Nikos | Sermon (September 22) by Rev. Robert McDowell

Original Posting At http://pastorrobert-nikos.blogspot.com/2019/09/sermon-september-22-by-rev-robert.html

     Imagine this as your assignment. You are to transform the entire world, not just make it a better place, but to totally change it for good.

     You are just beginning your assignment and you know that there is no time to waste.  The world is filled with disease, sin, hate, corruption, despair, and great inequity. And it’s all up to you to change it. Are you ready to begin your mission? What will be your first move?

     Would your first move be to spend the night in prayer? That’s what Jesus decided to do. He made prayer a priority from the very beginning of his audacious divine assignment to transform the world.

     It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t have a “to do” list of a thousand things that needed to get done.  At the top of that list was that he needed to carefully select a group of individuals who would follow him every step of the way in fulfilling his mission. They would learn from him, serve in his name, and carry on the mission long after he would be gone. 

     With time of the essence, Jesus chose to do something that would characterize his ministry from this point forward. He would pray.

     But why did Jesus need to pray to God? Wasn’t he divine? Wasn’t he the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity?

     That’s all true. But Jesus was also fully human, fully divine and fully human both at the same time. I know it’s confusing, but it’s why we light the two candles on top of our altar every Sunday morning. The one candle represents Jesus and his full divinity and the other candle represents Jesus and his full humanity. 

     And because Jesus was fully human, like us, he needed to rely on prayer. He needed to set aside time in a noisy world so that he would be able to hear God’s voice. He needed to take time to think and pray before taking his next big step. He needed to consult the One who had sent him, especially with so much on the line.

     And Luke the gospel writer, tells us that after that night of prayer, Jesus was ready to chose twelve people who would become his inner circle of disciples.

     Today, our focus is on growing in our prayer life. Are you ready to grow in your prayer life?

     One of the reasons that prayer is so important is because we were all meant to have a relationship with God. Prayer is what enables us to have a conversation with God where we listen to what God wants to say to us and where we share our thoughts with God.

    I like that definition of prayer. Prayer is having a conversation with God. If prayer is having a conversation with God, then it’s something we can do on a regular basis. The Apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice always and pray without ceasing.”

     I used to have trouble with that phrase, “pray without ceasing.” How is that even possible? Maybe you have heard someone say something like, “It’s been a year since she died, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.” 

     It’s when I hear people say things like that that I realize that it is possible to pray without ceasing. We tend to think about the people and the things in our lives that we hold dear to our hearts. Someone once said that prayer is simply practicing the presence of God.

     So how are you doing at practicing the presence of God in your life? If prayer is meant to be that natural and easy, then why do we sometimes struggle with prayer? 

     During a shopping trip one day, Penny and I went to one of those huge home improvement stores. We were buying window blinds.

     We had a particular color, style, and price range in mind and we were getting frustrated because we couldn’t seem to find exactly what we were hoping to find. Just when I thought we found the right type of blinds, Penny would say something like, “I like this a lot, but it’s way too expensive.”

     Annoyed that she wasn’t going to just buy it, I said in a not so loving voice, “Well, I told you that this type of blind over here is probably our best choice.” And she would say, “No, we need to keep on looking.”  

     “But we’ve already looked up and down this aisle,” I said very impatiently.

     Just then, we heard what seemed like a voice from heaven saying, “Can I help you?” We both looked up. 

     There, standing on some scaffolding directly above us was an employee who had been stocking the upper shelves. She had been there the whole time and we didn’t know it. She had to have heard every word of our conversation and she probably enjoyed listening to our little husband and wife argument over which blinds to buy. At least we didn’t say any bad words during our disagreement!

     Before we knew it, this employee had climbed down from the scaffolding and said, “I think I know what you’re looking for.” Just like that, she helped us pick out the right kind of blinds and at a really good price. She smiled and sent us on our way as happy and satisfied customers.

     I wonder if this is how our prayer lives are sometimes. We go about our day to day activities and when we hit a snag, we don’t even think about looking up for God to help us. And all the time, God was listening in and waiting for us to finally ask for help.

