Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


Chris Appleby's Photos

Welcome to Chris Appleby Ministries Website

This Website is provided to present sermons and other writing from Rev Chris Appleby.

Chris offers coaching in leadership and mentoring in preaching as well as the sermons on this site, offered as encouragement to others to grow in their life and ministry. He also manages a number of Church and Christian organisation websites.

Chris is an Anglican minister in Melbourne Australia. He grew up in Sydney and was part of an evangelical Anglican Church where he met and later married Dianne (Di) in 1972. He and Di had 3 children in the 70s. Their son Paul died during treatment for leukemia in 2012. They have 6 grandchildren.

He worked for 20 years as an electronics engineer in the Dept of Civil Aviation (Transport, Aviation) designing air traffic control systems.

He studied theology at Ridley Theological College, Melbourne from 1990 to 1992 and was ordained in 1993.

He was vicar of St Theodore's Wattle Park/St Thomas' Burwood from 1996 until he retired in mid 2015.

He is an Examining Chaplain with the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, is Treasurer and a member of the National Executive Committee of EFAC Australia and a board member of Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia (ARDFA). He is also a committee member of Christians for Biblical Equality, Melbourne Chapter. He is a member of the Professional Standards Board of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.

Most of the sermons on this site, apart from those since May 2015, were presented at St Thomas' Burwood. Some are by colleagues whose names are included above the sermon. 

What Shall We Pray    audio

Matt 6:5-8

A few weeks ago Steve talked about why prayer is easy; then the following week Hannah explained why prayer is hard. I was away for that one but I’m sure what she said would have resonated with me. A regular and consistent prayer life is hard. But equally hard is knowing what and how to pray. There are so many needs in the world, so much going wrong; how do we decide what to pray about?

When you think about the great needs in the world do you feel guilty if you pray for something for yourself? For example, is it OK to pray for a parking spot when you’re going out to dinner or the theatre? Or is that bothering God with something that’s both trivial and self-centred? Well, I have to confess that I do pray for parking spots on occasion – and more often than not God seems to provide them.

But more seriously, what shall we pray about when we stop to pray? And what sort of shape might our prayers take?

Matt 6: The Lord’s Prayer

Well Jesus helps us with that question doesn’t he? As he’s outlining ethical principles for living faithfully, he gives his disciples some good advice about prayer.

First he says do it in private. Don’t parade your spirituality before others; just keep it between you and God. Now he’s not saying that prayer meetings are bad. One of the first things the early church did, in fact, was to meet together for prayer. But he is giving us a warning about using our prayers in those meetings to bolster our reputation, our standing in the church.

So he says don’t heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do. You’ve probably been at Christian meetings where someone will stand up and pray a long-winded prayer, full of Christian jargon, that could have been said in a couple of sentences. When I read that line I immediately think of Elijah on Mt Carmel with the prophets of Baal dancing around shouting and chanting and cutting themselves and making a great fuss to no effect. Then Elijah stands up and in a couple of sentences asks God to send down fire on the altar and God does it. That’s an important lesson for us to learn: as Jesus says here: “Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him.” So keep our prayers simple. Mind you someone asked the obvious follow-up question a few weeks ago: “If God knows already, why do we need to ask?”

Well I think the answer to that is in the model Jesus gives us for prayer. Praying isn’t about getting what we want, or even need. It’s about a personal relationship. Most parents know what their children need and probably what they want. But part of the relationship we have with our kids is that we sometimes wait until they ask. That’s for a number of reasons. It’s so they’ll learn to wait. Delayed gratification is mostly a good thing. It’s so they’ll appreciate what they’re given and realise that good things don’t just appear out of thin air. It’s so they’ll have time to work out for themselves what’s important to them. And I guess there are similar reasons God wants us to ask him for what we need. But most important I think is that it’s a way of acknowledging our dependence on him.

Let’s look at this helpful framework Jesus gives us for our prayers:

  1. Address God in a meaningful and personal way, acknowledging who he is – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”. Of course this isn’t prescriptive. You might want to address God as Lord and Saviour, or Gracious God, or God of truth and justice. Our reconciliation prayer addresses him as God of yesterday, today and tomorrow as an acknowledgement that God has been in this land long before European settlers arrived.
  2. Pray for things that God desires in the world – “Your kingdom come”. So what things might fit into that category?
    Well, prayer for one another’s growth in faith and obedience would certainly fit there. In our second reading today we heard how Paul prays for the believers in Colossae: “… praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” What a great thing to pray for your Christian friends, for your church leaders, for people you’ve been talking to about your faith.

Similarly you might pray for gospel outreach: for the outreach events and opportunities here at St Michaels; for our link missionaries in various places, praying that their work would bear much fruit for God’s glory.

You might pray for stability and peace in our fractured world. That’s something that God desires and that the arrival of his kingdom will produce in the end; so it’s something that we can pray for and work on right now.

  1. Pray for those things that you need – for your “daily bread”. I commented recently that praying for our daily bread is a sign of our dependence on God as much as our desire to have our needs met. So it’s OK to pray for yourself – even for a parking spot. And this also covers praying for the needs of others. I’m quite sure Jesus didn’t intend this prayer to be a self-centred thing – it’s “Our daily bread). So it’s good to pray for the needs of those you know, whether it’s a purely material need or a spiritual need. It’s also good to prayer for people who are sick. James says “is any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them.” (James 5:14)

While we’re thinking about daily bread we might broaden the petition to the things that affect our ability to earn a living. So prayer for good government, for fair and just social systems, for honest business leaders and good union representation might also be part of our prayers. Similarly prayers for the poorly represented members of our world might be part of it: people who are unemployed, people suffering some form of disability, asylum seekers, people who are homeless. All these people need their daily bread and in some cases they need outside intervention if they’re to receive it. 

