Read an Excerpt
When You Pray as a Small Group
By Rueben P. Job, Sally D. Sharpe
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2010 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
(Approximately 60 minutes)
Bible(s), copies of When You Pray: Daily Practices for Prayerful Living for all participants, any items needed for your Prayerwork activity
Opening (5 minutes)
Welcome participants and open with prayer. Read aloud a brief Scripture and offer a prayer in response. You may say your own prayer or use the following:
Loving God, you are a God of relationship. You love us without limit and call us into relationship with you through your Son, Jesus Christ. You make your home within us, indwelling us with your Holy Spirit. You are our ever-present companion, our loving and wise guide, our very source of life and strength. We long to know you more—to draw nearer to you through prayer so that we may walk more closely with you each day and live faithfully and fully as followers of Jesus Christ. Guide us in this process. "Lord, teach us to pray." We ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Introduction (5-10 minutes)
In advance, familiarize yourself with the introduction of this book. Present the information found there in your own words, noting that one of the most effective ways to cultivate a meaningful prayer life is to explore and practice prayer in community.
Announce that a variety of small groups will be forming in the coming weeks for that very purpose. (Indicate the number of weeks that groups will be meeting, or acknowledge that each group may make this decision.)
Explain that although the groups will use the same resource—When You Pray: Daily Practices for Prayerful Living by Rueben P. Job—they will have the option of choosing one or more styles or approaches designed to meet different needs and interests. Note that groups may choose one style or approach or mix them up from week to week as they choose.
Briefly present and explain the five group options to participants:
Discussion-based–for those who prefer to emphasize group discussion
Activity-based–for those desiring more hands-on activity
Introspective–for those who prefer reflective, selfexamining practices such as meditation and journaling
Arts-focused–for those who enjoy various modes of artistic expression
Habit Breaker–for those eager to break out of old habits and try new approaches
Overview (15 minutes)
In advance, become familiar with each of the five group session templates. Note that 1) the session outline is basically the same from group to group (with the exception of the Introspective Group, which substitutes Journaling Time for Group Discussion/ Application), and 2) the distinctions or nuances among the groups are found in how each segment of the session outline is approached or carried out.
If possible, provide copies of When You Pray for all participants, or have participants share. Present the basic outline of the group session:
Group Discussion/Application (or Journaling Time)
A Time of Commitment
As you move through each segment of the outline, explaining what will happen at that time, note any nuances or distinctions suggested for each of the five groups. For example, a candle and instrumental music are added to the Opening for introspective groups, while arts-focused groups are encouraged to use a visual element during this time. Likewise, the Group Prayer becomes more active for activity-based groups with the addition of doodling, drawing, or movement, while arts-focused groups are instructed to create a prayer mural. During the time ordinarily set aside for Group Discussion, introspective groups engage in journaling instead. And so forth.
Prayerwork (15-20 minutes)
Highlight the importance of the Prayerwork activities, noting that a list of suggestions is provided for each of the five groups. Groups are encouraged to select one idea for each session, and/or to create/find their own prayer activities tailored to address their specific needs and interests. (A multitude of ideas may be found by searching the Internet or a local library or bookstore.)
In advance, choose a Prayerwork activity and gather any necessary materials. Lead the group through the exercise at this time.
Questions (5 minutes)
Have a time for questions and answers. Write down any questions you are unable to answer at this time, and get back to the individual with an answer later.
Closing (5 minutes)
Invite participants to join you in the Closing from the sample session for discussion-based groups (found on page 64).
Read aloud the following Scripture blessing:
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
Follow the blessing with a benediction that the group may recite together. For example, you might say together, "May the Lord bless you and keep you," "Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you," "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," or some other benediction of your choosing.
In advance, create five sign-up sheets—one for each of the five group styles—or one sign-up sheet with a column where individuals may note their preferred group style. Allow space for name, phone number, and email address. Invite those who are interested in joining/leading a group to sign up on their way out.CHAPTER 2
Session Plan Template
(Note: This template outlines a session of just under 60 minutes. To decrease the time, eliminate one or more segments of your choosing. To extend the session, allow more time for Prayerwork and/or Group Discussion/Application.)
