Home Worship Sheet 09/08/20

Welcome to the next instalment in this series looking at prayer. Today we will think about the question ‘Why prayer?’ using Jesus’ instructions about prayer in Matthew. Let’s open by praying together:

Loving God, thank you for giving us the means and space to be together today. Enable us to lay down our worries at your feet, and be with us as we think about why we pray and understand more of the ways in which you answer prayer. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

We’re going to sing/read/listen to our first song “What a friend we have in Jesus” (Source 566).  Click here to listen on Youtube

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to him in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Jesus is our only refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph M Scriven

Thanksgiving 

Gracious Father, “So You have always been, and are still, and ever shall be: merciful, kind, slow to anger, and true; there is none so good as You”. 

Thank you for all of the gifts you have given us this week. Thank you for the people who have cared for us this week, whether in person or from afar. Thank you for nature and for the summer: for birdsong and gardens and sunlight. Thank you for the ways you help us to stay connected, and thank you for friendship, family, and the kindness of strangers. We think now for a moment, whether silently or out loud, of other things we are grateful for this week. Lord, we praise you and give you thanks.

As we have received, may we also give generously, whether we are offering our time or our money. (If you normally put money in the bag please take a moment to set it aside). Thinking of these things, let us pray:

Generous God, we know that all good things come from you. We pray that you would bless the money we collect as a church, and that you would help us to use it well for the Church and our wider community. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Reading: Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Reading: Psalm 42:1-5
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Reflection: 

Continuing with this series on prayer, I chose this Psalm to look at alongside Jesus’ instructions in Matthew for why we should pray.

As well as the longing to be able to worship ‘with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng’ being quite resonant at the moment, I also found the dialogue between the psalmist and their own soul interesting. When he addresses his soul: ‘Why, my soul, are you downcast?’ it exposes the feeling, which I can certainly relate to, of knowing you should pray and praise God, but not feeling able to or wanting to, and almost having to fight with yourself to do so. Sometimes our initial reaction when facing struggles can be to draw into ourselves, and to feel sadness instead of praying. But why is this?

I think sometimes we might feel that we deserve the suffering, or that we don’t deserve that which we would be praying for. It can also sometimes be us lowering our expectations – ‘if I don’t pray for that to happen, I can’t be disappointed if my prayer isn’t answered’. 

But Jesus is really clear in this passage – we should just ask God for what we need, in the same way as in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray that God would ‘Give us our daily bread’. I think we can learn from the way God is addressed both in the Old and New Testaments very concisely and with imperatives,  although I think part of this is cultural differences and the way things are translated. We don’t have to be polite or try and justify a prayer, just to know that God knows exactly what we need.

This is all tied up with faith and our conviction that God can answer prayers, even if they seem impossible to us. This doesn’t mean prayer is transactional – it is also mysterious, and God may not answer prayer in the way or the time frame we expect. 

But ultimately we pray because prayer is about relationship with God, just as Jesus uses the example of a Father and Son. I think there is also power in praying for others who we don’t know or who are a long way away – that gives us a connection with those people, through God, and it’s comforting, when things are hard, to think that people are probably praying for you or people in your situation. In order to see prayer working I find hindsight is very powerful. When you are in the middle of something it is often hard to see where God is working, but when you come out the other side and look back over your life, the ways in which prayer has been answered (even if you didn’t realise it at the time) can become clearer.

I think sharing where prayer has worked with others is also meaningful. As a church community we pray a lot with each other, but I’m not sure whether we share the answer to prayer just as much. Last year one day I bumped into a friend in Cambridge, and when I asked how he was, he just said: “Really good, I’ve been able to see God working and answering prayer in my life today”, and then cycled off. That really stuck with me, and I hope that we can grow in supporting each other through difficult times when it seems prayer isn’t answered, and rejoicing with each other when it is.

 Questions

  1. What else can you see in Psalm 42 about why we pray?
  2. What stops you from asking God for things in prayer?
  3. How do you discern prayer being answered in your life? How can we grow in this as a community?

We are going to sing/read/listen to “Just as I am” (Source 306)  Click here to find the song on YouTube.

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come.  

Charlotte Elliot.

Prayers for others:
Our heavenly Father, God who created us – you say: Do not be afraid – I will save you. I have called you by name – you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. 

We pray for people living in countries that are at war; where rulers abuse their power; where government is corrupt or human rights are denied.

We take a moment to pray particularly for places that are in the news or that are on our hearts.

Our heavenly Father, God who created us, says: Do not be afraid – I will save you. I have called you by name – you are mine.

Jesus, our Brother – you said: Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 

We pray for people who are carrying heavy loads, through illness; through caring; through isolation or depression; through worry, guilt or regret.

We take a moment to pray particularly for people known to us and who are on our hearts.

Jesus our Brother – you said: Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.

Holy Spirit, the Comforter – Jesus said: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will be with you for ever.

We pray for people who are in pain or close to death; those who are mourning; people who feel lonely or unloved.

We take a moment to pray particularly for people known to us and who are on our hearts.

Holy Spirit, the Comforter – Jesus said: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will be with you for ever.

And now we pray in the words Jesus taught us:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom,
the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.

We will finish with a song that is also a prayer.  Let us sing/read/listen to “Father hear the prayer we offer”  Click here to find the song.

Father, hear the prayer we offer:
Not for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not for ever in green pastures
Do we ask our way to be;
But the steep and rugged pathway
May we tread rejoicingly.

Not forever by still waters
Would we idly rest and stay;
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our Guide;
Through endeavour, failure, danger,
Father, be thou at our side.

Love Maria Willis (1824-1908)

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen

CCLI: 21497