Prayer & The Art of Listening

June 14th, 2020

Message Title: Prayer & The Art of Listening
Theme: Psalms and Songs: songs from 1960’s music with similar feelings to psalms
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19;
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
RCL Scripture: Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Exodus 19:2-8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Focus: Our unknown author speaks of God rescuing them after hearing their plea.
Function: To continue to pray but also opening our minds to being the answers to prayers (sometimes prayer requires action).
Other Notes: Let it Be by the Beatles

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 9:35-10:8 35 Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. 38 Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.” 10 He called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness. Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, who is called Peter; and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee; and John his brother; Philip; and Bartholomew; Thomas; and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus; and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean;[a] and Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. 
LORD’S PRAYER

60’S SONG: Let it Be by the Beatles
PLAY- music only, Our next song in our 1960’s series just barely makes the decade cut as it was recorded January of 1969. Enjoy this classic song by The Beatles.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Release date: March 6th, 1970
Recorded: January 31st, 1969
Details about the song: Catholics reached out to McCartney about how grateful they were for a song acknowledging Mary the Mother of Jesus and Paul responded in surprise. He said that “Mother Mary” was not intended to be Jesus’ Mom but in fact Mary was the name of Paul’s mom. Paul had had a dream where his mother was reassuring him “It will be all right, just let it be.”
Paul did however give listeners the freedom to interpret the song as Jesus’ mother if they preferred that.
Details about the Recording: This was the final single they recorded before Paul McCartney left the band. (The Long and Winding Road was the last US single)

TRANSITION: How Ironic that this song is one of the songs before their end? It seems to be a song encouraging wise actions and peace but lead to the end of The Beatles. In our text for today we will hear another song pointing towards peace but once again, we have a responsibility in that peace.

GOD: Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he hears
    my requests for mercy.
I’ll call out to him as long as I live,
    because he listens closely to me.
Death’s ropes bound me;
    the distress of the grave[a] found me—
    I came face-to-face with trouble and grief.
So I called on the Lord’s name:
    “Lord, please save me!”[b]

The Lord is merciful and righteous;
    our God is compassionate.
The Lord protects simple folk;
    he saves me whenever I am brought down.
I tell myself, You can be at peace again,
    because the Lord has been good to you.
You, God, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    and my foot from stumbling,
    so I’ll walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.
10 I have remained faithful, even when I said,
    “I am suffering so badly!”
11     even when I said, out of fear,
    “Everyone is a liar!”

12 What can I give back to the Lord
    for all the good things he has done for me?
13 I’ll lift up the cup of salvation.
    I’ll call on the Lord’s name.
14 I’ll keep the promises I made to the Lord
    in the presence of all God’s people.
15 The death of the Lord’s faithful
    is a costly loss in his eyes.

16 Oh yes, Lord, I am definitely your servant!
    I am your servant and the son of your female servant—
    you’ve freed me from my chains.
17 So I’ll offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to you,
    and I’ll call on the Lord’s name.
18 I’ll keep the promises I made to the Lord
    in the presence of all God’s people,
19     in the courtyards of the Lord’s house,
        which is in the center of Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Break it Down!

  1. God’s good… oh and HEY! I PRAYED!
    1. “because he hears my requests for mercy…”
    2. “I’ll call out to him…”
  2. My situation:
    1. Death’s ropes
    2. Face to face with trouble & grief
  3. I PRAYED
    1. “I called on the Lord’s name”
    2. qualities about God
  4. God acted
    1. “You, God, have delivered me from death,”
  5. My actions: Gratitude for deliverance
    1. “so I’ll walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”
    2. “I have remained faithful”
    3. I’ll lift up …
    4. I’ll call on the Lord
    5. Keep my promises
  6. God cares: God is compassionate to our suffering
    1. God wants healing & restoration
  7. My actions:
    1. I’ll express gratitude
    2. I’ll keep my promises
    3. I’ll praise God

TRANSITION: The prayers of this psalmist

Interpretation:
Focus: Our unknown author speaks of God rescuing them after hearing their plea.
Function: To continue to pray but also opening our minds to being the answers to prayers (sometimes prayer requires action).

YOU: Our need to pray but also to listen. God may be providing us solutions that require us to act.

  1. I LOVE the Message version of this Psalm. The paraphrase brings highlights to the text that I missed the first time around.
    1. Consider reading the MSG version
  2. Our Prayers- God Listening vs God doing what we want
    1. Our prayers at church vs. at home
      1. Church: Sick loved ones/ death/ babies
      2. Home/ Private: questions & uncertainty, struggles or disagreements, waiting & patience
    2. Prayer isn’t just about asking God to heal your loved ones.
      1. God isn’t our Genie. We don’t rub the lamp and get 3 wishes.
    3. Prayer is about
      1. Us being honest with God and ourselves about our lives/thoughts.
      2. God’s spirit transforming us and the way we think
        1. Examples:
          1. you may think that you are worthless but I in fact chose you and called you. You are valued. You are mine.
          2. You may think that you want this particular job but I have a better idea, this other job will be a better fit. Can you wait for it?
        2. Let go of the agenda you have… I’ve got a better one
      3. God guiding our actions & empowering us to do those things
        1. Sometimes we are the answers to prayers
      4. Listening
        1. God may be asking you to look outside of yourself and gain a new perspective.
        2. God may be asking you to consider other options or solutions.
  3. Listening lead to actions
    1. As we saw in the psalm, prayers lead to actions.
      1. BACK TO THE BEGINNING “LET IT BE” While I believe that “Let It Be” is a song hoping for peace, I think it also is crying out to injustice.
        1. If you haven’t had a chance to see the musical Across the Universe, I highly recommend it to any Beatles fan. Note: it’s got common 60’s themes of drugs, sex, protests, and war. All using the backdrop of Beatles music to tell the story.
        2. In the movie Let It Be is a sad song looking for hope during hopeless situations. There is a funeral for a young Vietnam soldier and a funeral of a young black boy killed in the Detroit riots.
        3. The song seems to leave you in a place of wanting while feeling hopeless.
          1. This honestly fits the feeling that may have led to the end of the Beatles. “We can’t agree so let’s simply part our ways”
    2. But prayer isn’t supposed to leave us in an empty place. Prayer fills us with God’s Spirit to act or to listen.
    3. Listening to those with different experiences:
      1.  Last week we talked about educating yourself, I left church wanting to find more information on racism and the experience of Black & African Americans. I watched a documentary on Netflix called 13th.
      2. Graph: This documentary focuses on the fallacy that the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, did not solve the problem of racism in America. The end of segregation did not solve racism. We’re still working on it today. Don’t let the green section of this graph fool you, racism isn’t done.
      3. Listing to those with different opinions:
        1. Now we all know that social etiquette tells us what we’re not supposed to talk money, politics, or religion in polite society. I understand that these three things are supposed to be rooted to our core beliefs.
        2. I disagree with social etiquette… sort of. It is a great practice to find people who worship different, vote different, or invest different than you. There is beauty and a statement of growth when two people can politely engage in conversation while showing respect yet disagreeing.
          1. Make sure you aren’t simply surrounded by people who only look, talk, and think like you.
        3. I do have a caveat: Agreeing to disagree is not the same as listening to someone who invalidates your humanity (Race, Sexual Identity, or Orientation).
          1. “I was asked, ‘You’re willing to lose friends over politics?!!’ I said ‘I am willing to lose friends over morals. HUGE difference.”
    4. Sometimes prayer leads us to be the answer to prayers. As you interact with people and learn to listen and as you learn to listen to God and not just rub the lamp waiting to express your wishes, you will gain a new perspective that leads to action.
      1. Example:
        1. Me: My friend had her house burn down. God, please help them!
        2. God: Ok, take care of your friend! Offer your home. Help organize supplies they may need. Offer to help with paper work or phone calls to insurance.
      2. Example:
        1. Me: My friend lost their parent. They’re sad. God, please help them!
        2. God: Ok, sit with your friend in their grief. Don’t try to fix it. Just be present and love them.
      3. Example:
        1. Me: My friends and loved ones of color are experiencing systemic racism. God, please help them!
        2. God: I love them. They matter to me. Show them my love by listen to their struggles. Echo their struggles to those who need to learn. Fight alongside them for change to the system.
  4. Application: Function: To continue to pray but also opening our minds to being the answers to prayers (sometimes prayer requires action).
    1. Find your prayer format:
      1. Journal
      2. Empty chair
      3. Group prayer
      4. Prayer walks
      5. Prayer labyrinths
      6. Pray through scripture
    2. Listen
    3. Act

CONCLUSION:  Don’t simply look to God to solve all the world’s problems, that’s never been God’s MO. God equips us to be agents in this world. God has built you to be an ambassador in this world. Don’t dwell in a place of hopelessness. Pray. Listen. Act. Be the answers to someone’s prayers.

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