Over the last seven months I have written about ways to move from “Teaching for Knowing” to a “Teaching for Growing” in the teaching ministries of the church. I’ve offered some ideas for how this might impact the way we prepare for teaching, use time in our classes as we teach, and follow up on what we are teaching. All of this is important, and has potential to impact the depth of impact of our teaching over time.
One of the more important areas of preparing to teach for deeper impact that we all acknowledge is the need to pray about our teaching. I believe that all of us affirm this, but when it comes down to what and how to pray we are a bit vague and unsure what to do. Asking God to “bless” our teaching efforts is important, but not enough. Let me take this month’s blog to suggest some ways we can be praying as we prepare to teach. Here are ten specific things you can seek God’s help with:
Praying for Our Teaching
1. Teach me! First, as part of studying the passage(s) that we are focusing on for our lesson, it is critical that we bring ourselves to God and seek for Him to teach us first, before we dare take on the responsibility of teaching others. What is it that I need to learn if I am to follow Christ more fully? Since our teaching flows out of what we ourselves are learning, this is not a selfish prayer focus, but one that helps us be prepared to more effectively teach others. Pray first that God would be your teacher so that your teaching flows from your own (imperfect) growth.
2. Prepare me! As part of preparing to teach others, we need God’s help in identifying our own sin, pride, and need for forgiveness. My own sin can blind me to important truths I should be teaching, or may cause me to give the impression that what I am teaching is simple or easy. If I am to be prepared as a means for God to teach others, my own life must be brought to God for inspection, and my own heart must be sensitive to God and to those I am to teach. Transparency of my own need for God encourages others to seek Him as well. Pray that God would prepare you to be someone He can use most effectively to teach others.
3. Guide my lesson preparation! It is never enough to simply teach what a prepared curriculum presents as the lesson for a particular session. We need to take what God has taught us, and what we know of our students, to craft the lesson in such a way that it connects well and addresses those areas where we most need to learn and grow. Pray to God for insight into how best to craft the lesson for where your students are.
4. Prepare them! Because the impact of teaching depends so much on the receptiveness of those who are taught, we need to spend time praying for those we will teach. As we get to know our students, we can pray for specifically for them, knowing something of what may be hindering their openness to learn and grow, or what may be sensitive areas for them that we need to take into account as we prepare to teach. Because of God’s ongoing work in the lives of believers, and in the lives of nonbelievers to draw them toward faith, pray that God would prepare them for what you will study together.
5. Protect them! Knowing that our spiritual growth is not just a matter of understanding what we need to do, but a matter of spiritual warfare, we need to pray that God would restrict Satan’s influence in the lives of those we teach. It is not just a matter of praying for something, but also against something. We pray for the Holy Spirit’s work to prepare the hearts of those we teach, and against Satan’s influence. We can all understand and agree that something is important for us, but other influences distract us, or discourage us, resulting in little real growth. Prayer for protection is an important part of praying for our students.
6. Give me discernment! Once we begin to teach, we have to pay attention both to what we had prepared to teach, and to how our students are responding to the lesson. Subtle, or even radical adjustments may be needed as we work through the session. Our goal is not to get through the lesson material, but to get through to our students. This requires discernment, and God is the source of the wisdom we need as we teach. Pray ahead that God will give you the discernment you need to adapt the lesson in light of how students are responding.
7. Help me listen! Part of discernment comes from listening well to those we are teaching. Deeper teaching requires that there be some interaction with my students so I can see how they are responding to what they are learning. Listening well to our students is one of the keys to effective teaching. If you prepare your lesson well, you are freer to attend to those you teach, listening and responding to them in ways that can make the lesson have a deeper impact. Pray that God would free you up enough from your lesson plan that you can more fully attend to and hear what your students say and need.
8. Help me love! Some of the depth of impact of different people in our lives is due to our being convinced that they love us and are for us. Do your students feel that you genuinely love them and are for them? If not, it may be difficult to convince them that God loves them and is for them. Pray that God would stir up your love for your students and help you find ways to express it that would help them see God’s own love for them.
9. Give us hope! Change is challenging. For those who feel trapped by sinful patterns, daring to believe that things could be better may be difficult. Part of helping people genuinely grow is helping them dare to hope that change is possible. Pray that God would encourage the hearts of those you will teach, and give them hope as they face the challenges of changing old patterns of life.
10. Help us grow together! Learning and growing is never a solitary experience. We all benefit from the fellowship of the learning community, receiving encouragement from each other, seeing the modeling of others, being challenged by others, and gaining insight from each other, not just the designated teacher. Pray that God would use the whole group to reinforce what you all need to learn and provide the environment that enables people to take new risks in following Christ more fully. Pray also that you, the teacher, would learn from and with those you teach, and be encouraged by them to greater faithfulness yourself.
There is certainly more that we could pray about as we prepare to teach and as we teach, but these ten things are a great start toward making our teaching ministry more effective, with deeper impact in the lives of teacher and student alike. In place of some questions for reflection, let me simply encourage you to try praying in these ten ways during the week leading up to your teaching, and see how God helps you as you teach. Try this for a month, and let me know what happens. I’ll look forward to hearing back from you.