INTRODUCTION

Prayer is simple and hard at the same time. We know that it's important. We know that it can be helpful. And yet, we struggle to find time; we struggle to hear God. Is there a solution? Maybe you're like many who have resolved to be more faithful in prayer. You try, you struggle, then you quit again. We're offering this group experience so you can get some helpful coaching and have the support of others who want to improve their prayer life. Together we can become fearless in our prayers!

I'm not in a small group right now … How do I get connected?

If you would like to be a part of a six-week small group that delves into the Lenten series of "Fearless Prayer," please click the button below to sign up:

As you sign up for a Lenten study group, know that you do not need to buy a book. The study was written by our own Duane Davis, and is accessible below or through our app. Both have printable options as well. 

How will this study be organized?

Each session will be broken into four categories, not always in the same order:

  • "Warm-up" questions to help you get comfortable and connected with others in the group.
  • "What Does the Bible Say" - a chance to read and reflect on the Scriptures.
  • "Practice" - opportunities to pray together.
  • "Let's Talk" - time to share what you're thinking and process how your experience matches or doesn't match what you're reading or discussing. It's a chance to be open, honest, and not only feel safe but be safe!

What should I expect, and what will the group expect from me?

Great Questions!
Here are some guidelines that will ensure a dynamic group experience: 

  • Show up each week with this simple prayer in your heart and on your lips: "Lord show me how to pray. Let me be willing to learn new things. Remove my old ways of thinking that get in my way. Make prayer simple, meaningful, enjoyable and a regular part of my life."
  • Be honest, real, and as vulnerable and transparent as possible. Share your experiences, not those of others or society at large. Group members are not here to criticize, condemn, or fix each other. We’re here to spend time with the Holy Spirit and see what He has for each of us. 
  • Be considerate. Don’t talk too much; don’t be too quiet. Respect others by keeping their stories confidential. They will do the same for you.  
  • If your group meets online, test your computer or smart device ahead of time. Don’t wait until group time to see if everything is working properly. Find a quiet place in your house and mute your microphone when/if there is background noise. All of these practical tips are helpful. You and everyone in the group will have a better experience if you follow these tips.

Fearless Prayer - Small Group Experience

“Fearless Relationship”

Here we are…now what?

For starters, learn everyone’s name. Then share why you came to this group. Be honest -- it’s a church group, for heaven’s sake!

Expectations

  • We will learn more about prayer AND actually spend time praying. We learn best by doing.
  • It won’t be hard, embarrassing or overly “religious.”
  • It will be real, practical and life-giving.
  • We will respect one another.
  • We won’t judge one another.
  • You don’t have to share something every time a question is asked. It’s fine to pass.
  • We’ll get to know each other, and God, even better.

Let’s Talk

  • What is your earliest memory praying to God?
  • How old were you?
  • What was going on in your life at that time?
  • What was that prayer like?


What Is Prayer?

Churches and theologians have different names for various types of prayers. That won’t be the focus of this prayer experience. Our working definition is this: “Prayer is a conversation with God.” Short and simple!

If I were leading a prayer in your group right now, I might say something that I’m currently thinking and/or feeling at the moment. Like, “God, I’m really glad to be here with everyone. I’m especially glad that you’re here through the Holy Spirit. We welcome Him. Will you help us all to be at peace with you and each other? May we learn to pray more like Jesus! Thanks for Jesus! Amen.”

Baby Step

  • What are you feeling and thinking now?
  • What if you turned those feelings and thoughts toward God and the group, then put words to it?
  • What would you say?

Practice

Take turns sharing some things that come to you right now. (Don’t close your eyes and don’t overthink it. Just say what comes to mind.)

What Does the Bible Say?

What we call “The Lord’s Prayer” is found in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13. Since we’re most familiar with Matthew’s version, we’ll use that one.

9This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”  (NIV)

 Today we’ll take a deeper dive into verse 9.

The Bible uses lots of descriptors for God and our relationship to Him.

Here are a few…

  • He is our Husband -- “When that day comes,” says the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’” (Hosea 2:16 NIV)
  • He is our Lord – “For I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 11:44 NIV)
  • He is our Shepherd -- “The Lord is my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1 NIV)

 Of all God’s titles or descriptors, “Father” is a great relational title because everyone has a father, even if they’ve never met him.

Let’s Talk

  • When you hear the word “father,” what comes to your mind?
  • Good thoughts? Not-so-good thoughts?
  • Is the term “father” as it relates to God a good one for you? Does it enhance your connection with God? Why or why not?

Practice

Talking to God in a group can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s best to use normal conversational language and let it flow in a “free-form” way from person to person. Don’t go in order. Listen to each other. You might even let the words of others influence what you say. Keep it simple and stress-free.

What should we talk to God about? Repeat some of the things you just said about God and your earthly father. But this time, speak to God in the first person. (Leaders, I’d be happy to model this for you ahead of time!)

A real-life example…

I’m a dad to a 17-year-old daughter and two young men, ages 38 and 40. (Yes, you read that right!) I like to talk to all three of my “kiddos.” And obviously, we have a two-way conversation.

Because God is unseen, we’re not sure how to have a two-way conversation with him. How does one “hear” a spiritual being? It’s really important to begin exercising your spiritual hearing muscles.

Imagine how weird it would be if my kids talked to me but never listened. (If you have young kids, you probably already know that feeling!) As you “listen,” pay attention to all your senses and to the thoughts that “pop” into your mind. Over time, you’ll begin to recognize how the Holy Spirit is speaking to your spirit in a very special, direct and clear way. It all starts by paying attention.

Let’s Talk

  • What’s it like for you to hear God?
  • Does God put thoughts in your mind?
  • How do you know those thoughts are from God?
  • Do you sense anything in your body?
  • Have you sensed God’s presence before?
  • What is it like?

Practical Tip – One of the things I do to open my mind and emotions to God is listen to certain kinds of music. Specifically, music that addresses God in the first person. Some songs actually become “mine” because the words and mood match what I feel (or want to feel) and what I want to say.

Practice

Here’s a song that you can listen to now as a group. It’s best to do this alone, but for now, experience it as a group and then process it afterwards using the questions that follow.

Jonathan David Helser – “Abba

Let’s Talk

  • Did you sense God’s presence in any way? If so, how?
  • Did you have any thoughts pop in your mind that felt like they were from God?
  • As you meditated on God’s actual presence, did you sense anything new or different about God?

Verse 9 also says, “hallowed be your name.” “Hallowed” is really the word “holy” in verb form. We might say, “Let your name be honored as holy.”

  • When you hear the word holy, what comes to your mind?
  • How does that word impact your feeling of closeness to God? Does it help?
  • In another place Jesus and Paul refer to God as “Abba.” Father. Maybe the equivalent of our word “daddy.” When you mix “holy” and “daddy” together, what happens in your brain?

What Does the Bible Say?

Moses is an interesting case study. When I think of him encountering the holiness of God at the burning bush, I wonder what that was like!  (Exodus 3:1-5) In fact, take a moment and share how you would have felt if you were in Moses’ sandals! (If that story is not familiar to folks, take time to read it.)

Now, contrast that with this experience in Exodus 33:9-11 (NIV):

“As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”

Let’s Talk

  • What’s the difference between this encounter and the “bush” encounter?
  • Has anything changed?
  • If these two types of encounters were placed on opposite ends of a spectrum, where would you put your God conversations?
  • On the burning bush side?
  • More toward the “face to face” side?
  • Why?

Wrap Up
What’s your biggest takeaway from our time together?
Did you sense that God wants to change the way you converse with Him?
How would you like to pray differently this week?

Fearless Prayer - Small Group Experience

“Fearless Encounters”

Checking In – Warm-up Questions

  • Do the normal things to greet and connect
  • Any lingering thoughts from our time together last week?
  • Would you say that your prayer experience was at least 1% better?
  • What is one change you noticed?

 Practice

A normal part of our relationships with people is telling them thanks. As a group, brainstorm a bit about what it feels like when someone says “thanks.” Is there a certain way or type of “thank you” that means more to you?

