Sermon 08/30/20: Tiny Prayers (Pentecost XIII)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 08/30/20. 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: 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.

HYMN The Statler Brothers – Official Video for ‘Til the Storm Passes By [Live]’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6JA6LPgNN0

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

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 Lynda Randle – His Eye Is On the Sparrow [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMtoYD4NhkE

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Tiny Prayers 
Text: Mat 22:35-40, Luke 16:10, 1 Timothy 2:1-6
Series: Tiny Habits for Growing Christians
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Mat 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” 

Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.

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HYMN Bill & Gloria Gaither – Down to the River to Pray [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7wcNcmyoXE

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
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

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

TRANSCRIPT

Sixty years ago this coming February, 60 years ago in the stadium at Florida University, Billy Graham conducted a very powerful revival. This fall in many stadiums across the country, there will be no football season. The stadiums will be empty. We are living in a different time, and we’re not able to do what we have always done before as universities, as a nation, as churches.

How do we live our faith? How do we practice our faith in this new day? Well, friends, when you can’t go that way, take a look, God may let you go this other way. When God won’t let you go over, maybe you’ll find that the way is open for you to go under. Let’s let God find us a way, and let’s ask the question, “How can we practice our faith in these days?”

Well, the main difference I see is the great big things that we’ve always done as a church to bring everybody together for worship, to bring everybody together for a potluck, to bring everybody together for a fundraiser, to bring everybody together for a party, to bring everybody together for a Bible study. Maybe we can’t do those things like we used to do them, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t study the Bible, that doesn’t mean that you can’t worship, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do what Christians do. You just may need to do it in a tiny way these days.

But the Bible is accustomed to tiny ways. Luke Chapter 16:10, Jesus says it very plainly, “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. And he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” Little things, done for God, count. And God sees them. And little things done by little people begin to have a very major effect. If we can’t do big things in the church today, we may need to adjust to do little things.

Now, I know … if you’d been there to hear Billy Graham preach, if you’d been there to hear the choir directed by Cliff Barrows to sing, a choir of hundreds of voices, if you’d been there to hear George Beverly Shea sing, you would really be able to worship. It’s very easy for us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength when we’re there in the cathedral with a crowd of our friends and everything is so beautiful.

But you know something? You can love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength when you’re here, standing in line at a grocery store checkout. And I’ve recommended to you my tiny habit, which I’m trying to train myself to do. I find that I’m doing it in my heart, but it’s hard for me to do it literally. And that’s when I come into a new place, I say, “Jesus is Lord.” Now, if you come into the grocery store line, maybe you don’t want to say that really loud because what matters is not how loud you say it. But that you say it. Even if you say it only in your heart. But to come to that grocery store line and say, “Jesus is Lord over this time and this place.”

Now, why do I pick a grocery store line? Friends, if you’re like me, you get frustrated when the line doesn’t move. And when you and I are frustrated, that’s when we most need to declare, “Jesus is Lord here,” even if I’m frustrated with that guy in front of me. Have you ever found yourself in a grocery store line looking at what other people are buying and just kind of shaking your head? Apparently that guy needs not one but two kinds of beer. Have you ever found yourself just kind of shaking your head and feeling just a little critical of someone else, just maybe a tiny little bit judgmental?

In the old days when people had food stamps, they actually had to pull something out of their pocket and pay with pieces of paper. And everyone in line could see that they were on welfare. I have to tell you the truth. When I would see that happening with the person in front of me, I’d look over what they were buying, and I would say to myself, “Honey, you should buy the cheap macaroni and cheese.” I would judge what they were buying. Jesus was not the Lord over me that day in that place. But I need to learn how to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. Not just in the church building. But when I’m out there in the world. Jesus is Lord.

And the second part in that is for me to realize that I can pray in this place in this grocery line just as effectively and just as powerfully and just as meaningfully as I can pray when I’m in the church sanctuary. Might be a little more distracting, but every distraction is probably something or someone that needs my prayers.

