"My house shall be called a house of prayer"
When I was seventeen, I met a girl in my senior English class, named Mischa. Mischa is Russian for Michael. Our first date was on January 17, 1976. We talked for hours and hours on end. One day we were sitting in her living room and she said, "I think that we should read the Bible and pray together. My youth group leader at church says that we should do that." So, we read a scripture and prayed. Each of us prayed out loud. I had never done that with another person until that time. It was a spiritual encounter. Mischa was the first person that I had a spiritual relationship with.
- "19 Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them" (Matthew 18:20).
When two people of faith pray together, something supernatural happens. Christ is actively involved in a very special way in that interaction. Christ was in her. Christ was in me (Galatians 2:20). Christ was at work in us.
House of Prayer
Reading the Bible and praying with other Christians is a critical part of your growth in the faith. It is a critical part of your ability to have fellowship with God.
- It is written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13).
In other words, prayer is to be such an obvious part of the gathering of Christians that people will call that gathering "a house of prayer".
One may say... I see prayer in that verse. But I don't see Bible study in the verse. Well, scripture is always a part of prayer. That is because scripture determines the content of prayer. Prayer that is inconsistent with scripture will not be honored by God.
I have grown closer to the Lord through many hours of solitude in prayer and meditation on the scriptures. But I have also grown in intimacy with Christ through Bible study prayer groups in my local church, especially through the comments of those who disagreed with me, and most especially in one such group which is led my pastor. His name is Eric.
If you are a pastor, please prayerfully consider what I have to say. I found it very helpful to have a pastor would lead a Bible study in a discussion format where laymen could ask questions. I didn't always understand Eric's answer. But, I often came to see the proof of his answer as I PRAYed scripture. How to PRAY scripture is the Fifth Path as described in subchapters 1.1 and 1.2. Jesus was the example of this method. He trained the disciples in the same way. He talked to them, prayed for them and answered their questions.
I went through a long period of intense physical suffering which would have been much more difficult without a pastor who is willing to say things that are not popular. The faith and prayers of laymen in that group have brought me into a much more abundant life. We often have opposing views. But as I hear the views of others and PRAY over the relevant scriptures, I grow in the faith. One man reminds us to love. Another reminds us that the scriptures are authoritative. Another points to God's sovereignty. Another says "Lets keep the main thing, the main thing." Each has his place in our group.
- "24 Let's consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The scripture admonishes Christians to gather and provoke each other to love and do good.
Simple Group Bible Study Methods
One excellent way to have a group Bible study is to simply PRAY the scriptures out loud as described in subchapter 1.2.
Here is another simple method to have a Bible Study with another believer or a small group of believers:
a) Ask God to open your minds to understand the scriptures.
b) Choose a scripture. John 1:1 is a good place to start.
c) Read a small portion from the scripture you have chosen. When you read, seek the heart of the passage.
d) Ask four questions:
- What does the passage say about God?
- What does the passage say about Man?
- What does the passage say that we can share with someone else?
- What does the passage say that we should pray about?
When you make an observation about a passage, it is good to ask this question: Where does it say that? That question will keep you from going beyond what is written.
You may use this group Bible Study method any day of the week, in person or online.
Four Step Bible Study
Chapter 7 presents the Four Step Bible Study.
The Four Step Bible Study moves participants by degrees, in a non-threatening way... to integrate silent prayer and voluntary audible prayer into Group Bible Study. The goal is to learn how to listen prayerfully, read scripture prayerfully and speak prayerfully. Then to live prayerfully... with greater understanding of the scriptures... to walk by the Spirit.
The Bible is studied one book at a time, from beginning to end, to prayerfully consider each verse in context. A weekly agenda, Leader's Guide, list of Endorsed Prayers, list of the works of the Holy Spirit and other supplementary materials are all provided for free. Click here to go directly to the introduction to the Four Step Bible Study in chapter 7.
Pray as You Listen
How pervasive is prayer supposed to be in our lives?
- "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).
- "Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2)
You can pray as you listen. Pray while your preacher is preaching, as your Bible study leader teaches and as you listen to others in your discussion group. Pray for them and for yourself. You can pray as others share prayer requests. If you are the prayer group leader, ask the group to pray silently for each person as they are sharing prayer requests. The last verse tells us to watch in prayer. As others speak, we are to look for opportunities for prayer. Praying as you listen should become a way of life, whether in church or not. Praying as you listen is having fellowship with God. It is abiding in Christ.
By the way, I eventually married Mischa. I have never regretted that union. We ate a lot of beans, rice and cornbread for many years because of difficult economic times. I also had years of serious health issues. She stood by me in all of it. I never had any doubt that she would. As of the writing of this book it has been forty-five years since our first date.