Saturday, February 10, 2007

Interrupting Heaven: Part 1

I am beginning to journal the study questions from Chapter 6 ("Interrupting Heaven: The Practice of Prayer") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. Someone said they appreciated my questions. They are not mine. They are the study questions in the back of the book, written by Kevin G. Harney.

How do we know what spiritual disciplines to practice? In a sense, the answer comes from thinking backwards
  1. First, we must understand clearly what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. Jesus spent much of his time helping people see what true spirituality looks like. [Get a vision, from God, for our life]
  2. Second, we must learn what particular barriers keep us from living that kind of life.
  3. Third, we must discover what particular practices, experiences, or relationships can help us overcome these barriers. . . .[And those are the spiritual disciplines we should practice]
This is the most important thing I have gotten from the book so far: we do not do spiritual disciplines just so we can check them off a list. They are not, as Ortberg points out, a barometer of spirituality or a way to earn favor with God. They are a way to enable the transformation God wants to make in your life.

The book presents ten different spiritual practices and/or experiences which may or may not be helpful in your path to the "Life You've Always Wanted":
  1. The Practice of Celebration
  2. The Practice of "Slowing"
  3. The Practice of Prayer
  4. The Practice of Servanthood
  5. The Practice of Confession
  6. Receiving Guidance from the Holy Spirit
  7. The Practice of Secrecy
  8. The Practice of Reflection on Scripture
  9. Developing Your own "Rule of Life"
  10. The Experience of Suffering
He is not covering an exhaustive list of all the practices, experiences, or relationships which may help us overcome the barriers to a transformed life - and with these you use the "shopping cart approach": take what is helpful and leave what isn't.

Small-Group Discussion Questions

  1. If we turn to prayer as a final desperate measure, only after all our own efforts have been exhausted, what does this reveal about our view of the following:
    • Prayer
    • Ourselves
    • God

  2. Read this quote by Dallas Willard:
    The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best
    If you truly believed that your prayers make no difference and that "everything would happen exactly as is does" without you praying, how would this impact your prayer life?

  3. Describe a time you prayed and saw clear and definite results. How did this answered prayer spur you on to pray more passionately?

  4. Walter Wink writes, "History belongs to the intercessors... those who believe and pray the future into being." If Wink is right, what implications would this have on one of the following:
    • Your personal commitment to pray
    • The power of a praying church
    • What you teach your children about prayer, if you are a parent

  5. Read:
    Luke 11: 1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." 2 And He said to them, "When you pray, say: `Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3 `Give us each day our daily bread. 4 `And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.' "

    Matthew 6:9 "Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 `Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 `Give us this day our daily bread. 12 `And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 `And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'

    • What core issues does Jesus address as he teaches his followers to pray?
    • Which of these areas do you tend to focus on the most when you pray?
    • Which do you need to focus on more?

    • What situations and life experiences most naturally move you to pray?
    • How can you use these God-given moments to propel you into more frequent and passionate prayer?
    • What situations and life experiences tend to keep you from praying?
    • What can you do to make these moments an opportunity to seek God in prayer?

    • What are some of the values of setting a specific time and place for prayer?
    • If you have a time and place you have set aside for prayer, tell your group members how this has helped you in your prayer life.
    • If you have not established a specific place and time for prayer, but want to, tell your group members where and when you plan to pray. Invite them to encourage you in this new discipline.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly