Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sermon for 9th June: The Power of Prayer

Galatians 1: 11-24
Luke 7: 11-17

Some of you may have noticed we are in a series here!
Last week, the power of faith; the week before the power of three; today the power of prayer.... next week – wait & see, but it is the power of...
The series thing wasn’t totally planned, but happened naturally, as I was looking forward to see where the scriptures would take me; the first two were accidental, and then this week and the next couple are quite deliberate.

Patterns are a pleasing thing; well, for some they are at least.
I like to see patterns in things, counting colours, spacing things out; looking for rhythms, patterns, groups and themes, all help to fix things in my memory. And once there, so long as I can picture the pattern, I can remember whatever it was I was trying to grasp or understand.

Our two readings today are interesting because both are about the transformational power of prayer, and neither mentions prayer directly.
Prayer happens, unspoken, unidentified, but nevertheless present.
And thus it so often is with us – prayer is there in our conversations, in our thoughts and considerations – often without even realising it!

There is no doubt, that Saul, as he then was, prayed constantly to God, for he was a great man of faith, and believed he was on a mission from God to eradicate this nuisance uprising of followers of the great blasphemer, as he saw him.

And, there is absolutely no doubt, that his encounter with God transformed him, from Saul to Paul; and then served to strengthen and empower his prayer life as he realised that in listening to Jesus’ teaching, he was listening to God, and that in then communicating that, he was talking with God – praying, deeply and earnestly.
His prayer life was as transformed as his faith life

And the story of the widow of Nain – we are not told that she begged Jesus to help; or that she was imploring God to listen to her plight.
But I am sure she was praying, praying for her dead son; praying for herself; praying to God for comfort and consolation, and to bless her son’s final journey.
And then into that scene of sadness and mourning comes Jesus – “and his heart was filled with pity” and he transformed that situation from despair to hope; from mourning to joy; from emptiness to fulfilment.
The widow received an answer to prayer that she may not have been seeking... her life was transformed and she was given hope. Her son’s life was restored and he was transformed!

We do not know – and actually I do not think we need to know, what happened next; what is important is what was happening:
The situation was transformed, transforming – turned around – and she and her son got a new start, and as a result people praised God – remember the song we sang? Praise the Lord all you servants – songs of praise to God – praise and prayers
Praising is singing our prayers

Prayer is a powerful and amazing tool in our lives
But sometimes it can feel like it isn’t working
We pray, and pray, and pray for change
For the solution to our problems; or for healing for a loved one; or for the answer to our questioning – and it seems like our prayers fall on deaf ears; God does not hear us; or respond or answer... and so we doubt the power of prayer

It is a natural reaction; if God is ignoring me, what’s the point of prayer?!

Now, there are days when I could easily fall into that trap; there are people I see; situations I am called into, where the thing that is prayed for is so worthy; so precious that I can only wonder at God’s apparent lack of response...

And then there are other days; days when suddenly it is absolutely clear that prayers have been answered, and there is such a sense of peace of acceptance a sense of rightness about the situation that we know this is the answer

It maybe not the answer that been requested, but nevertheless, there is an answer, which on reflection is exactly right: God knows what we need, better even than we do it seems!

Prayer is our deepest yearnings
Prayer is the cries of our soul
Prayer is simple and complex
When we pray we do not pray alone, for the Spirit and Jesus are with us, interceding on our behalf; inspiring our thoughts and words

And when we do not have the words
When we are lost and do not know what to do... prayer answers when nothing else will do.
Some of you may have seen buses and banners around Edinburgh with the slogan “Try Praying” – or you may have received this little book (show Try Praying Book) from our bookstall – one of the questions it raises is what to do when prayers seem unanswered
“prayer is a conversation between friends... less about ‘getting something’ and more about ‘knowing someone’. Our needs often propel us deeper into relationship with God”

Prayer is a tool that Jesus relied on
If Jesus knew he needed prayer – then who are we to doubt it!?
If you look at the words of hymn 546 you will see a wonderful poem all about prayer

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire... prayer is the burden of a sigh.... O Christ by whom we come to God, the path of prayer yourself have trod, Lord, teach us how to pray (CH4 546, Prayer is the Soul's sincere desire, James Montgomery) 

Prayer is powerful
It inspires and leads us
It soothes and heals us
Whether of things we know, or things unseen – prayer is ours for the taking

Talk to God and see what happens!

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