Lesson 2

Prayers of Despair: Job

(Job 1, 6, 9, 13, 38, 40)
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Introduction: A first grader in my wife's class was discouraged because his little life was not going well. He confided in my wife, "I don't know why this is happening to me, I pay my tithe!" Does this little guy express your feelings sometimes? Something bad is happening in your life and you cannot understand why God is allowing it to happen? Do you pray and it seems that God is not answering or not giving the answer you deserve? One of the most encouraging stories in the Bible is the story of Job. Let's jump in and see what we can learn about his prayers in times of great discouragement!

  1. Job's Background

    1. Read Job 1:1-3. What kind of man was Job? (He was righteous and rich! God called him "blameless.")

    2. Read Job 1:4-5. What was one of Job's greatest concerns? (He was concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children.)

      1. Why do you think Job purified his children by a sacrifice after each of the feasts? (It appears there is something about his children's activities during the feasts that worried Job.)

      2. The Bible does not say that Job attended these feasts. Any idea why not?

  2. Job's Disaster

    1. Let's skip down to Job 1:13-15. The stock market has been in a nosedive lately. How many oxen and donkeys did Job lose in the Greenspan (sorry, Sabean) crash? ( Job 1:3 - 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys.)

      1. What do you think Job thought when he heard this? (Most of his wealth was in camels and sheep, not oxen and donkeys. So his wealth was still intact.)

    2. Read Job 1:16-17. How many sheep and camels did Job lose? ( Job 1:3 - 7,000 sheep and 3,000 camels.)

      1. What do you think Job thought now? (He was ruined financially.)

      2. Do you think the difference in the way the oxen and donkeys and the sheep and camels were lost is significant? (I would guess that "raiders" were a common problem. Fire coming from heaven was not. This made the second disaster look like a punishment from God and not just an unfortunate event.)

    3. Read Job 1:18-19. Job's children, all ten of them, are killed during a feast at the eldest son's home. What do you think Job thought about his children being killed during a feast? (This was the time when he was most concerned about their spiritual welfare (see Job 1:5).)

      1. What would your frame of mind be if this series of disasters happened to you?

      2. Since we are studying prayer this quarter, what kind of prayer would you pray? Would you, like the little first grader, pray "God what are you doing to me? I pay my tithe (or mention whatever spiritual service you consider most important)!" Let's turn next to Job's prayers.

  3. Job's Prayers: Prayer 1

    1. Read Job 1:20-22. What do you think about Job's prayer? Is it the prayer you would have prayed?

      1. Would you have praised God?

      2. What elements are missing from Job's prayer that you would have included in your prayer? (Why did this happen? Why did you allow this to happen to ME? Please restore my wealth! Please save (eternally) my children!)

    2. What I like about the book of Job is that it answers the "How come" question right up front. It is an astonishing story that Job would not have guessed in a million years. Let's look at it right now. Read Job 1:6-12.

      1. Who is in control of disasters? (God)

      2. Who causes disasters? (Satan)

      3. When God "strikes" (v.11) a person, how does it happen? (God allows it. Satan does it.)

      4. Do you agree with me that Job never could have guessed this background, this cause for his disasters?

      5. In light of this "inside" knowledge, is Job's prayer in 1:20-22 correct?

  4. Job's Prayers: Prayer 2

    1. Our story continues that Satan sees God again and this time gets permission to adversely affect Job's health. In the context of this additional disaster, the loss of his health, read Job 6:8-13.

      1. What is Job praying that God will do? (Let him die.)

      2. Why does he want to die? (He is suffering constant pain (v.10), he has no hope for the future (vv. 11-13) and he has not denied God (v.10).)

        1. Do you think he is considering denying God? (Verse 10 surely makes it seem that he is saying "Kill me while I am still faithful.)

        2. Does physical pain make it more difficult to clearly think about God? (Illness generally affects your mental attitude. I think it is more difficult for faith to handle.)

