Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bethany Bullet - November 14, 2012

Jesus told this parable:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
(Luke 18:9b-13)

This is NOT our text for today, but it will help us get to the heart of the conversation that our Lord wants to have with us. 

Today we focus on our Parish Theme, “An Invitation to a Holy Conversation” and we will hear that our heavenly Father desires for His children to speak.

Human beings are good at patterns.  Let me show you what I mean.  I’ll start, you finish: 
  • Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the _________  
  •  Twinkle Twinkle little star, how I wander ___________  
  • Little Miss Muffet sat on a _________________  
  •  If you build it___________________  
  • Houston, we have ____________________

We might be good at patterns, but we are bad at prayer.  Just look at the Pharisee in the text, that’s not our text.

When we pray there is no need to impress.  God is not impressed by our fancy words or our fantastic vocabulary. He is not hearkening unto our cry because our cries are so eloquent. 

Our prayers are not to be a show or spectacle. Prayer is a holy conversation between God and us. Our prayers are not meant to be a show to others or to elevate our earthly position in the eyes of others.

Prayer is a conversation. We have been called to speak to God but remember that conversation is not a one-way soliloquy or lone diatribe. 

There is an old adage that you could probably finish, “Children should be seen and __________________.”

This is not how it works in our relationship with God.  Our heavenly Father wants to hear His children. 

Left on our own, our prayers are weak at best and downright terrible at worst. Our words do not give praise to God nor engage Him in conversation.  We are mired in myopic miscommunication.

But our heavenly Father has given us a pattern and even the words we can speak when it comes to prayer. 

Our text today is the Gospel lesson found in Matthew chapter 6, starting at verse 5, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)

Here Jesus gives us some great advice when we desire to speak to our heavenly Father.  Let’s use the word SPEAK as an acrostic this morning:
S - Seek a quiet place.  All too often we are distracted by our surroundings or tempted by our circumstance. Our prayers can be derailed when we desire to be seen by others or to impress them.  But there is some good advice to get away and speak to God in private.

P - Pace yourselfYou don’t have to babble on and on in your prayer. God doesn’t count the words, in fact a very powerful prayer could be a simple as speaking the word HELP.  Let your words be few and stop to listen to how God may speak to you.

Our text continues, “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

E- Echo the words of Jesus.  Here is the meat of the matter.  In this prayer of Jesus He gives us the pattern and the words to speak to God. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus provides us with the words of a well rounded prayer to use as a pathway for continued conversation with our Father.

A - Add your own requests.  After we echo the words of Jesus, feel free to add your own requests.  Jesus gives us this prayer, puts us on the same level as Himself (as children of God) so we can go to the Father. Paul said it this way in Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
(Philippians 4:6)

Don’t know what to say? Scripture gives us a powerful promise in Romans 8, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”
(Romans 8:26)

K - Keep going.  You have seen the pattern; you have heard the words, now keep the habit of prayer going. 

Put this into practice and SPEAK to God:
·         Seek a quiet place
·         Pace yourself
·         Echo the words of Jesus
·         Add your own requests
·         Keep going

We have been invited into a holy conversation with our heavenly Father who loves us and wants to hear us. 

There is power in making yourself heard we’re told.  We have just elected a president and both sides of the political isle have been telling the people they need to be heard.  Whether you are elated in the outcome or feel upset by the electorate, we are still called to pray. 
But in prayer, unlike in politics the power is not in the speaker, but in the hearer.  As we SPEAK to God, He speaks His powerful Word to us.  So speak up and in so doing we will hear God speak to us:

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Dear heavenly Father,
You speak to us through Your Word, messages of the Law and the Gospel. We give thanks that You also let us speak to You. Wherever and whenever possible let us speak to You and continue in the patterns and the prayer You have given us. This we pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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