Sermon from Sunday, February 4, 2024
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Mark 1:29-39

Sermon Transcript

Our lesson this morning comes from the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, starting with the 29th Verse.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now, Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with the fever. And they told him. About her at Once. He came and took her by the Hand and lifted Her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to Serve Them. That evening at sundown, they brought him All who were sick or Possessed of a demon. And the whole city was gathered at the door, and he cured many who Were sick with various Diseases and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak for they knew who he was. In the morning, while it was still. Very dark, he got Up and went Out to a deserted place. And there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, everyone is searching for you. He answered: Let us go to the Neighboring Towns so that I might proclaim the Message there also for this is why I came out. And he went throughout Galilee proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Friends, this is the word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

So, as a preacher guy I’ve had all kinds of opportunities to pray publicly. I pray publicly in the worship services. But there are just some People that think they can’t have their meeting unless they have A preacher pray at the start of the meeting. which, by the way, if You’re ever called on to pray over a meeting and they you get to choose between the invocation and the benediction, take the invocation every time: they get you out early. I once prayed over An Alliance for Good Government meeting in New Orleans. No. That didn’t work out well. I was once asked in New Orleans to pray over a convention. The convention was made up primarily of Escorts and people Who worked in darkened Clubs on Bourbon Street. And I said, no, I don’t think I’m going to pray over that. I was in a former life, an elected official. Yes. I will confess that for four years I was on the Natchitoches Parish Council and the meetings had a progression. We would call the meeting to order We would stand and pledge. Then we would remain standing for the invocation and since I was the designated Preacher in the room, they kept calling on me to do the invocation. Until one night I prayed, God, forgive us for all the Lies we’re about to tell tonight, Amen. They didn’t bother of me praying over them any more after that. Ohm no, brother. Doug. You insulted the electorate. Yes, and I insulted the elected.

So, when you pray publicly, how are you supposed to pray? Politically correct? That just keeps everything copacetic. Or should you shower Down and really pray a prayer? And so, because I struggle with it, often not ask to Pray over public gatherings or Events. And I have learned to, while being affirmative to what somebody is planning, just say thank you, No. that’s public prayer. There’s private. Prayer where we Commune with God. That’s the prayer that Jesus said Go in your closet Close the door and pray in secret and your father Who sees in secret, will answer you. That’s what I’ve been telling folks. Go in your closet and pray out loud so your ears and your brain can hear what you’re Asking the holy one to bring into your life. And we have an example in Mark’s gospel, our reading, this morning of the Very First example of Jesus praying. And he is praying After the Whole city was gathered around the door. Can you imagine? The whole town showed up and they wanted Jesus to heal their sick and drive out the demonic and they wanted to Hear a word From Jesus. And he is succeeding. People are listening, lives are being transformed, brokenness is being healed. And it’s after that in the morning, while it’s still Very dark Jesus got up and went Out to a deserted place and there he prayed. There’s a pattern for us in that: he got up, He went out, and he prayed. You can do that. All kinds of people do that. Golfers get up early. They leave the house, and they find themselves standing on the First tee box right after dawn. Joggers, joggers get Up while it’s still dark. They leave the house before going to work and they found a route to run trying to stay fit. Students, you get up early, you leave the house, and you find a classroom in which to learn. Television personalities get up early. They leave the house. They find themselves in front of a TV camera at four 30 am on Channel three. Drum majors get out of bed while it’s still dark, Leave the house and find themselves on a football field with a bunch of their friends marching around practicing. Bakers, bakers are up Hours before dawn, they leave the House and find themselves sliding trays of dough into the oven early in the morning So when the crowds show up, they can get their donuts. There is a pattern here, a threefold pattern. Get up while it’s still early. Go out and there, find a place to pray. Christians, get up early and we leave the house. But how many of us find that solitary place to pray? Oh no, Brother Doug. I get up Early in the morning and I leave the house and I pray in the car. Okay. Are your prayers Distracted when somebody cut you off on I-20? Are your prayers Distracted when you discover My favorite people; DOTD, who did all this traffic gumming up last week, just made the industry exit worse. How does that work for you?