  1. Pray for forgiveness – “Forgive us our sins.” And I guess that implies first confessing our sins. Now I think there are a couple of mistakes we can make here. One is to beat ourselves up about how sinful we are. If you think about the way you continue to sin day after day, it’d be easy to think that you were so unworthy that you’d lost the right to ask for forgiveness. But Jesus’ prayer makes it clear God wants us to ask. On the other hand we can make the mistake of thinking that our sins don’t matter because God will always forgive us. That may be true but remember where we started. This prayer is about our relationship with God. So the reason we ask for forgiveness is because our relationship with God has been hurt by our sin. Like any relationship, if you do something to the other person you can’t just ignore it and hope it’ll go away. You need to apologise and ask for forgiveness, admit your error, resolve to do it right next time.
    What’s more there’s a level of reciprocity expected by Jesus – he adds “as we’ve forgiven those who are our debtors”. At the end of the prayer he gives an important warning: “but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:15)
  2. Prayer for perseverance, endurance, in the spiritual battles we face – “Save us from the time of trial”. There’s some discussion about whether the translation here should be trial or temptation but either way the prayer is for an ability to persevere in faithfulness as we face a spiritual battle. Again this’ll include prayer not just for us but for others we know who are under pressure. I can think of a number of people I’ve known who’ve been ministering in places where they perceived great spiritual opposition, both overseas and here in Australia and they regularly asked for prayer support.
  3. Prayer for protection from the evil one. “But rescue us from the evil one.” The word rescue there has the idea of being plucked out of a dangerous place. There may be times when you need God to intervene in order to keep you safe.

Jesus has taught us this as a model for our own prayers but there are actually lots of examples of how to pray and what to pray for in the rest of the Bible: sometimes a simple request, sometimes a bitter outpouring of grief, sometimes heated argument, or careful pleading of a case. Other times the prayer is focused on the growth or wellbeing of the person being prayed for as we saw in that prayer of Paul for the Colossians.

So let’s look at a just a couple of Old Testament examples of the ways that we might not just pray but argue with God. I don’t know about you but there are times when I don’t know whether I should pray for something or even what I should be asking God. So it helps to think about how you’d argue your case if you needed to. What is there about your request that might provide a good reason for God to grant it?

God actually encourages this. Listen to what he says through Joel (2:17): Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Joel was written in the 7th century BC when the northern kingdom was under attack from the Assyrians, so this is an urgent call to prayer, in parallel with a call for the nation to repent and turn back to God. But notice the twofold plea – to God’s mercy and to his glory - or his reputation.

These are two of what appear to be three main arguments that are used to persuade God to answer prayers in the Old Testament: God’s Glory, God’s mercy, God’s promises

The first example is Moses prayer after the spies come back from checking out the land of Canaan. Do you remember what happened? They all tell what a wonderful land it is but ten out of the twelve also report great danger and the people believe them. They decide it’d be safer to return to Egypt. They get to the point where they’re about to stone Moses, Joshua and Caleb when the glory of God appears and God tells Moses he’s had enough. He’s going to destroy this people and start again with Moses and his family.

At that point  Moses prays a prayer asking God to reconsider; and he uses two main arguments.

The Glory of God

He says: “15Now if you kill this people all at one time, then the nations who have heard about you will say, 16'It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them that he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.'” (Num14:15)  Moses is concerned about how God’s name will be known among the nations if he destroys them.

The Mercy of God

Then he appeals to God’s mercy and forgiveness: “17And now, therefore, let the power of the LORD be great in the way that you promised when you spoke, saying, 18‘The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty …’ 19Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.” (Num 14:17-19)

God has previously told Moses that he’s a gracious and loving God whose nature is to forgive and who is slow to anger. So Moses counts on that description as he pleads for his people.

In Daniel 9 we find another great prayer for the nation that uses all of those three main arguments I mentioned plus confession of their sins.

The Promises of God

1In the first year of Darius … I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” (Dan 9:1-2)

Isn’t that interesting? He reads the Scriptures and as he thinks about what he’s read he realises that they give him grounds for confidence in praying to God. If God promised the exile would last for 70 years then maybe now is the time to ask God to bring about the rescue that they’re longing for.

Confession and Forgiveness and The Mercy of God
He begins by confessing their corporate sin then appeals to God’s mercy: “8Open shame, O LORD, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. 9To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, 10and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets … 18Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.” (Dan 9:8-10, 18) Notice that he confesses on behalf of the nation. There are times when our prayers rightly need to include corporate confession because we’re all members of the church that’s committed the sins we’re confessing. Two recent examples that immediately come to mind are the sexual abuse of children by our priests and the hurt done to indigenous people, much of which was condoned by our church leaders at the time.

The Glory of God

Finally, like Moses, he appeals to the importance of God’s name and its relationship with the fortunes of his people: “O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!” (Dan 9:19) The reputation of God was closely tied to the people and the city that bore his name so he prays for the restoration of his people to Jerusalem so they can rebuild it.

Well there’s a lot more that could be said about what and how we might pray but that will have to do for today. But I have included in the news sheet a handout that I got from the next edition of Essentials that gives an outline of the prayers that Cranmer put in our Prayer Book. It’s part of an article by Peter Adam that I recommend you read when Essentials arrives in a couple of weeks’ time.


Contact Details

Phone: 0422187127