Series: Touch the Sky
Title: Part 3 - The Myths of Prayer
Date: June 17/18, 2017
Speaker: Peter Barber
Misconceptions of God’s nature can lead us to approach prayer in ways that fall short of what God has in mind for our relationship with him. When we understand that God relates to us a truly good father, we are freed from the notion that we have to manipulate God into blessing our lives.
Passage: Matthew 6:2-8; 26-33
1. What popular image of God stands out most prominently in your mind? Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty? Octavia Spencer in The Shack? God peering down from the clouds in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? God as depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Another?
2. Read Matthew 6:2-4. One myth about prayer views God as a Santa Claus figure who rewards nice behavior. This perspective can lead people to draw attention as much as possible to their good works. Why does Jesus discourage this? Where are you tempted to advertise your own acts of righteousness?
3. Read Matthew 6:5-6. Another myth about prayer understands God as an angry cosmic policeman, looking to punish people for the slightest infraction. This led some people in Jesus’ day to make a big show of their holiness and righteous behavior. Why do you think people tend to see God primarily as a rule-enforcer?
4. If Jesus tells us to pray in secret, what do you think is the value of public prayer?
5. Read Matthew 6:7-8. A third myth about prayer sees God as a genie who will grant our wishes if we can figure out the right prayer formula or incantation to draw him out of his lamp. What formulas or methods have you tried hoping they would elicit a certain response from God? (ie., bargaining, lengthy prayers, extra good behavior, etc.).
6. Why do we often use special or unusual language when talking to God?
7. Read Matthew 6:26-30. A fourth myth about prayer views God as a grumpy old man; a distant, uncaring, stay-off-my-lawn kind of God. Naturally, this perspective can lead to fear and anxiety. What does Jesus point out about God’s care for the world? How do you think worry might be affecting you emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
8. Read Matthew 6:31-33. The final myth Peter mentioned about prayer views God as a slot machine who will eventually pay out if we pull the lever enough times. This view can lead us to become consumed with materialism. What would it mean for you to shift your attention from materialism to the Kingdom of God?
9. The common thread running through all these myths is the assumption that prayer is a means of manipulating God into giving us what we want. So Peter concluded his message by showing how our true relationship with God is like a relationship with a good father. How might this kind of a relationship change the way we approach prayer?
● What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?
● What will help you remember it?
● Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?