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Lord's Day Liturgy

That We May Lead Faithful Lives

Church, let us pray.

Two Sundays ago I talked about praying, in particular, the case of praying for common grace in our culture. One of the passages that I think commends that idea is the beginning of 1 Timothy 2.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior (verses 1-3)

The start of the next paragraph continues beating the same prayer drum.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. (verse 8)

These sorts of prayers should always be made. Consistently our elders include prayers for our government in their corporate supplication. I always pray for our nation and unbelieving neighbors in my corporate prayer of confession for similar reasons. We believe that it is an appropriate time, a more desperate time, for the whole body to be called to prayer, even fasting.

Next Sunday evening (August 2) we have a scheduled service. Though we haven’t finished our series on Kuyperian spheres due to canceled services over the last few months, we plan to continue and extend those messages in the fall. But the elders desire to call the whole church to pray this week and then all together next Sunday night.

It will be different than our previous corporate prayer nights. We will concentrate prayers on our nation, our state, on the executive and legislative and judicial branches, on the upcoming election for various offices and laws. We will pray for grace, for them, for us.

I plan to fast for breakfast and lunch Thursday through Sunday. I would encourage you to join me in making devoted effort to prayer. May God help us.


For reminders about fasting in particular, here are two messages I preached about The New Wine of Fasting – Part 1 and Part 2.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Longer Prayer

This will be the last exhortation to confession based on the Lord’s Prayer, and my goal is to wrap up this series with an extra-biblical bow.

I grew up in a King James Version only church. Because of that, the prayer of Jesus I memorized as a kid is a little longer than what’s found in the ESV and, for that matter, in the accepted Greek New Testament. There are some later, meaning less old so less likely to be original, manuscripts that include a final phrase after “deliver us from evil” in Matthew 6:13. That final phrase is: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

These words aren’t original to Jesus, but they are biblical, just not in the Gospel of Matthew. Consider this prayer offered by King David in the presence of the assembly:

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11–13, ESV)

Every prayer made by faith, and each petition that Jesus taught His disciples to make, is a desire for God’s praise. When we ask for and hope in His future reign, when we ask for and trust in Him for today’s provision, when we ask for and extend His forgiveness, when we ask for and live in His sovereign protection, we are acknowledging His majesty and we are back at the beginning: hallowed be Your name with glory forever.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Pater Noster

We started a series of exhortations about the Lord’s Prayer last week. Jesus assumes that men pray; even hypocrites and idolators pray. When we pray we should avoid pretense and superstition. I’ll probably come back to both of those preparatory instructions later.

But since the subject for my message last Lord’s Day was kids in worship, I want to point out the first part of Jesus’ pattern. “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven….”

The medieval church referred to Matthew 6:6-9 less as the Lord’s Prayer or the Disciples’ Prayer and more often as the Pater noster. In Greek the prayer begins, Pater hemon (Πάτερ ἡμῶν), which is Pater noster in Latin, and “Our Father” in English. This is not as much the prayer of a believer as it is a prayer of the church, or at least of the family. We are brothers and sisters who come together to our Father.

When we come to the time of confession in our corporate worship it’s appropriate to think about God, the Lord, the Almighty. He is our Creator, the one with whom we have to do. He is also the Lawmaker, the Judge, and He is perfect in holiness. And for us in the church, He is our honored Father. As the ultimate Father He doesn’t lower the standard, He holds His children to it in love and with discipline as necessary. He also restores His children to fellowship by forgiving them.

Our sin is a reflection on our Father’s name. Our sin has consequences on our family. But He is a faithful and merciful Father who sent His Son to bring many sons to glory. So we confess as children to our Father.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Those Who Don’t Pray

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus addressed common ways that people often practice their righteousness before men: almsgiving, praying, and fasting. There is a way to do any or all of them that misses out on reward from our Father in heaven. After introducing the theme (Matthew 6:1), there are three subjects in four paragraphs, with prayer being the focus of two of them. If we associate prayer with fasting, which we should, then prayer gets a supermajority of attention.

Not only does prayer get Jesus’ attention, His warning and instruction about prayer is also based on a big assumption. Jesus makes a distinction between men who pray seeking reward from men and men who pray seeking reward from God. He does not mention those who don’t pray at all; that’s not an option. He assumes that we’re praying; even hypocrites and unbelieving Gentiles pray.

Hypocrites love to put on a prayer show for men. Gentiles need to pray a lot because their gods get busy and are not entirely reliable, so the more words the better chances of being heard. This performance is before a different audience but it’s still a show.

