Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith–What is Prayer; 14-July-2013

Scripture Readings: Philippians 4:4-9; Luke 18:9-14; Acts 10:9-23
You can read them here:  NIV2010
Supporting Scriptures: Psalm 141:2; James 5:13-16; 1 Thes 5:16-18; Coll 4:2; Eph 6:18
You can read them here: NIV2010

 

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Part of our human condition is that every believer has complex and nuanced reasons for having faith and for believing what they believe. It is important because God gave us Free Will; we make life choices and decisions that reflect our personal faith and our personal understanding of God’s presence in God’s world.

On the other hand, as a society we are not challenged to articulate our faith anymore. We are not challenged to think about or to verbalize what we believe to be right, true and beautiful.

At present roughly 1/3 of men and women under 35 in USAmerica claims no religious affiliation at all. We are losing generations of men and women who come to us asking difficult questions of faith, questions that every human being asks as they mature, and we offer them simplistic answers. To put it another way, they ask us 29 year old questions and we give them 7 year old answers.

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The reason I made a decision to preach this series of messages is because I discovered something that bothered me. We can properly use the basic constructs of our faith in a sentence (God’s Love, Grace, Salvation, Soul, Original Sin), but we have difficulty explaining them. So when someone comes to us asking complex and nuanced questions of faith, we respond with answers that we learned in the Second Grade of Sunday school. We give simplistic answers to complex questions.

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In the last four weeks we looked at several such concepts.

· What does it mean that we live in a fallen world?  (Click here to read the message)

· What does it mean that we are made in the Image of God? (Click here to read the message)

· What is a soul? (Click here to read the message)

· What is God’s Vision for the world; how does God reimagine the world in response to our interactions with God’s Creation, and how does our imagination help us to stay connected to God? (Click here to read the message)

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Today I want to talk about prayer. My understanding of prayer was shaped and is still being shaped by my personal experiences and interactions with God and other believers.

I think of prayer as a conversation with God. Prayer is talking with, listening to, and enjoying the presence of God. I am sure that as long as I live, I will have new understandings and revelation, but that is where I am today as I stand before you in July 2013.

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As a new Christian I did not spend much time thinking about prayer at all. Prayer was something my pastor did on Sunday mornings, or what our Bible Study leaders did on Wednesday night. If and when I prayed, I mostly thought about what I wanted and my prayers could be summarized by one word, “God, pleeeeeeease! Pretty Pleeeeeeease! Pretty-pretty pleeeeease!”

In other words I thought of God as a vending machine somewhere in the Heavens that granted wishes, and my hope was that if I said just the right words, what I was asking for would fall into my lap.

Then around 1999 – 2000, I was working with a Christian man who took his call to make disciples for Jesus seriously. When a bunch of us would go out to lunch, that man would wait until the waitress or waiter came to the table to welcome us and tell us what was on special. At that precise moment the man would announce that we needed to bless the fellowship and the upcoming meal. We would all bow our heads and he would pray in a monotone loud voice for a pretty long time as the waitress stood there helplessly not knowing what else to do, and everyone in the restaurant stared at our table. In case you are wondering, I do not recommend doing that because it made everyone uncomfortable, delayed our food, and I am afraid to think of the amount of spit that ended up in his coffee cup. I seriously doubt that anyone came to know God better by watching us bow our heads or by listening to him pray in the restaurant. In hindsight, I think that he would have been much better off learning everyone’s names in the restaurant, tipping well, establishing himself to be more than just a lunch customer, becoming a familiar face and presence in the restaurant, and then when the time was right, inviting waitresses and other patrons to come to his church for a special event.

But something did happen as a result of his prayers and it happened in my life. It forced me to think about what prayer is, what it is not, how prayer works, and why it works. Today I will try to talk about all that.

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Around 2003 or 2004, I was watching Mother Angelica on EWTN one evening and she said something about prayer being an attitude. That made a lot of sense at the time.

