I’m not talking about the dawn of time and all that bewildering Cosmology stuff that lots of clever people like to think about with their calculators at hand.
I’m talking about what so often happens at the end of home groups:
We’ve finished reading and thinking about the Bible together. We’ve been amazed at how brilliant / surprising / strange / terrifying God is. We’ve been challenged deep down to think about how we can serve Christ better. And then the leaders says:
“Right, what shall we pray for?”
And then comes the Big Bang! The sound of Bibles closing around the room.
The problem is that we falsely think of prayer and Bible reading as two separate and distinct activities. But when you think about it, this Big Bang really amounts to a bit of an insult to God. We’ve been sat round trying to hear and understand the voice of God, as he has spoken to us in Scripture. God has been talking to us – amazing!
But as soon as soon as we have finished listening to what he is saying – we quickly change to subject to talk to him about how much Dave’s knee has been bothering him! Weird!
I hate it when I have conversations like that – because they are actually not really conversations at all. If I talk to my daughters about how much I love them, and what plans we have for our family future, and then they don’t comment on it, but start to talk about something completely different (not to mention totally irrelevant), I will just assume they haven’t really been listening. (OK – they’re teenagers, so this happens a lot!).
In the Bible, the great prayers of God’s people nearly always come as a response to something that God has done or said. And these great prayers, like Nehemiah 1 or Daniel 2 or Acts 4, are all filled with God’s people quoting back to the Lord things he has said, or promised to them. They actually talk to God about the things he has said to them! It’s a single conversation – not two separate ones that never meet.
So here’s one solution I’ve come up with to help the groups I have been part of deal with this issue.
I have two prayer times!
I make sure that, after we have finished the “listening to God from the Bible” part of our time together, we give ourselves time to “pray in” the things we have heard – either by saying sorry to God for the way we have failed him, by praising him for something we have seen more clearly about how fantastic He is, or by crying out to him for help to change so that we can serve him more faithfully. It’s only after we have done this, that we open our eyes again and ask if there are any specific things that people would like prayer for.
Of course, sometimes there are things going on in people’s lives that are so enormous that they need to be brought before God before we do anything else. Including read the Bible together. So I think it’s worth being flexible in what you do. If you pick up at the start of your time together that someone’s relative is on the point of death, or if someone comes in looking jittery or haggard, it’s worth asking what’s going on, and have the group pray for that issue at the start.
But whatever you do, don’t let the Big Bang happen in your home group. It’s just plain rude.