Christ’s Church…Prays

Prayer is the indispensible means by which we draw nearer to God. Through prayer we bring our praises, our thanksgiving and our requests to our Heavenly Father, who delights in hearing and answering our prayers. The best, and the most fundamental, thing we can do to see Christ Church grow is to pray.

Bible Readings
Neh. 1:4-11; Ps. 86:1-7; Matt. 6:5-8; Eph. 3:14-21, 6:18-20

Let us pray this morning.

Hang on a minute. Something isn’t working. Let me see. Ah. It helps if you put the batteries in! It’s a good illustration of a church that doesn’t pray. Last week we saw that Christ’s Church Loves God’s Word. In fact, we heard that if you found a church that didn’t love God’s word, it wouldn’t really be a church. It’s only through God’s Word that we discover what God is like, what he has done for us in Christ and who he intends us to be.

If God speaks to us in his Word, then prayer is the other half of the conversation. Prayer is the means by which we lift our hearts and our voices up to God. But prayer is more than just us directing our concerns and our thoughts to God. In prayer, and through our prayers, God works in us. Prayer is the means by which we access the power and the promises of God.
Jesus disciples were so impressed with how he prayed that they asked him, ‘can you teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ They’d seen Jesus’ prayers in action. His prayers healed the sick, cast out demons, fed thousands, raised the dead to life. Who wouldn’t want to pray like that? And when you think about it Jesus is uniquely qualified to teach on prayer. He’s the only one who’s both prayed and heard prayers. He knows better than anyone what good and bad prayers look like!

The fact that Jesus was so devoted to prayer, shows I think more than anything else, that it’s important for us. Think about it, Jesus often withdrew from the crowds, even from his disciples, to come before his Father in prayer. How much should we make prayer an integral part of our life as believers and as a church?

We find one of the accounts to the disciples’ request in the gospel reading we heard today, from Matthew 6. ‘When you pray’, Jesus began. Which assumes doesn’t it that we will be praying! Jesus assumes that prayer will be a regular feature of our lives. Not something we do as a one –off, not something we do occasionally, or when we’re just in trouble. Paul, in the final passage we read out from Ephesians assumes the same thing doesn’t he?
19Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplications for all the saints.’

Jesus then taught his disciples a model of prayer. Actually, in Matthew’s gospel he first tells us how not to pray!

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. That is prayer is not a performance sport. In Jesus day that’s what prayer had become. Prayer had become something that you did up the front of the synagogue, or better yet on the street corner, so that people would point and stare. If you stood on High street and prayed today, people would still probably point and stare. But in Jesus day they didn’t take notice of you because you looked strange, but because they were impressed. We’re not to get caught up in who can pray the best, or the longest, or the loudest, or the fanciest. Don’t be like that Jesus says. Prayers like that are just an appeal for prestige, a request that someone notice them. Those prayers are answered straight away. Instead, Jesus says go pray in private, shut the door and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Does this mean though that we should put an end to our prayers together as a church? If that were the case we’d be in big trouble! Prayer is a big part of what we do in our services. It’s called the Prayer Book for a reason! When you think about it, most of what we do on a Sunday is pray, especially when you think that many of our songs are prayers. It’s one of the things that I love about Anglican worship, at heart what we do is read God’s word and pray.

Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t, or shouldn’t pray when we gather together. The early church in Acts devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). But we need to guard what we do and say, how we pray. We pray not to be noticed by others, but by our heavenly Father.

Jesus goes on to say that we should pray sincerely, from the heart. Our Father already knows what we need, he knows the secrets of our thoughts, so we don’t need to use any special formulas. We need to be careful we don’t fall into the habit of using meaningless repetition. Endlessly saying ‘Father God’ in our prayers don’t mean that he hears them any better. In fact if you think of the example of your own lives, how well did you respond when your kids kept babbling, if they keep saying over and over again the same thing! (That’s not to say we should be persistent in our prayers, but that we shouldn’t think that our persistence is what wears God down so that he’ll eventually answer).

We need to pray from the heart, authentically, reverently, personally, earnestly. We need to pray specifically and broadly. I have to say those who lead us in prayer here on a Sunday do a great job. I’m constantly moved by how well we’re led in prayer each week. (No pressure Pam!)