What does it say about us when we don’t pray at all, or at least in such a way that it could be assumed? It says we don’t understand righteousness, we don’t know the Father, and we don’t care about receiving a reward from Him. A prayer-less life won’t remain a secret, and it’s a sin we should confess.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Hiding Behind a Newspaper

I assume most of you heard about the massacre in San Bernardino two weeks ago. Fourteen people were killed and twenty-one wounded in a terrorist attack. Within hours of the shootings, a number of conservative politicians used their social media channels to communicate their “thoughts and prayers” for the families of the victims. The Daily News (a newspaper in New York City) printed their front page with pictures and brief passages of praying sound bytes with the headline: “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” The page also included the following: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”

Setting aside the “innocent” adjective applied to Americans as well as the leading label of a “gun scourge,” the mockery has been called “prayer shaming.” It’s as if the media snorted, “Oh, you’re praying? How ridiculous. What a fool. Why don’t you do something.” It’s trying to embarrass the prayers.

I cannot say for certain that these politicians weren’t posturing. But the Daily News wasn’t accusing them of hypocrisy. I also won’t say that praying is the only and final response. But the purpose of this shaming headline is an attempt to bring believers to their knees before cultural and governmental gods.

Perhaps the biggest shame is that we Christians have prayed so little in front of the world that it’s taken until now to get such clear and negative press. If, as a believer, you have ever lamented that you don’t know “how to make a difference in the culture,” just pray in public and be ready to give an answer for the prayer that is in you. It’s not a good sign that our society wants to pile on the uselessness of praying, but it is a good opportunity to shine as light in the darkness. Prayer is our thing. We can do this! Don’t hide your prayer behind a newspaper.

Be much in private prayer, too, and give up any desire to be rewarded by men. Don’t pray for the photo op, but do pray so plainly and freely and perseveringly and hopefully that others would see your good supplications and glorify God in heaven.


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Lord's Day Liturgy

Prayer for Sanctification

Last Sunday we entered a study of John 17. The entire chapter is one prayer by Jesus for His disciples the night before His crucifixion. We learn, or at least we have confirmed for us, what sorts of things the Son desires for us as we hear Him ask the Father. He makes a variety of supplications and we will take a few weeks in our confession time to examine if we are wanting what the Son wants.

First let us consider that Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth: your word is truth” (17:17). Two verses later He says, “For their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in truth” (verse 19).

We define (or argue about) sanctification better than we desire it. Christ wants us to be sanctified, to be set apart from the world in our desires and loves, but yet not removed out of the world. Sanctification is not an escape, it is a conscious battle to love God and to love our neighbors who don’t deserve it. The moral behavior part of being made more holy grows out of better and stronger love for the right things.

Jesus prays for our sanctification as our priest, as the one who goes to the Father on our behalf. Not only that, He went to the cross on our behalf. He “consecrated” Himself, He dedicated His life and death for the sake of our purification from sin. He cleanses the inside of the cup first.

Christian, are you pursuing purity in your heart for the sake of your pure, unmixed, uncontaminated loves? Are you loving the same direction that Jesus is praying? Are you living in a way that matches the purpose of Christ dying?

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A Shot of Encouragement

Burnout Preventative

Regarding John 15:16,

that the greater part of teachers either languish through indolence, or utterly give way through despair, arises from nothing else than that they are sluggish in the duty of prayer.

—John Calvin, Commentary on John, 122

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A Shot of Encouragement

Desperation and Deliverance

I think about “the rhythm of desperation and deliverance” all the time.

A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit—which is the only kind that matters—knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights set only on what man can achieve.

—John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 54

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A Shot of Encouragement

A Less Busy Heart

Learning to pray doesn’t offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life, 23

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Devoted to Prayer

proskartereo

προσ•καρ•τε•ρέ•ω

verb — [pros-kar-te-reh-oh]

definition: to stick by or be close at hand; attach oneself to, wait on, be faithful to; to persist in something; to be busy with, be busily engaged in, be devoted to.

example usage:

Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε, γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ (Colossians 4:2)

“Devote yourselves to prayer.” (Colossians 4:2, NAS, NIV, NRSV) Or the ESV, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (“continue earnestly” NKJV).

Paul likewise urges devotion to prayer in Romans 12:12. The disciples of Christ, in the days following Christ’s ascension, were “devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). They “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

To “devote” oneself means to give oneself to something with such dogged commitment that one becomes known, even identified, by that devotion. A husband devoted to his wife has eyes and time for no other woman. A teacher devoted to his or her students is committed, in and out of the classroom, that the students would learn and flourish. A fan devoted to his favorite college or professional team wears his team colors on game day, loves to talk about his team, and senses the joys of winning and the pain of defeat along with the players.

Christians are called to devote themselves to prayer. To be devoted to prayer means to commit ourselves to prayer in such a way that our lives (not merely our pre-meal rituals) are defined by prayer. Being devoted to prayer means that our eyes are on God and the moments in our days are filled with prayer. Being devoted to prayer means that we make every effort to battle for souls, our own and those of others, asking, knocking, and seeking God’s work. Being devoted to prayer means that we will be marked by an obvious, fanatical, intense, and unwavering practice of prayer.

—Devoted to Prayer