Show chart on the screen
We come to Week Three in our Summer Series on Commitment to Change.
In the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’, Bruce Nolan is given the opportunity to be God for a few weeks, while God takes a vacation.
God sets some ground rules for Bruce:
- Not to mess with people’s freewill
- Listen to and answer people’s prayer.
Along the way, Bruce learns something about people’s needs and wants as they are lifted up to him in prayer, but he also learns something of the deep relationship that is birthed in prayer between God and humans.
In our first breakfast service this year, we’ll explore prayer through this movie and answer the question: ‘Prayer – does it really help?’
This popular movie demonstrates to me that people are still keen, even in a secular world, to understand the character of God and our interaction with God through prayer.
What is prayer, and how and why should we grow our individual and corporate prayer life.
Let’s tackle the ‘what’ first!
Prayer – What is it?
Give me some words.
- Focussed communication between God and man!
- Suspending normal activities
- Spending time with God
- Asking, listening, affirming, confession, thanking or simply being with God.
Prayer is not just for experts or strong believers – it’s for people who mess up, have doubts and who wonder at God, but mostly prayer is about relationship.
In a church service there are many types of prayer happening:
- A prayer at the piano with the worship leaders and people in their seats individually lifting their prayers.
- The opening prayer in the service is there to focus us as the body of Christ on our God, to introduce worship and to state to God and the people, our reason for gathering.
- The prayer of confession, thanksgiving and praise is our corporate response to God’s love, despite our lack.
- The prayer of the people and the prayer over the offering is about how we respond to hearing God’s word to us and his mission for us. But it is also about giving thanks as well as asking or invoking God’s help or intercessions for our world.
- The benediction – literally ‘Good word’ – is a prayer of blessing and sending that takes us beyond the gathered community.
- While prayers with the elders after the service, involves the type of prayer we read about in the letter of James which we heard earlier.
Our three Bible readings give us further clues on why we pray – these passages are about prayer and invoke us to pray and remind us that things happen when people pray, or as Dan Hayes once said:
‘All I know is that when I pray coincidences happen and when I don’t pray, they don’t happen.’
Through King Solomon,[2 Chronicles] God tells us to pray; Jesus[in Luke] tells the disciples, and by extension us, to pray and the early evangelists and church fathers [in James] tell us to pray. Moreover
- If Jesus himself celebrates the Last Supper – it’s good enough for us.
- If Jesus teaches and preaches – it’s good enough for us.
- If Jesus himself is baptised – it’s good enough for us.
- If Jesus dies to sin, so should we.
- If Jesus heals others, so should we.
- If Jesus worships regularly, so should we.
- If Jesus prays – you guessed it – so should we!
Martin Luther is quoted as once saying:
‘As the business of tailors is to make clothes, and the business of cobblers is to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.’
But how do we do it?
For me, there is a great deal of wisdom in a saying from evangelist and missionary, Dr. Wesley Duewel, ‘all you need to do to learn to pray, is pray.’
We can pray alone [Matthew 6:5].
We can prayer when we are with others [Matthew 18:19].
Our bible readings give us some other clues.
In the Chronicles reading of about 3000 years ago – we are told:
- to talk to God by name
- to be humble in coming before God
- to confess our shortcomings
- to anticipate God’s listening.
In the Lukan readings the next step is elucidated:
- SEEK his will
- ASK for fulfilment and
- FIND it in his answer.
The thing is, though, you’d got to knock constantly! [Thessalonians 1:11-12].
Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher of the 19th century, related to this when he said:
‘Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk on the rope. But he who communicates with Heaven is the one who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might’.
I believe that every great moment or change in the life of a Christian or in the life of a church, starts and finishes with prayer.
Talking to God in prayer is also about listening to his answers and then acting on them [which we will take up in our next service’s sermon].
We have to be a praying congregation – it is not an added extra or supplement.
It is as basic as bread and as necessary as air; it is also our shelter, and the cloth with which we cover ourselves.
You are asked:
- to get involved more in this practice during Lent
- to be part of our worship prayer ministry as receivers of prayer and/or
- as intercessors for others.
Come to our first twelve hour prayer vigil for our church, and if you can, get involved in the Illawarra Day of Prayer and fasting – next Saturday between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. More details are up the back.
You never know what the Lord will do for us, unless we do!