Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Bookends of Prayer

The Bookends of Prayer

Intro.: Do any of you own any bookends?
  1. I like bookends, as well.
  2. I can't say that I collect them – but the pairing of two bookends fascinate me.
  3. Some of them are just make do bookends – a couple of coffee mugs here, a brick there.
  4. But then some are kind of neat.
  5. I have a set of molded bronze praying hands – that I have just above my computer.
  6. I think my favorite are a set Sandra uses in the kitchen – they are a pair of elephant heads – though made out of some kind of synthetic material, they look like they are crafted out of marble.
  7. But bookmarks also have been used to represent significant events in life – the beginning and end of project – from an idea to its completion. From signing the mortgage to making that final payment – bookends.
  8. Or even of life itself – the bookmarks of birth and death mark each of our lives.
  9. There are also spiritual bookends, so to speak. For example, we can look at creation as being one bookend. The other would be Christ's return.
  10. I want to look at another set of spiritual bookends. At least one author has suggested that prayer has two bookends that help us to understand how and why we pray.
  11. Let me begin by looking at what is probably the most well-known prayer in scripture.
Read: Matthew 6:5-14
Trans: It is important to remember that prayer is not just a New Testament concept -
  1. If, as is commonly done, prayer is defined as talking to God, then the conversations recorded between God and Adam and Eve can be seen as the very first examples of prayer.
  2. Prayer is either discussed, illustrated, commanded, or mentioned in every book of the Bible.
  3. It is to be a part of the believer's life
  4. Over the next few weeks, we will look at this thing called prayer.
T.S. Today, I want to look at what has been called the two bookends of prayer – two important concepts that will help us understand how and why we pray.i
  1. On one side stands the bookend of a Holy, All-Powerful, Infinite God against whom we have sinned.
(Ill.) Do you remember that one time in school when you looked at your friend's school work to see what answer they had put down for that question? No one ever found out, but you knew you had peeked. But you felt bad – after all this was your favorite class, with your favorite teacher.
And then you feel it - the discomfort that comes with the memory. You know you have to go back and admit what you did. And that is hard!!

And that is exactly how we have treated God -
    1. We have sinned against God – Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
    2. We have sinned against the Holy, All-Powerful, Infinite God – and because we have sinned we will need to approach Him with reverence, respect, honor – he is God.
    3. Prayer must begin by realizing that we are not just putting words our there, we are not just crying out for help;
    4. We are talking to God – and we must never forget it!!
(Ill.) It was sometime near 1750 that Ignace Franz penned the words to his hymn

Holy God, we praise thy Name,
Lord of all, we bow before thee;
All on thy earth scepter claim,
All in heaven above adore thee;
Infinite thy vast domain,
Everlasting is thy reign.

Holy Father, holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name thee,
While in essence only One,
Undivided God we claim thee;
Then, adoring, bend the knee
And confess the mystery.

          The verses of this hymn among the clearest affirmation of God's deity in the hymnal. Our hymnal only displays 5 verses of the eight well-known verses found in many hymnals. At least one survey suggests that this hymn is the #1 favorite hymn among Catholic believers.ii And it calls them, it calls us, to worship an all-powerful God. The God to whom we pray.iii
  1. The other bookend of prayer is the work that Christ has done that allows us to come to this Holy God.
    1. The call to come is found throughout the Scriptures
      1. Matt 11:28 Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden
      2. Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
      3. John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
(Ill.) I was thinking this week what would happen if I tried to approach the President of the United States to ask for something – food, a car, a new TV, whatever. I mean, even if I tried to approach the President without the proper credentials and preparations – I would be arrested and put into jail. I would never be allowed to do it. Yet God, who is far more powerful, far more important, allows me to approach Him.
    1. What I cannot do with the President of the United States, I can do with God.
Conclusion: Two bookends
  1. An awesome God
  2. An approachable God
  3. We must never forget these truths–
    1. God wants to hear from us
    2. he does not want us to hold anything back
    3. But we never approach Him carelessly or flippantly
    4. after all, He is God
  4. Let me conclude by calling you to prayer this week – and as you pray, remember that you are coming to God with all your needs because he asks you to do so.
iThe outline, though not the sermon itself, is borrowed from: Wilhoit, J. (2002). Nelson's personal handbook on prayer. Nelson's Personal Handbook Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
iiiEckert, P. (1998). Steve Green's MIDI hymnal : A complete toolkit for personal devotions and corporate worship. (Electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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