10-5-14 Sermon: “Fellowship of Prayer” Matthew 18:18-22
Video of Sermon:
?Prayer and Fellowship? Matthew 18:18-22; 10-5-14 Lake Murray Presbyterian Church
The cameras were rolling at the football game, and the fraternity wanted to get on ESPN. So one of them would bare his chest, and another would hold up a sign- but that didn?t really work. They already planned the better strategy: they waited for the cameras to start panning through the stands and they then began a practiced, unison school chant and cheer. The camera and producer froze on them and their parents saw them back home. When they lifted their voices in unison, they got attention. That is not exactly why God tells us to agree in prayer. As Elijah noted, we don?t have to shout loud or combine our voices for God to hear us. God can hear silent prayers. But an agreed upon prayer not only has the attention of God, it merits His answer. To get a referendum petition, you have to get so many votes. It is not that other petitions are not worthy of attention, it is that when enough people agree, then we know and everyone knows it is not frivolous but should be taken seriously. My point in this whole sermon is that our prayers are enhanced when others agree with us in prayer. Prayer is not a magic lamp or a secret recipe to be followed to manipulate God. It is not that God has to answer a prayer when 3 agree but not 2; or when 100 agree but not 99. Rather, we are made to love. When we gather together in love, God smiles. When we agree to care for each other in prayer- God smiles and blesses us. What makes agreement in prayer work is not numbers, but love- and love takes more than one. The more love we have for one another- the more people who are gathered in prayer in love, the more God blesses. ???? So Jesus encourages us to not just pray alone, but to pray in agreement with one another. That could involve a joint unison out-loud prayer. But it could also involve praying silently together about a certain topic. When I went to South Korea I was amazed at their prayer life. They have prayer meetings every weekday morning in most churches at 5:00 A.M. They have prayer retreat places that many individual churches buy to get away to simply pray. The downtown Korean Presbyterian Church in Columbia has one in Chapin o.n Cannon Street not far away. On Friday nights, people who are especially concerned with an illness, or grief, or concern for a loved one come and shut themselves in prayer closets all night praying. But I was shocked when in worship the minister said let us pray- and then everyone bowed their head, closed their eyes and started praying- out loud. Not in unison, but their own individual prayers out loud. To me it sounded a bit confusing at first. But by the end of my ten days there, I was blessed by this kind of prayer. It sounded like discord, but it was agreement. ???? The God who created the universe, wants us to recognize His power as well as His love. Prayer to Him is one way we do this. Prayer is talking to God. But it is talking to Him as if He can help us in our time of need. I believe this is one reason why Jesus encouraged us to pray by saying, ?Our Father.? As a father knows how to give good gifts to his children, so the Lord, the creator of all knows and is able- and we have that relationship with Him. But if God is our father- then we are brothers and sisters. Most parents will listen if one of their children asks for something. But when they all come together and ask at the same time- as a father, you have to pay attention. ???? Prayer is a gift from God. It is a way to keep the lines open. It is a reminder that God cares and God hears. If you do not believe in the love of God- why pray? If you do not believe in the hearing of God, why talk to Him? There is something inside of us that wants us to ?Phone home? and God is our ultimate home in the universe. But when all the lines are lit up it merits God?s attention but it also merits ours. The point of prayer is not just to talk to God?though that is important. The point of prayer is not just to motivate us to do something. Perhaps you have heard people pray who are talking to the people listening instead of talking to God. It goes something like, ?Lord we pray for Betsy who had a fever and went to the doctor Monday and whose great grandmother died and will be coming back to church next week.? It is true that agreeing in prayer motivates us and informs us as a body- but prayer is still focusing on God. ?But there is another, more hidden motivation to prayer. When we join our focus together, when we all are asking God for the same thing- there brings a deep sense of human love and fellowship. When we agree in prayer, we are agreeing with each other- and that is a healing gift of God. Prayer shows love for God- but when we agree in prayer it also motivates us to love each other. Fellowship is in part an agreement to pray together. The difference between just gathering and Christian fellowship is an agreement that we are gathering with a focus- as Jesus said, ?In his name.? We agree to praise His name together; We agree to confess our sins together; We agree to pray for the hurting and grieving together; we agree to thank God for the new life and new love together. When we cannot even pray together, then something is very, very wrong. But when Christians agree in prayer- there is the tie that binds- there is the love of God- there is the presence of God. ???? One of the toughest things for human beings to do is communicate. Miscommunication- not listening- not making the effort to communicate- makes life very hard. Agreement in prayer is the opposite of miscommunication. It means we have listened and agreed. It means we have communicated with God and with others. ???? The key in this kind of agreement prayer as in all prayer is submitting my will to God?s will. The goal is not just to agree together, but to agree with God?s will. At risk of stating the obvious, This statement of Jesus is not saying, ?Just find someone else who will agree and you can be as selfish as you want in prayer..? There are some who believe God wants everything to always be smooth and easy for you. They will say, ?Surely God?s desire is to remove all the crosses, all the problems from your life- so just find another person who will agree to that and you will have it made.? But this is no magic formula or recipe. Rather this prayer, like all prayers is asking God for help to honor Him. It is not selfishly demanding and getting another to agree to that. But it is selflessly asking, and getting another to agree that this could possibly be God?s will. When we are working, praying, and agreeing to accomplish something for the glory of God- there is Jesus and there is the answered prayer. The power of God is not something imagined by billions. It is a real power that is made real to us when we agree with Him and agree with each other. When our love for God and agreement with neighbor shows in how we pray- there, Jesus said, is the answered prayer and the presence of God. ???? The very word ?communion? means agreement in communication. Some have defined communion as a visible prayer- a means of grace. It is agreeing to thank God for His sacrifice and thank God for His love. Perhaps the presence of God is found in communion because we are doing it in His name, for His sake, and in agreement. As we take communion today- let it be a prayer of agreement for you.