Sunday Gathering – Prayer – When words fail
The sermon titled "Prayer - When Words Fail," delivered by Nick Lugg on October 22, 2023, discusses the challenges people face when they don't know what to say in their prayers and the importance of maintaining the right attitude in prayer. The sermon draws on several Bible passages to illustrate its points:
- Introduction: Nick Lugg talks about the common feeling of inadequacy and unpreparedness when it comes to prayer. He emphasizes that prayer should be accessible to all people, even those who feel they lack the right words.
- Attitude in Prayer: The sermon highlights the significance of the attitude we have in our prayers. It emphasizes that God values our hearts and the manner of our response more than the precise wording of our prayers.
- Bible Passages: a. Luke 18:9-14: The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, demonstrating that a humble and repentant heart is more powerful in prayer than elaborate words. b. Luke 23:39-43: The story of the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus, where one acknowledges his sin and asks for salvation with a simple prayer. c. Mark 10:46-52: The story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who simply asks Jesus for mercy and receives his sight. d. Matthew 9:18-26: The story of a ruler and a woman with a blood disorder who both receive healing through their faith and simple requests.
- Waiting on God: Nick encourages the congregation to wait on God with an attitude of patience and faith, citing examples from his own experiences and the Bible.
- Remembering God's Faithfulness: He stresses the importance of remembering God's faithfulness and the need to continually recall how God has worked in our lives.
- Prayer as Incense: Drawing from Revelation 5:8, the sermon mentions that our prayers are like incense before God, offering a fragrant and worshipful atmosphere, irrespective of the specific words used.
- Conclusion: The sermon ends by urging the congregation to maintain a life of prayer, even when words fail, and to hold onto an attitude of faith and reverence before God.
The sermon encourages believers to pray from the heart, maintaining the right attitude, even when they struggle to find the right words in their prayers. It highlights that God values sincere and humble hearts more than eloquent words.
for us this morning there is something for each one of us and I pray we would take hold
of it father, we would apply it to our lives and we would be obedient to your words.
Bless him now. Speak through and we pray in Jesus' name, our man.
Thank you. Oh, hello. Thank you very much. Good morning. It's good to see everybody.
Look at you all. Yeah, when words fail, that's a preacher's nightmare when words fail.
And Paul has been saying, you know, the Bible tells us to pray ceaselessly, but sometimes
we don't have the words to say, how do we cope when words fail us? And it's been, Erica
said it seems a while since we started our series on prayer. Chris started it with a session
on the Lord's Prayer. And in Victoria, not knowing what we were preaching about last week
picked up on the Lord's Prayer as well. And so we've had a feast on the Lord's Prayer
and now we're into this one. When words fail us. One consistent response that we get when
we talk about prayer, we teach about prayer, you know, we had this discussion amongst leaders,
what should we talk about? Let's do a series on prayer and everyone says, oh, don't feel
qualified to preach on prayer. We all feel inadequate when it comes to prayer. We feel
out of our debts. We feel ill equipped. It feels like it's something that, you know, when
you read those books, Robert Murray McChain and all these Andrew Murray on prayer and all
these classic books and you think it's going to encourage you and you put them down
and think, oh, no, I should have given up for the start because it's all too much. It
feels like it's way beyond us. And one of the things that the 24-7 prayer movement
has done and it's continuing to do is to bring prayer to the common person, that's you
and me. And just as moves of God throughout history have brought the scriptures into
the hands of ordinary people, then I think prayer is also something that needs to be in
the hands and the mouths and the minds of ordinary people, people that are weak, people that
don't sometimes fail in faith, people that don't know what to say when it comes to prayer,
but yet God has given us the privilege of being those who pray and see him move in response
to our prayers. But when it comes to putting our thoughts together and putting coherent
sentences together that we feel would be worthy of a response from God, we're stumbling
sometimes because we think, why would God listen to me? It seems almost impossible. And
sometimes the challenges of life as well, rather than energizing us and filling us with
faith, they drain us. You know, when we meet the real mountains in life and we come to
we're like, oh, what do I say now? Been with people, been in it ourselves and you walk
through with people, you know, when there's bereavement, when there's grief sometimes people
say, I just can't say anything. I just don't know what to pray. Words fail us sometimes,
especially the type of words that we think God would want to hear. What do we do if we
can't string a sentence together? We're so overwhelmed that words simply fail us. The world
we live in every time we turn on the TV, you open up your phone, you pick up a newspaper,
you do whatever you do to get your news, you think, I wish I hadn't bothered. New tragedy,
wars raging. The world is bleak and desolate. I mean, when I was young, used to wake up wondering
if I'd give away my age now, but whether Russia was going to invade East Germany or something
like that and we're all going to go to war and we're going to do the protests about nuclear
weapons and this and that and it used to get, used to agitate a little bit. I can't imagine
what it must be like to be a 10-year-old now looking out and maybe those of you that
appearance of 10-year-olds would be able to tell me how they struggle with it. But the
world is bleak and desolate and how can we change anything by praying a prayer? Our words
fail us. Our thoughts fail us our hearts. The Bible talks about our hearts going to water.
Inside this it's like we don't have the fight or the ability or what we imagine is important
for an effective prayer life and our prayers seem powerless. I think part of the problem
is we have a systematic approach, don't we? We have a westernized sort of thing we like
to follow the science due to coin a phrase. If we put in a million words, we might get
a million words worth of impact out of God, like a machine you put in. So if we can put
in really well-worded words, we can put in, we can get as many people as possible praying
and now because we've got internet and email and everything else we can get around, we
can get prayer chains going around the globe and we might just be able to chip the balance
and get God to do something. So many words we think in order to get a result out and yet
when we read the Bible and I encourage you to read the Bible, we find evidence that God
doesn't see things the way we do. In fact some of the most powerful encounters with Jesus
didn't really involve any words at all or many words at all. Is that all song that
comes to mind? You say it best when you say nothing at all and sometimes some of our
best prayers have the least words. I wanted to turn if you can to Luke 18. If you've got
it, flick it up on your phone or I've got the bow here and I've only got one bookmark
so you'll have to bear with me while I flick through all the different passages that I
want to read. Luke 18 verse 9 to 14. Luke chapter 18 verse 9 to 14. The Pharisee and the
tax collector. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were
righteous and treated others with contempt. We'll met people like that and we. Two men
went up into the temple to pray. One, a Pharisee, a religious man and the other, a tax collector,
a hated man. No disrespect to tax collectors. I don't know if Chris is not here, but the
Pharisee standing by himself prayed thus, God I thank you that I'm not like other men,
extortioners, unjust adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I
give tithes of all that I get that the tax collector standing far off would not even lift
up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Didn't
even say, Amen. I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
So the Pharisee had all the prayers, he had all the words, he had all the sentences, he had
everything that he could put together and yet God was closed his ears to him and yet a man
who had nothing to say, Lord, he couldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, couldn't even look
at God and he said, Lord, just be merciful to me. And that man's prayers worked. Luke 23,
just a few pages on. 39 to 43, Luke chapter 23, 39 to 43. This is the story of Jesus
death on the cross. And there were two men that were crucified alongside Jesus, two thieves,
two career criminals. People that were condemned for their crimes under the law of the time,
they were not good people, but one of the criminals who were hanged railed at him saying, are
you not the Christ, save yourself and us? But the other rebuked him saying, do you not fear God
since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed, justly, for we are receiving
the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. And he said, Jesus, remember
me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said, no chance, you're a criminal. He didn't say
that, did he? He said to him, truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. He
said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And he said to him, truly, I say to
you, today you will be with me in paradise. What is the exchange rate for a salvation? How many
words does it take to save a life? In this case, only nine. Jesus, if I get it right, Jesus
remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said, today, not when you've proved yourself,
or you've gone on the alpha course, or you've done everything else, he said, today you will be
with me in paradise. Mark chapter 10. This is where the phone Bible is more efficient.
Mark chapter 10 verse 46 to 52. Another story is that these are just a selection of stories.
