Opening prayers for bible study groups

prayers for study groups

We’ve found the following suggestions helpful for leading prayers for study groups. Does your Bible study have a special prayer tradition or use an opening or closing prayer that you especially like? Let us know if you’d like to share it here with other Catholic study groups.

Turning to God’s Word takes advantage of a number of avenues to provide high-quality Bible study materials to individuals and parish groups. Our free online resources include a daily Scripture reflection and inspirational quote about Scripture on our home page, how to start individual or group Bible study, online study directories with access to videos and other resources, and our weekly e-column, Lost in Translation. Our printed full-length Catholic Bible studies can be purchased from our website shop, and we also offer occasional short seasonal Bible studies free online, as well as other helpful Bible study resources.

how to compose prayers based on Scripture

Here are four simple steps to aid in composing a prayer related to a section of the Bible that you’ve been reading and about which you’ve been meditating. The process may be used for group or private prayer based on biblical reflection:

1. Address God by one of his many titles, preferably one that relates to the Scripture passage you’ve been studying.
2. Tell God something about himself related to the Scripture passage.
3. Present a personal petition related to your meditation of the same Scripture passage.
4. Close your prayer through Jesus Christ.

Here’s a sample prayer based on the seventh chapter of the Gospel According to John.

Heavenly Father and all-seeing God,

you sent your Son as a light to shine in our darkness. Help us to listen to what Jesus is saying to us, and to act on your Word so that rivers of living waters might flow from our hearts. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

opening prayer suggestions

Lord Jesus, You promised to send your Holy Spirit to teach us all things.

As we read and study your word today, allow it truly to touch our hearts and to change our lives. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created,
and you shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, send forth your Spirit to enlighten our minds

and dispose our hearts to accept your truth. Help us to listen to one another with openness and honesty, eager to learn from the talents and intuitions that you have given each of us. Never let differences of opinion diminish our mutual esteem and love. May we leave this meeting with more knowledge and love for you and your Son. In the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

intercessory prayer

Participants in the Bible study place their written prayer intentions in a prayer box. Paper and pens are kept by the box. Before closing, the group says the following prayer, and afterward one member takes the prayers and puts them by the altar in the chapel with other prayers that people attending daily Mass pray over each morning.

Lord, we ask that you hear the prayers unspoken in our hearts

and those written and placed in our prayer box. We pray especially for peace and reconciliation in the hearts of those in conflict . . . Lord, hear our prayer. For healing and strength for those who are in need of your mercy . . . Lord, hear our prayer. For the repose of the souls of our loved ones . . . Lord, hear our prayer. For courage and guidance . . . Lord, hear our prayer. Surround our family and friends with your love and help them to grow closer to you. . . . Lord, hear our prayer. And for all those who have no one to prayer for them . . . Lord, hear our prayer. We thank you for answered prayers and for graces received. Fill us with your presence and help us to be faithful bearers of your light. We ask this through the compassion of Jesus your Son, our Lord and Teacher. Amen.

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When I talk to Bible study leaders, one concern arises time and again: How do we balance in-depth Bible study with prayer time? What are some practical ways we can encourage serious Bible study while simultaneously building community through prayer with each other? Acts 2:42 describes the early church’s commitment to Scripture, prayer, and fellowship. How can our groups model this approach without spending all our time on one or the other? 

Over the years I’ve participated in a variety of groups, some small and some large. Obviously, the size of the group affects the leader’s ability to foster intimacy among its members (most of the advice that follows works fairly well for small groups between 5 and 30 members).

Here are three practices I’ve found to be quite helpful.

1. Keep Prayer Listsopening prayers for bible study groups

One easy way to keep up with each other is to pass around a prayer list at the beginning of each Bible study. Writing out prayer requests affords women the opportunity to share without pressuring them to share. It also limits the length of time spent on prayer requests since people tend to be more concise in writing (e.g., they leave out the story behind the story).

At the end of the lesson, we ask one person to type up the requests and e-mail them to the other group members. We encourage each woman on the list to pray for the woman just before and after her name, taking time to check in mid-week on any specific updates. This simple system cultivates prayerful fellowship and care among all members of the group, not just dependency on one leader to do all the “checking in.” It also focuses the majority of our weekly time together on studying the Scriptures in-depth.

2. Incorporate Prayer Sessions

We also dedicate certain Bible study sessions entirely to prayer. Every five or six weeks, we suspend our normal study and devote the whole time to fellowshiping in prayer. As our group has grown we’ve divided into smaller groups of five or six to enable adequate time for sharing requests and praying together.

And we always open our prayer time with an encouragement to “Three B’s” of sharing: Be brief, be biblical, and be beneficial.

Be Brief

Proverbs 10:19 wisely tells us: “When words are many, sin is not absent.” But sometimes it’s not the just the content of our words, but the time we take to share, that can be a problem. Since we want each woman to have equal opportunity to share, we encourage brevity.  

Be Biblical

The psalmist prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). We ask the women to share freely but to avoid gossip or negative talk about others. You can share your needs without delving into others’ sins. We also ask the women to consider and to share during our prayer time how our study of Scripture has challenged them in new ways. It is such a joy to lean on the language of the passages we’re studying week after week in order to offer Word-filled prayer. Praying the Scriptures is one way God kneads its beauty and truthfulness into our hearts.

Be Beneficial

Before each prayer study we ask the women to consider one question: Is what I’m about to share profitable for others to hear? Does it resonate with the truth of Ephesians 4:29?

Our hope in providing the Three B’s isn’t to stifle or micromanage our prayer time but to keep it from becoming a runaway train that could go a thousand different directions. The guidelines enable our time to be a blessing for us all. We enjoy sweet fellowship. We laugh, we cry, and we pray. 

3. Deploy Prayer Leaders

When a Bible study grows, it’s difficult for one teacher to attend to the diverse needs of everyone in the group. Each woman in your midst is struggling in various ways. Some are vocal, while others wait to be asked. The responsibility of teaching alongside spiritual care is difficult for most leaders to balance as groups increase in size.

To help shoulder the burden of care, then, we’ve sought spiritually mature women to serve as prayer leaders. We divided the Bible study into groups of five women for each prayer leader. This leader checks in regularly with the women in her smaller group, follows up on prayer requests, and gets in touch with anyone we haven’t seen for a while. On those days every few weeks when we have a prayer meeting instead of a Bible study, we divide into these set groups to foster intimacy in the midst of the larger group.

Modeling Acts 2:42

Using a simple means of gathering requests, incorporating group prayer, and deploying leaders to shepherd women has helped foster Bible studies that integrate prayerful fellowship with substantive teaching of the Word.

By God’s grace, we hope to model the fellowship displayed in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Editors’ note: Here’s a related article from Melissa Kruger on additional ways of praying together in our Bible studies.

This article continues a series addressing your specific questions related to ministry among women through the local church. We have a team of women eager to respond to a select number of questions. Please send all questions on the subject of women’s ministry to our coordinator for women’s initiatives, Mallie Taylor (mallie.taylor thegospelcoalition.org).

Then make sure to pick up a copy of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church (Crossway) . This new book casts a vision for ministry among women that’s grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of God’s Son. You can also now register for our 2016 National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18, in Indianapolis.

Previously in this series:

  • Why Women’s Ministry? (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 5 Ways to Minister to Women in Crisis (Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 5 Questions for Choosing Bible Study Material for Women’s Groups (Mary Willson)

www.thegospelcoalition.org
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City

State Study Title

A Heart Like His

Dates & Time:

11-1-2018 – 11-1-2019

Mornings

Phone:
Location:

6311 SW 144 Lane Road

Ocala

Ocala, Florida 34473

Childcare:

Yes

Contact: Contact Alexis Haven
Comments:

Entrusted

Dates & Time:

9-13-2018 – 12-6-2018

9:15 am

Phone:
Location:

550 N. Main St

Main and Anthony ST

Glen Ellyn, Illinois 60137

Childcare:

Yes

Contact: Contact Cinda Siligmueller
Comments:

We have large group DVD viewing and 3 small groups for discussion. Meet weekly

Entrusted

Dates & Time:

9-11-2018 – 12-4-2018

7:15 pm Tues evenings

Phone:
Location:

550 N. Main St

Main and Anthony ST

Glen Ellyn, Illinois 60137

Childcare:

No

Contact: Contact Cinda Siligmueller
Comments:

We have large group DVD viewing and 4 small groups for discussion. Meet every other week.

www.lproof.org

A friend comes to me for advice. Feelings of emptiness consume her. She recently moved, and she longs for connection in her new community. Her kids formed friendships at school. Her husband is adjusting at work. But she struggles to find the fulfillment she needs right now. 

