Just Ask: Prayer focused connect group

Session 1: Why We Don’t Pray


Every session has a point—what each participant should walk away from the discussion knowing, feeling, and doing.

Main Idea: We can get past our hesitations and doubts about prayer by following Jesus’s example. He prayed boldly, desperately, and persistently, and God wants us to pray the same way.

Head Change: To know that God wants us to pray and is waiting to hear from us.

Heart Change: To feel empowered to pray more often, more regularly, and more confidently.

Life Change: To commit to praying boldly and persistently for specific needs and desires, for both yourself and others.


What are common distractions you encounter at work, at home, or in your everyday life? What about those things grabs your attention?

There’s no denying that we’re easily distracted, even when we pray. Many Christians struggle to pray with confidence or regularity, but, as pastor J.D. Greear shares in this session, we can learn how to pray by looking to Jesus as our example.


Before viewing the session, here are a few important things to look for in J.D. Greear’s teaching. As you watch, pay attention to the following questions.

How did Jesus implement prayer in his ministry?


What three reasons did J.D. gave for why prayers may not get answered?


What is God doing while we are waiting for prayers to be answered?

Show Session One: Why We Don’t Pray (19 minutes).


J.D. opened by acknowledging that many, including himself, struggle in their prayer lives. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a new Christian or a longtime believer—prayer is a common challenge for all of us. In what ways is praying difficult for you?  

Read John 15:5. Connection with Jesus requires abiding with him, which involves prayer. Why should a bland prayer life concern us? In what ways does a vibrant practice of prayer contribute to a strong relationship with God?


How have you seen prayer influence the quality of your spiritual life?

One person whom we know prayed often was Jesus. On the surface, his praying might seem surprising, since he is God. Does it surprise you that Jesus prayed often? Why or why not?

In the Gospel of Luke, we see numerous occasions in which Jesus prayed. Just before he chose his twelve disciples, Jesus spent time in prayer. Luke 6:12 says, “During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.” What in your life would cause you to pray with that kind of fervency?

Read Luke 11:1–4. J.D. marveled that Jesus’s disciples wanted to learn how to pray, not how to preach or perform miracles. How familiar are you with the prayer that Jesus taught them, often called the Lord’s Prayer? In what ways has it been a part of your prayer life?

In Acts 2, we read that Jesus’s followers gathered to wait for God to send his Holy Spirit—and they were praying. When you are about to engage in a new challenge, what role does prayer play? How quick are you to talk with God before taking action?

J.D. acknowledged that we generally understand why prayer is important, but that many of us don’t pray much anyway. In what kinds of situations have you found yourself forgetting to pray or deciding not to pray? How would you describe your state of mind during those occasions?

J.D. offered three major reasons we neglect prayer. The first, he says, is that we don’t think it is effective. Prayer confuses us: we can never know for sure if or how God will answer our prayers. So, does prayer work or not? How would you describe your perspective of prayer? What events, if any, have caused you to doubt whether prayer works?


The second reason we neglect prayer, J.D. suggested, is too many seemingly go unanswered. Why would God not answer our prayers? J.D. offered three ideas: First, some people pray even though they do not believe in God. Second, some pray with wrong motives. “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Think back to your last few days’ prayers. What percentage of your prayers centered on what you wanted God to give or do for you? Which prayers offered him praise and thanks? What was the attitude of your heart as you prayed?

J.D. suggested a third reason for seemingly unanswered prayer: we can’t see God’s slow work, in which his bigger plan goes beyond our individual circumstances. When have you prayed for something for a long time before receiving an answer? At what point were you tempted to stop praying? What kept you going?

The cross, J.D. reminded us, assures us that Jesus will not turn his back on us. He proved his love through his sacrifice. We can continue to bring our hurts and fears and needs to him as often as necessary, knowing he is good and faithful.


In the video, J.D. mentioned numerous occasions written in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus taught about prayer or was himself praying. Jesus often used stories to teach spiritual lessons. Let’s explore the ways he emphasized persistence in prayer.

Read Luke 11:5–13.

Jesus paints a hypothetical picture of a man who bothered a friend at midnight because he’d been faced with unexpected obligations. The man was unprepared when a visiting friend arrived and had no bread to offer him. When have you felt like the man asking for bread, asking God for help with something you needed? Did you turn to him quickly or as a last resort? Where do you turn if you don’t turn to God?

The awakened, and now disgruntled, friend offered logical reasons why he shouldn’t get up and help the man but, in the end, he gave in. Why? Because of the “shameless boldness”—the nerve—of the friend knocking on his door. How willing would you be to approach an angry or annoyed person with something you needed? To what degree do you think God feels frustrated with you when you pray for the same thing repeatedly?