Now, based on your observations, take a few minutes to thank God the same way you might thank another person. You can close your eyes if that helps, but you certainly don’t have to! You don’t have to go in a certain order. It’s even okay if two people begin speaking at the same time! That’s what happens in a group conversation. :)

What Does the Bible Say?

(This portion will be a tad long, hang in!)
Today we’re going to reflect on the second verse, verse 10, in the “Lord’s Prayer”:

      9 Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. (NIV)

If you attend the traditional service, you say this prayer every week, so I’m guessing you know it well! Spend some time sharing what this verse means to you. It’s short and sweet, but at the same time it’s pregnant with meaning.

I must admit, years ago when I first began seriously thinking about this verse, I was confused. Here are some of questions that confused me...

  • What is the “kingdom”?
  • How/When will God’s will “be done”?
  • “On earth as it is in heaven”? ... Is this referring to Jesus’ millennial reign? What does it mean?

How could something so simple and straightforward be so hard?

Slowly the pieces started coming together for me. Let’s look at some of these pieces and see if we can gain more understanding.

First, what does Jesus mean when he refers to God’s “kingdom”?

The phrase “kingdom of God” appears in the Gospels 53 times. Its synonym “kingdom of heaven” is found 32 times. Other than Jesus talking about God, the kingdom is mentioned more than any other subject.

The thing that helped me most was realizing that the kingdom is not referring to a place but a realm of influence. We might say that when God is allowed to be in control of our situation, his rule and reign – His kingdom – has come upon us. Let’s look at a couple of examples in the Bible:

“One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’
Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, “Here it is”’ or “It’s over there!” For the Kingdom of God is already among you.’” (Translator’s comments: Or is “within you”, or “is in your grasp.”)   (Luke 17:20,21 NLT)

“He knew their thoughts, so he said, ‘Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive? And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.’” (Luke 11:17-20)

These are two “fun” passages. Let’s start with the first one in Luke 17.

Jesus is obviously trying to clear up some misconceptions that the Pharisees held. It would be natural for them to think of the rule of a king over a territory; maybe Herod, or a king from a neighboring country, or even the good old days when Israel had kings. These kingdoms would be something visible, and there would be some kind of “signs” or indicators that a ruling transition was about to take place. For example, there are plenty of signs that the rule and authority could change in the Ukraine, right?

Jesus says that the kingdom of God is “among,” “within” or “in our grasp.” (Sometimes a Greek word can have some breadth of meaning. Depending on the context, they can have multiple but similar meanings.)

Practice

A good habit in Bible reading is to pause and ask God for help. Why?
Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 2:13,14 (NLT):

“When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” 

Talk to God the same way you have been, in a very natural and conversational way. Tell him what you’re thinking as you read this text about the Kingdom. Ask for “spiritual” understanding. Invite the Holy Spirit to help. It’s okay to meditate, be still, be quiet. Imagine that God is with you! Because He is. Go for it!

Let’s Talk

  • Do you have similar thoughts as the Pharisees regarding the Kingdom of God?
  • Among, within, in our grasp ... it sounds like the kingdom is close to us? How, when or where do you experience the kingdom of God?
  • Jesus told them that the kingdom had already arrived. Is it still here?

 The verses in Luke 11 are filled with drama. If you want to take the time, feel free to read the full story together! Here is a brief recap:

  • Jesus is accused of casting out demons by Satan’s power.
  • His argument is that no kingdom can survive if it’s fighting against itself.
  • The only way a demon, Satan’s servant, can be cast out is if Satan’s enemy, God, is doing it.
  • Since Jesus is casting out demons, it must be God in Him doing it.
  • Therefore, the kingdom of God in Jesus has arrived among them!

 A Real-Life Example…

In 21st century America, it’s common to equate God’s presence with a church building, as if God occupies certain spaces and not others. The Jews felt that the temple was God’s special place. It’s the place Jews would go to encounter God. It’s similar in popular thought today: We “go to church” to be in “God’s presence.” In reality, God’s presence is available to us wherever we are. He’s not limited to buildings or geography.

