Sermon 05/03/20: Praying In Place (Eastertide III) (with transcript)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 5/03/20. If illness or travel prevented you from joining us for worship Sunday, or if you would like to experience the worship again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Our call to worship is to pray the Wesley Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

HYMN I Need Thee Every Hour by Fernando Ortega

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer. (Current prayer lists are on this blog, the prayer chain and on the church Facebook page.)

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Michael W Smith – (This Is The Air I) Breathe w/lyrics
(One of my favorite songs about the experience of prayer – Pastor Dave)


MESSAGE: Praying In Place: My Prayer Lists
Pastor David O. Kueker
Series: Praying In Place: My Prayer Lists
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audio Sermon slides as a PDF file.

HYMN Precious Lord Take My Hand / Just A Closer Walk With Thee – Selah (lyrics)

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT ————————————————————-

Good morning, friends. We are now worshiping away from the church building. As we talked about last week, God is now being worshiped in a new church in every home. A worship service that you lead in your home. Last week we talked about the various steps that are a part of worship at home. The first one is to come to your place and to arrive on time because worship happens in a place and time.

This past week, I’ve been putting different contemporary Christian songs, the 40 most popular songs on Facebook, so that you can be aware of the most popular music being sung in churches around the United States. And I’ve asked you to let music bless your heart. Music is always a part of worship because music touches our feelings.

And when we’re in our place and when worship is happening, then we next need to learn how to “pray in place” as we “shelter in place.” How do we pray in the church that meets in our home?

I like to introduce you to Rosalind Rinker, who wrote a very famous book called Conversational Prayer in 1959. And she talked about an experience of praying at the seminary where she attended, and it goes like this:

“We were all together on our knees in the same room. Each with love for the other and each with a common purpose. But I began to realize that we were each making a little speech to the Lord when our turn came.

They were in a prayer meeting. They were taking turns praying for each other. What Rosalind Rinker realized was that rather than simply praying from her heart, she was as she put it, making a little speech to the Lord.

She goes on to say, “I know we were supposed to pray silently with the one who was praying out loud, but when we all covered the same ground, well, I found that I was trying to think how I could start my prayer with more colorful words. How I could put more action into my prayer. How I could make it sound more spiritual, and how I could take hold of the promises with more faith than the others. I wanted to word my prayer differently from the persons who had prayed before me, and make it sound more important and interesting.”

That’s the problem with prayers in most church buildings on Sunday morning; they sound scripted, they sound like a performance. They’re meant to be colorful, and active, and full of turns of phrase that grab our attention. They are like little speeches to God, but in the church in your home, God doesn’t need someone to make speeches to him. Sometimes the prayers that are prayed in a church building are little speeches for the audience and really aren’t meant to be communication with God at all. But in the church, in your home, the prayer is supposed to be communication between you and God.

As Rosalind Rinker says, instead of each of us making a prayer speech to him, let’s talk things over with him back and forth, including him in it as we do when we have a conversation.

I’ll tell you a little secret. I never ever, ever write out the prayers I pray on a Sunday morning. I never plan them out in advance. I never take time even to think about what needs to be prayed about, because I don’t ever want to “make a little speech to God” as if God needs a little speech from me. I always simply want to speak from my heart to God who is already listening and caring about me.

Well, if we don’t make little speeches, how do we pray? Rosalind Rinker suggests that our prayers should be more like conversations with God.

And I had the privilege when I was 17 years old to actually attend a workshop that she led in conversational prayer at a very large Southern Baptist church in Champaign, Illinois, where I was a high school student. And that day she taught us that there were four basic prayers. And so when you have your conversation with God, I’m going to assume that in one form or another, in your own words, you will pray these four basic prayers.

The first basic prayer is this, Jesus is here.
Matthew 22:37 says, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And what that means is that the love you have for God, if it’s from the heart, is going to be emotional. And the love you have for God, if it’s with all your soul, is going to be honest and clear. And the love you have for God, if it’s with all your mind, is going to involve thinking and thinking things through.
One of the things we understand when we realize that Jesus is here is that we see what God is doing. Everything of great beauty tells us that Jesus is here. It’s almost like the footprints of God. We can see that he’s prepared this thing of beauty for us to appreciate. It might be a field of flowers. It might be a sunset or a sunrise. It might be anything else that just gives us a deep sense of beauty, that the world is made as it should be made, and that we are under the loving care of a God who is here and with us now. Jesus is here. That’s the first prayer.

The second prayer is thank you, because when you see something beautiful, when you become aware that there’s a reason, that there’s evidence that God loves us, that God is kind and good and caring, don’t you just want to say thank you?

