- Knowledge of what prayer is and what it is for, as understood by Christians.
- Awareness of different models and methods of prayer.
- Awareness of Jesus’ example and teaching on prayer.
- Consideration of the relationship between prayer and faith.
- Students will reflect upon how confident the students would be in different ways of resolving some everyday situations.
- Analyse an example of prayer from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and compare it with what they know of Christian prayer.
- Understand the Christian expectation that God does hear and answer prayers.
- Analyse key Bible passages to determine what Christians believe about the relationship between faith, God’s will and answered prayer.
- Analyse a Bible passage to identify the relationship between prayer and activity.
- Synthesise learning by answering letters to a fictitious advice column.
Supporting Values Education:
The value of mutual tolerance recognises the right of people to determine their own beliefs and spiritual acts according to their own faith. This lesson encourages students to understand how Christian beliefs about prayer compare and contrast with different perspectives about prayer, such as the Buddhist-influenced one shown in the film clip.
In small groups, ask the students to consider some of the following situations and to think about different approaches to doing what they need to do. You might need to use one of the situations listed below as an example to get them started, then give each group one situation to work on. They should come up with a list of possible approaches for their task.
- Finding the way to a place they’ve never been before (possible answers: SatNav, online route-finder such as GoogleMaps, a friend who knows the way, asking directions from a stranger).
- Learning a new skill (possible answers: an experienced coach or teacher, online videos, practising on your own, practising with a friend).
- Choosing a birthday present for someone (possible answers: trust in your own knowledge of the person’s taste and preferences, ask them what they would like, ask someone who knows the person well, check out online customer reviews for possible presents).
- Making a difficult decision about your personal life (possible answers: ask the advice of your friends, ask the advice of older people such as your parents, read advice columns in magazines or online to find people with similar dilemmas, think it through on your own, pray about it.)
Ask one or more of the groups to share their answers with the rest of the class, then lead a brief discussion about which approach the students would have more confidence in – which is the most helpful and reliable way of solving the problem, and which are the least helpful and reliable. If it doesn’t come up as an answer, ask how good a response ‘praying about it’ would be considered to be?
Explain that today’s lesson is about the Christian understanding of prayer.
Introduce the clip from the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (LucasFilm 2016, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) are trying to find a resistance leader when they encounter a unit of Stormtroopers. Ask the students to focus on the help that they receive in escaping, and in particular to what their would-be rescuers put their respective confidence in.
- Start time: 0.32.29 (beginning of chapter 16 of the DVD)
- End time: 0.35.39
- Clip length: Three minutes and ten seconds
The clip starts with an aerial shot of the town, before cutting to Jyn and Cassian (together with robot K-2SO) coming into the town square and discovering the Stormtroopers. The first line is a Stormtrooper saying, ‘Halt. Stop right there.’ The clip ends when Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) has a hood placed over his head and says, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m blind.’
Ask the students if they noticed the difference in Chirrut Imwe’s attitude towards the Force and his friend Baze Malbus’ (Wen Jiang) point of view. Remind them that before fighting off the Stormtroopers, Chirrut said, ‘The Force is with me and I am with the Force. And I fear nothing for all is as the Force wills it’, whereas Baze’s response to Chirrut’s later claim that the Force protects him was, ‘I protect you.’
Later in the film, we see Chirrut reciting ‘I am one with the Force, the Force is with me’ over and over. Ask the students if they think this is like the Christian understanding of prayer? Explain that Chirrut’s chanting and his emphasis of finding oneness with the Force is possibly closer to a Buddhist model of meditation than to mainstream Christian concepts of prayer. One important difference between Chirrut’s ‘prayer’ to the Force and Christian prayer is the idea of a personal God, an actual individual who seeks to communicate with his followers, as compared to an impersonal universal Force that believers tap into and seek oneness with. Explain that in the rest of the lesson you are going to look more closely at what Christians understand prayer to be.
Ask the students, working in pairs or small groups, to look up Mark 11:12-14 and 20-26 and answer the following questions:
- Why are the disciples surprised that Jesus’ words about the fig tree have come true?
- How does Jesus explain what has happened?
- What things does Jesus seem to suggest are important if somebody wants God to answer their prayers?
Once the students have had time to answer the questions, let them feed their answers back to the whole class. It is probably worth pointing out at this stage that the Bible does not use the phrase ‘curse’ in the same way that it may be commonly understood today. The New Bible Commentary (IVP, 1994) says the following in its account of Mark 11:
‘It is important to realise that in the Bible ‘blessing’ and ‘cursing’ do not have the same meaning as today. They are God’s solemn judgements, his pronouncements of the results of either pleasing or displeasing him; he does not act without reason. The Bible knows nothing of magical curses’. (p 968).
Discuss with the students whether they think that there is any limit on Jesus’ statement that ‘whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours’. It would be helpful to remind them of the example of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, when he longed to not have to go through with God’s plan for him to be crucified, but prayed, ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will’.
Read Romans 8:26-27 to the class:
‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.’
(You might need to explain that in the Bible the word ‘saints’ describes all believers in Jesus – i.e. Christians – not just a few miracle-working superstars.)
Christians believe that God is more than just a giant vending machine in the sky, churning out answers to prayer if the right buttons are pressed, and always giving people whatever they ask for. Christians believe that prayer is just as much about the person who prays discovering what God wants them to pray for – this is what the passage means when it talks about praying ‘in accordance with God’s will.’
The students might ask what the point of praying is, if God only gives the things that people ask for if they are things that he already wants to give. C.S. Lewis once described prayer as not being about him trying to change God’s mind, but about God changing his mind – helping him to see more clearly what he really needed, and therefore what he ought to be asking God to do for him. You could remind the students of the last verse of the passage from Mark, which talks about forgiving other people, which should also be seen as an indication that the attitude of the person praying in relation to other people is as important as how strongly they believe that their prayer will be answered.
Ask the students to read Acts 4:23-31. Explain that Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, have been warned by the Sanhedrin to stop telling people that Jesus has risen from the dead. Their response was to say that they cannot help but to tell people what they have seen and heard. Ask the students, working in pairs or small groups, to identify the specific elements of the prayer that Jesus’ followers pray in verses 24-30.
- v24-28: Acknowledging God’s power and authority.
- v29: Asking God to enable them to keep doing what he wants them to do.
- v30: Asking God to perform miraculous signs.
Draw out that verse 29 demonstrates that this group of Christians were set on actively doing the very thing that got them in trouble. They don’t pray for God to find another way to get his message to people, and they don’t pray for the authorities to go easy on them. They are committed to being part of the process of having their prayers answered.
SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:
Give out copies of the Dear Geraldine worksheet, and ask students to write answers to the three questions about prayer on the sheet. Their answers should demonstrate their understanding of Christian belief about prayer.
YOU WILL NEED:
A copy of the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Copies of the Dear Geraldine worksheet.