Tag Archives: Prayer

I Have Overcome the World (Rogate 2011)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Messiah Lutheran Church

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Rogate – Easter 5 (May 29, 2011, rev. from 2003)

John 16:23-30

2011rogate

 

TITLE: “I Have Overcome the World”

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our text for today is from the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on Jesus’ words, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Today we discuss God’s gift of prayer, and how all prayer goes through Jesus Christ in order for God to hear us.

Prayer is not a right or an entitlement.  We often think about it our treat it that way, but it is a great privilege from God our Father.  Now to be sure, it is a right and entitlement as an American citizen.  We have freedom of religion, so that I may worship whichever god I please without government interference.  That is a big part of what this Memorial Day weekend is really all about.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. We have the freedom to worship whomever you please whenever you please.  But that is from the government’s point of view.  We thank God for that right.  But that is not God’s point of view.

From God’s point of view, you have no right to pray.  Neither do I.  We are sinners, poor and miserable.  We have transgressed God’s Law, denied His ways and work, we refuse to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.  We make a mockery of everything He is and does for us time and time again.  You don’t deserve to come to God in prayer, because you have squandered that gift and tossed it aside so many times.

Prayer is not a right.  It is a gift.  How can prayer be a gift?  Prayer is a gift because when you pray, you are confessing who you are as a sinner and who God is as the one who gives you life.  Prayer is a gift that God gives you by faith in His Word.  The only way you can pray is through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  St. Paul put it this way: For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Jesus’ death and resurrection for you means that He is your go-between.  He always stands at the right hand of the Father.  And when you go to your Father in prayer, He is the only Way you get there.  As Jesus Himself said, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.

This is an incredible gift from God.  Your life is bound to Christ’s, and His death and resurrection tie you to God in such a way that nothing, nothing can come between you and Him.  His life-giving blood flows in your veins.  His holy waters washed over you in your baptism.  He is yours and you are His.  So when you pray, it is not as a servant or as a stranger.  You pray to God as one of the family.  For Christ is your brother, and when you pray in His name, that is to say, in faith, that prayer is always heard.  It must be heard, for Christ is the very Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

But prayer is not easy.  If you have ever tried praying with friends or family members who are not Christians, you know what I mean.  In the presence who do not confess Christ, the boldness of our prayer becomes a whisper, and our asking God for everything in His name changes into some vague hope that God is here, somewhere.  Prayer has a way of laying us all bare.  Think of Peter outside of the high priests house.  I do not know the man.  How often do we think and act this way in our prayers?  We speak to God not as a Father who longs to hear our prayers, but rather, if we speak to Him at all, it is more like talking to the clerk at Wal-mart.  Ok, I’ll talk to you, but no more than absolutely necessary.

Now this may all sound like a lot of Law.  I suppose it is.  But hear the kernel of the Gospel that is planted here and grows a hundredfold.  These things I have spoken to you, Jesus says, that in Me you have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. This struggle, this trial of faith and unbelief is the tribulation of the world.  That’s what it means to be in the world.  It is a part of the Christian life.

But the Good News is that Christ has overcome the world.  It is not as if we are giving up something good for us by clinging to Christ and His Word of forgiveness alone.  Think of it this way: if a man offers to give you a drink of clear, pure water, and asks to throw away the gross, dirty water you are holding, is he trying to take something from you or give something to you?  Really, it’s both.  He takes what is bad and replaces what is good.

That is what Christ does for you by praying in His name, in faith.  He takes what is yours: your sin, your fears, your hurts and pains, and takes them into Himself.  He then gives to you forgiveness, life, salvation, peace.  Sound like a pretty good trade?  It is.

That is why prayer in Jesus’ name alone and no other is so important.  At the Reformation, everything clung on one little German word, allein.  Alone.  Martin Luther held according to the Scriptures that we are saved by grace through faith alone.  No additives.  Nothing else could be included.  Faith alone saves.  Today I believe that we must confess that same faith by clinging to the truth according to the Scriptures that we pray through Jesus’ name alone, and that there is no other way to pray so that our Father hears us.  By clinging to Christ’s name alone, we receive all the gifts that only God can give.  That is the gift of the Gospel.

But if that isn’t enough, there is still more.  When you are unable to pray, who you are too afraid or uncertain or timid, Christ prays for you and with you.  The Holy Spirit prays for you with groanings beyond words.  It is impossible to pray alone, because Christ is always with you.  You are washed in His name, which means that He has won the victory for you.  Pray, sing, and rejoice!  Christ has overcome the world for you.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Praying Alone

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Jesus often spent time praying alone. Throughout the Scriptures we can find pictures of men and women who would go up on a mountain, meditate on God’s Word, and pray. There is great benefit in sitting back, removing yourself from the commotion and distractions of life, and hear what God has to say in His Word, and speak to Him in prayer about what troubles you, confessing your sins, and giving thanks for His mercies.

This is true. I know it is true. But I must admit that I don’t find this a natural practice for me. It’s hard. So often I have so many things running through my head, that slowing down long enough to hear what God has to say and speaking to him, well, it just gets pushed down on the priority list.

It would be easy to go into a discussion about how we are too busy today, we have too many things coming at us, and that we don’t have time to sit down and smell the flowers. This is all true, but I think really misses the point. The point isn’t that we are so busy. The point, rather, is that we don’t want to hear God or speak to Him. Like Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden, we run from our conversations with Him because we fear His anger, we don’t want to disappoint, or even because we don’t want Him to know how much we hurt or how angry we are at Him.

So how do we break the cycle of isolation from God in prayer? Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me over the years, and I would love to hear yours as well:

  • Keep it simple. Using devotional guides can be of great benefit, but don’t allow the process of meditation and prayer become more important than actually meditating on His Word and praying. If that means something very simple, like Portals of Prayer, great! If that means using something a little more extended like To Live with Christ or The Treasury of Daily Prayer, then that’s fine too. It is more important to develop the regular habit of praying than to have just the right system.
  • Connect prayer to God’s Word. For Lutherans, when we pray it is in connection with hearing God in His Word. While I may pray alone, I am never really alone. Christ prays with me. It is always a holy conversation.
  • Make a list. Maybe this is obvious, but don’t allow prayer to become so spiritual that you actually forget your own personality! I am a list guy. I am always writing lists. So if I’m going to remember to pray, and to pray for specific people or things, I am going to write it down. It’s that simple. If I don’t write it down, my own natural inclination toward busyness and distractions will drive the whole thing right out of my head.
  • Remember that Christ prays for you even when you don’t pray. If you forget to pray for a day, be at peace! Christ prays for you even when you forget. Jesus is loving and forgiving, and longs to be in your presence. He will pray for you even if you don’t.

There are many things that could be said about the privilege of praying alone. God loves it when you pray to Him! He leaves to speak to you and to hear you. Trust that praying in Him and to Him is good, and will be to your great eternal benefit.

+God be with you+
Pastor Peperkorn

From the February 2010 Messiah’s Messenger