Tuesday, March 09, 2010

2010-03-07 Attitudes in Prayer

Attitudes For Prayer

Introducton:  You know, sometimes I feel kind of stupid.  The particular event that I am think about occurred some 38 or 39 years ago.  I had met with a prayer partner earlier in the day – in fact Steve Wong would eventually be the Best Man in my wedding.  As we chatted, he jokingly mentioned that a friend had commented on my poor memory by saying, “He would lose his head, if it weren’t screwed on.”  We laughed continued with our Bible Study and prayer and went our separate ways. 

It was later that evening that I had a date with my girl friend of the time.  As we walked away from the car, I turned to see that I had left the lights turned on.  After going back to the car to turn them off, I told my date for the evening about Steve’s comments earlier that day.  Big mistake – my date turned beet red.  You see, she was the one who had commented to Steve about my memory.   And now, 36 years later, I doubt that Sandra has changed her mind – she still thinks that I would “lose my head if it were not screwed on.”

The attitudes that we bring as we come together go a long ways in defining how people connect.  I want to spent time today looking at the attitude Paul brought as he came to God in prayer.  Let’s begin by turning to Romans 9:1-3.

Read:  Romans 9:1-3
  1. Three weeks ago, we began by looking three general principles that would guide our prayer – we suggested that prayer should be a praying people, who pray without ceasing, and that it is God who answers prayer.
  2. Then we spent a week each looking at Hebrew and Greek words that suggested that God wants all of us – especially, if you will remember, our emotions.
  3. As we approach the end of Lent, I want to spend time looking at two of Jesus’ prayers – The Lord’s Prayer, which we all know, and what is know as the “High Priestly Prayer” from John 17
  4. This week I want to look at a praying man – Paul.
T.S.  During the next few minutes, I want to look at Paul’s attitude as he comes to the Lord in prayer.
  1. Paul could have been angry.
    1. I think if I had been Paul, I would have been quite upset. 
In Acts 23:21, Paul is in jail cell in Jerusalem.  But there is a foul deed afoot – a group of his countrymen, fellow Jews, are planning to ambush Paul – they have vowed to not eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
    1. How do you love these kind of people? 
    1. Jesus was faced with the same decisions – arrested, charged with heresy, and sentenced to die on a cross.  I suppose one could argue that he was God – of course he could love those who sought to kill him.  But he was also man – He had all the same temptations we have.
    2. Or, you might choose to look at a man like John Wesley, the founder of our church.  Here is a man who stood for holiness, a man whose first ambition was to serve God.  And yet he was rejected by the very church he was attempting to serve – the Anglican church.  He could no longer preach in its pulpits.  He was forced preach in the streets, in the fields.  And out of those meetings came the beginnings of the Methodist Church.  How does a believer respond to this kind of adversity? 
  1. Paul chose to pray instead.
    1. The answer for Paul is found in Romans 10 – “Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God for them is that they be saved.”
    2. When Paul was under fire, his first response was not to retaliate – his first response was to pray. 

(Ill.)  Jon Courson tells of an incident in his life when he was called on to speak at a special church service – he had to fly to his destination – but it was far from an ordinary flight.  The turbulence was more than he was wanting and the flight attendants required all the passengers to remain seated for the entire flight. 

That night, as he spoke he renamed the airlines to “Horizon Scareways.”  That might not have been so bad, but when he went to the airport the next day, he found that three of the ticket agents had been in the audience that night – and they did not appreciate anyone renaming their employers company.  When Jon Courson asked for an aisle seat the answere was a swift and curt, “NO!”.  And as he began to board the plane, his disappointment turned to anger.  How could any company that prided itself on customer service treat a customer like that.  How could they treat HIM like that.  And what should have been a good flight turned from disappointment to frustration to anger.  This second flight was turbulent – not just because of the weather outside, but because of what was going on inside of his own soul.

It was then that he remembered that there was something he could do – he could pray.  He started to pray for the ticket agents – that they would have a good day, he prayed for the flight attendants – keep them safe and  alert throughout the flight, he prayed for the pilots, and while on the ground waiting for a transfer flight, Jon Courson started to pray for his fellow passengers – wherever they may be traveling.   And as he prayed, his heart started to change.  It started to soften, to relax.

    1. Life gets tough and people do get in the way of our peace.  But like Paul, we can pray for those who offend us, those who disrupt our day. 
    2. You know Jesus did the same thing – as He hung there on the cross, his words are words of prayer,  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  When we feel abused, when we feel alone, when we feel down trodden, we, like Paul, like Jesus, can pray for  those around us.
  1. Paul chose to love instead.
    1. For Jesus there is a direct connection between prayer and love.  Matthew 5:44 puts it this way –
    2. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  It is a two way street – if we really love those who persecute us, we will pray for them.  If we pray, we will grow to love those who persecute us.

I can’t but help wonder if I would be like the masses that followed Jesus?  Would I too l yelled “Crucify Him, crucify Him” as part of the crowd.  I know that I fall short of all He wants me to be even when there is not a cross in His future.  I betray Him every time I disobey, I betray Him every time I say or do something that maligns the name of Jesus.  Maybe I too would have been in that crowd that day that yelled, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

    1. But then, whether I have been disobedient or whether I had been part of that crowd, I hear the words of Jesus, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Jesus prayed me even as I betray Him.
    2. Can I do any less for those who hurt me?  Can you do any less for those who hurt you?

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