August 13, 2023, ABC Prayers: Ambitious, Blessing, Courageous; Pentecost 11

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again,, 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, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN My Hope Is Built
My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkMapZB8qMk

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. 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
Andrae Crouch – Through It All [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO5Qt2VQn4k

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: ABC Prayers: Ambitious, Blessing, Courageous
Text: Matthew 9:20-38, Romans 5:3-5, 12:12, 15:13,  James 4:1-3
Series: You Have Not Because You Ask Not

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

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 9:20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.”22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Romans 5:3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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HYMN Great Is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father
Carrie Underwood – Great Is Thy Faithfulness ft. CeCe Winans (Official Performance Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT0HcAr9aeI

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

ABC prayers. You want to know your ABCs? ABC prayers are ambitious, they bring a blessing, and they’re courageous. I want to encourage us to pray more courageous prayers, because what God wants from us after Pentecost is for the Holy Spirit to flow out from us to circles of influence, to people we know, because God wants to show love to people around us, and what God has decided is to work through people like you and me. Now, sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror, I think, “Lord, you should find someone more qualified.”

But the truth is that God has decided to work through ordinary people like you and me, and the simplest way to say what it is that we do, to do God’s will, is we pray for God’s will to be done.

So I’d like to ask you to consider your prayers for a moment. James, chapter four, verse two, the second half of it says very plainly, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Now, there are some other reasons why God does not answer our prayers the way we request them, but this is the main one. Are we praying for what’s needed? And I think it’s a reality, unless you’re encouraged, and I want to encourage you today, this is a reality for many of us. Sometimes we’re very timid in our prayers. We ask for very tiny little things, as if God had great limitations.

So I want to ask you to contemplate for a moment, what is the most ambitious prayer that you’ve ever prayed? Now, thinking about how to answer my own question, I had to think pretty hard. I had to go all the way back to the spring of 1972, and the spring of 1972 on February 29th. That was the day I gave my life to Christ, and I asked other people at the revival I attended where they went to church. And I would go to a different church, or a different small group Bible study every single day of the week except Saturday. I was a junior in high school and I was highly offended that I had nothing to do on a Saturday night because nobody had a Bible study on Saturday night, and nobody had church on Saturday night.

But the most ambitious prayer I ever prayed was as a high school junior. I wanted to go to the evening service at the church I attended as often as I could, and I was unable to drive at the time. That’s a long story; I won’t go into it now. But I remember walking out of my house at night, it was dark, thinking, “I need God’s help to get to church tonight.” Now, the church that I attended was seven miles from where I lived. It was on the other side of Champaign/Urbana. And I remember thinking, “Lord, maybe someone will pick me up if I’m hitchhiking.” But I thought to myself, I should not limit my faith. I should be a little more bold and brave, so I actually stood on the sidewalk, in the dark, on a busy four-lane street, Mattis Avenue in Champaign, and I prayed that God would teleport me to church. And I still remember praying that and rising up on my tiptoes thinking, “Well, I’m four inches that way.” That prayer sadly was not answered. And it was not answered because God needed to teach me something as I literally, I kid you not, walked seven miles to church that night. But that’s the most ambitious prayer I’ve ever prayed. Now, most people would say, “Well, Dave, that’s ambitious, but it’s also stupid.” But I was not– yes, Kim. You just go right ahead and laugh. (Everyone laughs.) If you don’t occasionally pray a stupid prayer, are you really trusting God for the big things?

Let’s be courageous when we pray. Pray for everything, and then let God sort it out. Let’s pray for great and beautiful and wonderful blessings to happen all around us and let God sort it out. Let’s be courageous in our prayers. As we said in the Call to Worship, do you remember the man who said, “Lord, if you can help me, do something,” and Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the man cried out. He said, “I believe.” And here was his first prayer: Help my unbelief.

