STUDY QUESTIONS

Sunday Service  // December 5, 2021

Watch the service here.

On Sunday, our youth minister, Ethan, shared a story from Isaiah 7:1-17 about the prophet Isaiah and Ahaz, the King of Judah. When faced with two enemy nations (3-4 and 9b -11), King Ahaz refused to trust in the Lord and ask for a sign of God’s protection. In response, God gave Ahaz a sign anyways: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (verse 14). The meaning in Hebrew of Immanuel is “God is with us.”


1. When faced with overwhelming obstacles and dangers, as King Ahaz was, why is our first reaction often to plan out an escape rather than trust in the Lord? Why is it so important in these situations to realize that “God is with us”? (See also the last line of Matthew’s Gospel.)

2. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the story of Jesus’ birth. In Matthew 1:22-23, Matthew says that Christ’s birth took place to fulfill this sign of Immanuel, “God with us.” Why call Jesus Immanuel? Why is the Christmas story––the incarnation event of God becoming human in Christ––unique in the history of humanity and foundational to our faith in Christ?


Before celebrating Communion, Ethan read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and said that “The Lord’s Supper is  a time for looking back and for looking forward.”


3. What do we look back to when taking the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper? Why is this important for us?

4. What do we look forward to when participating in the Lord’s Supper (see verse 26)? How does this encourage us?


We also lit the advent candles of Peace and read Isaiah 9:6, the well-known Christmas verse.

5. Discuss the four or five different attributes that characterize “the Son who is given,” according to Isaiah 9:6. Why do you think “Prince of Peace” is the last one mentioned?

6. After the Lord’s Supper, several people shared about a recent experience that had given them peace, or a difficult/unsettling experience
in which they were able to have peace.  Continue this sharing in your house church meeting.


For personal reflection at home:

A. The theme of peace, prominent in many Christmas carols, connects with the recent sermon Rob gave from Philippians 4. Read verses 4-9 of that chapter, and reflect on the fact that “the peace of God” in verse 7 becomes “the God of peace” in verse 9. (This inversion is also present in the original Greek).

B. Use a concordance to research some of the different meanings of peace in the Bible. Who is the peace with? How is it attained? How does it transform our lives?

How to Pray, Petition, and Request // Philippians 4:4-9

Watch the sermon here.

1. This paragraph begins with “Rejoice … Rejoice!” (verse 4). Where else is “rejoice” or “joy” mentioned in Philippians? How can Paul say “rejoice” when he is chained in a prison (see 1:7, 13, 14) and the Philippian church to whom he is writing is also suffering (see verse 1:29)? 

2. In his sermon, Rob mentioned that a second theme of Philippians, after joy, is internal conflict and disunity among Christians (see 2:1-3 and 4:2-3). How does this explain Paul’s command “do not be anxious about anything” in verse 6 of our passage? Share together how conflict in a family or church can lead to anxiety.

3. “Our relationship with one another impacts our prayer life.” In discussing this, Rob referred us back to the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, especially verses 11-15 of that chapter. Matthew 7:9-12 is also about prayer and also ends by addressing our relationship with others. What four aspects of prayer are mentioned in Philippians 4:6b? How can the daily practice of these reduce anxiety and relational conflicts? (A phrase to remember, “God is in control, and we are not!”)


4. If we carry out verse 6, we can enjoy the peace of verse 7. Discuss the three things Rob pointed out about this peace: (1) it is not circumstantial but supernatural (thus Paul could rejoice in prison), (2) it will be beyond our understanding, and (3) it will guard and defends us. How does each of these work in practice?

5. As a review of these seven studies on prayer, each member choose one of them, read to yourself the verses, and be prepared to share with the group one thought that stood out for you.

  • Oct 17 How to Pray (Matthew 6:9-13)

  • Oct 24 How to Keep Praying (Luke 18:1-8)

  • Oct. 31 How to Pray on Mission (Acts 4:24-31)

  • Nov. 7 How to Pray with the Persecuted (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

  • Nov. 14 The Gifts of Prayer (Matthew 7:7-12)

  • Nov. 21 How to pray and overcome temptation (Hebrews 2:14-18)

  • Nov. 28 How to Pray, Petition, and Request (Philippians 4:4-7)

For personal reflection at home:

 

A. Reflect on some of the conflicts you have experienced in your life consider how more focused prayer might have influenced your experience and/or the outcome.

