If you could talk with your Creator — would you keep that appointment? What if you knew the Holy Spirit was interceding on your behalf? How do you talk with God anyway?
Interim Pastor David Mueller looks at prayer in his message today, discussing what it is and also what it isn’t.
Join us for our prerecorded worship service, using the link to our YouTube channel below, which goes “live” at 10 a.m. Sunday. You will also find the text of Pastor Mueller’s sermon below.
Also participating in today’s service are Barbara Sheridan, our worship assistant, and John Lasher, director of music and worship arts.
This week’s virtual choir includes: Dave Herrmann, Allen Kirk, Myrna Kirk, John Lasher, David McClure, Fred Meckley, Jan Meckley, John Nichols, Cheryl Powell, Paige Stebner and Teresa Stebner.
“How to Pray” (Romans 8:26-39)
Interim Pastor David E. Mueller
I must admit to having my spirit tested these days as much as any time in recent memory. I like to think of myself as a happy-go-lucky sort of person, who tends to be positive most of the time. I can get depressed, but usually no longer than a day or two. Generally I am happy with myself and am particularly secure as a believing Christian.
The forces attacking us all these days, however, are heavy in the extreme, far too heavy to bear with our typical resources spiritual, emotional, and physical. There is profound political division within our nation, a deadly virus and — at least for now — hotter and muggier than most of us enjoy.
Nothing that I can name then is more important, especially right now, than that we pray without ceasing — that is, regularly. What does that mean? How does it look? What might it accomplish? Please revisit that very special Christian privilege, but before we begin to talk and learn about prayer, let us pray!
Dear Lord, we are being humbled these days and that might just be the greatest benefit of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Allow us to be emptied, forgiven and relieved of all false senses of security. Fill us anew with your love and grace and teach us anew how to pray. In Jesus’ Name, we say, Amen!
Clearly Paul was writing to relatively new Christians in Rome when he shared: “… we do not know how to pray as we ought….” Prayer is such a profoundly beautiful exercise, however, that we might think of ourselves as new Christians. Romans 8 is a jam-packed chapter, but — most important — about prayer.
In Matthew 6:5, we learn what praying is not: “the heaping up of empty phrases … many words.” Also, prayer is not a public but an intimately private matter: “Go into your room and shut the door….” James the Apostle in his letter wrote: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” (4:3)
There is another even more significant revelation about prayer in all four Gospels.
I will stick with Matthew in 26:36-46. There are several extremely revealing truths within this text.
The Last Supper was finished and Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. In his first petition, he prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (26:39).
The next petition shows a subtle but real change: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (26:42)
In his last petition we are told he “prayed for the third time, saying the same words.”(26:44)
We may recall that between each of these petitions, he found his disciples taking a nap.
Most significant, however, is what Jesus said following prayer: “Get up, let us be going, my betrayer is at hand.” (26:46) He was ready to face his reality!
The sign on your kitchen wall or on a bumper sticker piously proclaims: “Prayer changes things!”
The reason I am not so sure about that is that it did not work that way for Jesus. His circumstances changed not; he went to the cross.
Often our prayers ask God to change everything and everyone around us but not us, when all too often what needs to change is us. We may need to face our reality and not escape it!
The pleasures James reports we pray for are not all bad. Praying for family, friends, community, country and the like seem so benign. But praying for any of those can often require an empowerment of us so that we might become more significant agents in the family’s or country’s well-being.
And there is more. Paul in Romans 8 makes a definite connection between the Holy Spirit and prayer. As I have shared several times previously, the Greek word “pneuma” can mean spirit, breath, wind. This time around, the “breath” helps us in our weakness … with “sighs too deep for words.” The “breath,” writes Paul: “… intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
If we allow this biblical truth to set with us and sink deeply into our hearts and minds, what we get is that prayer is spiritual breathing, that is, inhaling the word and will of God and exhaling his praise. When that happens, we are fully alive; when it does not, we are not spiritually alive. So breathe, folks, that beautiful and powerful fresh and clean air of the “Holy Breath.”
So far then we are to admit that when it comes to prayer we do not know what we are doing. We offer many words and so many of those words are about changing everything and everyone around us but not ourselves.
When we pray appropriately, we are breathing the breath of God. The promise which flows from this living exercise is that “… all things work together for good for those who love God.” (8:28)
The primary problem I have and share with many if not most of you is timing. God’s promises are seldom fulfilled immediately. We may have to wait a while or a whale of a long time.
What happens in this at times painful meantime is that we are promised that nothing … NOTHING … NOTHING we can name “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The significance of this in a practical way cannot be overstated. I belong to God in Jesus Christ. I have been called by name, made his own and have God’s promise never to leave nor to forsake me!
So, I or a loved one having a significant medical issue is among all other things an opportunity for me to remember joyfully that I belong to Christ Jesus. That can never mean that I sit back and lend no support to the medical professionals. It never means that in any way I fail to be supportive of the loved one. I still do everything reasonable and potentially helpful that I can, but first and foremost I believe that whatever “this” is cannot separate me from the love of God.
If one loses a job, secular and spiritual resources will tell you that whining and complaining and being dragged down won’t help, but remembering who you are in Christ Jesus can never hurt you in your pursuit of another job!
Given the current shape of things political, the current attack of things viral, whatever else is happening or not in your personal life, breathe easy, breathe in the word, will and wonder of God and breathe out his praise and your faith in his promises. That is exactly what prayer is and if it changes anything for sure, it will change you and you will love the change because it will place you in the best possible position and condition to be an agent of positive change in others.