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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Finishing Your Prayers with Praise and Confidence
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-01-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 106:1,23                                                                            

Hy 1

Reading – Psalm 41; Psalm 147

Ps 72:1,3,10

Sermon – Lord’s Day 52, Q&A 128-129

Ps 147:1,4,6

Hy 78:1,3,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, Lord’s Day 46 teaches us about the beginning of our prayers. For we need to begin our prayers well, to start any conversation with God in the right spirit. We call on Him as Father, as our heavenly Father, because this “awakens in us at the very beginning… that childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer.” It’s like those first, important opening notes of a song—in the same way, the opening of a prayer says a lot about where we’re headed in this conversation with the LORD.

But what about the ending? “How do you conclude your prayer?” (Q&A 128). By the end, sometimes we’re losing our focus. By the end, we’re getting tired, wanting to get on with whatever’s next in our busy day. Maybe we’re even falling asleep as we conclude our prayer. I fear that our prayers often end with a kind of feeble fading away, sticking on some empty phrases, as we push onwards to that last word “Amen.”

Is it important, the conclusion of our speaking with the Father? Should we offer meaningful words to God, from the beginning right to the very end of our prayer? The answer is obvious. Is the ending of our prayers important? Of course it is! Because we know that every word enters the heavenly throne room. For the sake of Jesus Christ, every word is heard.

The ending says a lot, even as much as the beginning. And so at the end of our prayer, it’s only fitting that we offer praise to the heavenly God. At the end, it’s good that that we express our confidence in the faithful Father. In this good spirit, with these final notes lingering in our minds, we carry on with other things for a time. That’s the lesson of the doxology and “Amen” of the Lord’s Prayer, summarized in the second half of Lord’s Day 52,

Let’s finish our prayers to the Father with praise and confidence:

  1. Praise the LORD!
  2. Amen and Amen!

 

1) “Praise the LORD”: Each one of us has heard many times that the chief purpose of our lives here on earth is to glorify the Triune God. Like the Reformation taught us: Soli Deo Gloria. That’s a given, that we need to honour the most high God by the way we think, and the words we speak, and how we behave each and every day. This purpose means that also our daily prayers must glorify the Lord.

You could say it this way: We’re called to pray in the same way that we live, which is in humble adoration of our God in heaven. Remember that’s how we were taught to begin our prayers, with the petition: “Hallowed be your Name.” That is, we pray every day, “Father, be glorified in me and through me, your little child. Be glorified in my life—in my family, in my church, in my daily work and responsibilities, in the things that I choose to think about, and the words I say to other people, and the things I do with my hands.”

And that’s how we’re also taught to end our prayers, with that beautiful statement called the doxology: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” Do you notice how the two bookends of Jesus’ perfect prayer are praise and worship?

We finish with a doxology. A doxology, you might know, is a brief formula (or statement) of praise. Maybe the most well-known doxology is that of our Hymn 8, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow/ Praise Him, all creatures here below/ Praise Him above, ye heavenly host/ Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

But doxologies aren’t only found in the hymnbooks of the New Testament church. For centuries God’s covenant people have been offering up these short yet powerful declarations of his greatness. Look at the one right at the end of Psalm 41, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting” (v 13). That’s a marvelous doxology!

There’s also one that brackets Psalm 147, placed at the beginning and at the end, a simple cry of worship: “Praise the LORD!” Some older English translations just include what’s literally written in the Hebrew: “Hallelujah.” That’s actually a one-word doxology, one that is recognizable around the whole world, in so many languages. We know that even at the end of ages, they’ll still be singing “Hallelujah.” Think of those heavenly multitudes that we hear in Revelation: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (19:6).

Psalm 147 is actually from a majestic doxology in five parts, one that is found at the conclusion of the book of Psalms. For every Psalm from 146 to 150 is marked by those opening and closing cries of “Praise the Lord.” At the end of the Psalter there’s a grand finale of praise, a crescendo of devotion.

And what a perfect way to finish! When you read the Psalms, you see how diverse they are, speaking of so many different circumstances in the lives of God’s children. In the Psalms, there is great joy. There is deep thankfulness. There is quiet trust. But there is also sorrow, and fear, and guilt. By the time you get to Psalm 150, you’ve covered a lot of the territory of regular life, its many ups and downs.

Yet there’s one thing that has been the same throughout, there’s a constant. And that is the LORD: his faithfulness, his power, his love, his justice, his steadfast mercy. You’ll notice that in every Psalm, it always comes back to Him. For God’s people, He’s always that rock of refuge, a tower of strength, sheltering wings. So what better thing to do at the very end, than to offer up to Him five separate Psalms that are jam-packed with praise?

Like the Psalmist teaches us in verse 1 of Psalm 147, “It is good to sing praises to our God” (v 1). When we conclude our prayers each day, it’s fitting that we just stand back for a moment, and that we let all the attention fall on God. We want the LORD to be praised! We want him to be adored! To be thanked! It is good to praise him, for we recognize God as who He is, the holy and living God—the one who delights in the worship of his people.

This is so good to do because we can easily get side-tracked or unfocused when we’re in the presence of God. While praying, our minds are inclined to wander here and there and everywhere. For example, we might start dwelling on those sins we’ve just confessed, replaying them in our mind. Or we might start admiring those things we’ve given thanks for, thinking about our nice home, our comfortable position in life, our promising future. Or as we pray, we might get worked up again over all those things that burden our hearts, or even start thinking of new things to worry about!

This is probably the greatest danger for our personal prayers, that they’re self-absorbed. The danger is that a time of prayer simply becomes a time of loosely-connected thinking about the various things going on in our life. And we’re allowed to pray about these things! But Scripture reminds us that true prayer is communing with God himself, true prayer is calling upon our gracious Father—and what a great privilege that is!

So we have to keep re-setting the mood. We have to keep re-pointing our prayers in the proper direction, the spotlight shining on the right person. It’s not about us and our little kingdom—it’s about the LORD God. And the doxology is wonderful way to do that, because we say “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.”

Notice, first of all, that connecting word “for.” It’s a small word, but it’s very revealing. It tells us that we’re not just tacking on a compliment, like the way you flatter someone in order to get what we want. Praise isn’t an after-thought. Rather, it’s part of an unbreakable link in the chain of prayer. Our adoration has everything to do with those things we’ve just brought before the Lord.

The Catechism explains the doxology in this way, “All this we ask of you because, as our King, [you have] power over all things” (Q&A 128). This is what we should confess whenever we talk with the Lord: we acknowledge his majesty and dominion. We humbly say it with Psalm 147, “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite” (vv 4-5).

So often our eyes are closed to this, aren’t they? As we hurry through life, with our eyes on the ground, with our eyes on the clock, with our eyes on our own goals, we stop seeing God’s glory and majesty. We stop seeing God’s power at work in the church, like when the Spirit changes people. We stop seeing God’s grace in the little gifts of each day, like his protection when we travel and his sending our daily bread.

And the result is that we take for granted the privilege of approaching the throne of God and receiving his gifts. We feel that we’re essentially in control of things, even when we pray. We think we already have all the strength and ability that we need for this day’s work and struggle—we’re just hoping for a bit of added insurance. We just feel better about things when we pray—feels like it’d be bad luck if we didn’t pray. But prayer is more than this: more than insurance, more than superstition. Prayer connects us directly to God’s perfect strength!

Just look at everything that God does in Psalm 147: “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels… He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow” (vv 15-18). He is praised as the God of all creation, in charge of every season. He’s the director of every event and every circumstance and every moment.

So of course we can’t do anything without Him. We’re lost without his help. Even if we won’t acknowledge it like we should, our life is utterly dependent on his daily blessing, completely contingent on his favour. If we will live past this moment, we need God’s ever-present power and steadfast mercy!

And God promises to give us these very things. For this is his promise in Jesus Christ, “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (v 11). Ponder that for a moment: the mighty God takes thought for us, his little children. The One who needs no one takes true pleasure in those who fear Him—delights in those who trust Him. The heavenly Father is happy to make use of his perfect ability and authority so that He can “give us all that is good” (Q&A 128).

So what does the doxology do? It reminds us that God is so much greater than anything here on earth: He is greater than all our troubles, He is bigger than all our obstacles, He is stronger than all our foes and fears. So we can go to Him, and not be disappointed! “All this we ask of you because, as our King, [you have] power over all things.” This is the great mercy of our God, that we’ve been given the privilege of having direct access to Him through the open channel of prayer.

And what then, should fill our prayers? What should be their tone and theme, every day? It should be praise and worship for God! Whenever we draw near to God, this must be our holy instinct and our sanctified habit, that we want to offer up to Him a ceaseless doxology. As Psalm 147 says, “It is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (v 1).

Here’s a few suggestions for how to do that. One, make use of the Psalms when you pray. So quickly our words of praise run dry, or we say the same things each time. So use the inspired words of the Psalms for your own doxologies to the Father and to the Son and the Spirit. Have the Psalms open, and pray the Psalms.

Two, have open eyes for what God has done and what He is doing, each and every day of your life—take note of his gifts, write them down if you need to, and then bring it before Him in thanksgiving and praise.

Three, many of us read Scripture and then pray, especially at mealtimes. So let your Bible reading give shape to your praise. Reflect for a moment on what God has revealed about himself in his Word, and then glorify him in your prayer. It is good to praise him, and it is right.

 

2) “Amen and Amen”: Sometimes we forget to praise God with our prayers. Yet I’m sure that very few of us ever forget that final word: “Amen.” That’s the first word many little children learn when they start praying at mealtime: “Amen.” Unless we nod off before we pray it, “Amen” is rarely missing. And that would be great, if “Amen” was a magical word, a special word that suddenly gave our prayers their power. But it’s not. In a sense, “amen” is just a word. And as with any word, we can say it all we want, but if we don’t really mean it, it’s not worth very much at all.

So when Jesus taught us to end with “Amen,” He was teaching us more than a way to announce that we’re done. “Amen” describes something constant and dependable. And like “Hallelujah,” it’s another Hebrew word that has entered every language. In prayer, it expresses our confidence in God: “Amen,” we say, “It is true and certain” (Q&A 129). What Jesus teaches us is an attitude; He’s encouraging a spirit where we pray to the Father in full assurance of faith.

It means that whenever we offer up our prayers, we can do so in the confidence that God will hear us—even that God will answer! And that truth has consequences. It means we shouldn’t pray, just because that’s what is expected of us. We shouldn’t pray, just because that’s what we’ve always done at meal times or bed times. We shouldn’t pray, if we don’t really believe these prayers are going to ascend to the very throne-room of God, the most holy place.

Rather, when we pray, we have to do it, believing in the God who hears our prayers. We must do it, believing that “God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I feel in my heart” (Q&A 129). We might be blasé sometimes about prayer, but God is not! Think of what James says of the righteous man’s prayer: “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting” (1:6). Not doubting God, not tuning God out, but firmly believing—that’s how to pray. And when we do pray in faith, that “Amen” is more than a word. In a beautiful way, it expresses confidence in God. We say it with force, with conviction, with meaning: “Amen. It is true and certain!”

This is the way that Psalm 41 ends. Actually, it first has that nice doxology—“Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” Which is then followed with that double declaration of confidence: “Amen and Amen” (v 13).

It’s interesting that what we see in this verse is one the “seams” or “joints” of the Psalter. It seems likely that at some point in Israel’s past, an editor came along and collected all the Psalms in one place. There were the ones David wrote, those by Asaph, those from the sons of Korah, and so on. And the Psalms were put into five separate books, probably meant to correspond to the five books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Psalms 1 to 41 is considered one book, 42 to 72 is another, 73 to 89 another, 90 to 106 a fourth book, and 107 to 150 the last book within Psalms.

And except for the last book, each of the five books ends in this way (like Psalm 41), with a statement of confidence in God, “Amen and Amen.” It’s like each book of the Psalter ends with the worshiper wanting to underline everything that’s been said: “It is true and certain.” At the end of each section of the Psalms, all the praise gets turned up, echoed and amplified with a double affirmation: “Amen and Amen.”

And what’s the application for us? It’s clear. Because we know God’s daily grace in Jesus Christ, we should pray with many “Amens” in our heart. Because God is God, our prayers shouldn’t ever be feeble or uncaring or insincere. Pray with confidence!

Yet we know what happens. Even people who believe in the power of prayer sometimes give up praying too quickly. Say there’s a need in the congregation, or there’s a concern about what’s going on in this world. If we truly pray with confidence, we shouldn’t just mention something once in prayer, and then no more. We should continually bring it before the LORD, believing that He hears us.

Or if there’s a situation of brokenness and hurt in the church, sometimes we pray, but not with a lot of hope or expectation. “Too bad it won’t make a difference,” we think. “It’s pretty much an impossible situation. I’ll pray, but I’d be really surprised if anything changes.” But don’t we offer our prayers to the God who hears and who answers? Doesn’t He have all the power and glory, and isn’t His Kingdom over all?

When our eyes are open to the greatness of God, we’ll have confidence in prayer. We say “Amen,” because we’re confident that He can heal the sick. We say “Amen,” because we’re confident that He can forgive our sins. Confident that He can provide for all my needs. Confident that He can build the church, save the lost, and bring back those who stray.

Perhaps God will make us wait. Perhaps his answer will be much different than we expect. Yet we’re confident that our God will never ignore us, never put us off! With our “Amen,” we speak to God from the heart. And we do it, says Lord’s Day 45, “resting on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord.” There’s the key to prayer, and the power of prayer. Our Father is able and willing to hear and answer because of our Lord Jesus. By ourselves, we’re nothing, and deserve nothing. But God surely hears us for the sake of Christ.

Paul even calls Jesus the “Amen” to our prayers. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 he writes, “All the promises of God in Jesus Christ are Yes, and in him they are Amen.” This means that whatever God has promised to us, He will also grant it because of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Has God promised you a knowledge of his will? Yes. Has He promised the complete forgiveness of all your sins? Yes. Has God promised your daily bread? Yes. Has He promised you the sufficient grace for purity, for faith, for service? Yes. Has He promised a place in his eternal kingdom? Yes. So ask for all these things. Ask without doubting. Ask without ceasing.

“No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Christ.” If we ask the Father for anything from his Word, we can be sure when we ask through Christ Jesus. That gives our prayers great strength of purpose, a confidence that turns our feeble words into holy messages that are delivered straight into the throne-room of God.

Beloved, you can see it, can’t you? Because of Christ, we have no reason to stop praying. We have no reason to neglect prayer. We have no reason to hurry through our prayers, whether at the beginning or the middle or the end of a day. Rather, we have every reason to ask boldly for many blessings. We have every reason to persistently pray to the Father, to confidently pray—for God has promised us great things in Jesus Christ!

So as we end our prayers, let us learn to do so with joyful praise and with a confidence that is firm. For it is true and certain: This is our God! This is our Saviour! And his love toward us will endure forever. We say it with David in Psalm 41, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!  Amen and Amen.”




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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