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And When You Pray: Hallowed!

(a sermon for June 25, 2017, the Third Sunday after Pentecost; second in a series, based on  Luke 11:1-4 and Ezekiel 36:22-28)

In a quote that I must say resonates with me on this particular day, the Baptist preacher and author John Piper writes simply and beautifully that life is “a combination of spectacular things and simple things.  In almost everyone’s life,” he says, “there are breathtaking things and boring things.  Fantastic things and familiar things.  Extraordinary things and ordinary things.  Awesome things and average things.  Exotic things and everyday things.  That’s the way life is.”

In other words, for every day that we are celebrating glorious and life-changing events (!) there are just as many that we are pretty much sitting back and watching the world go by.  I was reflecting on this truth just recently on one of these very hot summery days we’ve had as of late, as Lisa, Sarah and I were all three sitting out in the backyard; lawn chairs surrounding and feet dangling in this little plastic wading pool our adult daughter keeps for just such afternoons.  And though it was hot, and as we like to say in Maine, “the air was thick with hum’dity,” it was… wonderful: soaking in the sun, feeling that warm summer breeze blowing through, and watching as that same wind wound through the trees and curled the leaves and branches above us; hey, we even got to watch our dog Ollie walking in circles around the wading pool for literally a solid hour, all the while diving for little bits of leaf and tree bud that had blown into the water!

Nothing special; just another summer Sunday afternoon in New Hampshire, but a good one, and a true blessing.  And, might I add, something very, very close to prayerful.  That’s something else that John Piper writes; he says that there is “a correspondence” between the content of prayer, in particular the content of the Lord’s Prayer, and “the content of our lives,” whether that involves the big or the little, the glorious or the common, the majestic or the mundane.  For you see, just as God is present to us in all of the wonders, both small and large, of our lives, in the act of prayer you and I are caught up in the great and glorious ways that God moves in and through it all!  As Piper puts it, prayer is “iridescent with eternity and woven into ordinary life” so that in each and every one of our days we might truly walk in tandem with the Almighty; perchance to be enriched, ennobled and empowered along every step of the journey.

At its heart, you see, this is what prayer is about: affirmation, adoration, dedication… and ultimately, a promise; and as Jesus would teach his disciples, and us, it all begins with these words: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

And that’s where we begin as well.  It’s worth noting, I think, as now we get into the parsing of all the particular verses of the Lord’s Prayer in this sermon series, that this is a prayer that can basically be divided into two parts: the first speaking of God’s presence and purpose in the world (in other words, we are praying about God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will), and the second, centering on our lives and living in relationship to God (our daily bread, our forgiveness and our lives steeped in holiness).  Two very distinct perspectives; but taken as a whole, a prayer in which we have this wonderful and transcendent intermingling of the divine presence and the human experience.  And it all starts with an amazing affirmation from which everything else proceeds: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

What’s interesting, you know, is that scripture doesn’t spend much, if any, time debating the existence of God or answering the question of who is God; throughout the Bible there is simply the assumption that God is!  Right from the very first verse of Genesis, we are told, “In the beginning, God…;” and later on, when Moses asks about the divine identity to the burning bush, God’s answer is “I AM WHO I AM!” (Exodus 3:14) the word in the ancient Hebrew language that we know as Yahweh.  This is, in fact, the most fundamental truth in the universe, that God who God is, and far beyond our ability to wholly define, identify or hone in any way, shape or form; all of which makes it all the more significant that when Jesus bids us to come to this infinite, unidentifiable God with our prayer, he instructs us to call him “our Father!”

Think with me for a moment about the awesome wonder of this: here’s the Lord of the universe, the creator of heaven and earth, the God of all time and no time and we get to call him… Father!  Now, I hope we all understand that this is no mere patriarchal construct because the God who is the great “I AM” certainly exists beyond our human concepts of gender; moreover, the God of the Bible includes not only male images of the divine, but also a great many female characterizations as well. Moreover, we have to be careful not to equate this to the difficult and sometimes even destructive human relationships that all too often exist between a father and a child.  No, the relationship that’s being set forth here is that of an infinitely loving parent unto a much cherished child; a caring, loving and deeply intimate relationship that seeks for the best for that child, providing for that child in and all circumstances.