There are words there, aren't they? But they're not exact. It's not like
the equation, as I said earlier, millions and millions and millions of words in order to get
something from God. And they came to Jericho, this is verse 46. And they came to Jericho, and as he
was leaving Jericho with his disciples in a great crowd, Bartomayus, a blind beggar, the son of
Tameyus was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to
cry out and say, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. And many rebuked him telling him to be
silent, but he cried out all the more. Son of David have mercy on me. And Jesus stopped and said,
call him, and they called the blind man, saying to him, take heart, get up, he's calling you,
and throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, what do you want
me to do for you? And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me recover my sight. And Jesus said to him,
go your way, your faith has made you well. And immediately he recovered his sight and followed
him on the way, catching the attention of Jesus, a man who was by the side of the road, blind,
the sort of person that in that time and in this time we would walk past. No interest in what
goes on, and yet he called out and he caught the attention of Jesus. Lord have mercy on me.
Didn't give a long explanation, didn't give a long essay, didn't make an application,
just said, have mercy on me, and Jesus stopped. He said, what do you want me to do? He said, let me
recover my sight. Is it okay? That was it. That was the extent of the conversation. Simple question,
simple answer. And finally, Matthew 9, 18 to 26, it's a little chore of the gospels this morning,
Matthew 9, 18 to 26. Talking about Jesus again, while he was saying these things to them,
behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, my daughter has just died, but come and
lay your hand on her and she will live. And Jesus rose and followed him with his disciples and
behold a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for 12 years came up behind him and
touched the fringe of his garment. For she said to herself, if I only touch his garment, I'll be
made well. Jesus turned her and seeing her, he said, take heart, daughter, your faith has made
you well. And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw
the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping,
and they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in, took her by the hand
and the girl arose. And the reporter this went through all that district. Minimal words,
maximum impact. The woman herself didn't even say a thing to Jesus. She just spoke to herself,
if I just touched the hem of his garment, I will be made well. And she went there. She had nothing
to say. What do you say? After 12 years of suffering, 12 years of going to the doctor, 12 years of
looking for help, 12 years of complete hopelessness. And she reached out and she touched Jesus and she
was healed. What does this tell us? For us who are intimidated by prayer. For us who don't know
what to say when it comes to a prayer time, it went to us when you when you find yourself instead
of praying and besieging God and pouring out petitions for the salvation of the world, you find
yourself looking at the clock. What do we do? It tells us that we can all move the heart of God and
it doesn't depend on the beauty of our words, is to do with the manner of our response. There is
no magic key, no magic form of words, no sentence, just an attitude that gets the attention of God.
And the message today and the good news today is we can all have attitude. When words fail us,
make sure that you have attitude, that you have attitude that positions yourself to receive
from God, position yourself to know that even if I don't know what to say, God, I know that you are
good and know that you are faithful and I'm going to stand here and I'm going to hold on to you and
I'm going to just look at you like children do. I'm just going to look at you. I've got nothing to
say. I'm just going to look at you. I'm going to position myself. I'm going to have the attitude
that says God you can. God, I know that you will. God, I don't know what to say. But that's my attitude.
An attitude of faithfulness, an attitude of commitment, an attitude of presence.
It's what the Psalms are all about. When you read the Bible, you read through the Old Testament and
the New Testament. You don't find people that constantly know all what to say. They're living
their lives with God in the background. God at the backdrop of their lives. Their attitude is one
looking heavenward. Oh God, you know, the Psalms are the most down to earth honest example of prayers
in the Bible. Full of the emotions that we feel. Joy, sadness, grief, confusion, frustration,
anger, nothing neat and tidy. It's real and it's earthy and it's about attitude. They show us the
power of our attitude. Psalm 40. If you've got, we're going to go into the Old Testament now. Psalm
chapter 40. If you've got it in front of you, that's fine. If you haven't, I'll read it.
I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined to me and heard my cry. I waited patiently for the Lord.
That's a prayer. That's an attitude that says, you know, I said a prayer. I didn't get an answer
so I gave up. Now I waited. I waited patiently for the Lord. Waiting is prayer. It's faith,
it's expectation, it's anticipation, it's hope. Why does anybody wait if there's nothing worth
waiting for? Why do we wait if we don't believe God will come through for us? Waiting is a prayer
and sometimes it's all we can do and some, there are people here this morning, I'm sure that you
know that's all you can do is wait. Wait with an attitude that says, God, you are good. God,
you are faithful. God, I don't see you. God, I don't understand. God, I'm confused, but God,
I'm going to wait. I'm going to wait for you. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes strength
and it takes attitude. What are you waiting for? What do you carry in your heart? What have you
given up praying for or speaking the words out, but somehow there's a burden in your heart that
you know you're still waiting? Remember an old man, I'm sure he's now in heaven was part of our first
church. He was a tricky character. First conversation I had with him was, why don't you read the
Bible in your church? He said, we do, just read it. I was a bit spiky then in those days and I'm
much more gentle now. You only read the new international version. We've got to read the King James
version. That was it and I thought all this is going to be an interesting character, but we got
to know him and we got to love him and he was just such a faithful man of God. He used to tell me
how he prayed every single day for his brother. He didn't even pray a lot just to Lord save my brother.
