Sermon from Sunday, July 10, 2022
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture passage: 2 Samuel 7:18-29
Our Scripture lesson this morning comes from second Samuel, the 7th chapter, starting with the 18th verse of that chapter. Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said. Who am I, oh Lord God? And what is my house? That you have brought me thus far. And yet this was a small thing in your eyes. Oh Lord God, you’ve spoken also of your servants house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for your people or Lord God. And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, oh Lord God, because of your promise and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore you are are great, oh Lord God, for there is no one like you. There is no God beside you according to all that you have we have heard with our ears. Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on Earth whose God went to redeem it as a people and to make a name for himself doing great and awesome things for them? By driving out before his people, their nations and their gods, and you established your people, Israel for yourself to be your people forever. And you, oh Lord God, became their God. And now, O Lord God, As for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever and do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying the Lord of host is God over Israel, and the House of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of host, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servants, saying, I will build you a house. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore, may it please you to bless the House of your servant, so it may continue forever before you. Oh, Lord God, you’ve spoken. And with your blessing, shall the House of your servant be blessed forever. For instance, is the word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God. Amen. Let’s watch Miss Carolyn Smith start the sermon this morning. And I’ve learned over the years to talk to God about most everything. And I don’t always do that, but but I try to do that. I think asking God to take control of my mind. Take control of my actions and help me, Lord, to live a life. That please issue. And that honors you. And I think that that is one thing I would share. When it talks about how can I be a better Christian? Will you do that through the help of the Lord by surrendering? By asking you to take control of your mind and your actions, and you do that through daily prayer. The full podcast will be on the website tomorrow at 8:00 o’clock and. Give it a give it a watch and see. And we thank the folks that have volunteered to to do these podcast for us. So the Ark of the Covenant is now in Jerusalem after. A while in exile in the land of the Philistines. And David’s built a tent for it. And he goes and sits before the Ark of the Covenant and prays this, this beautiful prayer that I read then it’s a majestic prayer. It’s a prayer where David acknowledges God’s blessing of Israel. And David is grateful because the Lord has announced that. The House of David. Will continue on. And it is out of the House of David that our Savior Jesus comes. And you read this prayer and you hear it pray and you think, man, that’s great. Listen to David’s powerful prayer. David’s life had to have been great. Here’s a man that he had. Nothing bad ever happened to him. Because this is a righteous prayer, and if you can pray a righteous prayer like that, good things are bound to happen for you and nothing bad will ever happen to you. Yeah, just weeks after David prayed this prayer, the ammonites rose up against Israel, and David found himself at war again with them. It wasn’t long until the Moabites rebelled against Israel, and it’s during that war with the Moabites that the Bible said it was the spring of the year when kings go off to war and David stayed in Jerusalem and one afternoon he was out surveying his Kingdom and there he saw Beth Sheba in her Jacuzzi. And you know the story of David and Bathsheba and what happened with them. And how David eventually got Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed in the battle so David could marry Bathsheba. And they did, and a child was born to them. The child lived for a week and then died. In David’s own family life, his son Amnon. Raped his sister Tamar, and the Bible says that Tamar lived as a widow for the rest of her life. Absolum. David’s favorite child murdered his brother Amnon to bend to get revenge on Tamar. Absalom would eventually rebel against David and be killed. And in his last part of life, David is fighting a battle against the uprising of Sheba. And you wonder, he prayed this righteous, holy, powerful prayer. What happened? Does prayer not work? How did he end up having so many bad things happen to him? And it’s David who pins the word of words of the 22nd Psalm. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer and by night. But fine. No rest. I’m but a worm. I’m not human. Scorned by others, despised by people. All who see me mock at me, and they make mouths at me. They shake their heads. Commit your cause to the Lord and let him deliver. Let him rescue the one in whom he delights. But you, O Lord, are not far away. Oh my help. Come quickly to my aid. Deliver my soul from the sword. My life from the power of the dog. That’s a man who’s suffering. He’s having a bad day. And you recognize the start of the 22nd Salm because that’s those are the words that Jesus uttered from the cross. David knew what it was like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, because his life consisted a lot in walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Now wait a minute. You got this great mighty holy prayer. A righteous prayer. But the results of the prayer? Don’t seem to line up with the prayer itself. What’s going on? Prayer is talking to God, who listens and responds because he loves us. Prayer is talking to God, who listens and responds because he loves us. It is not. It is not a formula for twisting God’s arm. A way of getting. What you want? I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it, and you have two. Matter of fact, it it’s partially there in second chronicles. If my people, called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will heal their land and forgive their sins. So if you pray, God will bless. And you’ve heard that if two or three are gathered together and they’re agreeing in prayer, then God’s gonna answer that. And if you pray in Jesus name boldly and believing God will give us what we want. Because Jesus said Jesus said, ask anything in my name and I will do it. Ask anything in my name. And I’ll do it. You’ve tried it and I have two. Third quarter calculus. University of Alabama had not studied. Oh Lord, let me understand the answers. Amen in Jesus name. Oh God, doesn’t answer calculus prayers. Ask anything in my name, Jesus said. And I’ll do it except the Greek doesn’t say that. The Greek says ask anything into my name. And the Greek actually says that we pray into the name of Christ. How do you do that? Well, praying into the name of Christ is aligning yourself with what Christ wants. It’s aligning yourself with who Christ loves. It’s aligning yourself with the will of God in Christ Jesus. It’s not just this random. Abracadabra at the end of the prayer. It’s aligning yourself with God’s revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. That takes on a whole new meaning when you align yourself with Christ, when you’re willing to become a suffering servant, when you put God absolutely, completely first in your life. Things will change. So prayer is not a tool. To twist God’s arm. Prayer is, like everything else, important. It is a relationship. And so. Inevitably, somebody will pop into my office further. Dude. My prayers are just hitting the ceiling and bouncing right back to me. I’ve asked God for ABC and D and and and God’s just not delivering and I want to know what I’m doing wrong. More importantly, I’m interested in what you told me to do that didn’t working out for me because I don’t believe I’m doing something wrong. You just gave me bad instructions. Hang on. So there are times we pray righteous holy prayers. And the results we might describe as being rotten. What happens? Well the first thing I want to suggest is our relationship is out of alignment. You see, prayer is all about relationship. You look at your prayer list from the church, and I look at my prayer list from the church and their names and those names all represent relationships. They represent parents, they represent siblings, they represent children, they they represent good friends and things are going on in their lives. That threaten the relationship. And our relationships are tenuous anyway. There is only one relationship that’s eternal. Only one. and that’s our relationship with god the father through jesus christ every other relationship in your life will vanish. Vanish. They’re all. Be gone. So because every relationship. Has an expiration date on it. We need to treat our relationships with mindfulness and love and dignity. We need to understand that each and every relationship we have is holy. And has the possibility of bringing God’s love and grace into our lives. And we have the possibility of being instruments of God’s love and grace in somebody else’s life. So prayer realizes and and incarnates this notion of relationship. Prayer is relationship and when our relationships are out of alignment. Our prayer life gets out of alignment. Let’s start with David. We know that David’s sin with Bathsheba. He didn’t admit it until the prophet Nathan confronted. Even David writes in the 32nd Psalm. Happier those whose transgression are forgiven, whose sin is covered, happier those to whom the Lord Imputes no iniquity, and whose spirit there is no receipt deceit. When I kept silent, my body wasted away, when I wouldn’t confess my sin. No, I wouldn’t admit it to God that I was a Sinner. God’s thumb kind of came down on me like this. Until I would confess my sin to God the father. The prayer we prayed. Did you hear it? It was a relational prayer. Didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer is relational prayer. Lord, forgive us our trespasses. I heard you pray it. Lord, forgive us our trespasses. How? As we forgive those who trespass against us, put those two sentences together. Forgive us as we forgive others. You want to deal with the converse of that. Which is prayed. Lord, forgive us as I’m willing to forgive others. What if I’m not willing to forgive others? Is God going to forgive me? You didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer meant that, did you? Those are not just idle words, they’re relationship words about being rightly related not only to your God, but to your brother and sister in the Lord, Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount. If you’re offering your gift at the altar