Connecting with God in a Distracting World
We’re going to spend five weeks focussing on prayer, using the excellent book “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller, and each week reflecting on one Psalm that helps us pray. This will take us through some of the hardships of prayer, tackle the problems we encounter in our prayer life, and provide some helpful tools to get us on track.
Make sure you actually read the book! The chapters are short, digestible, and full of excellent quotable quotes.
The sermons correspond to one of the five sections of the book but they are not meant to simple be a spoken summary of that section. Primarily the sermons are to be an exposition of the Psalm that is set but drawing on some of the resources from the book section where appropriate. There are lots of amazing anecdotes and illustrations in the book which are great to use but ideally as preachers we’d be able to share our own personal stories or get parishioners to share theirs. Please be aware of what content is being covered in other weeks and stick to your area so there is not too much repetition.
Connect Groups can purchase a pdf copy of the discussion guide directly themselves but if they really want a printed version provided they can pay us $15 and we can make one available.
Week 1: Learning to Pray Like a Child
Psalm 23 for the sermon
Sermon overview: Instead of coming to God in prayer trying to be spiritual and making well intentioned resolutions, it is better to pray just as we are with all our mess and our needs. Just like children with their parents. Just like sheep with the Shepherd who leads before us v2, protects behind us v6, and walks beside us v4 we pray best with a recognition of our helpless desperation and continuous dependence.
Week 2: Learning to Trust Again
Psalm 25 for sermon
Sermon overview: The opposite of a childlike spirit is a cynical spirit, one of the great influential attitudes of our era. Jesus offers six cures that also resonate throughout this Psalm 1) be warm but wary 2) learn to hope again 3) cultivate a childlike spirit 4) cultivating a thankful spirit 5) cultivating repentance 6) developing an eye for Jesus.
Week 3: Learning to Ask Your Father
Psalm 22 for sermon
Sermon overview: The Enlightenment and our secular age make it very difficult to openly persist in a life of prayer, leaving us feel incredibly distant from God. Yet God is both infinite v3, and intimately personal v9. When we let go of control and independence then we discover that every part of our life, from the biggest moments to the smallest details, is part of our incredible friendship with God that causes us to praise him v22. This helps us navigate between the twin dangers of either not asking God for anything at all or demanding selfishly of God.
Week 4: Living in Your Father’s Story
Psalm 27 for sermon (focus on verses 7-14)
Sermon overview: God is not a vending machine who instantly gratifies all our desires. He is a loving Father who takes us on an unfolding story with suspense, tension, surprises, and resolution. The difference between our hope/expectation of life and the grim reality we often experience leaves us with a “desert” sensation. We can choose denial, determination, or despair as unhelpful responses… or we can find dependent humility which alone blooms in the desert. Without a story we feel bitter, angry, aimless, cynical, controlling, hopeless, thankless, blaming. With a gospel story we are waiting, watching, wondering, praying, submitting, hoping, thankful, repenting (see chart on p198).
Week 5: Praying in Real Life
Psalm 30 for sermon
Prayer tools help us keep track of the story and remind us to wait when we are in the desert. Psalm 30 is perhaps an ancient example of Paul Miller’s “prayer cards”. These prayer cards, or journaling, or an app like Prayer Mate are a great way to keep track of our prayers for family members, for people in suffering, for non-Christians, and for friends. This kind of prayer is asking God to incarnate, to get dirty in your life and draw us out of our mindless and cluttered drift through life. It also gives God space to speak whilst we are listening actively.
Assistant Minister – Kew