Missionary to China, Rosalind Rinker, taught people how to pray out loud. We had a sermon series on that once. I’m sure you remember every single word I said several years ago! Well, it’s possible.

But what she taught in prayer is four simple, basic phrases. And the first one was this, “We begin to pray when we realize Jesus is here.” And that grocery line, any place else you might find yourself, Jesus is here. And to be honest, that’s the same thing as we’re praying when we say, “Jesus is Lord.” Jesus is Lord. Jesus is here. Can you pray here? Not as easily, but– yes, you can.

Jesus is here, and we are able to pray, and we’re able to look around and ask ourselves, “Well, Jesus is here. Who else is here?” Because you see, every single person you see from the guy buying, not one but two kinds of beer– guess what? He’s your neighbor. In the grocery line– yeah, but he’s your neighbor. And the cashier, is she having a good day? Can you tell? The person at customer service, way in the back, I don’t know if you can see your face. She’s smiling. She’s either having a great day or really good at faking it. But these people are your neighbors. And God has instructions for us about our neighbors. The problem is that we are so often totally focused on ourselves that we don’t notice our neighbors, but we can pray here.
There’s the book by Rosalind Rinker– that’s a long quote. You’ll be able to look at it and read it on the slides, but she talks about how this whole system of learning how to pray came about. Today, we’re going to remind ourselves of two parts of that. The first one is that Jesus is here. And when we realize that Jesus is here, we can love him and appreciate what he’s doing and be thankful for what God is doing, right there, in the grocery store line or wherever else we might be. Jesus is here, but other people are also here. And Rosalind Rinker says we need to get used to this prayer, “Help me, Lord,” because you’re supposed to love your neighbor, but you’re supposed to love your neighbor as yourself. And when you notice your neighbor, you use one of her other phrases, “Help my brother. Help my sister, whoever they might be.” But those are the two parts. Jesus is here. “Thank you, Lord. My neighbor’s here. Lord help my neighbor. Help my neighbor.”
In 1 Timothy 2:1 you find these words– first of all, Paul says to Timothy, “I urge that supplications, pleading, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Not just the people we like, not just the people we admire, but all people who need prayer. We can say these tiny prayers, and when God answers those tiny prayers, there will be major blessings that will come to pass. But Paul doesn’t ask us to be choosy. Paul doesn’t ask us to discriminate. Paul says, “Pray for all people.”

“This is good,” he says in verse 3, “And it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Why? Take a look at verse 4. “Our Savior desires all people to be saved. Our Savior desires for all people to come to the knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ.

So you and I, wherever we are, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is here and I can pray tiny prayers that will bless tiny people whom God wants to come to him. So you can pray here. Lord, help my neighbor. Help him to buy better groceries. Help him, Lord, to not root for the wrong baseball team. Help him, Lord, with all his problems and Lord, help me with all of mine. You can pray here if you let yourself notice the people around you. Because all too often it’s very clear, they’re not having a good day. And there’s something there that you can pray for. It may just be a tiny prayer. The tiny prayers make big differences. You can pray here. You see, that grocery store line, that’s part of your neighborhood.

Here’s a list of the other neighborhoods we’re a part of. There is a neighborhood of your family and friends. It’s a neighborhood. But you know what makes it a neighborhood? There are neighbors living in it. And when they’re hurting, please pray for them. When everything’s going well, please give thanks.
You also see people where you have common interests. You like to quilt. That means that you have neighbors that quilt with you. Pray for those neighbors. Every place you have a hobby and interest unless it’s something that you do all by yourself. If it brings you into connection with other people, pray for them.

There was a day a couple of years ago, we went prayer walking and people went here and there through town and they reported back great and amazing blessings. When they prayed for people they encountered just going on a walk. You see, they’re going on a walk through their neighborhood. You know if you don’t even get out of the house but you’re in that place where you say your prayers in the morning, you can mentally go walking in these four neighborhoods. You can mentally look down the list of your family and friends, you can think of the people you know through activities. You can pray for people in those neighborhoods without even leaving your home.

There are the neighbors that you have from where you work, or if you’re retired, where you used to work, or where you volunteer. They need your prayers too. They’re your neighbors.

It’s so silly, we forget about this. There are actually the people that live in the real-life physical neighborhood up and down the street. If you live in a big town, like in a suburb of St. Louis, like I did for nine years, it’s very possible: you may not even know your neighbors’ names, because people don’t really feel safe in those bigger towns.

But it’s not the case in a little town or out in the country, you probably know your neighbors’ names. And given life the way it is you probably know the problems your neighbors are dealing with. You can pray there and your tiny prayers can make a big difference because they unleash the power of God to work in the lives of your neighbors and in your life.

One of the things the pandemic I think is going to teach us, especially those who are pastors and church leaders and bishops and such, is we’re going to learn that we need to stop trying to fix the institutional church. To focus in a tiny world where we’re limited in what we can do is going to mean to shift from big things like what the church can do to little things like what each individual Christian can do. And especially if we can help each individual Christian begin to love their neighbor.

And where do we start with that? The simplest way to love your neighbor is to notice them and to begin to pray for them. But if we can’t fix the church, and if people become better Christians … we are going to live in a better world where God’s will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. You can pray for them. You can pray here because, all around you, there are people not getting along. It’s obvious these two in the picture are sisters. I find this hard to believe – that sisters are not always friendly to each other. I never had a sister. All I had were brothers and I knew that brothers tend to not always get along.
But if you look around you, you’re going to see obvious things where your prayers are needed. And if you’re in the line at the grocery store or wherever it might be, I strongly encourage you when you get home, when you’re praying, when you’re reading in your Bible make a little note in your notebook. Two sisters were obviously not getting along and I prayed for them. Because you know next week maybe you’ll see them. Maybe you’ll see that God has changed things. Maybe you’ll see that God has answered your prayer and it will encourage you to keep on praying little prayers because they make big differences in little people’s lives. You can pray here and not only that, you can keep on praying if you see them the next week and the next week and the next week because they’re still going to need God’s help. They’re still going to need your tiny prayers.

You’ve seen this slide before because I’ve recommended it to you now since 2014. There is a beautiful way to respond to a person who is whining and complaining and that’s to understand that their gripe, their complaint whether it’s said in a very sweet and kind voice or whether they’re very angry and bitter … for you to understand that their complaint, whatever it is, is a request for God’s help. That they’re complete. Whatever it is is an opportunity for you to be prayerful. So I have recommended these words to you. When somebody complains about anything, “My cat ran away,” here’s something you could do. Looked them right in the eye and say, “I go to a church that prays for people whose cat has run away. Will it be okay if we pray for you?”
Doesn’t matter how ridiculous the need is, something they’re feeling in their heart, we can offer to pray. But you know something, the very next conversation you have with that person it’s going to be all about whether God answered your prayer. It’s going to be about the Lord’s ability to answer prayer. It’s going to be about why it’s a good thing for people to pray for each other and from tiny prayers like this for an upset stomach, for a cold, for a cat that’s run away, for my daughter who’s ill and can’t go to work, whatever it might be open a door for God to work in that other person’s life.

Tiny prayers that you can pray can make a huge difference because when we pray out there and we can pray there, we see God’s work happen right before our eyes.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, the next time we’re tempted to be critical of the person in the grocery store line in front of us because we know what they should have bought instead of what was in their cart… The next time, Lord, we’re frustrated because the person we’re talking to wants to talk about their problems instead of talking about us… Help us to understand that their complaint is a request for prayer. And whether we say anything to them or not, we can say a tiny prayer to turn loose your love and your Holy Spirit to live and work in their life. And address their problem and help them find their way through it, and to solve whatever it might be that they struggle with. Help us, Lord, to see these opportunities around us to pray tiny prayers. 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 Road, 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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