Madison Church

From Childhood Prayers to Action-Focused Faith: Growing and Living with Authentic Prayer

March 03, 2024 Stephen Feith
Madison Church
From Childhood Prayers to Action-Focused Faith: Growing and Living with Authentic Prayer
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever found yourself reminiscing about the simplicity of childhood prayers only to realize they don't quite stand up to the challenges of adulthood? That's exactly what we're tackling here at Madison Church Online, as Stephen Feith leads us through the evolution of prayer life in the latest chapter of our series. From the earnest nighttime rituals of our youth to the deep, soul-searching conversations we engage with God as adults, we're peeling back the layers on how our faith matures and adapts alongside us.

This week, I take you down memory lane, sharing a comical yet poignant high school escapade involving teenage crushes, mechanical mishaps, and the earnest prayers of a young heart. Imagine the soundtrack of Simple Plan setting the mood as I recount the tale of my not-so-reliable truck, my attempts to woo Heather, and the lessons learned when life throws you a curveball. It's a story that teaches us about the consequences of our actions and the true nature of prayer—not just as a way to make requests, but as a foundation for growth and reflection.

As we close this episode, we delve into the practical integration of prayer and action in our daily lives. The message is clear: our prayers should fuel our deeds, reflecting a faith that's both spoken and shown. Whether it's working on personal relationships, engaging in community service, or advocating for peace, we're called to embody the spirit of Jesus through authenticity and action. So, as you set out into your week, I encourage you to embrace these insights and let them shape a more intentional, active faith journey.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to Madison Church Online. Seem Feefully. Pastor of Madison Church. We are in week two of a five part series about prayer. The premise of these talks, the last not just last week and this week and the next few weeks, but really since we started the year has been about our faith growing up, because it is common for us to grow up but our faith doesn't.

Speaker 1:

For example, as you grow up, you go from having maybe a part-time job at a grocery store and you keep growing up and your jobs get a little bit more complicated. You move up some corporate ladders maybe. Maybe you go to school, you start a business, you work in a business, you're an executive of a business, you're growing up, you're just a little kid and eventually you get into these things called relationships and then eventually maybe kids come around and now your family got more complicated. So it's not just your job and now your family is more complicated. And then there's health, because as you get older and as I have found, like at 25, my hair started falling out. I mean, it started falling out when I was like 18, but then it really started falling out when I was 25. Then when I was 30, I turned 30 and it was like magic 12 months later I had put on 50 pounds. I mean, I didn't change anything, I just I got older. And so as you get older you guys know this like your health gets more complicated. All of a sudden I can't slam a bag of chips in a couple beers before I go to bed anymore. Like I've got to start thinking about these things. Life gets complicated and then at the same time it's like our faith doesn't Without intentionality, our faith doesn't. You grow up, whether you like it or not, right that happens. Your career is going to get more complicated, whether you like it or not. Your family is, your health is. You don't get a choice in that. But when it comes to faith, if you don't do anything about it, it's going to be too simple to deal with your complicated problems, and that's been the premise of our talks last couple of months here.

Speaker 1:

Think about the prayers that you were taught as a child. For some of you, you grew up in Catholic liturgical backgrounds. You had the recite prayers. There were tons of prayers that you were taught. One of those is, or was now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I should die. Before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take Amen.

Speaker 1:

I did have to read it because, remember, I did not grow up in the church and so that is not a prayer that I learned. But my kids do have a little book of like nursery prayers and this is a start, and I mentioned that last week, said it's a start, you got to start somewhere. This is a great place to start. We're not going to sit down with a kid and exegete the Lord's prayer in the original Greek. That's not going to stick, but something like this might work. So we start with it, but unfortunately, like I said, because of just the way life goes oftentimes, everything else gets more complicated. And yet this is the prayer that we're still remembering and this is like ill-equipped to deal with all of our problems and besides being like super, like kind of dark and grim, I mean you guys realize how this is like dark and we're teaching this to kids, right, like you know, oliver, if for some reason you die tonight, you make sure you pray this. So, god you know, doesn't Okay. So but what if? And it's going to happen to all of us it's inevitable death. So what if you pray this prayer and then the inevitable happens and you die.

Speaker 1:

Let's I mean let's really go obsessively far with this. Did they not have enough faith? They prayed this and then they died. Or maybe they didn't mean it. They prayed it but they didn't mean it, and oh, so that's why they died. Or maybe it's that God couldn't keep them alive. They prayed it, they meant it, they had faith, and God was just like no, I just, for some reason, I couldn't help you out. Maybe it's some of that, maybe it's all of it. And let's go further and recognizing that someday they'll be talking about us with this right, they could be talking about you and me, about this. Someday we're going to pass away, and what if we're the ones who passed away in our sleep after saying this prayer? I know that you have faith, I believe in you and that you mean the words that you pray, and I am absolutely positive God could keep you alive for all of eternity if you wanted to.

Speaker 1:

So what happened, or what happens when we say these childish prayers and bad things happen anyway Is it an issue of faith? Is it an issue of the person praying? It's an issue with God Whether we're praying for our favorite sports team to win the big game or for a loved one to be miraculously healed from a terminal illness. I'm inclined to believe that every person on earth prays, whether it's on purpose or an accident, whether it's a short one or a long one. I think that we all pray, and when our prayers don't get answered, when our theology, our belief in prayer is immature and in the nursery, it hurts how we view ourselves, it hurts our faith and it hurts how we view God. And so the reason that we are doing this study isn't to prepare you for a really deep test. I'm not gonna have anyone write essays at the end of this to explain your theology of prayer. What I hope happens at the end of this study is that your prayer life, that your theology of prayer, grows up with you, so that you are more well equipped to handle those career changes, those family changes, those health changes. And, as a result, I think that having a good theology and a good understanding, a grown-up and mature understanding of prayer, I believe that you're gonna have a better view of yourself. Your self-esteem might be a little bit better at the end of this. I think your faith is gonna be a little bit more vibrant and I know your relationship with God will be stronger.

Speaker 1:

And last week we began by discussing why we should pray. Yes, you can pray for the small things and big things and you should. Paul says, in any and everything, pray about it. But still, ultimately, last week I said but there really are some more important reasons than others to pray. One of those reasons was that we pray with our relationship with God in mind.

Speaker 1:

When we pray, it's about a connection with God. Before I ask on your behalf, before I ask on my behalf, I enter into prayer and I take a moment and I remind myself I am praying to my Heavenly Father, my perfect parent. I am praying to someone, a God, who wants a relationship with me and who I have a relationship with. And after I start there, I remember that ultimately, I want to align my will with God's will. So maybe that starts off generically at first. God, let your will be done, because, frankly, I don't know what your will is.

Speaker 1:

Some of you are praying for direction for the next step of your life. Maybe it's with a relationship or with your career or with academics. You're praying for direction and you don't know what God's will is. So, yeah, go ahead and pray, god, let your will be done. But for those of you who have been praying and you're praying for a while what's going to begin to happen is you're going to be able to discern God's voice. You're going to hear that and you're going to be able to more specifically pray about things. You're going to know what God kind of wants you to do and the direction so you can begin to pray for those things very specifically. And today and next week we're going to continue to build on that foundation. That's the why why do we pray Relationship with God and discerning God's will for our lives.

Speaker 1:

Next week, jason is going to teach us what to pray for, but I think that would be helpful today if we talked about how not to pray, how not to pray. So, if you want to follow along, we're going to go to Matthew 6 again this week. Again, if you want to follow along, I will have the words on the screen Eventually. You can use those house bibles, your smartphone, if you can get internet in here. But we're going to Matthew 6. While you go there, I have a story, a very personal story, on how not to pray. This is the first time, I think, I've ever told this story on video camera or to Madison Church. It's one of my favorite stories, but you know, it took a lot of work to figure out how I could share it all with you, and so how to not pray message was perfect for this.