We can trust that God isn’t annoyed with us like the man in the parable. If even human parents, who are very imperfect, know to give good things to their children, how much more does our heavenly Father? He is eager and willing to help—it’s in his loving nature. Think of a prayer you repeatedly brought before God. How long did it take to receive your answer? How has your faith been impacted by long-unanswered prayers? By long-asked and finally answered prayers?


Turn to Luke 18:1–8. Luke introduces Jesus’s parable of the persistent widow by clearly telling his readers the meaning of the parable: “the need for them to pray always and not give up.” In what ways should having Jesus’s blessing to keep praying change the way you pray?

Jesus ends his explanation of the parable by asking his listeners, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Enduring as his follower, which includes praying, is an act of faith. Jesus wants us to hang in there, to hold on, to keep clinging to the truth. Through prayer, we acknowledge God—not ourselves—as the one who is able to make all things right. What prayer requests have you given up on that you need to bring back to God?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the apostle Paul exhorts believers to pray constantly. Prayer is to be a lifestyle, a feature of being a Christian rather than just an occasional activity. How would you describe your current prayer habits? What could it look like for you turn to God in prayer throughout your day?


Jesus was the Son of God, and he prayed often. He taught his disciples, and us, how to approach the Father with our needs and desires. Through his parables, he encourages us to pray often, specifically, and in faith. We cannot know which prayers he will answer in the way we pray them, but we can rest assured that God, who is faithful and good, wants to hear from us.

Consider your current prayer habits and evaluate why you may struggle to pray regularly and where you are getting “stuck.” Explore adding a different prayer method to your daily life. Perhaps meditate on already written prayers or set a reminder to pray solely for others’ needs.


Memorize: Memorize Luke 11:9,So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

Journal: Praying doesn’t always have to be verbal. Write your prayers in a journal this week. Keep a running list of requests, with room on the side to add the answers when they come.

Study: Spend time in the Gospel of Luke, exploring all the occasions Jesus taught about prayer or modeled it himself. These passages will get you started: Luke 3:21; 5:15–16; 6:12; 11:1; 22:39–46; 23:33–34, 46. What new truths did you learn about prayer, and how might you incorporate what you’ve learned into your own prayer habit?

Pray: Prayer can happen anywhere and anytime. Begin (or continue) a habit of setting aside a specific time of day to pray. But also remember to talk to God all day, silently inviting him into your work, relationships, interactions, and decisions. He delights in hearing from you.

Session 2: How to Pray


Every session has a point—what each participant should walk away from the discussion knowing, feeling, and doing.

Main Idea: Prayer pleasing to God approaches him with a posture of humility, trust, and expectation.

Head Change: To know that God, our good Father, is eager to hear our prayers.

Heart Change: To feel confident when approaching God in prayer.

Life Change: To pray with more trust, confident that our good Father is eager to protect and provide for us.


What’s one of your favorite buildings—maybe a church, skyscraper, or home? What makes that building special?

Buildings vary from street to street, city by city. Even so, all of them have some sort of foundation and structure in place to keep them standing. The Lord’s Prayer is a model that Jesus gave us to help us structure our prayer times. We can use it like a supportive frame on which to build prayers to our loving Father. In this session, J.D. explores how the Lord’s Prayer connects us intimately to our heavenly Father.


Before viewing the session, here are a few important things to look for in J.D. Greear’s teaching. As you watch, pay attention to the following questions.

What are two ways we should not pray?


What does the Lord’s Prayer teach us about our posture, or attitude, during prayer?


What is the key word in the prayer that determines our approach to God?

Show Session Two: How to Pray (24 minutes).


J.D. began the session by commiserating with anyone who has tried to pray without getting distracted. It’s tough to stay focused. What strategies have you tried to help your times of prayer stay on track? Which ones have worked for you?

Jesus offered us what J.D. calls a “model prayer,” known as the Lord’s Prayer. But before Jesus taught us how to pray, he described ways not to pray. Read Matthew 6:5–8.

The Pharisees prayed pretentiously, using prayer as a means to an end. They wanted something from God more than they wanted a close relationship with God. Gentiles—those who did not have any relationship with God—would recite prayers mechanically, thinking repetition would make God pay attention. In what ways have your own prayers resembled those of the Pharisees or the Gentiles? What changes can you make to avoid attempting to use or manipulate God with your prayers?

Read Matthew 6:9–13.

As he introduced the Lord’s Prayer, J.D. told the story of his daughter bursting through a crowd to show him her picture. Her freedom and joy is a reflection of what our relationship with God our Father can and should be. He welcomes our prayers with open arms. How have you imagined God listening to your prayers? Is he attentive and caring or skeptical and disapproving? In what ways can your prayer life be enriched through the reminder of God’s fatherly affection for you?

