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The Four Step Bible Study moves participants by degrees, in a non-threatening way... to integrate silent prayer and voluntary audible prayer into Bible Study. The goal is for prayer and Bible study to take place concurrently, rather than sequentially. Then one can learn to live prayerfully... to walk by the Spirit.
Those who are uncomfortable praying out loud will learn by hearing others pray audibly. They will learn what to pray. They will learn how to listen prayerfully, read scripture prayerfully and speak prayerfully. The ultimate goal of the Four Step Bible Study is to bring about a great awakening, all around the world.
If you want to lead groups in the Four Step Bible Study, the best training is to use the four steps in your daily Bible Study and prayer time. After you become comfortable having your quiet time in the Four Steps, then you are ready to lead.
AT THAT POINT, ASSEMBLE YOUR GROUP, PROVIDE EACH MEMBER WITH A LINK TO SUBCHAPTER 7.1 AND BEGIN.
The agenda in subchapter 7.1 will keep them aware of what they are doing at every step. It will help them to interact with God, staying focused on the subject of the text with less speculation. They will be aware of the remaining steps and thereby can help you to pace the study so that you have time to complete all four steps in your allotted time.
In this Leader's Guide I provide dialogue which the group leader may use to help the group transition through each step in the Four Step Bible Study. Consider this suggested dialogue prayerfully and use whatever dialogue the Lord leads you to use for your group. Below the dialogue section, I also explain the spiritual objectives for each step. Sometimes after the spiritual objectives, I will provide some additional information for the Group Leader as well.
So, this is the format. You will see each step of the Four Step Bible Study Agenda below. Beneath each step you will see two sections. 1) Group Leader Transitional Dialogue and 2) Spiritual Objectives. Sometimes you will also see a third section: Additional Information. Some of the Group Leader Transitional Dialogue is scripture because scripture is living, authoritative and life changing. God's word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
In this Leader's Guide, I will assume that you are following the Context Scripture and Focus Scripture arrangement for the book of Philippians which is provided in subchapter 7.5. I will also assume that you are in your second meeting, using Philippians 1:1-8 as Today's Scripture, Philippians 1:1-5 as your Context Scripture and Philippians 1:6-8 as your Focus Scripture.
Here we go...
Step 1) Listen Prayerfully
a) Offer silent prayers of agreement as the Group Leader opens the meeting with prayers of praise and requests for understanding.
b) Pray silently as each person shares prayer requests.
(If you don't know what to pray, look halfway down the page for "What Can I Pray?".)
Step 1) GROUP LEADER TRANSITIONAL DIALOGUE
"We are to pray "without ceasing... at all times... in everything... continually." 1 So every step we take in this meeting will be done prayerfully."
1a) PRAYER BY LEADER
"Please pray silently with me as I open our meeting with prayer."
1b) PRAYER REQUESTS
"Lets all pray silently as each of us share prayer requests. Scripture calls this watching in prayer.2 John, what can we pray for you?" (Each member will share prayer requests one by one. All members will be praying silently for the one speaking as they share.)
Step 1) SPIRITUAL OBJECTIVES
1a) PRAYER BY LEADER
The group leader asks the others to silently pray prayers of agreement as the group leader opens the meeting in prayer. This is very important as it turns the group focus to God and brings the group into active personal interaction with Him. The Group Leader will ask God to reveal the meaning of the scriptures. The Group Leader may also pray other prayers which are endorsed by scripture. Many Endorsed Prayers are listed in the agenda page, subchapter 7.1, under the heading "What Can I Pray?".
1b) PRAYER REQUESTS
In this step, disciples are trained to pray as they listen to others speak. They learn to be alert to the needs of others as others speak. Listening prayerfully is essential in the spiritual work of disciple making. Spiritual gifts may be active in this step as members sometimes ask questions or offer help to the one sharing the request. The use of spiritual gifts in the meeting is discussed in subchapter 7.3.
Both a and b are applications of the admonitions to pray "without ceasing... at all times... in everything... continually." 1 and to watch in prayer2.
Step 2) Read Prayerfully
a)Read Today's Scripture silently.
(Look at the Group Leader when finished.)
Read Today's Scripture.
b) Read the Context Scripture to God.
(Group Leader only. Offer praise while reading.)
c) Read the Focus Scripture to God silently.
(This may be awkward at first, as new things often are. Look at the Group Leader when finished.)
Step 2) GROUP LEADER TRANSITIONAL DIALOGUE
2a) READ TODAY'S SCRIPTURE SILENTLY
"What version of the Bible do all of you have? Since we aren't all using the same version, we will read silently from Philippians 1:1-8. Verses 1-5 will provide context for the Focus Scripture. Our Focus Scripture today will be verses 6-8."
