Why pray?

Preached on: Sunday 6th September 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-09-06-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Luke 11:1-10
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 11:1-10
Sunday 6th September 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Introduction to reading
In our last teaching series, we explored in the book of Matthew the calling of Jesus to His disciples, both then and for us now. We saw that we are all called into a relationship with Jesus, and with that comes an invitation, a command even, to give our lives away for His purposes, as part of the family of God, such that we share the love of God and we mature in the character of God.

Back on the 15th of July I was praying and asking the Lord for guidance, and I believe He shared a number of things to help us enter into His purposes, His freedom, and the life He has for us. I noted these down in my journal and one prompting was a call to prayer, to grow in prayer, to become a more prayerful people, and this is as much for me because I know that I need to grow in prayer.
So, beginning today and through to the October break, we are going to look at some teaching on prayer and each week have a particular prayer or activity to use in helping us to pray. Because it’s all well and good having a clear purpose and a sense of what Jesus has called us to, but without being a people of prayer, we won’t change, and this world will not change either.

During my recent holiday I read a little on the issue of justice, and the concluding words focused on prayer. In particular, this portion caught my attention: ‘we must [empower the pursuit of justice] with prayer. If we [rely on] willpower, hard work, protest and activism alone, we will become exhausted. Prayer gives the battle over to Jesus. Prayer fuels our action. Through prayer, Jesus will give us strength, truth, wisdom, peace, insight, love, forgiveness and power. Through prayer, God wins the main battleground – the human heart.’
(Ben Lindsay, We Need To Talk About Race)

Whether it be the issue of justice, or the calling to ‘invite, encourage and enable people to follow Jesus’, we need to be a people of prayer, because our own finite resources are just not enough. So today, we begin a new series on prayer, and hear now our first reading from the Scriptures.
(PAUSE)

Message
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Prayer is one of those parts of life, parts of faith, which we know we should do, but often don’t. That can be for any number of reasons: we don’t know what words to use; we fear getting it wrong; we maybe don’t think it does anything. There can also be other reasons, such as simple laziness or apathy.

This past week, Gill and I celebrated 15 years of marriage, and if I told you that we rarely talk, don’t listen to each other, and generally get on with our separate lives, it wouldn’t matter than we lived in the same house, or had our marriage certificate, or shared our financial resources, you would still be thinking that the quality of our marriage was quite poor, even worrying. Thankfully, none of those things actually apply!

Yet, the same is true with our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You might come to church, you might have a baptism certificate or something that marks when you became a member or an elder, and you might give generously in finances or in time to the work of God’s church. But if you are not praying, not relating personally and directly to God on a regular basis, then I would wonder about the quality of your relationship with Him.

In our day there is a prayer movement called ‘24-7 Prayer’, and a number of years ago they produced a video which summaries ‘why’ we might pray, and I would like to play that for you, just now.
(PAUSE – play video)

I wonder what jumped out for you – do feel free to share it in the live chat just now. I was struck by the idea that prayer may be the most powerful thing we do to change our world, to change ourselves, because when we pray we are connecting with the living God, engaging in a twoway relationship, and as we do so, what we pray echoes into eternity. So, prayer is key, it is powerful, and sometimes the best way to learn to pray is simply to pray.

Nonetheless, one day the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’ (v1) Clearly, they saw something – something in the way He prayed, or in what He prayed, something different. Or maybe they saw how Jesus had prayer underpinning all of life because again and again He would go off to pray. And so, the one and only thing they ever ask to be taught, is to pray.

In response, Jesus shares with them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, which is probably the most famous prayer in history. Martin Luther said: “To this day I am still nursing myself on the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and I am still eating and drinking of it like an old man without getting bored of it.” Christian writer, Timothy Jones, also argued: “To cultivate a deeper prayer life all you have to do is say the Lord’s Prayer, but take an hour to do it.”
We know from history, that it was traditional for rabbis of the time to have their own unique prayer which brought together their foundational teaching. John the Baptist’s followers likely had such a prayer because in our passage today the disciples said, ‘“Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”’ (Luke 11:1)

It’s unlikely they were just asking Jesus for a few good prayer tips. They were saying: ‘We need know what You are about, we need a statement of faith!’ As such, the Lord’s Prayer is maybe our primary foundation for understanding life and faith, giving shape to everything else. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer is like a model prayer: knowing what to pray and so we might simply repeat the words as given, because repeating it regularly can help its central truths to slowly shape our hearts and our minds.
But the Lord’s Prayer can also be like a map: teaching us the way of prayer, the route to take. Many of us find prayer difficult, don’t we? We get distracted or struggle to know what to say. But praying each phrase, even a few words of the prayer, can spark ideas of what to pray. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer helps us become real with God: real with Him about what we think of Him, of the needs we have for ourselves and the needs of others, as well as seeking His forgiveness for our sin and asking for His help in the difficult realities of life.

Here is a prayer that we often just recite without much thought, yet it can be a framework into which we pour all of the thoughts and concerns of our lives. It is possible to take the thing that is most burning in your heart at this time and pray about it using the Lord’s Prayer.

