Prayer: Working with God

Discussion Guide for Matthew 6:9-10 

A recent survey of Americans’ religious beliefs reflected a continuing high level of some sort of belief in the existence of God (89%). This is in spite of the fact that Americans’ identification with formal religion is rapidly declining. 23% and growing identify as “no religious preference.”

The vast majority of Americans likewise indicate that they pray, but there is a great level of disagreement as to what or whom they are actually praying.

Data on folks’ religious beliefs is fascinating to me. I recommend looking into this study at the Pew Research Center. One takeaway is that we absolutely must look somewhere other than our neighbors to gain any certainty about the nature of God and prayer.

The defining Christian belief about God is that He is a personal God.

These are understood presumptions from Genesis to Revelation: that God has a name, that he knows people, that people can know Him, and that he saves people so that they can belong to Him. You will not find these beliefs about God in any other religion or faith system in the world. When Jesus teaches about prayer, these bedrock principles allow us to pray His way.

One of the great reflections on the Sermon on the Mount written in our day is Dallas Willard’s magnum opus, The Divine Conspiracy1. Willard was a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California. In this book he examines each section of the Sermon as it relates to being in an apprentice to Master Jesus. You cannot read it without being challenged at every turn of the page.

Willard says that prayer is a method of theological research, or a method of knowing what and who God is (p.194). He also says that prayer is basically requesting things from God (p. 242).

We always pray for the things in which we are genuinely interested, otherwise we would give up on praying. The interesting thing about true prayer, however, is that it has a way of expanding the circle of things in which we are interested to more closely align with the things that interest God.

Willard’s best definition of prayer, then, is “talking to God about what we are doing together” (p. 243).

This is why the Disciples’ Prayer (also known as the Lord’s Prayer) begins by focusing our attention on our relationship with God, his name, his reign, and his will. God is about the business of establishing his kingdom on earth and he is calling his children to be a part of it!

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:9-10

Take some time to think about and discuss the significance of the following phrases:

  • Our father
  • In heaven
  • Hallowed
  • Your kingdom
  • Your will
  • On earth

Discussion Questions

  • Why is important that God is our father?
  • How do our prayers reflect our belief in God’s sovereignty?
  • How do our prayers reflect a belief in God’s holy nature?
  • How do you pray differently when you know that God has a personal name?
  • What is the difference between a me-focused prayer and a kingdom-focused prayer?
  • Why do you think Jesus commands us to seek God’s will instead of our own?
  • Talk about a time when you prayed for your will, but God used that prayer to show you that His will is better.
  • Why is it important for us to focus our attention on God’s reign extending to the earth?

Related Resources

Prayer: Taking off the Mask

Discussion Guide for Matthew 6:5-8

My favorite example of prayer in Hollywood comes from Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie Shenandoah.

This classic film reveals a lot about how people often approach prayer. It’s an act of duty, obligation, or self-flattery with no awareness of our total dependence on God for every moment of our lives.

Begin your discussion today by brainstorming a little bit.

  • Who in your life do you love to hear pray?
  • Why do you love that person’s prayers?
  • Was the prayer honest? How do you know?
  • How is prayer connected to the way that person lives?
  • What is your relationship to that person?
  • Conversely, have you ever been in a public situation where you were uncomfortable with the way that prayer was being offered?
  • Did the prayer reveal something about the character of the people offering the prayer?

Christians often don’t pray. I don’t believe this is typically out of a lack of belief in prayer or understanding that God hears it and is capable of giving them what they need. Instead, I believe that we are simply intimidated because our prayers don’t measure up or we fear being labeled as hypocrites.

The goal of the discussion today is to remove any fear of prayer. I hope you see that God loves his children to come to him openly and honestly without any show or pretense.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Matthew 6:5-7

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins a discussion on prayer by telling people they don’t need to be like the religious authorities when they go to pray.

Keep in mind that this is the original context for how we define “hypocrite” today. When Jesus used it, he was saying those who practice a form of religion that is meant to be seen by other people and not by God are no different than actors who put on masks in a drama.

When hypocrites pray, you do not get a sense of who they truly are. The only thing you know about them is what they want you to see as you pass by in synagogue or on the street corner.

The very first principle of prayer is that it must be rooted in honesty, sincerity, and authenticity. This is at the core of what it means to have a relationship with God.

Today’s equivalent for the crowded street corner is social media. If you have a Facebook account, you have an audience.

The problem for so many people today is that they have an online “virtual” life that is carefully constructed in such a way to please an audience. These virtual lives have absolutely no resemblance to what our actual lives look like. Everybody has a perfect family, fabulous style, hours of uninterrupted quiet time in the morning (complete with a prayer journal, open Bible, and hot cup of coffee), great health, a clean house, and the ability to take an exotic vacation every month.

Whenever I see someone on Facebook talking about how perfect and wonderful their spouse is, I am immediately concerned they are headed to divorce court.

It’s kind of like high school for grown-ups. You put on your best clothes, associate with the popular people, and start drama just for kicks. But at the end of the day, what people think about you online has no meaning or bearing for who you are and what your life is like. It’s the definition of hypocrisy.