Help my unbelief. Now, I have prayed a lot of ambitious prayers since then, but I have never been teleported to the other side of town when I’m late for church. But you see, if we can pray stronger prayers, it will create a revival. Evangelist Gypsy Smith was once asked how to start a revival, and he answered, “Go home, lock yourself in your room, kneel down in the middle of the floor and draw a circle in chalk all around you, and ask God to start the revival inside that chalk mark. Don’t leave the circle until your prayer’s answered. When He’s answered your prayer, the revival will be on.” The first place I ever saw this quote, it is on the wall of the museum in Corrie ten Boom’s house in the Netherlands. And it’s credited with something that helped her to have the faith to do what she did. There’s a new movie out called The Hiding Place, just to remind us of someone who was willing to be ambitious and bold and courageous in her faith. But friends, the revival always starts with one person, with you and me. Ask God to increase your faith.

Finally, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time– which means this is a made-up story. Once upon a time, a little boy built a trap to catch birds. He built it in the woods. And I looked for a diagram of how you build a trap, and here’s one way. You have a mousetrap and you have a box, and you put seeds on that mousetrap so that when the bird lands there, the mouse trap bar flies over. And if that doesn’t catch the bird, the box falls on top. This is one way to build a bird trap.

And the little girl came to her mother, and she said, “Mom, I’m just so upset. My brother–” now she’s a little bit younger than her brother. “My brother’s killing birds, and I just think it’s wrong. I just think it’s wrong. What should I do? What should I do?

And her mother said, “Well, honey, why don’t you pray about it?”

The little girl said, “Okay.” So she went to her room and she prayed and she prayed and she prayed. And her mother asked her later, how her prayer time went, and she said, “Mama, I have so much faith. I prayed that my brother’s trap would not catch a single bird. And I’m so filled with belief. I know God has answered my prayer.”

The mother said, “Oh, no, what’s going to happen to her faith if the trap catches a bird? I need to help her.” She said, “Well, honey, sometimes God doesn’t answer every one of our prayers.”

And the little girl said, “Mama, I have all the faith in the world. I know God will answer my prayer.” The mother thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”

I’ll tell you the rest of the story in a minute.

Because here’s the principle for ambitious and courageous prayers. Matthew 9:20, “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years – endometriosis; we believe – came up behind Him, Jesus in a crowd, and touched the fringe of His garment, the hem of his garment. For she said to herself … now keep in mind, she is not an expert in prayer or God or even medicine. But she has the gall, the courage to simply decide, if I can just simply touch the hem of His garment, I shall be made well. And so she sneaks up to him in the crowd and is able to touch the hem of his garment. And the other translations say that Jesus felt power going out from Him, and He stopped in the crowd and He said, “Who touched me? Who touched me?” And the disciples said, “You’re surrounded by this big crowd. What do you mean who touched you? Everybody’s jostling against you.” And the woman came forward and admitted that it was her.

And Jesus turned and seeing her, verse 22, He said, “Take heart daughter, your faith has made you well. Her faith in her God, in her decision, if I touch the hem of His garment, Jesus says, that’s what worked. Friends, we believe, but may God help our unbelief. And instantly, the woman was made well.

Later on in that same chapter, in fact, that whole of chapter 9 is full of times where Jesus answers prayer. But here’s another one. As Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, have mercy on us, O son of David. And when he entered the house, the blind men came to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” And they said to Him, “Yes, Lord. And He touched their eyes saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And according to their faith, verse 30, their eyes were opened.

Friends, we need to take care of our faith because it allows our prayers to be answered. And a little bit later, you see this scripture. We talked about this last week. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, like people who have problems, like people who are struggling, like people all around you and me. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, The Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” for people to be sent so that God can help the lives of all those people who are harassed and helpless. And in these days following Pentecost for the people who are around us as well! I think that’s what God wants us to do.

The next morning, the mother came to the little girl, and she said, “How do you feel about your prayer today?” And she said, “Mom, God has answered my prayer. There will not be a single bird caught in my brother’s trap.”

And the mother says, “Well, honey, now how can you be so certain? How can you be so certain?”

She said, “Well, mom, a couple of weeks ago, the preacher was talking about how we need to take a step of faith and I decided to take a step of faith. I went out to the woods and I stepped all over that trap. I stomped it to pieces.”

And the mother said, “That’ll work.”