Speaker 1:

And I was in high school and there was this girl that I really liked. That's how the story begins. And so there's a girl I really liked. She wasn't my girlfriend yet, but I was working on it, I was doing my thing, I was trying to work up to it. She was supposed to go shopping one weekend with her friend and her friend was going to drive her. This girl will call her Heather, because that's what her parents called her. Heather was supposed to go with her friend to go shopping, and then her friend who could drive Heather was only 15. Her friend who could drive couldn't go all of a sudden. So Heather calls me and she's just devastated and disappointed and in tears. And I just got my driver's license and so I think, aha, I'm going to be the hero, I'm going to save the day. After all, like I said, I wanted her to be my girlfriend. This was really going to help move that along, right, and so I'm like well, I will take you a couple of complications or context, if you will.

Speaker 1:

Earlier that morning my dad said hey, your mom and I are taking the van Taiowa City. We got a bunch of shopping to do. Okay, take the truck, do whatever you want with it, as long as you stay in town Startin' to have some mechanical issues. So just don't take it out of town. I don't wanna come get you or anything. I don't wanna have a tow, I don't wanna pay for repairs. I said you got it.

Speaker 1:

He knew I just got my driver's license on Saturday. I was gonna wanna drive around. Well, heather needed me, I mean like she really, really needed me. And so I thought you know what, we'll make an exception. And I wasn't just gonna make an exception, but I was gonna pray. So I prayed a few things, because I'm spiritual you guys know this, I'm very spiritual and so first thing I prayed was that I wouldn't get caught. Okay, because I knew my parents were also in Iowa City, and so I was like well, it's a big city though, so it's not huge but big. So I prayed God, please don't let me get caught. Then I prayed God, please help the truck get there and back, and if it doesn't start on Monday morning, that's someone else's problem at that point, but just help me get there and back. And then, finally, of course, I prayed God, let Heather be my girlfriend. And so I start. I know super spiritual, right, like a full circle here. I start the car. Oh, we're going. I pick her up, we're blasting the new Simple Plan album. All my millennial friends know what that was. And so we're just blasting Simple Plan. I mean this is the stuff that country music is made of. This whole day it was amazing.

Speaker 1:

And the first stop she wanted to go to was Kohl's. And we walk around Kohl's and she's just shopping, and I don't care, but we're talking. I mean this is literally, this is a scene out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. It's just, it's so romantic, it's great. And we get out to the car, she's like, oh, let's go to the mall next. I said that's great.

Speaker 1:

And I go to start the truck and nothing happens. You know, it's like ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch, and I'm like it does this, it does this. And so I'm trying to play cool, right, I don't want one, I don't want to tell her I'm not supposed to be there, but two. I don't want to like be sitting in the Kohl's parking lot with her while my dad has to come save my butt. And so I'm praying like God please, please, please. I will never, ever ask anything of you again if this car just starts. Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? I'll never. I bet the bank on this one. I was like let's do it. So I prayed hard and then it started.

Speaker 1:

We go to the mall, we're shopping in the mall and something absolutely terrible happens. Heather and I were walking I can remember to this this is how imprinted in my brain I can. I'm there right now. We're walking and I hear a very, very, very, very familiar voice say my name, steven. No, so we keep walking. She didn't hear him. I heard him. We keep walking and I'm praying. I'm like God. Please let my dad think that he has the wrong person. God, please, let us be faster than my dad. God, please, let my dad have a minor medical emergency which you will recover from very quickly, please. God didn't answer that prayer Cause my dad lightly catches me by the arm, turns and says oh, hey, dad. He says hey, and my dad he was. You know what props to him hindsight, now that I'm a dad and, considering all of these things, how angry I would be. But like he was just like hey, I thought that was you, how are you? I was like good. He's like yeah. So the truck got up here. All right, did he get? Yep, it sure did. Dad, heather, heather, my dad. And yeah, nice to meet you. He's like all right, well, I'll see you at home. Yes, you will. There's the voice of my dad. I knew it was my dad. I also knew that I was dead. So we kept walking, we enjoyed the rest of our day. I knew that these were gonna be my last few moments of freedom for the next few weekends anyway, and so we just really soaked it all in and that was great.

