Prayer

This is the last study in the series on spiritual disciplines. In week 1 I included the question “As we journey through the next 8 weeks looking at spiritual disciplines, what would you like to receive from God?”

  • Can you remember what you wanted to receive from God during this series? Have you received it?
  • What have you learnt from this series?
  • Have you made any changes in your life as a result of this series?

Prayer

  • When do you find it easy to pray?
  • When do you find it difficult?
  • Has your motivation for praying changed over time? In what way? Why?

Mark spoke about the polarities of prayer – and how we see the world can affect the way we pray. At one end we can see the world as fixed and determined, or at another end open and undetermined.

  • How true (or false) are these two views?
  • How will the way you pray be affected if you view the world as purely fixed and determined?
  • How will the way you pray be affected if you view the world as purely open and undetermined?

The spiritual discipline of praying scripture

Praying Scripture allows God to direct the content of prayer. It opens the heart to praying particular prayers, psalms, teachings and hopes found in the bible. This could mean adopting the prayers of David, Daniel, Paul, Mary etc or praying for others by replacing ‘you’ in biblical prayers and psalms with the name of someone else.

  • Do you let God set the agenda in your praying? Explain.
  • What prayers in the bible have helped you in the past?

Try this…

Pray for someone else using psalm 139. Ask God for someone he would like you to pray for. Then read and pray the psalm slowly, replacing the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ with the name of the person you are praying for. 

The spiritual discipline of breath prayer

Breath prayer is a form of contemplative prayer linked to the rhythms of breathing: (1) breathe in, calling on a biblical name or image of God, and (2) breathe out a simple God-given desire.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

  • How can we pray continually?
  • How does the thought of repetitive prayer strike you?
  • Have you ever practiced this spiritual discipline? What was that like for you?
  • How might a breath prayer be shorthand for a longer prayer of your heart?

Try this…

Form a breath prayer you can say throughout the day, perhaps as the first thing you say each morning and the last at night – or just when you think of it.

Breath in – call to God, using one of the many names that can be used to worship him (see page 309 of the spiritual disciplines handbook for a great list of names).

Breath out – express the desire of your heart – for yourself or for someone else. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a long prayer dialogue, let the breath prayer carry your desire.

Repeat.

Hearing God

Study Notes

Getting started

  • What is one thing you can remember from the Sermon on Sunday?
  • Was there anything you found surprising or challenging?
  • In Mark’s sermon he mentioned three qualities a person should ideally have if you are to learn from them. Can you remember what they were?
  • Who in your life have you learned from? Did they possess any of these qualities?

Hearing God’s Word

  • In what ways does God communicate?
  • Do you think that God has your best interests at heart? What makes you say this?
  • How has God spoken to you through the study of his Word? How has the bible affected your life?
  • When the Word of God seems dry to you, what do you make of this season in your life?
  • What do you look for when you read the bible? (eg information, comfort, understanding, guidance, a word from God, communion with God)
  • How does what you are looking for influence how you study?
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God-breathed. What does it mean that it is God-breathed?
  • What difficulties do you have in accepting this truth?
  • What makes you confident that this is true?

Putting it into practice

Mark spoke about one method of bible study – SOAP journaling. Practice this now with Psalm 119:97-104. (You will need a pen and a printed copy of the passage for each member of your group)
S – Scripture
Read Psalm 119:97-104. Is there anything that jumps out at you? Circle words or phrases that resonate with you.
O – Observe
Read the passage again. What is going on? What is the psalmist thinking, feeling, doing? Write down your thoughts.
A – Application
Ask yourself “What does God want me to do differently today?” “What is God saying today?”
P – Pray
Pray about the things that God is saying to you today through this passage.

Sharing Our Lives

Study Notes

Getting started

  • What do you remember from the sermon on Sunday?
  • What did you find surprising? What did you find challenging?
  • How was your heart touched as you met with your church family this week?

The discipline of community

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

  • What is appealing or unappealing about being an independent operator? (As in, NOT in community)
  • What kind of connection does Christ want you to have with Christian brothers and sisters?
  • How does the life you are living now reflect the value Jesus places on belonging to the family of God?
  • When has the body of Christ nurtured and sustained you? What was that like for you?
  • ·What gifts do you bring to the body of Christ?

Practicing community

  • Spend some time thinking about people in your life who have helped you grow. Thank God for them. Write a thank you card or note and send it to them.

The discipline of discipleship

Read Matthew 28:19-20

  • What do you think the difference is between being a Christian and being a disciple?
  • What do you desire about being a disciple of Jesus?
  • What do you fear about being a disciple of Jesus?
  • The words discipline and disciple come from the same root. What is your reaction to the word discipline?
  • Who do you want to become? What do you want to be remembered for when you die?
  • How are you intentionally partnering with God to become who he intended you to be?

