Refuge // Praying Church

If we’re not a church that puts prayer at the center of everything we do, then won’t have the connection with God that we need to accomplish His mission, His way.  For the last six weeks, we’ve been laying a foundational culture for Refuge.Church.  We conclude this evening with a discussion of Prayer.

Sermon Audio

Sermon Manuscript

Tonight we’re talking about prayer, so I thought why don’t we just start off, by praying the Lord’s Prayer together…

Matthew 6:9–13 (ESV)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

That was from the ESV translation, which may be slightly different than the version many of you know.  Some of you memorized the “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …” the William Shakespeare version.   

John & Sunny Molle (some my favorite King James people) back many years ago, when I first was checking out this whole Christianity thing, they lead a small group I was a part of.  It was part of a big church wide initiative to start small groups, and so we were tossed in with a bunch of people we had never met before.

I may have mentioned in the past, I’m not great in group social situations anyway.  Mix in the fact, that I had stereotyped Christians (think Ned Flanders), and the stereotype I had created wasn’t really the kind of people I saw myself hanging out with.  And the fact that I had very little knowledge of the bible; what a small group was; Christian lingo … let’s just say, I didn’t show up with a very good attitude.

But, we went.  We had some teaching/discussion time, watched a video with Rick Warren speaking, and then after the video, we were to break into smaller groups for 4-5 people (2 couples), and share prayer requests … and then at the end of that, someone in your group, go ahead and pray.

Slight problem.  I hadn’t prayed since I was a little kid, so I really had no idea how to pray.  My wife wasn’t going to pray out loud.  She said if she is ever asked, she’ll just fake pass out.

But thankfully, we had another couple … who we assumed would do the praying.  So we all held hands (also, something I’m not comfortable with) … bowed our heads.  And no one said a WORD!!!

Apparently the other couple was about as comfortable with praying out loud as we were.  After a couple of minutes, we all just sort of awkwardly opened our eyes, and said “we good”?

—-

Nearly every religion has some sort of prayer.  Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist.  They all pray.  Even atheist pray.

Our family used to watch the show Naked and Afraid, which is perhaps not the best family entertainment.  But you know what’s funny?  It was amazing how everyone seemed to discover prayer after about 12 days without food.

You’ve probably heard the saying “there are no atheist in foxholes” … and if that doesn’t make sense to you, because you’ve never been in the military, or watched Band of Brothers.  If you’ve ever flown in an airplane then you probably know there are also, no atheist on airplanes experiencing turbulence.

A recent Pew Research Center study, said that 55% of Americans pray everyday, and 1 out of 5 non-believers pray daily.  Another study by the Barna Group said that 84% of ALL Americans prayed in the last week.  They must all have teenage daughters.

I’m not sure how reliable these studies are.  One of the studies also said that 94% of all Atheist didn’t believe in God???  Did 6% miss what it meant to be an atheist?

My point is, somewhere, within all of us, is a desire to pray.  To commune connect with a higher power.

Last week we talked about the generosity and giving.  For many of you, that might be an area you struggle in trusting God.  For me, generosity has always come easy.  I’ve never really struggled to give, because I’ve been blessed over and over actually seeing that generosity make a difference in the lives of others.

But prayer, for me, it’s tougher.  I’m hot and cold.  I’m most consistent at the bed time prayers.  Some of those prayers can last 7-8 hours … because I fall asleep right in the middle of them.  #unconscious prayer ministry.

That’s sad isn’t it.  We’ve got this crazy, unlimited, amazing access, to the creator of EVERYTHING … and yet, I would imagine, that I’m not alone in having a hot & cold prayer life.

My goal today isn’t to guilt you into prayer, just like last week wasn’t to guilt you into giving.

But we’ve said, we want to be a church that models the culture and example of Jesus, and so we’re going to study that prayer of Jesus we just all prayed together.

As far as I know, prayer is the only tutorial the first followers of Jesus ever requested.  But Jesus doesn’t give them a lecture.  He doesn’t give them doctrine.  He didn’t give them a systematic theology. He gives them a short, simple, quotable, repeatable, example of prayer.

And so let’s go to Matthew, Chapter 6 (sermon on the mount) … He gives a little instruction first.