Ironically, the Pharisees in Luke 11 were accusing Jesus, the very essence of God, of casting out demons by Satan’s power or authority. Which is totally illogical. Jesus is showing us that wherever we go, we can host His presence AND disrupt Satan’s kingdom. We are thermostats that can change the environment because the kingdom is in us. We don’t have to be thermometers at the mercy of the environment around us.

Let’s Talk

  • Does this example help illustrate the Kingdom of God?
  • Do you have a clearer picture now?
  • Can you think of any implications for you personally?
  • Say the prayer again together out loud:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

  • If/since Jesus wants us to say this to God, should we expect anything to happen?
  • If so, what?

 
Deeper Dive

At the beginning I said that the study portion would be a tad long. It’s also a tad deep! The interesting thing, and somewhat baffling, is the fact that this incredible prayer can become boring. We say it over and over and over, without thinking about how it can impact our daily lives. Here’s how and why it does.

Logically it follows that the agent or representative of the Kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit. Did anyone figure this out already? The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in us, among us, in our midst, that allows us to do his will on earth as it is in heaven.

He is the power source – “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”  (Luke 24;49 NLT)

“During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”  (Acts 1:3-5 NLT)

 Let’s Talk

This sermon series is about fearless prayer.

  • Does knowing that God’s presence and power is in you give you more confidence to pray verse 10?
  • If so, how so?
  • What questions do you have? I call them the “yes, but”
     

Practice

When we talk to people, it’s normal to share our doubts, questions, and areas of confusion. It’s okay to talk to God this way too, even as a group. What questions do you have for God about this passage? Talk to God about them now in the group.

Wrap Up

What’s your biggest takeaway from our time together?
How can you be more fearless in your conversations with God this week?
How could you increase the quality and quantity of your conversations with God?

Fearless Prayer - Small Group Experience

“Fearless Dependence”

Checking In – Warm-up Questions

  • Do the normal things when you greet and connect...of course.
  • Any lingering thoughts from our time together last week?
  • Would you say that your prayer experience was at least 1% better?
  • What is one change you noticed?

Practice

Last week we discussed the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is made real and present in our lives through the person of the Holy Spirit. Take a few moments to welcome Him. Ask Him to open your minds and hearts to anything He wants to show you. Do this out loud in the same conversational style you’ve been using during the first two weeks.

Let’s Talk

Today we’re going to explore another part of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s about being dependent on God for everything. Before we pray the prayer again, let’s talk about what dependence means to you.

  • Can anyone share a time when they felt especially dependent on another person for help?
  • As a group, list some of the pros and cons you’ve experienced when you’re dependent on another person.
  • Describe a time when you had to depend on God.

Today we’re going to reflect on the third verse in the “Lord’s Prayer.” As a group, read/pray the first three verses together:

 9 Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.  (NIV)

Contemplating Scripture

Today’s session is called “Fearless Dependence” because when we depend on God and rely on the Holy Spirit, Jesus says that anything is possible. When anything is possible, it removes all fears. We become fearless!

Verse 11 is about asking. God wants us to ask. He wants us to depend on Him. I often hear people say, “I don’t ask God for anything for myself. I just pray for other people.”

Let’s Talk

  • What do you think about this sentiment?
  • Is it noble? Humble?
  • Is this what Jesus wants us to do?
  • If not, why would you guess people think like this?
  • Have you ever felt like you shouldn’t ask God for personal things?

What Does the Bible Say?

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!”  (John 15:7 NLT)

  • For now, don’t be turned off by the audacity of Jesus’ promise. Just think about Jesus’ invitation to ask.
  • What if asking God was the key to everything in life?
  • What if you asked Him about more and more things that are going on in your life? What difference could that make?
  • Discuss among the group what this could look like for you personally?

A Real-life Example…

Let’s go back to the analogy we used the first week. God is our “Father” or “Daddy.”

  • How would you as a parent feel if your children wouldn’t ask you for the things they needed?
  • What if they felt it wasn’t appropriate to ask you?
  • What would you conclude about your relationship with your kids?
  • How might they see you as a parent?

 Practice

Think about something God wants for you, something you want from God.
Then, share it with the group and God. Don’t close your eyes this time or worry about how it sounds! Just share it. 

Deeper Dive

Let’s talk about the word “bread.” Is Jesus just talking about literal bread? Probably not. It’s more likely a general request that God would sustain us physically. But we also know that Jesus used bread as a metaphor to talk about non-physical things, too! Jesus wants us to depend on Him for everything, even down to the most basic physical details. Nothing is too small! But neither is anything too big!

So, as we learn to depend on God even more, let’s include both the physical and spiritual. Jesus has a lot to say about bread. Here are two examples. One short, the other long:

“People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4 NLT)

     Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

     They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
     
      Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

     They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

     Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

     “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.

     Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:26-35 NLT)

This story in John 6 has always been one of my favorites. It takes place the day after Jesus gave them the miraculous sign, multiplying the loaves and fishes.

It’s really important to know that the miracle was more than just feeding people, though Jesus does care about that. He wanted them to see the connection between Him, Moses and the manna in the wilderness.

So, let’s put this all together. “Give us today our daily bread.” God is inviting us to depend on him for all things, physical and spiritual. But the supreme “bread” is Jesus himself. Later in the chapter Jesus drops this bombshell, which resulted in many disciples deciding to no longer follow Him!

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”  (John 6:53-56 NLT)

DROP THE MICROPHONE!

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.

Practice

I think these verses deserve some time to meditate. Use this song as you reflect. Pay special attention to the closing refrain:

“When you come into the room, when you do what only you can do, it changes us. It changes what we see and what we seek. You’re changing everything...When you move, you move all our fears...When you fall, we fall on our knees.”

Vertical Worship – “Spirit of the Living God” (music video)

 What a great picture of FEARLESS DEPENDENCE!

Wrap Up

What’s your biggest takeaway from our time together?
What can you do differently this week to ingest more of Jesus?
How would you like others to pray for you toward that goal?

Now, close your time praying for each other!

Fearless Prayer - Small Group Experience

“Fearless Forgiveness”

Checking In – Warm-up questions

  • What’s something that you enjoy about Springtime?
  • What was the most challenging part this Winter?
  • Share something interesting or different about your prayer times this week.

Practice

Take about a minute to be quiet. Close your eyes and imagine that the Holy Spirit is present as a small whirling flame above each person. Then imagine that His warmth is making its way from your head to your heart. When you begin sensing His presence, offer your thoughts and feelings back to Him. Feel free to “piggyback” on the thoughts and feelings of others if/when their prayers speak to you!

Let’s Talk

  • When you hear the word forgive, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
  • Do you consider yourself “naturally” forgiving?
  • Would you say that it’s relatively easy for you to say you’re sorry when you do something wrong?

Today we’re going to reflect on the fourth verse in the “Lord’s Prayer.”
As a group, read/pray the first four verses together:

9 Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.  (NIV)

The Forgiveness Quiz

Think about someone, anyone, who has hurt you. Then look at the list of feelings and responses listed below. Choose one that resonates with you and share it with the group.

  • I’ll make him/her pay.
  • I wish that something bad would happen to him/her.
  • I live as if he/she doesn’t exist, isn’t around.
  • I don’t trust him/her.
  • I want him/her to get what he/she deserves.
  • I find it difficult to act warmly toward him/her.
  • I avoid him/her.
  • I’m going to get even.
  • I cut off the relationship with him/her.

I don’t know about you, but reading that list makes me feel a bit disturbed. It’s not that I haven’t felt or done some of those things. It’s just that reading them makes me feel sad.

How was it for you? It’s no wonder that Jesus includes us asking for forgiveness in our prayers! 

Practice

Remember that the Bible is written by men, but inspired by God. It has a heavenly orientation, and for that reason we need the heavenly help of the Holy Spirit. Invite him to open your eyes and ears, to see and hear this story the way Jesus intended. For practice’s sake, say your prayers aloud. (You’re probably getting pretty good at this by now!) 