Earlier in the service, I said that in each week of this season of prayer, we would have a prayer to pray, or an activity to use, and the Lord’s Prayer is the one for this week. You can simply take the version you are most comfortable with and pray it in one of the ways I’ve described this morning. Or, if you wish, you can find an alternative version on our website, in the “Sermons” page, as well as from our Facebook page this afternoon. In that document there are various examples of the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes using different language to express its meaning, or capturing the prayer from a particular angle. If you’ve been praying this prayer for many years, it may be helpful to try a different version because then may you to see and engage with it afresh.

But whether you pray in “Thee’s” and “Thou’s”, or take it a word or line at a time, may we choose to grow as a people of prayer, responding to this call to pray, and investing time in our relationship with God by using the Lord’s Prayer each day this coming week. For Jesus has promised: ‘ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ (v9) As we prayer, as we ask, seek and knock, may we know the reciprocal welcome and provision of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I yearn for the Kingdom (Psalm 72)

Preached on: Sunday 31st May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-31-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 72
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 72 (International Children’s Bible)
Sunday 31st May 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – what am I saying?
(SIGN START OF LORD’S PRAYER)
Do you know? Could you remember? It was the start of the prayer Jesus taught us, we prayed it today:
‘Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come…’
(Matthew 6:9-10)

We say this prayer every Sunday and hopefully you’re starting to learn both the prayer and the sign language so that you can join in and say it with us.
Now, Jesus wasn’t the first person to encourage us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come into the world because about one thousand years before Jesus this psalm was written. Our psalm today is one example of a prayer where God’s people prayed for God’s Kingdom to come, and they probably prayed it when a new king of Israel started to reign as king. It might have first been used when Solomon was starting out as king and the people would have prayed this psalm, asking, hoping that Solomon would be a good king and receive from God, God’s justice and righteousness, God’s goodness, so that God’s Kingdom would be seen on the earth. I wonder, can you remember any other names of kings in Israel? I’ll give you 30 seconds to see what you can come up with.
(PAUSE)

So, I wonder what names you remembered – if you want, you can share them in the live chat just now. You might have said good kings like David or Josiah. Or, you might have said some bad kings, like Jeroboam or Ahab. But even the good kings were not perfect, not as perfect as what the people prayed for in this psalm. Also, none of the kings stayed as ‘king’ for ever, and none of them reigned over as big an area as the people prayed for – they prayed for all the nations to be blessed because of the king (v17), for they wanted everyone to know God’s justice, protection, and peace, or we might say wholeness. And so, the people had to keep praying this prayer, until one day someone very special came – who do you think this was boys and girls? Who was this special person? Shout it out loud of me! (PAUSE)
That’s right – it was Jesus. When Jesus had grown up to become a man and started going around teaching people about God, He said this:
‘The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15)

Jesus was saying, that because He had come to earth, then the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world and starting to change the world. Another time Jesus said:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
(Luke 4:18-21)

As Jesus started going around helping people, healing people, teaching people, the kingdom of God started to come into people’s lives and change their lives. That prayer, which God’s people had been praying for hundreds of years, was coming true through Jesus, because Jesus is the perfect King, the King of God’s Kingdom, and so people started to experience God’s justice and righteousness; they started to experience God’s peace, His shalom, the gift of wholeness; the people knew that what Jesus said of Himself was true: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…’ (Matthew 11:28) or another time He said, ‘…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (John 4:14)
The hopes of that psalm were coming true in Jesus… because Jesus was God’s promised King, the King the people had been praying and waiting for, the King through whom God’s Kingdom would come upon the earth and change people’s lives.

So, why did Jesus include a line in His prayer, which says, ‘Your Kingdom come’? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that. (PAUSE)

Again, if you want to, you can share your ideas in the live chat just now because there’s probably lots of things we could say. But I wonder if part of the reason is that Jesus wanted to shape our agenda, because what you care about, you pray about. I wonder, what do we pray about?
How high up the agenda is God’s Kingdom in our prayer life?
Or, do we simply jump into ‘give me my daily bread’…
and rarely get past that? Not that God doesn’t care for our daily bread, He told us to pray about it after all. But, do you want to see this world get better? Do you? Do you want to see justice reign and love for neighbour to grow? Then pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you want to see the poor treated right and to know life in your own soul and mind and body? Then pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you want to see crime and addictions and isolation and hopelessness decrease? Then pray for the Kingdom of God to come. Maybe Jesus includes that line, and puts it so near the top, so as to challenge us, to recalibrate our priorities, and to call us to seek His Kingdom and pray for His Kingdom, because it is the coming of His Kingdom into this world and into our individual lives that will bring the wholeness, the blessing, which our psalm spoke of.
So, in these difficult days, are we praying for God’s Kingdom to come? Are we praying for light to come into darkness, and for love to come where people are lonely? Are we praying for creativity and understanding in the issue of a vaccination? This too is to pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

And what about the situation here in the Braes area, as we face a future with 2 ministers instead of 5 – how high up our agenda is the Kingdom of God? Or is our focus more on our little area, our stuff, our buildings, our reputation, our minister, our comfort, our needs? Or can we pray, ‘Your Kingdom come’? Because if we pray this, then our focus may move from ourselves and to the wider concerns of God’s Kingdom, through which blessing and wholeness will come to our area and beyond.
There is much more to say, and I’ll share some of that in our Tuesday Evening Sermon, so join me then, if you’re able or get the recording later in the week.

