Year A – Lent 2 – Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer

Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer
Sermon notes for March 16, 2014 – for All Saints Church (A Reformed & Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, PA)

Memory Verses
John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Philippians 4:6–7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction – This series during Lent will address basic (positive) Christian spiritual disciplines: Scripture Memory (3/9/14), Prayer, Fellowship (3/30), and Evangelism (4/6/14). Today’s word will address the discipline of prayer, first noting the context of our Memory Verses (John 15:7; Phil. 4:6-7).

Three Truths about Prayer – Disciples of Jesus must grow in the Word (e.g., Scripture Memory and Study), but also in prayer. Knowing the Word precedes effective prayer and effective prayer calls us more and more into the Word.  Much could be said about growth in prayer, but for our time, three truths are essential:
1) Prayer is communication with the Triune God (Rom. 8:26; 1Th. 5:17; Eph. 6:18).
2) Prayer is the central act of worship (John 4:22-24; Prov. 15:8; Ps 17:0, 90:0, 72:20).
3) Prayer according to God’s revealed will is effective (James 5:17-18; Deut. 11:11, 17; John 15:7).

Five Steps for Morning Prayer (PCPLP) – Many times our prayer is merely making requests of God. However, supplication is not the problem most people have. Our problem is putting on the full armor of God in preparation to make our requests effective.  Below are five steps to preparation, recommended as a morning prayer routine: PCPLP.

1) P – Collect for Purity – Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) C – Confession of Sin – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
3) P – Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) – See later in the bulletin.
4) L – Lorica – St. Patrick’s Breastplate – I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever. By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river; His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom; I bind unto myself today.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

5) P – Praise – Sing a Psalm, Hymn, or Praise Song.

Year B – Proper 21 – James 5:13-20

James 5:13–20 NRSV –    Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 5:17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 5:18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 5:20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Summary –  James teaches that the community of believers, along with their elders, is the place of healing. This healing comes as we confess our sins to one another and pray, since “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” As we reach out to those who wander from the truth we can save others from death and cover a multitude of sins. Three principles arise in this passage: 1) Patient Endurance is required for the faithful in congregational life. 2) Prayerful Confidence is needed in pursuing our needs of wisdom and healing in the context of the Christian community. 3) Penitent Restoration brings salvation to wayward members of the Church.

Insight – What needs do you have? Are you suffering, sick, down, hurting, feeling at a loss? James responds to needs in this final passage in his book. Congregational life is redemptive.  God uses many means of grace which come through other believers. Centrally, we are required to be faithful and endure in the body of Christ. There is no Lone Ranger salvation in the Bible. This last passage closes the book in parallel with the opening verses: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials … produces patience.”

Catechism – What is taught about prayer? The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Discussion – How does God use other believers in your life?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you that you provide your grace through the sharing, singing and praying of others. Answer our prayers and grant to us healing from the inside out and cause us to be faithful to pray for others and seek their healing that we may rejoice in all that Christ has done for us. In Jesus Name. Amen.

GS

Year B – Easter 7 – John 17:6-19

John 17:6–19 NRSV –    “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 17:12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 17:16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Summary – This text is part of the “High Priestly Prayer” given in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. The emphasis is in vs 8: “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. ” Christ came to change the world through these men who would then change others. The means of their change and transformation from ordinary disciples is the Word of God: “John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Through His Word, the disciples would be those who would bear much fruit in terms of disciples., following Jesus (John 15:16).

Insight – Have you ever gone on trip? What was the purpose? Was it to see a family member or just a getaway trip? Was it just to see another part of the country or to go on vacation? Have you gone on a “missions trip”? Jesus did. Jesus left a place of ultimate comfort and pleasure to become our Savior in a fallen world of pain and trouble. He was “sent” into the world for us. As a result, the disciples of Jesus (like those in the Upper Room) are to go somewhere else to reach others. It is hard for us to “leave” a place of comfort, but Jesus did that and so do His disciples. Where is God calling you to go? Perhaps it is not to traverse the world in search of lost souls, but only to go next door and show kindness to your neighbors. Perhaps you need not become an actual missionary, but just be more faithful to the mission of your local church or a community mission. To be prepared for any service in God’s Kingdom, we must know His Word.

