Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Authentic Prayer - sermon by Ray Foss for Basic Lay Speaker class, September 29, 2007, Warren United Methodist Church

The passage from 1st Timothy 2:1-7, is a rich piece of scripture, because it speaks of the need to pray, so as to be at peace with the world, a holy peace so as to go on to make disciples, as we are all called in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-19, disciples of the one true God, who loved us enough to sacrifice his son.

As Paul himself said in 1 Timothy 1:15, when he was still Saul, he had persecuted the followers of Christ. Now he himself knew the struggle of spreading the Good News throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Like the Attorney in Luke 10:25-37, Paul had tried to live the pious life Jews were called to in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 (to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself); but it was only the saving grace of Jesus Christ who gave him the tools to be the Good Neighbor, to bring the balm, the healing of Christ, to the Gentiles.

But what of Timothy the young pastor in Ephesus, the recipient of these instructions, these teachings? We know quite a bit about him, again through the Book of Acts, where we learn of his growing up, the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother, Eunice, herself the daughter of Lois, a believer in Christ, a follower of the Risen Lord.

But, what kind of prayer was Paul calling Timothy to, in his personal letter to his protégé? This peace, to allow him to be the servant he was called to be? How can we make the same plea to other followers, perhaps to other followers who, might be newer in their faith than we, just like Timothy was when compared to Paul, the Billy Graham of his time. What can we say to help them know the Good News, and to bring it to others themselves, to remove the clutter?
This was part of the challenge I faced in my Middle High Sunday School class last week. We too had this same lectionary. And, as with Paul, there was a distance between me and the kids in where we are in our faith journeys. Though there are times when they stretch my faith, and show me a trust that many of us adults have lost.

I sat in the circle in the Parlor, thinking, “So what was I going to tell them about this letter, the meaning and importance of Paul’s words to Timothy, for us now?”
As Methodists, we believe in the ministry of all believers, the Great Commission; but, do we spend enough time in prayer to be centered and ready to do that work, truly loving our neighbors, even our enemies, as ourselves?

When our church was beginning a strategic planning effort a couple of years ago now, Penny Thurston, a widow of a retired United Methodist pastor, was often asked to lead us in centering prayer. I wrote this poem about one of her prayers.


We sat silent in centering prayer
my diaphragm and chest rose and fell
silently, in time with my heart
your word, the one you put in my mind
It was Spirit, Your Holy Spirit
living in the room with us
flickering in the Christ candle before us.
A call for your spirit to act,
guide us, be present in each one
leading us in prayer and action

Do we trust God for everything in our lives? Do we pray for neighbors, for leaders, for others? Or do we merely pray for our own small troubles? Do we even know how to pray, to really pray, as Paul was describing.

Paul reminded Timothy of the context of prayer, the kinds of prayer, the way he should pray, and the state of grace from which he could live his call, in these few words in this 1st letter to Timothy.

I told my Middle High Sunday School class about my first experience with the five-finger prayer, as taught to me by Rolling Ridge Director, Rev. Larry J. Peacock, at Wesley United Methodist Church. It is a simple way of praying, that puts the pieces that Paul was describing in this passage from 1 Timothy 2:1-7.

Our hand, our fingers, give us a wonderful way to remember how to pray as Paul instructed Timothy. Look at your hand, your fingers,

- Praise – the one true God, Creator, Sustainer, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Thanksgiving – for all He has done and is doing in the life of the world, in our lives
- Confession – for where we all have fallen short, individually and as the human race
- Supplication – prayers for others, including the leaders, even your enemies
- Intercession – prayers for yourself, for your needs, to clear the clutter and help you do God’s will, to follow his call.

What would we pray for, how would we take this lesson from Paul, the five fingers of prayer, consistent with Paul’s call to a prayer that leads to peace? What would the children say, those young and growing in their faith?

How can we as Christians be mentors and examples to those, like my middle high school class?

What are the authentic prayers of the children? Listen to the wisdom, the truth, the faith in their words. Like Paul, we want them to succeed in their journey. We want them to make disciples, as we must. Listen to the words of prayer of the children. Listen to their authentic words.

Caleb Hawkins
“We give you thanks, O God:
for friends that help me
for food that tastes good
for a good, fun family
for a house to live in
for Education
for My health and fitness
God be near and help us:
for my focus at school
for my family’s problems
for my injuries and sickness
for my friend’s mom and her cancer
for my friends and whatever they’re needing


Dear God,

I thank you for my guinea pig, my dog, and my hermit crabs.
I thank you for my friends and family
I give you thanks for horses
And all the wild animals
And all the domestic animals

I Am sorry for all the paper and plastic and
aluminum that I throw away instead of
recycling it. I am sorry for the water I’ve wasted
and the pollution I have caused. I know it is
important to preserve your Earth because it is a
gift to us.

Help people realize that slaughtering horses for pet
food is cruel, and protect them from the trouble they
get themselves into. Help them understand that
animals are a gift and they should be kind to them
Also help them to understand that Earth is a
gift from You as well and they shouldn’t trash such
a precious gift.

And please, help me to achieve good grades in
school and high marks on my tests and quizzes
Finally, keep my pets, family, and friends safe and
healthy. Peace Out. Amen.

Jessa Fogel
Dear God,

Thank you God for coming down to earth
and saving us. Thank you for friends and family
who love me and support me. Thank you for
food and shelter that my parents provide for me.
God, we give you great thanks. For life and happiness,
we give you thanks o’ God. Thank you for baby
back ribs that come right off the grill. And most
of all, thank you for you. In your name I pray,

I am thankful for all that you have
done for me. I am sorry about
your family loss and I am sad about
it too. My Gia Gia (gramma in Greek)
was very close to me and she must
be with you. I really miss her So please
take good care of here. Thank you for
my family, friends, my sisters, my dads,
my mom, and my friends.
from your servant

A Prayer from Timothy

Holy God,
Creator and sustainer
of the earth, I offer this prayer
for myself and the world.

I thank you Lord, for my family,
for this beautiful Sunday, for this church
and church family, for the changing seasons
this season of fall, and especially for your presence.

Lord, I confess that I have fallen short of your grace,
that I have not communicated with my family,
that I have struggled in my work and I have not
put my whole trust in you.

I pray for this torn world, where strife and poverty
are too common, where one in seven Americans
are without health insurance, and where
too many know war and disease.

Lord, I pray for President Bush and the Congress,
may they find a way to end war
I pray also for this church, as we prepare for
a capital campaign and budget,
for the Iraqi government and its people
I ask for your peace for them and for
those who seeks after peace in the Middle East.
I pray Lord too, for the world, for global warming
and the melting ice caps. May we come to grips
with these challenges before it is too late.

Lord, I ask for your guidance, your strength
to get more done, to be more available to Ruth,
and to help the girls more.

I ask all these things in Your son’s precious name.

Okay, so that last one was the prayer I wrote last Sunday morning, when we were all centering, quieting ourselves in prayer, when we were at peace, in God’s house, thinking about ourselves and others, and seeking God’s Peace, His Strength.

What about you? Right now? In this place, this house of God? Remember, we all are to be ministers like Timothy; that is what we as United Methodists believe.
What prayers for peace in the world, for supplication, for intercession, for thanksgiving, and for praise do these words of 1st Timothy call you? What joys or concerns do you need to bring to the Lord this day? What is standing in the way of your getting on with the work you feel God has called you to do, to minister to his flock and to go out and make disciples of all the nations?


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