CPx: Discovery Bible Studies, iii
We always start Discovery Bible Studies with prayer time (or at least a time designated for prayer-like activities). For one thing, it helps focus peoples attentions around Jesus (if they are praying) and opens their hearts to the community (if they are just speaking thanksgivings and needs). Also, a big part of what a Discover Bible Study is designed to do is seamlessly transform from a simple study to a simple church as people find themselves following Jesus, and if you want the DNA of prayer built into the church community, it’s necessary to start with it from the very beginning (even if very little “prayer” is happening).
The obvious question is how do you build this DNA into the community from day 1, especially if you are dealing with a group of people that have no concept of Jesus and prayer and talking to God? Forcing prayer is one option. It’s an option I’ve tried in fact but it doesn’t really produce fruit that is lasting — people are shy and nervous and unsure about talking to someone or something that they don’t even know.
So what’s a good way to do this? Just as in studying the Bible it’s best to have simple steps so that it is easily reproduced. There are three that we do to create an atmosphere of prayer within the DBS.
Share what you are thankful for. We start by getting everyone into an attitude of thanksgiving. Even if life is as hard as it could possibly be, everyone generally has something that they can give thanks for — be it friends and family, the beautiful, life or some unexpected blessing. By sharing these we actively engage in putting our hearts in a mode of giving thanks and, when the group is praying, we have a pool of items to praise God for.
Share what your greatest need is. Whereas thanksgiving is probably the best place to start, intercession is also a needed component of prayer. Building in a reliance on God and recognition that He is the source of all that we are early on sets a very good precedent. It also gives God an opportunity to radically show up and show Himself as real (in line with 1 Corinthians 2:4) through answered prayer. For example, I had the honor of baptizing a husband and wife on Easter that we have been doing a DBS with for about 2 months. On our first meeting, the wife had us pray during this time for her baby who was covered some scaly skin disease that did not look pleasant at all; God showed up and instantly started healing the child (by the next day the scaly skin was normal again). And that opened them up to a more in depth conversation about Jesus that led to them making the decisions that they have made.
Ask if anyone present can meet any of the needs expressed. God often moves miraculously; often too He uses us to be the answer to other peoples prayers. And if community is a value, we should be actively seeking to meet those needs expressed. As an example, someone we met in a DBS expressed the need of not knowing how to manage money. Because of that, we volunteered to spend some extended time with him sharing tip and tricks to manage your money (basically a modified envelope method) which he found really empowering and helpful.
Even if everyone isn’t praying on the first DBS, you as participant or facilitator can. If no one can meet the needs expressed, you can offer to lift those people up. After the fact you can meet with people to pray for them. As people grow closer to God and want to pray you are there to teach them and help see them grow in this (as well as Bible study).
Hopefully this gives a quick rundown on prayer and how it is incorporated into DBSs.