The second line, “hallowed be your name,” (ESV) reminds us that God is the “main character.” We prioritize God’s holy nature, his beauty and perfection and otherness, over our requests or needs. Prayer as Jesus models it begins with worship. How would you describe your priorities when you begin to pray? In what ways can you regularly incorporate worship into your prayer life?

Prayer offered in a posture of surrender puts God’s agenda ahead of our own. Saying, “your kingdom come, your will be done” aligns our heart with God’s purposes. To what extent do you think of God’s plans when you converse with him in prayer? What does it look like to surrender your desires or needs to the larger, mostly invisible, purposes of God?

J.D. reflected that remembering how Jesus has forgiven him helps him have more patience toward those who disappoint or hurt him. “No one has ever wronged me more than I’ve wronged God,” he said. How easily do you forgive? How aware are you of your own sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness?


What could it look like for you to consider your own shortcomings when someone sins against you? In what ways might you need to extend forgiveness to someone?

The Lord’s Prayer offers us a memorable yet simple structure for meaningful conversations with God. We can recite it thoughtfully or use the intents behind each line to help us focus on one particular theme. Whether worshiping, thanking, seeking forgiveness, or interceding, we are assured of God’s loving attention and pleasure when we pray.


The Lord’s Prayer, as J.D. mentioned, encourages us to approach God with both humility and trust. Our posture before the Lord plays a significant part in how our prayer life thrives or falters. Can we say in truth “your kingdom come, your will be done. . .”?

Read 1 Peter 5:5–7.

In the 1 Peter 5:1–4, Peter encourages the believers to behave with mutual respect to one another. They were to serve one another, leaders “not lording it over those entrusted” to them. As verse 5 opens, he continues, “In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you, clothe yourself with humility toward one another . . .” In your own church, in what ways are leaders and members characterized by an attitude of service? How do you see those in authority humbling themselves to serve the church?

Peter roots his admonition for believers to clothe themselves with humility in Proverbs 3:34, which he quotes in verse 5. God opposes those who are proud. In what ways can knowing God’s resistance to pride influence your posture when you approach him in prayer?

Verse five, quoting Proverbs 3:34, closes with, “but [he] gives grace to the humble.” Humble people understand their place in relation to another. For instance, a humble employee accepts critique and guidance from his superior, whereas a proud employee may dismiss feedback and complain about all the opportunities she should have been offered. When in your life have you responded to someone in authority with humility? How did the situation work out?

When we approach God in prayer, our posture should reflect reality—he is God, and we are not. How often do you pray with an attitude of entitlement, as if God owes you something? What do your prayers look like when you consciously come to him with a humble attitude?

Read verse 6 again. Peter’s audience was dealing with persecution. Part of their humility in placing themselves under God’s mighty hand involved trusting that he would rescue them in his own good time. They were not promised an immediate fix or answer. Humble prayers echo the line from the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done,” allowing God to move according to his will, not ours. What is your typical attitude toward prayer during difficult situations? What might help you release your expectations and submit your circumstances to God’s plan?

Verse 7 acknowledges the anxiety that accompanies hard times. Peter encourages us to throw our worries and fears onto God. What would it take for you to be completely honest with God? What makes you hesitate to do so?

Why should we give God our anxieties? Because he cares for us. That’s the good news in this passage. Not only is he mighty, but he is also trustworthy. His love for us makes him our safe harbor, a source of comfort and strength. How does knowing God’s fatherly love for you influence your willingness to approach him in prayer?


What cares do you need to cast upon God today? What could it look like for you to cast all your anxiety on him right now?


God welcomes our prayers. He’s given us a model to help us approach him a humble attitude, prioritizing his timing over our own desires.

If you’ve struggled with praying regularly, try “riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer as you pray. Keep a journal chronicling your prayers and God’s answers to your requests, to remind yourself of his power to act and his love that motivates him. Let us pray boldly, expectantly, and with greater trust in the mighty, loving God who invites us to come to him.


Memorize: Memorize 1 Peter 5:6–7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.”

Walk: Take a nature or neighborhood walk, using the time to pray about the anxieties of your life. Be sure to end your prayers with a time of thanksgiving.

Research: Throughout history, pastors and writers in the church have penned beautiful, elegant prayers recorded for posterity. Take a look at The Book of Common Prayer or The Valley of Vision for a sampling of written prayers. What elements do they have in common with each other, with the Lord’s Prayer, and with your own prayers?

Pray: Practice “riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer, individualizing each line to apply to your own situation. It might help to write it out a few times as a way to explore the diverse ways the prayer can apply to your life.

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