Sermon for 02-26-20

Sermon for 02-26-20

Rewards of Prayer

Reading: Luke 18:1-14

Good morning Signal Mountain! I have been reflecting on my 21+ years here as preacher and all the blessings God has given. One thing really is clear to me that the Psalmist puts into words well: O Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance! (16:5-6)

This church has been and is a wonderful family to be a part of. Let me be first to confess and declare: Thank-you Lord! Praise be to Your holy name! You are so good, and I know that You brought me and my family here, and You have made it really good here! We have it good here, far better than so many, and far more than any of us could ever deserve. If you agree, would you say, Amen?

Jesus entered the temple of Jerusalem and cleansed it shouting: It is written: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations!” Jesus also said in John 4, that God the Father is Spirit and that He is seeking worshippers who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

A great church, the Church Jesus died for, is much more than a great group of people to be part of, and a fun life together. It is much more than an impressive building or well performed program. The Church of Jesus Christ is the very body of Christ on earth! The Church of Christ is His glorious, eternal bride! The Church is the household of God’s children, bought by the sacrifice of the blood of God’s own Son! We, who are His church have it really, really good! If you agree, say amen.

I believe that Satan would love nothing more than for us to be ashamed of Christ and silence our confession of Him to others. Satan is at war against Jesus Christ and His church with lies and deception and distractions all the time. We are witnesses to Satan’s antichrist movement that is growing in popularity and power. Perhaps his greatest deception is that he doesn’t exist. But we surely know better, do we not? Demonic work has been growing and gaining ground especially in the wealthy west where we live. Sadly, we seem to be entering a time and culture where it is becoming illegal or considered ignorant and improper to profess faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In our work places and even in public places the name of Jesus, spoken in faith and praise, is becoming more and more taboo.

How do we handle this? First, we need to remember our history as Christians and reflect on the price those who have gone before us have paid for their faith. Second, we need to pray, knowing God is still on the throne and seek His blessing of courage to stand. Remember our past, pray about our present and trust God with our future. If you agree, say amen.

Was this not the theme of the first recorded prayer of our church family in Acts chapter 4:18-31? I read it two weeks ago. Let’s read it again. (read) How did God reward their prayer?

With the time we have left I want us to consider Jesus’ first teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the mount and, if we have time, consider His prayer life and how the Father rewarded Him.

Matthew 6:5-15 is the text. This is a brief, but loaded passage about prayer. In context, Jesus is warning us about hypocrisy and how it will keep us from receiving the reward of our Father. This is critical. Whatever would hinder the reward from our God and Father, must be avoided. Whatever we can do to receive the Father’s reward must be faithfully practiced. So what did Jesus teach us here? What can we do that will open up heaven’s blessing of our Father’s reward upon us?

Let’s just hear the words of Jesus and may faith come by hearing. (read Matt. 6:5-15)

What did Jesus tell us would hinder our Father’s reward to us? Notice Jesus mentions two kinds of reward for prayer: one is the reward for those who are praying to impress others, and the second is the reward for those who are praying to impress God. Jesus shows us that this is a general rule that can be applied to giving, praying and fasting. The reward you get is determined by who’s attention you seek.

Does this not go further? Can this rule also be applied to how we live from day to day, and who’s attention we are seeking in all of our activities and conversations? Picture this: Suppose you go to God in private prayer in your inner room concerned with seeking God’s attention, but when you come out of your prayer closet you act and live by seeking the attention of others. What reward would that bring from God? How should we expect God to reward that? God might reward you by disciplining you. Your reward might be that He convicts your heart to seek His kingdom first both in private and in public. Just how does God reward us for our prayers? What if God rewards you by allowing you to face opposition to your faith so that you will learn to depend on Him more and more? What if God lets you suffer so that others who see your faith is genuine are strengthened to share their faith? It happens!

Paul was in prison. From there he wrote to one of his favorite churches, the church in Philippi. As he told them about how prison life was going, he shared how God was using his imprisonment to give courage to others to openly proclaim their faith in Jesus. Paul wasn’t completely sure he would make it out alive, and actually seemed pleased with the idea that he might not! In that context he wrote this encouragement to the church. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 2:20-30.

Listen carefully to verses 29-30 again. It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake. Engaging in the same conflict you saw that I had, and now hear that I still have. Is that a reward of prayer? Yes.

What conflict did the Philippians see that Paul had? Remember the story of the Philippian Jailer? Acts 16 tells the story. But I must get back to what Jesus taught us.

Jesus tells us over and over in Matthew 6 that our Father sees what is in secret. God knows not only what you say in prayer, God knows why you say it. God knows if you mean it. God wants us to pray to Him and mean what we pray. Jesus even gives us an example of how to pray and how it works. Praying alone is prayer 101. Go where you know it’s just you and your Father. It’s there we need to get real with God. When I lead a prayer, I’ve got to think about more than just me and God. Public prayer like we do it, for the one leading is we and God, not me and God. The Psalms reveal that David’s prayers were almost exclusively personal. Psalms rarely is a prayer of plural. It’s mostly written first person singular. I find these prayers extremely helpful. David gets real with God. Yet he records it as a prayer we can read and model our prayers after today.

But Jesus also gives us a public prayer. Our Father in heaven. Give us this day… Forgive us as we forgive… lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. This is an model of a prayer with others. Plural prayer is prayer 202, and gathers in great themes of worship and kingdom, God’s provision of food and forgiveness, and God’s guidance in our lives and deliverance from evil.

Jesus prayed both privately and publicly. His last public prayer was from the cross. He may not have been leading his audience in prayer at that moment, but Jesus was certainly leading His disciples in prayer who hear His words with wonder and amazement even today.

I will close with this final passage on Jesus’ prayer life that speaks volumes to us about how to pray and the reward of prayer. Hebrews 5:7-9 (read)

Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears. He did so with reverent submission. He was heard.

Jesus’ prayer life and teaching on prayer for us are powerful, spiritual guides to us. God’s word reminds us that prayer is not just something you do on Sundays. God wants us to pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks. God’s word reminds us that those who come to God must believe that He is, and He rewards those who seek Him. If you agree with this say amen.

If you would like for all of us here to join you in prayer about any need you may have, you are invited to come and share that need and one of our elders will lead us all in prayer for you. If it’s private and you just want to ask one of our leaders to pray for you, write it down and give it to one of our elders for prayer after we dismiss. Don’t hold back. Don’t resist God’s Spirit. If you will, please come forward as we stand together and sing to encourage you.