• Matt Beaney

#337 – LOVE THROUGH PRAYER (27/4/21)


On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at Jesus’ teaching regarding love. I love what Augustine wrote,

‘Many have learned how to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they were struck.’

So what can we do to start loving as the Father would want? Let’s see what Jesus has to say,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Jesus makes it clear that praying for people is a powerful way that we can love them. Forgiveness starts with forgiving them before God. We pray something like,


“Father, I forgive (name the person) for (name the specific things they’ve done). I pray for them that you would (pray for specific blessings)”.


This kind of prayer is Christ-like love. Jesus prayed for us when we didn’t know Him. He continues to pray for us even though we constantly fail Him. We are tempted to constrain and put boundaries on who we will love. If there was ever a moment that justified constraining love, it was during the events of Jesus’ betrayal and death. However, even from the cross, Jesus loved His enemies through prayer,

‘Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.’ (Luke 23:32-34)

RESPONSE

Praying for our ‘enemies’ is not praying for ourselves about our enemies - although this is good to do of course. Praying for our enemies is praying for them! It’s praying a blessing on people even through our pain. You might even say that the harder it is the more Christ-like and loving!


Silent prayer is a good way to learn to pray for our ‘enemies’. Sit in silence for some time. Your mind will wander to the people and circumstances that are of concern to you. Notice who or what and why you are drawn to the thought you are having. Express to God why this person or circumstance is of concern to you. Express your forgiveness, need for help, confession that you are failing to trust…


COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - LOVE WITHOUT BOUNDS

Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


Suggested opener/Ice-breaker

When have you ever received undeserved love in your life?


Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at Jesus’ teaching regarding love.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Jesus is correcting the stance of the Jewish teachers In His day. They had come to believe that it was right to ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. Of course, this is an attitude to which every sinful human heart is prone. Sin distorts our capacity to love. We search for reasons not to love those ‘outside'. Our hearts are creative and find reasons not to love. We often have constrained love - love with boundaries.


We love through prayer

Jesus makes it clear that praying for people is a powerful way that we can love them. Praying for our ‘enemies’ is not praying for ourselves about our enemies - although this is good to do of course. Praying for our enemies is praying for them! It’s praying a blessing or forgiving people even through our pain.


We love through action

The Father continues to give good gifts to every human being on the planet. No matter how evil a person is, they are blessed with ‘common grace’- the sun, rain, breath and every good thing they have.

Christians take on the family-likeness. Loving people, particularly our enemies, reveals if we are God’s children. Those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit gain a new ability to love those who are difficult to love.

Like learning to play the guitar, love is not learnt in bed! Love grows as we act in obedience to Jesus’ command through faith. If we will seek to love others - seek the best for others - we will grow in our love for them.


Discussion questions

1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?

2. How does or could you love through prayer?

3. We are called to have a 'seek first' attitude to growing in love. In what ways do you believe that the Spirit would want you to express love in the various contexts that He has put you?

4. How does a daily practice of meditating on the gospel - God's mercy to us in Christ - help one to remain loving to those who don't deserve it?


Serving, Investing and inviting

Our unconditional love shows the gospel and makes a way for it.

1) Who has God put into your life that we could pray for together?

2) Serving, investing and inviting is built on love. It's hard to do and we'll only do it if we love people! How are you planning to serve invest and invite?




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