Sermon August 21, 2022: Always Pray … And Do Not Lose Heart (Pentecost 12)

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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/741494888

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3jrckVTby0

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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 click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. Amen.

Amen

HYMN Be Thou My Vision
BE THOU MY VISION — My Favorite Irish Hymn – NATHAN PACHECO
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihJAJA4ibEs

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − 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 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.

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 Through It All
Through It All – Andrae Crouch (lyric video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB2pPCydEjs

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: Always Pray … And Do Not Lose Heart.
Luke 18:1-8, Matthew 6:6-8
Series: Praying With Jesus

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

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man;
3 and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Matthew 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.   – Howard Thurman

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HYMN Victory In Jesus
Victory in Jesus [Live – Gaither Homecoming]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ajtJtNXF4

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St 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.

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

We’re looking at things that we can learn from the life of Jesus, from the teachings of Jesus about how to pray and what to pray because prayer is the primary thing that we do as followers of Jesus Christ. And today, we’re looking at a parable from Luke 18 where Jesus wanted to teach his followers to always pray and to not stop praying and to not become discouraged, not to lose heart. Because, as we follow on that path through the day, what comes to us along that path quite often are people to pray for and situations that require prayer. And sometimes these people and sometimes these situations are challenging and difficult because the more difficult they are, the more prayer is needed.

So let me share an example from my life. It’s a pretty fresh example. Last Tuesday, August 16th, Kim and I were on the path together. We left at 9:30 in the morning. Kim’s parents were going to doctor’s appointments at noon. We had things to bring to their house. We wanted to get there as soon as possible. We wanted to get there so there’d be time to visit before they left.

And as we were driving down the Kinoka Road, in the other lane coming toward Kinmundy, we saw one of these giant FedEx semitrailer trucks. And Kim said, “That’s unusual. I wonder why they’re going to Kinmundy.” Well, we knew what our path was. We were going down the Kinoka Road. We were going to get on Interstate 57 south. When we got to Salem, we would turn right and go west all the way to Kim’s parents’ house.

But you see, here’s the problem. We got on I-57 and suddenly found out why a FedEx truck would leave the interstate. There was a big traffic jam. What do we do now?

And you see, when we’re on the path, you wonder, “Lord, why did you make me go this way? Why didn’t you help me to understand that a FedEx truck meant that there was some problem on the interstate? We could have gone straight on the Kinoka Road out to Patoka. Lord, why are you putting us through this stuff?” Because what I honestly hope is that with God’s help, I can miraculously avoid every possible problem. Not only that, with God’s help, I hope I can avoid every possible disagreeable person.

No such luck when traffic slows down on the interstate! And you can tell the trucks are all moving over into the left lane. You can tell two lanes are going to become one. And of course, we’re in the left lane because we’re smart. But we keep seeing people passing us on the right, heading up to where the traffic is merging, and they’re the ones that are causing the problems with the traffic. Lord help us. And right about then, a semitrailer truck ahead of us moves over into the righthand lane to block those people. And Kim’s very polite. And I’m just like, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Stop those people. Stop those people.” And, of course, one giant semi-truck just races around that truck on the shoulder. But the rest of the people sort of get the hint: “You’ll get there soon enough.”

But you see, we were in a traffic jam. That was what we were struggling with. But what we need to remember is there are no coincidences on the path for today. Now, that’s a helpful thing for us to think because then we start looking for what God’s trying to do because part of the prayer where we began our worship, but also part of the prayer whereby we live our lives is this: “Lord, help me to see my world as you see it.” And so I think it was 13 miles an hour. That’s how fast we were going. We finally got up to where the traffic merged, and we went under an overpass. We were close to Alma, and we could see a giant caterpillar tractor. And the minute we saw that, we knew that there was a bad accident because they were there to clean things up. And this is what the accident looked like as we drove past it.

Many years ago, when I had three little boys in the backseat of my car, whenever they would see the flashing police lights, they would immediately say, “Somebody’s in trouble.” And I said, “Boys, that’s not exactly it. When you see those lights, what that means is somebody needs help. Somebody needs help.” When we saw the wreck on the side of the road, we knew somebody had experienced some trouble. But we also knew that it meant that somebody needs help.

And all of a sudden, our struggle with the traffic jam had a meaning. We talked about this last week. First, you get frustrated, and you feel anger. But if you sit with your frustration and your anger, you begin to realize underneath that is sadness. We’re going to be late to get to Kim’s parents. We’re going to not have as much time to visit as we would like. And of course, the reason that sadness is there is because we love her parents. But as this wreck came into view – you can’t even see the tractor. It’s bent, and on the other side of the trailer there – we began to feel a sadness for the truck driver. We began to feel a concern. And quite often, it comes with a curiosity. What happened here? With the Caterpillar tractor there, we knew it had been some time. They were still cleaning it up, but what happened?