Our model for this is Jesus himself, whose very life was one of intimacy with his Father and is reflected throughout the gospel story, from the time he was this precocious 12-year old in temple who knew he “must be in [his] Father’s house” (Luke 2:49) to those harrowing hours on the cross when he prayed on behalf of those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34) It’s particularly telling that so often in the gospels, when Jesus addresses God, he uses the word “Abba,” which in our usage is best translated as “Daddy.”  Think of it; in the words of Victor Pentz, “God is all powerful.  God is infinitely loving.  Jesus says, ‘Call God Daddy.’”

So right away in our praying this prayer, we establish this heretofore unimaginable relationship with the divine; when we pray, “Our Father,” we are affirming that God is right here, right now and for you and me ever and always!  However, that said, we also have to know that this relationship does not come at the expense of God’s authority or power: to pray to “our father” is not to diminish God in any way; and we know this because we also pray to “our Father [who is] in heaven.”

I’ve actually heard it said that this is the part of the Lord’s Prayer that gets glossed over the most often; as though it’s just some kind of throwaway line that expresses where it is that God dwells and by extension where we are as well; you know, the idea that God’s “up there” (as in, “the man upstairs”) and we’re “down here.”  But in fact, it’s much more than that; it actually establishes the full impact of what it means that we call God “Father.”  Actually, this is an affirmation that is not as much spatial as it is spiritual.   What we’re saying is that God, our Father, is in heaven, which is the seat of all authority and power and dominion and greatness; and so what we have is this infinite and majestic God who has the authority and the power to hear us and to come to us when we pray!

What this all means, friends, is that we are meant to be secure in the Father’s love!  We are always blessed to know that despite the vast, unbridgeable gulf that exists between a holy God and a sinful humanity we are nonetheless brought into a relationship with God that is as expansive as the cosmos and yet as close as our very breathing.  You and I are the recipients a loving embrace that stretches into eternity and that not even death can destroy; and it comes to us by the grace of “our Father, who art in heaven.”

But the question is…what do we do with that?  How are we to respond to that all-encompassing kind of presence?  What are we to pray that even begins to approach a fitting level of gratitude for what we are given in the kind of relationship that God extends to us?  It turns out that this is what the first “petition” of this prayer that Jesus teaches us is all about; as recorded in Luke’s version of the prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name.”

Of course, the word hallowed is not one that we use all that often in today’s language; in fact, I suspect that for most of us, this part of the prayer amounts to another word of praise to God, albeit written in the language of King James English!  But in fact, it represents much more than this; to hallow, you see, means to sanctify, or to make or treat something as holy; so when we speak of the name of God being hallowed or sanctified, what we are saying is that is that we wish to treat God as being wholly holy (!) in our lives and for our world.  It means that we believe God is our Father in heaven, that this understanding has consequences for everything else we know to be true, that every direction of our lives will shift simply by virtue of this understanding, and that as a result we will honor God in the very ways that we live and move and have our being.  To quote John Piper one more time, “[We] hallow the name of God when [we] trust him, revere him, obey him, and glorify him.”

Isn’t it interesting, beloved, that in affirming the name of God, who is our heavenly Father, we also make a promise to live unto the truth of that name?  And isn’t it even more interesting that it’s only a very small step between letting God’s name be hallowed in our lives and to letting God’s kingdom come forth in the here and now, and to let God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” (but I get ahead of myself… that’s for next week!).

For now, let us rejoice in what we’ve been given.  Life is indeed a combination of the spectacular and the routine, the easy-going as well as the nitty-gritty, the utterly earth-bound and the gloriously heaven sent; all of it imbued with the presence and power of God. But in this daily mingling of the Eternal and the Everyday, and as we pray, we discover that in all things we are the people of a God who loves us beyond measure; who, in the words of our Old Testament text for this morning from Ezekiel, gives us “a new heart… and a new Spirit” within us, so that we always know that we are his people and that he shall always be our God.

He is our Father, and may we seek today and always to hallow his Holy name with lives of adoration and faithful service.

And in all that we say and most importantly, in all that we do…

… may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: The Trouble with Prayer

(a sermon for June 18, 2017, the Second Sunday after Pentecost; first in a series, based on Matthew 6:5-15)

The Lord’s Prayer – or, as it’s named in our Sunday bulletin, the Prayer of Our Savior – it’s almost certainly the most well-known prayer found in scripture; it’s at least arguably the prayer that we as Christians pray the most often; and for a whole lot of us, it might well be one of the first prayers we ever learned, or at least that we learned in church or at Sunday School.  In fact, over the years as a pastor, I’ve discovered that whether we make an effort to do so or not, our children tend to learn the Lord’s Prayer simply by virtue of their being present in worship and hearing that prayer spoken week after week by all the adults around them!

