Sunday Gathering – Prayer – Prayer is a conversation
October 8, 2023

Sunday Gathering – Prayer – Prayer is a conversation


This week we start our new series on Prayer.
This week Chris is speaking one "Prayer is a conversation"


Summary of the Sermon "Prayer is a Conversation" by Chris Simpson on October 8, 2023:

In this sermon, Chris Simpson discusses the importance of prayer and emphasizes that prayer is like a conversation with God. He shares his personal journey of realizing the significance of consistent prayer in his life and how it has been a source of joy and strength through challenging times.

  1. Invitation to Prayer: Chris highlights that prayer is an invitation from God to come and talk with Him, an invitation to spend time in His presence. He emphasizes the need to respond to this invitation wholeheartedly.

    Bible Passage: Psalm 27: "My heart has heard you say, come and talk with me. And my heart responds, Lord, I am coming."

  2. The Concept of Heart in Prayer: Chris elaborates on the meaning of "heart" in the Bible, not just as emotions but as the true self—the real "me." He encourages approaching God as the authentic, barefooted version of oneself, emphasizing honesty and genuineness in prayer.
  3. The Lord's Prayer as a Structure for Prayer: Chris suggests using the Lord's Prayer as a structure for a balanced prayer life, breaking it down into chapters:
    • Chapter 1: Acknowledging God as Father and focusing on His character.
    • Chapter 2: Praying for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done.
    • Chapter 3: Requesting daily provision and seeking God's presence in everyday life.
    • Chapter 4: Seeking forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others.
    • Chapter 5: Praying for protection from temptation and evil.

    Bible Passage: Luke 11:1-8, where Jesus teaches the disciples to pray.

  4. Persistence in Prayer: Chris encourages persistence in prayer, sharing the parable of the persistent widow to illustrate the importance of persevering in prayer and not giving up.

    Bible Passage: Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow.

  5. Prayer for God's Will and Deliverance: Chris discusses praying for God's will to be done and seeking deliverance from worldly influences, acknowledging the world, the flesh, and the devil as challenges to be overcome through prayer.

    Bible Passage: Not specified.

  6. Recommendation for Further Learning: Chris recommends the book "How to Pray" by Pete Greig, emphasizing its value in guiding regular individuals in understanding and practicing prayer.
  7. Closing Thoughts: The sermon ends with a reminder of the invitation to prayer and the question of how individuals will respond to God's call to come and talk with Him.

Overall, the sermon emphasizes the importance of prayer as a genuine conversation with God, structured using the Lord's Prayer as a guide, and encourages persistence and sincerity in approaching God through prayer.


