“Prayer: Does it Make any Difference?”

by Philip Yancey
Study with Anne Griffith, Founder, The Enlighten Foundation

Chapters 4–6

Who am I? Who is God? These are the consummate questions we all face in life. I love that we address these questions together in Chapters 4 through 6. The other observation that Philip makes is how we come together to pray. We come together with the Lord and each other. We can be our own best respite if we would just turn our minds to our relationship with the Lord. It’s so much better than our relationship with Amazon Prime.

Don’t forget to add your insight. Just click on the Prayer Page. Go to Prayer@enlightenfoundation.org and let us know how we can pray for you!

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Chapter 4: The God Who Is

by Philip Yancey
Study with Anne Griffith, Founder, The Enlighten Foundation

Chapter 4: The God Who Is:

Page 46: “Prayer as a transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy, an occasional and awkward exercise with little connection to life.”

A man may “say his prayers” at night or before meals, repeating words he learned in childhood. His wife prays more conversationally, in bits and snatches during the day, but she too views God as distant and unapproachable, off in heaven somewhere.”

“Neither has much sense of a loving God who wants an intimate involvement in their lives.”

Confess! Do you view the Lord this way? Do you see God as a distant, somewhere out there being that you have an obligation to pray to? Or how about the way I used to think – that if I didn’t pray, I would somehow be punished. God would stand there, hands on hips, and stare me down with a very disgusted look.

1. Do you feel obligated to pray to God? Is it something you delight in or is it a chore?

2. If you think of this as a chore, how are you praying? Is there a depth to the prayer? Or are you patronizing God? Are your prayers sort of like “Here’s a little something going on God, I’ll catch you later with the real details.”

3. In the hurriedness of our everyday life, do you see prayer as giving you strength or making you tired?

Page 50: “Why Pray? In one sentence the answer would be, “Because Jesus did.” He bridged the chasm between God and human beings. While on earth he became vulnerable, as we are vulnerable; rejected, as we are rejected; and tested, as we are tested. In every case his response was prayer.”

This has always been the kicker for me. I read how Jesus prayed to God, over and over, and I think to myself, wow, what kind of relationship is that? What must it feel like to be so close to God you pray for hours and then get up and say, “OK now I’m ready for the Pharisees, the Romans and the Gentiles.” Will I ever be able to have that?

1. Has the Lord helped guide you in prayer? What instances do you remember that the Lord prayed to God for direction? What instances did He pray to God for peace of mind?

2. Philip talks about the fact that God is already present in my life and all around me. Do you have the sense that God is always around you?

a. Let’s pray right now, asking God, through our Lord, to be present around you-never to leave; always to stay.

  • i. Cut out the prayer card that is attached. Put it nearby as you do this study. God I pray that you are present with me. And I will be present with you.

Page 54: “I need to think more about God than about myself when I am praying…Prayer that focuses on God, meditative prayer, can serve as a kind of self-forgetfulness.”

For me, this statement is what life as a follower of Christ, is really about: self-forgetfulness. Philip is pointing out that we are asking for prayer for “God’s sake, not [our] own”.(p. 55) When we remove ourselves from the mundane worries of the day and focus on the larger issues that God created us to address here on earth, the fatigue of the daily grind tends to dissipate. In fact, do you ever wonder—what the heck was I worried about yesterday again? If only we could remember that while we’re in the process of worrying, right? Prayer can help us with that.

Write down every issue that is worrying you today.

1. Talk with the Lord, ask him, “How do you see me in your purpose on this earth?” How do the issues in my life serve you? Through your Holy Spirit, speak to me about what You would like me to focus on. Help me alleviate useless issues that disturb me.

a. Throughout the next chapters, note God’s direction in your life. Share that with others in the comment section. Your input can be an encouragement to all of us.

Chapter 5: Coming Together

by Philip Yancey
Study with Anne Griffith, Founder, The Enlighten Foundation

Chapter 5: Coming Together

Page 60: “God cares about the ordinary and everyday, as well as the peak experiences…God knows all of who I am…the genetics and the environment, the thoughts and motives, as well as the actions.”

When I first read this, I flashed back to a really darling scene where my 2-year-old grandson ran away from me and I found him standing behind a plant covering his face with his hands. Sometimes we think we’re “getting away” with something and that God might be too busy to see us doing this or that. But no. God is right there. And while that understanding might seem overwhelming, Philip reminds us that God wants us to be the best we can be and wants the best for us.

