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Worship Message - How Should We Pray?

May 2 was this year’s National Day of Prayer for our country. With the theme of Pray

for America, and with the key verse being Matthew 12:21, the challenge was to pray that

we would as a nation put our hope in God.

But here at Fellowship Church, the one day is being expanded into a month as, each

Sunday of May, we are talking about prayer. Not just for our nation, but prayer in

general.

Last Sunday, we looked at some Bible verses that teach on the topic of how often we

should pray. Specifically, according to I Corinthians 1:4, we are to pray always.

According to Ephesians 6:18, we are to pray at all times. According to I Thessalonians

5:17, we are to pray constantly. As was mentioned last Sunday, prayer should be like

breathing, natural to do anywhere, any time, in any and every situation.

Today we are going to consider another topic, this one being how we should pray. For

that, I have a number of Bible verses to share, the first two being from the Old

Testament Book of Psalms. Verses that teach us that our prayers are to include both

praise and thanksgiving.

First, Psalm 66:17, which says, “I cried aloud to Him, and He was extolled with my

tongue.”

“I cried aloud to Him” - to God. Does that imply to you what it implies to me? That our

prayers are to be fervent? That that is how we are to pray?

The psalmist did not mutter what was on his mind. He did not allow his mind to

wander when he was talking to God. No, he cried - he wholeheartedly stated - what was

on his mind.

And he did not just cry. He cried aloud. He shouted. That is how dedicated he was to

his prayers. And he was not disturbed that others might hear of his reliance on God.

The psalmist cried aloud. But look. He did that, not just as a plea for help with his

problems. When the psalmist cried out, he did so as a way to extol God.

Extol means to praise. To praise enthusiastically. That is what the psalmist’s crying out

resulted in. His crying aloud extolled God.

Why? Because it was a reminder to him and to all who heard him that God is able to

help. Why else would He be cried out to? And the psalmist would not have known of

that ability if God had not, throughout the Old Testament, offered to help.

How should we pray? We should pray fervently, and for the purpose of praising God,

doing that even when we cry aloud to Him with our problems.

We are also to pray with thanksgiving, which is taught in Psalm 95:2. “Let us come into

His presence with thanksgiving.”

Verse 2 also includes the call that we are to make a joyful noise to God with songs of

praise, which reminds us of Psalm 66. But here in Psalm 95, it is not so much answered

cries for help that are referenced, but rather many other things for which God is to be

thanked. Including, as described elsewhere in the Psalm, His great power of creation,

and His ability to hold all of creation together, and His ownership of the things of nature

- valleys and hills and seas and dry land.

God is also to be thanked for all that His titles represent. Titles such as God and King

and Protector and Savior.

And let me repeat a bit of what I shared last week since it also fits into this discussion of

things for which we are to be thankful.

When adding up prices in the grocery store line, maybe speak a prayer of thanks that

you have enough money to pay the bill or a prayer of thanks that food is so easily

available - a prayer of thanks that you are not going hungry.

When taking care of some vehicle repair, maybe speak a prayer of thanks the problem

did not cause an accident, or maybe a prayer of thanks that you have a vehicle.

When you sing or read, maybe speak a prayer of thanks you have a voice or a prayer of

thanks you can read.

And, back to the Psalms, notice something else. In Psalm 66, the wording is personal -

“I cried aloud to Him” and “He was extolled with my tongue.” Here in Psalm 95, the

wording is corporate - “let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving.”

Will you cry aloud to God, thereby praising Him? Will we give Him thanks? We need to

do both those things fervently. That is some of what the Bible teaches us about how we

are to pray.

Then let’s consider a teaching found in the Gospel of Luke - chapter 18, verses 10

through 14, where a parable of Jesus is recorded. A teaching about praying with

humility.

According to the parable, one day two men went up into the temple in Jerusalem to

pray. One was a Pharisee. The other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee was the first one in the Temple. He was the first one to pray.

According to the parable, the Pharisee stood as he prayed, which was the common

posture for praying. However, he prayed with himself, saying, “God, I thank You that I

am not like other men. Those who are extortioners or unjust or adulterers, or like the

tax collector who came in behind me. And God, You know how wonderful I am. I fast

twice a week, and I give tithes of all that I get.”

Interestingly, it probably was correct that the Pharisee was impressive. Most Pharisees

did fast and tithe. And yes, they did pray.

