Title: Praying with Joy
The Point: Prayer is an opportunity to experience joy.
Get Into the Study
Have you seen the trending video where a toddler makes the water bottle stand? This little girl smiles even when she fails the “water bottle challenge” on her first attempt in the clip. Then she gets it and the look on her face is of pure joy, delight, and excitement!
As your group settles in for your time together ask them about the water bottle challenge and you may even want to bring a bottle so a few people can try it (the goal is get a half empty water bottle to flip in the air and end up standing properly). Once a few people have tried the challenge share the video with your group and spend some talking about various things which make people in group “that” excited and joyful. Be prepared with your own answer in case group members don’t respond immediately.
Ask: What gives you joy, the kind of joy that makes me smile from ear to ear, do a little dance, and maybe even squeal!
During the conversation about joy begin to turn the group’s attention Paul and how he was thankful and joyous over the people in his life.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=OjXySnynkww, accessed January 3, 2017.
—Dr. Beth Masters works with college students at Mississippi College where she is the Director of Christian Life and Ministries. She has a PhD in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Beth loves young adults, baking, and coffee.
Study the Bible
Use the following illustration to supplement your group’s discussion of Philippians 1:7-8.
The breakout TV show of the year, nominated for three Golden Globes last month, isn’t political. It doesn’t have superheroes. And it’s not about people who live a workaholic lifestyle.
It’s just about a family.
This Is Us, a show that follows the lives of three siblings — both all grown up and as children — as well the stories of their parents’ relationship, is both simple and complex. More than anything, it’s a show about people who love each other deeply and live their lives for each other. It follows the family as hardships arise and as they learn and grow together, making sacrifices and putting one another first. It’s about young parents doing everything they can for their children in a day and age when people are putting off kids more and more. Somehow, this tender television program has captured the imaginations and hearts of America in 2017.
People are starving for love. They’re starving for community — the kind Paul had with the Philippians, who he loved so dearly. The love Paul had for the Philippians shines through in his letter, and the love they have for him is more than obvious. Paul wasn’t always a warm and fuzzy guy — often, people think of him as the theologian, the exhorter, the one who just wanted to help people understand. But in Philippians, as he writes from a jail cell, we can sense the almost fatherly love he had for the church; such a love that can only be attributed to Jesus. This is especially true when we remember that such loving words were coming from a man who used to persecute the church as part of his job.
— Ashley Emmert wrote this Leader Extra. She is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dogs. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.com or on Twitter @ashgemmert.
- What are some places we look expecting to find happiness?
- What makes you really happy?
- What kind of portrait does the media paint for us about what joy is about?
- What does gratitude have to do with joy?
- In what ways have you experienced the connection between gratitude and joy in your life?
- What benefits are there to having “gospel partners” in your life?
- Why do you think it’s significant that God finishes the work He began in us?
- What emotion does Paul express to the Philippian believers?
- What relationships do you have which cause the kind of joy described in Philippians 1:7-8?
- How does serving God’s kingdom create a unique bond between people?
- When have you developed bonds with others through a shared ministry experience?
- What barriers keep you from holding people in your heart like Paul did for the Philippians?
- Which is the greater struggle for you: to be biblically knowledgeable and discerning about the truth, or to love people deeply, with great affection?
- What is the danger of having love without discernment?
- What does it look like to grow in knowledge and discernment?
- What kind of fruit do you think will come from our lives if we are seeking joy in Christ alone?
Share the following with your group members as either a devotional before the group study or as a follow-up devotional:
Here’s a brief five-minute teaching video about this session: Thrive, Session 1