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Keep In Prayer

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Prayer of Preparation            One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.  I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.  Psalm 84 The Message

Prelude

Introit

welcome, announcements, joys and concerns

*Hymn                        Precious Lord             #422

*Call to Worship        Psalm 84:1,2 -- "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord.  My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

*Invocation / Lord’s Prayer(sung)  # 433

In confidence we come to thee, O Lord, asking assurance in our faith, asking direction in our decision making, asking strength in our difficult work, and asking love in our relationships. In Christ's name we pray.   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, at it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen

*Gloria Patri

Responsive Reading  Habakkuk 3:1,2,17,18,19 NLT

1This prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk: 

2I have heard all about you, Lord, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy.

17Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,

18yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.

19The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

 

(Young’s Peoples Moment ) 

Call to Prayer   Psalm 130:1 We can cry out to God in prayer even from the darkest night of despair. He will hear us.

Prayer Hymn

Pastoral Prayer          Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those whom are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.         

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the one who cut us off in traffic last night may be a single mother who worked nine hours and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly may  be a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day may be a slave to addictions that we can only imagine! in our worst nightmares.
Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.
*Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love.  Open our hearts to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.         

Musical response

Offertory sentence  I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’

offering           Doxology

offertory prayer Receive these our offerings and bless their use, that they may find diverseavenues of service in this place and throughout the world.  AMEN

Hymn                           Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart            #182

Scripture Text   Ephesians 6: 18-24

18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

 

Keep In Prayer by Michael Adkins
Do you spend time praying? /    Why?/  What is the purpose of prayer? / Do you pray in order to change the mind of an unchangeable God, a God who is outside time? /           Or / do you pray like Aladdin to the genie in the bottle, thinking that God will grant you 3 wishes? / Or /       did you try that, and the wishes didn’t come true, so now you pray out of obedience but you don’t understand why? / Does prayer work? / Is anything accomplished through prayer, is anything changed by you or me getting on our knees and talking to God?
I believe every Christian struggles with some of these questions at times.   Each one of us has deeply desired something - the salvation of a loved one, victory over persistent sin, the healing of a sick person, revival in our country, - we’ve deeply desired something, prayed earnestly for it, and seen . . . nothing.
This is a common experience of Christians, and I am certain that some here are feeling: "I’ve tried and tried to pray; I’ve tried to be like that persistent widow knocking on the door of the unjust judge - and I don’t see results.  Why keep trying?"
Let’s listen once again to these verses - this time as translated in The Message.// Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.  And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.

In these verses Paul gives us at least 7 lessons for effective prayer, for prayer that works. First, Effective prayer follows putting on the armor of God.     In verse 10 Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. He then instructs us to put on the full armor of God, and tells us about that armor in verses 11-17.
Remember, putting on the armor consists of turning our thoughts to God and the truths of our position before Him: He has given us His truth, which is completely trustworthy; we’re covered by the righteousness of Christ, and thus can never be condemned; God has granted us his peace, peace between us and God, peace between man and man.  Then we are to take up the shield of faith, our confidence in what we cannot see, so that we are not fooled by appearances. And we are to take up the helmet of the hope of salvation, knowing that we are predestined to be glorified in the presence of Christ.  And finally we are to take up the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, as God makes particular parts of his word come alive for us just when we need them.
Putting on the armor of God allows us to see the world as it really is. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to walk by faith not by sight, not by appearances.
True reality is invisible to us; putting on the armor allows us to see things as they really are. If we don’t first put on the armor, we will pray out of misconceptions concerning the nature of reality, who we are, and who God is. Furthermore, if we jump into prayer without first turning our thoughts to these truths, we are not protected against Satan’s attacks.
Our initial turning to God in prayer causes an alarm to sound in Satan’s headquarters - he will do anything possible to keep us from praying.    So as soon as we turn to God, Satan frequently attacks in any way possible.  We are most in need of the armor when we begin to pray.  So effective prayer requires first putting on the armor.