What Does the Bible Say?

I suppose one of Jesus’ clearest teachings on forgiveness is found in the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” or better named the “Prodigal Father.” (Prodigal means “wastefully extravagant.”) I like that description of God. It’s out of the box, just the way He likes it!

It’s rather long. Don’t rush. Take your time and enjoy it! Imagine the emotions of each person in the story. Do you relate to one person more than another? Does it stir any emotions in you? This version is found in The Message, Luke 15:

     11-12a “Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

     12b-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to feel it. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

     17-20a “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

     20b-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

     22-24“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a prize-winning heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here - given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

     25-27“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done, he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef! - because he has him home safe and sound.’

     28-30“The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

     31-32“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”


Let's Talk

There are so many things we could talk about. However, let’s focus on the essence of forgiveness:

The Offence: Disrespecting the father by asking for the inheritance early

The Offenders: The younger son in the way he left; the older son by the way he treats his father and younger brother

The Offended: The father and the younger son

  • For which of the three do you have the most compassion?
  • The Father was obviously hurt. If you were him, how might you have felt?
  • What would it have been like to be the younger son, assuming he was privy to his brother’s conversation with dad?
  • Did the older son have a good point? Do you relate to him at all?

Deeper Dive

Let’s take some time to examine what the father did and did not do:

  • He WAS wastefully extravagant, giving his son an early inheritance.
  • We might infer that the father WAS looking for him.
  • It seems like the father DIDN’T pay a lot of attention to the younger son’s apology.
  • He DID restore his son’s place in the family by ordering the robe to be placed on him.
  • He DID restore authority by giving him a ring.
  • Servants went barefoot. Children wore “shoes.” He DID honor him as a son.
  • He DID throw a party for him! 

Let’s be real...this is weird behavior. If Jesus was going to use an illustration of our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness, why go over the top? Why be so extreme? Is it possible that’s God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness is this amazing?

Let's Talk

  • But what about us? What about you?
  • Do you know, really know, that God is this extravagant when it comes to forgiving you?
  • Be as real and honest as you can as you discuss this.

Common Blockers to receiving God’s forgiveness:

  • I believe I need to earn His forgiveness.
  • I’ve done something that is beyond being forgiven.
  • I’ve asked for forgiveness too many times.
  • I just don’t feel forgiven.
  • Other ____________________

Depending on your trust and comfort level in the group, you may or may not feel like sharing your “blocker.” That’s fine! But do your best to identify it. This will be helpful. It’s part of the process to getting free. Unforgiveness is not cool! God knows that it will imprison us and destroy us from the inside out. 

What Does the Bible Say?

One of the things that really helped me was realizing that God doesn’t expect me to be “good enough” to be accepted. The entire process of forgiveness has nothing to do with what I do. It truly is the work that Jesus did as my representative. Here are some of my favorite verses:

     “God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

     The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

     Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them — living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.   (Romans 8:3-7 The Message)

This is both profound and simple. But if we can move through our blocker/s, we will find freedom and forgiveness. 

Practice

Enjoy this song together: https://youtu.be/M3JOnFk_R8Y

Wrap Up

Spend some time expressing to God how you feel about what He’s done for you and that you don’t have to earn forgiveness.

Fearless Prayer- Small Group Experience

“Fearless Living”

Warm Up

  • What is something wild that you’ve done in your life?
  • Is there anything wild still on your bucket list?
  • If you weren’t afraid of failing, and failing wasn’t even an option, what would you do?

Let’s Talk

  • What is one area of your personal prayer time that has improved since we began the Fearless Prayer journey?
  • What is one area of your group prayer time that has improved since we began the Fearless Prayer journey?

Practice

Spend some time thanking God for how you have changed in recent weeks.
When you’re done, pray this together...

9Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.   (NIV)

What Does the Bible Say?

Verse 13 is one of those tricky ones because we immediately stumble over that first line: “lead us not into temptation.” I think we know intuitively that it doesn’t make sense for a good father, let alone a great Heavenly Father, to tempt us to do wrong.

This is what the Bible says in James 1:13: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”

So, what is Jesus saying? The same Greek word can be translated either “to tempt” or “to test.” In this case, test seems like a better word. But that raises another problem: God does test us to measure our character!

For example, “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.”  (Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT)

Without going to deep, let me suggest this. Maybe Jesus is saying, “Father, when we’re tested and don’t pass the test, don’t let us fall into the hands of the Devil.”  If that doesn’t help, spit it out and default to what you believed before!

This session is called “Fearless Living.” The Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, meaning the Devil. God is able to deliver us during times of testing and tempting. Here are some verses that illustrate this idea:

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”  (1 John 4:4 NLT)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 NIV)

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 1:19,20 NLT)

Let’s Talk

You can be real -- these verses are pretty lofty!

  • Share some times or ways that you feel or sense the reality of some of these verses in your life. Not totally, but at least in part.
  • What are some of your hang-ups with these verses? I like to call them our “buts.” Yes, the Bible says this, but....
  • We began our time together with the thought “If I could do something knowing I wouldn’t fail, what would I do?” Do these verses make it sound like God wants us to live this way? How so? How not?
  • What is something practical that you could do to get at least 1% more trusting in God’s power in you?

 Practice

Now that you’ve talked about a next step, spend some time asking God to help each other in the group to do what they said. Mention people by name and encourage and bless them to do what they aspire to do.

After you’re done praying, watch this video together. The speaker is Todd White. He’s one of the best examples I know of someone who actually lives consistently with those passages we just read:  https://youtu.be/bG3eTa3fGvY

 Let’s Talk

  • What was your favorite part of Todd’s story?
  • Was it inspiring?
  • Would you want to do those kinds of things? 

What Does the Bible Say?

When I think about testing and tempting, I think of the apostles Peter and Judas.

Judas was obviously tempted and succumbed to the temptation! 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  (John 13:2 NIV)

Peter’s story is a good one for us. You probably remember this part. Jesus knows that Peter is going to deny him three times. Peter can’t imagine such a thing. But it happens just as Jesus predicts. 

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.  (Luke 22:31)

Peter comes out on the other side. He “turns back,” he repents, he becomes a leader and not a loser. He was delivered from the Evil One.

What do you do when you stumble and fall? When you don’t meet up to the expectations God has, you have or others have for you? Peter embraced grace. Judas did not.

Let’s Talk

  • How do you handle “failure”? Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being well; 1 being not so well.
  • When things aren’t going well and you feel like you’ve failed, are you more likely to avoid people or find a trusted friend or two?
  • How has this group been helpful so far? Would something like this be good the next time you go through a rough or discouraging time?

Practice

Spend a little time thanking God for what He’s done so far through this group.

Small Group Experience Wrap Up

Any final thoughts from this week’s study?
Pray together for each other.

This is the last week that you’ll use a study guide. Your final discussion is for the group to schedule something fun to do together next week.

Go ahead now and read the page for Session 6. Be creative! Think outside the box! Make a plan. And enjoy.  :)

 

Fearless Prayer - Small Group Experience

“Fearless Fun”

Congratulations!!!

We hope that the Fearless Prayer experience brought you closer to Jesus and your small group. Now it's time to celebrate! 

God loves to party. In fact, the Jewish life in the Old Testament revolved around feasts. The feasts lasted for days and involved food and celebration.

So, during this final gathering of the Fearless Prayer series, do something fun together. Think outside the box. You probably don't need any help coming up with ideas, but here are some ideas:

  • Have dinner at a restaurant or someone's house.
  • Have a game night at someone's house.
  • Visit a park together. Walk the trails, throw frisbee, or have a picnic.
  • (Does anyone still bowl?)

You get the idea.

This is a chance to see each other in a "non-church" environment, doing everyday-life things. Laugh and be silly. Now, that sounds like fun.

If you do something really fun and silly, make sure you take a photo or video and share it with us!

  

 

CLICK HERE for a complete list of studies available in our church library.