Prayer – Believe #12

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:18-20, NIV)

Prayer is connecting with God. It is very personal experience and yet at the same time an outward expression of us walking by faith and not by sight. As we seek to learn to walk in faith with God we come to the spiritual practice of prayer.

Prayer is a central expression of faith. John Calvin spoke of this when he said, The principal work of the Spirit is faith … the principal exercise of faith is prayer.

Introduction: Prayer: A day in the life of Jesus

I don’t know about you, but when I look at my bookshelf, I have a lot of material relating to prayer.  Books by theologians like J.I.Packer by Spiritual Directors like Richard Foster and pastoral and even faddish books ranging from Prayer Evangelism, intercessory Prayer to actual collections of prayer written down by great men and women of faith in the past.  Prayer is such a central and intimate part of our relationship with God, it seems that no matter how much we read or study there is always more to learn and practice relating to prayer. There’s no way I can say everything about prayer, or even everything that is important about prayer in the time frame of a message.  But I can say this, prayer is part of what it means to follow Jesus — because prayer was important to him.

“All prayer is language—language in conversation, conversation between God and us. The most frequent distortion of prayer takes place when we fail to listen to God’s Word to us. We do all the talking, demanding that God do all the listening.” – Eugene Peterson

A conversation with God

Today, I want us to look at a day in the life of Jesus with our focus being the place of prayer.  How did Jesus approach Prayer?  How can we take his example and apply that to our own situations.

Let’s look at a day in the life of Jesus

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and …he prayed.

At the start of the day, Jesus prayed

We don’t know exactly what Jesus prayed. Did he pray in Aramaic, did he pray in Greek. Did he use Psalms as his guide, did he pray extemporaneously.  There are so many question we want to answer — but practically speaking we know this — he got up early to pray.  I can deduce a couple of things from this.  First, Prayer was a priority for him.  It was important enough to get up early for – very early.  

Praying at the start of the day – orients our minds and hearts to hope, peace and love.

It also keeps the tension between praying and doing in a healthy balance. We pray before the day begins where we are called to act and to do.

The other week, Lise went to Thunder Bay to help our daughter Christi move into a new apartment.  Her plane left Moncton at 5am — that meant getting to the airport at 4am which meant getting up at 3:30am.  In my honest opinion — that is just a terrible time to get up — but we did.  We got up because our alarms went off and our alarms were set — lots of alarms were set — phone alarms; clock alarms; I even set my fitbit alarm — because it was important that we get to the airport.  

When something is important we do all kinds of uncomfortable things, don’t we.  When I learned I was lactose intolerant, I gave up milk and along with it all those other things like ice-cream — oh, how I miss ice-cream with Lise’s homemade chocolate sauce — made with cream no less.  All gone.  Why? Because it was important to me to change that habit so I could be more healthy.  

Lots of people here have made changes regarding fitness.  We have several here who have run their first 5k and 10k others who have taken up intense workout routines to become more fit and healthier.  Those kinds of changes don’t just happen.  They require us to prioritize our values — to accept that doing A means not doing B.  

Jesus did that with Prayer.  He chose to get up early to pray rather than catch that extra hour sleep.  He accepted all things things that went with that.  Going to bed at a time so he could get up without the convenience of an alarm clock — or any clock.  He got up when it was dark and he went to pray.

We need to prioritize prayer in our lives. It must become something that happens regularly before the busyness and chaos of the day begins. If we don’t prioritize it — it won’t happen.  Our prayer life will consist of a few sentences to God as we drink our coffee and drive to work.  We can do better than that, but only when we see prayer as important — like Jesus did.  At the start of the day — Jesus prayed.

Mark 6:45-46 …he dismissed the crowd… he went up on a mountainside to pray.

In the midst of heavy demands, Jesus prayed

I think it is safe to say that life in Jesus’ time was simpler than life in our day. The mechanical clock, artificial light — we live in a 24/7 world and we don’t know how to shut things off and we don’t know why we would do such a thing.  Yet despite the simpler times that Jesus lived — his life was filled with activity and interruptions. His life was taken up by the needs of others — he loved people and he did what he could to help and heal those who approached him.  We have a number of stories in the Bible about the kinds of things Jesus did — but sometimes we our information is like Luke 4:40:

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.

We know the kinds of crowds that followed Jesus. One time he was called upon to feed 5000 men, women, and children.  That’s a big lunch crowd!  In Luke we read of a crowd that came with their sick friends and relatives — people who were desperate and he laid his hands on each one of them.  He did this day in and day out.  Most of us don’t have that kind of crowd problem.  Some do, but not most.  

Ironically, after spending all day with needy people — helping them, counselling them, healing them. . . .   In the midst of heavy demands, Jesus prayed.

John 17:9 (NIV) – I pray for them…

When seeing spiritual needs of others, Jesus prayed

As Jesus was coming to cross we come across his prayer for believers. He prayed for their protection, for their transformation, for their love, for their faith and joy in the midst of this world.

Jesus saw the spiritual needs of others – he prayed for them.

When I pray for other people’s spiritual protection, peace, faith hope and love. When I pray for their journey of faith – it changes everything-  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together wrote:

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. This is a happy discovery for the Christian who begins to pray for others. (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, (HarperSanFrancisco, 1954), p. 86 )

Mark 14:36 “…Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

When God’s will is hard, Jesus prayed

Here we come to garden of Gethsemane – Jesus purpose to give his life a ransom for many was at hand. Jesus said “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”

In that garden, the reality of living out God’s will was meeting Jesus head on. As he contemplated the suffering, anguish, the betrayal, taking on the sins of the world – Jesus felt the intense struggle of obedience – But He said – “…Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Where is doing God’s will hard for you. Must become a servant of all – Take up your cross and follow me – pray for your enemies –

The following is a prayer written by Serbian bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, who spoke out against Nazism in the early 1940s. Because of his protests, he was arrested and taken to the Dachau concentration camp.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to Earth; enemies have loosed me from Earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an un-hunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

In all of this the main point — if you remember nothing else remember this.  Jesus prayed, we should too

Prayer is the way Jesus walked His Father – Prayer was a conversation for Jesus – it is a place where we call out to God – where we are silent before God – where reflect on the presence of God – it is where we seek the face of God

Seeking God’s Face – Praying with Bible through the Year

Set prayers are prayers provided for us to keep our praying in company with our ancestors, prayers of others so that we stay in touch with the authentic world of prayer revealed in our Scriptures. They are prayers that we can use to distinguish prayer from prayer impostors, fantasy, and magic. They are prayers that do not depend on our own initiative, prayers that don’t wax and wane according to the phases of our moods.

These are just a few things that we can do to take a next step in our prayer lives.  But it all begins by seeing prayer as important — Just as Jesus did.