Practicing discipleship

  • Spend some time thinking about which disciplines resonate with the desires of your heart (the list on pages 13-16 of the Spiritual Disciplines handbook can help here). Think about how you could incorporate these disciplines into the routine of your life. Share with a friend and ask them to ask you about it in a month’s time.

Relinquishing the False Self

Study Notes

Getting started

  • What do you remember from the sermon on Sunday?
  • What did you find surprising? What did you find challenging?
  • Have you changed anything in your life as a result of the spiritual disciplines series?

Take a moment with God…

Sit quietly as a group, come into God’s presence and offer yourselves to him. Ask God to show you how he sees you. One person slowly read through the following statements and verses, which reveal how God sees us. After each statement spend a short time in prayer – either silently or out loud as you feel led - thanking or talking to God about he views you.

You are chosen
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit. (John 15:16)

You are a beloved child of God
See what great love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

You are friends of Jesus
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his m aster’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

You are the temple of God
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

You are God’s work of art
For we are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10)

You are fearfully and wonderfully made
For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)

 For discussion

  • How close is the way God sees you to the way you see yourself?
  • Were any of the ways described particularly impactful to you?
  • What are some ways in which we might construct a false self?
  • How do you think the spiritual disciplines of confession, self-examination and detachment can help with the ‘putting off’ of the false self and ‘putting on’ our true identity in Christ?

Note: you may like to choose one or the other of the following disciplines to discuss. Please don’t feel that you have to answer all the questions supplied. Chose the ones that suit your group and answer them deeply.

The discipline of confession and self-examination

Read Psalm 139:23-24
Read Psalm 31:1-2

  • How in touch do you feel with your own sin? Is it something you find overwhelming burdensome, something you never think of, or somewhere in between?
  • Does your confession tend to be along the lines of ‘Please forgive my sins Father’, rather than specifically naming your sins one by one before the Lord? What does the lack of specific confession do to self-awareness?

Putting it into practice

You will need a sheet of paper and a pen each for this exercise

  • Imagine the kind of person you would like to be in your old age. On one half of the paper write words that describe this person. Then look at you life and assess whether or not the way you live now is preparing you to become this person. On the other half of the paper write down the things that need to change. Confess these things to God and ask for his help to change.

The discipline of detachment

Detachment means replacing the attachments to idolatrous relationships and self-serving goals for success, money, power, ego, productivity and image with wholehearted attachment to trust in God alone.

Read Luke 12:13-21

  • How do you handle failure and weakness, suffering and loss? What does this tell you about how you attach and adapt to the world’s view of success, power and self-worth?
  • What are some specific ways in which mistakes and failures have worked for your good?
  • When has loss made God more real to you?
  • What about yourself are you most attached to?

Putting it into practice

  • Think about your life – your relationships, your values, your possessions, your work etc. On a sheet of paper, write down the areas where you recognise you need Christ’s spirit of detachment? Where do you need grace to pray “Not my will by yours be done?” Talk to God about this.

You may like to finish with the following prayer:

Lord I am willing to receive what you give,
Release what you take,
Lack what you withhold,
Do what you require and
Be who you desire. Amen

Openness to God

Study Notes

Beginning

Sit quietly as a group, come into God’s presence and offer yourselves to him.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 slowly and out aloud.
Let the words resonate and settle in your heart. Linger on a word or phase that catches your attention and lights up for you.
Read the passage slowly and out loud again.
Listen for where the word connects with your life right now. Use your imagination to see where these words take you.
Read the passage one more time.
Listen intently. Has God addressed you in this word and invited you to respond? Allow the scripture to lead you into a prayer response, either silently or out loud.
Sit quietly for a while, resting in God's presence, acceptance and love.

The disciplines of Contemplation, Rest and Self-Care

Read 2 Corinthians 4:18

  • What does it mean to you to ‘contemplate’?
  • How easy or difficult is it for you to slow down and make room for contemplation? Why do you think this is?
  • Have you ever experienced burn out? What did you do to recover? Has it changed the way you live?
  • When and where do you most deeply rest? Who helps you rest?
  • Do you ever spend time playing? What kinds of things do you like to do as play?

Read Psalm 139:13-18

  • God has ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ you. Is that an easy thing for you to accept, or difficult? Why is this?
  • What is the difference between self-care and self-centredness?
  • What are some ways in which you can practice self-care?
  • In what ways do you prevent yourself from receiving love from God and from others?
  • What benefit could you see for yourself if you were able to spend more time in contemplation, rest of self-care?

Putting it into practice

Select one of the following exercises to do with your group. You may also like to do one or two of these exercises individually during the week:

  • Contemplate Jesus. Close your eyes, become quiet and breath deeply. In your mind’s eye, intentionally place yourself in the presence of God. Imagine yourself with Jesus, perhaps sitting with him, perhaps walking in a garden with him. Imagine what it is like just to be with him. When your mind wanders, gently return it to Jesus. Contemplate what it is like to be in his presence. Tell Jesus how you are feeling. Sit quietly and listen. Is there anything Jesus is saying to you? After a suitable amount of time come together as a group and share your experiences, as you feel comfortable. (You certainly don’t have to share, as contemplation is between you and God, but it also can be encouraging for others in your group.)
     