Good morning.
So this morning we're starting a new series.
It's a new series all about prayer.
And I'm very excited about that
because I think it's so, so important.
And I don't just think prayer is important
in the general sense.
Prayer has been important to me.
I think for many years in my Christian life,
I think my prayer life was hit and miss a bit come and go.
And then quite some time ago,
I had a kind of really tough time at work.
And that pushed me into having a kind of regular,
quiet time with God day in, day out.
I'm glad to say that I have it as stuck with me.
So prayer is really important.
And that's become a source of joy and strength to me
that I think has helped me through all sorts of things.
But having said that, you know, I think,
I can't feel I'm still at the beginning of things.
I'm feeling at the edge.
I feel that maybe God is calling me,
calling us to an adventure in prayer
and to places and experiences in prayer
that we haven't yet had.
There's so much more to go,
so much more to experience and enjoy.
Let's have that slides up if we can.
Prayer part one, prayer as a conversation.
Let's go straight on to the next slide.
So this is a beautiful verse from Psalm 27.
My heart has heard you say, come and talk with me.
And my heart responds, Lord, I am coming.
And I think that says something pretty fundamental about prayer
that the heart of prayer is an invitation
that God is inviting us to come and talk with him
and to spend time in his presence.
And we have a choice to say yes to that,
yes to God's invitation to spend more time in his presence.
I want to say a word to you about the word heart
because I think for kind of Westerners living
in the 21st century,
heart is often taken as being equivalent to the emotions.
But heart in the Bible meant something
a little bit different and more.
A heart was not only the emotions,
a heart is something like the real me
who I am at heart.
That is what heart is.
It's the real Christ Simpson is my heart.
The person I truly and really am.
And so it's the real me that God is calling to prayer.
C.S. Lewis once said something.
I know you were expecting that, but he said
that the prayer preceding all prayers is,
may it be the real me who prays
and may it be the real thou who listens?
No, if it may be the real thou I pray to.
And there's something really about that
that we need to come as we really and truly are.
And I'm struck by, you remember the story of Moses
and the burning bush?
And what does God say to Moses?
He tells him to take his sandals off.
So he comes bare footed into the presence of God.
And I think some of the risks,
if we think that heart is about the emotions primarily,
then the dangers are, first of all,
we find it very hard to pray them
when our feelings are down
and feelings do go up and down.
And secondly, I think there can be a temptation then
to feel that we need to kind of add a bit of emotion
to our prayer, we need to kind of
jeez the thing up with a bit of emotion.
But you see, God doesn't want fancy dress.
He wants us to come as we really truly are.
He wants us to come bare footed into his presence.
And of course, we need God to be remaking our image of him
because we can get funny ideas about God.
So we need his word and the word of the spirit
in our heart to creep speaking to us and reshaping it
because we want it to be the real me who's praying
to the real God as he really is.
Let's have the next slide.
Quite a long quote.
This is actually from a book
that we just finished reading in the MCF Book Pub.
Why do we pray to see revival break out on earth
as it is in heaven, to see lives and neighborhoods,
cities and nations get reborn?
For sure, but that's secondary.
Ultimately, we pray because Jesus is beautiful
and through prayer we see his face
and be more come more like him.
Through prayer we meet God and discover our true self.
I know if he doesn't say the first things
to see revival break out on earth and heaven and life's changed,
doesn't say that doesn't matter or it's unimportant.
It's incredibly important.
It's a significant part of prayer.
But he says not the first thing.
The first thing is God himself
and spending time with God.
I think that must be right.
There's something inappropriate
about coming into God's presence,
bringing our list of requests and popping them down
and then disappearing again.
I think God's calling us to linger in his presence
and to seek him for who he really is.
And do you want to come to the reading?
We're going to have two reading study
and I'm studying the first one.
So on.
I'm reading from the book of Luke chapter 11 verses 1 to 8.
But if you're going to follow along,
just be warned, it's in the message version
and it does sound a bit different.
So you might be better just listening
because when I read it, God,
yes, make sure to take up and sit up and take notice.
So it's entitled Ask for What You Need.
One day he was praying in a certain place.
And when he finished, one of his disciples said,
Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.
So he said, when you pray, say,
Father, reveal who you are,
set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
And keep us safe from ourselves and the devil.
And then he said, imagine what would happen
if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said,
Friend, lend me three loves of bread.
An old friend traveling through has just showed up.
I don't have a thing on hand.
And the friend answers from his bed,
oh, don't bother me.
The door is locked.
My children are all down for the night.
I can't get up and give you anything.
But let me tell you,
even if you won't get up because he's a friend.
If you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors,
he'll finally get up and get you whatever you need.
Thank you, Anne.
I'm going to spend some time now talking about the Lord's Prayer.
And I'm sure you know this and many of you will have experienced it.
But in many churches around the world,
the Lord's Prayer is spoken every Sunday, isn't it?
And I grew up in a church like Latin.
Some of you may have done the same.
And then in other churches, perhaps a bit more like our church,
the Lord's Prayer doesn't get much of a mention.
And think about it.
I think neither of those positions is healthy.
So I think in the first position,
I think what's wrong is that the Lord's Prayer has become a kind of formula.
You know, when we say the formula,
and just saying the formula is enough,
it's almost like a kind of incantation.
We say this words and that.
So we don't think about it, but we've kind of done it.
And I think the Lord's Prayer is way more than that.
And that's something a bit different to that.
And in the second position, not thinking about the Lord's Prayer,
because surely this is the most important piece of teaching
in the entire Bible on prayer.
So if we neglect it, our prayer life will be the weaker for that.
And so I want to tell you a little bit about how I think
we can use the Lord's Prayer in prayer.
And I will say that over quite a number of years,
this has been kind of the way that I use it.
And that is that we think of the Lord's Prayer,
not as the whole thing, but as a structure, a skeleton,
a series of chapter headings for a full and balanced prayer life.
So we imagine a notebook, if I've got a real notebook,
and we've got some blank pages, you know.
I think let's have the next slide out.
So at the top of the page,
we write our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
That's the chapter heading.
So what fills, what do we fill the rest of the blank page with?
What are the prayers that speak to that prayer,
our father in heaven, hallowed be your name?
Because that's an incredibly important thing.
And I think I've read in books,
and I think I've probably heard in sermons as well,
people sometimes say that we should translate our father
as dad, because the word that Jesus used for his father was Abba.
And Abba was the kind of intimate word that would be used
in the family of a child to their father.
That's half-right.
And let me expand on that a little bit.
I remember I had a very keen experience
of this long ago, many years ago.
I was in Tel Aviv, and I was on the beach.
And I witnessed something, a little boy,
ran up to his father and shouting,
Abba, Abba, like that.
And then they followed a torrent of Hebrew.
And I couldn't pick out what was being said.
But it was clear from the way the boy was pacing from one foot to another.
He wanted his father to take him to the toilet.
That's what he wanted.
So Abba was that intimate word that he used in the home.
But actually, there's still a reason for thinking
that Dad isn't the best translation or not the whole story.
And that is that in the culture that Jesus used that word in,
Abba was also a word of respect.
Your Abba was somebody whom you owed a lifelong duty of respect and obedience.
And Dad, in 21st century, Western countries,
doesn't necessarily carry that connotation.
And if you'd any doubts about that,
well, look at the word that follows our father.
Our father and heaven, hallowed be your name.
I don't know if you picked up in the message where I read it.
Hallowed be your name got translated as reveal who you are.
Obviously, that's not a direct translation, is it?
But it is both clever and I think quite deep,
is that, you know, when we see God as He really is,
then there is all.
So the two are deeply connected.
And this is so important.
Notice too that immediately,
we start using the Lord's prayer like this,
it probably affected what our prayer life would otherwise be like.
Because if our prayer life is just, you know,
what we want to pray about,
there's quite a strong chance that your prayers will start with
you and your concerns.
And this prayer, but we'll find out,
we have to be halfway through before we stop focusing on God.
So at least puts God absolutely centrally,
puts him in the foremost position.
But that linking of our father and heaven is incredibly important.
I came across a story, and I think actually it's a true story.
I can't swear to that, but it certainly read as if it was.
And it's in the time of the Americans of war.
And a soldier had been given leave from his regiment
to go and see the president of the United States
about an important family concern.
So he took leave and he went to the,
but when he got to the White House,
he didn't have the right papers or something.
Anyway, they just turned him away.
And he took himself off into a nearby park