Bible(s), When You Pray: Daily Practices for Prayerful Living, any items needed for your Prayerwork activity
Opening (1-3 minutes)
"Becoming Aware of God's Presence"
The opening is a time to prepare yourselves for encountering God. After welcoming participants, read aloud a brief Scripture passage intended to help group members focus their minds and hearts on recognizing and welcoming God's presence (see "Becoming Aware of God's Presence" in When You Pray).
Invitational Prayer (3 minutes)
"Inviting God's Intervention"
Spend a few moments inviting God to act—in your lives, your families, your small group, your church, your community, and your world. After reading aloud a brief Scripture or text (see "Inviting God's Intervention" in When You Pray), offer a prayer in response. Determine in advance who will pray aloud for the group each week.
Scripture Reading (3-5 minutes)
"Listening for God's Voice"
Open yourselves to what God is saying to you through the Scriptures. Read aloud one or two key Scripture readings from those provided for the week (see "Listening for God's Voice" in When You Pray). Select the reading(s) prior to the group session. If you like, have a different group member read the Scripture selection(s) each week.
(Note: In When You Pray, three choices are provided for the Sunday Scripture drawn from the common lectionary. If your congregation follows the Ecumenical Sunday Lectionary Scripture readings and you wish to choose a Sunday Scripture for your group session, a chart in the back of When You Pray will help you to identify which cycle to use—A, B, or C.)
Devotional Reading (5 minutes)
"Essay / Quotations"
Read aloud the brief essay written by Rueben P. Job provided for the week, as well any quotations that you would like to share (see "Essay" and "Quotations" in When You Pray).
Group Discussion/Application (10 minutes)
Take time to reflect on what you have read and heard and consider how it applies to your lives. In advance of the session, choose from the following questions, or feel free to write your own.
What is God saying to you through what we have shared today?
How does today's theme apply to a particular situation or circumstance you are dealing with currently?
What life experiences have enlightened your understanding of today's theme?
What questions have been raised by today's readings?
How is God calling you to respond—as individuals and as a group?
Prayerwork (15-20 minutes)
Choose one of the Prayerwork ideas for discussion-based groups found on pages 19--23, or create/find your own prayer activity.
Group Prayer (5 minutes)
"Making Our Requests Known"
Enter into a time of prayer in which group members are invited to pray silently and/or aloud in response to specific prayer prompts. Pause after reading each prompt. Use the following prompts, or feel free to create your own:
Almighty God, we offer now our praise and thanks for who you are, what you have done, and what you have revealed to us today ...
Loving Creator, we now offer our prayers for our world and its people and leaders ...
We lift up to you, O God, our church and its leaders ...
Gracious God, receive now our prayers on behalf of those in our circle of care or concern ...
Finally, Lord, we submit our personal needs and requests ...
A Time of Commitment (2 minutes)
"Offering of Self to God"
Follow the group prayer with a time of commitment in which you offer your very lives to God—all that you have, all that you are, and all that you hope to become. Surrender control as you invite God to do what is best --- confident that God will meet your needs and bless you as you give your life to the work of God in this world. Use the Scripture or text provided in the weekly reading (see "Offering of Self to God" in When You Pray), or offer your own prayer of commitment.
Closing (2 minutes)
End the session with a blessing. Read aloud the blessing provided in the weekly reading (see "Blessing" in When You Pray), and follow it with a benediction that the group may recite together each week. For example, you might say together, "May the Lord bless you and keep you," "Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you," "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," or some other benediction of your choosing.CHAPTER 3
Prayerwork Ideas for
Invite participants to define prayer. Ask: What is it? How do we do it? Why do we do it? Discuss what we can do to prevent our prayer time from becoming a "one-way conversation."
Ask participants what they like most about prayer and what they find easiest. Then discuss what they find most difficult about prayer. Brainstorm ways you might address some of these difficulties.
Take turns sharing and discussing your own prayer practices, routines, and rituals as well as helpful hints for establishing a regular prayer habit.
Read aloud 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Discuss what it means to pray continually and how we can do this. Talk about how everyday activities can be constant reminders to pray. Give several examples to illustrate:
- As you exercise, pray for the strength and ability to do God's will.