1. Is it hard for you to think that God is there for you? And wants the best for you?

2. When we “do” something that we feel and know is not part of the purpose for which God intended for us, why do we continue to do it?

Page 63: “Jesus set the pattern for prayer as a continuous mode of friendship.”

Philip talks about prayer as “keeping company with God.” (p.62) But he adds something we all struggle with, “How can I commune with a God who tends not to use audible words in response?” (p.63)

1. How do you approach God in prayer, when an audible response doesn’t come from God?

Page 64: “I see that God, like most of us, cares mainly about being loved, believed, trusted, honored.”

All four of these words work together don’t they? We believe and honor a person if that person can be trusted. If we trust, believe in and honor a person, we generally love that person, because that person gives us truth.

1. Do you see God in these terms?

2. If you still have trepidation with loving God, is there an aspect of trusting God that you would be willing to own?

Page 69: “He led him to the Wailing Wall, away from the place where people pray, to the site of the ruins of the Temple. When they reached that place, Reb Dovid told him that it was time to express all the anger he felt toward God. Then, for more than an hour, the man struck the wall of the Kotel with his hands and screamed his heart out. After that he began to cry and could not stop crying, and little by little his cries became sobs that turned into prayers. And that is how Reb Dovid Din taught him how to pray.”

As I understand the story, we need to get our anger out first as we talk to God. That makes sense. If God knows us, then “beating around the bush” is a waste of time in our discussions with the Lord. Being angry could also produce sarcasm which is unworthy of God.

1. What results have you had when you were angry with God?

2. Were you able to communicate with God on a more even keeled level, with greater understanding once your anger had passed?

Chapter 6: Why Pray?

by Philip Yancey
Study with Anne Griffith, Founder, The Enlighten Foundation

Chapter 6: Why Pray?

Page 73: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

We often pray under duress. Sometimes our prayers are answered and sometimes they’re not.

1. Have you had scenarios where you prayed and were answered much later? Or were they answered in a completely different way?

2. On Page 78, Philip states, ”Jesus knew the sensation of getting no answer to his pleas.” When you don’t get an answer from God are you able to see and answer from an overall perspective?

Page 79: “[Let’s start] with three large assumptions: (1) God exists; (2) God is capable of hearing our prayers, and (3) God cares about our prayers.”

Page 80: “To discount prayer, to conclude that it does not matter, means to view Jesus as deluded.”

Prayer, then, is linked to Jesus. Jesus taught us that we were created by God, that as our creator, God wanted to communicate with us. As the created, we can go directly to God. If prayer is eliminated from our lives, rejected by us as unnecessary, we are rejecting God.

1. Does prayer seem more serious when looked at from that perspective?

Page 87: Philip relates Haddon Robinson’s words concerning Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his reaction to the horror he was about to endure. He talks about how “broken up” Jesus was, “and all he is doing is praying…what will he do when he faces a real crisis? Why can’t he approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of his three sleeping friends?” Yet, when the test came, Jesus walked with courage, and his three friends fell apart and fell away.

1. Do you see prayer giving you courage? The ability to keep going/moving forward?

Page 88: “Jesus knew the cost of divine restraint, the deeply personal cost of letting the world have its way with him. He understood that redemption comes from passing through the pain, not avoiding it: for the joy set before him [he] endured the cross.

1. In a world bent on minimizing and marginalizing followers of Christ, explain why prayer can provide the tranquility and peace we strive for as we face each day with challenges and strife.

If you have a prayer that you would like the Prayer Walkers know about please write us at Prayer@enlightenfoundation.org.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Patricia Crowley says:

    “Trapped in time, I cannot conceive of infinity.” (p. 50) This is one of my struggles. I feel so bound by the restraints of time and life on earth, that I find it hard to imagine what it will be like to exist outside time!

  • Patricia Crowley says:

    “I cannot, nor can anyone, promise that prayer will solve all problems and eliminate all suffering.” (p. 87) John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I am reluctant to offer prayers telling God how to solve my problems or anyone else’s or to insist that faith removes all obstacles or suffering. Instead I offer my prayers with an attitude willing to accept that God’s answer may not be what I want or expect. Yet I can trust in the peace only His presence can impart.

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