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4th Sunday after Easter- Cantate

May 24, 2011

“The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

   “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

   “‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Mt 21:14-22


The famous German Minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “It doesn’t matter how much we pray or how many words we use. What really matters is the faith which we hold in God in prayer.” The day you discover the true power of prayer, you will not abandon it and it will not be a job for you pray, but rather, a pleasure. And you’ll find the true meaning of prayer in community, that is, in coming to church.

Many people don’t come to church, not only to this church but to others as well. Many are studying the reason why people don’t come. Many people say they have no time. This happens because they use their time for other things; they have other priorities. Others say they don’t come because society has changed and the church must adapt to society. Still others say that they lost faith. Others say they lack a family educator in faith. They gave the task of education in faith to the state. But unfortunately, if the family doesn’t address education, the state will only do less and less. There are many reasons. But there is one reason that is often overlooked and is closely related to prayer. In other words, the practice of genuine prayer is intimately connected with the practices you need to go to church. Both are necessities. And something becomes a necessity when we cannot do without it.

Today, I want to talk about prayer. Indirectly, I will answer the question of “why many people don’t “need” to come to church”, when I answer “why many people don’t “need” prayer”. As I said the two go hand in hand and are related. Prayer is a classic topic for the church. How many books were written on prayer? Not many. While studying theology, I felt the need to learn to pray effectively and began to search the university library material about prayer. I found hundreds of volumes that were written on subjects such as sin, judgment, temptation or dogma in general. However, I was surprised, there was no book like the one I wanted: one that taught us to pray effectively. What I am talking about is this: I wanted to learn to pray in a manner which would be answered. I wanted to pray just as Jesus spoke in today’s text: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” I was disappointed.

Over time, I realized that I would find the answer in other areas of life. On many different occasions, using different methods each time, God answers so that we can understand him. Unwittingly, through mind control, positive thinking, and others techniques we may find an answer that was already in the Bible. Many Christians who have learned to pray effectively may unknowingly already be practicing it. And the first discovery I made was: what to do to have faith!

What is prayer? If we read the entire Bible, we discover that prayer is simply a conversation with God. So did the patriarchs, prophets, kings, Jesus Christ, the Apostles and early Christian communities simply they talk to God When we are speaking of talk, we must understand that it is a specific kind of talk in a language that both parties understand, in which we talk about important things, and, like in an everyday conversation, Prayer is lively and spontaneous. It is like the actions of the blind in chapter 20 of Matthew who said: “Lord, we want our sight” That was a particular sentence, a particular order, plain and simple.

Let’s see what things are not prayers to help us to better understand what prayer is. A prayer is not a ritual, a habit, an incomprehensible or boring liturgy that doesn’t say anything to me. A prayer is not part of a religious act. Many people believe that prayer has to do with anything that is religious. No, rather it has to do with everyday things. Many believe that prayer is a habit; they say: in my house it is a custom to say a prayer before bedtime. If the sense is only to fulfill a habit, then this is not more than a habit and is not a prayer of power, like the one to which Jesus refers. Many people teach children from the earliest years of childhood on that prayer is talking to God. This is true! But there are two things that are not taught later: to pray in our own words and to believe that this conversation is filled with the power of God that he will answer according to our faith. It always struck me as strange, that eighty percent of young people who began a confirmation course could not speak a simple prayer in public. I realized that they had never prayed aloud in their homes before; that it wasn’t a daily necessity. I wondered, when I saw pastors who had a special nice rhetoric for everything, but when they began to pray, their were so poor. And why does this happen? Because they don’t understand what prayer is and neither do they believe in it nor feel that it is necessity for these people.

Prayer is not only an individual matter, it is also communal. But it must be a personal matter first in order for it to be effective in the community.

Many of our problems are invented. As mentioned last Sunday, they come from our fears, our negative fantasy and our lack of faith, what we commonly call worries. And as the prayer of faith attracts, through the favor of God, the things that we need, the ‘negative prayer’ (our worries), attract the conditions and negative facts about our lives. It’s a little like what happened to Job: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25. If, as Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt (…) you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer “. There is something that is contrary to faith, and that is fear. Living in Fear (worry) is that which attracts things other than that which Jesus would like to give us. We can say that the doubts that cause problems have an easy solution. And the real problems of life can also be overcome, because indeed we are promised that our prayers will be heard.

When we understand how it works and begin to practice the prayer of faith, this will become a real necessity, and of course we’ll also want to share this prayer with others in our same ‘wave’ of faith, with those that we call our brothers in faith: the church. Then we’ll begin to “feel the taste” within the church and we’ll feel and understand that which Jesus described when he spoke to the merchants from the temple, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it ‘a den of robbers” Mt 21:13.

Prayer, as we said, is simply a conversation with God. It’s talking to God, just like we teach our children in Sunday school. Anyone who can talk can also pray, and those that can speak well in public, should be able to pray well in public. However, this is not always so. It is strange, no? Think about it.

Prayer should be a constant. Not because it is obligatory but because it is a need and its practice becomes routine, essential and, therefore, constant. Christians will often pray for a while and get tired. But consistency is the key to success, not only for human goals, but also for prayer. Remember the story of the widow and the unjust judge: “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!” (Luke 18:1-8) Jesus says that, like the unjust judge that answered the cry of a widow, our Father who loves us and is a righteous judge, will answer our constant request!

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, prayer is not nice words or theological rhetoric, but the right words just spoken with faith. Perhaps you have already been taught these things and still you have experienced fatigue against the practice of prayer in your life, because you didn’t get results from God. But here’s the interesting part, what the nature of our thoughts and life should be after praying.

I known many Christians of fervent prayer, but their lives, their mood, their words and even their actions were so miserable that one wondered: What’s the use of prayer! After praying we must rest in the peace of God: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) That’s what confidence is, to sleep peacefully despite external conditions. And confidence comes because we ‘see’ with our mind what we don’t see with our eyes. Hence, the term ‘blind trust’. That’s basically what faith is: going to sleep, knowing that our problems are in the hands of God and that all will have a happy ending. It will end something like that which we asked of God, or even better. But we have to see it. And the only way to ‘see’ is with our minds, with our imagination. It is an exercise that will help us greatly to exercise our faith in God; we must see the final result in our minds. There are many people who think that they may attach conditions to God and believe that everything should work out as they want. No, with God all things are upside down. First you have to believe and then he will answer. Many say that when God answers my prayers, then I will start to believe and to go to church. No it doesn’t work without faith. First you must believe that God will grant you his miracle. This is the principle rule of the prayer of which Jesus speaks.

And finally, there is a very interesting point that I had to learn after many years and it’s no secret that I never learnt it in church. It has to do with the natural consequence of what Jesus said and what we said: ” From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise” is the power to change our mood, our emotions, so that we are even able to praise God. Singing to God, as is also the name of today’s Sunday: Cantate (sing). The only way we can sing praises is by being happy. The singer sings because they have a mood of joy. The question is: what can make us happy? The joy comes from the confidence that we have in God that our prayers are already answered. A prerequisite of prayer is this: to change our feelings and our mood. It is the only way we can control our thoughts of unshakeable faith. Change your mood! How and why? How: simply and at first began to act by wanting to feel good. I heard that good actors are those who can demonstrate feelings and features as if they were really going through different situations. We have to be actors and actresses; we’re not lying to ourselves but we base our joy in God’s promises. And why do we do this? Because our confidence rests in God’s promises, and he doesn’t lie in what he says.

If you start to pray, to imagine, to leave your prayers in the peace of God and change your mood radically, your feelings, that prayer of faith has begun to operate in your life and you’re getting the best answer from God. Only then can we pray, go to church, praising God and singing his name when we see the results of the power of God in our lives. Amen.

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