Sermon 7/25/2021: Paul Prays For Us (Pentecost 08)

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/578942502

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/criTngVikmi

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: 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

HYMN Take Time to Be Holy
Take Time to Be Holy (Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WblkcQYxdp8

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer:
Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly,
day by day. Amen.

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 He Touched Me
Gaither Vocal Band – He Touched Me [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m–ptwd_iI

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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: Paul Prays For Us
Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
Series: The Gifts of the Comforter

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

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HYMN Standing On The Promises
Standing On The Promises, “Gospel Music Hymn Sing at First Baptist Atlanta”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLlJR61wKW0

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: 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.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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

TRANSCRIPT

Paul prays for us. The last six to eight weeks we’ve been talking about how we need to pray for each other, that we want to pray for other people, and that God will bring you close to people over whom God wants you to pray. You can look at the person on the other side of the park bench where you’re sitting in the crowd at the ballgame, and you’ll see people that God wants you to pray over so that they would be touched and made whole.

Who should we be praying for? Well, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications prayers, intercessions, and Thanksgivings be made for all men.” And when that word all men appears there, it refers in the Greek to all people.

Now, I checked yesterday and the population of the world is currently 7.9 billion people. How is it that we are going to fulfill the scripture and pray for all people? I’ll tell you what I think God has in mind. If you pray for the 10 or 12 people you talk to every week … maybe you’re really extroverted and maybe it’s 20 to 30 … but if you pray for all the people you interact with this week and the person sitting next to you on the pew prays for their 10 or 12 and the person sitting next to them prays for their 10 or 12, the prayers of the church will extend in a wave throughout the entire world.

But we have this very human tendency to pray for all people without thinking that God desires for us to pray for specific people. The commandment’s very simple: we’re supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you pray for yourself, you have somewhat of an obligation, a holy obligation to pray for your neighbor. And again, how did I define “neighbor”? It’s the people you come in contact with each week, the people within your circle of influence, the people who are a part of your social network.

And for the past six to eight weeks, we’ve been talking about how when you find yourself in the presence of one of those people, the Holy Spirit will communicate with you, and will speak to you about what needs to be prayed about. And we talked about the different ways that the Holy Spirit does that.

But sometimes we have to think and figure out in our own way what to pray for. And here’s what will help us do that. Rudyard Kipling wrote it as a poem.
“I keep six honest serving men.
They taught me all I knew.
Their names are what and why and when
And how and where and who.”

And while the Holy Spirit can tell you who and the Holy Spirit can tell you what, the Bible can also be a great way for God to tell us who to pray for and what to pray and of these six serving men, I think who – we’ve talked about that – and what are the most valuable, and the others, why and when and how and where, tend to fall into place when we pay attention to who we need to pray for and what we need to pray.

There’s a branch of therapy that’s called reality therapy. It’s really helpful when people are very, very confused because when you think about mental illness in the extreme or when you think about somebody just simply struggling with an emotional problem, a lot of times, that struggle comes about because things just aren’t clear. Life is all mixed up. Life is all crazy. How do we sort it out and understand it? And these questions can be helpful to us to understand what we need to do. And they can also be helpful to us to understand what we need to pray.

I have been dreading going to my doctor for months now because, during the whole coronavirus thing, my health began to decline. And the reason it began to decline is I stopped doing the good things that make my health better. And I knew there were going to be numbers, and the number I was most dreading is known as the A1C number. That’s the number that indicates the level of your blood sugar over three months’ time. You can’t beat it by being very careful the week before you see the doctor! And it also indicates that I have fallen short of what I need to do. And so in the midst of that confusion, I have to figure out, what do I do now? And what I’m sharing with you is, that also means once I figure out what to do, how am I to pray so that I would have God’s help? Let’s take a look at these four Reality Therapy questions because they may be helpful to you when you’re struggling with a decision.

The first question is this one, what do I want? Believe it or not, the greater the confusion, the harder it is for a person to clearly state what they want because they feel pulled in multiple different directions. They feel pulled because they want to please this person. They want to please that person. And they don’t have a clue about what it means to please themselves, nor do they understand what would please God. “What do I want?” is a good question to ask God in prayer … to see Thee more clearly, in other words.

Now, once you figure out what you want, when your doctor gives you a number, it’s pretty clear the number that the doctor wants it to be, then you have to look at what you’re doing. What do I want refers to the future that we’re praying for, but what am I doing refers to what is happening right here and now.

