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Worship Message - Prayer


This is the second of a two-part series of messages. Last Sunday was the first part. It was on the topic of praise. Today the topic to be considered is prayer.The message on praise - in case you missed it or in case a reminder is in order - was based on Psalm 150. In that Psalm is the challenge over and over again to praise the LORD. A challenge explained in a number of ways.

God is to be praised - commended, admired, lauded, acclaimed.
He is to be praised anywhere and everywhere we happen to be. In His sanctuary or wherever else we are under His mighty firmament - under the sky He created.
He is to be praised for His mighty deeds and exceeding greatness.
He is to be praised in all ways, as in loudly and soothingly, with instruments and with voices, standing still and moving.
And who is it who should praise God? Everything that has breath. That obviously includes us.

Praise the LORD. Praise God. That is what we are to do. We are challenged to do that many places in the Bible, including Psalm 150.

We are also to pray to God, which is also taught many places in the Bible, including in the Book of Psalms. That is what we are going to talk about today as we consider prayer-related verses in several Psalms, which we will do after this report about a man known for praying, that being Billy Graham.

The report is this. Back in 1982, the day before he was scheduled to be interviewed on The Today Show, Graham’s director of public relations, Larry Ross, requested a private room in which Graham could pray before the interview.

The room was arranged, but when Graham arrived, his personal assistant informed Ross the room would not be needed. When asked why, the assistant answered, “Mr. Graham started praying when he got up this morning. He prayed while eating breakfast. He prayed on the way over in the car. He will probably be praying all the way through the interview.”

Public relations director Ross later said that the response from the assistant and the fact of constant prayer on the part of Billy Graham was a great lesson for him to learn. The point is this. Prayerfulness is not so much an event as it is being in a relationship with God. An intimate relationship that is developed when prayer is viewed as a way of life.

Several Psalms teach that kind of relationship. How it can be developed. The ones we will consider in this message teach us to begin each day with prayer, to fill our days with conversations with God, to give ourselves to prayer in the face of problems, and to consider prayer as a way of life because we desire to be with God.

Begin each day with prayer. One place that is taught is in Psalm 5.

That Psalm begins with a plea from David at a time he was experiencing many problems from enemies. Actually, David was rarely away from problems caused by enemies, but he began with the plea that God hear His prayers. “Give ear to my word, O Lord. Give heed to my groaning.” That is how distressed David was by his problems. He groaned under the weight of them. “Hearken [listen to] the sound of my cry.” Crying was another evidence of David’s great distress.

Give ear. Give heed. Hearken. Those are words with which David asked God to listen to him as he prayed. Which David promised to do. He wrote, “For to Thee do I pray.” Notice it is not that he should pray. It is not that he might pray sometime. He wrote, “For to Thee [to You, o God] do I pray.”

When? As we will see in later verses in the Book of Psalms, David prayed other times, too, but verse 3. “O LORD, in the morning You hear my voice. In the morning will I direct my prayer unto You.” It was to God - not to himself nor to anyone else nor to any angel nor to any false god that some around him believed in - that he directed his prayers. He prayed to God, doing so each morning.
And this. David wrote he would - he did - pray to God. He added, “And watch,” that meaning he was confident God would hear his prayers and answer them.

Begin each day with prayer. That is one of the teachings about prayer found in the Book of Psalms.

Why in the morning? How about this? In the morning, many people are fresh. Maybe not right away. Some people may need a bit of coffee to be fresh. But some people are often we are freshest in the morning. We are hopefully rested in the morning, that happening after a good night’s sleep. In the morning we may not yet be caught up in the business of the day. Also, if we pray in the morning, we can ask for God’s help through whatever dangers and temptations may come up through the day.

By the way, David is not the only one in the Bible who prayed in the morning. So did Jesus. For instance, it is recorded in Mark 1 that one time, after a full day of teaching, an evening filled with healing, and after apparently just a little bit of sleep, Jesus rose early in the morning, a great while before day, went out to a lonely place, and prayed.

I think Jesus’ prayers that morning were for encouragement from God and for the strength needed to continue His ministry. Both of which were answered. Right away Jesus did much more healing and teaching.

