This reading group guide for The Ultimate Conversation includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Dr. Charles Stanley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Prayer means talking to God, right? But it also includes listening for His response. Prayer is a two-way conversation between you and the Father. Whether you're new to the practice of prayer or a seasoned believer looking to deepen and enrich your communion with the Lord, The Ultimate Conversation
, by pastor and teacher Dr. Charles Stanley, is a clear, concise, and practical guide to developing a closer relationship with God. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. If someone asked you, "What is prayer," how would you describe it? What is prayer's purpose?
2. Have you ever thought of prayer as a two-way conversation between you and God, involving both speaking and listening? Why or why not?
3. Describe the role that prayer currently plays in your life. Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Do you ever wish for deeper and more satisfying communication with God? Explain.
4. Dr. Stanley emphasizes that prayer is a privilege. Do you agree? What is the prerequisite that enables us to have this privilege?
5. What do you suppose God is like? Where have you gotten your ideas about the Lord?
6. Discuss how a person's view of God affects his or her attitude toward prayer.
7. Do your childhood memories affect your prayer life, positively or negatively? For example, are you comfortable calling God "Father"?
8. Are you confident that God hears and responds to your prayers? Why or why not?
9. When might prayer be a case of just "talking to ourselves"? How can this situation be remedied?
10. What role does the Bible play in prayer? How can we use Scripture to enhance our prayer lives?
11. In addition to the Bible, Dr. Stanley describes some other ways we might hear God speaking to us. What are some of these ways? Have you ever experienced any of them? If someone said to you, "God told me . . ." what would be your typical reaction?
12. If someone said to you, "I don't need to pray, because God can read my mind," how would you respond to him or her?
13. Dr. Stanley asserts that forgiving others is key to a healthy prayer life and outlines some steps to forgiveness, including focusing on Christ's love and compassion toward us, confessing anger and hurt feelings, and laying down any desire for retaliation. Are you able to complete these steps? If not, which one is tripping you up? Do you agree that an unforgiving spirit dampens prayer's effectiveness?
14. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer? Have you experienced the Holy Spirit moving in your life?
15. How does your own experience of prayer compare to Dr. Stanley's? Has reading The Ultimate Conversation
inspired any new insights or changes to the way you pray? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Begin or end each meeting in prayer for each other. Try to keep the principles of The Ultimate Conversation
in mind as you pray. What effect does it have on your meeting?
2. As a group watch Dr. Stanley's video, "How Can I Pray Effectively?" at www.intouch.org/resources/all-things-are-new/content/topic/how_can_i_pray_effectively_all_things. What stood out to you from this video?
3. Ask group members to keep a prayer journal for a period of time, recording when and how they prayed and any personal observations, including God's responses. Allow time during a meeting to share insights gleaned from the journals.
4. Discuss any changes you'd like to make in your practice of prayer. Commit to hold each other accountable to these changes, perhaps by checking in regularly with a prayer partner. At the end of six months, or a year, evaluate as a group how your prayer lives have been enriched. A Conversation with Dr. Charles Stanley Can you discuss the title, The Ultimate Conversation, and how it relates to the central message of your book? The Ultimate Conversation
is that lifelong, daily, intimate relationship with God that you and I have been invited to enjoy. I believe that there is nothing in the world more worthwhile, more fulfilling, or more energizing than knowing Him and being in His presence. I wish everyone could experience this, which is why I wrote this book. I hope to help others understand how to fellowship with God and experience the blessings He has for each of us. What factor(s) inspired you to write The Ultimate Conversation? Do you think it is an especially timely message for today's Christians?
I do think it is a timely message. People ask me all the time, “How do I pray?” Or, “How can I know God better.” The Ultimate Conversation
is an answer to those questions.
I was inspired to write this book, in part, because this year marks my 80th birthday and 55th year in ministry. We are also celebrating In Touch’s 35th anniversary. And as I think back over my life and all the things that have been accomplished, I know I owe it all to God’s guidance and provision.