You would not believe how many people are in denial. You would not believe how many people lie to themselves about what’s happening now. If you write down what you think you ate one week, and the next week, you write down what you actually ate, you’ll find there’s quite a discrepancy. If you write down how much you think you watch television and then the next week, you write down what you watched, quite often there’s quite a discrepancy, and that applies to all sorts of things, because when we think we know what we’re doing, quite often that reflects wishful thinking. Now, wishful thinking – that’s what we want – it’s in the future. But if you’re lost and you want to find your way to where you need to be, you need to figure out where you are. And when people do this, for example, with food, they discover there are all kinds of little things that go into their mouth that they just didn’t remember or realize. Please understand, I am no better than anyone else! But if you know what you’re doing now, you can pray to God, and God can use that for repentance because there will be– if you know what you’re doing now, some things you’ll want to do them differently. If you know what you’re doing now, that’s good, you want to keep doing that. You need a clear understanding of what you’re doing now.

And then you need to have the courage to ask yourself the third question. If I had asked myself this question much earlier in the year, I would have gone to the doctor much sooner! This may be the toughest question for any of us to answer. Is what I am doing now going to lead to what I want in the future? And it’s then that we start to see how to adjust the mix, how to tune up the engine of our life for the very best. And it’s then that we see how we can pray so that He can touch me, and my life will never be the same, as the hymn says. And if you’re praying for somebody else and their problems, how God can touch them and their life will never be the same because that’s what we want. And it’s then that we understand what to do now.

Now, you can use these questions to help you understand how to pray for yourself because life is not voodoo. Life can be clearly understood if we look at it clearly.

And in addition to that, when you look at the people around you, the people you have contact each week – and some of them struggle with very serious problems – you can pray. You can say, “Lord, help me to understand what they want. Lord, help me to see what they’re doing. Help me to understand if what they’re doing will lead to what they want.”

Because you know the definition of a judgmental person: what I think you should be doing is what you should be doing. Sometimes we’re not right. “Lord, help me to understand what they should do now so that I can pray that you would bless them.”

You see, these questions can help us to understand what we need to do and how we need to pray. They can help us to understand what other people, who really bother us with their problems– they can help us to understand what they need to do, but instead of lecturing them or telling them what they need to do — by the way, if you noticed, that doesn’t work, especially with children, especially with people who have a lot of problems — but instead telling them what we think they should do. Perhaps what we need to do is tell God and ask God in prayer to help them. Sometimes, we have to figure out the what, what we should pray.

Let’s take a look at what Paul did. You see, Paul prayed for people and he explained this to them. Ephesians 3:14, for this reason, Paul writes, “I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory, He may grant you to be – please, say that word with me – strengthened, through His spirit in the inner man.” God is wealthy with regard to his power to help us. How would your life be different and better if God strengthened you? How would the people around you live a better life if God strengthened them?

Here’s how Paul prays, that we might be strengthened. Ephesians 17, and these, by the way, are like levels. They are like stories in a building. Paul is building the church here. He prays that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. He prays that you be rooted and grounded in love, not rooted and grounded in anger or envy or strife. He prays that you may have the power to comprehend, the power to understand, to see more clearly with all the Saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth. And from that deeper understanding, verse 19, to know the love of Christ, to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. And if all these things that Paul prays for come to pass, they lead up to this final level, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now, if each one of us, if all the people around us in our community began to experience Christ dwelling in their hearts, began to be rooted and grounded in love, began to have the power to understand, began to know the love of Christ, if everyone around us was filled with all the fullness of God, do you think this would be a blessed community? Do you think this church would be blessed? Do you think we would be blessed? These are good things to pray for!

And so Paul concludes, now to him, who by the power at work within us, is able … God is not helpless. God is not hopeless. And someone once said, “God is not taking a nap.” God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. If we understood that that was the truth, if God’s power could flow through us, because it says there, “God’s power is already working within us…” If God’s power can flow, what an amazing change would happen in all the people we know in our church and in our own families and our own life. So to him who is able, glory be in the church and in Jesus Christ to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

This is what Paul says that he prays for the people who will be reading this letter to the Ephesians. But you know something, friends, we can take these words right out of the scripture and begin to pray them for people. We can see someone and maybe we’ll just know in our spirit what they need to do is be rooted and grounded in love. We can see someone and their problem, maybe the person in the mirror, and we can see that they need to realize that God is able to do far more abundantly about anything they request. We can pray the prayers we find in scripture.