But back to Psalm 5, where later in Psalm 5, David expressed confidence in the love and the goodness and the righteousness of God. He asked to be led in all those things himself. That is some of what David prayed every morning. We, too, are taught to pray in the morning.

However, to develop a spiritually-intimate relationship with God, our prayers cannot be restricted to mornings. Another teaching is that we are to fill our days with conversations with God, that taught in Psalm 55, which is another one written when David was facing many problems, that time when his son was rebelling against him, threatening David’s position as king.

Some of the words in Psalm 55 describing his anguish are “distraught,” “overcome by my trouble,” “fear,” “trembling,” and “horror.” David also wrote, “O that I had wings like a dove so I could just fly away and be at rest.”

David began Psalm 55 about the same way he started Psalm 5. “Give ear to my prayer, O God. Do not hide Yourself from my supplication [my earnest plea]. Attend to me [answer me].”

Later he again wrote, as he had in Psalm 5, that he promised to pray. I Psalm 55 he wrote, “I call.” Not I should or I might. He wrote, “I call upon God.” And he again expressed confidence God would hear and answer. “The LORD will save me,” he proclaimed.

But when did he pray? In the morning, as was taught in Psalm 5. But also - verse 17 - “at noon and in the evening,” those times indicating he prayed frequently. He prayed all the time.

Which,  by  the  way,  is  also  taught  in  the New Testament. In chapter 5 of I Thessalonians, Paul wrote a very quick verse. He wrote, “Pray constantly.”

We often talk about that short verse in Pastor’s Class each spring. We joke that it would be kind of silly to be on our knees with our eyes closed 24/7/365, so that must not be the point of the verse. We discuss that what Paul teaches us is to be in a mood of prayer. In a habit of considering God’s direction in everything we do.

I think that is what David taught in Psalm 55. Pray constantly. Always be willing to ask for God’s help. Always be willing to watch for God’s answer, confident it will come. Do that in the morning. Do that at noon. Do that in the evening. Do that all the time. That is one way to develop a spiritually-intimate relationship with God.

Another teaching about that is this. We are to give ourselves to prayer in the face of problems, that taught in Psalm 109, which is another one where he began by asking God to hear him. This time his wording was, “Be not silent, O God of my praise.”

Isn’t that interesting? Even in the midst of troubles, David still praised God. What a challenge that is for us.

David then summarized the problems he was facing at that time. Wicked and deceitful mouths were opened against him, their words lies. Those against him hated him. They attacked him verbally. They accused him, as he wrote, “without cause."

They did all that - listen to verse 4 - “even as I make prayer for them.”

What amazing wording. Again, it was not an indication he ought to pray for his enemies or that he might pray for them sometime. He wrote, “As I make prayer for them.” He was doing that. I assume morning, noon, and evening. He was praying for those against him.

As it is with the other teachings about prayer mentioned so far, it is not just in Psalm 109 the teaching to pray in times of trouble can be found, including the call to pray for those who cause the troubles. That is evident in the New Testament as well. Including in the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus.

Here is what Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

The reward? “You will be sons [or daughters] of your Father who is in Heaven.”

Now, as Psalm 109 continues, it was not with a positive sense of love David referred to his enemies. He asked God to afflict his enemies with various problems of their own - loss of property, short lives, that no kindness be shown them. Those sorts of things indicated a wish to be relieved from the pressures of his enemies’ attacks.

We are to take our prayers a different direction. The direction of relief for ourselves, but also that our enemies - our spiritual enemies - will see the error of their ways and come to an acceptance of Jesus as Savior. That is what Jesus challenged His audience to pray for.

But we are to give ourselves to prayer in the face of problems. That is what we are taught to do. And verse 30 of Psalm 109? We are to thank God when our prayers are answered. David wrote, “With my mouth I will give [that indicates the promise of what he was going to do when his prayers for his enemies were answered] great thanks to the LORD.”

We are to begin each day with prayer. We are to fill our days with conversations with God. We are to give ourselves to prayer in the face of problems. We should do all that - we are to do that - we are to consider prayer a way of life - because of a desire to be with God, which is the gist of a few Psalms.

For instance, Psalm 42. Again problems are at the center of what is written. Here the problems caused such anguish that tears had been the author’s food. His soul felt cast down. Both made worse as others asked, “Where is your God?” His problems made it appear to others he had been abandoned by God. There seemed to be no answer to deny that having happened.

