Getting started

  • Ask people to share things that they feel thankful for. Arrange for someone to offer a prayer of thanksgiving taking up those things just mentioned.
  • Invite people to share their answers to the question: How would you like to be remembered after you’re gone?

Something to think about

In these two activities we have highlighted thanksgiving as a form of prayer and recognised that our lives have an impact on others. The prayer of Jesus that we look at now highlights the place of thanksgiving in Jesus’ life and shows that he was aware of the impact that his actions, even his praying, had on people around him.

John tells the story of Jesus going to the place where Lazarus was buried. The scene is charged with emotion, but as he stands in front of the opened tomb he prays:

Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42) NRSV

Jesus gave thanks for God’s readiness to answer his prayer, but he also wanted to make it quite clear that what he was about to do was not being done in his own strength. It was being done by the power of God.

Jesus gave thanks even before the miracle takes place—so confident was he of God’s power over the powers of darkness.

Thanksgiving is an important part of prayer. In fact, it is an important part of the Christian life to which we are called. If there isn’t an undertone of gratitude in our lives, we probably haven’t really appreciated the grace and love of God that surrounds us.

Something to talk about

  • Talk about this last paragraph. Do you agree with it?

As it was important for the people around him to realise where the power came from in the raising of Lazarus, it is also important for us that we realise where power lies in prayer.

Maybe there is some sort of power in prayer itself. Many believe that there is. But Jesus was not interested in this. His interest was in the power of God. Similarly we should not think of prayer as some natural or supernatural force that we can use. The only power in prayer for us is the power of God.

Some people seem to put their faith in prayer more than they put their faith in God. If prayer doesn’t bring the results they look for, they think that something must have been wrong with the prayer or with the person praying. Maybe they didn’t have enough faith. This can be terribly destructive. But Christ does not ask us to place our faith in prayer itself; he calls us to put our faith in God.

Something else to talk about

  • Why is it important to make this distinction between the power in prayer itself and the power of God evident through prayer?

In praying this prayer Jesus wanted to convey something to the people around him. This draws attention to one of the side-effects of prayer—the effect upon others, not just those who are specifically prayed for, but for the people who hear or read the prayer being offered.

Jesus warned against trying to use prayer to make an impression on others.

  • Read Matthew 6:5-6.

We should question our own motives for prayer. Are we seeking to honour God and help others in their relationship with him or are we using prayer to gain power, reputation or monetary gain for ourselves?

Something to talk about:

  • What sort of effect can praying have on people who are present when the prayer is prayed, for good or ill?
  • How is our praying affected by the people who are present with us when we pray?

Practise prayer

  • If there is a situation that is getting you down, that upsets you, try looking for things about it that you can give thanks for. Allow a period of silence for this. In any case use the quiet time to give thanks for God’s love and grace.
  • Give thanks for each person in the group and for the group itself.