Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 29 "Connect to Christ: prayer"

Connect to Christ: prayer
RUMC August 29, 2010

1)      A tale is told about a small town that had historically been "dry," but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. Shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that "no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not."
2)      Do you believe in prayer?  
a)      Do you believe that you, a regular, humble, flesh and blood human being, limited as you are, finite as you are, sinful as you are?
b)      Do you believe that the almighty, all powerful, all knowing God hears or even cares about what you have to say? 
c)      And even more do you believe God acts on what you say to change things?

3)      There is a lot of discussion about the trouble in the church today.  There is a lot of talk about the demise of the church today.  There is a lot of talk about  burn out in the church today.  There are probably 12,000 books on how to revive the church.  There are 100 different theories and methods and systems to renew a congregation.  There are 3 easy steps, 7 easy steps and 10 easy steps to bringing life back to the church.  There are three different study committees just in the UMC about how to rescue the church from its numerical and financial decline.
Let me tell you in no uncertain words.  In my humble opinion, we do not need a study committee.  We do not need 7 easy steps.  We do not need a new program or a new gizmo, or a new version of the Bible.  We do not need better pastors.  We do not need more dedicated lay people.  We do not need fancier buildings, better bands or bigger screens.  We do not need more mailings, more denominational support, more conference staff people, and goodness knows we don’t three more denominational emphases to guide us.
Do you know what we need?  We need to be a praying people.
·         If we ever were one, we need to go back to being a people of prayer. 
·         If we never were one, we need to become a people of prayer.
I am not talking about blessings at meals and I am not talking about pastoral prayers- though those are a good start.  I am talking about living our lives punctuated throughout with prayer.  We are the body of Christ my friends and the body of Christ needs to eat, breathe, and sweat prayer.  I believe that, as Christians, prayer is the most intimate and most powerful resource at our disposal for connecting with Christ.  And I am pretty sure that every single one of us can live a more intimate, more powerful prayer life.

4)      Illustrations

a)      One of the greatest pray-ers  in all of history was Elijah.  He prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t for 3 ½ years.  Then he prayed that it would rain and it did.
Undoubtedly, my favorite Elijah prayer story is found in the 18th chapter of I Kings.
The prophets of Israel had been slaughtered.  All except Elijah.  He meets the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel and presents them with a dare. He says, “Let the people get two bulls and prepare them as an offering.  You call down fire from baal, I’ll call down fire from my God and we’ll see whose God is really stronger.
He let the priests of Baal go first.  They prayed, they shouted, they danced, they prayed some more, they cut themselves they danced and shouted some more.  After 6 hours their bull kabob was still raw.  Not even a spark or a puff of smoke from Baal.

Then Elijah went to the altar of God and repaired it.  He placed the bull on it.  He dug a trench and poured a total of 12 large jars of water on the bull, the wood, the altar, and the ground around it.   He was just setting it up so God could show off!
Then he stood back and prayed quietly and fervently- please lord show that you are turning Israel’s heart back to you again.
Without hesitation the “fire of the Lord” came flashing down and consumed the bull, the wood, the water, the stones and the dirt around it! 
Whoosh and it was gone.  And there stood the priests of baal still breathless and bleeding.

Elijah’s prayer at mount Carmel, of course, did not come out of the blue.  He lived an active intimate prayer life with God. 

b)      Psalm 63 is one of the most intimate descriptions of prayer I have ever seen.  It reads
1 God—you're my God! I can't get enough of you!
   I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
      traveling across dry and weary deserts.

 2-4 So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
      drinking in your strength and glory.
   In your generous love I am really living at last!
      My lips brim praises like fountains.
   I bless you every time I take a breath;
      My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

 5-8 I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;
      I smack my lips. It's time to shout praises!
   If I'm sleepless at midnight,
      I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
   Because you've always stood up for me,
      I'm free to run and play.
   I hold on to you for dear life,
      and you hold me steady as a post.

Isn’t that beautiful?   It is.  And do you know how often words are mentioned??  Exactly once.   It is not the words that make prayer, it is the relationship.
5)      For Christians, prayer [Gk: "proseuche"] is "communion with God". Through prayer we actually experience relationship with God. The quality of our prayer life then determines the quality of our relationship with God. Prayer is not simply saying words. It is not repeating formulas. God is looking for heartfelt relationship.

God craves for us to get past the polite small talk of prayer.  Don’t get me wrong, thanks and intercession have an important part  in our prayer life, but too many people get hung up on the polite small talk of  “please and thank you” and never get to the most intimate, most powerful part of prayer which is deep communion with God.  Too many people are too busy listening to their own words to spend any time listening to their hearts or God’s heart. It is not that we don’t believe in the importance of prayer, But many of us short change what prayer can be and miss out on the best part the most intimate part- the most powerful part.

6)     Dr. Helen Roseveare speaks of the power of prayer.  The missionary to Zaire, says  "A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded. 'Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won't feel so lonely.' That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, 'If God sent that, I'm sure He also sent a doll!' And she was right!
The power of prayer. . .  that box had been packed 5 months earlier by a women’s group in the united States.  5 months before that baby was born God provided the hot water bottle that saved its life.  Months before she was orphaned, God provided comfort for the little girl. 
7)     I fully believe that is why LIGHT took off like it did last year.  Because we made the decision every step of the way in prayer.   What else could we do.  What else could happen if God’s people became pray-ers.
8)     What kind of power would be unleashed if every one of us was to become a praying person?  What kind of divine power would be released if each and every one of us in this church developed a more personal, more intimate prayer life and we became known as a praying church?  What if, just what if- God’s people really prayed?  ((Video))

No comments:

Post a Comment