  • Think about how much sleep you get most nights. Are you respecting your God-given need for rest and recreation? Ask God how long he wants you to sleep. Is it more or less than you are now? Work out a sleeping and waking plan for the following week and stick to it. Next week, share with the group what that was like for you.
     
  • Make a list of all the things you like about yourself. Thank God for all of these things and for making you you.
     
  • Is there an area of your life that needs more self-care? Your body? Your health? Your relationships? Decide what you could do about it this week. Share with the group as appropriate, perhaps asking a trusted friend to make you accountable.

 

Worship

Study Notes

Getting started

In her book ‘Spiritual Disciplines Handbook’, Adele Calhoun speaks of how God places a desire in our heart for intimacy with Him. Spiritual disciplines are a way of intentionally opening space in our lives to achieve this.

  • As a group, spend a few minutes in prayer, asking God to reveal your heart’s desire for Him

Calhoun groups 75 disciplines using the acronym of WORSHIP:

Worship god

Open myself to God

Relinquish the false self and idols of my heart

Share my life with others

Hear the word of God

Incarnate Christ’s love for the world

Pray to God

  • Look at this list and ask yourself ‘How do I want or need to be with God’? Does one of these categories jump out for you?
  • Why did this one catch your attention particularly?

If you have access to the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook you may like to explore the full list of desires and matching disciplines listed on pages 13 – 16. Do this as a group or individually at home.

The discipline of Celebration

Read Zephaniah 3:17

  • Have you ever thought of God celebrating over you before? How does that make you feel?
  • What do you think about celebration being called a discipline?
  • In what ways have you or do you celebrate God?
  • How is your celebration enhanced or curtailed by your ability to remember the past, live in the moment or anticipate the future?
  • When you see others celebrating God in a way that is new or foreign to you, what goes on in your mind and heart?
  • Do you know anyone who really celebrates life and God? What attracts you to them?

The discipline of Gratitude

Read Psalm 136:1-2

  • Do you find it easy or difficult to be grateful?
  • When you are feeling at the bottom of the food chain and dead last in terms of priority, how do you move toward gratitude?
  • How has a grateful person affected your own vision of what matters in life?
  • How has someone who lives out of bitterness affected your life?
  • How does your disposition influence your attitude toward gratitude?

The discipline of Worship

Read Revelation 4:11

  • What is worship to you?
  • How has the way we do worship at Darling St shaped you and your image of God?
  • Have you experienced other ways of worship, and how has that shaped you and your image of God?
  • How does worshiping alone and worshipping with others affect you?
  • What about God moves you to worship?

Putting it into practice

Select one of the following exercises to do with your group:

Celebrate the people God has brought together in your group. Celebrate their strengths by telling them what it is you love about them. Celebrate with God in prayer.

On a sheet of paper, write down as many things you can think of in 3 minutes that you are grateful for. Share these with the group and thank God together.

Each person write a letter, poem or song to God expressing his or her love and honour of Him. Share this with the group, as you feel comfortable. 

Introduction to Spiritual Disciplines

Study Notes

  • How would you describe your current spiritual journey of growth? Are you motivated and inspired, stuck and frustrated, or somewhere in between?
  • What do you think of when you hear the words ‘spiritual disciplines’?
  • What was one thing you think God was saying to you through the sermon on Sunday?
  • As we journey through the next 8 weeks looking at spiritual disciplines, what would you like to receive from God?
  • What did you think about the diagram Mark drew in the sermon outlining the primary task of the church? Could you explain this to people who were not there?

Read the following passages: Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 1:28-29, Ephesians 4:11-13, 2 Peter 3:18

  • What common themes do you see in these passages?
  • What challenges do these passages present to us as a church, to us as a small group and to each of us individually?
  • What were the 3 misconceptions regarding spiritual disciplines that Mark talked about on Sunday?  (Listen at 17:30 for the first, 22:10 for the second and 30:45 for the third.)
  • What do you think about the connection between discipline and freedom? Can you think of any examples in your life where this connection has been made?

Read 1 John 5:11-12 and John 10:10

  • What are the implications for us if salvation is more than about the forgiveness of sin, but also about it being an invitation to life?
  • What do spiritual disciplines and salvation meaning life have to do with each other?

Read Matthew 11:29-30

  • How do you react to Jesus saying his yoke is light? Does that ring true for you? Or does learning from Jesus seem like a heavy burden? Or is being yoked to Jesus an unfamiliar concept?
  • What one thing are you going to do differently as a result of the sermon and our time together now?