STUDY NINE: THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY – PART ONE
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2014
A. THE LORD’S PRAYER – AN EXPRESSION OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
As soon as we open our mouths to say the Lord’s Prayer we are expressing Christian community.
It begins with our Father – all true believes share a common Father, and address this common Father in communion with all others who address him as Father through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the redeeming work of the Son. We come to this common Father committed as a believing community to a common goal: his honour, his kingdom and his will.
We pray to him on behalf of all others in the believing community – we say ‘give us each day our daily bread’. We do not come as isolated individuals each concerned only with our own needs: we come as ‘us’, concerned about ‘our’ physical well-being.
Similarly, we are concerned about ‘our’ spiritual well-being: we pray ‘forgive us our sins’ and we are committed as a believing community to forgive each other ‘as we forgive …’
In the same way we are aware not only of our own vulnerability in the presence of pressure, but also of the vulnerability of each one of us, and so we pray ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
If we realised the power of community expressed in this prayer, if we prayed it as a member of the believing community, and not as a self-centred individual, it would radically impact our attitudes to our fellow believers.
Suggest ways in which the Lord’s Prayer, prayed as an expression of the believing community, could positively impact our attitudes to each other, and to each other’s needs and weaknesses, within the believing community.
B. BOUNDARIES FOR PRAYER
Biblical prayer exists within defined boundaries that prevent us from assuming that whenever we open our mouth and say words to ‘God’ we are engaging in prayer.
Read the references below. Identify the boundary that is placed around prayer by each group of texts. Discuss the implications of each boundary for our praying
Proverbs 15:8, 29
C. THE ROLE AND PURPOSE OF PRAYER
In this section we are looking at the role given to prayer in the Bible, and the purpose given to prayer in the Bible. At the bottom line, what we think prayer is or prayer should do is quite irrelevant. What should attract our interest is what God’s word has to say about the role and purpose of prayer.
The content below identifies nine points about prayer that are sourced from the Scriptures. Study the verses listed at each point. Add any insights you find in the verses.
Prayer is a regular practice of those who trust in the Lord.
It is not an ‘emergency room’ activity to be employed only at times of crisis. At one level prayer is the constant communion of the believing heart with God.
Luke 2:37; 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28, 29; 11:1
Prayer is concerned with the well-being of believers and/or the church.
We have already seen that the Lord’s prayer is an expression of Christian community. After expressing concern for God and his name, his kingdom and his will, this prayer then focuses on the shared and mutual needs of the believing community – the physical and the spiritual needs of those who belong to the same Father.
Ephesians 1:15-19; 3:15-19
Prayer is the believer’s communion with the Lord.
Here we see the believing human being in contact with his Maker - the communion and dependence that was part of the original creature/Creator relationship in Genesis 1 and 2.
Prayer is an expression of deep struggle, concern or agony.
This aspect of prayer exists only because of the existence of sin and suffering.
Plus many Psalms
Prayer is seeking strength in situations of temptation or pressure.
It is an expression of acknowledgement of human weakness and vulnerability.
Prayer is acknowledgement of sin and sinfulness [‘confession’] and a dependence on the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Thus prayer outlaws pride and self-justification in the presence of God.
Prayer depends on God’s help in ministry and for his sovereign work in the conversion of sinners.
It knows that apart from him all of our efforts are worthless.
Prayer is part of serving the Lord.
Prayer is a ministry to others [see the next study for more on this]
Make a list of the impact of these aspects of prayer in the development of Christian Community.