She asks what I would do in her situation, and my answer comes as a surprise. Find a local ladies’ Bible study to join. With those few words, I sense her skepticism. Because committing to a weekly Bible study group is the last thing on her mind right now.

When we join a Bible study group, we expect to learn more about God’s Word. We also expect to hear sound teaching and grow in our faith. However, there are also unexpected benefits to attending. These benefits can provide the refreshment we need in times of loneliness or uncertainty. 

To determine the most unexpected benefits of group Bible study, I went straight to a trustworthy source. I chatted with a local band of women who live out exactly what a Bible study should be. I asked them what they discovered in their group that they didn’t expect. From their responses, I’ve compiled these top five unexpected benefits of group Bible study.

1. Group Bible study offers accountability.

We all have good intentions to stick with Bible study plans at home, yet distractions provide one reason after another to postpone. Our study group members double as accountability partners. When we’re tempted to let other things get in the way, a phone call or text saying, “We missed you,” motivates us to stay on track.

A good Bible study leader prays for our spiritual growth and encourages us to put biblical precepts into practice. Consistent attendance gives the leader and members a regular time for sharing, praying, and discussing how to apply concepts learned from God’s Word.

2. Group Bible study creates connection.

Sometimes we face difficult circumstances. We enter hard places. We feel like no one understands. We have an enemy who loves to separate us from other believers. He attempts to affirm those thoughts that say, “No one wants me around.” He wants us to feel alone.

But when women get together centered on God’s Word, friendships form. We meet other women who’ve been there, who understand. God orchestrates relationships and brings us the right person to pray with us. We find instant prayer partners.

Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” When we affirm His promises in the company of other believers, we “let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23).

3. Group Bible study fosters community.

Just as God brings us friends to support us, He will also provide opportunities for us to serve others. By growing in our knowledge of God, we will be more prepared to mentor those who are new to the faith. God also opens our eyes to others in need, providing opportunities to serve the body with Christ-like love and generosity. 

“…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Bible study groups reflect the diversity of our world. From our life experiences, we each develop a unique perspective. We can look at Scripture through this lens, and share our viewpoints with one another. This open communication brings us closer together as a community. 

4. Group Bible study provides encouragement.

“…that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12. 

Just seeing a woman of God living out abundant faith encourages me. Maybe you know someone who’s lost a loved one yet chooses to reach out to those in need. Maybe you have a friend who’s faced unimaginable trials but still prays daily for others. 

What can we learn from their example? How do their actions affect our faith? Without a doubt, watching someone shine through adversity lets us know we can face anything with Christ who gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13)

5. Group Bible study can be a place to find unconditional love.

Number five is hard for me to talk about, because I know it’s not always the case. I don’t like to cause conflict, but the reality is that sometimes God’s Word is not taught in love. Some of us have experienced this in group Bible study, and it’s never easy. 

A wise friend told me she attended a Bible study where she never felt loved, but she later found a group where she received the unconditional love of Christ from her first moment there. 

She wondered how God’s Word could be taught without love, when God is love (1 John 4:8). How can two groups be so different? My friend realized an important truth. We are all imperfect beings, and as such we are vulnerable to causing hurt, or being hurt by others – even our Christian brothers and sisters.

So let me encourage you today. If you’ve considered joining a group Bible study, don’t let a bad experience cause you to question. Don’t allow the enemy to discourage you from trying again. Instead, let’s learn from those experiences and resolve to move forward in love.

A thriving Bible study will be evident by the strong leadership, supportive members, and the sense of community you feel. And who knows? You may discover other unexpected benefits along the way. So my advice to that friend who longs for connection? Join a small group Bible study. You will be glad you did.

Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart who teaches about God’s powerful, relatable Word. She is the author of Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Download the free “How to Use Over It as a Bible Study” group leader’s guide at www.morethanyourself.com/over-it.

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: January 20, 2017

www.crosswalk.com

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