and was sitting there disconsultly thinking,
well, what do I know?
I know this is all hope, but it's all I kind of hope
to talk to the president about has been lost.
And then a small boy approached him and said,
you could see that the soldier was in distress
and said, well, you know, what's the matter?
And so the soldier sort of tells the boy about it.
And the boy said, oh, come with me.
So soldier said, well, right, well.
So he follows this little boy.
And they go around the back of the White House.
And when they get to the guards on the door,
the guards just stand to one side and they walk into the White House.
And they go through more corridors and there are some more cards
and always the same thing.
And finally, they get to the presidential office.
And they walk into the presidential office.
And Abraham Lincoln is talking to the Secretary of State.
And he stops the Secretary of State and says,
it turns the boy and the soldier, it says to the boy,
what is it Todd?
And Todd, because that's the boy's name, says,
dad, this soldier needs to talk to you.
You know, that's a picture of what Jesus does for us.
You know, he takes us to our father
and gives us an opportunity and opening to speak to our father,
who is the King of Kings,
that we wouldn't, under any circumstance,
is otherwise half.
So this is immense privilege.
But this focus on God, this first chapter, I think, is so important.
And the sounds, I think, can be really helpful in that.
Because so often the sounds kind of focus on God
and who God really is in a very beautiful way.
I've spent probably quite unreasonable moments of time
in recent years memorizing sounds,
what trying to memorize one's sound in particular.
And the reason I've done that is
I see in the sounds something good,
a good infection that I want to catch.
You know, there's something beautiful
or something sold out for God.
There's a focus on God that I want to get a bit off.
I want to catch that infection.
Next slide.
Oh, that's it.
Your kingdom come.
You will be down on earth.
And again, imagine the notebook.
I said, you know, there's no reason why this couldn't become
a real notebook for you.
This is what I do.
I said I've got it on my iPad, not on a physical notebook,
but it's the same idea.
It's chapter two.
Your kingdom come.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be down on earth as it is in heaven
is the next chapter.
And what goes into that chapter then?
What do we fill the blanks with?
At this time of year, we start hearing about Aladdin, don't we?
And you know the story of Aladdin.
It's very popular at Christmas time.
I'm sure you know the story.
Aladdin finds a lamp, a bit more to it than that,
but he finds a lamp.
And then when he rubs the lamp, a genie appears.
And the genie says, do you remember what he says to him?
The genie says, your wish is my command.
Meaning that, you know, you've only got to want something
and tell me what it is.
And I'll treat that as if it's a command to me.
And I think sometimes we would like a god like that.
You know, a god who doesn't show up uninvited.
A god who doesn't turn up when we're doing something
that we know is a bit dodgy.
A god that we can summon at our will, who will appear
and whose soul interest is in doing what we want.
But you know, the thing is, Aladdin is a very sick story.
Aladdin is a very sick story.
It's not true.
God is not like that, but living God is not like that.
And when we come into God's presence, it's not our kingdom we pray for.
It's his kingdom.
It's not our will.
It's his will.
And yet with all that, I think there's something else that we can say.
And that is that, yes, it's true that our focus is to be on God's kingdom and his will.
But the truth is that God knows us far better than we know ourselves.
And he knows that getting my kingdom and my will
would ultimately bring me no lasting satisfaction.
He knows that the only place I can find true joy
and my real home is in his kingdom.
And there's something glorious about we need to turn from ourselves
and look to God.
It does need to be all about Jesus.
John the Baptist was right when he said,
I must decrease, I must decrease.
And yes, this is a magnificent chapter of things that we pray for.
Your kingdom come, your will be done.
Pete Greg will probably quote more than once said,
you know, our primary duty as Christians is to pray audaciously and repeatedly
for your kingdom to become your will to be done.
We're praying for God to be at work in this thoroughly messed up world.
And I sometimes think of it like this, this works for me and it may work for you.
Imagine that clear pond of water and you kind of throw a small stone in the center
and then rings kind of spread out from that, don't they?
And I think the first ring in which I'm praying your kingdom come, your will be done,
actually over me in my life.
God, your kingdom come, your will be done in me.
I'm praying for that.
He must increase, I must decrease.
The second ring is people who I know personally.
It might be family, it might be friends, it might be church, people in this room,
people you know about in your life.
It's the people you know personally.
And then other rings are the city, the nation, the world.