        3. Read Job 6:14. What does this add to your view about Job's diminishing trust in God? (Comparing several versions of the Bible, the translation is not clear. The NIV seems to say that Job is begging his friends for support because his relationship with God is deteriorating. What is unclear is whether Job is simply referring to his friends view of his relationship with God or his actual relationship. If you look at what Job says before this you will see that his attitude is that he remains faithful to a God who is beating him up! This certainly signals some change in his attitude.)

  5. Job's Prayer: Prayer 2

    1. Read Job 9:29, 32-35. What does Job want to do to God? To what does he want God to agree? (He wants to "sue" God. He wants God to agree to binding arbitration. He wants someone to mediate between God and him and decide who is right and who is wrong.)

      1. Is Job questioning God's fairness?

    2. Let's continue by reading Job 10:1-4. What word would you use to summarize Job's attitude towards God now? ("Complaining." He is telling God he thinks his situation is unfair. God is enjoying beating him up while at the same time blessing the wicked (v.3).)

      1. Do you think it is appropriate for Job to complain to God and tell God he wants to sue him?

      2. What is good and what is bad about complaining to God in our prayers?

      3. Is it a sin to complain? Or, does God want to hear our complaints? (Recall the story of Israel leaving Egypt and then refusing to enter into Canaan because it did not trust God to defeat the Canaanites. Read Numbers 14:11. The worst thing is to ignore God - to treat Him with contempt. When Job was complaining to God the good thing was that he was acknowledging God's power over the situation. Therefore, complaining is better than rejecting God. If you continue in Numbers 14 and read verses 26-30 you will see that God does not, however, enjoy constant whining.)

    3. Perhaps the most famous statement in Job is found in Job 13:14-19. Our lesson says, "Through the ages, Job's declarations of hope have brightened the pathway of Christians everywhere." It then directs us to read Job 13:15-16.

      1. Do you agree this is a declaration of hope?

      2. Is Job showing his unwavering faith in God? (He is showing he believes in God. But he is saying that he (Job) is right and he will argue his point with God even though God kills him for it! I find it hard to see this as a declaration of hope. It says "I'm going to battle this out with you and press my point even if you kill me." The New Living Translation renders Job 13:14 this way: "Yes, I will take my life in my hands and say what I really think. God might kill me, but I cannot wait. I am going to argue my case with him.")

  6. God's Response to Job

    1. If you were God, how would you react to Job's prayers?

    2. How would you describe the "path" of Job's prayers?

    3. Knowing the background you do, is God being unfair to Job?

      1. Do you think God should explain Himself to Job? Especially since He has a good explanation?

        1. Why do you think God has explained the situation to us?

    4. Let's read God's response to Job. Read Job 38:1-5. What is God saying to Job? Does He explain what is going on? (God does not answer Job's questions. He just says, "Who do you think you are compared to Me?")

      1. God continues in this vein of showing Job he is nobody for the rest of chapter 38 and chapter 39. Let's read Job 40:1-2. Would you be happy with God's "Who do you think you are?" response.

      2. Read Job 40:3-4. How does Job answer? Has his attitude changed?

      3. Are you happy with God's answer? How would you apply God's answer to problems in your life?

      4. What is the lesson of the book of Job when trouble comes to our lives? (First of all, I thank God for giving us the "behind the scenes" answer in Job. God wants us to know He is fair. Second, we must not lose sight of God's view that we need to trust Him and not question Him. We cannot begin to understand all of what God has to deal with. Although He showed us here that He is fair, we may not always see this. God's answer to us is to just trust Him - even though we do not understand.)

    5. Friend, will you just trust God when problems hit your life? Or, like Job, will you demand that God explain Himself to you? Although God said Job was a "perfect" man, the lesson of this book, the lesson for our prayers is just to trust God. Job's original prayer ( Job 1:20-22) is our best prayer.

  7. Next Week: A Prayer of Supplication: Moses.

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