Prayer: big enough for all of life
October 23, 2011
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”
No matter how much you pray I want to gently tell you, “brother, sister, the grass grows on your path.” I say that because we can always pray just a little more.
“But pastor,” you say, “I already spend all the time I can in prayer.” Let me challenge you with Paul’s words. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“Pray without ceasing.” Constantly. Persistently. Relentlessly. 24/7. All the time. Obviously Paul is not talking about being on our knees praying with our voices 24/7/365. IN order to understand what he is saying, however we have to dive deeper into the nature of prayer, so take a deep breath and hold on.
Prayer starts with three affirmations. There are three fundamental truths that make prayer possible. If you don’t believe these three things, you might as well be talking into an empty tin can. So here they are. . .
(click)Number 1. Do you believe that God cares about what happens to you? If you don’t—if God does not care about you-- prayer is meaningless. Do you believe that God cares about what happens to you? I believe that with all my heart. With every fiber of my being I hold on to that truth-- even when the evidence seems to be to the contrary.
We have to be honest. Sometimes life falls apart and we aren’t sure there IS a God, let alone one that cares anything about us. In spite of the popular affirmation that God is in control, we know that God does not send cancer, accidents, infant death, pain, and suffering to his people. If he does, I don’t want anything to do with him. We have to remember, LIFE IS NOT GOD. In life there is chaos, and sin, and evil, and human freedom- all of which are interconnected- chaos, sin, evil and human freedom bring about much of the disorder, and misunderstanding, and contradictions, and pain and suffering in our lives. Life is not always fair, but LIFE IS NOT GOD. Sometimes life is cruel, but LIFE IS NOT GOD. Oftentimes life hurts, but LIFE IS NOT GOD.
We worship a God who cares more than you can imagine. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT?
(click)Number 2. Do you believe that GOD HEARS YOU WHEN YOU PRAY? Obviously, if God does not hear us, prayer is useless. If God does not hear us, prayer is a waste of time. If God does not hear our prayers, prayer is worthless.
One of the best ways to see what God is like is to look at Jesus. Over and over again Jesus heard the prayers of those around him. Blind Bartemaeus called out and Jesus healed him. Jesus felt the touch of the woman with the hemorrhage and she was healed. He saw Zachaeus up in a sycamore tree. He listened to the leper and made him clean. He listened to the Samaritan woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Over and over again Jesus heard the prayers of those around him. If God is like Jesus- we know God hears us when we pray.
In Isaiah God says, "It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer, and while they are speaking I will hear." (65:24) Do you believe that GOD HEARS YOU WHEN YOU PRAY?
(click)Number 3. Do you believe that GOD IS POWERFUL? Too often in the history of the church people have tried to keep God in a box. They have tried to seal God up in nice neat packages and contain the almighty. How ridiculous is that? God cannot be contained. God cannot be kept. God cannot be managed. God cannot be held back any more than an umbrella can hold back Niagara Falls. God cannot be stopped any more than I can stop a train.
Now we just talked about chaos, and evil, and human choice. There are some things that God as a rule does not control. But a powerful God is one that CAN influence us and the world around us. A powerful God is one that CAN intervene in our lives and the world around us. A powerful God is one that CAN answer the deepest needs of our hearts. A powerful God is one that CAN change our lives and the course of history. Jesus says “whatever you ask the father in my name, He will give you. Jesus is saying that god CAN answer prayer because God is powerful. Do you believe that GOD IS POWERFUL?
IF (CLICK) God Cares and IF (CLICK) + God hears and IF (CLICK) + God can (CLICK) = then prayer is one of the most powerful forces in the created universe. Do you see that?
The only limiting power on prayer is our willingness to do it. Let me say that again. The only limiting power on prayer is our willingness to do it.
Prayer should be our first instinct on rising. Prayer should be our last instinct before we lay down. Prayer should be our first instinct when we are blessed. Prayer should be our first instinct when we are in need. Prayer should be our first and last instinct in all of our living. Prayer should permeate our living and breathing. Prayer should seep into every corner of our lives. Prayer should consume every breath we breathe and every beat of our heart. Prayer should be the first instinct of life.
Too often too many of us push prayer off to the edges of life? We set it precariously on the edge of life just in case we need it. Oh we glance that way occasionally. We think about it once in a while, but we never use it because it is off to the side and hard to reach. Prayer needs to be sitting right in the middle of life.
Do your keys do you any good if you leave them on the dresser?
Does a spare tire do you any good if it is stored in the tool shed?
Does your cell phone help you when you leave it recharging on the kitchen counter?
NO, NO, and NO. The power of prayer is only powerful in your life if you pray. Prayer has its greatest power in your life when you make prayer the center of your living. How do we do that? Try this. . .
(CLICK)Is there an interruption in your day? Let it call you to prayer.
Some of us are accustomed to letting meals call us to prayer, as we say the blessing. Expand that to more of your life.
The phone rings- answer it praying for the person on the other end--- even if they are a telemarketer.
A knock at the door- pray for them before you open the door.
Let your interruptions be a call to prayer.
Flat tire- make that a time of prayer- you are on your knees anyway!
Let those interruptions call you to prayer.
(CLICK)Let situations call you to prayer. Did you all hear that Moammar Gadhafi was killed this week? For me that was a call to prayer. Prayer for his family and (because I read his very disturbing biography several years ago) thankfulness that one of the most evil men in history is dead.
Are you stuck waiting at the doctor’s office, could you pray for the others who are waiting? Could you meditate on a memorized psalm?
I often pray while I am mowing the lawn. Could you pray while you wash dishes or fold clothes? Let situations of life call you to prayer.
Let people call you to prayer. Do you see a man begging at the off ramp, pray for him? Do you see a mother stressed out trying to care for her children in the grocery store, pray for her? Do you see a child slumping on the front steps wishing someone would be nice to him? Pray for him. Let the people you meet and the people you see be a call to prayer.
(CLICK)Let all of life be a call to prayer.
Pay attention and many things will call you to prayer. Attend to the business of life and get in the habit of looking for God in every situation. And if you don’t find him, pray, “come Lord Jesus, Come.”
This is what Paul means when he entreats us to “Pray without ceasing.” Let all the circumstances of our lives be an opportunity to pray.
That is your homework this week. Pick something right now. The interruption of ringing phone, or incoming text message. Whenever you have to wait. Whenever you unlock a door. Whenever you see someone walking while you are driving. Whoever walks by your house. Just choose something and let it be a call to prayer this week. Then, next week, or in two weeks when that has become a habit, you can pick something else, and then something else, until prayer begins to move into all the little nooks and crannies of your life.
So- What I want you to know today is if you try to pray unceasingly. If you practice letting interruptions, and situations, and people call you to prayer. If you take prayer off the edge of your life and bring it to the center. If you don’t let grass grow on your path, you will discover that prayer is as big as life itself. And when prayer is as big as life itself, God’s answers will be bigger than life, bigger than your sickness, bigger than your pain, bigger than your troubles. If you let your prayers be as big as life itself and the answers will be bigger than life itself.
God cares about you- God hears you - and God is powerful. Boom! The power of prayer.
Do you believe that?