(Mt 6:5–9)

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.

That last line, is one of the reasons many of us I think don’t pray.  We think, well God is sovereign, and so he already knows what I need before we ask.  But Jesus doesn’t say, “so then, you don’t need to pray”, he goes on and says …

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in Heaven …

Our  //  Jesus didn’t teach us to pray “my father” but “our father”, and so this model prayer already begins to hint at the Church, showing that we cannot know God on our own, but must do as a part of a community of believers.

Father // More specifically, this is the “Our Abba in Heaven” (not a band from Sweden).   Abba (Aramaic) is a tender, intimate, child-like word for Father.  This would be much like dad or daddy, with all formality stripped away.  And so Jesus invites us to approach God, like a child approaches their dad … Carefree, playful, trusting, curious, excited.

I think some of us, especially when our prayer life is in one of those cold phases, we envision God as this distant angry God, arms crossed, glaring at us waiting for us to get our prayer act together.  But Jesus refers to God as our loving father, our dad.

And so imagine, you’re an orphan.  You’ve been living on the street most of your life.  You’ve been neglected.  You struggle for each meal.  But then one day, a father shows up and he says … “I’m adopting you, and from this day forward, you are my child.  And here are some new brothers and sisters who love you too.” 

If you remember nothing else this evening, remember this: If you want to learn to pray, I mean really pray the way God has called us to pray, don’t listen to all the religious people, but watch young children, and how they talk to their parents.  How they approach them.

It’s never with fear, or hesitation.  They come completely open.  100% bluntly honest.  They make a lot of requests.  They ask a lot of questions.  They cry when they’re hurt.  Laugh when they’re happy.  And even yell when they’re angry.

My kids, when they want to talk to their dad, they don’t stand at a distance and yell to me “dearest father, I beseech thee to honor my holy supplications”.  They come close to me, and say “hey dad …”

Hallowed be your name …

Our Father, He’s the King of everything, and so His name is so Hallowed, so Holy, that it wasn’t even spoken, or written completely (vowels) in the OT.

We just sang that song The Great I Am …

The mountains shake before you; the demons run and flee; At the mention of the name King of Majesty; There is no power in hell; Or any who can stand; Before the power and the presence of the great I AM

As we were singing, I thought, what an odd phrase if you’re new to church.  “uh, didn’t Brian just say we’re going to praise and worship God, and now we’re singing songs about how great I am?” 

I AM is one of the names of God in the Old Testament.  It first appears in Exodus.  Moses, is out minding his own business, taking care of his Father-in-laws sheep, he wonders into the wilderness, and comes to Mount Sinai where God appears to him in this burning bush.  (which, I don’t know about you, but that would scare the heck out of me)

Moses is intrigued, because this bush is on fire, but it’s not actually burning … and he does what every person in a horror movie does … they hear a noise in the basement, and for some reason, feel the need to go check it out …

And as he does, God begins to reveal himself to Moses; That he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And that he has heard their cries (prayers) and that he has come to rescue them.  And he’s going to work through Moses to do that …

Exodus 3:13-15

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”  14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”

I love how Jim Gafigan talks of this event (VIDEO)

Now that’s funny.  I considered plagiarizing it.  But I’ve tried to avoid that in my preaching.  I try not to take credit for others ideas.  It’s what I did far too often in college (kids can’t do that anymore).

But what’s so wrong with plagiarizing? What’s wrong with claiming you came up with an idea, when you, in fact,  did not?

You’re not acknowledging your dependence on someone else.  You’re not giving credit where credit is due. And so you wrong both the author of the content, and you wrong yourself, because now you won’t be capable of original ideas in the future.

We can do that with God.  When good things happen, we take all the credit.  When life is just rolling right along, we think that’s by our own doing.   We don’t give credit or proper recognition to the all-powerful God who’s name is so hallowed, that the mountains shake before it, and demons run and flee.

Tim Keller // Prayer (see Library) says it like this …

Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power. Yet we hate that knowledge. We hate the idea that we are utterly and completely dependent on God, because then we would be obligated to him and would not be able to live as we wish. We would have to defer to the one who gives us everything.

