Sermon: Ute Frühwirth
Praying – An assignment for Us – 1. Letter to Timothy 2, 1-7
Our sermon today is an excerpt from a personal letter from Paul to his worker, Timothy. Paul met Timothy in Lystra, as a man especially gifted and faithful to God. Timothy joined Paul, accompanied and supported him on his travels. And so it happened that Paul sometimes entrusted Timothy with special assignments. In our case he leaves Timothy behind in Ephesus and leaves with him an official document regarding the order of commune relations. In his letter, Paul gives him instructions for the church life that Timothy should follow in his activities. In chapter one he warns him to stay away from the legal teachings. Paul invites him to preserve his faith. In chapter two there is a fundamental exhortation to intercession. Paul describes, „The first and most important, that I ask the church for is the prayer. It is our duty to intercede with praying, pleading and thanking for all people“.
A clear instruction to Timothy, a clear instruction to us. I think we could use this passage one-to-one for us and actually for every Christian congregation. Paul invites us to plead, to pray, to intercede and to give thanks to all people! Not just for me, my family, those closest to me. He invites us to pray for people we can not stand. Those who make our lives difficult. He invites us to pray for politicians, because we should lead a quiet and peaceful life, by which God is honored in every respect and which is credible in all respects. John Wesley brings this to a point in one of his prayers. He prays: „The kindness of your life, which you prove to me constantly, kindly and steadfastly render my love for the neighbor, that I pray eagerly for him, that I respect and promote his health and safety, his well-being and his happiness, that I am ready I am to console all people, who order me your love, and to assist them according to their needs and to bear their burden.”
Paul invites us to pray! I ask myself: do we let ourselves be invited?
Or is this up to each and every one themselves – when, with whom and where we pray?
Let us take the liberty to decide for ourselves when we pray – or is a bit of discipline needed for regular praying?
Does it need specific times – for example in the morning or in the evening. Or does it need additional time outside of our daily lives? Do we need an occasion or is praying our daily companion? Or what does a prayer do to me?
Are they just words which are taken for granted or does a prayer do something in me? In my case I think about our Sunday prayer meetings before church service. It has become normal for me to come early to church so that I can pray with others before the church service. I need this short prayer community so that I can have a focused and relaxed experience in the church service. Of course, everyone has to know for themselves what they need so that they can get the maximum out of the Sunday church service. It is never wrong to have a mutual start with peace and praying.
Unfortunately, there are day I do not feel like praying. I postpone the conversation with God and let myself be distracted by other things. Also, it is sometimes strenuous for me to find the right words, to organize my thoughts. There are also moments in which a little doubt creeps into my head. Do I believe in that which I pray? Do I believe in the changes which I ask God for? Or will the prayers of peace in the world and the end of the wars only become empty phrases? Does our faith in our prayers sometimes fail us? Recently a young man said to me, „Yes, I pray. But it is difficult for me to believe. The comment under September 13 in the calendar, the author compares praying with climbing a mountain. He says, „Prayer is not a question of words, but of the time I spend with God on the mountain. The beginning of a prayer is like a climb – laborious and exhausting. But when I am, „on top“, then my soul expands. The fog gives way. I am with God. Trilling, I descend from the mountain and devote myself to what is now. Even if many doubts accompany our prayers it is still worth climbing this mountain. Because we need to be alone with God on the mountain of prayer.
I return to the assignment given by Paul to Timothy. „The first and most important to which I invite the church is the prayer. It is our duty, to intercede with praying, pleading and thanking all people.“ The prayer was very important to us in our exam in 2017. We wanted to be a praying church. What does it mean to be a praying church? We are Christians, we are a church, praying belongs to it.
But in our reflections we wanted to pray together not only during the church service but also possibilities emerged to pray together in everyday life.
For a long time now there has been a prayer community during the week. Do you know about this? Friday mornings. For working people it is a difficult date. So we had to find a mutual time during the weekend.
For two years now we have had our praying evening. Maybe you have already asked yourself, why some chairs are arranged differently? This is how it looks when a group of people get together on the last Saturday in the month to sing and pray. There are individual stations in the church room, the different ways to pray. „Silent corner“: here I can bring my personal issues into a quiet pray in front of God. I find support in different verses from the Bible, which are cut into strips in a basket. „praying path“: The praying path or the way around the alter give suggestions for those who pray. (stand up and show). These strips of paper are written in German and in English, for example (read a note). I walk step for step around the alter and think and pray for people which I do not have on my radar in my everyday life. “Come to the cross.“ I write my thoughts on little post-its and my prayers I stick directly on the cross. I think this is a beautiful symbolic gesture. „Praying together“, this station is very important to me. Praying together. I can pray out loud and know that my prayers and thanksgivings are heard and also supported by those who pray with me. Or someone is praying and says exactly that word which was on the tip of my tongue, but I had not known how to express it. There is also a place for blessing and healting (we find it in the prayer room). At the beginning and at the end we sing songs from the, „Himmelweit“ together. Some songs make me smile because we sing them so wrong – but hey!
While we were deciding for this type of praying evening, naturally the question came: would people take the time to spend one Saturday evening in the church to sing and pray? And my answer is, „yes“! Because with this type of praying together, there is something for everyone. I do not want to be blessed – so I do not go to this station. I do not want to pray out loud but I want to listen – then I do it. Warm invitation to this free wellness program for the soul.
A few minutes ago I said that praying can be tiresome and can be accompanied by doubt. But – and now comes the big BUT: praying together before the church service and a mutal praying time on a Saturday evening helped me carry out Paul’s mission. „The first and most important to which I invite the church is the prayer. It is our duty to interced with praying, pleading, and thanking people.“ The common prayer time encourages me not to stop praying in everyday life, even when things get difficult and we lack the words. Finally, I have a little story that shows how beautiful prayer can be:
A missionary of a bush church in New Guinea recounted a man who struck him after the service because he remained in the chapel for a long time. This man then always looked with his arms crossed over his chest to the altar, which at that time was already cleared and empty. Once the missionary took a heart and asked the man what he was praying all the time? And the man smiled and replied: „I hold my soul in the sun.“
He who prays, feels something of the warmth of God. Who prays, gets new energy. He who prays immerses himself in a light he has not made himself. Who prays knows: I am not alone. God is there for me. He holds me. He carries me. Because yes, it is like this: „The Lord is my shepherd – I will not lack anything!“ Every prayer, whether for me or for another person, is a sunbath for the soul.