(Universal Pictures, 2007)
Main Point of Discussion:
When we pray, God’s answer might require action on our part.
The Movie Clip:
“God gives you an opportunity.
is a fantastic movie. The humor is fun all throughout the movie and the writing is very clean and appropriate for the whole family. I also really appreciate that the writers keep a certain respect and down-to-earth wisdom in God’s character. For my wife and I, this is a definite buy. It’s sort of a sequel of Bruce Almighty
, except following a different character, Evan (played by Steve Carrell), whom God (Morgan Freeman) recruits to build an ark, living out the story of Noah in modern times. The movie deals a lot with persecution and family bonding.
The clip that we are using is a major transition in the movie. At this point in the story Joan (Evan’s wife) and their three boys have been feeling that Evan is irrational and ruining the family by building the ark. They’ve left Evan to build the ark by himself and are on their way to stay with Joan’s parents. Stopping at a diner on the way, Joan meets God but doesn’t realize who she’s talking to. God encourages Joan and gives her some insight on life and prayer.
Introducing the Clip:
Today we’re going to watch a video clip from the movie
Evan Almighty. The movie is about a guy named Evan who has been visited by God and told to build an ark, just like in the story about Noah in the Bible. Evan’s wife and kids think he’s gone crazy, so they’ve left him to stay with his wife’s parents. In this scene, they’re already on the road, and they’re stopping to eat at a diner. Joan, Evan’s wife, meets God but doesn’t realize who she’s talking to. God encourages Joan and gives her some insight on life and prayer. Listen to what God tells her about praying—it’s really a great clip.
Let’s watch the scene, and then we’ll talk about it afterwards.
BEGIN CLIP AT 59 minutes and 54 seconds (after Jon Stewart’s line about the Jackass). (laughing)
What an idiot.
Don’t worry about it, you guys. Come on, eat up.
I’m not hungry.
Yeah, me neither.
You guys can’t eat. I can’t stop.
Can I go to the bathroom?
Okay. Dylan, go with them. Please?
(All three boys leave the table. Joan sees God, but thinks He is only a server in the diner.)
Excuse me. Can I get a refill please?
Coming right up.
Excuse me. Are you alright?
Yeah. (God looks at her unconvinced.)
No. It’s a long story.
Well, I like stories. I’m considered a bit of a storyteller myself.
My husband… Have you heard of New York’s Noah?
The guy who’s building the ark.
I love that story, Noah and the Ark. You know, a lot of people miss the point of that story. They think it’s about God’s wrath and anger. They love it when God gets angry.
What is the story about, then? The ark?
Well, I think it’s a love story about believing in each other. You know, the animals showed up in pairs. They stood by each other, side by side, just like Noah and his family. Everybody entered the ark side by side.
But my husband says God told him to do it. What do you do with that?
Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other? Well, I got to run. A lot of people to serve. Enjoy.
(on TV) Guess this comes as no surprise to those who remember his campaign promise, “I will lower taxes, go crazy and build a gigantic ark.”END CLIP AT 1 hour 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
God’s comments on prayer are really interesting, aren’t they? According to the clip, it seems as if we can’t really treat God like Santa Claus, just expecting Him to give us what we ask for exactly how we expect Him to. The first time I saw this scene that kind of freaked me out. But perhaps there is a lot of truth in what He says.
Now, there are many types of prayers. Some are made just to thank God, and sometimes they are for confessing the wrong things we’ve done. Tonight we’re talking about the times we pray for God to help us grow or learn in some way. We’re going to break out into small groups now, and discuss what this actually looks like for us, when we pray for growth or help. Perhaps it may actually require something from us.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Before we get started, let’s go around the circle. Say your name, and if you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
- ASK A FEW: Have you ever prayed to God about something you wished would come true?
- ASK A FEW: Did He ever answer your prayers about that? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: In the clip, God said the following: “If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?” What do you think He means by this?
- ASK A FEW: Why do you think God wouldn’t just give someone patience or courage when they ask for it?
- ASK A FEW: What could be dangerous about just expecting God to give us what we ask for, if we aren’t given an opportunity to truly learn it?
Read the following passage:
ASK A FEW: When Paul asks for prayer, what exactly is he asking for?
ASK A FEW: What do you think it means when Paul asks that God opens a door for the message?
ASK A FEW: In this case, when Paul is asking for prayer, it’s so that the people he is ministering to will become Christians. Why do you think he doesn’t just ask God to make the people accept Christ?
ASK A FEW: Let’s imagine for a moment. What if Paul only asked God to make the people around him Christians? And imagine that God “zapped” all those people and made it happen. Would that require anything from Paul? What?
ASK A FEW: But what about the prayer that Paul actually asked for? What did that prayer require from Paul?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: Paul asks for prayer that God will present opportunities for him to be able to share the Gospel. Perhaps for you, your prayer is about something different. If you could ask God to help you grow in one area or change your circumstances, what would it be? What would that possibly require of you?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: According to what Paul wrote, it seems as if God wants us to be a part of the solution when we pray to Him for help or growth. Remember that God might not just give handouts; He presents us with opportunities to grow. Let’s go around the circle again, and share one thing you can start doing this week in order to allow God to answer your prayer for your life.
Prayer sure is an amazing thing, isn’t it? You know, a lot of people just treat God like He’s a genie, or Santa Claus, like He’ll just give them whatever they ask for without asking for anything in return. Sometimes that is the case, and we’re overwhelmed by God’s grace. But a lot of times, especially when we’re asking for help in a particular area, or when we’re asking God to help us grow in some way, He wants us along with our efforts to be a part of the solution. If we just pray for God to show us patience, but we aren’t actually trying to
 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
BE patient, how could we ever expect God to answer that prayer?
Let’s take a moment of silence. I want you to pray by yourself, asking God to help you in the area or circumstance you shared about in your group. But right now when you pray, also ask God to put opportunities in your path that will give you the chance to actually start practicing or working toward seeing those prayers answered. After a moment, I’ll close by praying for all of you out loud.
Close in Prayer
Written by Matt Furby