Getting started again

  • What’s been the best thing to happen to you today?
  • Did you try using one of the aids to prayer that you don’t usually use? How did you get on?
  • If you feel OK about doing it, share with the group any experience you have had of being left alone, abandoned, isolated or ignored. Perhaps you could follow this with a few moments of either silent or spoken prayer.

Something to think about

  • It is easy to pray when God seems close and we know ourselves affirmed and accepted by God, but what about those times when God seems far away? There are times when we feel as though God has abandoned us. How can we pray then?

Before we go on, let’s take note that when we feel like this we are not alone. The greatest saints and prayer warriors have gone through this experience. Some talk about the dark night of the soul.

And Jesus on the cross prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) NRSV.

These are the words at the beginning of Psalm 22.

  • Read Psalm 22: 1-11

With Jesus, this abandonment was redemptive. Only by sharing in humanity’s separation from God could he open up the way of salvation for others. And it may also be a bit like that with us. God may use our faithfulness in the face of god-forsakenness to accomplish his purposes. We may not know what they are at the time, but later be able to look back on how God used that faithfulness.

To talk about

  • Give examples from your own life or from other people’s lives of God using faithfulness in the face of god-forsakenness.

It has been pointed out that a teacher only knows whether the student has learnt well when the student is left alone without the teacher’s guidance or support. Faith really comes into its own when it sees no rewards, when God seems far away, and all seems to be lost.

To talk about

  • Do you agree with this, that faith really comes into its own when God seems far away?

Athletes in training have a saying: no gain without pain. Maybe it’s like that with the Christian life. Testing times are toughening up times, shaping and defining moments. We actually need them for the development of character and faith

To talk about

  • What does this say about the prosperity gospel? The prosperity gospel is that God blesses people of faith with health, wealth and happiness.

Prayer need not be reserved for times specifically roped off and marked “For Prayer”. It can take place as an on-going conversation— the simple expression of one’s thoughts and feeling to God in the course of the day. Richard Foster in Prayer, Finding the heart’s true home says, “In the most natural and simple way possible we learn to pray our experiences by taking up the ordinary events of every-day life and giving them to God.” We may cry out, “Why me!” We may argue with God, complain to God, even yell at God, but we do so honestly and from the heart, remembering all the time to whom we are addressing ourselves.

This sort of prayer is spontaneous and from the heart, but it draws on the tradition in which we stand, as Jesus did by using Psalm 22 to give voice to his cry on the cross. We are not believers in isolation. We are part of a community of faith stretching back over centuries. We pick up snatches of hymns or choruses, verses of Scripture, poems or prayers to help us give voice to what is in our hearts.

To talk about

  • Do you have a Bible verse, hymn, chorus or prayer that keeps popping up in your head from time to time and that you find helpful in some way?

Practise prayer

  • Write a prayer expressing thanks to God for help in difficult times.
  • Pray for people you know of who are going through difficult times.
  • Find a short prayer to bring along next time.