Preaching: Jeff Crooks
Date Presented: Sunday, August 7, 2016
Scripture Reference: Philippians 4:4-9, Luke 11:1-13
Sermon: All My Days: Jesus the Risen Christ
Prayer: Content vs. Content
Have you ever wondered if you are praying the right way? I know I often did in the past. It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘What is the right way to pray?’, or ‘What are the right words to say?’ I know for me, for a long time prayer was simply ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and the prayer my Grandma would pray with me when tucking me in at night whenever I slept over at her house. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
I had no idea that prayer was a conversation with God, or that there were so many different types of prayer. It took a long time for me to learn that, and I’m still learning. I learned even more these past several weeks as we learned from the lessons about the Prayer Beads.
Let’s recount all the beads and what we’ve learned:
Big Gold Bead: Represents God, offering prayers of thanksgiving and praise to God.
Bumpy Bead: Letting Go, Tell your worries to God and leave them with him, don’t keep dwelling on them once you’ve shared them with God.
Bead with Hole: Silence, be open to the empty space within, don’t be afraid to just be silent and listen to God.
Stepping Stone Bead: Journey of Faith, Reflecting on what it is that you are working on in your spiritual journey?
Clear with Black Bead: Night and Day, God is always listening, so whatever it is you are struggling with in your life, offer it to God.
Red Bead: People to Love, Pray for those you love, but even more difficult and more important, pray for those you have a hard time loving, or you don’t love.
3 Purple Beads: Intercessions, asking God to act on behalf of someone else, whether they’re embarking on a mission, having a difficult time, facing a difficult decision, or any other reason.
Blue and Green Bead: The World, praying for the World’s concerns, like all the violence we are facing. How many times have we prayed for God’s love and guidance to help us through these troubled times the past few weeks?
Red Firey Bead: Holy Spirit, asking the Holy Spirit to move in and through the gifts of God that have been given to us.
Today’s bead, The Empty Cross: The Risen Jesus, this final bead represents the Lord’s Prayer.
So many beads, so many reasons to pray. This sermon series in many ways has been both a blessing and a curse. Although it’s been a great learning experience, in some ways it’s been very humbling as well. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s reminded me how much more I have to learn. It’s made preparing for this service especially difficult in some ways for me. Sure, I’ve taking classes on leading prayer, and that has helped immensely, but when learning so much more on this topic, while preparing for today, it’s been a long journey preparing this message for all of you as I faced my own doubts and credibility on the topic.
But, in the end, when reading the scripture from Luke for today’s service, (more to come on that later), but it put me at ease and reminded me that if I just opened up my heart to God, that he would fill my mind with the message he wanted me to share. And, as always, he delivered, if he hadn’t I wouldn’t be standing before you right now.
God relayed his message to me in subtle ways as usual, and ultimately it just required that I let my busy life go for a few minutes so that I could stop and listen when we was speaking to me. My family and I have gone to Lifest the past two years. For those of you who may not know, Lifest is a three and a half day festival with varieties of Christian Music, comedians, and many other fun opportunities to celebrate and learn about God. While there, some of the music you heard today was played for us at Lifest and inspired me for this service. While walking around the grounds, I had confided my difficulty preparing for today with Kristi. Well, around the outer edge of the Grand Stage area are Prayer Tents where you can go to pray and for those looking for help, learn how to pray. Kristi reminded me of this and said she saw some interesting information that may help me prepare. One of the prayer tents had some information that they had sitting out for those who wanted to learn what prayer is
Prayer is many things, it can be communicating with God by asking, listening, talking, thanking, praising, worshipping, confessing, or a combination of a few, many, or all of these things. The prayer we are offering to God is dependent on what is happening in our lives, the lives of those around us, and the world. Prayer can occur at any time, in any setting, and for any reason.
We could be praying for wisdom for ourselves or others, we could be praying for healing, for hope, to praise God for the blessings in our lives, or for countless other reasons. Perhaps we are praying for confession, or just to God as we know he is always listening. Once we know what we praying for, then we need to consider the specific reason we are praying, for example wisdom to choose the right career, or prayers of healing for a friend or relative.
Sometimes it might help to write out what our concerns are, or what it is we are trying to ask God. Seeing it in paper will help us think of what it is we are praying for. Even as we are writing it out, we might be praying silently in our head as the words hit the paper. What’s important is that we remember God is present and he is listening. So, we need to always pray to God with the confidence that he is listening, even if we are not confident in what we are praying.
Perhaps you’re thinking “that’s all great, but still what is the ‘right way’ to pray, or I’m just not confident in my ability to pray. Well, the good news is you and I are not alone in these doubts and concerns. As we learned in today’s reading from Luke, even Jesus’ disciples asked what is the correct way to pray. From Luke, we heard that Jesus’ response was to teach his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. This gives us a universal prayer that we can use at any time to reach out to God. When all else fails and you don’t know what to pray, you can simply pray The Lord’s Prayer. God already knows what it is that you are praying for, even if you don’t. If you can’t find the right words to say, or aren’t sure what exactly it is you are praying for, GOD DOES!
Let’s break down the Lord’s Prayer line by line:
- Our Father:
- We are acknowledging God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing God’s promise to us through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus
- Who are in Heaven:
- When we refer to Heaven, this refers not to a place, but to Gods majesty and presence in the hears of the just, Heaven is the Father’s house, it’s the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which we belong
- Hallowed be they name:
- When we say these words, are asking that his name should be sanctified by us and in us and in every nation and every person
- Thy Kingdom come:
- This refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return and for the growth of the Kingdom of God in our own lives
- They will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven:
- We are asking for the will of God to be realized here on Earth and for God’s guidance and strength that we can help spread his will here on Earth as Jesus exemplified
- Give us this day our daily bread:
- The meaning here is twofold, we are asking God for the ‘Bread’ as nourishment that we all need to sustain us in our daily lives, but also we are asking for the Word of God and the Body of Christ as we receive it through Holy Communion
- And forgive us our Sins as we forgive those who Sin against us:
- We are asking God to forgive us, but also for us to follow Jesus’ example, to forgive those who have wronged us, even our enemies
- And lead us not into temptation:
- When we say this, we are asking God for his strength and guidance so that we do not choose sinful paths
- But deliver us from evil:
- We are asking God to free us from all evil, present, past and future, and in a more traditional sense ‘from the Evil One’
- For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever:
- This closing is an acknowledgement of God’s majesty and power, and an affirmation that it is God’s will and desire to do so, that he answers our prayers
So, as you can see from all the detailed meaning embedded within the Lord’s Prayer, that the ‘content’ (pronounced con-tent) of the prayer is only a small part of prayer itself. It is the message we are trying to convey, which as I said earlier God already knows, that matters most. So, we need to learn that to be our best in prayer, we simply need to be ‘content’ (pronounced cun-tent) in what and how we are praying. No matter how eloquent, or not so eloquently, we pray, God is listening and hearing us, and wants to answer our prayers. Even when we can’t find the words to say, but make the time to just reach out to God, He hears us in our time of need or praise, he is listening to us and understands us. So although it’s simple, but not easy, let’s all learn to be ‘content’ (pronounced cun-tent) in our prayer, knowing God understands our prayers, even when we don’t understand our prayers ourselves.