But let us be a people who pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come’, not simply by rote, not simply because of tradition, but because our hearts yearn for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus to come in our midst, that the people in our parishes, in our workplaces, in our families and circle of friends, might experience in increasing measure the kingdom of God, and so know with certainty that one day they will experience the fullness of God’s kingdom when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face.

Until that day, we pray, Thy Kingdom come. May it be so.
Amen.

24:7 Prayer Introduction (Matthew 6: 5-13 Evening))

Preached on: Sunday 23rd February 2020.
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.

Bible references: Matthew 6:5-13

Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 6:5:13
Sunday 23rd February 2020 (evening) Brightons Parish Church

Over the first year of my time here at Brightons, we’ve
focused on the prayers of Paul, covering a good number of his prayers from the New Testament epistles. I feel like we have created a sense of the evening service having a focus on prayer, with time always set aside to respond in prayer to God’s Word. I would like to continue that in the coming year, at the very least, so as to continue growing our prayer life and our coming together in corporate prayer.

I thought it would be good to also continue with a focus on teaching about prayer and it seemed worthwhile to dig into the Lord’s Prayer. I was already aware that the 24/7 prayer movement had written a course on prayer, largely structured around the Lord’s Prayer. It really is a very practical and helpful course, so my intention…

this year, is to use one of their videos every other
evening, starting tonight. Then, in the months between, we’ll have a more normal sermon, with a focus on the previous month’s theme or topic.

On the evenings where a video is shown, we may also from time to time have space to discuss the content of the video with one another, and we’ll have such an opportunity tonight.

So, we kick start our new series this evening and the Lord’s Prayer is probably the most famous prayer in history, crafted by Jesus himself. Martin Luther said: “To this day I am still nursing myself on the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and am still eating and drinking of it like an old man without getting bored of it.”

N.T. Wright, New Testament scholar, wrote: “The Lord’s
Prayer, correctly understood, is one of the high roads into the central mystery of Christian salvation and Christian experience.”

Christian writer, Timothy Jones, argued: “To cultivate a deeper prayer life all you have to do is say the Lord’s Prayer, but take an hour to do it.”

It was traditional for rabbis at the time of Jesus to have their own unique prayer that brought together their foundational teaching. John the Baptist’s followers seem to have had such a prayer because, in the parallel account in Luke’s gospel of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ disciples asked, ‘Lord teach us to pray,’ and they added ‘just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

They weren’t just asking Jesus for a few good prayer tips.
They were saying: ‘We need a statement of faith!’ This makes the Lord’s Prayer the earliest Christian creed, given to us by Jesus himself some three centuries before the Church wrote down its first creed, at the Council of Nicaea.

As such, the Lord’s Prayer is our primary doctrinal foundation for life and faith, well worth repeating regularly so that its central truths can slowly shape our hearts and our minds. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer is like a model prayer: knowing what to pray.

But the Lord’s Prayer is also like a map: teaching us how to pray. It helps us to pray our own prayers from the heart, because when Jesus said, ‘this then is how you should pray,’ he may well have been telling his disciples to use it more as a guide than a destination.

Many of us find prayer difficult. We get distracted and
struggle to know what to say. But praying the Lord’s Prayer is a simple answer to these problems, for each phrase, even a few words of the prayer, can spark ideas of what to pray. Prayed in this way, each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer becomes an invitation to embark upon our own personal adventures of adoration, petition, intercession, confession and spiritual warfare.

So, without further introduction, we’re going to play the second video from the 24/7 Prayer Course. The theme is ‘adoration’, focusing upon the words: ‘Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be Your name.’

[PLAY VIDEO] [HAND OUT SHEET]

[GIVE TIME FOR DISCUSSION]

Summary comments:
The necessity and place of adoration has grown for me especially over the last 10 years, because I think it’s adoration that has got me through the hardest of dark times. I spoke in the morning service a few weeks ago about the effect that words had on my soul when I was a youth worker, and the year following my departure from that church, was a hard year – and I had to learn to worship and adore God, even amidst pain and hardship. It was a powerful but helpful lesson, standing me in good stead for the future.

Even this past week, something happened, which I won’t
go into, but in what happened, it was sore to the heart,…

it wounded me to some degree, and it has been in that
place of being with God, in that place of adoration – as I have appreciated afresh who God is, what I have in Him, and who I am in Jesus – it is in that place that I have felt God ministering to me and bringing a measure of healing. The place of adoration is powerful and life-giving.