Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of September 18, 2016

“Follow the Leader…Lead the Followers…In Prayer”

I am not a good dancer.  Just ask my wife.  If you are a fan of Seinfeld, and I know at least one of you is.  My dancing abilities are comparable to one Elaine Benes, with all the kicks and the thumbs.  As George Castanza described it, “It’s more like a full body dry heave set to music.”

If Seinfeld is not your thing perhaps you remember the many, many times that Lucille Ball made her way to the club to dance on stage with Ricky and the band.  Quite often Lucy was one step behind and woefully off from the others on stage eyes fixed on the others trying to follow along.

Or, maybe you have seen the funny clips online of a dance or cheer routine where one member, usually in the back, has their eyes glued to one in the front searching desperately for someone to follow, and usually not doing well. 

You might be a great dancer, but I would bet that there is some skill or activity you wish you possessed that you need someone to lead and you could just follow. 

Perhaps it is singing or parenting.  It could be drawing or even cooking. 
The same could be said about our life of faith. 

Last week Pastor Kevin began our new series titled, “Follow the leader…Lead the follower,” and today we are going to talk about prayer. 

Few are the followers of Jesus who would claim they are good at prayer.  I know sitting in the pews this morning there are passionate prayer warriors, but there are many who struggle to pray. 

A recent Pew Research study showed that close to 60% of Americans pray at least once a day.  Depending on how you look at it, that is either encouraging, or discouraging. 

The biggest struggle many have when it comes to prayer is not being sure how to pray.

Our text reminds us that prayer should be a part of every believer’s life. 

From 1 Timothy chapter 2, “First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us.  Pray for those people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way.  This is good and pleases God our Savior.  He wants all people to be saved and to learn the truth.  There is one God.  There is also one mediator between God and humans—a human, Christ Jesus.  He sacrificed himself for all people to free them from their sins.”  (1 Timothy 2:1-6a)

Paul encourages the young pastor Timothy, and us today to “make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people.”

The words used here are not mutually exclusive but each have a special emphasis when it comes to prayer.  Let’s take a look at each one.

First, we can make petitions or requests to God in prayer.  We lay before God our needs.  Yes, God already knows our needs but we acknowledge Him as the one who alone can satisfy them.

The word translated as “prayers” is the most general of the four but prominent in this word is the element of devotion and reverence as we approach the Lord in prayer.

Third, intercessions include those things we boldly and confidently bring before God for the sake of others.

Finally, thanksgiving needs almost no explanation but perhaps has been lost in recent times.  I remember a time in my life when we not only began each meal in prayer, but we ended the meal as well by returning thanks to God for His gracious provision. 

It is interesting to note that Paul not only encourages prayer for personal things but for others, and he does not limit who we are to pray for by saying “all people.”  This includes those we might disagree with, those who are not believers and even those who are enemies of the Church. 

Through the power of prayer, many will be saved and learn the truth.

First takeaway — We are called to pray for all people.
When you walk into a church you enter a place of worship. When you bow your head or fold your hands you engage in an act of worship.

Prayer is an act of worship.  It is something done within the context of a relationship with Christ at the center.

Another recent study on prayer asked the question, “Where do you pray most often?”  The answers were interesting to me.  Only 4.4% of people said they pray most often in a house of worship.  Other places that were mentioned were: While traveling—9.8%, at work—3.8% and by far the most common place for people to pray most often was, at home—79.5%.

The second take away for this morning — Prayer is not limited to a location. 
Your car or your classroom, your dining room or deck can be a house of prayer.

OK, pastor this is all well and good but we still haven’t talked about the struggles that people face in prayer. 

Well, that will be our third take away for this morning and it leads right into our theme—Follow the leader… in prayer. 

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus says over and over again, “Ask.”

Prayer is asking God.

God invites you to communicate with Him just as you would communicate with a friend or family member who loves you and cares about you.

You wouldn't only call that person when you want something from them. You call to thank them, to compliment them, to share your joys, your sorrows, and your life-and to share theirs. The same is true of our prayer life with God.

Paul reminds Timothy, “There is also one mediator between God and humans—a human, Christ Jesus.  He sacrificed himself for all people to free them from their sins.” 

Many people struggle with prayer by simply giving it over to others. Letting the professionals handle the tough stuff.  I have been asked on many occasions to pray for someone and of course I will, with the help of God, hold that person or request in prayer, but Scripture is clear, your pastor is not your mediator.

Sorry to burst your bubble, my prayers are not a hot line to heaven; they are not heard by God before others or with more emphasis. 

There is only one mediator and His name is Jesus.  You can come to Him in prayer directly.  And you can also follow His lead for all are called to pray.

Jesus led by example.  He prayed for Himself and for others. 

Jesus also led in words.  When the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray,” (Luke 11:1b) He gave them the words known today as the Lord’s Prayer.

If you are wondering how to pray, this is a great start.  Using the word’s taught by Jesus we can be bold in trusting these words in prayer. 

We can follow our Leader, Jesus in prayer.  We can use the words He taught us to begin a prayer life.
Each phrase is packed with powerful words from Christ himself and can guide your own prayer life. 

Let’s take a look at each petition. 

Our Father who art in heaven: We approach God as a good and faithful Father who loves us and seeks for us to be in a relationship with Him. God is good. He promises to show His goodness in our lives.

Hallowed be Thy Name: God's Name is holy. We, as His servants, want to honor His holiness and show the holiness of His Name in all we say, think and do.

Thy kingdom come: In addition to eagerly wanting Jesus to come back and restore all things, we pray that God's work is active in our lives.

We want Him to prevail with His blessing, His truth, and His mission. We also pray that our lives show what God's kind, gracious and righteous ways are all about to the world around us.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven: God's will is for all people in the world to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Our text this morning reminds us of this.  We humbly subject all our wants and desires to

God's goals and desires for our lives and for the world.

Give us this day our daily bread: Jesus lets us know we can ask God to supply our daily needs. He cares about us to provide for us. No concern is too small for our faithful God.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: We depend on God for the forgiveness of our sins. We also ask that His forgiveness flow through us to others in our lives. We are asking that God's spirit of grace and compassion takes hold in our relationships.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: God doesn't tempt us, but He sometimes permits us to go through difficult times to teach us to rely on Him and not ourselves or others. Satan uses those same situations to tempt us to doubt our Father's love, and turn away from Him and His will for us. We pray that He keeps us from everything that would lead us away from His will. We also pray He would protect us and our loved ones from all evil and harm.

Martin Luther said this of the Lord’s Prayer in his Large Catechism, “So this prayer is far superior to all others that we might devise ourselves.  For in that case our conscience would always be in doubt, saying, ‘I have prayed, but who knows whether it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the right form and mode?’  Thus there is no nobler prayer to be found on earth for it has the powerful testimony that God loves to hear it.  This we should not trade for all the riches in the world.”  (LC:23)

It doesn’t take a research study to know that it’s not just prayer that we struggle with.  Our battle with sin is real and our sinful nature follows after its own desires and thoughts all the time.  Another prayer we can say is, “Abide with me!”

When we ask God to be with us, to abide with us - He promises to come.  When He comes He brings with Him grace and mercy and love and forgiveness. 

It is the grace and mercy of God displayed on the cross that restores our relationship with God and is what makes prayer possible.  As Jesus died and rose again we have been restored, forgiven and renewed.  In that newness of life we can pray. 

When we struggle with prayer we can follow the leader as He leads His followers in prayer, and in turn we can lead others to follow the leader Jesus Christ. 
-Pastor Seth Moorman


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