Grounded in Prayer
Brent W. Dahlseng
© 2003 Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis
By Pastor Jonathan Schmidt
Grounded in Prayer is a resource designed for congregational small groups. Along with its companion Leader Guide (ISBN 0-8066-4677-2) Grounded in Prayer leads a small group through a seven week process of exploring and discovering prayer.
Although the text uses a variety of scripture passages, overall Grounded in Prayer centers on the “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4:1-20. Over the course of six weeks of reading participants consider prayer using the imagery of sowing seed. Participants begin their exploration of prayer by considering the groundwork of prayer, then the tools used in prayer. The next three sessions explore some of the challenges of prayer including “Praying for the Hardened Path” (how to pray for the softening of hearts), “Praying for the Rocky Ground” (how to pray in the midst of distractions), and “Praying for the Thorny Ground” (considering the challenges to faith and prayer life). The final week explores how we care for “the good soil” in our congregations, and how we bless it.
Each section of Grounded in Prayer is designed to be used over one week and contains seven chapters. Chapters begin with a biblical citation, then a page or so of text to read. Questions for reflection and an opportunity for one to respond follow. The readings are easy and insightful; the reflection and response allow the reading to go deeper and further than simply reading the text.
Grounded in Prayer can be used by an individual at one’s own pace. The book is a self-contained unit, with all one needs to deepen one’s prayer life and discover new truths about prayer from scripture and from our own experience of the world around us. As a simple resource for prayer life, it is highly recommended.
Using the Leader Guide with a small group, however, allows Grounded in Prayer to be even more useful and effective. The Leader Guide gives an outline for meeting in a small group once a week for the six weeks of readings, along with an introductory session. Each meeting includes a discussion of the readings for the week, a time to check in and reflect with the group on some of the concepts lifted up in the readings. It also sends participants out with suggestions on ways to prepare for the next session. For example, looking ahead to week five the guide suggests that participants contact local government, law enforcement, school, and other leaders to find out what the needs of the community are so that they may be lifted up in prayer. I’ve asked participants to also ask those leaders what we can pray about for them – and that has resulted in some curious looks as people wonder why others would care to pray for them!
Most valuable is the time for prayer itself. The Leader Guide reminds the group that when used to its fullest Grounded in Prayer becomes a laboratory for people to experiment and discover the joys of prayer. Sessions include as much as 30 minutes of prayer time, some of it in silence, as group participants don’t just learn about prayer, they do it!
I’ve used Grounded in Prayer as a small group exercise several times. Each time the group has affirmed the value of the material, but most of all the value of their time together. I highly recommend Grounded in Prayer, not only as a book, but as a small group process to deepen insights in prayer – and to deepen prayer life itself!