Second, Effective prayer includes all types of prayer.  Paul says we are to pray "with ALL prayer" in verse 18. The Greek word used can mean "all" or "all types".   There are many ways to pray, many types of prayer.  Our prayer should not be the same or even of the same form each day. In this verse, Paul brings out two types, translated here as "prayer and petition."
The first concerns honoring God, bowing in reverence before him, worshiping him.
The second consists of our requests, both for ourselves and for others.  Our prayer life can be enriched by consciously using different types.   It is easy for us to go to God with a grocery list of wrongs we want righted, sicknesses we want healed, and gifts we desire.
Now, God tells us to present our requests, our petitions to him.  But we must concentrate on broadening our prayers, so that we come to know God better, so that our hearts desire what God’s heart desires.
Third, Effective prayer is offered in every season, at all times.
Paul here uses the same word for "all."  The emphasis in this phrase is that prayer is appropriate at ALL TYPES of times or seasons. // We need to pray in the good times, and the bad times; in times of tragedy, and times of rejoicing; in times of accomplishment, and times of failure; at times when we feel close to God, and at times when we feel God has let us down, when we can’t even sense His presence.   So effective prayer follows putting on the armor, effective prayer includes all types of prayer, effective prayer is offered in every season of our lives, and, ...fourthly:
Effective prayer is prayer in the Spirit.     There are a variety of interpretations offered to the phrase "pray in the Spirit." Note that the construction in Greek is the same as in verse 10, where Paul writes "Be strong IN THE LORD and IN THE STRENGTH of His might."  In verse 10 Paul is not suggesting that there are different ways to be strong; rather, he is explaining the only way we can truly be strong, the only way we can fight successfully our spiritual battles.
Paul is not suggesting that there are two types of effective prayer, prayer in the spirit and prayer not in the spirit.  Rather, he stresses that we cannot pray effectively in our own power; vain repetitions, many words are not necessarily effective prayer; lots of emotion does not make for effective prayer; the absence of emotion does not lead to effective prayer, loud calling out does not lead to effective prayer; elegant writing does not lead to effective prayer.  Instead, effective prayer results from an active dependence on the Spirit within us, as we acknowledge that we don’t know how to pray, as we open ourselves to His leading and His prompting.
Verse 18 continues:  with all types of prayer and petition, pray at all seasons in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. 

So fifth, Effective prayer is the result of being watchful and alert. The word used here literally means "sleepless," or "not drowsy."  Have any of you fallen asleep in prayer?
I have, and I’m sure many of you have too. 

Consider this: A war is going on, and you are on guard duty.  What is your responsibility?  If you stay awake for the first 30 minutes of your stint, but then get drowsy, and allow your head to droop, you are not a very effective sentry!  No. Don’t sleep! Don’t allow yourself to doze! // Don’t neglect to keep your eyes peeled! You don’t know when or where the enemy will attack, and the army is depending on you to be its eyes and ears. // We are to stay on the alert "for all the saints." We are guarding others.  //  We can imagine now that we are not just individual enlisted men battling in the front lines, but a Brigadier General, in charge of a brigade of troops.  We are on the alert; when we hear of an enemy attack, we shift resources to assist the stressed point of the line; when we notice a thin point in our defense, we send reinforcements to shore up its strength. // If we know that one unit is weary from battle, we relieve them, and give them rest.  A good general is always watchful, always alert, always looking to send extra help to those units that need relief.
This is the responsibility of ALL of us, as the author of Hebrews makes clear.   Hebrews 3:12-13:  So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s day, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with,   But all of you encourage each one of you daily, so that not one of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
We have a JOINT RESPONSBILITY for every member of the body of Christ. As Paul
has made clear earlier in Ephesians, we are the body, we need each other, and each of us needs to do his part if the body is to prosper fully.
And doing our part includes watching, and then PRAYING.
Sixth, Effective prayer is perseverant. Paul says, "be on the alert with all perseverance."
As we mentioned earlier, a watchman is not very effective if he watches for 30
minutes and then dozes off.  A watchman must be devoted to his task, being alert,
staying awake, until he is relieved by another.
The general sending aid to beleaguered troops must continue the process until defenses are strong; if he sends insufficient aid, both the original troops and the reinforcements will be overrun.  In the same way we must persevere in prayer.
There are at least two words translated "perseverance" in the New Testament, and
these two words have quite different connotations.  The first and most common
word means to hold up under pressure.  There is a heavy weight bearing down on
you, and you must hold up under it.  This is the word used, for example, in
Hebrews 12:1:  Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  There is a difficult task ahead of us, and we must endure, we must continue through the difficulty.
That is not the word used for being perseverant in prayer. This word, instead, means to serve constantly. It is used in Acts 10, where Luke tells us that the Roman centurion Cornelius had soldiers who "persevered" with him - they waited on him constantly, were devoted to him, were anticipating his needs and trying to meet those needs even before he asked.
Both words connote continuing over a long period of time - the difference is that prayer is seen not as a burden that must be endured but as a form of service.
So the idea of being perseverant in prayer goes along with being alert: we are watching, we are aware of what is going on, and then we DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
We watch - and then act. Prayer is the action that results from watching.
Finally, Effective prayer is in accord with God’s promises and gifts.
Look now at Paul’s request to the Ephesians in verses 19 and 20:  Paul is in prison.  But what does he ask for? Not to be released from prison; not to be made more comfortable.  his personal needs are not Paul’s primary concern, not his primary prayer request.
When you ask someone to pray for you, what do you ask for? ///
Paul asks that he might fulfill his commission, that he might use his spiritual gifts effectively.
Such prayer will always be answered positively! But furthermore, note that Paul didn’t rest on the fact that God had commissioned him, or that God had gifted him.  He sought out prayer, because God chooses to work through our prayers.  This brings us back to the question, Does prayer work?     We have seen that effective prayer follows putting on the armor of God, it is of all types, for all seasons, it should be in the Spirit, it is alert and watchful, it perseveres, and it is in accord with God’s promises.
But does prayer work?  //  Prayer is our active dependence on God, our turning to Him, acknowledging that we need him, reminding ourselves of the truths of his word that appearances around us seem to contradict.
When we pray we are reminded of who God is, of what He has done, of what He will do, of what He has promised.  We are reminded that God is faithful. We can know that God will fulfill His promises in our lives and the lives of others.
[We frequently hear the expression: "Prayer doesn’t change God; prayer changes us."
Prayer DOES change us; that is one important reason for prayer. We only need to look at the Psalms to see this.  In so many Psalms, the author begins in a terrible state of mind: discouraged, depressed, overwhelmed by his circumstances.  But during the course of prayer, the circumstances do not change but the Psalmist’s attitude changes.  By reminding ourselves of who God is, and his past actions, prayer changes us - for the better.
But the danger in using this expression is that we may think that the only outcome of prayer is the change within.  While prayer does not change an unchanging God, prayer changes the world around us.]

God has ordained that he will work through our prayers.   How does God work through prayer? While we can never fully understand this, fundamentally it is no different than the way God works through any of our actions.
God works through prayer in exactly the same way that he works through preaching, or witnessing, or our exercising our spiritual gifts.
On our own, under our own power, we can accomplish nothing of eternal significance. But God chooses to work through us, so that when we step out under His power, He accomplished great things.
[Remember when God told Ezekiel to preach to a valley of dead bones? / What happened? The bones joined together, began dancing around, and flesh grew on the bones, and the people responded to the preaching! //  Now, did Ezekiel’s preaching cause those bones to come together?  //  Think about that.    The answer is Yes: God chose to work through the obedience of His prophet to cause the bones to come together.
Ezekiel could not go to any graveyard and begin speaking and see bones come together; but when speaking in obedience to God’s command, Ezekiel’s preaching led to the response of people who were dead.]
In just the same way, **God CHOOSES to use us as his instruments in accomplishing
his purposes. He chooses to allow us to participate in the exercise of his power, through our prayers.  Is there such a thing as effective prayer? YES!
So I encourage you: PRAY.  Pray through the Scriptures, pray in praise to God,
thanking him, recalling his great deeds as recorded in the Bible and in church
history - and as you pray you will be changed.
Pray for us, your leaders, and we will be empowered and changed.
Pray for your children, your friends, think of yourself as the general who has access to reinforcements to send to whoever needs them.
Be on the alert! Know who needs help, and do what is most effective:  Pray.

Hymn   I am thine o Lord   # 353

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