And so all those emotions and that curiosity became a reason to pray. Our first prayer was for ourselves that we would get to Kim’s parents on time, for everybody else who was slowed down, that they get to where they need to go. Later, when we could see God’s purpose more clearly, our prayer shifted to also be for the person who encountered in trouble. “Lord, help the truck driver!” Well, later on that day, our curiosity was answered. The accident happened at 6:30 in the morning and the truck was full of frozen lasagna. I’m not really quite sure if it’s dangerous to take frozen lasagna from one place to another! … but when the truck hit the ditch, the lasagna flew out the far end of the trailer and knocked the walls out. And I can now see that the Caterpillar tractor was there to scoop up all the lasagna, because by the time we came alongside three hours later, most of it was already gone. I’m pleased to tell you that the driver was taken to the hospital and released. I assume what that means is that the driver is okay. But you see, things that happen on the path give you a reason to pray.

Now let’s turn to the words of Jesus, which are about an unjust judge. Now, I don’t want to get in trouble here, the photo here is of a real judge, but he is not an unjust judge! But he’s kind of angry because of what the lawyers are doing in front of him. But I think he’s a good portrait of what it might be to look at an unjust judge. And he, Jesus, told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray. In every situation, at every moment, encountering every problem, even encountering victories and reasons to rejoice, Jesus wanted you to know that you ought always to pray and not lose heart, not be discouraged, not give up.

So Jesus announced the purpose for this story before he told it. He said in a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Vindicate me against my adversary.” In other words, the woman had a just case. It was clear that she had been harmed by someone else and the unjust judge simply would not hear her case, would not make a decision. Maybe he wanted a bribe, maybe he just was busy and chose to ignore her. And she was upset, but she kept coming back. For a while the judge refused, but afterward, he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me with her persistence, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.”

In the seminary I attended 42 years ago, there was a New Testament professor who was very famous and he was also well-known for teaching on this particular parable. He would bring his notes and his notebooks in and lay them out on the podium. And he would read this particular parable from his bible. And he would look out at all the students and glare at them. And he would say, “Is God an unjust judge? Is that what Jesus is saying, that God is unjust? If you think God is an unjust judge in this parable, raise your hand.” And you know at least one fool in the class would pop up his hand and the professor would lose his temper, shut the books. And he would say, “God is not an unjust judge!” And he would march right out of the classroom. And he would say, “Come back tomorrow when you understand this.” And that’s a story that went around about this man. And I thought to myself, “I wonder if there were students who would deliberately do that just to get a free day.” God is not an unjust judge!

And the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect who cried to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you,” Jesus says, “He will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes will he find faith on earth?” So if God is not unjust, if God is going to take care of God’s people! If God is going to make things right, what could the problem possibly be?

And I think the point of this parable is that the problem is that people give up and stop praying. Sometimes they give up because they think to themselves, “Well, I already told God about this. No point in repeating myself.” Sometimes they give up because they think this isn’t a prayer God is going to answer. But notice the last statement, will the Son of man find faith on Earth? Will Jesus find his people praying? Or will they have given up or gotten distracted because they didn’t immediately get what they wanted?

The whole point of this parable, as Jesus said, is to the effect that we ought always to pray. And once we start praying, we need to not lose heart because we are always to pray. This is what we are to do and persist. Now, I am thankful that the truck driver went to the hospital and was discharged. I assumed that he was okay. But if I didn’t know that, perhaps I should persist in my prayers for his benefit. Let’s not assume that God is not willing to answer our prayers.

Somebody once said that there are three answers to prayer.
The first one is no. Sometimes God does say no.
The second answer, the one we want, is yes.
But there is a third answer, the one we have trouble with, or Jesus would not have shared this parable. The third answer is wait, and you and I need to persist in prayer while we’re waiting.

You have probably not seen a picture of this pipe before. I shared it in a sermon at least once in the past eight years. This is a 30-inch wide pipe that runs in Australia from a river near the southwest coast of Australia, up into the mountains, up into the deserts, up into the place where they discovered gold. There was lots of gold in the desert, but there was no water. And this led to what is known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. The project was commissioned in 1896. It was completed seven years later in 1903. And this pipeline continues to operate today, supplying drinkable water to over 100,000 people in over 33,000 households, as well as to mines and farms and other business enterprises. Down that 30 inch wide pipe, over 330 miles, flows over 6 million gallons of drinking water every day.
There are pumping stations because it has to be lifted up into the mountains over 1,300 feet. 330 miles – that’s the distance from Chicago to Marion, Illinois. It is certainly an engineering marvel. In 1903, when they turned it on, it took two days from the water at one end of the pipe to reach the water at the other end of the pipe.

