Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prayers of Preparation: The Listening God

Midweek in Advent 1
December 3, 2008
Psalm 80:1-7

Advent is a season of preparation. That doesn’t mean we only prepare during Advent. It means that it is a time in the Church Year that reminds us that our entire lives are that of preparation. How you learn to prepare is by being formed by the Holy Scriptures. Your Lord prepares you to be prepared for Him. He mostly does this by giving you His Gifts. He provides for you and sustains you. He does this through His Gospel and His precious Sacraments.

But there’s even more. He also gives you things that you do in order to be strengthened by Him. One of these is the discipline of prayer. Being the giving God that He is our Lord teaches us to pray. He prepares us to pray to Him. One way He has done this is by giving us the Psalms.

In Psalm 80 we are encouraged to take heart that He is the Listening God. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,” the Psalmist prays to his God. Why does he want God to listen to him? Because he needs salvation. He prays to his God who is like a shepherd. A shepherd leads his flock. He is the salvation of his sheep. He listens to his sheep. If the sheep are in trouble they will cry out in the hopes that their shepherd will hear them. Sheep who have a faithful shepherd count on their shepherd hearing them.

That is why the Psalmist prays as he does. His Shepherd is faithful. His Shepherd listens. His Shepherd is standing at the ready with salvation. In Advent we learn how to prepare for the way our Lord, our Shepherd, brings to us His salvation. The way He brings His salvation to us is by Himself saving us. A shepherd won’t call across the pasture to his sheep that is in trouble that everything will be all right. The shepherd goes to his sheep and gently pulls him out of being stuck in the fence.

Our Lord has listened to us. He doesn’t speak to us from the Heavenly Realms with soothing words. He comes to us in our need with His salvation, with Himself. So why do we need to be prepared for this? If He comes to us to save us, what do we need to do to get ready? We need to be prepared that it won’t be comfortable. Our Lord saving us doesn’t mean it will be pleasant. We need to be prepared that we are going to be relying on things that go against what seems should be the case. We need to be prepared for our Lord coming to us with His salvation in ways that we would never expect.

We so often treat the ways God comes to us with His salvation as afterthoughts. They are miracles, they just don’t seem like it because they seem so ordinary. We need to be prepared for the fact that when our Lord saves us He does it through humble means. Beginning with Himself. He is All-Powerful but comes in humility. He can do anything but comes as a baby. He alone is Judge but sacrifices Himself in the shedding of His blood. He has power to destroy the earth with a flood but saves you through ordinary water in Baptism. He is the Creator of the universe but feeds your soul with simple bread and wine.

This is where prayer comes in. This is how we prepare for our Lord to bless us in these ways. We pray that He would increase our faith so that we do not go through the motions in repenting of our sins and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ and hearing the Gospel proclaimed, but that we would hunger and thirst for them as if we were hungering and thirsting for water and food in the desert. When we pray that our Lord would listen to us, we pray for Him to prepare us for His coming to us with His salvation. Prayer is formed by our being in the Word of God. When we meditate on His Word He is preparing us for the ways He brings His salvation to us.

He listens to us in our need. The reason we need to be prepared by Him is that He understands our need better than we do. That is why we need to be prepared by Him. When we are prepared by Him then we are able to prepare for Him. We can take comfort in the fact that our God is the Listening God; but He doesn’t just listen to our story and have an understanding of what we want. He listens to us in the best way possible, listening with an ear toward acting toward us in the way that will bring about our greatest good.

His listening to us moves Him in action toward us in His Gospel and His Sacraments. If we doubt He’s listening, then we should turn even more to His precious Word and to our Baptism and to His life-sustaining Body and Blood. When we pray to our God to save us we can be assured He hears us, that’s why He’s given us Himself. That’s why He gives us His Gifts. We’re always in invited to pray and may always rejoice that He hears and answers us in His Son. Amen.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the points you brought out, Paul.