Jesus told us to pray in a Solitary Place away from distraction and away from that which would pull us away from him. And there’s a reason Jesus prayed. He was praying before he proceeded. He had been successful in Capernaum. He had cast out demons. He had preached. He had healed. but God was calling him to do something else. So, before he did it, Jesus prayed. When they asked him, Lord, teach us to pray, have you noticed that Jesus answered that. Jesus didn’t give some rabbinical teaching. Jesus just said. When you pray, pray. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus said, I’m going to give you a Pattern of prayer. And the pattern of prayer has A chain of command in it. And the pattern of prayer Has the idea that you are following the will of God, that you want the will of God, that you’re seeking, the will of God for your Life and for the life of Others around You. Jesus was Very Specific in giving us a Pattern to pray. An effective prayer pattern. But there are other prayers that are in Scripture. this morning Doug got up early, went to his study and prayed. Here’s what I Prayed: It’s the 63rd Psalm. O, God, you’re my God. I seek you. my soul Thirsts For you. My flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So, I have looked upon you in the sanctuary Beholding your power and glory because of your Steadfast love is better than life. My lips will praise you, so I will bless you as long as I live. I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as in a rich feast. My mouth praises you with joyful lips. When I think of you on my bed and I meditate on you and the watches of the night, for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings, I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you. Your right hand upholds me. I know some of you were thinking. You should have prayed for a better Sermon. That’s what we Do to prayer. We turn it into a very practical Quid pro quo experience. God, I have a need in my life. There’s something going on. There’s something going wrong. There’s some, some need or desire or focus I need to have. And here I am God, I want you to give me what I’m asking you for. And what you Want is for me to tell you how to get that. How to make prayer more effective. 40 days to more effective prayer. Can’t do it. And I won’t. God answer my prayer immediately. I want to know the answer to my prayer before I get off my knees. I have alluded to it already today from Isaiah. They who wait On the Lord shall renew their Strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. How does 40:31 start? They who What? Wait. You know what real prayer leaves You with? a limp. Jacob wrestled with God all night and he got up and he limped for the rest of his life. Do you really want to pray those prayers? Do you hunger and thirst For God so much you will do anything to be in His presence. You’ll do anything to wrestle with him. You will do anything to connect to God. In the book Coffee Break with God, the author Reports That an informal Survey revealed that Most people generally. Pray two types of prayer. The first Is the S.O.S. Prayer: Save Our Souls. O God save us now. And the second Prayer is The S.O.P. prayer. O God, solve our problems. We want God to do it all for us, to give us carefree lives free from need, free from struggle, free from trial, free from. Temptation. We want God just a drop it out of heaven Because we prayed in Jesus’ name.

It’s good to pray before proceeding. It’s good to seek the will of God. It’s good to trust the strength of God. It’s good to know that God wants you going Where you Have decided you need to go. Walter Wink says This: biblical prayer, Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent. Shameless, indecorous. It’s more like haggling at an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the church. Like Abraham, we Bargain with God over the fate of a city, like Moses, we argue with God over the fate of people. like Esther, we plead with God over the fate of a nation. How long has it been since you’ve been in that Kind of prayer where you were arguing With God, where you were Pleading with God, where you were bargaining with God to answer your prayer? There’s a reason the prayer is That tough, and it needs to be that. Paul gave it to us: for we struggle not against the enemies of blood and flesh, but against the Rulers, Against the authorities, against the cosmic, Powers of the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We’re in the middle of a war. The war is for the souls of people. And you need tenacity and toughness and impertinence and persistence and shamelessness to pray in the middle of a war. Yet, even as tough as Prayer Is, Augustine says the language of prayer Is love.

How many of you have People in your lives That you’ve been Praying for that person for 10, 20, 30, 40 years to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? How many of you are like the Father and you’re praying for the Prodigal to come home. and you’ve prayed Year after year after year, after year? That’s the struggle. That’s the begging, that’s the pleading, that’s the bargaining with God that we need to do. It’s not quick. It’s not easy. I can’t give you a Program or a Process and say, if you pray this way, God will answer your Prayer.

JD Walt wrote back In January That so much of what passes for prayer is really just inner. Dialog, Or performance Monologue. or constant aided cognition, or even emotional constipation, and really just a more meditative way of thinking about things, a kind of internal churning in spiritual circles. But real prayer Is of Another order of Magnitude. It’s like waiting in a long line for your turn to speak to the king of the realm. at the back of the line, you had so much you wanted to say, but as the line progressed, it mostly fell away, and all that internal wrangling used to think was Prayer evaporates Like a mist in the face of a furnace When your turn Comes to meet the king. Now, finally, you pray. Scripture says, In the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah said: I saw the Lord and he was holy and lifted up, and the train of his glory filled the temples, and the Seraphim called to each Other: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord. And all Isaiah could do is say, Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips in the midst of people, of unclean lips. when confronted with the holiness of God and when confronted with his own sinfulness, Isaiah wasn’t going to hand down a list and say, hey, you Lord, I got these five things I really need You to take care of. Isaiah was going to deal with what the real Issues Were In his life and in his relationship with God. If we are in the middle of a war, if our Struggle is against enemies of blood, not enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers and against the authorities and against the cosmic powers of this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. What we need Are prayer warriors. What we need are people who will fight For God’s people and people who will fight evil with prayer. And yes, you will Get Bruised. and yes, you will be opposed. And yes, it’s not easy.

Paul in Philippians said that we should Not worry About anything. And the Greek word worry is, is something being pulled from two different directions. That’s what worry looks like. Being pulled from two different directions. So don’t Worry about Anything. But in everything, by prayer and Supplication with Thanksgiving Let your Request be made known to God. Four Words, for prayer in one verse, they’re all there. And then after you have prayer, prayed and supplicating and Thanksgiving and Made your request Known to God, then you can have the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. And you know what I noticed this week when I was working on this? doesn’t say anything that God answered your prayer. But he gives you peace, that he heard you. That he’s grappling along with you, that he’s walking with you, that his power is going to come alongside you to allow you to do whatever it is you need to do. So, pray Before proceeding.

And then there’s one other thing that goes with this. It’s from the 14th chapter of the Book of Exodus. It’s the 15th verse. The Hebrews are standing on the verge of the Red Sea. The Egyptian armies better run them down. The great Exodus is about to be Destroyed. They’ve been praying: O God, how could this happen? God, do something. God This is terrible. Horrible. Quick God. Verse 15. Then the Lord said to Moses, why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward? You got that? Sometimes, folks, it’s time to get off your knees and out of your prayer Closet and get After it. Sometimes prayer demands you get busy doing what it is you know to do, doing what it is you know, God’s told you to do, doing what it is that God has Already prepared for you to Do. Are you ready to proceed? And what happens if God says y’all go ahead on. Don’t worry. But in everything by prayer and Supplication with Thanksgiving. That’s the Greek word, eucharistia. Eucharistia. To give thanks. In some churches This is called the eucharistia. the Eucharist, we give thanks for what God has done for us and his body being broken. We give thanks That his blood was shed for us. We give thanks that We’re Invited to this table to be reminded that Jesus Christ God’s son, walks with us. We give thanks, that we’re reminded that Jesus Christ, God’s son right now is in heaven and Jesus has the ear of The Father. And Jesus is praying for us as we live for Him. So, this morning, I invite you to pray before proceeding. To be reminded that sometimes you just told by God you folks need to quit praying and get after it. And wherever you are on that continuum, we can give thanks Because Christ is with us. Amen.