A beautiful meal is on the table. Don’t you just want to say thank you? If we truly love God with all of our heart, it’s emotional, with all of our soul, with an honesty that comes from the depths of who we are, if we really love God with all of our mind such that we see clearly and understand the world around us, we’re going to be saying thank you again and again and again.

As it says in Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

And we’re going to be able to when we see everything around us clearly, with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds. So when we pray these two prayers, Jesus is here, and thank you, we’re expressing our love for God.

There’s two other basic prayers. The third one is, “Help me, Lord.” This was very difficult in the workshop. “Help me, Lord,” was something that people found a great difficulty praying.

Here’s the odd thing, if you’re in a circle with 12 other people, 12 other adults, in this case me as a 17-year-old high school student and 11 other adult women, highly educated, very intelligent, professionally dressed, in a workshop with over 300 other women, the one thing that would embarrass them to no end was to pray for something where they needed help.

They were willing to pray out loud all day long for somebody else, but all of a sudden, it became real. All of a sudden, it was deeply vulnerable for them to say, “Help me, Lord, with this problem I’m having.”

Jesus often gave instructions to people with regard to their healing. To one, he would say, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” To another, he would say, “Go to the priest and give the priest evidence that you’ve been healed.” And they would discover, as they were on the way, the healing would happen. As they were on the way to do what Jesus told them to do, what they had prayed for came to pass.

Brothers and sisters, I’m mostly fearful. If Jesus Christ looked you or I in the eye and said, “You’re going to be healed, but the first thing you need to do is go ask 12 other people to pray for you. Tell them all about your problem and let them pray for you, and you will be healed” … I’m not sure that many of us would have the bravery to speak honestly about the sort of prayer that we need.

The second half of the great commandment, Matthew 22:39 says this: And a second (a second commandment) is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But all too often, we hide our deepest, most honest needs from other people. Sometimes, we’re more willing to speak of them to strangers than the people we’re closest to.

But if we are going to love our neighbor as ourself, if we’re actually going to love ourselves, when it’s time for us to have a conversational prayer, we’re going to be honest with God and bare our hearts, open up or souls, and tell the truth about where we need help. Help me, Lord. And then people around us begin to pray in agreement with our prayer. And there’s a verse that talks about how if we agree, that our prayers will be answered: Matthew 18:19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Love yourself; ask for what you need in prayer.

The fourth prayer goes along with the same commandment. It’s about loving your neighbor in a balanced way with yourself. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And with this prayer, we get onto comfortable territory because we’re not exposing our deepest needs, but we are exposing our compassion and our caring. This prayer is, “Help my brother, Lord, with,” or maybe it’s “Help my sister, Lord, with what she’s struggling with.” In the picture in the slides, there is a group of young people in a circle. They’ve gathered on a cold wintery day in the big city, and they’re going to be giving out warm clothing to people living on the streets.

But before they begin this task, they make a circle, they join hands, and they pray for their neighbors whom they’re about to help. That’s the strangest thing about this pandemic. You and I can’t stand next to our neighbors. We’re not supposed to walk up to our neighbors. We’re not supposed to interact with our neighbors because we don’t want to give our neighbors the coronavirus. We don’t want to give them the burden of knowing that we became infected because of them. And so, we’ve created an artificial separation for an artificial period of time toward many of the things that we would do that would show that we loved someone else, that we loved our neighbor.

We’re not allowed to do these acts of kindness in this brief period of time. But the one thing we are allowed to do for our neighbor, still, is to pray for them. And bring their concerns, their broken hearts, their difficulties, before the Lord Jesus Christ. We can still pray for our neighbor. And so, when you pray in place, in the church, in your home, whether you’re praying by yourself or as a part of your whole family praying, please keep these four basic prayers in mind, “Jesus is here. Thank you, Lord. Help me, Lord. Help my brother, help my sister, Lord.”

Those are the prayers that we pray when we pray in place. Let’s take a minute to review. We’re talking about spiritual disciplines which happen when we worship in the home. And there’s a list of them on the screen. You can count them down on your fingertips if you wish. The first one is to show up in our places at the proper time. You have a place to worship and a time to worship. And what makes it worship is that when we get there, we renew our commitment to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Later on, we’re going to talk about the spiritual discipline of being still. We’re going to talk about the way the Bible guides us.

But the thing that happens, underlying every activity in our worship, is that we are praying. And it’s the same thing when we pray in place. It’s the same thing when we pray in our homes.

And one other spiritual discipline is that we keep a journal as we pray.

