Category Archives: Prayer

Sermon Preached on September 11, 2001

[I am sitting here in my living room, waiting for President Obama to speak and formally announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed. Like the rest of the country, this whole thing is a flashback to that horrible day nine and a half years ago. Here is the sermon from the prayer service we had at Messiah ten and a half years ago. -Peperkorn]

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Messiah Lutheran Church

Kenosha, Wisconsin

September 11, 2001 (week of Trinity 13)

Vespers with the Litany, 8:30 p.m.

On the occasion of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

TITLE: “With the Lord there is Mercy”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for tonight is from Psalm 130, O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption, and also from the Lord’s Prayer, but deliver us from evil.

There are sometimes events in this world that shock us to the core, and serve to remind us of the power of sin and evil that is so hard for us to understand. This is just such a day. We’ll probably never know all of the events that led up to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As I’ve watched the news today, what keeps running through my head is the shock of this actually happening in the United States. How can this be? Why? What did we do as a nation and a people to deserve such wrath? How is it that we have received the brunt of what President George Bush has called “the worst of human nature”?

The answer, of course, lies in the Scriptures themselves. We can’t ultimately point to a particular event or person or thing to place the blame. It would be useful if we could, because then we would all be off the hook. But as St. Paul says in Romans chapter six, The wages of sin is death. That is the way of the world. It may come one at a time, or it may come in the form of a violent disaster or attack like we have seen today. But that is how things work in the world. Because of sin, your sin and mine, death is what awaits all of us. The Scriptures are full of such examples. The flood; the tower of Babel; Sodom and Gomorrah; Jonah and Nineveh; and even Jerusalem itself was destroyed because of unbelief.

And as a nation we have played no small part in dolling out death ourselves. Whether it be in stem cell research, the rising fascination with euthanasia, or the most gruesome death of all, abortion, we as a country claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we murder our own children for the sake of convenience or money or whatever excuse we may put up for taking the easy way. We have not defended the helpless. We have killed them. So it should not surprise us when violent death strikes at our own doorstep.

Now don’t misunderstand me. This does not excuse the murderous attacks of the terrorists who have invaded our shores. They have received their own reward for their evil deeds. But it is at just such a time that we cry out with the church of all ages: deliver us from evil.

If we truly want to place the blame for this attack where it belongs, it is on the shoulders of the devil himself. He prowls around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. There is nothing the devil would love more than to see Christians fall into shame and despair over this calamity. He seeks to murder and destroy wherever he can, and it is the destruction of your faith that is his final goal. This is why we pray deliver us from the evil one.

Thank God that He does what He promises. He does deliver us from evil. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus Christ paid the penalty and wage for your death. He died, so that you might live. In the midst of death and calamity, the work of Jesus Christ for you is the only thing that can give hope. Everywhere else you look will finally lead to despair. He is the one who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. Why? Because he’s been there. Jesus Christ has been to death and back again. With Him there is a hope and a future. As we heard in the Psalm, if you O Lord kept a record of sins, or Lord who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you; therefore you may be feared (Ps. 130).

God’s forgiveness extends to all. Many of us here tonight face feelings of hurt and anger over what has been done to us. But remember that the love of God in Christ Jesus extends to all. This is why we gather here tonight. We gather to hear God’s Word and to pray. We gather to pray for the wounded and the families of the dead. We come to pray for our leaders. But perhaps most importantly, we come to pray for our enemies. Yes, we pray for those who hate us, and bless those who persecute us. Why? Because of Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has paid the ultimate penalty for sin in His own sacrificial death. It is there that we put our trust, and we leave all things to God’s direction.

So put your trust in the Lord, not in governments or the things of this earth. They, as we have so clearly seen today, will always fail in the end. They can’t protect us. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the one who can give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the bereaved, and healing to the wounded soul. Do not be afraid. God is still in control. Perhaps the words of Psalm 46 express our hope the best:

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

So come and pray to the Lord for mercy, for He will give it to you. In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Praying in school

Praying in school

““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 ESV)

It’s the start of a new school year! And what an exciting year it is. Christ Lutheran Academy is now at Messiah Lutheran Church, Little Lambs Learning Center has the beginning of their re-tooled pre-school program, and Sunday School starts up on September 12. I love fall. It is the season of new beginnings.

Here at Messiah Lutheran Church, every day is a day of prayer. Morning Prayer (Matins), Afternoon Prayer (Vespers), the Divine Service, school openings and closings, pre-school chapels, there is always somebody praying around here!

It is entirely appropriate that we spend so much time in prayer at our schools, because prayer must be taught. Praying does not come naturally, or if it does, these prayers will quickly run out of conversation with God, and will degenerate into talking either to ourselves or at least about ourselves. So how do we teaching praying at Messiah Lutheran Church. Let me count the ways:

  1. We teach praying by doing it. Lead by example. At home or at work. Before meals or after. When you get up and when you go to bed. What we actually do as adults teaches far more than anything else.
  2. We teach praying by giving the words. Just like a child repeats words back to their parents, in the same way a student repeats the words of prayer back to their teacher. These words may be the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, the collects (prayers) of the church, or praying for various needs. But we teach children how to pray by giving them what to pray. They will learn and build upon that foundation throughout their lives.
  3. We teach praying by being diligent yet patient. Moses in Deuteronomy six exhorts us to be diligent in teaching prayer. Holy persistence, I would call it. That kind of persistent work means that we must also be patient with our children, our parents were patient with us. It means giving them the time they need to learn the words. It means going slow enough so that they can follow and eventually lead. It means praying for God’s guidance as we pass on the faith once delivered to the saints.