The only trouble with this, however, is that as kids are wont to do, they sometimes get the words a bit mangled: for instance, the little girl who began her prayer like this:  “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hello!  What be thy name?”  Or, as if to answer that question, the boy who prayed: “Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name!”  Or how about the child who asked God to “give us this day our jelly bread,” which stands in stark contrast to the kid who prayed that God should “give us this day our daily double” (which I’m not sure means that someone in the family was going to the race track, or was watching Jeopardy!). And, of course, there was the child who prayed, “Deliver us from weevils,” which is a misinterpretation I can get behind (!); and my absolute favorite (though it is a little dated… but then again, so am I!), “for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen… and F.M.!”

Eventually, however, we all learn those all-important words, don’t we?  I mean, as I said before, as Christians this is the prayer we pray at just about every gathering we have for worship.  It is a central facet of our church liturgy; it is an essential piece of our celebration of the sacraments, in particular the Lord’s Supper; and I can tell you from experience that it has served as a powerful word of comfort and assurance during countless graveside services that I’ve been a part of over the years.  And yet, I can also attest to the fact that its power exists not merely to regular church goers and devout believers; I could tell you about a great many bedside vigils spent with people who are sick or dying, and who have had little understanding of God and faith, and at best a nodding relationship with the church, and yet the one prayer they always seem to know, the one prayer that inevitably will give them a sense of calm and peace in the midst of impossible situations is… the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father,” as they’ll sometimes refer to it. Indeed, I’ve found in so many situations that this prayer has had the power to bring forth reverence where there was little or none before!

And so for these reasons and so many others I could name it’s important and essential that we know and that we pray our Lord’s Prayer, and do so often.  All this said, however, there is a risk – a trouble with prayer, if you will – that comes in our praying this prayer so often that it either, on the one hand, becomes so familiar to our ears and our lips that it becomes rote and little more than an inspirational recitation, without anything at all that would render it vital or compelling to our lives and our faith; or else, on the other hand,  ends up being spoken in such a way that is, well… arrogant, as though this prayer were merely some incantation of self-proclamation; the kind of exercise preferred by “the hypocrites,” (or, as the New Testament Greek can also be translated, “the actors”) “[who] love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.”

Friends, I’m here to tell you this morning that it happens, and more often than we might realize!  But understand that neither of these scenarios – the ritualistic empty repetition of phrases, nor the blatant use of religion as self-aggrandizement – represents the purpose or the proper practice of prayer; and that is what lay at the heart of both our text for this morning, and quite honestly, the impetus for this particular sermon series.  For the thing about the Lord’s Prayer is that it is the prayer of our Savior; it is, as I so often say here in our worship, the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples, and us, to pray!  And as such, Jesus gave these words not so that they could be used merely as another “official” prayer of the faith, and certainly not as a means of proclaiming to the world just how faithful we are!  Just the opposite; this prayer that Jesus provides us is meant to to be the model on which our every other prayer – in fact, I dare say every expression of our faith as well – is built.  In other words, to quote Philip McLarty here, “Put the elements of the Lord’s Prayer together in your own words and your prayers are sure to be complete.”

Of course, it’s important to note that as Matthew’s gospel tells the story Jesus offers up this prayer in the context of some thinly veiled contempt for the scribes and Pharisees, the “mainstream” religious establishment of his time; they were indeed those to whom Jesus was referring when he spoke of the “hypocrites,” the religious actors who loved to be seen and heard and thus “have already received their reward.”  Likewise, Jesus had little patience for those who “heap up empty phrases like the Gentiles do; for,” Jesus says, “they think that they will be heard because of their many words.”

I’ll be honest; whenever I read this passage, I’m reminded of a very fundamentalist pastor I knew in my younger days as a pastor who was notorious for loud, spontaneous and very emotional prayers in the most interesting (and often inappropriate!) places:  like at the supermarket, or in the middle of a busy hospital aisle, or at somebody else’s church!   Now, I’ll give the man his due: he was truly a man of faith who for many years an effective pastor to his own congregation; but for some reason, there were times he was compelled to drop to his knees, start waving his hands and begin to pray in a very loud voice, literally weeping and wailing every word so that we all stop what we were doing and pay attention!  Who knows why exactly he would do this, but it used to happen a whole lot; and unfortunately, rather than bringing all those within the sound of his voice into the circle of love and salvation, his style of prayer did little more than drive people away (in fact, no joke; the hospital was so upset by this that our entire ministerium in that town was nearly banned from making unsupervised pastoral visits!).

Not to make any unfair comparisons here (!) but quite frankly, this was the kind of behavior that Jesus had witnessed in the scribes, the Pharisees and others of his time as well: prayer filled with “vain repetitions” and “showy” presentations all for the sake of drawing attention to oneself.  This was not the kind of prayer that Jesus had in mind; no, says Jesus, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Likewise, don’t pile on the words, for ultimately “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Do you see the connective tissue here?  Prayer, you see, is first and foremost to be about God, not about us.  In the words of 19th century Methodist pastor and writer E.M. Bounds, “Prayer puts God in the matter with commanding force… prayer honors God; it dishonors self.  It is [our] plea of weakness, ignorance, want; a plea which heaven cannot disregard.  God delights to have us pray.”  Or, to quote Phillips Brooks, “the purpose of prayer is not to get [our] will  done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.”

Simply put, prayer is meant to be relational; since the very essence of prayer is speaking with God, then it is indicative of the depth of our relationship with God!  And that’s what is wonderful and so very powerful about the Lord’s Prayer, because every phrase that Jesus has given us to prayer – from “Our Father, who art in heaven,” to “deliver us from evil” and beyond – represents the many parts of a rich and deep relationship with God.  It’s all there:  adoration, confession, petition, the willingness to let submit to God’s will and purpose for our lives; and throughout there’s this spirit of thanksgiving and praise and perhaps above all, hopefulness born of the sure and certain promises that God has given and is personified in Jesus himself. Beloved, nothing stands more squarely at the heart of faith than prayer, for prayer is born of a close, personal relationship with the Almighty God; and nowhere is this illustrated any more fully than in the Lord’s Prayer.  And so that’s why over the next few weeks this summer, we’re going to take the time to “unpack,” verse by verse, phrase by phrase all the many and varied blessings that are found in these words of Jesus; so that “when we pray,” we might be wholly and fully inspired to understand and embrace what our doing so offers.

Some years ago, I was asked to offer a prayer – a table grace this time – at a Women’s Fellowship banquet being held at a local restaurant.  We actually had a sizeable group that night, and so had been gathered in a room off the main dining area; but the place was still very busy, and as I stood up to pray, it happened that there was still music wafting through the room from the speakers above me.  And as I began to give the Lord thanks for our food and the fellowship in which it was being shared, I could not help but notice that what was playing above me was Frank Sinatra singing, “I’ve got youuuuu under my skinnnnn, I’ve got youuuuu deep in the heart of me; so deep in the heart that you’re really a part of me; I’ve got youuuu under my skin!” (Hey, at least it wasn’t “I get no kick from champagne…!”)

As I recall, we all had a good laugh as the minister and “Ol’ Blue Eyes” competed for attention!  But it occurred to me later that in some small way, that particular song was a fitting response to prayer, mine or anybody else’s, for that matter; for truly, as we prayerfully seek reach out well beyond ourselves to seek and to embrace the Lord our God and the unending hope, love peace and joy he offers in all of its fullness, we discover that  God has already proclaimed that we’re his; that we’re already so far under God’s skin, so deeply held in the heart of God that we’ve become a part of God’s purpose and plan for us and the world!

May it be said that our prayers, today and every day, reflect that incredibly graceful promise.  “And may thine be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.”

Thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Church, Ministry, Prayer, Sermon, Sermon Series, Worship

 

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Prayer to Be Reckoned With

praying-hands-over-bible(a sermon for February 19, 2017, the 7th Sunday after Epiphany, based on James 5:13-20)

Her name was Clarice, and as she introduced herself to me that first day, she said, “I’m the weirdo that everybody’s going to be telling you about!”

Understand, I’d just been voted in as the pastor of the church I would be serving for the next several years, and I was in the midst of a receiving line of all these people who were about to become my new congregation; so with that in mind, how was I supposed to respond to something like that?  “Oh, no… weirdo?  Of course not!”   But… I soon found out that Clarice was absolutely right about what she’d said: there were several folks in that congregation who made a point of telling me about Clarice; in fact, a few felt moved to even warn me about her!