But your chair time, your time to worship in your own home fills you up spiritually, and equips you for everything that lies ahead.

There’s a form of prayer called listening prayer. And, in fact, Ralph Neighbour likes to call prayer “going into the listening room”. We’re willing to tell God what we think. We’re willing to tell God about our ideas. But sometimes we just need to sit with God and listen. What makes it a conversation is that, in between the things that we say, there’s just a little bit of quiet and a little bit of listening time for God to get a word in edgewise.

You might experiment with this some time by just setting a timer. Not a kitchen timer which will click, but something which is silent. Set it for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15, 20, and just sit with God and listen.

And I can predict what will happen very, very clearly. You’ll remember something important. And you see, that’s why you have a prayer journal. Your prayer journal is open. You’ve got a pen or a pencil with you. You pick it up and you write down that important thing.

Maybe it’s not that important. You need to remember to buy some dog food. But it might be something that you need to do later that day and God will use this time and the silence to remind you. And then you go back to listening to God. Maybe, again, there’ll be some silence and perhaps you’ll come close to what we mean by being still. But I guarantee you, as you spend this time listening, whether it’s just a tiny fraction or perhaps even half the time or most of the time … as you listen to God, things will come to mind that you will want to remember.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I made a mental note and lost it”? Well, as you listen to God, if there’s something you want to remember, take the time to write it down. You can type it. You could dictate it. But most people agree the pen moving across blank white paper is the most likely to not interrupt our prayer. Not interrupt our listening time. God is patient. There’s plenty of time to write things out by hand. But write down what you want to remember.

Write down what you believe that God wants you to remember, and keep track of your prayers because you can come back to your journal tomorrow and look what you wrote yesterday, and pray for it again. If a person is ill and they’re still ill tomorrow, you can pray for them again. But as God answers your prayers, write down what you want to remember God saying to you.

And one of the things, of course, that you’ll want to write down is your prayer list. I’ve had a lot of fun talking about the reality that you and I live in four neighborhoods. And, in fact, at times we’ve talked about prayer walking and about how we can literally walk through these neighborhoods praying for the people who live in them.

But prayer walking right now doesn’t happen with actual footsteps. We no longer walk down the street and have conversations with people who are working in their yards, but we can still prayer walk spiritually through our neighborhoods. While I sit in my prayer chair, my prayer walk in each of these neighborhoods happens in my imagination.

I came across some interesting statistics today. I asked the question. How many people in the United States of America are not connected to the internet? And interestingly enough, that has actually been studied. The honest answer is that 10% of people in America are not connected to the internet. The internet has become normal for 90% of the people who live in our country. This encourages me because it means I can get on Facebook, and I can talk to my neighbors. I can get on Facebook and learn what somebody who lives 60 miles away is having for supper or watching on television. 90% of people are able to connect with each other, even when they’re quarantined, by interacting on Facebook.

Further beyond that same statistic though, I learned, was that 27% of people age 65 and over are not connected to the internet. That’s a lot of older people. Now, 73% of us are – I’m one of the 73%. But those older neighbors – if I’m going to have a relationship with them – I may have to do a little more than just be on the internet because that’s not how they’re connected. I bet we’re going to need to use the phone to stay in contact with those neighbors.

Well, the first neighborhood that we walk around in is the neighborhood of our family. And I have a picture here. It was actually taken a couple of years ago of my son in Austin, Texas, and his wife, and we’re sitting in Chevy’s in the Hubcap room. You can see those up on the ceiling there, and we’re enjoying some of the finest Tex-Mex food in the United States. You want to stay connected with your family.

Now here’s the ironic thing. Saturday afternoon I was putting a picture of a telephone on the slide because that’s the way we keep in contact. When we can’t actually physically visit, we call people on the phone, or like this picture of a marine, you visit with your family through Skype or Google Hangouts or one of these ways to where you see them through the internet on a screen.

And just as I was putting this picture in place, my phone rang and it was my son John. And his wife was out doing some things, so he was home with the kids and the girls were playing in the backyard. And then all of a sudden he says, “Hey, dad. Why don’t we do one of those camera calls?” And the software he uses is Google Hangouts. So, literally, a few seconds later, I was looking into the eyes of my granddaughter Demali and she was explaining to me about how they were fishing in the backyard. (What they were actually doing is learning how to cast.) And it was so amazing because no matter what she did, she always held the phone at the wrong angle. But there she is with the sky behind her. And after a little while, she let her sister, Lily, talk and I learned about how Lily just absolutely loves her sunglasses. We have some amazing ways to stay in touch with family and with people that we love even if they are 12 hours of driving away in Austin, Texas.

