bits & pieces: part of my sermon this morning

 

7 reasons why we need to engage in steady prayer with God

1. so our awareness of our need of God does not diminish -
Luke 18.1 (“necessity … to pray always”)

2so we can face whatever we face in life well -
Romans 12.12 (“be patient in suffering”)

3so our perspective of God can grow -
Ephesians 3.20-21 (“more than all we can ask or imagine”)

4. so our world will enlarge, not shrink -
Ephesians 6.18 (“praying for all the Lord’s people”)

5so as to nurture a thankful spirit within ourselves -
Colossians 4.2; 1 Thessalonians 5.17-18 (“thanksgiving … give thanks”)

6so we’ll ever recall this life is not all about us -
James 4.2-3 (“wrong motives … to squander what you get on your pleasures”)

7to become more trusting of our Father, God -
1 John 5.14-15 (“bold confidence … before him”)

LIFE group guide: steady prayer – how to make it a reality (2)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (May 25) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To offer practical guidance in the reasons for, and development of, daily prayers.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  … the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. (Luke 18.1 NAB)

•  … be patient in suffering; give constant energy to prayer. (Romans 12.12b KNT)

•  … to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever … (Ephesians 3.20-21 NRSV)

•  … be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6.18b NIV)

•  Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4.2 CEB)

•  Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.17-18 NAB)

•  You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it. Or, if you do, your requests are not granted, because you pray with wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures. (James 4.2-3 REB)

•  This is the bold confidence that we have before him: if we ask for something according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess the requests we have asked from him. (1 John 5.14-15 KNT)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. “Given the opportunity, I would love to be able to talk with ____, often and at length.”

2. “It seems to me that this attitude – ________ – is crucial to prayer.”

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Read Rom. 12.9-18. What actions keep steady company with steady prayer (vs.12b)?

2. Read 1 Thes. 5.12-22 (vs.17b-18’s context). In the midst of what specific sort of circumstances was Paul telling the Christians in the Thessalonian church to pray?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Think of prayer as a “thing.” What are some of the essential components of this thing?

2. Aside from time, how might, or how does, spontaneous and scheduled prayer differ?

3. We’re called to “guard” our prayers (Col. 4.2). Guard against what?

4. Can prayer ever be “dangerous?” Should it be? Explain.

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Keep a log for one month of when and what you pray in your scheduled prayers.

2. Work hard to make prayer the very first thing you do when you wake up every day.

doing something vs. praying (doing nothing)

 

If you’re a Christian, more than once you’ve likely heard, or thought, of prayer as the opposite of work.

God have mercy!

For prayer is surely some of the hardest work done on this planet. And we all know it. Perhaps we have just momentarily forgotten the fact.

  • Ever pray when your body was weary, your eyes were heavy, and there were a thousand things crying for your attention? Then you know prayer requires real effort.
  • Ever pray while you were so burdened with your own shortcomings, failures, and sins that your prayers seemed empty or meaningless? Then you truly exerted yourself.
  • Ever pray when the words simply would not come, no matter how hard you tried? Then you knew the industry of prayer.
  • Ever kept talking to God when he seemed silent and non-responsive when it was your loved one who was gravely ill or in danger? That was truly hard labor.

Still not persuaded? Then try telling Jesus, the one in whose name you pray, that prayer isn’t work.

  • Tell him as you recall him daily getting up before others did to walk to a quiet place to pray. This was not done without deliberate, disciplined effort.
  • Tell him as you see him sweating blood in prayer in Gethsemane’s Garden. This was not done without a workman’s pirit of love, determination, and grit.
  • Tell him as you overhear him pray the most difficult of prayers – praying forgiveness for one’s enemies – with labored breath on his cross. This was not done without years of toil and testing in the field ahead of time for that very moment.
  • Tell him as your grasp the fact he intercedes for you still. This is far from “nothing;” more like the most precious of “something.”

So shout it from the rooftop: prayer, rightly done, is difficult, daily labor. And perhaps that’s why more prayers are not offered – because it is w-o-r-k!

