Monday, January 15, 2007

Two Or More

I recently joined a very well known, world-wide, interdenominational Bible study group that I absolutely love. I’d been on a waiting list to join the group for a short time so when I received the call that one of the discussion groups in my age bracket had an opening, I jumped at the opportunity.

The week before my first visit, I poured over the text and spent a great deal of time considering each and every study question before answering, so that by the time our meeting rolled around I was eager to participate. The group was so kind and welcoming and we had a very lively discussion that was followed by a time of sharing and prayer requests.

We spent about 15 minutes going over each individual woman’s prayer request and as we neared the end I found myself caught up wondering about the logistics of the impending prayer (will we hold hands? Will everyone pray or just one person? Will we go in a circle or in ‘popcorn’ fashion?) so much so that I was startled when suddenly I saw everyone gather their things and head down to the group lecture. I paused, embarrassed for a moment wondering, “Did I miss the prayer!?!”

I gathered my stuff and headed out to meet my friend in an adjacent group and as we walked down the stairs she began to ask me questions about the group and our discussion. I shared all the juicy details of our lively discussion and listened as she told about her group’s discussion and when she asked me what I thought I told her I loved the format but that I thought it kind of strange that my group ‘forgot’ to pray.

She laughed and said, “Yeah, there are two major rules here; you aren’t allowed to tell where you go to church or what denomination you are and you aren’t allowed to pray together because it might give indication as to what denomination you are.”

I couldn’t believe it; the omission was intentional! I have to confess it bothers me to the very core that a group of believers can gather together, discuss God’s word, share personal, intimate details about their lives, ask for prayer requests and then not pray! It is as bothersome to me as a sentence without a period, a song without a resolving note, or a book without the final chapter. The more I think about it the more it bothers me. Why? First because prayer shouldn’t be political! Second because I think we don’t pray enough as it is!

I am not trying to have a 'holier than thou' attitude because if the truth be told, when things get busy in my life, very often prayer is the first thing to go. As much as I can excuse it away, the truth is that you can’t have a relationship with someone you only read about; relationships are interactive. I am not sure where to go from here, in regards to my Bible study group, but I do know someone I need to talk about it with!

"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18:19-20

Your thoughts?


Sharon said...

Wow, that is shocking, saddening and potentially sinful circumstances! My prayer: "Lord give Meagan guidance and direction as to what You would have her do. May Your will be done, no matter the cost."

Bethany said...

This seems really strange to me too. What a bummer to not end a personal Bible study with prayer. Praying for and with each other is the glue that makes small groups bond together.

Since starting classes at a non-denominational seminary, I have heard some people say they don't like to tell people their denomination because they don't want to be pigeon-holed. That seems strange to me, as if we should be ashamed of the church background that has shaped us. With all the ways my denomination is misunderstood, I am still proud to be part of it and want to enter discussions to clear up those misunderstandings.

I hope that you can still enjoy and grow from the Bible study, but I understand your hesitancy about the omission of prayer. I'll be praying that you have God's wisdom and discernment in the situation!

Anonymous said...

I am very familiar with this bible study as I attended it for 4 years. What a blesing it was. I look forwrd to going back and continuing some day. I never quite got over the prayer policy, very hard to understand. I have 3 very good friends who attend the Garland study and will probe them a little, 2 are in leadership. I have always wondered and never asked. I agree we don't pray enough and it seems so odd to gather with sisters, share personal prayer requests and then not pray about it as a group.

Shelly said...

I stumbled across your blog from Hollie's blog. I too am very familiar with this Bible Study group. I was a leader for 5 years and finished 7 years total. I totally get your concern about not praying. I had the same concern. The reason for not praying together is not so that your denomination will not be revealed though. :) It is funny that as I sit here about to type the reasons for not praying in the small group, I am suddenly puzzled and wondering why there ISN'T a prayer in the small group? I will say that I benefited greatly from that Bible study and for what it's worth, the leaders have prayer time at the beginning of the leader's meeting each time they meet, AND they meet before class and pray together as well. And they do encourage prayer through the prayer request list that you do. But I'm with you---what's another few minutes to add to the night to pray together? Anyway---I don't know you at all but you look like someone I could be great friends with! :) Your little boy is precious!

e-Mom said...

I found your blog by chance... googling! I like your style.

I'm guessing which Bible study this might be. I completed 4 years of the one I think it is--a number of years ago. I LOVED the teaching and Bible study, and I learned a tremendous amount, but I did find that "fellowship" was missing. (I don't remember the prayer policy.) I did notice that there appeared to be a great "divide" between the leadership and the "attendees." Perhaps that's what Shelly (above) was expressing too. Ultimately, I ended up taking theology classes at a local Christian university as a follow-on. Definitely, if you're a keen student of the Bible, I'd say continue with this ministry. However, if you're interested in fellowship and deep prayer, you might want to consider another kind of group. Blessings!

Meagan said...

All -

Since this post, a friend and former student of the ministry took the time to explain the principles behind the choices made by this ministry....something my leader failed to do even after I questioned the policy. Knowing the reason behind the policy has greatly changed my perspective although I still feel you can never pray enough. Thanks for all of your encouragement - you guys are great!