And then perhaps another one that's in eternity.
We pray that your kingdom come, your will be done.
We're ultimately praying for the return of Jesus Christ.
But you know, this is an important chapter, but this is a glorious chapter.
Let's move on to chapter three.
Give us today our daily bread.
And now we do actually turn, the focus is now us gets mentioned for the first time.
There's something tremendously everyday in ordinary about this chapter.
You know, what could be more ordinary than bread?
And I think that tells us that God wants us to and has time for us
to tell him about the most ordinary and trivial circumstances of our life.
You know, no detail is too small, no concern, too private and personal for us to talk to God about it.
You know, this is what's going on in my life.
And nothing is more kind of here and now than the next 24 hours.
Another but you probably in the next 24 hours, 99%, maybe 100% a while,
there will be ordinary things that I've done before.
And we pray that God will be in those everyday moments, our by our people I'm going to meet,
the things I'm going to do.
You know, God be with me in my everyday life.
And there's lots of things you can fill in that chapter of chapter three.
Chapter four, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
And this chapter I think tells us that it's all right to be not all right.
And you know, when Adam and Eve sinned that they immediately rushed off to cover up their nakedness and to hide from God,
I think in this chapter we're doing the opposite.
We're choosing to be present and to expose and lay before God,
all that's messy and unpleasant in our lives.
And some people might think, well, that all sounds a bit gloomy.
Some Christians don't talk too much about sin.
But if I can quote see as Lewis once again, he said, those who don't think about their own sins,
spend far too much time thinking about the sins of others.
So it can be a healthy thing to do.
And I think we can also compare it with maybe a trip to the dentist.
And yes, going to the dentist might not be that pleasant.
You don't ideally want to go to the dentist.
But going to the dentist is a whole lot better than trying to ignore a nagging toothache.
And forgive us our sins is a bit like that.
We're choosing to be honest with God.
Not to exaggerate it, not to pretend that we're the worst sinner that's ever lived on this earth,
but not to minimize and excuse it all, to use ordinary everyday words,
to describe the things that we've done or not done that we're not good enough,
to be naked before God.
And we can do that with the huge conference, you know,
that whatever we've done or said or not done or not said,
wherever we've been and whoever we've been there with,
God will forgive us because God's grace is bigger than our sin.
And that is the conference that underpins this.
Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Chapter five.
Next slide, please.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Are you determined, do you deeply long to walk with Jesus all the days of your life?
I hope the answer to that is yes, it's a very noble desire.
But let's not underestimate the difficulties we may encounter and the opposition we may face
and this prayer is there for that.
Christians have traditionally talked about the evil that we need deliverance from
in three words, the world, the flesh and the devil.
I'm going to very briefly say something about each of them.
Sometimes the word world in the Bible is used in quite a positive sense.
So we read, for example, God so loved the world.
And in that usage, the world means everyone.
God loves everyone.
But often the world word was used in a more negative sense,
some of the slightly different meaning especially by John.
And in that sense, the world meant something more like worldliness.
The whole kind of current of human society that is full of unbelief and selfishness
and materialism and resistance to the gospel.
Years ago, I'm calling with telling me a study.
As a young man, he'd been quite a keen cyclist.
But now he was aged about 60, but his son had a road bike.
And one day he borrowed his son's road bike and went cycling out.
And he said to begin with, it was fantastic.
He said, I was cycling and I'm thinking, well, I really feel that I thought I was
and this is all going quite well and I'm not doing well.
And he said, then he turned around to come home again.
He said, only as he turned around to come home again,
did he become aware that there had been a wind blowing all the time.
And in his outward trip, the wind had been behind him.
And on the way back, it was in his face.
He said, I thought I'd have to give up.
He said, I was just completely done in.
The time I eventually got home.
And the world's a bit like that.
You know, it's the prevailing wind. It's the wind in our faces.
It's the thing, it's the current in society that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his kingdom.
It's the current in the world that is opposed to God and his far away
that is faithful to God the way that isn't wanting to do what you wanted to do.
That's what The Fleshes is.
It's The Enemy Within.
We're all at heart wonky supermarket trolleys.
There's a bit of us that is resistant to the kingdom of God.