I could never have dreamed where He would lead me or what He would do. So The Ultimate Conversation
is also a testimony of the Father’s love and faithfulness. I am so thankful for what He has done in my life, and what He will continue to do in eternity. What do you find are the two or three most common reasons that people experience an unsatisfactory prayer life?
First, I think a person’s view of prayer has to do a great deal with whether they find it satisfying or not. If a person is only seeking the Father during emergencies or to give Him a list of requests, they are not going to experience the same profound joy and benefits as the one who spends time in His presence to know Him and learn His ways.
Second, how a person sees God can impact their prayer life. If an individual does not have an accurate view of the Father’s abilities and character, he or she may not feel that it is a valuable practice. But once you know the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving Lord of all creation, you know that time with Him is absolutely priceless.
Third, how a person applies what they hear from God makes a tremendous difference. Some people are passive listeners. They may pray, but they don’t really expect the Lord to answer or put what they learn from Him into practice. That’s never going to be satisfying. If we desire a truly fulfilling prayer life we must anticipate the Father’s response and apply His instruction. When a person prays and listens for a response from God, is there a danger that they will mistake their own thoughts and desires for God's wisdom and guidance? How can this be avoided?
Yes, any of us can fall into this trap—especially if there is something we really want. We can be so motivated to pursue a particular goal or course of action that we fail to truly hear God’s direction.
This is why I always pray with the Bible open in front of me. God will never tell you or I to do anything that contradicts His Word. Therefore it is always important to measure everything we do against Scripture. What does the apostle Paul mean when he tells Christians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Is it ever possible to "over-pray"? Is there a time when it's appropriate to stop praying and start doing?
The apostle Paul believed, as do I, that we can live in constant conversation with the Father, even as we go about our daily routines. God is interested in every aspect of our lives and He invites us to talk to Him about everything we face. Does this mean we are always on our knees before Him or continuously uttering prayers? No. Rather, it means that He is in the forefront of our thoughts at all times and we should consistently listen for His direction. We should go to God first whether we are making a decision, need help, or simply require some encouragement.
So, does there come a time when we should stop praying? Yes and no. Certainly we see that God tells the prophet Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people, and do not lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me” (Jer. 7:16). The Lord had decided how He was going to deal with the nation of Judah’s disobedience, and there was no way Jeremiah was going to talk Him out of it. Likewise, when God shows you His will, it is time for obedience and action—not more deliberation.
However, even though the Father told Jeremiah to stop praying on behalf of Judah, it did not mean the prophet could no longer talk to the Lord about anything else. In fact, when we step out in obedience to God, that is when it is most crucial for us to remain in continual communication with Him because that is when we are most vulnerable to our doubts and fears. Therefore, we may need to stop praying about certain topics, but we should never give up interacting with the Father. If readers take away one primary message from The Ultimate Conversation, what do you hope it will be?
That life at its very best is possible through an intimate relationship with God. The Father loves us and wants us to know Him. And when we seek Him, not only will He reveal Himself to us, but He will lead us in ways that astound us—filling us with joy, power, and purpose. What other books or projects are you working on?
As I said, we are commemorating our 35th anniversary this year at In Touch Ministries, so I have been focused on celebrating all the Lord has done and have also been actively seeking His guidance for what is ahead for the ministry.
He’s led us to take on two special projects that I am very excited about. We have never done anything like them. The first is a book of quotations from my “Life Principles to Live By” sermon series. It is called Walking with God
and it covers a wide spectrum of topics on the Christian Life. I pray it will encourage and bless those who read it.
The second book is one that I’ve dreamt about for a very long time. It is entitled I Love to Tell the Story
and it contains many of the photographs I have been blessed to take over the years. Truly, we can see the wisdom, splendor, and sovereignty of the Father in every part of His creation, and it has been an honor to serve Him and worship Him through photography.
There is much more, of course, and I am thankful to be walking in my own ultimate conversation with the Father that grows and deepens daily. He fills every day with hope and joyful anticipation. I am so grateful for everything He has done. And so I will continue obeying God and leaving all the consequences to Him. Because He has absolutely awesome things planned for the future—and friend, I don’t want to miss any of it!