New Hope UMC

1: Teach Us To Pray

May 9, 2019

Do we know how to pray? No, not instinctively says Dr. Albert Mohler, the author of our new Bible Study series. We must be taught. This study is on the Lord's Prayer, a short piece of scripture, found in both Matthew and Luke. You can buy books and take courses on how to pray, so why study these few verses?

Dr. Mohler gets us off to a good start with Lesson 1. The Prayer is a response by Jesus to a question by the disciples to teach them how to pray. These are religious men who have been around synagogues all their lives but apparently did not know to pray. This is our first clue. The disciples had to be taught and so do we. By the Master himself. He gave them the short prayer along with other advice, consisting of things to avoid. First, do not pray as the hypocrites do, standing in the synagogues or street corners, to be seen by others. Secondly, do not pray as the gentiles (pagans) with vain repetitions and many words. So don't pray to call attention to yourself and don't use flowery language. Then In Matthew 6:6, he says " when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Each lesson includes a video lecture by Dr. Mohler of about 20 minutes. Kevin then leads the group in a discussion. There is no homework or suggested discussion questions. The videos are available on the internet on Amazon Prime or Right Now networks. There are 12 lessons.

I am referring to these as "lessons" which may not be an appropriate description. A lesson is usually accompanied by some work on the part of the student - preparation, homework, etc. These sessions are more akin to opportunities for experiencing the meaning of scripture, through listening to a theological heavyweight and through participation with each other. The subject is a few verses that became the most well known prayer in history. So we can come together each week to experience the massive meaning of this Prayer, its theology and how it serves as a guide for our own lives.

2: Our Father in Heaven

May 16, 2019

We decided to change gears and are moving from Dr. Mohler's study to one by the Shepherd Church in California. They are both on the Lord's Prayer and both use a video presentation to begin each week's lesson. The video is led by Dusty Frizzell. There is a pdf file available on the web at this link if you want to review or engage in advance preparation, although that is not necessary.

We watched the video presentation and then Kevin lead us in a discussion of the main points which are concerned with the first words of the Lord's Prayer, 'our Father in Heaven".

  • we acknowledge that God is our father, that is to say that he is the father of us all, which includes Jesus, who is the person giving us the words to pray.
  • we look at the characteristics of earthly fathers: our own, TV characters, other fathers we admire. Mentioned were courage, knowledge, wisdom, dependability and compassion.
  • we understand that we are His children, all of us, including Jesus. We are created, Jesus is begotten, meaning that he is the same as the Father.
  • characteristics and traits of good children were discussed. These include trust, obedience, comfort, respect, teachability, tolerance, dependent upon, loving, innocent and honoring.

Our next session is on "Hallowed be the Name", the holiness of God. We will not be meeting on May 23, so this next lesson will be on May 30. Bible passages discussing the holiness of God can be accessed by following the link above and paging down to Session Two. The Psalms are particularly rich in describing the holiness of God.


4: Thy Will Be Done

June 13, 2019

This week, we are learning what it means to pray for God’s will. Too often we ask God for “stuff” and not necessarily for His will. His will is always perfect, even though it may not be what we want.

  • Remember we are dying to self and living to Christ. This is what it means to be a Christian. God directs us to do His will. He does not carry it out for us. That is our job.
  • So it follows that we must learn his will before we can carry it out for him. We are submitting to Him and asking Jesus to partner with us in this life.
  • We know from our previous lesson that God wants to bring about his kingdom, i.e., "thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven". If we are living out God’s will, we are participating as citizens of His Kingdom, and likewise, if we are living as citizens of His Kingdom, we are doing God’s will.
  • Paul gives us a clue in Galatians as to what this looks like. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • This is the Kingdom of God that is there when we adopt the attitude of Christ Jesus. When we do, we are in essence being an earthly version of Jesus to others. Thus, fulfilling His will and experiencing His Kingdom. All the while allowing others to enter and experience God’s Kingdom as well.
  • When we humble ourselves before God and others, we are seeking the betterment of others, as well as seeking what is pleasing to God. When we are seeking to please God through obedience, we are doing it out of an overflow of what He has done for us, and NOT to gain His love and favor. C. S. Lewis puts it this way. We don't do good so that God will love us. Rather, we do good because God loves us.

5: Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

July 12, 2019

This week, we discuss what the Lord means by asking for "daily bread". Here are some highlights:

  • the Disciples knew that food was a necessity for energy and nutrition and moreover to sustain life. It needed to occur daily.
  • the prayer implies that God will provide this necessity. God knows that we must have food.
  • God already knows this need, but Jesus is saying that we should ask for it anyway. This is an important teaching - although God knows our needs and what's in our heart, He expects us to communicate our requests to Him through prayer.
  • Our mindset should be that we are expressing gratitude knowing that God will provide what we need.
  • In accepting what the Lord provides, we set our hearts and lives towards a stream of contentment in God. As we draw nearer to God, our hearts become satisfied with what He has provided.
  • We are able to be content with whatever God provides because it is He, our heavenly Father giving us exactly what we need. He knows our deepest desires, wants, and needs, and God will give and bless as He sees appropriate.

So when we ask God for our daily bread, we are acknowledging that He is the provider of all good things. He will provide for our needs (not our desires), and will never leave us or forsake us. We should have a measure of contentment each time we repeat these special words.

6: Forgive Us Our Debts

July 19, 2019

This topic includes the additional phrase "as we forgive our debtors". So the two are taken together.

  • it is easy for God to forgive us. He does so over and over, seventy times seven. All we have to do is ask.
  • God’s forgiveness is part of who He is. He is love, kindness, and grace, and these qualities birth forgiveness. Forgiveness being a part of His plan for humanity shows that He has a vision of restoration in place for His creation. This restoration is to make our lives look more like His Son, Jesus.
  • But it is not easy for us to forgive others. This is placed as a condition in this statement - we are to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God.

This latter topic - forgiveness of others - took up most of the discussion in this hour. Some points:

  • this might be the most difficult of Jesus' teachings, forgiving others. It is closely aligned with "blessing those who persecute you" and "doing good to those who despitefully use you". Luke 6:28.
  • the forgiveness of others is between you and God. It is not necessary for the person who has wronged you to be approached. In fact, many times that person will shrug it off.
  • lack of forgiveness hardens one's heart. It leads to bitterness and anger, and frankly doesn't leave much room for God. So forgiveness is a form of cleansing. The damage that can be done to someone who holds onto a grudge and does not forgive someone, can be harmful.
  • we discussed ways that we can overcome the urge to continue enmity against a wrongdoer.

Because there is damage that comes with not forgiving others, Jesus’ teaching becomes magnified in the wake of Him teaching the disciples how to pray. It is vital for us to receive and give forgiveness freely as it shows us who the holy Trinity is and how they work together in the grand plan and vision of restoration.

7: Lead Us Not Into Temptation - Deliver Us From Evil

July 26, 2019

This final topic introduces us to the concepts of evil and temptation. They are studied together as one presumably leads to the other. Some notes from our discussion.

  • "lead us not into temptation". The moderator allows that this can be misleading in that it suggests that God somehow would lead us into temptation. This appears to be a quirk with the original Greek. We learn from James that God does not tempt us. Ever. So it might be that Jesus is praying that God lead us "away" from temptation.
  • Much of our discussion was on Evil. The moderator suggests that evil may well come from Satan, but he indicates that Satan is not a constant theme in the Bible. Rather evil comes from within, to his viewpoint. More on this.
  • Satan is present in the Bible. Jesus referred to him as "the Evil One". In fact, some versions use this depiction in the Lord's Prayer.
  • Satan is a fallen angel, banished from heaven for insubordination. As an angel, he is a member of the spirit world and does not have a physical presence.
  • Our inclination to yield to temptation is not necessarily the result of hearing some evil spirit convincing us to do wrong. While there may be a presence of such a spirit, it is ultimately up to us to take responsibility for our actions.
  • Bad habits sometimes lead to wrong actions. The best way to overcome this is to develop good habits. Likewise, evil thoughts are best replaced with good thoughts.

This concludes our study - seven lessons beginning with "Our Father, who art in Heaven" and ending with "lead us not into temptation." It was a really good study, generating a lot of thoughtful discussion on an important subject. This was different than some other studies, as we had a short video, and lots of time left for discussion. Also, there was no advance preparation. Thanks to Kevin for bringing the resources of for this important and meaningful study. We repeat the Lord's Prayer every Sunday (and hopefully more frequently) and now it has new and special meaning for us.