Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lessons From Moses On Prayer

"I'm delighted you're with us," Pastor Brad began, and on such a beautiful autumn day that felt more like summer he warmly welcomed us. The theme, he said, would be a continuation of last week, based on what Jesus said, "My Father's house shall be a house of prayer."

A few announcements were interjected before commencing the service. We were reminded that next week church begins at 10:15 and that afterwards we will all go to Twig Park for a potluck picnic. We hope you will all be there.

Also, the new church directory is almost done. (After the service your faithful blog scribe noticed a few people scrambling to get last minute pictures taken.) This Thursday a few volunteers will be gathering here at the church to assemble and staple together the directories for distribution.

After an introit by Darlene, Pastor Brad led us in worship.

Today's Scripture readings were as follows...
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Mark 7:24-37

After the offering, and a time of prayer, Brad took the pulpit to continue his theme.

Lessons From Moses On Prayer

As with last week, Brad asked how we would rate our personal prayer lives on a scale of 1 to 10. He reminded us once again that God's prevailing power flows through those who pray.

After reading again the passage from Exodus 17:8ff Brad noted that the battle was not won in the valley below, but on the hillside, through prayer. Joshua indeed served his purpose, and did need to fight, but the battle was won on the mountain.

In short, we must seriously devote time to prayer if we would be victorious in our daily battles. This is an important business. Get out your calendars and mark them, set aside time for prayer. Moses did not lead the troops. He was away from the battle.

In our modern times we are obsesses with being productive. Producing visible stuff has value, by some standards. But what has value by God's standard? Brad tested us. Which of the following are Productive and which are Unproductive?
Watching TV?
Using large power tools?
By the world's standard prayer falls into the unproductive category, along with TV and vacation.

Too often we let the world set our agenda. To the world, prayer does not seems productive, though some try to crib this a little by saying if we prayer more, our lives will become more efficient, as if God is a button we can push to make things fall our way.

Brad reminded us though that prayer time is not wasted time. It does involve a sacrifice of time.

He told a story about a judge he knew who turned down a Federal Judgeship because it would cut into the time he spent in prayer. His prayer life was more important than career advancement.

Several points were made throughout the sermon drawn from this passage. First, that we are utterly dependent upon God. Second, that prayer takes time. Third, Moses accomplished his task with the help of some aids. Here are examples of things that helped. He went up onto a hillside where he could see what was going on. This vantage point gave him a good view. We, too, need to find ways to stay in touch with what is going on.

Brad suggested some of the following small ways we can be praying for others. We can pray for each person we meet during the course of a day. When we read the paper we can pray for those whose names we encounter there.

Moses,when he climbed up on the hill, carried the staff which he had with him years before when he first encountered God at the burning bush. This staff had been transformed briefly into a poisonous snake, before he was instructed to grab its tail, whereupon it became his staff again. Wherever he carried it, the staff was a visible reminder of the power of God.

Brad asked if our minds ever wander while in prayer. A few chuckles... because who has not experienced this at one time or another. It is one of the great difficulties of prayer. He cited a quote by Henri Nouwen that our minds are like a banana tree filled with monkeys, all jumping about, quite distracting when we're trying to be still.

Sometimes we need aids to help us be still, or to feel God's presence. One man placed a chair in the room to acknowledge Jesus' presence.

The verse, "Be still and know that I am God" is our starting point.

A fourth lesson from the passage is that Moses involved other. Aaron and Hur came with him up the hillside. Brad noted that our deacons are "praying deacons" who are helping fight the battle with regard to our church mission. We ourselves can ask others to pray with us or for us.

Brad outlined a fifth lesson: afterwards the built an altar. The altar acknowledged God had been there to help them win the battle. One example of a way we can close the loop might be to write down answers to prayer in a journal.

As we face the new year, building decisions and new programs, the most important project is making God's house a house of prayer.

Celebration of the sacrament of communion followed the message.

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