Comment: The agenda says to read this passage silently. BUT IF everyone is using the same version, you may ask someone to read audibly instead of reading silently.
Here is the problem: When unfamiliar scripture is read audibly from one version, those using a different version will be trying to figure out where the reader is in the text instead of actually hearing the text. Then, when you go to the next step, they will still be trying to do the first step. Hence, after having missed the reading in 2a, they will then miss hearing you read the scripture to God in 2b.
However, if they read Today's Scripture in their version, they will become familiar with the text. Then when you read the Contest Scripture to God in Step 2b, they will be able to follow, because they are familiar with the text and you will be changing the wording a little anyway as you read to God.
2b) READ CONTEXT SCRIPTURE TO GOD
"I will read the Context Scripture to God. The Context Scripture is Philippians 1:1-5. As I read I will change some of the words. For example, I may change the word "God" to "You". That is because I am reading His words to Him. I will also offer words of praise as I read God's words to God. I have a name for this. Pread. When I read with praise, I pread. Praise + read = pread. To pread is to praise as you read. Here we go:
My Lord, Your words in this book were inspired to Paul and Timothy. You refer to them as "bond-servants" or slaves of Your Son, Jesus Christ. So they are those whom Your Son bought with His blood. Praise to your name! And I praise Your Son. With His death, He gave me life! Your letter is addressed to the saints in Philippi. Your message in the book is also intended for the overseers and deacons.
Paul and Timothy pray Your grace and peace to the Philippians. They are writing in Your presence. They also pray Your Son's grace and peace to the Philippians.
Paul thanks You in all of his joyful prayers for the Philippians because of their past and present participation in the gospel. So, Paul, by Your inspiration is giving You credit for the Philippians participation in the gospel. I praise you! You have granted us participation in the gospel like you did for the Philippians.
"I have read God's words to God. For other examples of reading to God, see subchapter 7.4.
(You may have noticed that I interspersed praise and comments into this reading. Group Leaders lead by demonstration, one step at a time.)
2c) READ FOCUS SCRIPTURE TO GOD
"Lets go to Step 2c.
'Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.' (Matthew 18:3,4).
So, one must become childlike to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (verse 3). And once one has entered the Kingdom of Heaven, greatness is also achieved by being childlike (verse 4)."
Imagine that your heavenly father wrote a book for you. Imagine also that you are a child, sitting in His lap, reading His book to Him. It's that simple. Come into the intimate presence of your Lord by faith, and then read Philippians 1:6-8 silently to Him. Praise God as you read. This will be awkward at first. Look at me when you are finished."
Step 2) SPIRITUAL OBJECTIVES
2a) READ TODAY'S SCRIPTURE
When participants hear Today's Scripture, they hear the Context Scripture, the Focus Scripture and possibly some other relevant scriptures. They are hearing text that may make it easier to understand the Focus Scripture. They receive some context for the focus passage. They also experience reading alone as described in subchapter 1.1.
2b) READ CONTEXT SCRIPTURE TO GOD
Readers hear someone demonstrate how to read God's words to God. They also heard you interspersed praise into your reading. As they hear you praise as you read, they will learn by imitation. Offering praise as we read scripture should be our most basic response to God's word. When we praise God as we read scripture, we are obeying Hebrews 13:15.
- "let's offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually" (Hebrews 13:15).
Praising God as we read God's word to God feels good! That's because we are filled with the Spirit when we praise God! (Ephesians 5:15)
I have invented a word for this step: Pread. We praise God as we read scripture. Praise + read = Pread.
2c) READ FOCUS SCRIPTURE TO GOD
This step is critical. In general, the reader makes direct contact with God and observes all of the content of the passage. As they hear you praise God while reading to God in Step 2b, they will learn to do the same in Step 2c. So, they will learn to respond to scripture with the most basic required response to God's word: Praise. All of this occurs before discussion begins. Praise should be the most fundamental content of the discussion rather than focusing of obscure elements of the passage. If members are not given time to absorb all of the content of the passage before discussion or teaching begins, many will not hear the words of others because they are still trying to get a basic understanding of what is in the passage. The comments of others will not stick because the members are not familiar with the scriptures which are the subject of the discussion. Those members who were already familiar with the passage will make comments but most everyone else will just listen. So, this step helps encourage broad participation in the discussion and broad individual connection with the words of God. It lays the groundwork for a discussion full of praise.
If you skip this step and instead merely read the passage your normal way of reading, much will be lost. In my experience, those who only read scripture in the normal way will notice half of the relevant details and nearly none of the logical flow of thought in the passage.
Now I will be more specific. In this step the reader makes direct contact with God in every sentence, phrase and word of the scripture. Every word and phrase has been observed, so every word and phrase can speak to the reader. An accurate understanding of the passage may be received in this step. Secular hermeneutics requires a strict mental observation of every word and idea in a text. It is true that many passages are confusing or have been misunderstood because the reader failed to observe all of the words in a text. Even though secular hermeneutical techniques are greatly inferior to the illumination of a text by the Holy Spirit, complete observation is an important accomplishment. Simply stated, the Holy Spirit may not interact with the reader on words which the reader has not observed. In Step 2, the reader not only observes every word mentally, the reader interacts spiritually with the Holy Spirit in every word.
Without this step, both beginners and seasoned theologians are more likely to focus on certain portions of a scripture while ignoring other portions... sometimes resulting in a misinterpretation.
I know of no other way to bring the members of a group to individually engage with God in every word of a scripture before the discussions take place in Step 3. Discussions are more fruitful when all participants have read the passage to God, have observed all of the content of the Focus Scripture and have offered praise to God.
I believe that five minutes spent reading God's words to God is worth an hour of disciplined mental observation. And reading God's words to God is prayer. It is prayer in obedience to Paul's exhortation to "pray without ceasing". Reading God's words to God also is enjoyable. And words which we read to God tend to stick better in our soul. An hour of disciplined mental observation is very tiring. The purely mental process of exhaustive observation turns into a lot of work. Few will do it very often.
Later, as it becomes second nature to offer praise as we read in this step, reading scripture becomes joy instead of work! Christians will be drawn to read God's word instead of reading out of duty.
Step 2) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
As the group gets comfortable reading God's words to God... and as they hear the Group Leader offer praise in the reading, they will begin to offer praise to God as they read. They will Pread. To Pread is to Praise God as we read.
As group leader, you will select the context passage and the focus passage. Subchapter (7.5) provides a link to the context and focus selections for the entire book of Philippians that you may use. Using this study arrangement, you can lead a Four Step Bible Study through the entire book of Philippians, from beginning to end. It provides the Context Scripture and Focus Scripture for each meeting. It is designed to provide a large enough Context Scripture to enhance understanding of the Focus Scripture. The Focus Scripture will be short enough to be digested during one meeting. It will be short enough to allow time for intimate conversation about and with God.
After you have lead a group through the entire book of Philippians, you should be able to take any book of the Bible and divide the book into Context and Focus passages. But to make your task a little easier, subchapter 7.5 provides Context and Focus assignments for eighteen books of the New Testament.
Step 3) Discuss Prayerfully
a) What does the Focus Scripture say about Man? (Which Verse?)
b) What does it say about God?
c) What does it say that we can Pray?
(Praise & Requests)
d) Now pray those prayers.
Step 3) GROUP LEADER TRANSITIONAL DIALOGUE
3a) "Let's move on to Step 3. What does the focus passage say about man?"
3b) "Let's move on to the second question: What does it say about God?"
3c) "Let's move on to the third question: What does it say that we can pray? You may get some additional ideas of what to pray by looking below at the section titled "What Can I Pray?"
3d) "Now let's pray those prayers that we have discussed. We will pray out loud. After several of you have prayed, I will pray.'
Step 3) SPIRITUAL OBJECTIVES
These three particular questions are very important. By using them, a small group may receive God's truth, pray, worship and build the body of Christ even though an expert in the scriptures is not available to teach. Using the first two questions on a short passage helps to discourage speculation and disputes (1 Timothy 1:4). They also help to keep us from going beyond what is written ( 1 Corinthians 3:1 -- 4:7, especially 4:6). The third question enables us to understand and do the application. It brings us into direct communication with the person of God Almighty, Yahweh... into actual intimate fellowship with Him. These three steps will bring about excellent understanding of scripture, greater unity and a more worshipful experience than a human analytical approach to the Bible.
Many do not know what to pray. Direct the group's attention to the section titled "What Can I Pray?" in the lower part of the Agenda page. That section lists a broad cross section of prayers endorsed by scripture. So, members will learn to pray scripturally in the Four Step Bible Study.
In Step 3, we obeyed scripture's instruction to pray "without ceasing... at all times... in everything... continually." 1 and to watch in prayer2.
Step 3) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The group will answer three questions about the focus passage. This is a group discussion. Try to encourage each person to contribute. If a few members are doing most of the talking, you may say, "Lets hear from someone who hasn't shared yet." Or you may say, "we want to have broad participation. If you have already shared, please wait until everyone has shared before sharing a second time."
If your group has a member who has a habit of dominating the discussion, you may need to say this at the beginning of Step 3, before any discussion has taken place. In this way, you avoid the appearance of singling out that individual for correction.
If you have a particularly argumentative person in the group, consult subchapter A8, in the appendix.
