Sunday, August 30, 2009

House of Prayer

The pre-service gathering was vibrant with energy that carried over into Pastor Brad's morning greeting as he commented on this noisy and exuberant hustle bustle of hugs and expressions of warmth and welcome. Indeed there is a celebratory aspect of worship, and then there is a quieter contemplative aspect.

Brad introduced his theme for the net two weeks: prayer. "Prayer is the battle," he stated, noting that we tend to get enamored with lesser forms of power. "What if prayer itself was the most powerful thing?"

A few announcements were conveyed. On the 13th we will be meeting at the Twig Town Hall for Rally Day. Joanne mentioned that we have had an expanding Sunday School program and would benefit from a couple additional teachers. Sunday School will begin Sept 20 and run thru Dec. 13. In addition, the adult Sunday School would welcome additional teachers for four week classes. Darlene will also be leading a choir during this class time.

The quartet was joined by Levi on the drums this morning for worship. After a reading of Psalm 89 we were lifted up by the great Gospel song "Yes, I Am."

The Scripture reading after the offering included passages from Psalm 45 and Mark 7. This was followed by a prayer time, suitable to today's theme.

House of Prayer

Brad held up Philip Yancey's book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference to begin this morning's message. Yancey tells how he has had the opportunity to travel extensively in the very darkest places of the world, places with great persecution. There is a natural inclination to help in the face of such suffering, but the single most repeated request was for prayer. "Just pray for us."

Before turning to today's text Brad asked, "How satisfied on a scale of zero to ten are you with your prayer life?" Ten would be the top end. You carve out times to be alone with God, your first instinct in times of need is to pray, and you carry prayer concerns not simply of your own but for the whole world.

On the other hand, if you find yourself largely prayerless, and your prayer life is blocked by patterns of sin or unforgiveness, if you allow busyness to make you fairly prayerless and prayer is a burden for you, then that would be zero.

Then Brad asked, "Where would yo like that number to be a year from now when we meet here on August 30, 2010? What level will you be praying at then?"

Brad was setting us up for a challenge. Brad's goal for himself and for each of us is to have a deeper sense of prayer than before. No matter what else gets accomplished, this goal will be number one.

Jesus said in Luke 19:46 that "My house shall be a house of prayer."

Brad asked each of us to do our part, not only to pray but to ask for prayer. Then he had us turn in our Bibles to Exodus 17 beginning at verse 8.

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Beginning with this passage Pastor Brad intended to draw out five things about prayer. First, I need to recognize my utter dependence upon the power of God. God's prevailing power flows through people who pray.

This is the first time in Scripture that Joshua, who later led Israel into the Promised Land, is mentioned. The Amalekites have attacked Israel, and Joshua leads the battle. Moses, meanwhile, climbs a mountain, accompanied by Aaron and Hur, to intercede in prayer. As long as Moses' hands are lifted, the tide of the battle flows in the favor of Israel. But when Moses lowers his arms to rest, the momentum of battle moves the other direction. Upon recognizing this, Moses sits and uses the help of Aaron and Hur to keep his hands lifted for the remainder of the day.

From an earthly point of view, Joshua went down in history as the winning general. But it was only by the power of God that he won, power released through the intercession of Moses. The battle was not won in the battle, Brad said, but on the hillside.

Prayer is not an aid in battle. Prayer is the battle.

This kind of thinking has significant ramifications. What if church growth is not about strategies for growth, but has more to do with the hidden person or persons who were praying?

Maybe our church is being blessed because of those unseen lifted hands. Whatever you do, don't stop now. God's prevailing power flows through those who pray.

Brad described the manner in which the Stealth Bomber makes an impression on people when they see it. But he said compared to prayer even this is an inferior form of power. "We tend to get impressed by inferior forms of power," he said. This is nothing new. The Psalmist wrote of it in this passage: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord, our God."

We trust in God, and His power is released through prayer.

No comments: