For the past four Sundays, Rev. Singleton has been giving us tools to help us with taking care of our souls. She has spoken about our financial and physical health, our spiritual health, reading the Bible, and living generously. This fifth sermon in the series is focused on the power of prayer in the lives of our souls.
If you've spent time in church, you have probably heard that you should pray. Even if you haven't spent time in church, you may have had someone offer to pray for you, or even said a prayer yourself when faced with a difficult situation. But do you really know what prayer is all about, and why and how it should be done?
The passage today was Matthew 6:5-13. You may be familiar with part of this passage - it is called "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father." This prayer is also found in the book of Luke, and is Jesus' answer to his disciples who ask him how they should pray. If you really look at this prayer, it is pretty profound. Many of us memorized it years ago, and can spout it off without really thinking about what we are saying. This is a shame. Let's break it down a little.
Jesus' prayer is addressed to "Our Father in Heaven." This may seem like just a nice way to start a prayer, but let's think about it. Jesus is encouraging us to call the God who created Heaven and Earth our Father! That means that God regards us as His Children! Now, if you have children you love, think about what you want for them. My children sometimes ask for things that I know are not good for them, like too much dessert. Because I love them, I sometimes have to say no to things that they really want. It may be that it is not good for them, or it may be a good thing that will affect them or someone else badly if they get it. As our Heavenly Father, God does things the same way. But because he is able to see things that we can't, he also does it a lot more effectively!
Another part of the prayer says "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." What a thing to ask! If we really pray this, we are asking for heaven to come down! I'm not talking about the "end times" and "Left Behind" and all that stuff. I'm talking about right now, as we go through our daily lives. Can you imagine what would happen if Christians really prayed this prayer? If instead of worrying about our laundry list of things that we want for ourselves we asked for God's will to be done here on earth? God, who made everything and called it good in Genesis 1, could make everything good again. Oh, the power that we are not using!
So how do we tap into this power? God is not a genie in a bottle. We don't get to demand that he grant our wishes. It is much, much harder than that. Prayer does not involve us coercing God to doing what we want. It involves us surrendering our wants to His will. Prayer is spending time with him. Prayer is listening to him. Prayer is putting aside everything else to truly focus on him. Prayer is the only way to have a relationship with our Savior. You can't have a relationship with someone you never pay attention to.
In Isaiah 56:7, God says "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people." In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul calls our bodies the "temple of the Holy Spirit." This morning, Rev. Singleton asked how the Holy Spirit could dwell in a house without prayer? Prayer is essential for everyone who walks with God. If you are not praying, you have not done your best for God, and you are not going to get the best God has to offer.
This has been a challenging series for me. I have trouble with the diligence required to put these ideas into practice. I regularly make resolutions and just as regularly break them. I know I should pray, but there are so many things demanding my time and energy that I tend to put it on the back burner. I guess I take for granted the love God has for me. I know that he will be there when I come back. The problem is that I am only hurting myself. I am the one who has fallen out of relationship, and I am the one who stands to lose.
In Revelation 2:4, Jesus challenges the church of Ephesus with leaving their first love. This Thursday is Valentine's Day. I hope you have a loved one to celebrate with. However, let's all remember not to leave our first love. You may have loved other people before you loved God, but he loved you from the beginning. In Jeremiah 31:3 God says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." So this week, lets spend some time getting re-acquainted with the One who loves us.
I want to let you know that it is impossible to put into a small blog post all of the wisdom that comes across the Second Baptist pulpit each Sunday. I hope that these posts can give you some guidance and help you to grow in Christ, but I also hope that they inspire you to find a Bible preaching church near you that you can become a part of. If you are in the Dover Plains, N.Y. area, I encourage you to attend our Sunday service so that you can hear the whole message!