Palm Sunday is the day when traditionally the church recognizes the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem for the last week of his life before his crucifixion. Jesus intentionally chose to enter Jerusalem according to the prophecy of Zechariah. And in doing so, He was welcomed as King. Yet, crucified just days later. The people of Jerusalem failed to receive the presence of God in their midst and rejected Jesus' terms of peace. And as a result, suffered terrible judgment. Their judgment stands as a warning for us. May we instead receive Christ and accept his terms of peace that lead to life.
This is our twelfth and final sermon in our series on prayer. We are wrapping up our series by examining the concluding exhortations in James chapter 5. James teaches us that regardless of our circumstance, the proper response is prayer. We should take every concern to our Sovereign Lord. James brings specific attention to those who are suffering or sick. Prayer is the prescribed antidote to our suffering and sickness. Through prayer and petition we receive from God the strength, stamina and healing- physical and spiritual- that we need.
We look to Paul's prayer for the church in Ephesus as an example to follow and also strive to be strengthened by Christ's indwelling presence through the Spirit. Awareness of God's great love for us in Christ is essential and transformative for healthy prayer lives.
Suffering will either push us away from the Lord or push us closer to him. The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned teaches us the secret of contentment in suffering and how to rely upon the Lord. Through prayer we present our needs and cast our anxieties upon God. And He is more than sufficient to strengthen us and grow our faith.
As we've been studying, prayer is absolutely vital to the Christian life. Prayer is indispensable to our relationship with the Lord. And yet, our desire to pray fades so quickly. Jesus, knowing our weak and fickle hearts, routinely encouraged his disciples to pray and not lose heart. In multiple parables, Jesus encouraged his followers to persist in prayer knowing that they have a good and loving Father in Heaven who hears them and will give them good gifts.
In teaching us how to pray, Jesus tells us how to ask for and receive forgiveness of sin. Then He instructs us to prepare for the future by asking that we may be preserved from sin and evil. Temptation is always around us; it is always so close. Temptation is also potentially deadly. All of us should have a humble, realistic view of ourselves. We all have the capacity to sin in ways we never thought we could. Hence, we need to pray for God to preserve us and keep us from temptation and evil that would lead to our faith failing.
This week we continue studying how to pray by looking at Jesus' instruction in the Lord's Prayer. Jesus provides a model for prayer that is God-centered and dignifies our needs by leading us to petition God for them. As His children, we are instructed to petition God for our material and spiritual needs.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus graciously teaches teaches us how to pray. He also teaches us how not to pray. Our prayers are not to be ostentatious or mindless repetition, but rather sincere petitions to our Heavenly Father. This week we examine the first half of the Lord's prayer and learn how to pray such that our prayers are radically God-centered.
In Isaiah 58, God rebukes his people for going through the motions spiritually, rather than having genuine hearts that desire God and honor him with their words and actions. Rather than mindless spiritual ritual, God desires sincere acts of righteousness. God specifically calls his people to work to 'loose the bonds of wickedness' and 'let the oppressed go free'. God wants his people to work to preserve and uphold the dignity of every human being. Anything that robs a person of innate human dignity must be opposed by the church. No where is this more needed and urgent than in the area of one's right to life. The most oppressed people in our nation are the unborn. We are commanded to be a voice, an active agent for their good, in their defense. This week we recognize Sanctity of Life Sunday and issue a call for the church to be informed, engaged and prayerful in the defense of human dignity and life.