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Matthew 7:7-11
Good morning and welcome to worship. It is a joy to be in air conditioning, Amen. I guess we shouldn’t complain too much, we had a mild summer last year, we were bound to have a record breaking summer this year.
A little update on the time of discernment regarding our denominational affiliation. I hope you have made plans to attend one of the Town Hall Meetings we have planned over the past week and the week ahead. In fact, the next one is today at 2:00. If you come to one of the meetings, you will hear the same basic presentation, but I encourage you to come to more than one because the questions will be different at each meeting and you will catch or hear something a little different at each meeting as well. Our goal is to make sure that you have a chance to hear the information, understand our current situation, and be able to make up your own mind about the future of your church.
Also, keep in mind, we will be hosting a meeting with a leader from both the UMC and the GMC on July 11 at 6:00 and 7:00, respectively. The other churches in the area are invited to participate as well, so we might have a full house that night with opportunities to hear from and ask questions of both leaders. Finally, I hope to have one final Town Hall Meeting in August to answer any further questions and give the opportunity to see the differences between the UMC and other historically Methodist denominations.
But today, we are talking about prayer, specifically the part of prayer we tend to do the most… Asking.
Turn with me to Matthew 7:7-11.
Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 are what most of us call the Sermon on the Mount. If you are looking for an example of how to live as God designed us to live, go to these chapters and read them over and over again, they are full of some of the most rich teaching that Jesus ever offered his followers. But today, we are only focusing on a few verses from chapter 7. So, beginning in verse 7:
Matthew 7:7-11
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
We were young, like, 23 and 25, but that didn’t stand in our way. She was finishing up her Teaching degree and I was working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which means I was basically broke.
I had on my best $150 suit, she had on a beautiful black dress and we were eating at Vargos in Houston, at the time, a 5 Star Restaurant on 8 picturesque acres. We had a wonderful meal but it was the dessert tray that was the best part.
We had finished our main course and the waitress came and brought the covered dish for dessert – you know the fancy tray where they remove the lid with that big motion. I’d only seed in done on TV, but it was cool to see it in person.
The only thing was, there wasn’t a dessert under the lid, there was a ring…
and I got down on one knee and asked Renee if she would marry me. And for some odd reason, she said yes.
I wonder, where would I be today if I hadn’t gotten up the nerve to ask her? She was ready to say yes, all I had to do was give her the opportunity, and my life has been better because of it.
I think of my kids asking for things at different times, whether it was Reagan asking to go to a Leadership program in New York on Broadway and Fordham University… or Garrin asking to graduate from High School a year early to start his Watch Making career… or Evan asking to be involved in some of the sports and arts programs he is a part of… I can’t imagine where they would be if they hadn’t asked.
Yes, there are times my kids asked for things and we said “No”… but it was never meant to be a refusal to let them enjoy life, it was the opposite, sometimes as parents we have to say “NO,” or “Not Yet” because we are looking out for our children… they don’t understand it at the time, but hopefully they will.
Just as we read in our Scripture today, “who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?”
We want what is best for our children and we want to give to our children, it’s just something in our nature, we want to share and give the best to our kids.
And, just as our passage tells us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
How much more does the Father want to give us the things we ask for? As the passage goes, “we have not because we ask not.”
So, then comes the other point of this message – point 1, God wants us to ask of Him.
2) God wants to give us what is in line with His will for our lives.
There is a passage I remember where the Disciples, James and John, were asking for God to do something for them…
Luke 9:52-56
And [Jesus] sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
It was clearly not in the will of God for this village of non-believers to be vanquished from the face of the earth. As Jesus demonstrated with his life, it is God’s will that all come to know and follow Christ.
So, Jesus told them “No.”
Just as our kids, sometimes what we ask of God is not the best for us or the world around us, and God wants our best.
As we spend time in prayer, I’ve learned a couple of acronyms, some pneumonic devices to help me remember to order my asking so I am led to live my life more in line with God’s will. I’ve shared some of this with some of you before, but it bears repeating.
The first is the JOY prayer.
When we pray, when we ask in our prayers, our first focus should be on Jesus, then on Others, and finally on yourself.
As we ask and pray in this way, we remind ourselves that Jesus gave himself for us and we should give ourselves for others. We are here to serve, not to be served.
The other prayer I want to remind you of is the ACTS prayer.
Just as with the JOY prayer, we pray through the acronym ACTS to help align our prayers with God.
We start out expressing our adoration, our love and thanks to God for all that has been, is, and will be.
Then, we recognize that we have not always followed God’s will by confessing our sins. No one likes this part, but it helps us to recognize where we have failed to be obedient to God, and repent… live in a new way.
So, after adoration and confession is thanksgiving. We give thanks to God for what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives as we serve God and the world around us.
Finally, after all that, we get to the asking, the requesting, the supplication. When we remind ourselves of God’s love for us and our love of God, when we confess and repent, when we give thanks to and for all of God’s goodness, THEN we are more likely to ask within the will of God.
So, we can pray and ask within God’s will by submitting our prayers and our lives to God, but we can also make sure that we are asking for what is within God’s will by living in His Word!
We talked about hiding God’s Word in our Heart and letting it be a light to our path last week as we make reflecting on God’s Word a part of our prayers. God’s Word, Scripture, is and should be an important part of our prayer life, but God’s Word shouldn’t be limited to our prayer life. It should guide all aspects of our life.
Another verse that reminds us of the importance of Scripture comes to us from Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
It is God’s Word that we go to for correcting ourselves… we don’t bring ourselves to the Bible to correct God. We go to God’s Word to learn who God is and what God is calling us to. We go to God’s word to be prepared for every good work.
One more thing about God’s Word from Paul… When Paul was sitting in a Jail Cell in Rome, looking at his guard, he compared our faith to the armor of the guard in Ephesians 6. The only offensive weapon Paul listed was the Sword, which is the Word of God. It is the weapon we use to fight against the schemes of the enemy. The Word of God counters, parries and thrusts against the attacks of the enemy.
It is God’s Word that shapes us as followers of Christ, not us who shape the meaning of God’s word.
It is God’s Word that reveals God’s will in our life.
It is God’s Word that prepares us for the life ahead.
Why am I making such a big point about the Bible?
Because when we ask for anything within God’s will, God grants it. The prayers we ask within the will of God are powerful.
And, the way we remain within God’s Will is through aligning our prayers with God and seeking God’s will as revealed in Scripture.
And so,
Matthew 7:7-8
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Let us pray.
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