Sermon for Sunday, 10/07/2018
Text: Psalm 119: 97-106; Luke 11:1-4
Theme: “Prayer and Scriptural Meditation”
Today, we continue our series, “The Disciple’s Path, “starting with the first two spiritual disciplines: Prayer and scriptural meditation. Imagine being in a committed relationship where you rarely talk and spend time with the one you claim to love. Such relationship runs the risk of being dysfunctional. It’s the same with our relationship with God.
Prayer is a means through which we maintain a healthy relationship with God. Prayer is simply talking and listening to God. Through prayer, we open ourselves and share our joys, fears, challenges with God and listen to Him.
Remember that the goal of our path as disciples is to love God with our whole being, and love others as ourselves. But it is difficult to love God in such way without being in constant communication with him. Jesus knew this very well. That is why he prayed to God His Father many times in scripture.
Our gospel text this morning is a response to the request of one of the disciples who had observed Jesus praying. He requested, “Lord, teach us how to pray as John taught his disciple. The response to Jesus to this unnamed disciple led to what we called the “Lord’s prayer,” but the lesson of this gospel passage goes beyond the significance of the Lord’s Prayer.
The fact that only one of the twelve disciples was interested in prayer tells us that prayer is a challenge to believers. According to a finding of Pew Research, 54 percent of Christians of mainline denominations like ours, seldom/never pray, and 23 percent of those who try to do so, don’t know how to pray. This is sad because our chances for spiritual growth on this path are slim if we are reluctant, or do not know how to communicate with the God we are to love unreservedly.
Like any human relationship, this affects our relationship with God. If we are to love God, we must make time to communicate with Him. We must develop interest and master the spiritual disciple of prayer. Prayer is an essential spiritual discipline for our spiritual growth. That is why John Wesley wrote, “You may as well expect a child to grow without food as a soul without private prayer.”
Paul instructs us to “pray with ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:7). The Greek word for “without ceasing” does not mean nonstop. It means constantly recurring. Prayer should be a daily habit for us. It is not healthy to be a prayerless Christian.
Contrary to what many Christians think, prayer is not just lifting up our shopping list of requests and asking God to do something about them. In fact, asking God to do something for us is just one of the elements of prayer. So, let’s look at the various elements of prayer by considering the acronym ACTS.
- Adoration, C-Confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-Supplication
Adoration: Prayer does not begin with who we are or what we want from God, but who God is and what He wants for us. In adoration, we remind ourselves of who God is. We acknowledge God’s character This is where we begin our prayer.
Confession: Author J. H. Harnish, writes, “confession is the way we face the hard truth of our brokenness and clear the deck of all the stuff that clutters our souls and gets into the way of a vibrant relationship with God.” Unconfessed sin hinders our prayer. Psalm says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Proverbs 28: 13 adds, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whosoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”
Thanksgiving: This is our joyful response to the way God is at work in our lives and the world around us. So, in prayer we just don’t ask, but we thank God for what He’s already doing. Ps. 107, says, “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
Supplication: This is when we ask God humbly and earnestly. We draw the very real concerns of our lives and our world into the presence of God and invite God to be at work in them through us. Another name for supplication is intercession. It is bringing the needs of others before God.
Let’s look at these various elements in the Lord’s Prayer.
The next spiritual discipline that is closely linked to prayer is reading and meditation on the Scriptures. John Wesley referred to himself as a “man of one Book,” and he challenged us, his followers to do the same. Therefore, the Bible is the primary source of our teachings and beliefs in the UMC.
When it comes to the purpose of scripture, Paul teaches that: “The Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our mistakes and correcting them, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are shaped for the tasks God has for us. (2nd Timothy 3:16-17; Message Bible).
In the Psalm read today, the author tells how he loved and meditate upon God’s Word. He stressed that the scripture as a means of guidance, kept from evil path by being a lamp to onto his feet.
Psalm 1 describes the one who meditates on God’s Word as a tree planted by the streams of waters, which yields fruits in all seasons, and his leaves never go dry, because he is nourished.
We live in a very busy world today which tells us that slowing down to spend time with God is not necessary. But we must resist such temptation, because prayer and scripture are the nonnegotiable essentials of our faith journey as disciples. Without them, we go out of steam along our path. They are the practices intended to transform our lives to become faithful disciples who would love God unreservedly and love those around us. s
But this does not happen overnight. It takes intentional practices and discipline. That’s why they are called Spiritual Disciples. Our spiritual growth and maturity doesn’t not necessarily match our age, or length of years of church membership. We must take the necessary steps to grow. And the good news is, you don’t have to do this alone. The ministries of the church are intended to help you on your path. There are resources as well as small groups available to help you grow. Take advantage of them.
May God our creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer help us on our journey.
God bless you.