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Try the power of prayer

May 25, 2014

5th Sunday of Easter- Rogate

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’Sunday Rogate.”

Exodus 32:7-14

Today, we have prayer as the subject for the sermon. The congregation that prays is the theme for today. Last Sunday we talked about the singing congregation.

What more can we say about prayer that we do not already know? Maybe a lot, maybe a few things, but what we will say today is that if you’re really having a life of prayer it will serve to further strengthen your faith in the power of prayer.

What would you do if today I offered you a debit card with, say, more than 100 million dollars in that account? … Surely, you would you use it, wouldn’t you? And just as surely you would feel excited? You would be excited by the number of material opportunities that are open to you from receiving such a gift. And what would you say if someone was given such a card and didn’t even attempt to use it. Maybe they thought, ‘I don’t believe that the account contains any money.’ Or maybe they would say, ‘Well, when I need money, maybe I will use it.’ Or they might say, ‘I don’t think God wants me to have it’ or ‘I wouldn’t use it.’ There are many other possible responses that come to mind. Do you know that prayer is that free debit card even though many people may reject it? In the gospel for today Jesus clearly tells us, “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (Jn 16:23.24 )

Yes, this is a promise found in the Bible; these words were spoken by Jesus Christ himself. However, there are still people who call Jesus’ words into question. They do so without knowing the Bible and they fell qualified to judge the words of Jesus – why is this? It happens because over their lifetime they were taught that it is not possible to live a life of spiritual abundance on this earth. We are told that we have to carry the cross. While that is very true, it does not contradict the promise made by Jesus for unlimited support. We are told that we have to make sacrifices and suffer. This is true; surely there will be times in life where we have to make sacrifices and there are times when we will have to suffer. But this again does not contradict anything about Jesus’ promise. Many times we are taught a misinterpretation of the Bible and often this misunderstanding comes from people who haven’t even read it. There are many people, even Christians, who believe they know how to live life but have never read the Bible. But then how could they know? Some people take their guidance from other parameters, others indicate that they have learnt from their parents or grandparents, who may or may not have been true Christians, even though they may have been religious. If you really, want to know what the Bible says, my advice is to buy an understandable translation of the Bible which is completely comprehensible for you and for you to begin reading it because there is a hidden treasure of wisdom and blessing planned for you when you start to read it.

There is another reason why many people don’t pray. This can even be true of converted people and I even dare say theologians, as was my experience in life. There are many Christians who are convinced about God, who are ‘converted’ in the sense they have had a formal personal encounter with Jesus and have a clear commitment to God and have started living a life in Christ, who have great faith in the salvation God provides at the end of times but don’t have faith in God’s assistance for life’s everyday needs which can be provided through prayer.

In simple words, there are people who are Christian but don’t pray with successful results. Just as there are many who don’t read the Bible, there are others who don’t pray. Some people don’t know the power of prayer and don’t attest to the power of prayer. Perhaps it is because no one has taught them.

If this is your situation today, I invite you to begin by praying, for you to personally find the power of prayer. Many have faith in God; that one day God will take them to paradise. But they don’t have faith and trust in God to face everyday problems and so they live a miserable existence. I imagine that likewise, God must care for them, but the quality of their life is not what God wanted them to have.

We must pray. We must begin having prayer discipline. Every morning the first thing to do is to join hands and, imitating the Lord’s Prayer, worship and praise God, give thanks, ask for the forgiveness of sins and to ask for the things we need for the day. We should do the same thing at the end of the day. The more you pray and respect this discipline, the deeper your spiritual life will be and you will discover that God wants to provide for you through the experience of communication with him through prayer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “It matters little what form of prayer we adopt or how many words we use, what matters is the faith which lays hold on God and touches the heart of the Father who knew us long before we came to Him.”

It’s true. It’s this faith that we have to have.

But our experience of faith multiplies and deepens and will still make a big difference in our lives, if in addition to that faith, we have fixed times and a discipline of prayer

It is true that we must pray with faith, but it is also true that we must begin to pray and get in the habit of practicing prayer. One of my hobbies is woodworking. I went to a garage sale and I bought a hand plane that was over 80 years old but was still in good condition. I read how to set it up; I sharpened it, oiled it and went to work. At first I was disappointed. I couldn’t even plane the wood. It got stuck on the wood and ruined it. For a few days I was frustrated, thinking to myself, “It really doesn’t work, I will have to opt for something new or electrical, or perhaps, I lack sufficient expertise.” One day I decide to grab the hand plane and tried it with more energy and suddenly I saw how effectively it worked; it was cutting properly. I turned a screw here and there and I moved the blade back and forth and it started to plane and leave the wood with a glossy finish. That excited me and I wanted to use my plane a little bit on most days because I felt I was transforming things. But I still had to learn how to use it. But for this I had to use it again and again. And so it is with many things in life when one is learning something new. It’s the same way with prayer. If you’ve never really prayed or if no one taught you to pray to God with your own words every morning and every night, then you have to practice by doing it. You will be an apprentice, a beginner, but that doesn’t mean that you will not become an ace at praying. And it will give you the experience that God begins to answer your prayers for your commitment and for your faith. And those answered prayers will strengthen your faith and so on. As it says in the Bible: “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Mt 9:29)

If we want to experience the power of God through prayer we must have faith. If we want to have faith, we must begin to exercise faith through prayer; for our faith grows from seeing the results of answered prayers.

There are some who don’t see the results of prayer. It may be because they don’t have a life of true commitment to God or don’t have a prayer life and that they don’t read the Bible which gives evidence of the power of prayer. Or it could be that problems arise because they desperately seek help from other gods, as it was the case with the Israelites in the desert. An example of this can be seen in the Exodus story. And for us today, who would these other gods be? There are many, but we can mention a few: -such as asking for God’s intercession through ‘dead people’ who have been deified, converted to gods: ‘worship, regard, or treat (someone or something) as a god’. There are those who practice divination and spiritualism, which has quackery, healers, psychics, etc; these are not based on faith in Jesus Christ. Still others simply reject the existence of God; they no longer believe in God because they feel cheated. But even for these people, they must accept responsibility because the fact is that they were never true Christians that put all their faith in God. And this is dangerous because, just as God wants to bless all those who are his children abundantly, God’s curse, which is the opposite of all that is a blessing, can hover over us if we turn from God to other gods. It is also said in the first commandment found in the Bible: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

And that’s what happened to the people of Israel. Fortunately, Moses interceded for them. Fortunately, Jesus also prayed for us so that God will forgive us and that we can live a different life.

God’s advice today is: Try the power of prayer. If no one has taught you before, then we want to teach it in the church: As a Christian you should pray. It defines your quality of life here on earth. The more discipline and commitment you have with prayer, the more opportunities to increase your faith that are given to you. This is the key to prayer – the promise from Christ that all in your life will be fulfilled: “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Amen

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