and they’ll realize your brother has something against you first before you offer your gift, put the religious church thing down. And first go be reconciled to your brother, and then come do the church thing. It’s about relationship. About brightly related to one another as we pray. The other thing that I think challenges us Americans in prayer, and it’s just North America that has this issue, is you listen to people talk about theology and the theology of prayer is we pray as solo entities. By that I mean. Let’s say you have a problem. I don’t know what you’re OK. Let’s say you’re 1977 Chevrolet, Vega. Seeing how many of you know what that is, your 1977 Chevrolet Vega with its aluminum block engine won’t start. And you’re constantly late for work because your car won’t start. And you pray about it. You pray, boldly believing in Jesus name that your 1977 Chevrolet Vega will start, but you never take the car to a mechanic to have it worked on. Or you’re struggling with depression. Or you’re struggling with ADHD. Or you’re struggling with some of the other the mental challenges that some people have and you pray about it. You pray boldly, believing in Jesus name, but you never ever. Ever. So your psychologist or counselor? And you wonder why you’re not getting better. Or you have a Bobo. Wherever you want to have this imaginary Bobo, and you know it’s a Bobo and your bobo hurt you, and your bobo keeps you from functioning at a high level because you’re worried about your Bobo. So you pray about your bobo, but you never go see a doctor because I’m an American. I was taught rugged individualism and I can handle it no matter what it is. Kid out of control, a marriage falling apart, a business that’s on the verge of bankruptcy. Whatever it is, we’ve all got our own list and we think we’re going to pray about it and it’s going to work itself out because we’re powerful beings and we never call someone alongside of us to help. The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the one called alongside the help because we need help. So prayer is a relationship. And prayer is talking to God, who listens and responds because he loves us. And God answers prayer in three different ways. I believe God answers every prayer that’s ever been prayed. He does. One answer is yes. And I hope you’ve got right in those down and keeping track of those and you’re celebrating the times that God has answered prayer. Yes for you. The other way God answers the prayer is no. God says no. Paul prayed about the thorn in his flesh. He prayed three times that that Thorn in his flesh be taken away. And God’s answer came back on Paul. But my Grace is sufficient for you, and you read the book of acts. And the book of Acts is the story of God’s mighty working through the Holy Spirit. It’s the story of God moving the church out in the world, but it’s also the story of God saying. Oh. Church try something and God says that’s not what I wanted you to do. So God says yes when you pray. God says no when you pray and some answers to the prayers you pray. Or weight. Jesus prayed to prayer in the 17th chapter of John’s gospel. We call it the high priestly prayer of Jesus, where Jesus Christ, the son of God, prayed that the church might be one. Hadn’t happened yet. So if the Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed a prayer and God answered his son, wait. Maybe sometimes when we pray. The answer? His weight. Prayer is not a tool to twist God’s arm. Prayer is a relationship with God the father. Prayer is an opportunity for you to pour out your soul. Prayer is an opportunity for you to be transparent. Prayer is an opportunity to let God bring and create in your life that which he wants to do. You know, I have a friend that says life is a contact sport. That it can be painful and it can be dangerous, and I hope that you’re living your life in prayer. And as I say that, I’ve got three pieces of advice of living a prayerful life. In this life in which we live, number one, keep your head down. Number two, stay in your lane. And #3 stay on your knees. Otherwise. You walk it alone. We love to hear stories of God answering prayer, happy stories of people being healed of, of lives being transformed. Because they encourage us. But there’s another kind of prayer. Where things don’t exactly. Workout the way we envisioned or prayed for it. In another church, the church business administrators name was Paula and. Paula was a. Mama had two kids. She did her job very well. She was one of those people who grew up in the town, and she was. Miss High school everything. She played in the band. She was an artist. She was a musician. She sang in the choir. She did it all. She was our church business administrator. And. She came to my office one day and she said would you go with me? I want to talk to my parents. I’ve got to admit something to them, I said. OK, what? She said. Since I was 14 years old, I’ve been an alcoholic. She was in her late 40s at this time. Paula would go home from lunch and on her way home she would stop at a grocery store and buy a bottle of Crown Royal and she’d spend all afternoon drinking it. She was what’s called a high functioning alcoholic. But it was starting to. Take its toll. Her mom and her dad were Saints of the church. I mean, between her mom and dad, I think they committed like two sins their whole life. That’s how holy they were. And the news devastated them. Because they thought his parents. How could she have possibly done this in our household? But we all agreed to pray and Paula agreed to get some help and to turn her life around and and she made a little progress, but not all she needed to make. And the spiral downward continued. Despite all the prayers and despite all the counseling and despite all the encouragement, because Paula’s life had gotten that big. That’s basically the opening of a Crown Royal bottle. Her life had shrunk down that far, and that’s what addiction does to you. It shrinks your life down to that which you can’t let go of. For some, it’s the mouth of a bottle. For some it’s the end of a needle. For some it’s a dime bag. For others it’s a website or a. Bidding pool card. In the summer of 2016, her mother and her grandmother and her sister came to the office one day and they told Paula, come on, get in the car, you’re going with us. And we got her in a treatment facility and she spent 90 days during the summer. Being treated. And when she came back, she was a new creation. She was sweet. She was smiling, she was laughing. She was participating with the church staff. She was coming to church. She was getting along with everybody. She was joining prayer groups. She was doing everything you need to do to thrive. And it was like a miracle that occurred and several people in lots of churches who had been praying for her. We’re feeling really good about their prayers and what God had done and healing Paula. It was a miracle y’all. Beginning of 2017 came and. Paula’s mom came to see me and she said. Paula told us that she’d fallen off the wagon, but she’s going to be OK. That she promised she wouldn’t drink again, and that she’s gonna continue her AA meeting. She’s gonna do everything she needed to do and she was gonna keep. The road to recovery and. We offered her grace and forgiveness because sometimes folks fall off the wagon. By the summer of 2017, she’d not only fallen off the wagon, the wagon had completely disintegrated. She was barely coming to work, and when she did work, it was remotely. And her mom and grandma and I talk. What do we do? And we’re trying to line her up to get her in this treatment facility for the second time. Staff, Parish Committee and I are having to have tough conversations. Like, OK, we were redemptive. We gave her a whole summer off. We can’t do that again. What are we going to do? I said I’m gonna go pray some more. And Paula had basically closed her life off to everybody by that point. It was the Tuesday after Labor Day of 2017. And my phone rang. 52530 AM. It was Paula. Hi, Paula, how are you? She said. You need to know I have a gun pointed at my heart. And I’m going to end it. I’m tired of this. But before I do it, I’ve got two questions. When I do this. Will I see my daddy again? Her dad had died and. We’d had his funeral. Well, let’s see my daddy again. And one day when my two boys see me again. And I went into crisis counselor mode, and I proceeded to try to stall her for as long as I could while I reached for the other telephone to call the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Department. Paula, we need to talk. You know, you’ve got options. This, this is just a set back. We’ll get through this. Let me come out there. We’ll talk. Let me get somebody there to help you. Let me call your your mom. She listened for a minute or two and then she said Doug. You haven’t answered my question. You can’t stop this. I’m going to do it. I just want to know. Let’s see my daddy. And when my children see me. And I changed from being a crisis counselor to a comforter. Because I understand I was having a final conversation with a human being. And I assured her one thing. That is true. That we cannot separate ourselves from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That no matter how far we fall. His love and grace are always under us. And I still pray for Paula’s children. And her husband. I still pray for all the people in that church that were affected by that, for all the people who were praying who believed that they had seen him miraculous answer to prayer. That God would help them and me and all of us understand that there is a bottom. But the bottom is very, very firm. Because the bottom. Is built on the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And that while that one lost lamb sometimes will slip through our fingers. Nothing or no one escapes the love of God in Christ Jesus. Sometimes you’ve got to believe with that much tenacity when you pray for things and you don’t get exactly what you want. Or you pray for things and you don’t see transformation. Or you pray for things and it appears as though God is not answering you. What’s going on? Is that very firm bottom? Is being strengthened. And that the love of God is reaching down to you. And in so many cases. Reaching down. And reaching out. For others. I hope you know. The assurance. But God’s love. And his grace. Is always there with you. And therefore you. Would you stand and pray with me? We thank you, Lord, for your Amazing Grace. That when we can understand it, we can experience it. And we pray for those who might be hurting today. Who might be frustrated with this this thing we call prayer? That your love and grace would extend to them. And they would feel your mercy surrounding them and lifting them out of whatever bind they find themselves in. Bring healing and wholeness. Bring comfort. Allow guidance to take place. And forgive sins we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.