Study Guide: Hanging in the Balance

Sunday May 4, 2014 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

The Bible shows us that our prayers make a difference in this world. Yet, our picture of God doesn’t always line up with that truth. In this sermon, Greg shows how the world operates when it comes to our prayer and what a difference it makes.

Extended Summary:

Prayer is extremely important to God. We pray to give thanks, to express love, to talk and listen, and to intercede on behalf of this world. In Colossians 4, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer because Paul assumes that prayer makes a difference. Things hang in the balance of whether or not we pray.

The command to pray is all over the Bible, and it often falls into an if/then type statement. If the Israelites were to pray, then their land would be healed. This is because God shares his power with his people, and the way they wield that power is through prayer. We are called God’s fellow workers when we pray.

There is no magic or formulas when it comes to prayer. Some people talk about God’s will or how much faith people have, but prayer isn’t a formula to be solved. It’s not just about God’s will or how much faith we have, although those things are important. Rather, this world and how things come about is an extremely complex system influenced by a tremendous amount of free will decisions by both forces of good and evil. And, because God has shared power with creation, it’s not as simple as His will or our faith. We do know, however, that our prayer is powerful and effective when we engage in prayer.

It’s important to understand that faith isn’t a psychological certainty but a covenantal faithfulness in the midst of uncertainty. Many people assume faith is convincing yourself that something is going to happen. However, faith is about embracing a vision of a future that you trust is God’s will and then faithfully praying in that direction. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen.

Because prayer is our weapon used into the sea of mystery of how things come about in this world, we need to understand the important things that we can know in that mystery. We know that God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, so we can trust that God is working good into every situation. We can trust that God isn’t out to strike us down or send a plague if we don’t follow a formula of actions the correct way. And we should know that, regardless of the outcome, our prayer is powerful, effective, and needed. By pushing in the direction of the Kingdom, we bring more and more of the Kingdom into this world.

To devote ourselves to prayer is a difficult thing and a discipline. It’s a difficult change for many to passionately pray in the sea of ambiguity that we live in. Yet, this is the call of the Kingdom and things really do hang in the balance of whether or not we pray. We at WHC want to ask you to pray for us as well as everything else the Spirit puts on your mind to pray for. We want your powerful and effective prayer to expand the Kingdom wherever you are.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. How do you see God’s sovereignty and prayer working together?
  3. How did the sermon change your thinking, if at all?
  4. What are some situations in your life that you think could use some more prayer?
  5. In what ways will you help yourself pray more? What ways can you remind yourself to continue this discipline?