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Vision for Mission - Prayer
you can hear a MP3 recording of sermon here
Sunday, 16th June, 2013

 The Word of the Lord for this morning is found in Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 page 671

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.


2 Do not be quick with your mouth,

do not be hasty in your heart

to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven

and you are on earth,

so let your words be few.

I am not about to suggest that we become Quakers or sit in silence all morning but we need to start where we were last week. Worship is about your relationship with God 24/7. So when we come together to worship we bring our experience of God to share. We cannot pray together without communicating with words but our words are no more our prayers than our songs are our worship. At best they express our thoughts and emotions.

So the Preacher says

let your words be few.


What we will explore this morning is why we let our words be few. What will find in that God is our Father who knows our hearts. We will see that Jesus is our advocate who pleads his righteousness in place of our own and the Holy Spirit interprets our prayer. Then we will look at how these truths affect the way we pray.

Why? Because God is in heaven and you are on earth. Now that has changed. Jesus has come down from heaven and lived and died and rose again so that we may have a relationship with God. Today God is here and his Spirit is moving among us. But that does not change the need for our words to be few.


The Preacher says

let your words be few.


 Listen to Jesus on the subject of prayer:

Matthew 6: 5-7 page 970

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


Our prayer meetings are not public events, any more than your prayer life is a public event because we are taught to find the secret place and there let our words be few.


Here is the big secret of prayer.

 your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


Our Father in heaven is where we are taught to start praying. He is God is in heaven and we are on earth, so let our words be few.


Jesus spoke Aramaic and Greek. He would have known Hebrew as well. The Aramaic for Father is Abba. It is still taught to young children as their first words in the Middle East. This creator God who is in the highest heaven, surrounded by angels, has spent eternity in love and holiness has adopted you into his family and we are taught to say Abba. It cries dependency. It is a worship word, it recognises that we by grace are born again of the Spirit of God. It is simple, its what you teach a child to say.

your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

That is either reassuring or confusing. To our logical minds, why ask if God already knows what you need? But he wants you to ask. Petitioning is an act of worship. It says to the Almighty God, I depend on you, I know where my life comes from, where my joy and peace begin. By prayer we enter into the relationship with the everlasting father, we discover he listens to us and responds to us. Even though he knows what we are about to say, it moves him.


I note it is Father’s Day today. There is a temptation to make God like our natural parents but that is not right. It works the other way. God is the Father in heaven. Human parents should reflect that fatherliness as parents whether they are Dad or Mum. We are created in his image and that should be evident in our parenting as in every other part of our lives. But we are broken and need to be healed. Our parenting can be good or can be plain evil. God is not like our parents, he is much more than that. He is the incomparable God and Abba, Father in heaven who knows our hearts and knows what we need and will supply all our needs according to his riches and mercy.


Learn to say Abba, Our Father in heaven, and let your words be few, because he is great and he knows what you need before you ask and he is listening.


 Not only does the Father know what we need before we ask but Jesus is our advocate.

 1John 2:1-2 page 1225

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

When you engage with God, , it is Jesus’ righteousness that the Father sees. Your sin is an offence to God but Jesus has paid the penalty and replaces your unrighteousness with his righteousness. So you do not stand before God and bargain on the basis of your religiosity or your good living, your social status or your convincing arguments but on the ground of the righteousness of Jesus. He who lived a perfect life and died and rose again offers his righteousness as your grounds for your appeal to God. It Isaiah and  Revelation it is described as a robe of righteousness as if it covers up our nakedness and what is lacking in the spiritual area of our lives.

Listen to Isaiah 61:10

I delight greatly in the Lord;

    my soul rejoices in my God.

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation

    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,

as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,

    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.


And Revelation 7:13-14

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”


14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”


And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.


The Father know what we need before we ask and Jesus is our advocate, offering his righteousness in place of our unrighteousness.

 And there is more, the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers.

Romans 8:26-27 page 1135

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

This is so encouraging!