That was it. Every single day for 40 years. I wish I could tell you I knew that there was a happy
end to this. I don't even know what the end to the story was, but there was a man who was waiting
with attitude because he knew that God was faithful and that he answered prayers even if it took 40 years
or more. Bible tells us about an elderly man called Simeon who had received a promise that he
wouldn't die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah and so what did he do? He waited, received the
promise years before, but he waited in the temple and when Jesus was brought by his parents and
presented there, he took him and he said, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace because my
eyes have seen that which I was waiting for. It's a test. It tests everything about our faith
and our attitude to God. What are we waiting for? And we can't figure it out sometimes. We can't
work out why things take the time that they take, why things are so confusing, why we go through
so many hoops and over so many hurdles. I was inspired by this quote from Beth Moore. She said,
I am a serial hoper. I can't help myself. I'll think this situation is hopeless. Admit it once
and for all. Or this thing we've been working towards, praying towards was a pipe dream. She said,
I'll try hard to be a pessimist. But then Jesus, then the scriptures. And there I'll go again
hoping. We wait. Take hold of God with all of our faith. In that situation that you want all of
the answers to, when you've poured out your prayers and you haven't seen anything, you think, well,
what was all that for? I've invested all these words and now I've run out of words. I don't know
what to do. Then we wait. Wait for God. It's attitude. Psalm 42, just across the page.
The next thing that we see, verse one to two, as a dear pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul
for you, oh God, my soul thirst for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?
As a dear pants for flowing streams, so my toe pants my soul for you, oh God, my soul thirsts for you.
You know our need for God is more than something we can just express in our thoughts and our words,
more than something we just write an essay about. When we're hungry or thirsty, we don't make a rational
decision that it's time to get a drink or eat a sandwich. The need is on a deeper level. We have to
go get that meal deal because we are hungry. There's a need in us. Sometimes we can't find the words
for him but we know that we need him and that affects our attitudes and actions. If we live our
lives with that sense of hunger and thirst for God, God, I need, I don't even know what to say to you
but I need you more than ever. The songs are all there aren't they? I need you, oh I need you
every hour I need you. Oh yes, I wasn't going to sing it. You can sing it if you like.
What now? Go on, give us a tune.
Amen. There was a time many of you will have been through challenging circumstances in
life one way or the other. When we first had aid and just before that we lost a baby through
miscarriage and then there was a couple of others as well and there was all sorts of drama and
suspense and not knowing what was going on through that whole period of time of having children
and everything else and so many visits to the hospital and whatever and I remember being in this
situation that I'm talking about not really knowing what to say and people say all pray, pray
and they don't know what to pray really except I found that I'm not as you probably gathered,
not a great singer in life but when driving into the hospital car park and every single time I
approached that place to find out what was the next story. This song was going through my head.
Father I place into your hands the things I cannot do. That was the extent of my prayer life
through one of the most difficult times. Father I place into your hands the things I cannot do.
Words fail us but we can have an attitude and I just felt as I prepared this that there are people
here this morning that that needs to be your prayer. Father I place into your hands the things I
cannot do. Particularly to do with children when we're looking at ad not just the birth of children
but I mean that's the easy part isn't it. The growing up is the worst.
I mean how can it be?
Oh I always do this, yes words fail me.
Obviously not, no too many words.
But you carry that burden and you don't know what to do and you pray and things go the other way
and you just don't know what to do and don't want to turn and there's anxiety and there's
upset and there's stress and there's all of that and that prayer comes. That's not
Father I place into your hands the things I cannot do. That's the end of it. Even that doesn't say
our men. How does God know you've finished praying if you don't say our men? Father I place into your
hands the things I cannot do. Thank you.
