By John Mark Comer
Read this overview
Human beings are emotional creatures. We feel, deeply at times. Sadly, American church culture can be quick to write off “feelings” or “emotional health.” But Jesus puts on display a high level of emotional awareness. For Jesus, emotions - positive or negative - are places to meet with God.
The goal of week two is to get in touch with your feelings and process each one with the Father. After a short time for breathing prayer and abiding, we encourage you to let yourself feel whatever comes. Naming our emotions is often the first step toward hearing from God. When you’re ready, ask yourself the Elijah question: “What are you doing here, _____?”
This week will be easy for some and very hard on others . That’s okay. You’re safe with the Father.
Begin with silence and prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Say a quick prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together. Then spend a few minutes in silence. Why silence, even while together? Because we live in a busy, noisy world, under a non-stop assault of distraction. In the midst of all the chaos, it’s hard at times to hear the voice of God, and that of our brothers and sisters. As we gather together as a family, we want to hear what the Father is saying to and through each of us, and respond in turn. A great way to do that is to begin each time with silence and prayer.
Debrief last week’s practice in small groups (15-20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
- How did it go?
- What was the best part? The hardest part?
- What did this practice reveal about your relationship with the Father? (Positive or negative. Remember, work hard to create a safe place for honest conversation.)
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read Luke 22v39-46
Talk about the following questions:
- What did Jesus do with his overwhelming emotions of sorrow and dread? What kind of example does that set for us as Jesus’ apprentices?
- What was the result of Jesus “getting in touch with his feelings” and then giving his emotions over to the Father in prayer?
- What are some of the reasons that we, like Jesus’ apprentices in the story, have a hard time meeting God in our emotions, specifically our negative emotions?
Talk about the coming week’s practice as a Community (10–30 minutes)
Here’s the practice for the coming week:
1. Put away your phone or any other distractions, settle into your time/place, and get comfortable.
2. Begin with a breathing prayer.
- Close your eyes.
- Take long, deep, slow breaths (if you want, count 4 seconds in, 4 seconds wait, 4 seconds out, repeat). Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
- Start to pay attention to your breathing. Just “watch” your breath go in and out.
- Release the constant chatter in your mind. Let each thought go as quickly as it comes, and just focus on your breathing.
- Your mind will sieze this opportunity to run wild with thoughts, feelings, memories, to do’s, and distractions. That’s okay. Don’t judge yourself, feel bad, give up or worry. When you notice your mind start to wander, just recenter with a quick prayer, like, “Father…” and come back to your breathing.
- In the beginning, just 1-2 minutes of this is a huge win, and 10 minutes is a home run.
3. Spend a few minutes “abiding in the vine”
4. Let yourself feel.
- What emotions rise to the surface of your heart, big or small? You might feel joy, gratitude, sadness, emptiness, fatigue, worry, guilt and shame, conviction, or any number of positive or negative emotions.
- Name “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of your emotional state.
- Don't run away from what you’re feeling. In the Father’s presence, face each emotion head on. Let yourself feel it, deeply.
- Remember: emotional pain isn’t something to avoid. Instead, think of it as a place to meet God and open yourself up to him in new ways.
5. Ask yourself the Elijah question: “What are you doing here, ______?”
- Another way to ask this is: Where are you at with yourself and God right now? Is there anything God is trying to say to you through these emotions?
6. Pray: Get it all off your chest. Give whatever you are feeling over to God - the good, the bad, and the ugly. No filter. The point here isn’t to be good, but to be honest.
- Different emotions call for different kinds of prayer.
- If you’re happy - celebrate! Sing! Dance!
- If you’re grateful, tell God what for with specificity.
- If you’re anxious, give your worry over to the Father and ask for his peace in return.
- If you’re sitting in unanswered questions about your life or future, hold that tension before God. Tell him how it feels not to have an answer. Don’t force clarity where there is none. Just be patient before God with all that is unsolved in your heart.
7. Close in a prayer of gratitude and commit everything you’re feeling to the Father.
Note: After a few days of this practice, or toward the end of the week, we recommend you do two things:
1. Set aside a little time to write out your experience in a journal.
2. Go share your experience with a close friend or Community member.
Finally: Continue to resist the urge to say, “I’m bad at this” or “I didn’t get anything out of it.” Just practice. And be patient.
Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)
- Would you say you are “in touch with your feelings” in a healthy, Jesus-like way? Or is that hard and difficult for you? If so, why?
- Was emotional awareness a part of your upbringing? How did your family of origin deal with emotional pain? How has that shaped your life today?
- We all face emotional pain in life. In those times, what happens when we use coping mechanisms other than prayer?
- What is your coping mechanism of choice? (Ex. escapism, alcohol, denial, overwork, busyness, church activity, etc.)
Close in prayer (10-15 minutes)
Go around the room and have each person quickly share one prayer they have for the coming week’s practice. Then pray that over each other.
Note: if you have a large Community and are running out of time, we recommend you get back into small groups of 3-4 people.