Sunday 26th September 2021

Welcome to this online service of worship for Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial churches for Sunday 26th September 2021. Today, we think about the place of prayer in our lives.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 19)

The heavens proclaim Your glory, O God;
And their voice goes through all the earth.

Your Law is perfect, Lord
More precious than gold, and sweeter than honey

O Lord, You are our rock and our redeemer
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts
be always acceptable to You.

HYMN 129: The Lord is King! Lift up your voice!

Prayer:

Holy God, Maker of All,
we come to you in worship
offering our praise and prayer
in wonder at all you have made.

With all creation our voices rise to you
and proclaim your enduring faithfulness.

Come to us in the power of your life-giving Spirit
and enliven our hearts and minds
to respond in faith and trust
to the knowledge of your love and grace.

Before you, O God, we confess our sin;
we acknowledge our brokenness,
and the brokenness of our world.

We have said and done
many things which cause harm
to ourselves, to others, and to the world,
and for which we are truly sorry.

We have failed to say, and do
the things which show love
to each other and for you.
We admit that we often fail
to live and behave as you command.

Knowing that you are compassionate,
merciful, and ever-faithful,
we ask your forgiveness,
and your healing of all that is wrong;
that you will restore us to fullness of life
to serve and love the world in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and for ever.

Scripture readings:

James 5: 13-20

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Matthew 6: 7-13

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

‘This, then, is how you should pray:

‘“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

Amen

SONG: Our Father in heaven (Taizé)

Reflection:

Grant, O Lord, that in these words, we may behold the living Word, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

This morning, I want to look at the place of prayer in our lives as Christians. Do you pray regularly and earnestly? Perhaps setting aside time each day, finding a quiet space, calming your soul, preparing your thoughts and approaching God with your thanks and your concerns? No? Well, nor do I. I mean to, every day, and most days pass without my managing to achieve it – life gets in the way. Even when I do try to concentrate and focus, my thoughts can fly all over the place and I end up feeling guilty that I can’t be better at prayer. Our reading from the letter of James this morning makes it very clear that we should all be praying. Whether we are in trouble, happy, or ill, we are told to pray. Martin Luther said: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing”. So why is it sometimes so difficult?

Let’s think about prayer a little more. What is it?

Well, firstly, daily prayer is not a competition to see which of us is best at composing literate and poetic prayers. We sometimes think that the kind of prayers we hear in church are what we should aspire to in private. That is not so: prayer is simply talking and spending time with God. It does not matter if our language is not flowery and impressive. We are not being judged by anyone except God and I very much doubt that he cares whether our words are polysyllabic and our sentences grammatical. Jesus tells us in the passage from Matthew that we have just heard not to use many words or to ‘babble’. Instead, we should speak from the heart, in the conversational language we would use in speaking to a friend or family member.

Nor does prayer have to be perfectly planned and logical. We don’t have to sketch it all out in advance and make sure that everything is included. It is quite acceptable to God to come before him as we are: a little distracted, perhaps, a little disorganised, a little muddled and perhaps even a little unsure of what and why we are praying. God will work it out.

You don’t have to pray in a particular place or in a special position. You were probably encouraged as a child to kneel in prayer, perhaps with your hands together. If that suits you still, then by all means continue. Personally, as I get older, I find kneeling increasingly uncomfortable. It’s fine to pray standing or walking, lying in bed, sitting on a bus or wherever you find yourself. It is, however, good to choose a time when you will not be interrupted

What should we pray about? Whatever is on your mind matters to God, because we matter to Him. There are probably three main reasons for praying. You want to thank God. You find yourself needing to say sorry for something you have done or said or thought. Or you want to bring a concern or fear to God and seek his help. It is sometimes characterised in the first phrases we teach our children: say ‘thank you’; say ‘sorry’; say ‘please’. But we do not need to worry too much about structure or content. God has time to listen to us and he will discern what is in our hearts however incompetent we feel.

The disciples had the same difficulties as we do. Jesus taught them to pray and we have that prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, as a model. If you feel the need to pray but are not quite sure what to say, start with those familiar words. Read them slowly and thoughtfully, as if they are new to you, pondering the meaning of each phrase and adding any thoughts of your own as you go. We can be sure that God hears every prayer but we also need to recognise that not all our prayers will be answered in the way we might want. We are, after all, praying that God’s will be done, not our own will.

We will shortly listen to a hymn which expresses many of these thoughts. One verse reads:
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

It goes on to say that ‘Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath’ but reassures us that ‘prayer is not made by us alone’, setting out the role that Jesus and the Holy Spirit play in prayer. It ends with a plea: ‘Lord, teach us how to pray’. It is reassuring to know that we all struggle with prayer and that we are not alone in needing help in establishing a meaningful prayer life.

I said at the beginning that I sometimes feel guilty that my prayers are not good enough. In preparing this reflection, I think I have convinced myself that my prayers, however chaotic, are of value and that we should not feel inadequate. However short and simple our prayers may be, they open our hearts to the love and grace of God. Praying regularly changes the way we think about our relationship with God and about our lives as Christians. I think I will keep trying with my prayer life. Will you join me?

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to You, our God and Father.

Amen

HYMN 546: Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire

Prayer of intercession:

If you would like to, when I say ‘Lord, in your mercy’ please join with me in the response ‘hear our prayer’.

Let us bring the needs of the world, and all in need,
to God’s loving care, saying:
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of heaven and earth,
through Jesus Christ you promise to hear us when we pray to you in his name.
Confident in your love and mercy
we offer our prayer.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Hear the cries of the world’s hungry and suffering.
Give us, who consume most of the earth’s resources, the will to reorder our lives,
that all may have their rightful share of the food, medical care, and shelter,
and so have the necessities of a life of dignity.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Restore among us a love of the earth you created for our home.
Help us put an end to ravishing its land, air, and waters,
and give us respect for all your creatures,
that, living in harmony with everything you have made,
your whole creation may resound in an anthem of praise to your glorious name.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Renew our nation in the ways of justice and peace.
Guide those who make and administer our laws
to build a society based on trust and respect.
Erase prejudices that oppress;
free us from crime and violence;
help us create communities where our young people can flourish;
give all citizens a new vision of a life of harmony.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Look with compassion on all who suffer.
Support with your love
those driven from their homeland,
those unjustly imprisoned,
those denied dignity,
those who live without hope,
those who are homeless or abandoned.
As you have moved toward us in love,
so lead us to be present with them in their suffering.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Sustain those among us who need your healing touch.
Make the sick whole;
give hope to the dying
comfort those who mourn.
Uphold all who suffer in body or mind,
not only those we know and love
but also those known only to you,
that they may know the peace and joy of your supporting care.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

O God,
in your loving purpose
answer our prayers and fulfil our hopes.
In all things for which we pray,
give us the will to seek to bring them about,
for the sake of Jesus Christ
Amen

Hymn 511: Thy hand, O God, has guided

Blessing:

May the Holy Three encircle us,

enclose us in eternity’s embrace,

rest, refresh and restore us,

that, at one with the One,

we may pray, worship and serve in joy another day.

AMEN

This service was prepared by Pauline Weibye, Session Clerk at Craigmillar Park

Acknowledgements:
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Prayers drawn from the Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship resources.

The Blessing prayer is taken from Word of Life, Edinburgh 2017