So we pray that is resistant to the kingdom of God, and what God wants in my life.
there's the devil himself. A struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers
and principalities. The evil intelligence opposed to God, the power, the prince of this
world. And that's why we need this prayer. But we pray this prayer to, in the confidence
that God is able, as Paul wrote in Second Timothy, I know whom I have trusted and I am certain
that he's able to keep what I've entrusted to him. That's my paraphrase of it, but you
think it's, it's two Timothy, one, twelve, thereabouts. God will deliver us. God will carry
us through. I'm going to be a cheeky and give you another reading and another very short
sermon I promise. Fiona, do you want to come with your second reading? For this is my daughter,
one of them. Yes, so this reading is from Luke 18 verses 1 to 8. One day, Jesus told his disciples
a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. There was a judge in a certain
city, he said, who near the third God, nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him
repeatedly saying, give me just this in this dispute with my enemy. The judge ignored her for a while,
but finally he said to himself, I don't fear God all care about people, but this woman is driving
me crazy. I'm going to see that she gets just this because she is wearing me out with her constant
requests. Then the Lord said, learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just
decision in the end. So don't you think that God will surely give justice to his chosen people
who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant
justice to them quickly. But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth
you have faith? In New Testament times, the most deprived, the most needy, the poorest and the
least powerful are widies and orphans. So this woman stands as somebody who is powerless in that
society, a society dominated by men and male interests, and she's trying to bring a court case.
That's he probably tells you that she's on her own because if there had been a male relative,
a son, a brother or an uncle, then they would have brought the case. So the widow is bringing
this case on their own because there's nobody else, there's no other man who will stand for her in
this. And she uses the only power that she's got, and it's a kind of power of prayer, and she
refuses to be turned away. She is one of the heroes of faith and prayer in the entire Bible.
In truth, I think most of us find parables that are compare like with like, easier to get our
heads around. Something like the Portugal Sun, we understand that the Portugal Sun is like us,
it's somebody who wanders off and then comes back to God, and the father in that situation
is God and behaves like God. So it's a kind of light for light comparison, that's easy for
us to understand. And there are some light for lights in this parable because I think the widow with
her prayers is like us, she is praying from powerlessness. The judge is in some respects, like God,
he is powerful, he is able to answer the widow's prayer, and he is ultimately moved by that. But
another very important, important, he's not at all like God because this judge is a crook.
So Jesus is not making a light for light comparison, it's contrast. If even a crooked judge
will finally give up and do what this woman wants, how much more a loving caring father will listen to us.
Maybe there's also something here about the way in which prayer is answered, is that sometimes
prayers may be answered by godless people finding themselves doing things that they wouldn't have chosen
to do. Sometimes prayer moves mountains, more often it moves people. But her persistence is remarkable,
and I see it's done from powerlessness. I don't think any wise Christian would pray for a cup of tea
if they were sitting at home and the kettle had just boiled, the tea bags were in the cupboard and
the milk was in the fridge. You get up and make a cup of tea for yourself. But prayer is powerful in
the situations that we cannot affect. Maybe the Israel policy, I think, is the ultimate. Nothing
we can do and see here, at the least impact on what happens in Israel or Palestine, except by the
power of prayer. Prayer is our ability to influence events that are otherwise out of our control.
And we are to do that and not give up. Pete Greg said, but a certain bloody mindedness is called for
in prayer. And I think he's right, you know what are the things, the circumstances, the people
that you are called to pray for and be sunny awkward until that prayer is answered.
Next slide. This is just, it's not the last slide, it's the second last slide, I promise.
I'm just going to say, I'll recommend one book, How to Pray by Pete Greg. I was particularly,
I think, captured by the subtitle, a simple guide for normal people. I think that's what I need.
But I think it's an excellent book, so I recommend it. My final slide next one.
My heart has heard you say, come and talk with me and my heart responds, Lord, I am coming.
And I think that's the question for me and for you. How am I going to respond to God's call
to come and talk with him? Amen.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *