For several years I was a member of the preaching team at Rainham and Wennington parish churches on the eastern outskirts of Greater London. We were led by the then vicar, Rev Tony Ward who would choses a theme that we would develop over a few weeks.
The following sermon “Praying in the Family” is one of a series on the subject of prayer. I preached this at Wennington Parish Church on Sunday 8th March 1998.
2 Timothy 3 v 12-17
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Well it looks from this box load of stuff that I’m about to hold a jumble sale here. That’s not true, they are just a few things to help us remember the points I want to make today.
To start with, I thought it would be an idea to tell you about Timothy. He was a church leader in Ephesus in the early years of the church. He was a friend of Paul and it would appear often lacked confidence and needed Paul’s encouragement. Hence why there are two letters in the Bible written by Paul to Timothy, full of wise advice on the leadership of the church.
I wonder how many children grow up with the sort of background that Timothy had. We have heard in this morning’s reading that he knew the scriptures from infancy, indeed at the start of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we learn about his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) who also were Christians and would have been responsible for him learning about Jesus. Isn’t marvellous to grow up in a family who know Jesus and can teach the children about him and our heavenly father. However, just because you come from a Christian family that does not make you a Christian. Its a decision that you have to make for yourself, to follow Jesus or not.
You may not know it but from the days of Moses, the Jews had taught their children the scriptures. If you look in Deuteronomy 6 v 6 onwards you can read: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
I wonder how many of us parents keep to these instructions.
One advantage of getting to know the bible is it gives you a better idea about God and how much he really loves people. You can also read how people in the past prayed to him and how wonderfully God answered their prayers. Indeed the Bible can be valuable in helping you through life. You could regard it as a compass in that it shows you the way to go.
We are going to have a quick look at a couple of versed from Psalm 119.
Does anyone know what is unusual about Psalm 119? Well firstly its the longest Psalm, 176 verses. Secondly its divided into 22 sections each starting with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Many people wonder how to keep on the straight and narrow nowadays as there are so many temptations for children and young people to face. I think that part of the answer is in Psalm 119 v 9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”
Then again you hear people say that the world is dark and its not easy to find the right way. Psalm 119 v 105 has the answer “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path”. The lamp referred to would have been somewhat similar to this hurricane lamp, providing you with enough light to see a little way ahead only. Its not a flood lamp to show you the whole path ahead of you.
For some people especially children, the bible can be a bit difficult to read or understand. So for many people it is a definite advantage to get a version of the bible that is in modern English, such as “The Good News” or “The New International Version”. For children, a good book of Bible stories is very useful. My sons have enjoyed reading “The Children’s Bible Story Book” by Jennifer Rees Larcombe and I would recommend it to you.
So what about praying at home in the family?
I’ve brought a few objects that might help you think about what to pray about.
Firstly we have soap and a flannel. If we are praying we need to be honest with God and come clean about what we have been up to. We all do wrong things and need to say sorry to God for them and seek his forgiveness. Also we can ask God for help to say sorry to the people we have hurt by the things we have done.
Next we have a lunch box. How many of us remember that God provides for us, and we should say thank you to him for our food. Perhaps we can just stop for a minute or so as we sit down to lunch today and thank God for the good food we have to eat today, particularly as so many millions of people worldwide go hungry. At the moment my youngest son Josh tends to like to say grace at the start of a meal. However he tends to get carried away and so there is no danger of the food being too hot to eat!
Could someone open this for me to see what we have in it? Provided you all promise to eat your lunch today, we could hand these out.
Now we have a family photo. For those of you who can see it, you will realise that it is a few years old as there is one son missing and also I have more hair and a lot less grey in it! Do we thank God for our family? I know that sometimes family life can be difficult, and God knows it as well! Why do you think that there are stories in the bible about families, such as Isaac and Rebecca and their twin sons Jacob and Esau. Just look at the infighting and intrigues that are detailed in that story. How many families have brothers and sisters who fight and argue? Or relatives who have fallen out? It can be very hurtful and painful. We should pray for our families and ask for God’s help when there are difficulties and disagreements.
Right what’s next out of the box? A box of Plasters. What do we do when people we love are ill or injured? Do we pray for them? Why not simply ask God to heal who ever it is who is ill and make them better? As some of you may know, I am leader of the Prayer Ministry Team at Rainham Church and we regularly pray for people who are ill. So of course I do that for members of my family as well. I would just like to tell you about the time some years ago when my Alex was suffering from a stomach bug. Tom and I knelt by him and Tom gently laid his hand on Alex’s stomach and he simply asked God to make Alex well and take away the tummy ache. Virtually straight away Alex was better. It seems to me that sometimes you children get answers to prayer that we adults don’t get, probably because we try to make everything so complicated.
Now an AA members card. To quote the advert “To our members we’re the fourth emergency service.” If you are a member you can phone for help in an emergency, and hopefully they will come quickly to the rescue. As a Christian you have a hotline to God so you can ask him for help. He will help you, and not just with the big enormous problems of life. If it is a problem to you and concerning you then God will help if you ask him. We have prayed for all sorts of problems in the family including a recent history test at school. To misquote an old saying “When the going gets tough the Christian gets praying”.
When I was working, one of my jobs was interviewing people in financial difficulties, who probably would face having their houses repossessed or having to go to court if they couldn’t or wouldn’t repay their debts. I always found somewhere to go and pray before these interviews. I know I could not have done the job without God’s help.
We now have a lion. Agreed a not particularly fierce lion called Clarence. Would someone like to look after him for a while. He won’t bite!
What do we do when we are frightened or our children are frightened? Has anyone ever had to deal with a little one who has woken up in the night with a nightmare? Or indeed anyone of the younger ones here woken up with a nightmare? Its not nice, indeed its frightening. In situations like that we have just asked Jesus to help the memory of that bad dream to fade away, and we have asked that he fills the child’s mind with good thoughts and then ask for his protection for the rest of the night.
Many of us face things in life we would rather not face, but do we think to pray about it first? All sorts of things can be frightening or daunting to us, from starting at a new school, to giving a talk like this in church! Or as I faced over 18 months ago taking redundancy after working for the same employer for nearly 23 years.
School as many of you will know can be a bit scary, I don’t particularly mean the teachers, but what goes on there can be. Some of you may have been bullied and assaulted by other children. That makes it very frightening to going to school. Or some of the things that go on can be a cause for concern i.e children using Ouija boards etc. This is why we need to pray for our children on such occasions. Indeed, you younger ones are sometimes the only people who can bring God into these situations to sort them out.
So those are a few things to pray about, but the next question is when to pray. I think the answer to that is when it seems appropriate. Gaynor and I tend to pray with our sons at bed time and whenever else it seems to be the right thing to do.
Whilst it can be useful to have a set time of prayer every day, don’t restrict your talks with God to just that “God slot” in the day. You can talk with him any time you need to and be certain that you have his undivided attention, even though the answers you get are not always what you want to hear, they will be what you actually need!
Lets just finish with a prayer:
Father God it is so wonderful to be able to talk with you in prayer, knowing that you listen to us and answer us. Please help us to spend more time with you and to talk with you about everything that is important to us and our families, as we belong also to your great family. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.