—–

I know we’ve spent a lot of time, on just the first sentence, and we should probably spend more.  If all we do is understand that first sentence (Majesty of God/Father), then we’ll have amazing prayer lives.  All the rest of what we’re going to talk about will mostly take care of itself.

Your Kingdom Come … 

How many watched the Trump/Clinton debate this week?  If there’s ever been a time to pray, God, your kingdom come … I mean, seriously Jesus, hurry.

But we should always have a longing for that day, when Jesus returns/Kingdom Established.  When all our back-pain is gone.  Our depression and anxiety is no more.  When all our tears are dried.  Where justice and mercy reigns, and there are no poor, no disabled, no racism, no gun violence, and no politicians …

When all in this room, and all who have ever called on the name of Jesus, will be together.  No longer misfits, but prince and princesses in the Kingdom of God.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …

One of the purposes of prayer is to learn to trust in God’s wisdom and not our own.  It’s saying, Dad here’s what I think I need, but you know best.

Jesus Prayer; Your will be done

My prayers;  God, could you just do it my way?

I love how Martin Luther paraphrases “your will be done”:

“Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this, your divine will, is crucifying our will.” 

That’s why the “Our Father/Hallowed” is so foundational … unless we recognize GOD LOVES US LIKE A FATHER and is 100% SOVEREIGN, we’ll never be able to say your will be done.

To this point tonight, everything in the Lord’s prayer has been thanksgiving and adoration.  It’s an upward prayer.  Praising God for who he is, and our submission to him. And sometimes when we pray, we can stop right there.  (Something we all should probably do more of … just giving God praise and thanks)

But in Jesus’ simple prayer, he now turns, to the supplication, the asking, and confession

Give us today our daily bread …

We’re asking our Father, our dad … for help, in our own lives, and/or in the lives of others.

Daily bread is a metaphor for necessities, rather than luxuries.  Our needs, not our greeds as I heard someone once say.

But many of us, we skip the upward prayer (praise/thanksgiving), and just jump straight to the ask …

OK, God … it’s me … you haven’t heard from me in a while, but here’s my list.  My cousin Olivia, she’s got the flu, could you fix her up.  I haven’t gotten a raise yet this year, could you help a brother out?  That one girl in my bible study, I can’t remember her name, but I think she needed me to pray for something, and since you already know everything, you know what I’m talking about.  Oh, and I think there is some bad stuff happening in the world, could you give us world peace? 

We come to God with our to-do list, and when he doesn’t give us the answers that we want, we get frustrated, and say, “what’s the point, God doesn’t answer prayers.”

But God always answers prayers.  It just may not be the way we wanted it answered.  (yes, no, later)

As a dad, I tell my kids yes, when I know it’s good.  No when I think they might get hurt.  Later, when I think they’re not ready yet, but might be at some point in time.  (Instagram Kennedy, someday)

And while a massive oversimplification of the infinite wisdom of God … most of us can swallow this logic if we’ve prayed for a new Ferrari or our favorite sports team to win the big game.

But it gets real, when we experience health problems (or someone we love does), and the healing doesn’t come.  It gets real, when my world seems to be imploding, and it seems God isn’t doing anything to stop it.  It gets real, when our wants, don’t match up with God’s will.

And listen, please NEVER EVER let someone say to you … “well, you must just not have enough faith, otherwise, God would have given you the answer you wanted.  God would have healed you, if only your faith was stronger.”

That’s garbage … The Bible says, God works with faith as small as a mustard seed.  It’s just that sometimes, his answers, will, knowledge, of what is truly best for his children, is different than what our simple minds can comprehend.

Confession:

And forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors … (those who have sinned against us)

We could spend the next 3 months talking about this one, and probably will at some point.  But remember I said this prayer builds upon itself.  When we say “hallowed be your name”, and we truly come to a place of being in awe of who God is, and his holiness, the easier it is to see our own flaws, and can confess them and ask for forgiveness.

And the more we begin to see our own flaws, and how God’s grace has covered those sins and Jesus paid those debts, the easier it is for us to forgive others, and extend grace to them.  And so when I have unresolved bitterness and resentment, it’s a sign that I don’t fully understood the radical grace of God.  And when I hold onto a grudge, and yet continue to expect God to forgive me, well … that’s sort of the definition of being a hypocrite.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one

That’s true. But the Bible also says, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

So God doesn’t do the tempting.  He doesn’t put evil desires in our heart.  But he does allow us into the presence of tests and temptations.