Friends, sometimes, like touching the hem of his garment, God asks us to do something. And it releases God’s power. But it may take a little courage for you to go out there in the woods and kick that trap to pieces, or whatever it is. But you can take that step of faith. Sometimes a step of faith is part of your prayers … to not just ask God for something but to do something in response to your prayer.

Now with regard to that, however, there is a caution. You do not want to play chicken with God. The picture you’re looking at on the screen is a picture that a family in St. Louis saw on their way to church one Sunday morning. Apparently, this man and his car had an argument with a brick building and he lost. Now if you’re not familiar with that term, to play chicken, is where one car and another car race directly toward each other for a head-on collision, and the one who veers off is the chicken. Apparently, the brick wall did not veer off.

The reason we don’t play chicken with God is that that’s something the devil tempts people to do. If you really believe, the devil says, then you do this, you do that. Jesus was tempted three different ways in Matthew chapter 4 at the beginning of his ministry. The second one is that the devil takes him to the top of the temple, and he says, “Jump off. And while you’re headed to the ground, the scripture says that God will send angels to catch you to prevent any harm from coming to you. And carry you safely to the ground in the temple.” Which, by the way, was how they expected the Messiah to come.

And the response of Jesus to the devil was this, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” This is a quote from an Old Testament story involving Moses, but the whole quote is, “You shall not tempt the Lord to destroy you” by not answering your prayer.” Don’t play chicken with God. Because maybe those angels will make that other car veer off, but maybe not. Because sometimes God lets consequences happen.

But I see this from time to time. Good, well-meaning Christian people say, “You are not serious about prayer unless you take chances, unless you gamble, unless you put God in a position to where you are going to be terribly hurt if God doesn’t do what you want.” And Christian people are encouraged to do that. To bet the farm, so to speak. And I would say that’s not a godly thing. It’s good to be ambitious. It’s good to be courageous. But sometimes God does not answer our prayers.

Please do NOT put yourself in a position where if God chooses not to answer the prayer, you will be harmed. You can not dare God to rescue you. It’s disrespectful. The man who’s driving that car, the fellow who was driving – Well, how did he dare God? Well, first of all, he was drinking. Interestingly enough, he crawled out the back window and was completely uninjured. He also dared God because he was driving without a license. I hope the accident taught him something.

But don’t play chicken with God. Don’t say, “God, kill me if you don’t answer this prayer,” or something like that. Don’t be like that. Thy will be done. But you can still pray bold and courageous prayers.

And answers to our prayers, I believe, have the most powerful effect on the lives of people. Because when God answers your prayers and my prayers, people become aware that there is a God. Rodney Gypsy Smith, the evangelist, said that there are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the Christian. He went on to say most people will never read the first four. These books of the Bible are the books that talk about the life of Jesus. How most people learn about the life of Jesus, however, is by looking at your life and my life. And I believe that when they see that God is answering prayers, it makes them hungry for their own prayers to be answered. Consequently, I’d like to say the most effective evangelist is answered prayer. And in order for God to prove God’s love for us, God’s people need to pray. And it’s not at all a bad thing to give God the credit when God answers prayer in a positive and a good way.

And so I want to encourage you to pray ABC prayers. Ambitious prayers that bring a great blessing, prayers that are not timid, but courageous. Because your hope that you feel for the welfare of the people around you will empower the faith of your prayers. Romans 5:5: hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us. And out of your hope for people, you pray with faith. Romans 12:12, Paul says, rejoice in your hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer. Hope will empower you to be constant in prayer. Romans chapter 15:13, Paul prays this prayer, may the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing. So that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. And I believe that this hope will help us to pray prayers that change the lives of people all around us.

So take heart, friends, your faith will make people well. Take courage, friends, Jesus will ask you, Do you believe that I am able to do this? And you can say, I believe, help my unbelief.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us not to be timid in our prayers, help us not to ask for little teeny tiny things, but to have the courage to pray for what’s needed. Help us to have the courage to pray for a great blessing that will turn someone’s life around. Help us have the ambition, Lord, to ask you for a full and complete answer to the problems of people. A full and complete healing, all the help that is needed. Lord, help us to pray ambitious and courageous prayers of blessing. 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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