But consider how different the tax collector was when he prayed. He stood, but not

where he was able to seen by many people. He stood far off, maybe in a corner. And he

would not lift up his eyes to Heaven, but, looking down, beat his breast, saying in his

prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

You know what? The tax collector probably was a sinner. Most tax collectors did

commit various sins while cheating tax payers. In fact, many collectors became quite

wealthy at the expense of the payers.

But listen. Jesus ended the parable by saying to the people in the crowd around Him

that day, “I tell you, this man [referring to the tax collector who admitted he was a

sinner] went down to his house justified rather than the other one [the Pharisee]. Why?

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be

exalted.”

How are we to pray? We are speak prayers of praise, speaking them fervently. We are

to speak prayers of thanksgiving. All our prayers are to be spoken with humility.

And speaking of humility, we do not have to brag about the spiritual things we do

because God already knows about them. And we should not brag about who we are

because - remember the verse - “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We

are no better than the tax collector in the parable. At least we were no better than him

before we accepted Jesus.

And remember. It is God’s grace, not we ourselves, that brings us forgiveness. It is

God’s strength, not our own, that makes it possible to rise above sin. We need to realize

it is God who makes us good, which should keep us away from bragging and make us

and keep us humble, even when we pray.

And speaking of relying on Him - of the need to humbly cry aloud that we need God -

let’s go back in the Bible to a passage in Matthew 6 where, in verses 9 through 13, Jesus

taught His disciples how to pray.

“Pray then like this,” Jesus taught.

“Our Father.” Hey, that starts right off with humility, does it not? If He is my Father, I

must be His son, which automatically makes Him more powerful and important than

me. May our prayers begin with the admission that He is in charge.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven.” Being in Heaven is another admission of the power of

God.

“Hallowed be Thy name.” Hallowed means honored, revered, greatly respected, holy,

set apart. Name? Remember that word refers to a total description of the one being

named. For God, it includes that He is all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful. It

includes that He is love and compassion.

Do you see how Jesus taught His disciples - how He taught us - to pray? We are to begin

by acknowledging who God is.

Then we are to pray that certain things will happen because of who God is. See them?

“Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done. May that happen on earth, as it does in

Heaven.” Those phrases, put together, mean we are to pray that our society will know

and do God’s will.

And let me share this that I read about praying for God’s will to be known and done, the

idea being that that part of the prayer is supposed to be a positive, happy prayer request.

You see, a person might say, “Thy will be done,” saying it with a defeated tone, like, “OK,

God, whatever You want is fine, I guess. I may not like it, but whatever.”

Or the words could be spoken with a bitter tone that shows resentment that God is in

charge. “Fine, God, just be in charge.” That can be said with a snarl.

But neither of those tones are what Jesus had in mind. No. We are supposed to want

God’s will to be done. We are supposed to want His Kingdom to come. That should be

our desire, knowing His wisdom and His love are sufficient. That He has the wisdom

needed to be our Heavenly Father. Knowing that because of His love, whatever His will

is - whatever His Kingdom brings about - will be for our good.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will

be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” The first part of the prayer Jesus taught is all

centered on God. He is to be named and honored first. Only then are we to bring to His

attention the things we need.

Including food. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Do you suppose there is significance

to the words, “this day”? Could that be a reminder that He can be trusted day by day for

what we need?

Including forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts [our trespasses] as we have forgiven our

debtors [those who trespass against us]. Wow. What a challenge there is it that part of

the prayer. The challenge that we forgive those who hurt us. The request being that we

be forgiven by God in the same measure we have forgiven others. Wow.

Including safety, both physically and spiritually. “And lead us not into temptation, but

deliver us from evil.”

And then back to praising God. “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory

forever. Amen.”

How should we pray? According to Psalms 66 and 95, our prayers are to be fervent, and

they are to include praise and thanksgiving. According to Luke 18, our prayers are to be

spoken with humility. According to Matthew 6, our prayers are to begin with

acknowledging who God is and by asking that His cause prosper, then telling Him what

we need, then finishing with the announcement that His kingdom, power, and glory will

last forever.

I have two more Bible verses to share on the topic of how we are to pray. Before that,

though, let me share a story. A story that I think shows not only humility, but also a

great trust in God.

One day in the mother house in Calcutta, India, there were about 300 nuns, all young,

some of them working in the kitchen.

Suddenly, one of the nuns went up to Mother Teresa and said, “Mother, we have

planned poorly. We have no flour to use to bake the chipaties for lunch.” Chipaties are

little flour and water pancakes.

“The situation looks bleak,” the nun said, “because 300 mouths are going to be coming

to be fed in about an hour-and-a- half, and there is nothing to cook with. There will be

no food.”

