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Bible Study: Five elements of effective prayer

NASHVILLE (BP) — This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the MasterWork curriculum.

Bible Passage: Nehemiah 1:5-11

Discussion Questions:

— The author states, “God will not listen to some prayers; mush less answer them.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
— What is the relationship between answered prayer and a committed follower of God?
— What does it mean for prayer to be reverent? Does it just mean using respectful language toward God? Or is there something more to praying reverently? If so, what?

Food for thought:

In all honesty, prayer baffles us sometimes. We’ve heard that God answers all prayer; He might answer yes, or no or not yet. But is it really as simple as that? While fully acknowledging God’s sovereignty regarding prayer (and all else for that matter), is there nothing about the person praying or the prayer that impacts whether or how the prayer is answered?

Pastor and author H.B. Charles Jr., in “It Happens After Prayer,” addresses five elements that come into play in the effectiveness of our prayers. These do not constitute some type of formula that allows us to manipulate God into a corner so He must answer our prayer in the manner we wish. But they do reflect characteristics associated with answered prayer in Scripture, specifically in the Book of Nehemiah.

First, Charles stresses that prayer is a matter of a right life rather than an issue of saying the right words. Prayer isn’t an algebra problem that if you follow the right steps and perform the functions accurately, you arrive at your desired result. Instead, prayer grows out of a loving child’s ongoing relationship with the Heavenly Father. Not our words but our lives hold the key.

Second, Charles points out God answers sincere prayer. Nehemiah’s sincerity can be seen in the fact prayer was his immediate and repeated response to devastating news. It wasn’t a last-minute, when-all-else-fails ploy, but a sincere first reaction.

God answers reverent prayer. God was still God, and Nehemiah reflected that in his approach to God in prayer.

God answers honest prayer. Nehemiah acknowledged his own, his family’s, and his people’s sinfulness in creating the situation. There was no sugar coating or smug self-righteousness. Nehemiah freely confessed God was justified and the people were wrong.

Finally, God answers believing prayer. Nehemiah didn’t pray a nebulous, generic, “God bless ______” prayer. He believed God wanted him involved in the answer and asked specifically for success. Then, Nehemiah put his life on the line to carry out plans God had laid on his heart. His belief showed up in his action.

MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum based on works from a variety of renowned authors and offers pertinent, practical messages that adults will find uplifting and enriching. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at www.lifeway.com/masterwork.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources