This is the fourth session of a five-part series exploring prayer – speaking and listening to God. The series will cover why, how and what of prayer, helping participants develop their conversation with God. This session, and each session in the series, includes a short video from Justin Welby, some discussion questions and suggestions for response. While each session will work as a standalone session, they will be best done in a series as the discussion and response builds from week to week.
This session cover thanksgiving and explores the place of gratitude in life with God. It covers how to say thank you in practical ways.
Start the session relaxing as a group. You could share a meal, go for a walk, or even just have a chat over a cup of tea. Whatever you do, make sure everyone feels at comfortable and at home. When it’s time to start moving towards the session’s content, shift the conversation towards prayer, encouraging people to share how they’ve found praying in the last week, and ask everyone to share something they are especially thankful for at the moment.
When everyone has shared, watch Exploring Prayer Part 4: Giving Thanks.
Give a minute for the video to sink in. Then move towards a time of discussion. Set healthy parameters for discussion from the start. The aim of this time is not persuasion but exploration. Allow everyone to share their understanding and experience but try to keep the group from instructing or counselling each other as much as possible.
For the most part, try to let discussion go where it goes. Ask other’s what they think about what is being shared to bring them into the discussion. In doing this, your greatest tool will be simple questions like ‘What do you think about such and such?’ and ‘Has anyone else experienced anything like what so and so has just shared?’ Don’t be afraid of moments of silence – they create the space for people to process.
You may find the following prayer points helpful:
For most people, gratitude is an easier topic than forgiveness. However, it is worth noting that this is not the case for everyone. If, in your discussion, it has become clear that this is a topic some people really struggle with, consider this as you choose a response activity. There are some ideas listed below.
Worship is a great way to express our thanks to God. Take some time to sing songs of thanks to God. Appoint a group member to lead some songs on a guitar or a piano if you can or alternatively use a CD or streaming service. Great songs of thanksgiving include Great is Thy Faithfulness (Hymn), 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman), How Great Thou Art (Hymn) and Worthy is the Lamb (Hillsong).
An alternative to sung worship is to encourage the group to speak out things they are thankful for. Let this be a free for all and for people to share as they think of things. Watch as thankfulness bubbles up around the room. Be prepared to lead the way on this and don’t worry if you seem to be the only thankful person at first. Persevere and others should join in.
You may want a more sedate time of giving thanks. Put some light music on and give people post-it notes and pens. Invite group members to note down things they are thankful for on the post it notes. Create a collage with the post it notes on the floor or a table or wall. After people have finished writing their thanks, spend some time to stop and stare at the sheer volume of things you have to be thankful for as a group.
Again, at the end of the session, encourage the group to commit to praying this week. Invite them to block out time in their diaries and challenge them to increase the time they are praying from the week before.