To show us what good prayer looks like Jesus went on to teach his disciples a model for what their prayers should look like. It has become the most prayed prayer, and for good reason. Not just because of who taught it, but because of the great shape and content of the prayer. But there’s a danger in praying it, that we do so just on autopilot. The only time we think about the words is when we’re praying in a different place. Then our only worry is which version are we praying here. Is it debts, or sins or trespasses. Is it old version or the new one? I struggle because we’ve modified it a little for the boys – help us to forgive, protect us from evil. I once was leading the Lord’s Prayer from memory one week and had a moment of panic, not sure what traditional words were!

When you pray, pray like this Jesus said. ‘Our Father.’ It’s easy to miss that first word. ‘Our.’ Did you notice that in the prayer, all throughout it’s our, or us. It’s all plural! There’s no, my Father, or give me. This is a prayer that I pray and that you pray, but also one that we pray together.

The second word is just as important. We’re praying to our Father. This reminds us of the closeness of the relationship we share. God has chosen us, before the foundation of the world to be his people. We are his children. We have full and complete access to the Father. If you remember from Ephesians, through Christ we have access in the one Spirit to Father (2:18), so we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in Jesus (3:12). There’s no need to pray to saints, or any other intermediaries. We can be confident that God hears our prayers, because he is our Father, who loves us.

But he’s our Father who is in heaven. In the next breath we’re reminded that God is sovereign, majestic and omnipotent. Nothing is to difficult for him. None of our prayers are beyond his reach.

Hallowed be your name, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In our prayers we must first submit to God’s will. He’s not like Santa Clause, just waiting for our lists of requests. It’s not about what I want, or what we want, but what God wills for us. In praying ‘your will be done’ we’re asking him to help us to carry out his will, for the strength to do what he calls us to do as a church.

Only once we’ve done that do we ask for our daily bread. As we saw in our series on John 6, all that we have comes from God. It’s right that we depend upon him for all our needs, that we bring our requests, big and small to him.

Next we pray, ‘Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others.’ We’re not all right, we need to confess, get our relationship with God right, but also to get our relationship with each other sorted out. Many of the prayers in the Bible are prayers of confession, like Nehemiah’s. Not just individual prayers of confession, but also corporate ones. We can make mistakes as a church, and as a church we need to confess our sins and seek God’s forgiveness.

Keep us safe and protect us from evil – that’s how we pray it with the boys. We’ve changed it to make it clear to the boys that God does not leads us into temptation. For as James says, God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. It’s a prayer that God will guide and direct us in straight paths for his names sake. It’s a prayer for protection from evil and victory over temptation.

The prayer, at least as it is in Matthew, ends with more worship – yours in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory now and forever. Amen.

Christ’s Church prays. It’s a big part of what we do in our services. But it’s not the only time or way that we pray. We don’t just pray up the front, when we’re gathered together. Prayer supports and undergirds everything we do. Whenever we gather, we pray. Prayer is a part of Parish Council, youth group, KYB, everything we do.

In saying this, I want to commend the ministry of those on the Prayer Chain. They do pray for those in need, particularly those suffering from illness and distress. But they also commit to praying faithfully every week for the ministry of the church, and for the wider concerns of our world. You might like to think about joining them, and if so speak to Marlain.

In that I invite you to join with me to pray once a month. To begin with we’ll try next Tuesday and from then the fourth Tuesday of every month. We’ll meet here for half an hour to 45 minutes. Not long, but time to gather and pray for God’s blessings upon as a church. So foundational. If we want to see Christ Church grow, the beginning is not in creating new plans, ministries or buildings. The best, and the most fundamental, thing we can do to see Christ Church grow is to pray. When we pray, God works. He can do immeasurably more than we can imagine or ask.

Hope that you’ll join me next Tuesday night. Know that you’ll join me in praying for the growth of the parish. With that in mind I’d like today to re-introduce this parish prayer. I asked a few people if they knew were it came from. Best guess was Graeme McRobb. Those around in his day might know. It’s a prayer I’d like to bring back, with a few slight changes. Today I’m asking you to join me in praying this regularly for Christ Church. You’ll find a card with it on out in the Narthex. Take it home, put it on the fridge, in your bible, somewhere. Pray it with me each day, or at least each week, as we seek God’s blessing upon us.

Prayer is the indispensible means by which we draw nearer to God. Through prayer we bring our praises, our thanksgiving and our requests to our Heavenly Father, who delights in hearing and answering our prayers. The best, and the most fundamental, thing we can do to see Christ Church grow is to pray.

As we did last week, we’re going to take a few minutes again to pause in silence. Reflect on how church has helped you in your prayers in the past. How you might grow, how else we might grow. You might just like to use this time to pray!

At the end we’ll pray this prayer together.

Parish Prayer for 2015

Parish Prayer

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