Child Catechism – What is truth? Thy Word is truth.

Discussion – Since we are to be Sanctified by Thy truth, how can we learn God’s Word better? Do you read the Bible regularly? Do you practice memorizing Scripture? Do you study the Word?

Prayer – O Lord God, Creator of all, we thank you for revealing yourself in the Scriptures and fully in your incarnate Son, Grant that we may know you through Christ the one who came to save us through is death and resurrection and thank you for giving your Word, may we grow in Him by reading, studying and memorizing Scripture, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Year B – Easter 5 – Psalm 22:25-31

Psalm 22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.  26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;  those who seek him shall praise the LORD!  May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.  (NRSV)

Summary:  We don’t always see the results of our prayers; but that does not make our unanswered requests worthless.  Our hearts and minds must always cry out to God, no matter how frustrated or confused our desires and needs.  David could not have possibly understood the full weight and outcome from these cries [in the first half of the Psalm] and subsequent rejoices [found in our verses today].  This Psalm clearly had and will have further fulfillment through Christ and in his people.

Insight:  The opening of this psalm was quoted by Christ upon the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  These once future events, the impending sufferings, and the hopeful promises which David sung a thousand years before, were cried out, and lived out, by the Son of God himself.  For they did indeed pierce his hands and feet (v16) and they even divided his garments (v18).  His death was the will of God and now through Him redemption has been accomplished.  The results that followed, were also foretold by the Psalm.  The Apostles were seeing and living out the future “shalls” promised by the verses we are looking at today.  Just as we are seeing and living that future.  The ends of the earth are turning to the Lord, and we are those families from the various nations which worship Him (v27).  And thanks be to God, it will be even our future generations, those not yet born, that will serve him forever.

Child Catechism:  The Lord is to receive worship from whom?  All the families of the nations are called to worship and serve our King, Jesus the Christ.

Discussion:  Can you think of places in the Gospel where Jesus declares the fact that the nations were to come and worship the Lord?  How might have David understood these events (for example, crucifixion was not yet “invented”)?

Gracious Father, you have rescued us from the old creation, build us up with your Spirit,  untangle the anxieties and confusions of our lives, that we may trust and serve you only, no matter how unclear the future may be, we look to you for guidance, And it is in the power of your Spirit we pray; and in the name of him whose hands and feet we have pierced, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Easter 3 – Psalm 4

Psalm 4: Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. 2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;  the Lord hears when I call to him. 4 When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.  Selah  5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. 6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”  7  You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. 8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Summary:  We say a great deal of many things.  But sometimes in our prayer lives, the words just won’t come.  What stops you from praying?  Here David speaks confidently.  He speaks as if God will hear him.  Prayer is an action done in trust.  But sometimes we still need to question, and sometimes we need to be silent.  David mentions times for them both.  In this psalm, he seems to be questioning the actions and attitudes of fallen humanity (vv2,6) rather than God directly (cf. Ps 6:3, 10:1).  And David had a great deal to question in his life, and he had plenty of reasons to be frustrated, but his trust in God remained.

Insight:  Even when we are angry, we can remain faithful.  There is a difference between righteous outcries and vain venting:  think how often we take out our frustrations upon innocent and unwitting third-parties.  We love vain words.  When life gets difficult, or when we are being that difficult party, David suggestions is that we get quiet (v4).  And during this moment of silence, we can then think about what we have said and will say… to God, as well as, to our fellow man.  We always have cause to lift up our hearts; we needn’t wait until everything goes wrong, or until everything is going just right.  Certainly, as we ponder this Easter Season, consider the full implications of Christ’s resurrection and ascension:  Prayer is just one of our great privileges and responsibilities.  It is an amazing and confident conversation done between the Creator of the Universe and His creatures who are now at peace with one another (v8).

Discussion:  What is getting in the way of your conversations with God?   How do we sincerely pray for those who hates us or have different views than us?  (cf. Romans 12:14-21, Lk 23:34).

Thank you Father for the opportunities given to us,

Through sin and struggles, grant us the right words and hear our prayers

May our words glorify You, And May our words bring peace and gladness to others

In harmony with your Spirit’s leading and in Christ’s Name,

Forever.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West