That is how things tick around here at Messiah Lutheran Church every day. It is a new day, a new year. Receive what God has to give you in His Word, and say it back to Him in words of prayer!

+The Lord be with you+ 

Pastor Todd Peperkorn

From Messiah’s Messenger, September 2010

Praying for your enemies

““But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:26 ESV)

We have spoken mostly about how to pray, as well as praying in different contexts or groups (alone, in your marriage, in family, etc.). Now it is time for us to turn to an even harder topic: praying for your enemies.

It is pretty easy to pray for people you like or love. It is almost natural to intercede on behalf of people whom we care for. But praying for people we dislike or even hate, that is another matter altogether. When you hate someone, you wish ill to happen to them. You don’t want what’s best for them. You want them to get what they really deserve. In the same way, it’s pretty likely that there are those who dislike or hate you. They probably don’t want what’s best for you, just as you don’t for them.

This is both wrong and sinful. God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and His love is for the whole world, not just people who like him (John 3:16). Just as God’s love extends to all, our love should extend to all as well.

Saying “this is not easy” puts it pretty mildly. The whole point of hating someone is that you want nothing to do with them, or you want what is bad for them. You hate someone because they have hurt you, because your jealous of them, or for some other reason. Hatred is really the exact opposite of love in this case. It is what we do by nature, and have done so since Cain murdered Abel.

But God invites you to take a different path than the path you may take by nature. He invites you to become like Him, to love the loveless so that they might lovely be (to quote the hymn!). This will not come easily, because it goes against your nature. But there are several good reasons to do this:

  • It is right. God loves you, even though you don’t deserve it. Because of God’s love for you, you are now free to love your neighbor, and that frankly begins by praying for them.
  • Praying for your enemies frees you of their control. Hating someone is work. They are controlling your emotions, your reactions to them, and your entire disposition. They may not know they are doing this, but they are. By praying for them, you are handing over your hatred and their wellbeing over to God, where they both belong.
  • Saying the words in prayer will help to change how you view your enemies. Prayer changes you, because God always answers prayer. If you pray that God would take away your hatred for this person, that is what God is going to do. It may not happen as quickly as you’d like, but it will happen.

So when you are struggling with what to do with that one person who makes you crazy, that one person whom you can’t stand (and you know who they are!), pray for them. God will hear. It will be good for them, and it will be even better for you.

+The Lord be with you+
 Pastor Todd Peperkorn

From the May 2010 Messiah’s Messenger

Prayer and the Family

Prayer isn’t something that just comes naturally. Prayer must be taught. Our Lord Himself demonstrates this when He teaches the disciples how to pray. He says,“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9 ESV) We know that God both hears and answers our prayers. We know that it is a great benefit and blessing. But thanks to our old sinful flesh, we pass on our desire to hide from God and refuse to talk to Him. Our children learn not to pray from us.

Praying as a family can be almost as hard as praying alone or praying in your marriage. In some respects, it is even harder. How do you find the time? What if I don’t want to pray? What if the kids are acting up or there’s a game on that I want to watch? The reasons not to pray seem to go on and on.

The great thing about the Christian faith, though, is that it is never too late. Each day begins anew. Things can and do change. They can get better. How important is that to remember, as we bask in the glow of the resurrection!

So then, let’s get to it. Here are a few simple steps to help make prayer a part of your common life together as a Christian family:

  • Do it. Nike got it right. You don’t debate whether to brush your teeth or eat breakfast in the morning. Christians pray. It’s that simple. Think through how to make this a habit . It typically takes about six weeks to establish a habit. Give yourselves that six weeks. Make reminders. Put a note on the steering wheel or on the fridge (or on the remote control!). Make a commitment that as a family, we are going to pray together once a day (plus meals, which we will cover next month).

  • Keep it simple. The Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s Morning or Evening prayer would be a great place to start. We’ve done that for years in our family, especially while our children are young. But by making that a part of our life as a family, it has slowly been ingrained into us and our children.
  • Teach the words. Children learn how to speak from their parents. They learn how to pray from their parents, too. Give them the language of faith. Be deliberate about it. By being deliberate about it, you are telling your children that this is important, and that it is worth learning and doing. Start with the Lord’s Prayer, and then work your way out to other prayers.
  • Give yourself the context to succeed. You know your own family. When are they going to be the most likely to actually hear and pay attention? Nine o’clock at night? Right after supper? Right after breakfast. Each family is different. I would encourage you to think about what is prime time for your family, and then figure out how to work prayer into that prime time. If your children are tired, crabby and just want to either go to bed or fight with each other, that may not be the best time to work on praying.
  • Don’t despair! It is very easy to get discouraged with children. It’s work. But it is totally worth it.

This is a gift you can give to them that will literally last forever. Pray for patience for yourself and your spouse. Pray for your children, that they learn how to receive God’s Word and speak back to Him what He has given to them.

The blessings will flow from this. Believe me. I hope you’re ready!

+ God be with you +

Pastor Peperkorn

[From the April 2010 Messiah’s Messenger