Chapter 7: Prayer changes everything?

In Chapter 7 we explore whether prayer has any limits. Has Jesus really promised that ‘whatever we ask’ in prayer will be ours? Using the analogy of a banker’s cheque, we discover that: the promises about prayer are not automatically payable to all Christians; the ‘amount payable’ is ultimately up to God; and it is Jesus’ signature, not ours, that is to be found at the bottom of the cheque.

Sermon accompanying chapter 7

Preached by Chris Band at Headington Baptist Church, Oxford on 11th October 2009
Download the study guide.

Questions

  1. Perhaps using a cheque book as your guide, draw a large blank cheque on a sheet of paper. In the light of Matthew 7:7-8, 17:20 & Mark 11:24 does Jesus appear to describe prayer as something of an ‘intercessory blank cheque’? Does such a view align with our actual experience of prayer?
We will now begin to discuss the cheque: who it is payable to, the amount payable and the signature
  1. Payable to …whoever? Do the group recognise any association between effective prayer and being in a healthy relationship with God? Can strident and sustained sin threaten our assurance that God will hear and answer prayer (see Isaiah 59:1-2, Psalm 66:18-19, James 5:16, 1 Peter 3:12)?
  2. Payable to …whoever? To what extent does prayer depend on being in a right relationship with others? Allocate the following verses to the group and ask them to list the types of people that God requires us to be in right relationship with if we are to expect him to answer us: Proverbs 21:13 (the poor), Isaiah1:15-17 (the oppressed, fatherless, widows), 1 Peter 3:7 (wives). How does 1 John 3:21-23 encapsulate all this [p.135]?
  3. Payable to …whoever? In what way do the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father’, highlight the importance of praying from a right relationship with God and others [p.135]?
  4. The amount payable … whatever? Read Mark 11:20-24. Is the ‘whatever’ in v24 totally unconditional? How can we balance these verses with others such as 1 John 5:14-15?
  5. The amount payable … whatever? Read Mark 10:35-40. How does Jesus deal with the ‘whatever’ (v35) of James & John here?
  6. The signature … whenever? Whose signature does the group instinctively think should be at the bottom of the cheque, ours or Jesus’?
  7. The signature … whenever? What does it mean to end our requests with the phrase ‘in Jesus’ name’? Read the quotation by Max Turner [p.140] and discuss together the subsequent analogy of bidding at an auction on someone else’s behalf [p.140].
  8. The signature … whenever? What sort of prayers might be more open to question if Jesus’ name is the signature on the cheque [p.140]? Do we feel that our prayers are ever presented in our own name?
  9. Fill in the blank cheque: Payable to: those working towards right relationship with God & others. Amount payable: ultimately what God desires and wills. Signature: Jesus. Conclude by reading the summary bullet points [p.142].