So let me tell you a very, very sad story. Mark Twain wrote this story. He said that a historian was, for some reason, granted a favor by God. And the historian said, “You know I have studied war over all the centuries. I want to meet the greatest general of all time.” And God sent an angel and took the historian by the hand and led him to a cobbler shop in the town where he lived. (Now, friends, please understand me, there’s nothing wrong with being a cobbler. It is a wonderful type of work that helps people.)
And the angel announced, “This man is the greatest general who ever lived.”
And the historian exclaimed, “How can he be the greatest general that ever lived? He’s just a cobbler!!?”
“Nevertheless,” the angel said. “If he had become a general, he would be the greatest general that ever lived.”

And you see, this is one of the saddest, saddest realities. God has a plan and a hope and a wish for each one of us, and sometimes because we don’t have enough faith, sometimes because other people tear us down and tear down our self-esteem and other people criticize us and cause us to have a lack of faith in God, have a lack of belief in ourselves, sometimes we settle for what’s easy. The historian was looking for the greatest general of all time. If God granted me the same favor, I would ask God to meet the greatest pastor of all time. What if the greatest pastor of all time was someone who had never had the courage to follow the call? And as for the rest of us, the greatest farmer, the greatest teacher, the greatest politician, the greatest doctor, the greatest nurse, how many of us fall short of what’s possible because nobody prayed for us?

Because the prayers of other people were insufficient … I want to tell you, that greatly bothers me because I think what’s happening in the Book of Acts, what’s happening in the Season of Pentecost is, God is organizing God’s people to pray. And if we pray in an organized, disciplined manner, according to God’s word, with diligence, we will begin to see miracles happen in the lives of people all around us, not the least of which is the person who is to be the greatest general will actually become the greatest general and fulfill God’s will for his life. Prayer is needed here.

Let me tell you a story about a Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, who became a missionary in Burma. And sometime after 1814, he was traveling through the country and they camped on a hillside. And down over the hillside in the valley, they could see the cook fires scattered all over the valley. Every fire was a family. Or maybe several families who built their huts close to each other, a little tiny village. Every fire was a family, and he saw hundreds of them. And he looked down over that valley and he ached with a desire for them to find Christ. And he felt so helpless and inadequate for the task.

And he knelt in prayer and at that point, most Baptists don’t like to say that such a thing happens, but he heard an audible voice from God. (In all my years, I have never heard God speak to me in an audible voice. I know people who have heard a voice, but it’s not ever been me.) But in this case, for the first time in his life, this Baptist missionary heard God speak in an audible voice. And as Adoniram Judson was looking out over that valley, the word that he heard from the Lord was this, “Ask Me for them.”

You see, the missionary may not have been smart enough, the missionary may not have had the power to reach these people. But God Has what we lack. “Ask Me for them.”

And he began in prayer to ask for all of the people living in the valley. And you know something? He went down from that great hill and began to preach, and speak, and there was a great revival in that valley, and all of those people came to Christ.

But what we need to understand is where it starts. “Ask Me for them.” “Pastor Dave, what a wonderful story from our past!” What makes you think it’s our past brothers and sisters?
This is a crowd of people – thanks to I70sports.com, you are looking at the crowd in the stands the day the South Central High School baseball team won the state championship in their division. Do you think that God does not speak to us? “Ask Me for them.” You may recognize some of these people. I couldn’t quite make out their faces, so I don’t recognize anybody, they all look familiar. But I will tell you the truth, every single person in that crowd has something they struggle with. Is somebody praying for them? Is somebody’s asking God’s help for their life? The four words come down to us today brothers and sisters, “Ask Me for them.”

Because God wants better for their lives than the struggle they deal with today. It should make us a little bit ashamed how quick we are to pray for ourselves, how quick we are to pray for our best friend, for our church, and how slow we are to pray for people that we see on the other side of the gym, that we don’t know very well. “Ask Me for them.” Because you see, one of those people might be the world’s greatest pastor. One of those people might be the person destined to find the cure for cancer. One of those people might be the best cobbler you’ve ever known, and when you need a cobbler, you sure need one. But it comes down to us through all of history to pray for God’s will to be done in the lives of people that we don’t even know. Because that’s the missionary task that comes to us.

What good could God do in our community, in our neighborhoods, in our church, if we began to pray in an organized, disciplined manner for the people around us?

Please pray with me. Lord, when we’re walking down a hallway, we see the person in front of us. We step to the side so we don’t bump into each other. But Lord, help us to also see them as someone who you love, whom Christ died for. And to pray for them in their hour of need, to pray for that stranger that their life might be blessed, that they might find Christ to be Healer, to be Savior, to be Comforter, to be Guide. That falls to us, Lord. Help us to pray, not just for ourselves, but for all the people around us that your Will will be done. And we ask this in Jesus’s Name. 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.

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

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