 

B. There are many passages in the Old Testament that connect practical peace with trust and prayer in God’s presence. Search out some of these and reflect on what they teach. (For a start, you could look at Psalm 4:6-8; Psalm 122:6-9; Isaiah 26:3-4.)

 

C. On the Capstone website, scan the house church questions on prayer that we have been discussing these past two months, and focus on one or two that stood out for you.

How to Pray and Overcome Temptation  // Hebrews 2:14-18

Watch the service here.

1. Read again Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:15-16, and discuss why these two sections fit so well together despite being separated by a couple of chapters. What words and ideas are common to both?

2. Hebrews 2:18 teaches that Christ can help us when tempted, because He was tempted like we are. When Christ was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4 & Luke 4), how did these temptations cause him to suffer? When else did He suffer by not giving in to temptation?

3. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that Christ suffered when tempted, although He never sinned. Then the very next verse (Hebrews 4:16), tells us what we can do when we are tempted. What is that? Why is it effective?

4. 1 Corinthians 10 also teaches about temptation. Verse 13 reminds us that we will all be tempted. Knowing that, what does verse 12 warn us about? What does the second part of verse 13 assure us about? Share your experiences with these truths.

5. Ken warned us of the foolishness of walking around the edge of a deep pit, when we don’t intend to fall in. Martin Luther once said, “You can’t help birds flying above your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Based on these two common sense examples, and the verses in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians, share some common strategies you can use to avoid giving into temptations.


For personal reflection at home:

A. Look up some other verses in the New Testament that address the question of temptation for the believer (e.g. Mark 14:38; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Galatians 6:1; 1 Timothy 6:9; James 1:13-14). What do these verses add about temptation?

B. Reflect on the various things that tempt you to sin in your life. Have you learned anything helpful from the sermon and the scriptures that might help you persevere?

C. When a believer gives in to temptation and is caught in a sin, those in the church who are more mature spiritually should help restore them according to Galatians 6:1. If this is your situation, feel free to contact someone in church leadership who can meet with you to help you.

The Gifts of Prayer // Matthew 7:7-12

Watch the sermon here.

1. Verses 7 and 8 appear to say we will get everything we ask for––all we think we need––if we just pray for it. But Rob pointed out that the context of these verses, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, is important. How does Matthew 6:10, which we looked at in a previous study, help us understand Matthew 7:7-8?

2. Read James 4:13-15 and discuss the importance of taking God’s will into account in our prayers and plans.

3. What aspects of God’s will have already been clearly revealed to us? How should our prayers take these into account?

4. Read verses 9 to 11 and have each person share one or more good gifts that your Heavenly Father has given them.

5. Verse 12 concludes this teaching by reminding us of one thing we all know with certainty is God’s will ––the golden rule. How should this “rule” affect our prayer life and what we ask and seek for, referring back to verses 7 and 8?


For personal reflection at home:

A. Study how the apostle Paul took God’s will into account in his prayers and plans by doing a concordance search through his letters and the book of Acts.

B. Reflect on the way God gives good things, beginning with James 1:17 and using other parts of Scripture. How does this affect your prayer life–– both what you give thanks for and what you ask and seek for?

How to Pray With the Persecuted  // 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Watch the service here.

Sunday was the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church. It has been estimated that 340 million Christians are living in areas of high persecution. Lucas shared this video with the congregation and led us through three cycles of short stories from persecuted believers, relevant Scriptures about suffering and persecution, and a time of silent prayer by everyone present. You can view the slides from the service here.


1. The persecution of Christians is nothing new. In fact, the New Testament talks about suffering of this kind in many places. Let each member of your house church select a verse to read from the following list: Matthew 5:11-12, John 15:18-19, Acts 8:1, Romans 8:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Philippians 1:29, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:5-6; 1 Peter 4:12-13.

2. Take 5-10 minutes to pray for Christians suffering persecution. It might help to look at the
World Watch List which ranks the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Jesus. Where relevant, refer to the verse you read from question #1 when you pray.

3. Rev. Marcus Abana is from the north of Nigeria, where believers have endured severe persecution from the terrorist group, Boko Haram. When reflecting on this experience he said “We do not pray that God will take away the hardship, but that God would give us the grace to be able to stand.” Below are three ways to pray for the persecuted church that likewise “prioritize kingdom over comfort.”  Take time to read each prayer carefully and the scripture referred to, then ask for three different participants to pray one of the prayers on behalf of the group. Feel free to leave room for additional prayers.

a. Pray that persecuted Christians will find peace and strength to remain faithful in the sufficiency of God’s grace, even in their weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9).

b. Pray that God would use persecution to advance his kingdom and build his church (Matt. 16:18)

c. Pray that God would empower persecuted Christians to love their enemies in supernatural ways that point them to the truth about Jesus (Matt. 5:43-45).