Where are we? First three to four. My tears have been my food day and night while they say to me
all the day long where is your God? These things I remember as I pour out my soul how I would go with
the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise
and multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down on my soul and why are you in turmoil within
me? Hoping God for I shall again praise him my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within
me. Therefore I remember you. So an attitude of remembrance is crucial. When we face situations
that leave us without words, without knowing which way to turn, without knowing what to do,
one thing we have to remember to do is to remember. To go back think well where is God today? Why
won't God move today? What is going to happen today? Has God left me today? No I will remember.
I will remember every moment. That's why God gave to his people the instruction to put up
stones and memorials and to have festivals to remember because he knew there would be a time
when they would forget. Remember all that God has done in your life. Remember those stories of
the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God, the power of God. Have an attitude of remembrance.
You did it before Lord. Therefore we know that you will do it again. Even when we are without words,
what we remember about God will carry us today.
The words that we say are not as important as we imagine that they are sometimes.
I finally could do it. You know how maybe we get into that tangle don't we? When we have prayed for
a situation and things have worked out differently to how we hope they had everything,
if only we didn't get it right, maybe we didn't get the formula right, maybe we didn't get the
you know maybe we didn't unlock like an escape room, almost a prayer process. You know trying to
find the codes to actually get through and actually get the result that we want. Just let that go
because it's not about the words, it's about the attitude of our heart, it's about the position
that we take and then even when we find ourselves in situations that what we have longed for
hasn't happened, when we've prayed for that healing, when we've prayed for that situation and we
haven't seen it, the attitude is the thing that remains. The attitude of faith and revelation
chapter 5 as we draw a little bit to a close. Revelation chapter 5 verse 8 and when he had taken
the scroll the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb each holding a
harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. Now that's an interesting
picture. Golden bowls full of incense, now you see incense it just goes up in smoke, fragrance,
smoke that goes up before the presence of God. Not like great long lists of words or requests or
golden bowls full of incense that our prayers are held like that and they go up before God as a
as a sense of worship, as a as a beautiful atmosphere in the presence of God. It's not like God has
got millions of of elves, you know, working way tapping away on computers, trying to work out
all the answers to everybody's prayers, all the prayers gathered together go up as incense before God.
However our prayers are expressed, they come before God as incense as an act of worship,
whether they're expressed in word, whether they're expressed in action, whether they're expressed in
tears, whether they're expressed in a cry or a groan, whether they're expressed in acts of
worship, whatever it is, they're gathered together and they go up before God as incense. And so the
issue is not the words that we use, it's about the attitude of our hearts and the faith that that
represents. God loves us, loves his people and he loves the prayers of his people and yet those
prayers are formulated in millions of different ways. And however many of us there are here today,
there can be that many attitudes of prayer that are going up, you might know we know if we said
let's all pray out loud maybe three, four people would pray and you think oh well I can't pray,
yes you can, yes you can pray and you do pray, you pray through the attitude of your heart, you
pray through the decisions that you make, you pray in those moments of desperation when you don't
know what to say but your heart turns to God. He said oh God and that's it, God help, God be with us
and we hear of people in need, how do you pray for Israel and Palestine, how do you work that out
if you had to get the formula for working out the Middle East conflict, I mean study that,
school in 1985 and they told us then that it was just impossible to work out all the different
in strip threads and here we are in 2023, how do we pray, we don't, we just, my God, lift our hearts
up to God, we lift the people up, we carry that suffering as much as we can and we bring it before
God, say God move in power but we haven't got the words to make sense of these impossible situations
and so our prayers are fruit of the lives lived with God in the center and so we can live a life of
prayer, you can live a life of prayer, I can live a life of prayer even when words fail us, even when
we've nothing to say and so I just want to encourage you because I know that here today there are
hearts that are carrying burdens, that's not a word of knowledge, that's just, just know that
because it's the human condition isn't it and each of us has a decision to make
are we going to give up, we're going to throw it away and just say well there's no point,
like that lady I've told you about before in our first church when I said I'm going to
preach on prayer today and she said it doesn't work dear, I've tried it,
how to encourage a preacher from the start, don't work, nope, no point,
and well, she was a lovely lady but yeah funny, people are funny aren't they,
but we can have that attitude, yeah well,