Speaker 1:

And I share this story because it really does highlight at multiple points how not to pray. Okay, this was not an example of how to pray at all. This was the exact opposite of that. Despite having explicit instructions that morning to not take the family truck out, I did it anyway. And what did I do? I prayed that I wouldn't get caught. Like I knew right from the get-go I'm not supposed to do this. I pray I wouldn't get caught. I knew that. Like, hey, the reality is, this truck may not make it back. I prayed that God would let me escape natural consequences of my decisions. I prayed Heather would become my girlfriend, and she actually did become my girlfriend, so one for three wasn't bad all things considering. On the day, it was a really great three weeks with her, and so that's true story.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes knowing how to not do something is just as important as knowing how to do something, and sometimes how to do something is very complicated and takes a lot of explaining, and how not to do something is very simple. There's only one time in your New Testament that Jesus teaches us how not to pray and, as I mentioned, it's in chapter 6 of Matthew, and beginning with verse 5, jesus says when you pray, he's talking to his disciples. When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues, where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth. That is all the reward they will ever get.

Speaker 1:

The context here is that in Jesus's time, jewish individuals, people who practice the Jewish faith, were engaged with prayer not just publicly but privately, and there were set times throughout the entire day that they were supposed to pray. More times than not. You would just privately pray, but if you had the time or you were, like, especially devoted to your faith, you would go to the synagogue or the temple and you would pray there, and you would pray publicly. There were other times in the year where you were supposed to go to the temple and pray publicly. So think of these people as like authentically being super spiritual. They were very deep into their devotion and so they're there praying.

Speaker 1:

It's important to note that what Jesus is not critiquing is public prayer. There are other times where Jesus publicly prays. The early church reads throughout acts. The early church prays Publicly. What Jesus is critiquing here is not public prayer. It's not what we do here on Sundays. What he's critiquing is that they were using prayer to bolster their own image. They were praying out loud and in such a way where it was like look at me, look how deep my faith is, look how spiritually mature I am, look how much I Love God. Here I am in all my Glory. And this no doubt would go out into their personal lives too. If they were politicians or interested in politics. If they had a business, you would want to be a business partner. Vote for the guy who was close to God, who is really religious, right, and so that's what is going on here and I think it is still very much affects us. 2000, some years later.

Speaker 1:

Some of us are so focused on our personal image. We can struggle with this teaching because we seek being admired, we seek validation from other people, and so praying in public in a manner that's like visible, so everyone can see us and here's could be a way for us to manage our image. We don't want people to think we're shallow. We don't want people to think that I don't ever talk to God, like, oh yeah, I definitely pray, more than just right now, although the last time I prayed was when I was in front of you people again, right, we don't want that, and so it becomes so image focused that we stop praying to God and that Relationship and and what's your will, god? And it becomes more about me and how am I being perceived by you?

Speaker 1:

You may be the type of person who's motivated by a need for security and support, and so praying in a way that's visible to others Maybe that's in your small group or something, but praying in a way that's visible to others might be a strategy to reinforce your sense of belonging or even to demonstrate your commitment, like, hey, I'm in it, like this is I'm praying and I'm in it, and I'm just as in it as you are. But again, these are kind of the things that Jesus is calling out. You see, it's not supposed to be prayer to show other people that I'm committed. It's not supposed to be prayer to show other people on spiritually deep. It's just supposed to be prayer that shows I'm real. Jesus is inviting us to a place of authenticity In our prayer lives. He encourages us to engage in prayer. It's not a performative act. It's a sincere expression of our heart to communicate to God and hear from God.

Speaker 1:

This is about our again relationship, and so this teaching about there being hypocrites, it's not someone else somewhere else, but it can be us. It can be us when we're more focused on what's going on externally than what's going on Internally. And then Jesus goes on a couple of verses later and he's actually going to cast the wider net. So perhaps you are in here right now and this is okay. If this is you, you're like, no, when I pray, I don't really care about what other people think, or you're watching, listening online, I don't care what other people think. Well, that's okay, because Jesus isn't done yet. We're going from public to private here.

Speaker 1:

Jesus says when you pray, don't babble on and on as the Gentiles do. That word, babel Greek, is a Greek word. It literally means babble, isn't that they had a word for babble 2000? I just I think that's great. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Notice, he goes from talking about hypocrites, specifically Jewish followers of Jesus, probably Pharisees, so he goes to a very specific group, to a very broad group of people. Gentiles is everyone who's not Jewish, so that's probably most of us in the room. He says okay, now we know they do this. Now let's talk about the rest of you, because no one is exempt from getting prayer messed up. We all mess up prayer. Jesus is saying and this time it's not public. But he says you know, actually, privately, there can be some mistakes as well. There are some temptations that we all face.

Speaker 1:

The warning against repetitive prayer is the caution against the misconception that somehow we can manipulate God Into doing what we want, like if I just pray long enough I can wear him down. This isn't to be confused with Jesus's passage about keep knocking, keep seeking and you will find, or the door will be open. This is different. This really is a manipulation. Or if I just get the right formula, if I just say the right words, god has to listen to me, and Jesus says no, no, no, that's, that's not it.

Speaker 1:

Some of you might get lost in intellectualizing your prayers. You focus on the depth of your vocabulary, the complexity of your words, the ideas that you're praying about. Your prayers are deep, and yet the essence of prayer is sincere communication, not eloquence or Intellectual merit of the words that you use. I know a lot of people this is especially true for some of you if you grew up in or around the church. For some of us, we obsess over the precision and the theological correctness of our prayers. We want to make sure we're praying the right way, we're using the right words, that the things I communicate are biblically sound. We're aiming for an idealized form of communication with God.

Speaker 1:

However, this is kind of what Jesus is calling out. He says embrace your imperfections and the imperfections of your prayers. Recognize that actually being sincere with God is better than perfection. Sincerity is better than perfection when it comes to prayer. So, while we seek to express our spirituality passionately, and we should do that. We're reminded as well that true passion in our faith is not just about an outward performance. It's not about the words we use, not about the people around us, but it's about us and it's about God. Our prayers should not just be vocal, physical expressions but reflections of a holistic and genuine relationship with God. So there we have it.

Speaker 1:

Jesus says here's how not to pray. Don't make a big public spectacle of it, it's not about you, it's about you and God. And then he also says but you know, even privately you can kind of fall into some traps if you think that you can kind of like manipulate God. That's not good either. Just keep it real. But I don't want you to think for a second that prayer is just prayer, because I know that for a lot of you you're tired of seeing a national tragedy on your news feed or on the TV and you are so tired of hearing Christians say we're praying for you, or thoughts and prayers. It's almost kind of turned into mocking now. Really, the only people who say thoughts and prayers nowadays are people who don't believe it or who don't pray, and they're making fun of us Because what they say is like they're essentially saying you guys don't do anything. You don't do anything, you just pray and the problems continue to get worse, but you don't do anything. And they're calling us out for that and God, they're kind of right. And the thing is, is it really could have been avoided? Because within the biblical text itself, within the New Testament, we're told that we shouldn't just pray, like prayer is important.

Speaker 1:

Jesus spends a lot of time talking about prayer, teaching prayer, how not to pray. We're talking about it here today, but it's not just supposed to be about having the beliefs and practicing prayer. And who better to know this than his own brother, james? James is his brother. He writes his own little book in the New Testament. James grows up with Jesus. You can only imagine how wild that dynamic must have been that your brother is the Messiah and James actually ends up becoming an early church leader in Jerusalem. So you think of the Jerusalem Christian church. James is the leader of that church, so he's kind of a big deal. And he writes something. And you imagine if James feels the need to write it, to speak it, to teach it? There's already these pervading beliefs happening. There are already people in the early church who just thought we'll just pray about it. We won't get involved, but we'll just pray about it. And here's what James writes.