We think of prayer as a discrete act. So and so will say a prayer or say grace before the meal or pray for healing etc. Although prayer could be a discrete act, I saw how prayer could also be an attitude. From that perspective, prayer is not something that we do, but something that we have and something that we live with. Disciples came to Jesus asking, “Teach us to Pray” (Luke 11:1-13); give us formula, give us a tangible way to pray that works.

James 5:13-16 teaches:

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Psalm 141: 2 teaches

May my prayer be set before you like incense;

may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

The only difficulty that I have with that understanding of prayer (Prayer as an attitude) is that once in a while all of us need an attitude adjustment. How do you adjust your prayer life? By praying differently? By inventing prayer techniques as silly as it sounds? By praying more? By praying longer? At some point of time we run out of time because no matter how hard we pray there are only 24 hours in a day.

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Finally, I came up with an understanding of prayer as a lifestyle. To give an example, Debbie and I have a certain life style. That lifestyle affects the decisions that we make in all aspects of our lives (our lifestyle is rooted in the Free Will). That lifestyle affects decisions about what we watch on TV, what books we read, what we do for fun, what we do with our trash, how we interact with our neighbors, what we do as Christians, what we do as citizens and what we do not do.

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A couple of weeks ago when we talked about souls, we discovered that the soul is a spiritual organ that God gave us so that we could connect to God. From that perspective, all of us are spiritual beings; all of us are souls with human bodies attached. When prayer is a lifestyle, our souls are always connected to God. It does not mean that we always act as exemplary little Christians, nor does it mean that God will always protect us from life’s irritations, problems and tragedies. Living a lifestyle of prayer, however, means that we recognize our limitations and our need for God’s Love, Grace and Forgiveness in our lives at all times and in all circumstances. It also means that we are in constant communication with God. When we do something that displeases God we know it in real time; and when we disregard the signals and God sends something or somebody to point out what we did wrong, we recognize God’s presence and we take responsibility for our actions and make the necessary corrections.

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When we live a lifestyle of prayer we are in a constant conversation with God; we are constantly listening for God’s guidance on our lives and we constantly take delight in God’s presence in our lives, or at least we take God’s presence seriously.

We see that in the story of David and Bathsheba when God sent Nathan to rebuke David (2 Samuel 11 and 12). After Nathan exposed David’s sin, David said, “I have sinned against the Lord!” and he took responsibility for his own actions. That is what a lifestyle of prayer does.

We also see it in the episode from Peter’s life when he saw a vision in Joppa (Acts 10:9-16). Peter was in prayer when God revealed to Peter something that was contrary to everything that Peter believed to be right, true and beautiful up to that point. Peter made the changes that he needed to make, and as a result he was able to fellowship with Cornelius and Cornelius’ household. Many gentiles found relationship with the Living God that day.

The Lifestyle of Prayer means that we are in constant conversation with God. The Lifestyle of Prayer means that we are in constant communication with God. It happens throughout the day, not just at special “reserved” times.

Colossians 4:2 teaches

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 teaches

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 6:18 says

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

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When we pray, we send positive energy towards the person who we are praying for. It is kindda-sorta like a cell phone communication. Energy travels from the person who is praying towards God, God amplifies these prayers with God’s Agape Love and God redirects that energy towards the person we are praying for. That is how we feel the prayers and thoughts of those who pray for us. That is how our prayers help our neighbors to receive physical cure or emotional and spiritual healing when our bodies are worn out.

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All of us are in a different place on our walk with God. I am not talking about chronological age; look at me – I am a fairly old dude but I am a fairly new Christian. For some of us prayer is a discrete act; for some others it is an attitude that we turn on and off; and for others it is a lifestyle.

No matter where we are on our walk with God, prayer is essential to our lives because that is what connects our souls with God.

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{Open the Altar}

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4 responses to “Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith–What is Prayer; 14-July-2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith– Tradition; 21-July-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith– Tradition; 21-July-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

  3. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  4. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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