Clarice, you see, was what I came to refer to as “our resident charismatic.” By that I mean that this woman had a very strong belief in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the gifts that Spirit would bestow.  She’d been known, for instance, to “speak in tongues” from time to time, both during worship and at Deacons’ meetings; she was a fervent believer and, as she described it to me, a first-hand witness of the miracle of spiritual healing; and she was also one of those people who spoke with God in the same manner and with the same immediacy that you and I would talk to each other (many was the morning over those years that Clarice would call me and say, “God spoke to me this morning and told me that I should call you and let you know such and such…!”).

I’ll be honest with you; pastorally speaking, at times Clarice could be really… well, let’s just go with challenging.  There was, for instance, that one Halloween when the kids were little, and we’d hung this flag out in front of our house that had on it a picture of a witch on a broom; Clarice promptly came to read me the riot act for displaying Satanic symbols at the parsonage!  Then, in a perhaps not unrelated incident, she got it into her head that she was being led to come into our home and pray prayers of cleansing at the parsonage; which she did, and in the process managed to absolutely terrify our daughter, who was about four or five years old at the time!  And she spoke her mind, whatever the setting: I can also tell you that whenever Clarice raised her hand during prayer concerns in worship, the whole congregation would collectively stop breathing for a moment or two, because you literally had no idea what was going to happen next!

But along with being one of our more active members, she was also one of the kindest, sweetest and certainly one of the most genuinely caring people in our congregation; so we tended to overlook a few of the so-called “weirdo” parts of her personality; in fact, we came to see it as a great blessing. Because I’ll tell you something else: I’ve rarely met anyone as committed to a discipline of prayer as was Clarice.  Every single morning, like clockwork, she’d go to her reading room to pray; she had this lengthy prayer list (on which Lisa, the children and I were all included, along with so many others), and she would pray for every person on that list by name.  And so often, when she’d turn up at my door, it was either to ask me if I would I would pray with her for someone in need, or more often than not, to pray for me (even, at times, to anoint me with oil).  And here’s the thing; whether she knew it or not (and in all actuality, there were plenty of reasons for her not to know!), Clarice always managed somehow to show up to pray with me and for me at exactly the right time.

It was truly prayer that was “powerful and effective,” and I came to understand that it was a gift of God’s grace bestowed in the workings of a faithful and righteous heart.  Even all these years later, I am still very grateful for that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Clarice this week, especially as I’ve been reflecting on our text this morning from the Epistle of James.  James is one of those parts of scripture in which there are very few grey areas: the prevailing theme that resonates throughout all five chapters of this epistle is of the need for Christians to live with authenticity; for you and I to be real about our faith as we make our way through life!  Now truth be told, there’s not a whole lot of hard-core theology to be found in this particular epistle (which is why James has been the source of so much debate over the centuries; even Martin Luther dismissed it as being “an Epistle of Straw,” for its apparent lack of theological depth); but from matters of perseverance and patience in faith, to the need for us to connect what it is we believe with what it is we do, this Epistle offers short, swift and very decisive answers to “faith’s persistent questions,” and has a way of striking right at the heart of who we are – and what we aspire to be – as disciples of Jesus Christ.

There’s a lot to be found in this Epistle; but here’s what very interesting to me: that at the end of all this practical admonition of faithful living comes this one last imperative, dare I say, requirement of us; one that is as great as it is so utterly simple… it is to PRAY.

Prayer: it is the first sign of our authenticity as Christians; and it represents the beginning steps of our walk along the pathway of wisdom and righteousness!  And understand, as James sets it forth for us, it amounts to far more than simply being careful to say our table graces or to bow our heads appropriately on Sunday mornings.  James is referring here to the practice of prayer; prayer as a way of life, as a true function of who we are as God’s people!

“Are any among you suffering?” James asks.  “They should pray.”  Is anyone happy amongst you?  Then they should “sing songs of praise,” letting their prayers come forth in melody and harmony.  How about those of you who are sick? Then, says James, “they should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.”  The point is that whether things are going wonderfully or badly, whether we are sick or well, whether we have sinned and stand in the need of mercy and forgiveness, or whether we are very much aware of others in need; the first and best thing we can do and need to do is to pray.  Or, as one preacher by the name of J.D. Hoke has written, “you pray when you’ve been bruised, you pray when you’ve been broken, you pray when it’s clear you are ‘backslidden.’”  Because the act and attitude of prayer, friends, is our avenue to a life-changing relationship with the living God who walks with us on the way and leads us to true wisdom.

