Sermon July 16, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amos McCarthy

Title: “A Call to Pray”

Text: Matthew 6:5-7.  5.And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  7. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

President Ronald Reagan on May 7, 1982, proposed to the Congress of the United States of America, a constitutional amendment to allow organized prayer in public schools.  According to a New York Times article published May 18, 1982, President Reagan believed the amendment would “restored the simple freedom of our citizens to offer prayers in public schools and institutions.”  The president asserted “that public expression through prayer is an integral part of the American heritage. “  What is most beautiful about President Reagan’s statement was that it would be of immense benefit for children of the United States to begin each day of school with prayer.  Prayer is the most fascinating thing a person can ever carry out.  Prayer is a sacred ordinance.  It is sacred because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spend a life full of prayer, setting Himself apart to pray.  Jesus Christ undertook a customary life of prayer.  Throughout the Gospel, especially the book of Luke, the prayer life of Jesus Christ is made evident.  In choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus Prayed.  During the transfiguration, Jesus Prayed.  When the disciples slept, Jesus went to pray.  Even on His dying cross, Jesus Prayed. Jesus Christ thread the sands of time as both man and God.  He had all attributes of God.  In his humanity he experienced the harsh realities of this world.  But he prayed in time of crisis(Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, John 18:2). Jesus went to pray every time He needed to pray.  If Jesus Christ, the anointed One of God engaged in many prayer rituals, don’t you think it is a divine command to pray?

The passage under consideration highlights the importance of prayer in Jewish culture.  Investigation of Jewish liturgy will lead to findings of prayer formula for meal time, on seeing the new moon, the use of new furniture, and the intent of prayer on any happenings in life.  But the down side of such prayer ritual can lead one to lose focus as regards the one who calls us to pray, God.  So Christ admonishes His followers to be cognizant of who our prayer should be about and directed to.  Prayer should be directed to God.  The more one directs one’s prayer to God, the more confidence one has in God. The early church was a praying church. Acts 4:24 tells us that after the church prayed, the place was shaken where they had come together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they utter the word of God with boldness. If believers are to trust God and lean not on their own understanding, then believers have to increase their prayer lives.  Since prayer is the key to changing our circumstances and a divine command from God, lets us briefly reflect on the theme: “A Call to Pray.”

Prayer Is A Call

In verse 5 of Matthew 6, it says, “And when you pray,…  One would see in this first part of the verse that Jesus Christ is mandating the disciples to pray.  He is not suggesting that they pray.  He did not say if you pray.  From this passage, it can be agree that prayer is a call that each person should answer because Jesus Christ mandates us to pray.  A call a divine summons by God for a person to perform a particular job.  The task here is prayer.  What is Prayer?  The Merriam Collegiate dictionary defines prayer as an address or petition to God in words or thought; an earnest request or wish.  Prayer can take the form of a supplication(the Greek word indicate reverence before the sovereignty), an intercession(usually used when trying to obtain something for someone) or thanksgiving.  Prayer is a communication between two entities.  You speak to God and God speaks to you.  David the king of Israel exemplified this kind of communication in Psalms 86:1, “Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy.”  David here is communicating with God.  Some of us will raise the interrogative, should one always ask God for everything?

God is all powerful!  He can solve all of our problems without us asking.  God empowers every believer to ask for anything a believer wants from God, and He God will give it to the believer.  Matthew 7 tells us that anything a person asked, the person will receive.  But God tells us that we should pray at all times.  God wants us to pray because it is a calling to serve and obey Him. (Luke 2:36-38) We pray because God command us to pray. (Philippians 4:6-7) God has summon every believer to pray.  It is a divine summon by God that believers pray in season and out of season, that we put on the whole armor of God, which is our prayer armor.  General Douglas MacArthur lifts the importance of prayer.  He acknowledged the fact that he was a soldier.  He pointed out that sometimes a soldier kills to build or rebuild.  But also acknowledged that he was more proud to be a father because a father always builds.  And if his sons will remember him as a father, they should remember him by repeating the Lord’s Prayer.  General MacArthur knew the importance of prayer. The command to pray comes from our heavenly father, God.  But the devil always tries to hinder this divine summon by getting believers to sin.   

 

Sin is a Hindrance to Prayer

God is a Holy God.  He is Elohim Kedoshim, meaning the Holy God. (Joshua 24:19)  Every time a believer deals with God, it is important to approach God remembering that God is Holy and does not take pleasure in anything sinful.  God commands us to pray and therefore wants us to set aside the sins that easily hinders us.  In Hebrew 12: 1 and 2, the writer urges everyone “to set aside the sin that easily beset us, running with endurance the race, looking unto Jesus the Author and finisher of our faith.”  In Psalms 66:18, the Psalmist points out, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Many known sins in a believer’s life can be hindrances to prayer.  A bitter spirit or unforgiven spirit (Ephesians 4:32), estranged relationship between a man and his wife (1 Peter 3:7), unbelief and doubts (James 1:6-7), and refusal to hear the Word of God (Proverb 28:9), are few among many things that hinder a man’s prayer life.  It would be tragic if any of these sins hinders our prayer.  We should do everything to stay away from the things that will destroyed our prayer life.

In 2 Chronicle 7:13-22, God appeared to Solomon and reminded him that He God would answer their prayers if they repent of their sins and pray.  In His appearance to Solomon, He reminds him that He is God. He shuts the heaven and stop the rain.  He God can restore it.  God says, “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)    We live in a time when less people pray, less people go to church, and less people practice their faith.  Barna, a research group conducted a survey in September of 2016, taking into consideration the affiliation, attendance and practice  of Christians, to check on the state of the church.  In this data collection, out of 73% of Americans who profess to be Christians, only 41% were practicing their faith.  My father’s children, we live in a time of great skepticism and cynicism towards the church.  If the time has never been, this is a time for us to pray, and to pray harder than never before.  All these prayer hindrances can be taken care of, if a believer comes to God and pray hard.  Church, God is immutable.  He is the same God yesterday, He is the same God today.  And He will be the same God forever.  If we trust Him, our prayer life can be effective.

 

The Power of Prayers

In James 5:16, the Scripture reminds us that if believers confess their sins to each other, and pray for one another, they will be healed.  This is because “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This verse reminds us that there is power in prayer.  God’s answer to our prayer may not always be immediately or God’s answer might not be what we asked for, but it is always going to be in the best interest of any one who offers prayers.  The power of prayer enables the believer to conquer enemies (Psalms 6:9-10).  It enables believers defeat demons (Mark 9:29).  Prayer has heal wounds and given men wisdom(James 1:5).  In the Guide Post, the story is told of a courageous farmer named Zach from Saline County, Kansas.  I read that the time for farmers to reap their crops is a busy time for farmers.  All that matters for the farmers is getting the crops in.  Zach says, ”Farming is not a just a  job, it’s a life, it’s  your blood and soul.  Farmers raise milo, corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.  Farmers also rebuild combines and harvest crops for other farmers.” Zach was injured in a farming incident in 2014.  At the hospital in Wichita, Kansas, Zach kidneys were failing.  His lungs were full of fluid.  Based on test results and the state of Zach’s health, the doctors had told his wife that as Zach lose his vital signs and his condition deteriorate, Zach would eventually died.  The small community of people prayed.  Everyone prayed for Zach.  Zach came out of comatose. Through prayers Zach is back with his community and involved in farming again and even operating a combine.  He is a father.  A wonderful person who testifies about the love others showed him through prayers.  

Church, there is power in prayers.  The word of God says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide yours hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Let us engage ourselves in a stead prayer life.  God bless you.