If prayer is not meant to please others, what is it for?

Simply put, it’s about knowing God.

God is not fooled by your social media account. Even if you are as fabulous as you portray online, God is not impressed. He knows who you are.

That is scary, but it is also comforting. I don’t have to be a hypocrite. I don’t have to entertain God. I don’t have to perform so that God will give me what I ask.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:8

How awesome is that?!? I don’t have to worry about forgetting something when I pray. I don’t have to worry about telling God something he doesn’t already know. I don’t have to be concerned that God will think less of me because of my prayer.

I asked you to think of a person you love to hear pray because I suspect your answer might be similar to mine.

There was an old man in my home church in Tennessee who lived by himself and had some mental disabilities. He has gone to heaven now, but I don’t think anyone will ever forget listening to him pray publicly in front of the church. He was full of sincerity, simplicity, and joy every time he opened his mouth to speak to God. There were no big words, there were no new concepts, but the evidence of God in this man’s life was in every word of his prayers. He wasn’t trying to impress anybody, he was simply talking to God.

At the end of the day, the quality of our life with God is only as strong as the quality of our life in prayer. If prayer is performance, then we also think that salvation is based on performance. But if prayer is simply time spent with God, then we can begin to believe that salvation only comes as a gift from God to the children he loves.

Discussion Questions

  • How is prayer like or unlike a social media post?
  • What do you find most difficult about prayer?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to be honest with God?
  • Why do you think that God values honesty?
  • How does the way that you pray reflect what you believe about God?

Related Resources

New Special Needs Worship Service

First Fruits Special Needs Worship Service

Sometimes our modern style of worship can be a bit intense for individuals with special needs or sensory issues.

First Fruits Ministry is a safe, caring environment to worship and learn about God. Our teachers are experienced with special needs education, including Autism and Downs Syndrome.

  • What: A specially designed worship service for individuals with special needs ages 13+
  • When: 11AM, First Sunday Each Month
  • Where: Classroom #1 at Venture Church
    (800 East Main Street, Dallas)
  • Contact: Jonathan Pugh at 423-742-0709 or jonathan.pugh@daretoventure.org

Services begin on Sunday, January 7th, 2018. Please contact Associate Pastor Jonathan Pugh for more information.

800 E. Main St., Dallas, NC
View on Google Maps

Operation Christmas Child

A small shoebox can have a big impact. What goes into the box is fun, but what comes out of it is eternal. Be a part of changing children’s lives all over the world in Jesus’ Name through the power of a simple gift with Operation Christmas Child.

Venture is collecting shoeboxes now through November 19th.

Operation Christmas Child brings joy and hope to children in desperate situations worldwide through gift-filled shoeboxes and the Good News of God’s love.

How to Help

Pack a Gift

  1. Pick up labels and a shoebox at the Hub.
  2. Follow the directions on the label when filling your box.
  3. Bring your box back to Venture any Sunday through Nov 19.

The Gospel is included with each box. You’re not just giving gifts, but sharing Jesus’ good news with a child around the world. Make sure to pray for the child who will be receiving your box.

Volunteer

The Charlotte area has the privilege of hosting the largest processing center in the country, where the gifts are prepared for overseas shipments. Volunteers are used in almost every area of this process. Make a difference in the lives of children by volunteering with OCC.

  • Monday, November 27 from 9 am to 1 pm
  • Saturday, December 9 from 9 am to 3 pm

Contact Jane Stevens at 980-241-1387 or jbsvale@yahoo.com to reserve your spot.

 

12 Hours of Christmas

Help bring Christmas to local foster kids and families in need.


12 Hours of Christmas is collaboration between Least of These Gaston, Hope 4 Gaston and The Shelter of Gaston County to provide Christmas for children in foster/kinship care and families in need of assistance for the holiday.

Gifts are wrapped and delivered to the children at the event. There is a nativity scene, the Christmas story being read, games, and an area for children to pick out gifts for their parent or guardian. After gift-wrapping and playtime is done, everyone enjoys a family meal together. It’s a fun-filled magical day for the children to enjoy in a safe, happy place.

How to Help

Sponsor a Child

12 Hours is special because our sponsors do not purchase just one gift per child. They provide the entire wish list for a child (apx $125-150 per child). Families are encouraged to save these gifts for Christmas morning.

If you or your group would like to sponsor a child, please contact Selina Johnson at selina@lotcarolinas.com.

Volunteer on December 2nd, 2017.

This event takes approximately 400+ volunteers* to operate. We need YOUR help to pull this off! Click the button below to sign up or call 704-215-4344 to learn more.

Click to Volunteer

We need:

  • Guides for adults & children
  • Gift wrappers
  • Runners
  • Setup & tear down
  • Registration
  • Loaders & unloaders
  • Security
  • Parking attendants
  • Kitchen workers
  • Children’s workers**
  • and more.

