Preached by John Bird.
Pastor Tom usually starts his sermons with a story, so I’ll try to follow suit. He asked me in 2013 sometime if I wanted to do a service when he needed a fill-in or was on vacation. It just didn’t happen last year, in 2014, but we agreed I’d try to do something so he could take his birthday week off from preaching. Happy birthday Tom! When he first asked me, I said “Sure, I’d like to do one, can I use Ephesians 5? Verses 2:2 and 2:5?” You know, the first verse says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands”. Well, he looked at me with trepidation on his face, and said “What exactly are you going to say?!” I think I scared him half to death. The 2nd verse says “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” Well, Christ died for the church didn’t he? And He was the one who was obedient unto death. Maybe you can see where I might go with that. But I think he still breathed a sign of relief when I said I’d like to talk about prayer instead.
Why do we pray? When do we pray? How do we pray? Let’s try to answer some of these questions together as lay people. Let’s reach out to God and see what happens.
Why do we pray?
The simple answer is that God wants us to. He wants us to have intimate conversation and communion with him. Jesus went apart and prayed frequently. Hebrews 5:7 says… During the days of Jesus’s life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
When Pastor Tom asks for prayer requests before every service it is wonderful to know that as a congregation we can all join together and support each other in good times and bad. Prayer under girds the framework of our church more than you might think.
There is a page in our church bulletin every week titled Prayer Requests. We also have a prayer line that is much more extensive than what’s in the bulletin. It gets emailed to about 40 people every week. It includes Pastor John Shaw and some others who no longer attend regularly but want to pray for those still here. We have a faithful group of prayer warriors who reach out to and pray for those in need of prayer. We meet every Friday morning to pray. This group also does Bible studies to continue to learn about the Lord we love so much. Many of them are assisting with the service this morning, and I thank them sincerely. I feel privileged and honored to know each of them.
I still belong to a prayer line up in Orange, Connecticut. I go to my brother’s church when I’m in Indiana, and I often ask him to seek prayers from them. A guy that I do taxes for told me this week that he had 3 or 4 groups praying for me and Donna around the country. Mary Rivolier’s church up in Massachusetts prays for us. The Ary family’s
son Rick up in Kentucky prays for us, and we pray for people in his life. The last part of Revelations 5:6 says… Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. God considers our prayers incense. Wow!
When do we pray?
The day before Billy Graham’s interview in 1982 on the Today Show, his director of public relations, Larry Ross, requested a private room for Graham to pray in before the interview. But when Mr. Graham arrived at the studio, his assistant informed Ross that Mr. Graham didn’t need the room. He said, “Mr. Graham started praying when he got up this morning, he prayed while eating breakfast, he prayed on the way over in the car, and he’ll probably be praying all the way through the interview.” Ross later said, “That was a great lesson for me to learn as a young man.” Prayer-fulness is not an event; it’s a way of being in relationship with God. This kind of intimate relationship is developed when God’s people view prayer-fulness as a way of life. Prayer is our way of connecting with God in all life’s circumstances. God is always listening. We can talk to Him any time throughout the day.
When I was in corporate life up in Connecticut I often had difficult meetings and difficult people to contend with in those difficult meetings. But when I prayed about the situations and the individuals I was going to quote “do battle with”, it never ceased to amaze me how things turned out. Instead of shouting and fist pounding, more often than not, it was calmness and cooperation. I still pray in this manner and it makes my life as a condo board president a lot more tolerable.
Ephesians 6:18 says… And 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.
How do we pray?
God is soooo Holy isn’t he? But Jesus bridges the gap between God & us. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray and how to talk to God. We don’t need fancy speeches or flowery words, God just wants our hearts. He wants us to seek Him sincerely and with humility.
Some of you may have heard at one time or another about the acronym “ACTS”. It stands for Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication. I found one reference that added Scripture at the end, so it’s ACTSS with a Double-S. I kinda like that because I often start to pray using scripture. It centers me.
Many times when I’m troubled during the night, or even just driving down the road, I’ll just start praising God. Sometimes in the car I’ll sing (no pun intended… I make a joyful
noise, I don’t actually sing…LOL) Something like “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Or the Doxology. It puts me in the mood to pray.
I’ve also found that when I have bitterness in my heart, or something I’ve done that isn’t quite right, I find my prayers blocked. So Confession is good. God always forgives me. I just need to admit I need him to help me clean house.
We have so much to be thankful for in this country. How often do we thank God for all the good things in our lives?
Humility is Supplication in its purest sense. From 1 Peter 5:6… Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, and he will lift you up in due time. Or Hebrews 4:16… Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Read the Upper Room devotional for Saturday February 14th.
This was written by Loren Tate Mitchell from Virginia.
I confess that prayer is not the strongest of my spiritual disciplines. I am comfortable leading prayers in worship or praying for someone who is ill. But making a disciplined effort to spend a good amount of time in prayer is very difficult for me. I get anxious when I sit still; my mind is not one that easily goes quiet.
But that day was important. My husband had a big job interview, and we were both anxious. From the time he ft the house until the time he returned, I prayed for him. I prayed through my morning routine of showering and dressing. I prayed while I brewed my coffee, and then I sat on the couch for an hour and poured my heart out to the Lord in intercession for my husband. It was an emotionally draining experience, but I believe it was the very best way I could have cared for my spouse.
It isn’t necessarily the way we pray that matters or whether we sit, kneel, or stand. It isn’t about whether we speak out loud in narrative or make lists, or say one-word prayers throughout the day. What matters most if that we “do” pray, intentionally and faithfully, pouring out all our joys and fears to God, who sees all, hears all, loves all.
Prayer: Friend and Redeemer, thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you through prayer. Help us to find ways throughout the day to be in authentic relationship with you. Amen.
Thought for the Day: What matter most is not how, when, or where we pray but “that” we pray.
Hey listen, I’m no goody 2 shoes. I don’t even know how to spell that! I know I’ve quoted a lot of scripture. When I started researching things I was amazed at where it took me. I just got all excited about it. So please forgive me if I’ve pontificated in any way. I really do believe in prayer.
Most of you know that my lovely wife Donna has some ongoing health issues and she was diagnosed with cognitive dementia at age 54. That was 3 years ago, and I assure you it rocked our world. She can’t drive anymore, it is too dangerous for her and for others. Her future is very uncertain. She could become angry and bitter because of how her life has been changed so drastically. Yet she is an amazing example to me, and to her friends and all those she touches. She refuses to become a victim, and she struggles daily to find her “new normal” as we like to say. She is Irish Catholic and she subscribes to this email meditation thing called “Irish Thursdays”. I’d like to use one of her recent ones to close. It talks about a mother struggling with so many of the people in her life coping with so many problems and issues. She was very overwhelmed by it all. And she felt quite helpless. The reality is that she had no control over people, places or things. She had faith that God could be with her family and take care of them, but did she trust that He would? The Bible has about 400 verses about faith, approximately 160 concerning trust, and 154 concerning prayer. Faith… Trust… Prayer… Perhaps faith is a gift and trust is a decision. Today when I pray I will try and remember – have both faith and trust. Let us close with this prayer: We have faith in you Lord, Please help us to