Getting started

  • Invite members of the group to tell a little about their families. It will be necessary to keep it brief to give each person the opportunity to share if they want to.
  • What, in your experience, helps to build up a good and healthy relationship and what works against it

Read these passages:

Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9-10; Matthew 21:21-22; Matthew 7:7-11.

To think about

This is all very well, but our experience teaches us that prayers are not always answered as we want them to be.

Some people solve the problem by saying that God always answers prayer, but sometimes it is with a No, sometimes with a Yes, and sometimes with a Wait.

Quoting the text, The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective, (James 5:16) some suggest that it depends on the level of righteousness of the person praying.

Another solution is found in the words of John’s Gospel, “In my name”; e.g.: I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything I will do it. (John 14:13-14) The request has to be made in the spirit and attitude (the name) of Jesus

However we have to face up to the fact that Paul says, Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9) Paul wanted to be rid of whatever it was that was troubling him, but although he asked God to take it away, it didn’t happen.

And we have the prayer prayed by Jesus in Gethsemane: My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want. (Matthew 26:39) NRSV.

The cup of suffering did not pass. Jesus had to drink it to the full. However take note of his words: “If it is possible,” and “Yet not what I want but what you want.”

Some things are not possible. God cannot do evil. God cannot deny his ways of love. God cannot back off from the conflict with evil.

Something to talk about

  • Which of the following do you believe God cannot do: bless warfare; wreck destruction on an enemy nation; condone hatred; feel for the oppressed; say that the end always justifies the means; make four plus four equal five?

In praying, “Not my will, but your will be done,” Jesus indicated that all his promises about prayer are subject to God’s will. Prayer requests in the Jesus model always take place within these brackets.

Prayer is part of a relationship. It is the conversation that human beings have with God. So there can be nothing mechanical about it. It is not magic. It is not a matter of pressing the right buttons to get what we want. Intercessory prayer is the expression of our desires within the mystery of inter-personal relationship.

But it is a relationship like no other. One partner is wrapped for ever in mystery. The more we get to know him the more we realise that he is beyond our understanding.

Something to talk about

  • What do you think, should we bring our requests to God in prayer because we believe in God or should we believe in God because he answers our prayers?
  • Does it help to see prayer as conversation taking place within a relationship?

When we compare our limited knowledge and understanding to the knowledge and understanding that God must have, we see how foolish it is for us to expect that our every prayer request should be granted just as we desire it.

Yet under our limitations we can still take up the invitation to bring our requests to our heavenly Parent because, through Christ, we live with an awareness of God’s love. However we are not childishly to put on a temper tantrum if we don’t get what we want, to sulk or complain, or run away from home. It is all part of living in a trusting, faith-filled relationship.

  • Read Matthew 6:7-8

Something to talk about

  • If God loves us and knows what is best for us, why do we need to ask for anything?

Practise prayer

  • To focus on your relationship with God repeat to yourself several times, “I live within the love of God.” Then make one or two personal requests to God.
  • Decide, as a group, on something specific to pray for and ask each person to pray for this during the week. We’ll check up next time to see what difference this seems to have made.