*Please note, you must be 18+ to volunteer at this event!*

**Anyone signing up to work with children must have a background check and come by the LOT office to complete paperwork.

First Assembly of God
777 S Myrtle School Rd,
Gastonia, NC 28052

Pray

Prayer is the most important thing you can do for these children. Wrap them up in God’s love and pray that their needs are met.

About Least of These Carolinas

The mission of Least of These Carolinas is to identify and service the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children and their caregivers, with the primary focus on children in foster/kinship care.

Through a community effort of local churches, businesses, and caring citizens, applying the Biblical principle of helping those in need to glorify God.

Least of These Gaston, Inc. is a registered 501c3 organization. 46-2326191

 

Mentor a Child at Gaston County Schools

Make a difference in your community while encouraging a child to reach their full potential.

Spending just one hour a week with a child can help build self-esteem, provide positive role models, enhance communication skills, uncover hidden strengths and improve academic performance. A little bit of your time makes a huge impact.

This Sunday, Valerie Yatko will share how you can become a mentor with Gaston County Schools. To qualify, you just need to:

  • Register Online at GCS and Pass a Background Check
  • Attend a One-hour Training Session
  • Meet Up to One Hour Each Week with Your Assigned Student

The GCS mentoring program needs volunteers for all schools. For more information, please contact the GCS Partnership Office at 704-866-6329 or visit their website.

To learn more about the impact mentoring can have on a student, visit www.mentoring.org.

Free Flu Shots & Required Vaccines

Venture Church will hold an on-site flu and student required vaccine clinic on Saturday, September 16th from 1 to 3 pm.

  • Flu Shots
  • Required Vaccines
  • Blood Pressure Screenings

Insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare will be accepted and uninsured are free while supplies last. No appointment necessary.

We will also have free snacks, drinks and bounce houses for the little ones.

Download Flyer

800 E. Main St., Dallas, NC
View on Google Maps

VSM Summer Road Trips

Rock Your Summer

Venture Student Ministry has a ton of road trips to keep your adrenaline pumping all summer long.

Hiking Adventure

  • When: Friday, June 30th
  • Where: Art Loeb Trail – Near Asheville/Blue Ridge PWY
  • Time: Leave the Hub at 8 am, return by 5 pm
  • Cost: FREE
  • Bring: Full water bottle/sneakers/hiking shoes/sunscreen
  • Lunch: Bring a picnic lunch for the trail
  • INFO: We will hike 6 to 8 miles

SKI SPLASH at Lake Norman

  • When: Saturday, July 22nd
  • Where: Lake Norman
  • Time: Leave the Hub at 9:00 am, return by 6:30 pm
  • Cost: FREE
  • Bring: Friends! Swimwear (guys need trunks and shirt, ladies need board shorts and shirt), towels, and sunscreen
  • Food: FREE, grilling out for Lunch

Sky High Trampoline Park

  • When: Friday, August 4th
  • Where: 601 N Polk St, Pineville NC
  • Time: Leave the Hub at 9:00 am, return by 12:30 pm for lunch
  • Cost: $25 for 2 hours of FUN
  • Bring: Friends!
  • Food: FREE – we will have pizza and drinks at the Hub

You MUST have a waiver signed by your parents to attend. Download Waiver

Sliding Rock/Looking Glass Falls

  • When: Friday, August 25th
  • Where: Near Brevard, NC
  • Time: Leave the Hub at 9 am, return by 6 pm
  • Cost: $2 for park entry and money for lunch
  • Bring: Friends! Swimwear (guys need trunks and shirt, ladies need board shorts and shirt), towels, and sunscreen
  • Food: Fast food for lunch in Brevard

Any questions please contact Associate Pastor Chris Mintz at 704-813-6105 or by email.

Kidzone Fundraiser at Chuck E Cheese

Eat pizza, have a blast and support Venture’s Kidzone all at the same time!

Chuck E. Cheese’s Gastonia will donate 15% of sales from 3-9pm one Thursday each month. Proceeds will support Venture’s children’s ministry.

Next Event: Thursday, March 2nd

Print Flyer

2017 Fundraiser Nights

  • May 4th
  • June 1st
  • July 6th
  • August 3rd
  • September 7th
  • October 5th
  • November 2nd
  • December 7th

Sales include all food, merchandise, and token deals purchased at the register. Just notify the cashier that you’re participating in the event.

Visit www.chuckecheese.com for exclusive coupon deals to use on the night of the event.

Chuck E. Cheese’s
416 Cox Rd, Gastonia

Baby Bottle Fundraiser for Crisis Pregnancy Center

Help bring life to the unborn and hope to young women with nowhere else to turn. Our annual fundraiser for Crisis Pregnancy Center of Gaston County (CPC) begins on Mother’s Day.

To participate, take home a baby bottle from the lobby, fill it with your loose change and return by Father’s Day, June 18th.

CPC is a nonprofit pro-life organization of committed Christians sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and actively helping women, men and families in crisis pregnancy situations. Please support the ministry with your change or dollars!

Learn more about this important ministry at cpcgaston.com.