As the one who relayed this story stated, what would have been expected that Mother

Teresa would have done was pick up a phone, call some of her benefactors, and mobilize

them to find some way to feed the nuns.

Instead, Mother Teresa’s reaction - her spontaneous reaction - was to say to the one who

had come to report the problem, “Sister, are you in charge of the kitchen this week?

Well then, go into the chapel and tell Jesus we have no food. OK, that is settled.”

With that, Mother Teresa moved on to the next problem brought to her, and I am sure

the one in charge of the kitchen was a bit perplexed, but lo and behold, 10 minutes later

there was a ring at the door. Mother Teresa was called downstairs. A man she had

never seen before was standing there with a clipboard.

The man addressed her saying, “Mother Teresa, we were just informed that the teachers

at the city schools are going on strike. Classes have been dismissed, and we have 7,000

lunches we don’t know what to do with? Can you help us use them?”

“Give us this day our daily bread.” That was a prayer no doubt commonly spoken by

Mother Teresa. When it was answered that day, I am sure she praised and thanked God

for once again answering her prayer. I imagine she prayed fervently. I bet the nun in

the charge of the kitchen that day prayed fervently as well.

May we, too, fervently pray to God for what we need, doing so while humbly

acknowledging who God is and then praising Him and thanking Him.

And now two more Bible verses, the first one being James 1:6. In verse 5, the statement

is made, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God and it will be given.” But listen to

verse 6. “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting.”

I guess it might be appropriate to make a confession here.

Last week I confessed that sometimes my mind wanders when I pray. As I mentioned, I

need to improve on the Biblical teachings to keep alert and to pray with all perseverance.

This week the confession is - maybe you have this occasionally, too - the confession is

that sometimes - not very often, certainly - but sometimes I have a bit of trouble actually

believing that what I pray is really going to happen.

Again, it does not happen very often, but there are times when I lack the faith to believe

my prayers will be answered.

At such times, when I am convinced that what I am praying for really needs to happen, I

have been known to pray, “Lord, I am not sure that what I am praying for is going to

work out, but do not let my unbelief interfere with it happening.”

I hope that is an acceptable kind of prayer. But according to James 1:6, I need to work

on that because, as the verse continues, there is danger in not trusting the power of God.

See it? “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

Meaning the wave sometimes is toward the shore, sometimes away from it. Speaking

spiritually, sometimes being close to God, but other times feeling far away from Him.

Meaning being without direction, which is always spiritually dangerous.

How are we to pray? We are to cry aloud to God, which teaches us to be fervent, doing

so to praise Him. We are to thank God. We are to be humble as we praise Him and

thank Him. We are to acknowledge who God is, doing that before asking Him for the

things we need, after which we are to express our knowledge that His kingdom, power,

and glory will last forever. We are to have faith. We are to believe when we pray.

And then this, which is taught in I Corinthians 14:15. These are words from the apostle

Paul. “I will pray with my spirit, and I will pray with my mind also.”

As I read that verse, I remember the visit some of us made to the Wailing Wall in

Jerusalem in 2008. There were some there that day who prayed rather quietly, but

there were others who cried aloud. Some of them weaved and bobbed and nodded as

they prayed. I was especially impressed by those people as they put their whole beings

into their prayers.

Of course, those who prayed quietly were intent as well. But that is how we are to pray.

Not only with our words, but with our spirits. With our minds. With our very beings.

May we do that as we praise and thank God, doing so fervently, but with humility,

acknowledging who God is, doing that in addition to asking Him for the things we need,

always praying with faith. Let’s pray with everything we are, doing all that day-by-day

and throughout our lives.

Today’s closing song is a bit of an adaptation of the chorus Be Still and Know. The

adaptation is designed to be a reminder - for me, at least - hopefully for you, too - that

we can be confident when we pray. When our prayers show obedience to the teachings

about how we should pray.

Be still and know that God is God.

Be still and know that God is God.

Be still and know that God is God.

It is our God who healeth me.

It is our God who healeth me.

It is our God who healeth me.

In You, o God, I put my trust.

In You, o God, I put my trust.

In You, o God, I put my trust.

Lord, help us to pray fervently and humbly as we praise You and thank You. Help us in

our prayers to feel free to share our needs with You, but may we also acknowledge who

You are and how powerful You are. May those things surround our requests. And yes,

help me - help us - to believe what we pray - what we pray with our whole beings. Thank

You, Lord. Amen.

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