Sunday, 7 September 2014

Jesus Prayer and Me 2: Petition - Sermon Notes

Accompanying slides can be found here.

Read: Matthew 6:25-34

This week we are looking at the subject of petition in prayer. Petition, like intercession is asking for things, and whilst there is crossover between the two, put simply, intercession is asking on behalf of others, petition is asking for yourself.

Whilst prayer may be a dying art in the West, it is alive and well in the rest of the world. Petition is the most common and natural form of prayer - because whoever we are, we all need help (Matt 6:32). We are utterly contingent (dependent) creatures. Unlike God, we do not have life in ourselves, (John 5:26) and we live and labour under the consequences of out own rebellion against God. I would argue even atheists "pray," if it is only in the sense that they look to themselves or other people as their source of help.

The question that needs answering is not, does God hear? Because being all powerful, we know he does, rather how can we have any confidence that he will listen and respond favourably? Our confidence is Jesus Christ, for by his death and resurrection, he has carried humanity right into the heart of God and brought us into God's family (Heb. 2:13) and so we can call God, Father. This is an extraordinary truth that we should not allow familiarity to dull.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares on him for he cares for us - whether those cares are big or small, real or perceived, we can come to him and talk to him knowing that he will listen and take action where necessary - as any father would.

But our Father like any good father, isn't there to indulge all our feelings and desires. He is there to develop the good and cut out the bad, to train, grow and prepare us for real life. Like all good fathers, our heavenly Father has desires and ambitions for us that are good. Jesus - the perfect son - was so intent on seeing his Father's will be done that he said "My food (bread) is to do the will of him who sent me" (John 4:34). So when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread," we are not only asking for our needs to be met, but also for the adventure of following him and the joy of doing his will in the world more than our own.

Growing in Christian maturity, means going on a journey from being short-sighted and me centred in praying to being big hearted and other-centred. It's not about ignoring ourselves, but rather that a miracle takes place in our hearts where we become like God as we find our greatest joy in seeking and seeing the flourishing of others.

Four pointers to help us pray for ourselves:
  • Be specific - what EXACTLY do you want from God? (Matt.6:7)
  • Be Biblical - if you cannot find a bible verse to inspire you in prayer for what you are asking, then you may be asking for the wrong thing - and not get it, or the right thing, but in the wrong way. (1 John 5:14)
  • Be real - when asking for ourselves, our motives are often mixed (e.g. Hannah's desire for a baby 1 Samuel 1:9-11)
  • Be persistent - The answer will be yes, wait or no.
What do we do when God says no and when Heaven is silent? Prayer is not magic, it is the meeting of wills: God's and ours. Even Jesus saw this in the Garden of Gethsemene when in agony as he faced up to his impending crucifixion said "My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours." All of us will be living with unanswered prayers in one form or another and we just have to continue to trust God, for where else can we go? (John 6:68).

Suggested Questions:
  • What is you confidence that God is you Father and will listen wholeheartedly to you?
  • When you pray to him, do you tell him the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what is going on in your heart? If not why not?
  • Jesus said that his food was to do his Father's will. Where are you on the journey of being more like Jesus in this regard? Are you more self-centred in your praying or other/Kingdom centred?
  • Which of the four top tips did you find most helpful? Why?
  • Have you lived, are you living with unanswered prayer? How are you dealing with it - continuing trust, or growing cynicism?

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