Speaker 1:

He says what good is it to your brothers and sisters If you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? That's a rhetorical, sarcastic question. You could tell that in this family, in this Jesus family, they use sarcasm a lot because they both do these rhetorical questions. He says can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing and you say to them goodbye, have a good day, stay warm and eat well, but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James keeps trying to get you with these rhetorical questions to figure out. What he's saying is if you're not gonna do anything about it, the faith is worthless. And if the faith is worthless, the prayers are worthless. James is saying don't just say that, you can do it. And you can almost see James like just head-palming.

Speaker 1:

As in our society, this happens and that happens and it gets worse. And collectively the response from the Christian church in the United States has just been we'll pray for you. And you just see, james, just like oh my gosh, guys, we went over this like 2,000 years ago. It's been translated and passed down from generation. How is this still happening? He's not saying don't pray. Re-read it if you have to. He's not saying don't pray, pray, but he's saying, man, will you back it up with some sort of action? Will you pray like it depends on God? This is how it's said Pray like it depends on God, but work like it depends on you. Can you do both? Can you walk with both feet?

Speaker 1:

For some of us today, some of you, are really challenged by this because you find yourself so immersed in your own emotional landscape that you overlook translating your empathy into concrete acts of assistant. You're so empathetic, you're so heartbroken about everything you see that it paralyzes you. You can't contribute because you're so heartbroken and so you freeze. And what James is saying is not that your empathy is bad he's not saying that at all but he's saying let's pick it up and let's put it in a direction of movement and in action. Your empathy is actually a gift from God, so let's use it for change.

Speaker 1:

You might be somebody who you prefer ideas. You love sitting around thinking about ideas. You love talking about prayer and theology and what would fix the world's problems. And you've got some really good ideas. And James encourages you to get past giving advice. He says let's get past that. Okay, you have ideas, that's great. What can we do today? What can we begin to implement tomorrow? We want change to be done in a day, but it's not. And James says pray about it, but let's get to work.

Speaker 1:

And I know many people who are driven by their search for excitement and positivity. You guys are like the party animals. I love being around you because there's so much enthusiasm and positivity. But then on the flip side of that is you all then just prefer to pretend like there aren't problems going on in the world, even in your own lives. You're like we're just bury it. That's been working for 30 years. I'm gonna argue that it doesn't work, but you've. You're like, hey, we're just gonna be positive, we're gonna go from one party to the next and we're not gonna ever think about all of that really bad stuff that's going on. But again, here's where James like that might be how you are and God wired you that way and that's good. But because of your faith, you can't just be all positivity and not looking at the issues. Your faith, if you're a positive person, is gonna say keep your positivity. But look at this and how can you begin to make a difference in that?

Speaker 1:

In In modern terms, james is saying don't say thoughts and prayers, pray, but get to work. In modern terms, james is calling out what we would call virtue signaling. We don't need your thought and opinion, a Facebook post on every issue that comes out. What do you think about this? What do you think about this? What's the in you know? And then they kind of surmise that this is what all Christians must believe, that he says no virtue signaling. They should know you by your actions. They should know you by what you do. We shouldn't need a Facebook post. That's why, at our church, we don't need to make a position of everything that's going on in the world. There are a lot of really bad things going on in the world that I know you're talking about Every single day that you've not heard us talk about once in here. Why? Because we keep pointing to Jesus and there's some natural conclusions you should make about what we think about Jesus and the things going on in the world. So I don't feel like we need to address every issue. I Feel like, even in this talk today, we're gonna get into the application now and how we can apply this. But even in this, we take these ideas, we begin to apply them in our lives and as we continue to walk toward Jesus, the application becomes very evident. So the first one is that we're gonna cultivate intimacy with God through prayer. This is what we talked about last week.

Speaker 1:

What do we do? We read. We read Matthew 6, 5. There's some people they're like really big, they're really public about their prayer. Jesus says when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you and pray to your father in private. Then your father, who sees everything, will reward you. More context, because all these passages require a little context. They had one room, houses. So, like you think, when Jesus says go to a private place, you think bedroom, because all of your houses probably have a bedroom and what he's saying is no, there was actually more like a studio apartment, and so you know well, there's just one door.