After all, it is not an effortless thing just to try to wrap our head around the idea that the Most High Holy One works at listening to us. And what are we? Dust. But surely the vainest of things is to work in his name without praying, for what are our efforts without the work of the Lord mingled with them?

Prayer is work; make no mistake about it. And make not the mistake of not working at it.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Corporate worship gatherings & Sunday night services: * Whatever Happened to Sunday Evening Services?; * The Sunday Night Service – Where Did it Come From?

* “Let’s look at six possible reasons for its decline or demise.”

* “If Christian worship did begin this way as an evening celebration on the first day of the week, it might well be asked how and why the morning eventually came to predominate as the appointed hour for worship. … A reasonable guess would be that the shift began to take place when evening gatherings of Christians were proscribed by the Roman imperial authorities sometime in the second century A.D.”

Missionaries & missions: * New Challenges in Foreign Missions (part 1) [essential reading]; * Why Foreign Missions Are Going To Become Even More Challenging! (part 2) [essential reading]

* “We only have the stamina for harvesting, not for planting and nurturing. … We believe we should be able to work everywhere else in the world cheaper than in the U.S. … Our mission work is dependent on how many self-motivated missionaries surface in our fellowship as opposed to a strategic global vision. … We are not by nature collaborative. … Our missionaries tend to be ‘lone rangers!’”

* “Churches of Christ are represented in a little over 90 of the 196 independent countries of the world with probably around 1000 American workers outside of the United States. We have a lot of work to do—and the challenge of world evangelism is growing. Let me outline why I say that … Americans are less well-liked in the world. … The world is now urban and becoming increasingly more so! … Poorer countries are getting wealthier.”

Public prayer: A Case Against Ceremonial Prayer

“Jesus said when you pray, you should pray something like this: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But that’s not how ceremonial prayer functions in the U.S. Most opening prayers are merely part of the great compartmentalization of life in the Western world. We want a slice of spirituality with important public events. But once we’re done with it, like an appetizer, we move on to the main course–the real reason we gathered. And more often than not, the main course has nothing to do with the appetizer. … Prayer works when it’s an expression of a whole life devoted to God. What’s best for our society is for God to not just have the opening prayer. But the entire meeting. The whole game. And everything that happens afterwards.”

Violence: Why the World is Becoming More Violent

“Much of what has been written about terrorism and the Middle East simply isn’t true. There was the recent, widely publicized claim of 100,000 Christians a year dying for their faith. That’s pretty stunning. When I found out how that 100,000 number was calculated, I realized it was absurd. More likely, the number was less than 7,000 a year. …

“It’s important for Americans to realize we are spoiled. We have a pretty good situation. But this is all very recent and very precarious. Hitler came to power in a democratic Germany; Mussolini was elected. Democracy has never ensured tolerance.”

LIFE group guide: mothers I love to find

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (May 11) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To consider the value of someone who lives like a mother to another with prayer.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. (1 Samuel 1.27 NRSV)

•  The Eternal stays close to those who call on Him, those who pray sincerely. (Psalm 145.18 The Voice)

•  When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words … They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. (Matthew 6.7 CEB)

•  … as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. (Luke 2.37 NRSV)

•  … they don’t know what you are saying? You may offer a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving, but the other person is not being built up. (1 Corinthians 14.16b-17 CEB)

•  … pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6.18 NIV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Have you ever met and conversed with a famous someone? Who? What did you say?

2. Tell us the first word that snaps to your mind when you hear the word “prayer.”

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Read Lk. 2.33-40. What is the point and significance of this story of a praying widow?

2. What might Paul mean when he says “pray in the Spirit” in Eph. 6.18?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. As knowing and powerful as God is, why would he tell us to pray? To benefit who?

2. How are private prayers and public prayers different (aside from matters of privacy)?

3. What Scriptures can you recall that speak directly to the fact that prayer truly matters?

4. A friend tells you: “Why pray, anyway? What will be, will be.” How do you respond?

5. Complete this sentence: “Without the prayers of others for me I would be ________.”

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Assess your overall spiritual health/well-being in light of your prayer habits/practice.

2. Select someone you’ll pray for daily this week whom you’ve not prayed for regularly.