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!

  1. Approaching Prayer

    1. 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.)

    2. 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?

      1. 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!)

      2. 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?

        1. 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.)

      3. Does this suggest anything about prayer groups?
        (There is no substitute for private prayer with God.)

    3. 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

      1. Does an unthinking prayer life fit the definition of

      1. Should our prayers be very concise? Or, is there some
        other message here?

      2. Verse 8 says God knows about our needs before we ask.
        Why do you think Jesus tells us that?

        1. Does this mean we do not need to explain our
          prayers to God?

        2. Why do we even need to ask if God already knows
          exactly what we need?

          1. Should we tell our children or our spouse
            that we love them if they already know?

          2. 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.)

      3. 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
        going on.)

      4. 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

    1. Now that we have looked at a few general principles about
      how we approach prayer, let’s study the model prayer.

  1. Model Prayer

    1. 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.”)

      1. 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.”)

        1. 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.)

        2. 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
          name holy?

          1. Or is this an “attitude adjustment”
            instruction to us?

      2. 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

        1. 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?

          1. What is our role in that?

        2. 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.)

      3. 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?

        1. Does this give us a priority here?

        2. 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.)

          1. 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
            systematic way.)

          2. Is Jesus suggesting He is more interested
            in us being daily dependant upon Him
            rather than having it all resolved in

          3. Or, is Jesus just suggesting that God is
            interested in us eating EVERY day?

      4. Look at verse 4 (Luke 11). Is the forgiveness of our
        sins dependent upon our forgiveness towards others?
        (Read Matthew 6:14-15.)

        1. Do we have to forgive everyone?

        2. Do we have to forgive others when they do not
          ask for forgiveness?

        3. 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.)

        4. Why do you think it is so important to God that
          we forgive others?

    2. 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
      stop it?

      1. 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.

        1. Has God ever led you into temptation?

        2. When you compare God and you, who normally is
          the one who brings you into temptation? (We are
          generally the ones jumping into temptation.)

        3. Has God ever protected you from temptation? (I
          think God has many times shielded me from

        4. How important do you think it is to pray about
          temptation? (I think God wants us to have an
          attitude that strongly opposes temptation.)

        5. Read James 1:13-15. What role does James say God
          plays in temptation?

    3. 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?

  2. Next Week: Prayers of Despair: Job