4. The great example of persecution is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. His sufferings are described in many places in both the Old and New Testaments. Read the following three sections and reflect together on the significance of Christ’s sufferings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:18.


For personal reflection at home:

A. Visit one of the following three websites: Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, or International Day of Prayer, to read and reflect on some of the stories of persecution there.

B. Consider setting aside one day each week in the coming year to pray for the persecuted church. If you pray for one of the 50 countries listed in the World Watch List each week, you will have prayed through the entire list by the end of the year! To help you remain consistent in this rhythm of prayer, it’s probably best to choose the same day each week (e.g., Saturday) to pray for the persecuted church

C. To remain updated on the latest stories and prayer needs among the persecuted church, consider downloading the
Open Doors Prayer App.

How to Pray on Mission // Acts 4:23-31

Watch the sermon here.

As soon as Peter and John were released from their captivity (incurred because of their bold preaching), they met with the other believers to share what had happened. Immediately, the church prayed (vv. 23-24). This is an example of prayer by a church “on mission.” In his sermon, Lucas pointed out five principles that we learn from this prayer.

1. In verse 24, their prayer began with worship to the Sovereign Lord who made the heavens and the earth. While not every prayer in the Bible starts with worship, discuss the significance of the believer’s prayer beginning with worship here, especially when faced with opposition to their mission.

2. In verses 25 and 26, the congregation grounded their prayer in Scripture, by quoting Psalm 2. As Lucas mentioned in his sermon, “Scripture gives us a language for prayer.” Discuss how this works. Did Jesus ever quote Scripture in his prayers?

3. In verse 27 and 28, their prayer
reviewed God’s sovereign actions in detail, especially with respect to the crucifixion of Christ, the anointed one, which God’s will had decided ahead of time. Discuss why it is sometimes helpful to recount past actions of God in our prayers and requests for mission advancement.

4. In verse 29, we see that their prayer
prioritized the advance of the kingdom of God over their own comfort.  While God certainly intends us to bring our every need to him in prayer (as the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 teaches us), why is it significant here in Acts 4 that their request is more focused on the advance of God’s mission?

5. Finally, verse 30 shows that their prayer
called upon God’s divine and supernatural power to advance their mission. Can we still do that today? Or was it something unique to the early days of the church? If so, can you give some examples of this?

6. Verse 31 shows the three-fold result of their prayer––the building was shaken, the Holy Spirit filled them, and they continued to proclaim God’s Word with boldness. Do you think the believers would have experienced these things if they did not pray? Why or why not? What does this tell us about the importance of prayer as we live on mission?


For personal reflection at home:

A. At the end of his sermon, Lucas shared a prayer that he had written out, based on the five principles he found in the prayer in  Acts 4 (these are bolded in the questions above). Use these same five principles to compose a personal prayer for the advance of the kingdom in area related to your own life or perspective.

B. Prayer is mentioned, in one form or another, 32 times in the book of Acts. Look up some of the other mentions of prayer in Acts to see what you can learn from them.

C. Psalm 2 is quoted 6 or 7 times in the New Testament, including Acts 4. Why do you think this Psalm was so important to the early Christians? What did it assure them of?

How to Keep Praying // Luke 18:1-8

Watch the sermon here.

1. What did Jesus mean when he said that we “should always pray”? Should we pray every day? Every hour? Something else? Share how you understand this with one another.

2. “And not lose heart/give up.” Is there something you’ve prayed about for a long time and feel like giving up on whether in your personal life, family, or community? What do you need to keep on praying and not lose heart?

3. Lucas mentioned three things about the widow in verse 3 that might apply to us today, even though we may be far removed from her in time and place: (1) she had an adversary, (2) she had no power to obtain her request herself, and (3) she persisted in crying out that the judge would give her justice.  Discuss how these might apply to us today in our prayers.

4. There are also three things about the judge, in verses 2, 4, and 5. He had (1) no respect for God, (2) no care for people, (3) and couldn’t put up with more bother. Discuss how each of these three characteristics contrasts with God our Father, to whom we pray.