But prayer was spoken. Prayer that led to these words at the end of the Psalm. “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.”

The author of Psalm 42 was confident God did hear his prayers and would answer them. What was the basis of the confidence? It was a desire to be with Him. Verses 1 and 2. “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God. For the living God.”

A desire to be with God. Wanting God more than anything else. Is that how much I want Him? How much you want a good relationship with Him? That of course starts by accepting His Son Jesus as Savior. But it goes beyond that. When Jesus is accepted, it goes on to praying morning, noon, and evening about anything and everything, including the problems we face and for those who cause us our problems.

Longing for God. Wanting Him so much we have a thirst for Him. That is expressed in Psalm 84, as well. Verse 2. “My soul longs, yea, it faints for the courts of the LORD [for being in God’s presence]. My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Joy that comes when the presence of God is felt. Joy that can be expressed in prayer. Prayer in the morning and at noon and in the evening. Prayer during good times and difficult times alike.

Joy we are to be willing to wait for. Psalm 130:5-6. “I wait for the LORD. My soul [referring back to Psalms 42 and 84, his longing, fainting, thirsting soul] waits.” Waits with hope. “In God’s word I hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning.”

More eager than watchmen are to see the danger of a night pass are those who wait for God’s answers to their prayers. The eagerness based on trust in God. The eagerness coming from the desire to be with God. The desire leading to prayer in the face of problems. Including prayer for those who cause the problems. Prayer spoken in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.

I need to pray more. Do you? Will I - will you - pray more? We need to. Or, if you are already praying enough, you need to keep doing so. We need to, not to alleviate problems. I mean, consider David, who prayed a lot and still had so many problems so often from so many enemies. But let’s pray, morning, noon, and in the evening, confident He will hear and answer.

In a moment, we are going to have a couple moments of prayer. To set the stage for that, another report of someone known for praying. This message started with a report of Billy Graham praying. Here is one about Mother Teresa.

One day in Calcutta, where Mother Teresa ministered, there were about 300 Catholic novices gathered for various kinds of training. One of them, assigned to work in the kitchen, went up to Mother Teresa and said, “We have planned poorly. We have no flour to put together the flour and water pancakes planned for our noon meal.”

The situation certainly looked bleak for the one assigned to the kitchen since 300-some mouths were going to come to be fed in about an hour and a half there was nothing with which to cook. No other food was available.

What was Mother Teresa expected to do? Probably pick up the phone and call some of her benefactors and mobilize them to find some way to feed her guests.

Instead, her reaction - her spontaneous reaction - was to say, “Sister, you are in charge of the kitchen this week? Well then, go into the chapel and tell Jesus we have no food. That’s settled. Now let’s move on. Next,” she announced to those waiting for her help or advice.

About ten 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. He announced, “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?”

Mother Teresa’s ministry - her life - was based on the foundation of faith and trust in God. She turned to Him in prayer, not only for needs, but also for her own body and spirit.

She did what we are to do. Begin each day with prayer. Fill our days with conversations with God. Give ourselves to prayer in the face of problems. Consider prayer a way of life, doing so because of a desire to be with God.

*       *       *       *       *

Let’s take a couple minutes to practice. Last Sunday this was done with praising God. Today we will do this with prayer.

Begin by thinking of a prayer request, including maybe for the strength needed to pray according to how it has been talked about this morning, or maybe think of a praise you have about answered prayer.

Then pray. We will then have the closing song.

*       *       *       *       *

One of the Psalms cited in today’s message was #42. There is a chorus based on that Psalm. It is As the Deer. As we sing it, may we have a thirst to pray to God - to talk with Him in prayer.

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longeth after Thee.
You alone are my heart's desire,
   And I long to worship Thee.

You alone are my strength, my shield - 
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire,
And I long to worship You.

I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real Joygiver
And the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield - 
   To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire,
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield - 
   To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire,
And I long to worship You.

God, help us to start our days with prayer. Help us to fill our days with conversations with You. Help us to give ourselves to prayer, including in times of trouble. Help us to want this as part of our desire to be with You. Thank You. Amen.

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