- As you shower, pray for God's cleansing and forgiveness of your sins.
- As you drive to work, pray for your boss and co-workers.
- As you drive past a church, pray for that church, for your church, and for the church universal—as well as for Christian pastors and leaders.
- As you watch the news, pray about the circumstances being reported.
- As you find yourself worrying, turn your worries into prayers.
- As you make a purchase or balance your checkbook, say a prayer of thanksgiving for God's provision.
Have the group contribute to the list. Write their ideas on a board or chart.
Have a prayer Q&A time when participants can take turns asking questions of the group. Do this once, or repeat the exercise at two or more sessions. Here are some sample questions participants might ask:
- Where do you like to pray, and why?
- When is your favorite time of day to pray, and why?
- What helps you to enter into a time of prayer?
- How do you keep your mind from wandering when you pray?
- Do you structure your prayer time or follow any pattern? If so, how?
- Do you use any books or other resources in your prayer time, and if so, what?
- Have you ever had a prayer partner, and how did that work?
- When and how do you pray with your family?
- Have you had "dry" periods when you found it difficult to pray? If so, what did you do?
- What hinders your prayer time/prayer life?
- How has prayer enriched your life?
Discuss various forms, methods, and models of prayer, such as breath prayer, guided prayer, arrow prayers, lectio divina, centering prayer, the ACTS prayer model (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), and so forth. Present and discuss a variety of prayer methods, or focus on one method each session. You might ask each participant to research a different method, and then have one person present his or her findings each week.
Learn about the prayer methods of other religions. Ask a different member each session to bring a topic to present and discuss. Possibilities might include Islamic calls to prayer, uses of prayer beads and rosaries, or icons. (See the article by Marilyn Thornton on page 47 and the article on prayer beads by Sally Dyck on page 156 in Becoming a Praying Congregation [Abingdon, 2009].)
Explore the phrases of the Lord's Prayer by having participants break into pairs or groups of three. Give each pair/group an index card with a phrase from the Lord's Prayer and questions about that phrase written on it (see below). Have the pairs/groups discuss the questions for about 5 minutes. Then reconvene and allow each pair/group to share their insights.
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN
- What does this phrase tell us about God and God's character?
- How does viewing God as "Father" help or hinder your prayers? Why?
- Of what does the word "our" remind us? Why is this important for us to remember?
- What do the words "in heaven" tell us—about God, ourselves, our destiny?
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
- What does "hallowed" mean?
- Why is it important to acknowledge that God's name is holy?
- How should this affect or shape our prayers?
YOUR KINGDOM COME
- What is God's kingdom, and what does it mean to pray for it to "come"?
- How is God's kingdom both here now and yet to come?
- What can we do to extend the kingdom of God upon the earth now?
- What does the Bible tells us about the future kingdom of God?
YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
- What are we asking when we pray this part of the prayer?
- How can we know God's will?
- How can we participate in bringing God's will on earth?
- What does it mean to submit or surrender ourselves to God's will? Give an example of what this might "look like" in an individual's life.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
- What does this phrase mean? What are we asking God to do for us?
- Why is it important to acknowledge that God is our Provider?
- How does God use us to help care for others—to be God's hands on earth?
AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES/SINS
- Why is it important to ask for God's forgiveness?
- When, and for what, should we ask God's forgiveness?
- What can hinder us from asking for and receiving God's forgiveness?
AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS/SIN AGAINST US
- Why is it important to forgive others?
- What did Jesus say about the necessity of forgiving others?
- What happens when we forgive others?
- What hinders us from forgiving others?
- What can help us to overcome these hindrances?
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
- What is temptation?
- Is it a sin to be tempted?
- In what ways is this phrase a prayer for protection?
- Why does God sometimes allow us to be tempted?
- What does God promise us when we are tempted?
- What can we do to avoid yielding to temptation?
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
- What does "evil" refer to here?
- What does it mean to be "delivered" from evil?
- How can we live victoriously in a world full of evil?
Excerpted from When You Pray as a Small Group by Rueben P. Job, Sally D. Sharpe. Copyright © 2010 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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