Read an Excerpt
Too Busy Not to Pray Study Guide
By Bill Hybels
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013Bill Hybels
All rights reserved.
Through the ages, prayer has changed attitudes, changed circumstances, changed minds, delivered wisdom, delivered resources, delivered deliverance, cured sickness, calmed winds, healed marriages, untangled financial knots, emboldened the oppressed, expanded the gates of heaven, and brought to life those who were dead. In a word, prayer has mattered. And evidently, we believe it still does. Three out of four people claim to pray every single day, which means that in spite of our sometimes-fragile faith, we keep coming back to the ideas that God is willing to hear us when we call, and that he is able to lend a helping hand.
In short, this is why we pray.
Prior to meeting with your group to discuss session 1, read the following chapters of the book Too Busy Not to Pray (2008 edition):
Chapter 1, "God of Peace, God of Power"
Chapter 2, "God Is Willing"
Chapter 3, "God Is Able"
In functional families, children learn from the earliest of ages that their mother and father will respond to them when they have a pressing need. As babies, they know that when they cry in the middle of the night, Mom will show up with a concerned look on her face, eager to help sort out whether food or cuddles or added warmth is going to solve the problem—and then help provide that resource as quickly as possible.
They know that when Dad reaches down to pick them up, there will be gentleness in his touch. They know that when they spit up, Mom will be there to patiently clean up the mess. They know that when they smile, loved ones will smile back.
As they get older, they come to understand that birthdays and Christmastime will always involve meaningful traditions and lots of love. They understand that rules are established for their protection. They understand that when they violate those rules, there may be consequences, but also there will be forgiveness, there will be grace. They understand that whatever else happens, there always will be love. This is how it goes with good parents; they never neglect trying to meet real needs, and they never neglect trying to love well.
In Matthew 7, we read some pretty powerful words from Jesus about how we are to approach our heavenly Father in prayer. "Don't bargain with God," he instructs. "Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?" (vv. 7–11 MSG).
What he's saying, essentially, is this: As human parents, the best we can do is still not so good, when compared with God's goodness. We are fallen. We are fearful. We are broken. We are self-centered and sin-scarred and weak. Yes, we do our level best to love our kids well, but we are imperfect and inconsistent and our motives are impure at times. But not so with God.
No, we can come boldly before his throne, knowing that while earthly parents try to meet needs, our heavenly Father is always willing, always able to do so. While earthly parents try to love well, our heavenly Father loves us with a perfect and everlasting love.
We may shake our heads and chuckle at the kid who hands his teacher his completed geography test and then prays, "God, please make Detroit the capital of Michigan," but most of us have offered up our share of misdirected prayers from time to time.
For example, we fly down neighborhood streets, late to church again, praying that we won't get pulled over. We pray that our first date with this self-absorbed person soon will be over. We pull into a parking spot designated for drivers with disabilities, praying as we dash into the store that nobody who really needs the slot will be left circling the lot the entire time we're inside. When our kids are small, we pray they won't wake from a nap while we're trying to see just one task through to completion. We pray the snowstorm that's making a beeline for our town will miraculously be diverted, so we can carry on with carefully crafted plans. Women, in particular, pray that their "skinny clothes" will somehow still fit.
What is a humorous prayer request you've made along the way? Did things pan out the way you hoped they would? Share your thoughts with your group.
As you watch the video for session 1, use the following outline to record anything that stands out to you.
Prayer, through the ages
First experiences with prayer
Prayer that stirs the soul
The season of prayerlessness
A deep dive into Scriptures on prayer
God's inclination toward kindness
Video Discussion and Bible Study
1. Bill cited many results that prayer has yielded throughout history, including that it has changed attitudes and changed circumstances, delivered wisdom and delivered peace, and more. What are a few simple, practical things that you have seen prayer do firsthand?
2. The first time Bill experienced prayer was in the church of his youth. Thinking back on your own spiritual history, what was your first experience with prayer like, and where did it occur? How did that early experience shape your understanding of prayer and of God?
3. If you were to divide your prayer life into seasons or eras, what word or phrase would you use in naming each of them? For Bill, one prayer season was marked by disillusionment. Another, during his camp-counselor days, was marked by sheer exhilaration. A third was marked by prayerlessness. Take ninety seconds to note on the following grid a one- or two-word description of your own "prayer eras" as well as the situations or circumstances that surrounded them, and then share an entry or two with your group. An example is offered.
4. Based on the eras of prayer you recorded on the grid in question 3, what is the closest you've ever come to experiencing a season of "prayerlessness," similar to the one Bill described? Below, list three to five characteristics that describe what it feels like to live without the priority of prayer.
5. What situations, frustrations, or questions do you suppose typically cause people who love God to stop communicating with him through prayer?
6. Philippians 4:6 says to not "be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (emphasis added). Given that most everyone has experienced ups and downs, highs and lows, and ebbs and f lows to his or her prayer life, do you think it's actually possible to live this way? Why or why not?
7. For Bill, the solution to reconnecting with God after a time of prayerlessness was doing a deep dive into Scriptures dealing with the topic of prayer. Both in the video and in chapter 1 of the book, he cites several of the verses he found impactful, including the following:
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refu
Excerpted from Too Busy Not to Pray Study Guide by Bill Hybels. Copyright © 2013 by Bill Hybels. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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