In fact, every step we take, is a step into the presence of temptation. There isn’t a moment in your life that isn’t a moment of temptation; a moment when unbelief and disobedience is not an option.

And so Jesus isn’t teaching us to pray against the sovereign guidance God.  He’s teaching us to pray that the temptation does not take us in, that it doesn’t overcome us … but deliver us, God, from this evil temptation that is set before me in this broken world.

That’s the Lord’s Prayer … in very short order.  I feel like we could have taken a week, for each of those sentences, and maybe we will at some future point, but the reason we wrap up our “Culture of Refuge” series with prayer, is much the same reason I started with rest.

As I said, 6 weeks ago, if we’re not a church who knows how to rest, we’re going to burn-out, and not accomplish the mission God has set before us.

Likewise, today, I’m saying, if we’re not a church that puts prayer at the center of our Church, we’re not going to have the connection with God that we need to accomplish His mission, in His way.

Prayer is so important for the Church, that we see in Acts, as the church began to grow, and have more work that needed to be done, that the apostles unload a bunch of important work to others, not because they were lazy, but so they could spend MORE time in prayer … so they could stay in tune with God and his desires for his Church.

We try to over complicate prayer, but at it’s core … it’s simply a conversation with our dad.  And if we truly want to create the culture of Jesus here at Refuge, we’re going to need to spend some time actually talking to Jesus.   As the Bride of Christ, we need to spend some time … a LOT of time … talking to our groom.

And so, I thought that’s what we’d do tonight.  That we would take the final minutes of our teaching time tonight, and simply pray.

For some of you, these few minutes might seem like an eternity, and really awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe you have no idea what to pray.  My wife Karen was prepared to lead us through this prayer time, but she’s under the weather tonight, so I’m going to do my best to lead us in this … using the outline she’s put together …

So if you could, close your eyes, bow your head … and let’s have a conversation with our Father …


A.  At this time try to still your mind.  It is likely your mind is occupied with many other cares and concerns, and during this time your mind will be prone to wander, which is normal.  For the next few moments while we pray together, as new thoughts enter your mind, see yourself dropping each thought at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to have that concern for this time of prayer.

Our Father in Heaven, may your name be kept holy.

A.  For the next while, honor God’s name by slowly thinking on some of his names… Healer, Creator, Counselor, Father, Provider.

B.  Marvel at the majesty of His Creation……the grandness of the mountains, the depths of the ocean, the miracle of new life.

C.  Give thanks for who He is and be in Awe of what he has the power to do.

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

A.  At this time offer yourself to God as a doer of his will.  Ask Him to guide, lead, and give you the means to accomplish His purposes.

B.  Ask God to show you ways to display peace, goodness, love, and mercy to those around you so others can feel the love of God through you.

C.  Pray for the body of believer’s at Refuge to build God’s Kingdom in Southwest Florida.

Give US today the food we need

A.  Take a moment to acknowledge that God is your provider and he knows your daily needs, worries, and struggles.

B.  Confidently ask God to provide for your daily needs so that you may continue to focus on ministering to others.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

A.  Take a moment to reflect on God’s forgiveness to you.  When Christ was crucified on the cross, for the first time in eternity he was separated from his Father.  Take a moment to think about the depth of the Father’s love for you displayed through allowing his Son to be the punishment for the sin of the entire world.

B.  Think on the bitterness and un-forgiveness you are currently holding in your heart toward another person.  Take a moment to ask God to help you release this and show mercy and forgiveness in the same way God has shown it to you.

Don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

A.  Take a moment to reflect on any temptations you currently face.

B.  Thank God that through the Church, and friendships with other believers you don’t have to face temptations alone.

C.  Ask God to help you recognize temptation, be honest in confessing them, and to give you strength to overcome them.

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

2 comments

  1. Very nice coverage of the topic Brian!!

    Janelle I. Wissler, RHIA, CCS, CMT, CCDS, 2530 Hawks Preserve Drive, Fort Myers, Florida, 33905, 239-694-4341. ________________________________

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