We do not know what we ought to pray for That is true. We often know what we think is best or even what we think is God’s way but we all are aware that often what we think is best for us or others is not so. Endlessly we have a knee-jerk reaction to problems and rightly go to God with our immediate thoughts about what we want to happen, whether it is healing or comfort, release or blessing. We simply pray what we think is t5he right and proper thing to pray. But God is not just interested in the presentational problems. He wants to deal with the underlying  spiritual issues as well. As we pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Stop and think about this. The Holy Spirit is communicating our prayers in the deepest language of the universe. The wordless groans are the most intimate language of God himself. Secondly the God who searches our hearts and knows our deepest longings know the mind of the Spirit. You may not know what you really want but the Holy Spirit does and those wordless groans communicate real information. The value of that communication is that Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

There is a danger that we think of the Holy Spirit as some sort of filter that just picks out the bits God wants to hear. I don’t think so. I think there is a greater truth here. Our prayers, we are taught by Jesus, are patterned by “Your will be dome on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer is about aligning our wills and our thoughts to God. This is because prayer is about relationship not a shopping list. In a relationship, you start with what each of you want and work towards what both of you want. Some times that involves a change of mind, often a compromise. But the success of a committee meeting for example is when we gather with different ideas and leave with a plan we all sign up to. So it is with prayer. We start with our ideas of what we think is best and by prayer and reading God’s written word and listening to his Holy Spirit our desires are transformed to his will.

So the words we use are not our final position, they are where we are on a journey of getting to know God’s will and trusting him that his will is best.


Where does that leave us?

 It might suggest that the great silent types and those of few words are the only ones who should lead in prayer in a fellowship.  You might think that the rest of us who prattle on to God, not always engaging our brains with our emotions or the other way round should be silent. I don’t think so. God is not offended by you wanting to talk over everything in your life, gossiping with God is part of the conversation but not all. We talk a lot, but communicate little. We need to listen. We need to recognise that the words we use are best when they express what our heart wants to express both intellect and emotion. And we need to understand that there is much more going on than what we say. God the Father knows our hearts, better than we know ourselves, Jesus is pleading our case on the basis of his righteousness and the Holy Spirit is communicating to God at the deepest level within the will of God.  The Prayer meeting and your prayer time is where you meet with God and God has a conversation with you about his will and purpose in your life. And together with God you come to an agreement on what is good. Then we can trust God to bring his will to happen. He is our Father and he is El Shaddai – God Almighty.


What Jesus said about prayer becomes plain.

It is not an exhibition of your righteousness, It is not the magical religious words, mantras or ritual prayers but you expressing yourself in your mother tongue. There is no special language of heaven. The gift of spiritual tongues is not special communication with heaven, it is the expression of the inexpressible. Akin to the silence rather than the words. And we need to spend more time in silence before God. We do not do so much of that on a Sunday Morning because the purpose of coming together  is to express our praise and worship. But just as was said last week about our worship together being only part of our worship applies to our prayers. The time you spend in worship and prayer complements what we can do together. When we come together to pray we bring our prayers and put them together. We share in that spiritual experience of being in a relationship with God and Jesus is quite explicit that when we pray together and our hearts are united in prayer, it is of special significance.


We often quote Matthew 18:20 but we need to read it in context because the context is about repentance and forgiveness between brothers and sisters in Christ and coming together as a church. Jesus prayed a lot about us being one even as he and the Father were one. Unity involves forgiveness and healing of relationships. In that context we discover this:

Matthew 18:19-20 Page 958

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”


So it makes sense for us to discuss what we are praying for and then pray for it knowing that God has heard our discussions, knows our individual thoughts and hearts and can test whether we are really agreed on what the person who speaks the prayer says.  It is not the Loudness of the Amen but the agreement of our hearts that matters.  This reminds me of Jesus’ prayer – ‘that they may be one even as we are one.

John 17:21-23 page 1085


21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.


So our prayer meetings are not about a professional performance or the number of prayers and their length, their content or there persuasiveness. They are about our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. They are about unity, reflecting the unity of God.

 So let your words be few. Work at being contemplative! Abba,  Father knows what you need, Jesus offers his righteousness, the Holy Spirit interprets your prayers. To pray is to engage with God, so pray.

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