In the early stage of the discussion, the Group Leader should not share observations. Group Leaders should direct their attention to each verse so that they see the more relevant parts. Ask, "What about verse 2?... What about verse 3... ect." The Group Leader only vocalizes observations after the members have recognized all that they can.
One purpose of the three questions is to focus the group on what is actually in the text... to hear and implement what is actually in the text. When members make observations, the Group Leader may sometimes ask "Where do you see that? In what verse?" This helps to keep the group focus on the text, to avoid speculations and receive only what is actually in the text. This question should be asked especially when a good observation is made. But it may also be asked if a member makes inaccurate observations which present a significantly false doctrine which is significantly damaging to the spiritual well being of the group.
The text may raise questions which are not answered in the text. Typically, such questions are answered in another passage in the book which is being studied. The Group Leader can encourage the members to read or preferably pray the entire book in one sitting every day for a week. This greatly minimizes misunderstandings of particular passages. The group time should focus on what is clearly presented in the texts for that day. In this way, members will finish their time together with a deeper walk with God based on clear revelations, rather than a long list of unanswered questions. Scripture was not intended to answer every question in this life (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Step 4) Pray Scripture
Offer prayers pertinent to the passage as you read God's words to God.
(In this step we combine reading to God from step 2 with prayers pertinent to the passage from step 3.)
a) Leader: Pray First Verse of Focus Scripture Audibly.
b) Members: Pray Focus Scripture.
If it's the first meeting, all members pray the Focus Scripture silently. Otherwise, each member prays one verse audibly. Ask for volunteers.
c) Everyone says Amen!
Step 4) GROUP LEADER TRANSITIONAL DIALOGUE
4a) LEADER PRAYS FIRST VERSE OF FOCUS SCRIPTURE
"In Step 2 we read God's words to God, with praise. Then we prayed other prayers pertinent to the passage in Step 3. Now I will combine the two steps. I will read God's words to God with praise and pray other prayers pertinent to the passage. I will demonstrate this out loud.
Go to Philippians 1:6.
"My Lord, Paul and Timothy said through You, by Your inspiration, that You will continue to do the good work which You began in the Philippians, and that You will perfect Your work in them until the day of Christ. I praise You, my heavenly Father, that my sanctification and maturation in Christ are in Your hands... that by Your grace and sovereign power, I will be continually perfected until Christ's return and the great judgement.
4b) MEMBERS PRAY REMAINDER OF FOCUS SCRIPTURE
If it is the first meeting say "Now, let everyone pray the Focus Scripture silently. Look at me when finished." This gives them a little practice to overcome some of the awkwardness before they try to pray scripture out loud.
When most are finished say "Now you have interacted with God as you read His words to Him. You have prayed scripture silently."
If it isn't the first meeting say "
Would someone like to pray some of the Focus Scripture out loud?"
(If no one volunteers, then demonstrate it again for them with one verse. Then ask again for volunteers again. You may let several members read a verse or two.)
4c) "Let everyone say Amen. Amen!"
Step 4) SPIRITUAL OBJECTIVES
As members hear others pray scripture, they will come to understand and eventually enter into a more intimate and rewarding experience with God. They will pray scripturally, think scripturally and have fellowship with God in the scriptures. Their lives will more clearly reflect these scriptures:
- "In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
- "Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
- " let's offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually" (Hebrews 13:15).
- "they must always pray, and not give up" (Luke 18:1).
- "he continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12).
- "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13).
- Moses prayed forty days and forty nights (Deuteronomy 9:18).
- "Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching in it with..." (Colossians 4:2).
Step 4) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
I am often surprised at how well I understand the scriptures after following the all four steps. I believe that you will have a similar experience. The Holy Spirit works among each member to bring out the intended meaning of the text. I have sometimes been tempted to skip step 4 since we have already prayed about the passage in step 3. But this step is critical. It combines reading God's words to God from step 2 and praying prayers pertinent to the passage from step 3. The fourth step, is the practice we want to instill in each member... so that they can pray scripture every day. I have heard participants say that their greatest revelation from the scriptures occurred in this step.)
Shortly before each meeting, pray for your group. Then go through all four steps by your self using the Context Scripture and Focus Scripture that will be read during your meeting. You will be able to lead the group better if you do this.
Flexibility in the Spirit
I prayerfully suggest that you lead your group in the Spirit to experience the Four Step Bible Study as described in this chapter. Then after you become experienced with each step, you may find it beneficial to adjust some steps, as the Holy Spirit leads you, from time to time. He may lead you to adjust the steps according to the particular scripture, the group and time available.
1) 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6 and Hebrews 13:15, as presented in subchapter 4.12.
2) Colossians 4:2-4