We really ought to pick up the phone and call – when we get the urge. I have a list of people in my family and when I pray or walk through the family neighborhood, I run my eyes down that list and I pray for each person, and if there’s a need for prayer I make a note of it so I can keep praying until God answers that prayer.

The second neighborhood that we’re involved in is one that’s a little bit more local. It’s the neighborhood of the people with whom we share common interests. That might be a particular ball team. It might be a hobby that we share. And so we get together with people and we talk to them and we interact with them and we do things with them. And you know something? People we know from the church fit in right here, too, because this is where we interact with our friends. The picture on the screen is a trip to Lambert’s. One of the nicest places in the world to have a pork steak, and I’m finishing one up there. But these are the people that we have fun with. They’re in our neighborhood. We need to pray for them. And I have a list of names and I run my eyes down through the names. And I pray for the people that are a part of my church neighborhood, a part of my friendship network. And I’ll lift them up, and sometimes when I’m listening to God, God will say to me, “You need to pick up the phone and call that person and find out how they are.”

It’s a good thing too. We need to stay connected even if we’re not allowed to be with each other face-to-face. And that might mean that we have to call someone on the phone. Now, 73% of the people might be there on Facebook. But it might be the friend that you most need to talk to is one that’s not connected in that way, but they probably have a phone!

The third neighborhood we have is what I call the servant neighborhood. It’s the place where we serve, where we work and volunteer. There are people we know because we work together. The library’s been closed to the public during this time of isolation, but I remember my friends that work with me as volunteers in the library. Other friends get together to get the food pantry ready. I remember them in prayer, too. It might be as you run your eye down, the list of people who were in this part of your neighborhood that you’ll feel the need to connect with them, but I’m sure you will feel the need to pray for them.

The fourth neighborhood that we’re a part of is the actual physical neighborhood of the people who live around our house, our actual “dictionary definition” neighbors. I have a list of their names, too. It helps me remember the names of children that are hard for me to remember, but I run my eyes down these names, and I pray for them. And if I’m aware of a situation, I pray “Help my brother, Lord, help my sister.” I pray for them.

Whatever it means to be the church in the home, it means that we are “praying in place”. A worship service that isn’t prayerful is little more than a performance like a TV show, or a play.

But when we pray for people, our worship comes alive. So think about this for the church in your home. Have a daily prayer place and time, and show up there and recommit your life with your own prayer of commitment or one of the ones that I suggested last week. Take some time to be still and listen to God. Have that time of listening prayer. And write what you learn in your journal because you won’t remember it tomorrow. You’ll want to pray for the same people and the same concerns tomorrow, so it’s good to write it down. It will help you to pray specifically for your self and pray specifically for your neighbors and sometimes when we pray, we’ll have this deep sense within us that we need to be in contact.

When the quarantine is lifted and we’re in better days, we’ll be able to be in contact by bringing a plate of cookies or perhaps some soup to someone who’s ill. We’ll be able to chat with people when you walk down the street and they are in their yard. We’ll be able to invite friends to join us in a restaurant, but we’re limited right now.

But I guarantee you if you dial their phone number, you’ll find that they’ll answer the phone. I had a seminary professor once whose favorite topic was time management, and he had a very simple way of doing things. He would dial a phone number and if no one answered – this was in the days before answering machines – he would just lay the phone on the desk and let it ring, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, and he was fond of saying that sometimes when a person picked up the phone, they might be out of breath but it never failed. If he let it ring long enough, somebody would answer it. If you take the time to phone your neighbor, and tell them that you’re praying for them, I promise you, they’ll answer the phone.

Let’s imagine you in that conversation with your neighbor. The minute they pick up the phone, it’s a party line. Mathew 18:20, Jesus gave us a beautiful promise. He said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

The minute the other person answers, Jesus becomes a part of that conversation, to bless them and help them, and to guide them. So when you, as a Christian who’s praying, call that other person on the phone, the minute they answer, you have brought Jesus into their presence. And so it may yet be that our prayers would connect us throughout all of our neighborhoods.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, help us to show up at the right place and time, with an open and a caring heart so that we can engage in true worship, which is prayer with you. Help us to pray and to understand as we pray, that Jesus is here, that there are so many reasons to be thankful, that we have needs and should ask others to pray for us, that others have needs and it’s a great blessing for us to pray for them. And the greatest blessing is that, as we are prompted by you to reach out and be in contact, you join in every conversation we have with the neighbor that we’re praying for. And so Lord, we pray that you bless us and bless all the people in our neighborhoods that you have given to us as friends and people to care for. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

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