And you see, this, to me, is a lesson about prayer. God can answer your prayer right now, but it might take two days for the water to get there. God might answer your prayer about Lord, what should I study in college? But it might take four years before you get your diploma. God is answering our prayer for the long haul. But sometimes the perfect answer to your prayer takes some time to arrive.

So please don’t think that if it hasn’t already happened that God is ignoring your prayer. Please believe that what Jesus said in Matthew 6:8, just before the Lord’s Prayer, just before where Jesus says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus points out, your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him … but it does you good to ask. And it does you good to keep on asking and to have the perseverance to persist in what you pray because God is not an unjust judge!

But answers to prayer often do not arrive as quickly as we wish. I was hospitalized because my heart was beating too fast on Monday morning. I wanted my prayer for an instant cure to be answered by 1 o’clock because I wanted to go home and eat lunch. The answer did not come on Monday. On Tuesday when I was told they would not let me out of the hospital until my heart rate went down, I got very anxious and my heart rate went way up. And I was upset with God, but I kept on praying. On Wednesday, a patient canceled in Springfield the surgery that would cure my rapid heart rate. And I thought to myself, “There’s my answer to prayer.”

Sometimes, friends, what we pray for takes a few hours, takes a few days. But we just ought always to pray and keep on praying and not become discouraged and not give up. And that’s true for all the big things in your life and my life. But it’s also true for all the little things that happen every day. “Lord, what’s the meaning of this traffic jam? Why is this terrible thing happening to me?” And you come around the corner and you see, “Oh, I need to pray for the truck driver.”

And as you go through your day, the same kind of thing will happen. “Lord, why did I bump into so and so?” That’s because you need to pray for them. “Lord, why did so and so start an argument with me and pick a fight?” Well, the more disagreeable you are, the more you know they need prayer! “Why did that bad thing happen? Why did I have a flat tire?” It’s because we need to pray.

And as we go through our day, the way you do God’s will, the way you minister to the people around you, the way God works through you, through the Holy Spirit, is you find yourself praying for one thing after another: Lord, thank you for this good thing. Lord, help them with this bad thing. Lord, help me with how I’m reacting to this person. I’m getting angry with them. I’m getting upset. Help me and help them.

But prayers often do not get answered as quickly as we would wish. But we just need to remember, God is not an unjust judge. We don’t have to pester God. But we do need to keep on praying, because you and I are on a path each day. And frustrations that arise as we go through the day, they’re a part of the path. People in every situation we encounter during a day are a part of the plan. And if what we encounter is unpleasant, it just sort of underlines the reality that prayer is needed here. And it could be that your asking God to help might set into motion what solves a human problem.

You see, everything that happens to us, from joyful things to sad things to things that frustrate us and make us angry, everything is a reminder to us to pray. And once you start praying, keep praying. Don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged. For this reason, Winston Churchill said, if you’re going through hell, keep going. Because if you’re going through hell and you stop, there you are suffering in hell.

For the same reason, if you’re going through hell, whether you’re the one that’s struggling or it’s someone else, if you’re going through hell, keep praying. Keep praying and expect God to answer your prayers.

There’s this wonderful little saying, this wonderful little acronym, PUSH. P-U-S-H stands for pray until something happens. Now, when something needs to happen on a Sunday morning, have somebody give you the microphone and tell all of us because we need to be encouraged to pray until something happens also! But keep praying until something happens.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, as we go through today, there’s going to be a lot that tells us how blessed we are. But sooner or later, something’s going to happen that will challenge us, that will test us, that will frustrate us. Something’s going to happen that might even stir up our anger, something that might make us feel that we’re attacked or being persecuted. Sooner or later, until every day is perfect, something imperfect is going to rattle our cages and shake us up. Lord, if we get upset, that’s okay. If we get angry, that’s okay, because it just gives us another thing to pray for: our anger, our being upset.
But Lord, as we go through each day, please help us to see this world as you see it so that we can see that situations and relationships and other things that happen, that stir us up in a negative way, are reminders for us to pray and ask … that in that traffic jam, in that argument, in that disagreement, in that human problem, to ask, Lord, that you would come and help and heal and that your will would be done for the benefit of all concerned. 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.

(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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