One of the things that I love about this passage is how it makes it clear that prayer was never meant to be an action of last resort; you know, the old scenario of there being “no atheists in foxholes.” Yes, of course, prayer is important in moments of crisis and indecision; but prayer is also meant to the mitigating factor when things are going smoothly and well, and when the way ahead is clear for us.  In other words, asking for the presence and affirmation of God in the normal and ordinary times of life is at least as important as seeking that in the inevitable times of trouble!

Over the years, whenever I’ve had the opportunity to fly somewhere, I’ve always had this little habit as the plane leaves the runway to silently pray for a safe flight.  Now, I’m really not all that nervous about flying at all; but I figure, hey, it can’t hurt!  But I have to confess that somewhere along the line it occurred to me that every time I do this, once the plane has reached its desired altitude and has leveled off, I inevitably breathe this small sigh of relief and forget all about what I’ve just prayed; as though God were merely my personal air traffic controller!

And I found myself wondering, why am I not praying for this journey to have some spiritual value and edification?  Why didn’t I ask God to bless all those family members and friends who are back home worrying about me? And what about all these people who are jammed into the seats around me on this plane; shouldn’t I say a prayer for them?  Maybe there’s someone on this flight who is literally paralyzed with fear and needs the sense of calm that only the Holy Spirit can give.  And just maybe there’s somebody here for whom this flight represents a major life change; so why haven’t I said a prayer for them?

Do you see what happens here?  I get so caught up in my little prayer of that moment that I might, however unwittingly, underestimate not only the power and the scope of prayer, but also the presence and God in all the moments and movements of life!  Now I realize I’m overstating all this, but the point is that if I am willing to trust that God will keep me safe in a flight out of the Manchester airport, can I not also trust him to help me through all the day to day challenges I face?  Can I not also have faith that God will lead me in what needs to be said at the right moment; or to have the courage to do things rightly and lovingly, and with the patience and the courage of a true disciple of Jesus Christ?  Don’t I have the assurance that when the time comes, God will be there to help me to live in accordance with his purposes?  This, you see, is the kind of awareness that grows in the midst of our relationship with God; a relationship nurtured in a discipline of prayer.

“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective,” says James, giving as an example the Old Testament prophet Elijah, “a human being just like us,” who “prayed fervently;” first that it might not rain (which it did not for three years), and then prayed later that it would rain, and “the heaven gave rain, and the earth yielded its harvest.”  And this wasn’t because Elijah had great powers or some special “in” with the almighty; he simply believed God had spoken, and even when he wasn’t sure of what he was hearing (or not sure he’d heard anything at all!), Elijah went to God again in prayer, bringing to God all of his thanks, all of his praise, and yes, even all of his uncertainties and fears.  Elijah had faith in God’s promises for the world and of God’s purpose for his life; even in those moments when there was little or no empirical evidence to back it up!  But rather than giving up, or wandering away from what is right Elijah stayed true to his faith in God; and that faith was nurtured in prayer.

And so it is for us, friends; we are nurtured and guided forth in our prayerful relationship to God, brought forth into harmony with God’s purposes for our lives… and might I add, for the world.  And truly, that makes it prayer that is to be reckoned with.

Prayer, you see, is not only our great imperative as believers, it is our gift.  It’s not, as some would claim in this cynical age, “whistling in the dark,” just another kind of deluded wishful thinking. Nor is it, as others would say, some special power extended only to a very privileged few. Prayer is no less than the sacred privilege of speaking with God; it is our conversation, yours and mine, with the living God of the cosmos, the Almighty one who has both the power and the will to save, to raise up, to heal, and to bring peace.  And even more than this, it is walking and talking with our closest friend!

I believe, dear friends, that prayer strengthens us; that prayer emboldens us; that prayer changes hearts it changes lives, both on a personal and global scale.  I also believe, with all my heart, if each one of us would simply take the time to purposefully and personally pray to the Lord our God, there is no telling what amazing things God will do with us and our world.

So… in all things and in every way we can, let us pray.

And as we do, may our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN.

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
 

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