5. Lucas gave two examples of unanswered prayer in Scripture: Jesus in Gethsemane asking for his Father to remove the cup of suffering he was about to endure (Luke 22:42), and Paul asking three times for the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Why were these prayer requests denied? What might a reason be for our unanswered prayers?


For personal reflection at home:

A. Which comes first in you life––do you lose heart and then stop praying, or do you stop praying and then grow discouraged?

B. Examine some of the other Scriptures Lucas quoted, with reference to our present sufferings and hardship while we wait for our prayers to be answered, and ultimately while we wait for Christ to return: John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-16.

C. The context of this parable is Luke 17:20-36. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” After telling the Pharisees the kingdom had, in one sense, already arrive in His person, Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom has not yet to come in its fullness. He then describes the coming of kingdom on “the day when Son of Man will be revealed” (Luke 17:30). When Jesus describes this day elsewhere in the gospels (see Luke 21, Mark 13, and Matthew 24), he seems to be describing both the fall of Jerusalem (which took place in 70AD) and his second coming. By referring to himself as “the son of man” Jesus identifies as the individual in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7. Read this passage and consider how the hope of the Christ’s return should affect our attitude and endurance in prayer? For further reflections on “the son of man” theme in Scripture, watch this short video from BibleProject.

How to Pray // Matthew 6:9-15

Watch the sermon here.

1. In his sermon, Rob pointed out that every word in the Lord’s Prayer is significant. For example, in the opening phrase “Our Father,” the word “our” implies community. Share several things that you have in common with the other believers when you pray together, which make group prayer so special.

2. The location that our prayer is directed to is also important: “Our Father in heaven.” Read Psalm 11:4 together, and discuss the importance of our prayer being directed to heaven, as it is the place where sovereign decisions are made.

3. Verse 10 then brings the prayer down to earth: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As Rob described, this refers to the “here and now,” not just “your kingdom come” in the future. Share some things that are of concern to you right now and that you would like your house church to bring to God in prayer.

4. How does verse 11, “Give us today our daily bread,” apply today? What is our responsibility in answering the prayers of those who lack (see 1 John 3:17; Galatians 6:10; James 2:14-17)? Share  some practical ways you have helped answer the prayers of others in this way, on a local or global level.

5. Our biggest challenge may be verse 12b, “Forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Forgiving others sometimes comes at a great cost to us. Why is that? Why then should we forgive (Ephesians 4:32)? How is Christ our example in forgiveness (Luke 23:34)?


For personal reflection at home:

A. How often do the apostles Paul and James refer to “God our Father” in their letters to the churches? What do you think their purpose was in doing this?

B. Most of us don’t need to be convinced that a stronger prayer life would significantly change us for the better. Why, then, are we so slow to embrace this? Reflect on this.

C. The final hymn last Sunday was “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Each verse in this hymn ends by reminding us that we should take  “everything to God in prayer.” Consider memorizing this hymn and singing it to yourself several times this week (see Ephesians 5:18b-19).

How Not to Pray // Matthew 6:5-8

Watch the sermon here.

1. As we begin our new series 'Teach Us to Pray,' take a few moments to share with one another what comes to mind when you think about prayer. How would you describe your prayer life in this season? What about prayer do you find compelling and life-giving? What about it is challenging or overwhelming?

2. In contrast a hypocritical and self-focused practice of prayer, Jesus invites his disciples into an experience of prayer as genuine communion with God as their Heavenly Father (see verses 5-6) . What might it look like to relate to God as our Father when we pray? How does understanding our identity as children of God change the way that we pray?

3. Lucas described the way that prayer is an opportunity to "rehearse the gospel." In what ways is this true? How would you explain this to someone else?

4. In verses 7-8, Jesus explains that his followers need not try to manipulate God into hearing them through mindless repetition and empty religious words because "your Father knows what you need before your ask him." Why is this significant? What does this tell us about prayer?

5. Read James 4:2. How often are you aware of the reality that prayer causes things to happen that would not otherwise happen? How would truly believing this impact the way we pray? Consider the reflection below from E.M. Bounds, a 19th century Methodist pastor:


“Few Christians have anything but a vague idea of the power of prayer; fewer still have any experience of that power. The Church seems almost wholly unaware of the power God puts into her hand; this spiritual carte blanche on the infinite resources of God’s wisdom and power is rarely, if ever, used—never used to the full measure of honouring God.”