is prayer so secret?
- Why does Jesus mention that His Father in Heaven
is “unseen?” (The whole idea is that prayer is a
private matter between you and God. You are to
be focused on the conversation with God. You are
not praying to look good to others and you are
unaware of the visible world.)
- Does this suggest anything about prayer groups?
(There is no substitute for private prayer with God.)
- Read Matthew 6:7-8. Is your prayer life in a rut? Do you
find yourself repeating the same things in your prayers
all the time? Worse, do you find that your mind sometimes
goes into “neutral” when you pray? Ever find yourself
praying your “bless the food prayer” at bedtime by
- Does an unthinking prayer life fit the definition of
- Should our prayers be very concise? Or, is there some
other message here?
- Verse 8 says God knows about our needs before we ask.
Why do you think Jesus tells us that?
- Does this mean we do not need to explain our
prayers to God?
- Why do we even need to ask if God already knows
exactly what we need?
- Should we tell our children or our spouse
that we love them if they already know?
- Is God like our family, He needs to hear
positive things? (I don’t think God is
like our family. However, I think God is
looking for a dialog with us – for our
benefit. He specifically requires that we
ask. See Luke 11:9-10.)
- Read Luke 6:12. We just read in Matthew 6:7 that
“many words” are not necessary to be heard by God.
How can Jesus pray all night consistent with the idea
of limiting the number of words? (Since we know He
was not babbling, He obviously had a lot about which
He wanted to talk to God — or something else is
- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17. How can you pray
continuously, with few words? (This suggests that
prayer is communion with God. Maybe this is the
“something else going on” in Luke 6:12. Prayer is not
running our mouth all the time, it is communion with
- Now that we have looked at a few general principles about
how we approach prayer, let’s study the model prayer.
- Model Prayer
- Read Luke 11:2-4. What kind of relationship does Jesus
want us to know we can have with God? (He starts out
telling us to call God “Father.”)
- Sometimes I get a little nervous with the idea that
God is just our Big Buddy. What does Jesus say to
moderate this idea? (Right after Jesus tells us to
call God “Father,” He adds “hallowed be Your name.”)
- What does it mean to “hallow” God’s name?
(“Hallowed” means to “make holy.” It is the
opposite, according to Vines, of “common.” God
is our Father, but He is not common or our
buddy. He is God.)
- Do we have a role to play in making God’s name
holy? Isn’t God’s name already holy? What
should you do (or pray to do) to help make God’s
- Or is this an “attitude adjustment”
instruction to us?
- Verse 2 continues, “Your kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10
adds, “Your will be done on earth as it is in
heaven.” What are we praying for if we say these
- We can all understand praying that Jesus will
come a second time to take us home. What is the
goal in asking God’s will be done in earth?
- What is our role in that?
- Why not just leave it at praying for the Second
Coming? Why add the comment about God’s will
being done on earth? (The important point here
is the practical one: God wants us to help
change the world here. Christianity is not just
some “pie in the future sky,” it is changing the
here and now.)
- Verse 3 (Luke 11) tells us to ask for our daily
bread. What do you make of the order of this prayer?
That we should wait to ask for bread until after we
pray God’s will be done on earth?
- Does this give us a priority here?
- Are you surprised that Jesus suggested we pray
for food? (I’m grateful that Jesus suggests that
we pray for material matters. It lets us know
that God also cares about our physical needs and
our material success.)
- What do you understand from the phrase,
“give us each day” our “daily bread?” Do
you want your food to be a “day by day”
issue? (We need to consider our attitude
about this. I prefer to have my finances
planned and to work toward retirement in a
- Is Jesus suggesting He is more interested
in us being daily dependant upon Him
rather than having it all resolved in
- Or, is Jesus just suggesting that God is
interested in us eating EVERY day?
- Look at verse 4 (Luke 11). Is the forgiveness of our
sins dependent upon our forgiveness towards others?
(Read Matthew 6:14-15.)
- Do we have to forgive everyone?
- Do we have to forgive others when they do not
ask for forgiveness?
- Can we forgive, but not forget? (Read Mark
11:25. This seems to require unilateral action.
If we remember that we hold something against
anyone, then we need to forgive that person.)
- Why do you think it is so important to God that
we forgive others?
- Verse 4 (Luke 11)continues, “And lead us not into
temptation.” Is this something we have to pray about?
Will God lead us into temptation if we do not beg Him to
- Matthew 6:13 says, “And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.” The second part of
this sentence sure seems right, but the first part is
difficult to understand.
- Has God ever led you into temptation?
- When you compare God and you, who normally is
the one who brings you into temptation? (We are
generally the ones jumping into temptation.)
- Has God ever protected you from temptation? (I
think God has many times shielded me from
- How important do you think it is to pray about
temptation? (I think God wants us to have an
attitude that strongly opposes temptation.)
- Read James 1:13-15. What role does James say God
plays in temptation?
- Friend, do you approach prayer with the right attitude?
Are your prayers in line with the model? If not, will you
study carefully and put into practice what God suggests
for an improved prayer life?
- Next Week: Prayers of Despair: Job