A toolbox of prayers

Good morning, Friends! I hope you’re all doing well this week.

The loneliness and isolation of this epidemic have been really hard on everyone. A lot of people are suffering financially. A lot of people have been laid off from their jobs.

Almost everybody – not just the kids – has been bored, bored, bored at times. Almost everyone has been scared.

We wonder if we’re safe. We wonder how long it’s going to go on. We think we’re strong, but inside we wonder if we’re going to pull through.

You’re not the only one who feels this way! Almost every week, I’ve walked through every room in our building, and I’ve prayed, over and over: “Lord, I want to see people back here again.”

I’ve walked through every classroom. I’ve worked in the kitchen and the fellowship hall. I’ve spent many hours on the phone. I’ve sat down and prayed in the pews inside. And my prayer has been, “Lord, I want to see people back here again.”

We have to be patient. And we have to pray. And for our worship this morning, I’d like to share some of the great prayers of the Bible. Because the Bible is a great resource for prayer. We think that we’ve got problems. Well, the people who wrote the Bible went through much worse!

We get upset because we haven’t been able to get together for a few weeks. They were in exile for hundreds of years. They truly lost everything.

I’m not saying that they’re strong and we’re weak. But we’ve got a lot to learn from those people of faith in the Bible.

And one of the things they always hung on to, was to pray. It’s OK to ask God for help. It’s OK to keep asking, when it seems like our prayers haven’t been answered. It’s OK to ask, again and again and again.

When you’re scared – pray. When you’re joyful – pray. When you’ve got doubts, when you’re up against the wall, when you’ve given up – pray.

And what the Bible does, is it gives us toolbox of prayer – words and hopes and experiences. We can pray ourselves, but we can learn from other people who prayed, from the bottom of their hearts.

And God listened to them. That’s important to know. God listened to them.

So, what I’d like to do, is to share with you, just a few prayers, that may be helpful to you sometime.

The first one is a prayer made for a day like today, a beautiful day, in a beautiful spot. It’s from Psalm 84.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs and faints for the house of the Lord.
My heart and soul sing for joy to the living God!

Even the sparrow has a home,
and the birds make nests for themselves to lay their young.

This is your altar, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, singing your praise every day!

Psalm 84:1-4

That’s a great reminder. We all want to be back inside, seeing our friends, worshiping together. But here – right here where we are – is the house of God.

I come out walking here every day at Springfield. I was out here at 6:00 this morning, walking the dog and listening to the birds sing. I listen to the wind in the trees. One evening this week, I saw thousands of fireflies.

Any place can be God’s place. God is everywhere and anywhere. People find God in deserts and prison cells, by hospital beds and sandy beaches. You are never alone. You are never alone.

Here’s another prayer from the Bible for you. This one is from Psalm 86.

Bend your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you.
Save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you I cry all the day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry for help.
In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

There is none like you among the other so-called gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you,
O Lord, and glorify your name.

For you are great and do wonderful things; you alone are God.
Teach my your way, O Lord, so that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

And I will glorify your name forever.

Psalm 86:1-12

Wow! How do you top that one?

It’s got prayer. It’s got praise. It’s got thanks. It’s got wonder. It’s got it all!

See, we are not the first people to be in trouble. Many people have been in trouble before. We always think that we invented everything. But the reality is, that God has been around for a very long time. Does the word infinity mean anything to you?

We are just the most recent people God has helped. God’s been here and done that for longer than we can imagine.

Here’s another Bible prayer. There are so many of them! This one is a prayer of courage and faith. It’s from Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers attack me to devour me,
my adversaries and foes shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not faint.

One thing I ask of the Lord, this will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter;
in the day of trouble he will conceal me in his tent;
he will set me high upon a rock.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!
My heart says, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek;
hide not your face from me.

I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord! Be strong, and let your heart take courage.
Yes, wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27:1-5, 7-8, 13-14

Do you see what I mean? Just hearing that prayer gives you courage. Just saying those words to yourself makes everything seem possible again — I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. . .

Next time you’re feeling down and scared, say those words out loud to yourself. See how strong they make you feel!

God has so much strength to give us. God has endless warehouses full of help he wants to share.

Let me give you an example. You go down town here in High Point, and you see all those huge buildings in the center of the city. Well, God has way more space than that. And every room in God’s place is filled – with prayers, with hope, with strength, with spiritual experiences of people who have come before us.

You go down town, and look at those buildings. And then tell yourself, “God has a thousand times more rooms than that! A thousand times is just beginning to get a glimpse of what God has stored up and ready to share!” Prayer is a way to reach that infinite supply of strength and hope. And God wants us to have it all!

God wants us to love as Jesus loved. God wants us to have faith, and the courage of all the saints who came before us. Not just a little, but all of it.

Let me read you another psalm, a courage psalm. I often read this at the grave side, because that’s the darkest time in most people’s lives. But the Bible says that God’s love is stronger than death itself. So, this is the prayer that I love. It’s from Psalm 121.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not stumble.
Behold, he who keeps Israel shall neither stumble nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade upon your right hand.
The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 121

You see? We don’t have to be indoors. It’s great, and we miss it. But nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither life nor death, disease or danger, things that are happening now or anything to come, nothing can cut us off from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Closing prayer

Dear Lord, you have brought us safe this far. You have preserved us, and kept us alive.

Help us here, and in our homes, at work, wherever we go, to stay close to you.

Help us to remember to look to your Word, to remind us of the great prayers of faith of people who came before us. Help us to learn from them, and to lean on your word.

We can be strong, because you lift us up.
We can go anywhere, because you have gone before us.
We can overcome hardships, because you have overcome everything.

Help us, in our day, to be your people, and to shed your light in the world.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For you art with me,
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23

Thank you for being here with us today, Friends. Go in peace!
God will be with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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