Speaker 1:

What Jesus is saying is it doesn't have to be a bedroom. He says but find a place to go away, To be secluded, a sacred place. What we talked about last week was a thin spot, a thin space, the connect with God and to have a conversation, to align your heart with his heart. So we cultivate intimacy with God through our prayers. We should also embrace authenticity in our prayers. Remember he says the Gentiles they just babble on and on in private. We want our prayers to be authentic. It's okay to go to God with imperfect language and and to not know what to pray and to express that.

Speaker 1:

Jesus assures us that your father knows exactly what you need, even before you ask him. That's Matthew 6a. So he says why don't you need to babble on and on and try to get to? God already knows. Before you've ever even prayed, god already knows what's going on. Well, if God already knows what I need, why should I pray? He wants a relationship with you. You see how this keeps coming back to that same point. He wants a relationship with you. We want our will to be his will. And again, it's not a call to omit our request to God keep seeking, keep knocking if you need healing, if you need wisdom, keep asking God for those things. But just note what God really wants is your transparency. He values your authenticity and prayer. So when you pray, be honest, don't feel ashamed or guilty to go to God. He already knows and he loves you. He loves you deeply and unconditionally. So share your deepest concerns, share your deepest joys, your fears and your aspirations. That's why we pray. Pair your prayers with action. Finally, pair them with action.

Speaker 1:

As James teaches, true faith is demonstrated by our actions and our actions Compliment our prayers and it's about integrating, yes, prayers critically important. That's why we're doing a five-part series. That's why we did a seven-part series last year. We did a series on it the year before. We're going to continue to do prayer series and emphasize prayer and pray for you During the week and have the elders in the back and before church. We're going to pray, we're going to do all of these prayer things, but what we have to do is catch our action up to wherever we are. Now. If I had to, personally, if I have to pick which one's going to be Further ahead, I'm going to put prayer a little further ahead. I always want to be chasing our prayer maturity with our actions Okay, but we have to have our actions following up. And so what does this look like practically for you today?

Speaker 1:

If you're praying for your marriage to get better, consider Not just praying for your marriage to get better, but how you can actively contribute to the improvement, maybe seeking counseling or engaging in open communication With your spouse. If you're somebody who does not like conflict at all, it might mean praying for the conflict that you're going to have to have this week. You're going to bring that conversation up. You're going to back it up with your action. If your heart is with Madison church and your church community, find ways to contribute. You could volunteer, you can give back financially. There are so many ways for you to be a part of this community besides showing up and praying Of this community. Besides showing up and praying with us. And when you pray for peace or relief and conflict zones and in war torn countries that are going on right now. When you pray for peace, look for opportunities to support causes, causes that are helping with relief work. You can do that through donations, through advocacy, you can volunteer. But don't just pray for peace if you're not willing to also work for peace.

Speaker 1:

Even where we are today and in each of these challenges, whether it's coming to God in our authenticity or putting these things into action, the goal is to create a seamless blend of prayer and action that represents the incarnation of Jesus, god who who comes to us as Jesus, fully God, fully man, the perfect blend of prayer and action, of spirit and flesh, and we are to represent that as well.

Speaker 1:

Our prayer life should not just be a spiritual discipline, should be a reflection of our relationship with God and our commitment to living his will out. And, as we look forward to next week, when Jason is coming here, he's going to continue to build on the foundation, guiding us again what to pray for. We continue on this foundation to say the reason we pray is because we're looking for God's will and aligning our will with his. We're praying for a relationship with him, we're going to keep it real, we're going to be honest, we're going to be willing to engage God, both privately and publicly, and we're going to put our prayers to work. And so, with all of that set, I'm excited for Jason to finally say okay, now here's what to pray for, and so let's carry these insights and these challenges from today, beyond today and into our daily lives. Would you allow something from today that has been spoken or sung about or prayed about To shape the way that you think about prayer, that you think about faith and, maybe most importantly, your actions this week.

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Authenticity in Prayer
Authentic Prayer and Action
Integrating Prayer and Action in Faith