Sermon Follow Up - Week 1, 2023
WHAT IS THIS NEW SERIES?
"AfterWords: Lives Affected by What We Believe"
is a brief series that is meant to connect our
Statement of Faith (from the We Believe series) with other key aspects
of the Christian life as we enter this new year of 2023.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” (Luke 18:1–8 ESV)
INTRODUCTORY THOUGHT AND GUIDING QUESTIONS
Each of us want to grow in our prayer life, in our talking with God, depending on God, asking God to move, and to simply sit and enjoy him along the way of life – but while there are certainly exceptions to this, most of our prayer lives are not what they ought to be – and we know that. Each of us are prone to losing heart in prayer and we give up. We begin to believe praying is fruitless. Empty. Perhaps even meaningless. Often when we consider the topic of prayer, we can tend to feel bad about ourselves. We often see our impoverished prayer lives and grow despondent as we continue finding a life of prayer to be something that evades us.
The question is, “why?” Why do we find prayer so difficult? And how might that change?
We are Hindered in Prayer by the Enemy of Our Faith
We have a mortal enemy of our faith. An ultimately defeated enemy to be sure, but one who is out to steal, kill, and destroy the faith, the trust, the active belief of all those who profess to have entrusted their lives to the Lord. But the devil is not our only enemy – we also have the enemy of the world and the flesh. And the three seem to work together as the unholy trinity that disrupts prayer, alters our focus, and threatens to steal our faith.
Maybe it’s circumstances that have you doubting. Maybe it’s the seeming lack of answer from God to your tear-stained prayers. Maybe you’re just so very tired – your mind, your body all weary and you just feel faint in prayer. Maybe it’s the state of the world around you. So much vying for your attention and stealing the time you might pray away from you. The reality is that we have enemies of our faith who conspire against us to strip us of faith, question the God we love, doubt that which we have said we believe, and we are left with nothing to say, nothing to pray because deep down we’ve become relatively convinced that prayer feels generally useless.
How do we thwart our enemies' plans?
We are Given Power to Overcome Every Hindrance to Prayer
- We Must Decide to Believe in the Object of Our Faith: You must decide to look to the object of our faith and pray, believing his promises, and always trusting his wisdom and his goodness and his will.
- We Need to Decide that Prayer is Unquestionably Necessary: You must decide that there really isn’t anything more important than sitting with the Lord quietly or in vocal prayer and taking time to hear from him primarily from this book. If you do not, then prayer will always be something that doesn’t make the cut in your life for you have decided something else, namely that other things are more important.
- We Must Decide to Pray Primarily When Disruption is Less Likely: Once you’ve decided that there isn’t anything more important than sitting with the Lord in prayer, you will need to learn to pray at a time and a place where the disruption is less likely. We need to set boundaries in our lives, that means you need to decide that there can be nothing else more important in your day than meeting with God, reading your Bible and praying to Him, having communion with him. When is it going to be? Where is it going to happen?
Examples: Might you be willing to fight the fight by putting your phone on airplane mode for that time? Might you be able to take those moments before bed, when you’re so tired, to just thank God for the day and to intercede for a few people that he brings to your mind? Maybe it is getting up early for you before others in your family are up. Maybe for some of you very busy moms it’s taking advantage of the few moments of quiet that seem so hard to come by in your day. Perhaps it’s moms and dads spotting one another in your responsibilities that each of you might be able to enter a time of prayer for a bit.
- We Must Decide to Not Be Controlled by External Circumstances: How many of us are controlled by the pull of social media or the most recent news bulletin. Your curiosity gets the best of you and next thing you know, you’ve spent 30 minutes reading the comments section of the most recent social media provocation (or whatever else it is). Time isn't an issue, really, as we consider prayer. Our use of it is. If we give into being controlled by these things, you can be assured that the world, the flesh, and the devil is going to keep more of the same coming.
Perhaps you’ve decided that prayer is key to your spiritual life, and you have no desire to disregard it, so you set a time and place to pray when disruption is less likely and you prioritize it in your schedule choosing to not be controlled by any number of external circumstances…but you get before the Lord and you don’t know entirely what to say. You pray well enough; you thank the Lord, you ask of the Lord as you intercede for others, but it all sounds the same and frankly, it gets a bit boring and becomes drudgery rather than fresh and lively and invigorating.
TWO TOOLS THAT MAY PROVE HELPFUL IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST HINDRANCES TO PRAYER
- PRAYING THE BIBLE: Pick up the free book at the back of the church entitled, “Praying the Bible,” by Donald Whitney. It's a short book with specific helps to direct your times of prayer throughout your life. If you didn't pick it up today, it will be located at the back of the church for you to take for free.
- ECHO PRAYER APP: Two years ago, some of us began using an app to help us pray individually. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) you to THIS APP that is for both iOS and Android and can be used to organize your prayer times, give needed reminders, etc... There are also opportunities for us to share prayer requests as a church family.
This app doesn't take the place of our Church Center Intercessory Prayer group that sends out notices for immediate prayer needs, but it is so much more, as you can see HERE.
SONG FOR ENCOURAGEMENT
This hymn was written as a testament to a difficult time in John Newton's life. He and his friend William Cowper (mentioned in the sermon today) had embarked on a project that was to become the Olney Hymns Collection, but not long into the project, Cowper "went insane." (Listen to a biography of Cowper here.)
Newton wrote that it seemed as though God was going out of his way to make life difficult for him then realized that even through adversity, God continues to work.
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