     What are some ways that can help us look up more often and grow in our prayer lives?

     I think the first way is to actually schedule prayer time into our daily calendar. I can’t imagine beginning my day without some sort of prayer time. Spend a few moments before you get started with your day and invite God to guide and lead you in all that you do. We don’t exactly know what the day may hold for us, but we do know that God wants to guide us through each moment. We also know that God has the best in mind for us.

     The second way to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives is to pray existing prayers. Spontaneous prayers are wonderful but so are prayers that have been prayed by other people. You may even want to pray the opening prayer that is found in the Sunday worship bulletin each week. Try praying that prayer each morning before beginning your day. That prayer will remind you of our Sunday worship theme and it will also be a source of strength for you during the week. 

     A third way to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives is to remember the ACTS acronym for prayer. You can include these four letters all into one prayer or you can have prayers for each individual letter. It’s really simple.

     The letter “A” stands for adoration. Prayer is a great opportunity to offer our adoration and praise of God’s love and faithfulness in our lives. During the day, you may just want to pause and say, “Dear God, I adore and praise you for who you are.”

     The letter “C” stands for confession. It’s good for us to confess to God where we have sinned and where we have not been the person that God has called us to be. Just remember, when we confess our sins, God stands ready to forgive us and help us to begin anew. God is gracious and forgiving.

     The letter “T” stands for thanksgiving. This is probably one of my favorite aspects of prayer because there are so many things for which to be thankful. As these moments of thanksgiving come to your mind during the day, just say a prayer of thanks to God for these blessings.

     The letter “S” stands for supplication. Supplication is when we pray for others and ourselves. When we say that we will pray for someone, I like to pray as soon as possible so that I won’t forget. And don’t forget to let God know of your own needs. God loves us and cares about us.

     The acronym, “ACTS” can help us to look up more often and grow in our prayer lives.

     This is the perfect Sunday to emphasize our two church-wide daily prayers. The first one is everyday in the morning at 11 o’clock. We call this our “L” Prayer at Eleven. The purpose of this prayer is to lift up our church’s discipleship strategy which includes three words that all begin with the letter “L.” And of course, since we like the letter “L” so much here at Athens First, we just have to address God as “Lord.” 

     So here’s the “L” Prayer at Eleven:

 

     Say that with me. “Lord, lead us in having a Loving Faith, a Learning Faith, and a Living Faith. Amen.”

     When we pray that prayer everyday, it does two things. The first thing it does is it unifies us because we’re all praying it together wherever we might be. And the second thing it does is it reminds us of our church’s discipleship strategy which is that each one of us is involved in at least one of our Loving Faith ministries, one of our Learning Faith ministries, and one of our Living Faith ministries.

     So that’s our first church-wide daily prayer. The “L” Prayer at Eleven.

     The second prayer is everyday at 4:57 pm in the afternoon. Why is this prayer at 4:57? Because it was in April, 1957 when the cornerstone of our church building was dedicated. And during that service that was held 62 years ago, was this prayer:

     

     Isn’t that a beautiful prayer? The 4:57 daily prayer.

     Pray that with me. “O God, baptize us afresh in the life-giving spirit of Jesus. Amen.”

     So here’s what I do to help me remember to pray these two prayers everyday. I put them as a daily reminder in my calendar. And no matter what I may be doing, they show up on my phone or my iPad, and I pray that prayer.

     So, those are a couple of prayers that I invite us to pray each day and to help us pray without ceasing. 

     To help us with this second commitment in growing in our prayer life in our Faith Builder’s series, up on the screen are some choices for us to consider. I’m going to give us time to think about these choices and which one we would like to be our commitment in this area. 

     Here are some possibilities for us to consider in making prayer a priority in our lives. You can choose one or more of these ways to grow in your prayer life.

• Beginning today, I will pray every time I am facing a difficult decision.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily.

• Beginning today, I will pray our two church-wide daily prayers at 11 am and 4:57 pm.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily, remembering the ACTS approach to prayer shared in the sermon.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily, setting aside fifteen minutes for daily devotional time.

• Prayer will be a priority in my life, growing to include the following:

     I will surround my family and friends with prayer. I will surround my church with prayer. Through prayer, I will find strength, power, and direction to face the week. Through prayer I will trust God with my life, my family, my job, my finances, and my immediate and eternal future. Through prayer, I will learn to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor.

     I’ve asked Jeff to play some music for the next minute or so as we silently make our commitment to God.

[Pause]

     I’ll close with this last thought about making prayer more of a priority in our lives. This is something that has helped me to remember to pray when facing certain situations.

     Just remember, if you’re good at worrying like I am, then you can be good at praying. Turn your worries into prayers. If you find yourself feeling anxious about something, remember to pray. If you are feeling some stress about something, remember to pray. If you are worried about how to handle a situation, remember to pray. 

     That little thought has helped me to grow in my prayer life. May God bless each one of us as we live out our commitments in having a growing prayer life.

Faith Builders: Praying

Sermon Discussion Questions

I Thessalonians 5:12-22 & Luke 6:12-19

September 22, 2019

We are just beginning a sermon series called, “Faith Builders” in which we are looking at several key areas that our tried and true ways to help us grow in our faith. We began the series last Sunday but talking about the importance of committing ourselves to these ways of building up our faith. For this Sunday, our focus is on the importance of praying. Our Gospel reading tells us that before Jesus chose his disciples which was an important decision, he spent time on the mountain praying.

Of all of the things that Jesus could have done, why do you think that he chose to pray before selecting his disciples? Have you ever prayed before an important decision in your life?

Pastor Robert defined prayer as “having a conversation with God.” 

What are your conversations with God like? How often do you have them? How do these conversations with God build up your faith?

There are three important ways to help build up our prayer life:

#1 – Schedule times for prayer.

Do you have a favorite time of the day to pray? What helps you to remember to pray during the day?

#2 – Pray existing prayers in addition to spontaneous prayers. A good example of this is to pray the Sunday prayer that we pray together from the Sunday worship bulletin. Here is the prayer that was used this past Sunday. Notice how these prayers connect with our worship theme. Pray this prayer out loud.

Ever listening God, we confess that you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask and our ignorance in asking. We acknowledge that we do not always turn to you in prayer. We sometimes neglect to pray for each other, for those in need and for ourselves. Teach us what it means to have a stronger prayer life.  Amen.

#3 – Use the A.C.T.S. method in praying. “A” stands for adoration. “C” stands for confession. “T” stands for thanksgiving. “S” stands for supplication (praying for the needs of yourself and others.)

Which of these letters come easy in your prayer life and which ones are more challenging?

Our church has two daily prayers for us all to pray. At 11 am, we pray the “L” Prayer @ Eleven. “Lord, lead us in having a loving faith, a learning faith, and a living faith. Amen.” At 4:57 pm, we pray “O God, baptize us afresh in the life-giving Spirit of Jesus. Amen.” The 4:57 is to remind us that in April, 1957, the members of Athens First said this prayer during the cornerstone ceremony.

Toward the conclusion of the sermon on Sunday, our congregation was invited to consider choosing one or more of these options in building up a prayer life. Reflect on these options and invite God to help you keep your commitment to have a stronger prayer life.

•   Beginning today, I will pray every time I am facing a difficult decision.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily.

• Beginning today, I will pray our two church-wide daily prayers at 11 am and 4:57 pm.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily, remembering the ACTS approach to prayer shared in the sermon.

• Beginning today, I will pray daily, setting aside fifteen minutes for daily devotional time.

• Prayer will be a priority in my life, growing to include the following:

        I will surround my family and friends with prayer. I will surround my church with prayer. Through prayer, I will find strength, power, and direction to face the week. Through prayer I will trust God with my life, my family, my job, my finances, and my immediate and eternal future. Through prayer, I will learn to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor.

Thanks to the Courtesy of :

http://methoblog.com/2019/09/sermon-september-22-by-rev-robert-mcdowell/

Leave a Reply