Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prayer—simple, yet profound

Midweek in Lent2
February 24, 2016
As we contemplate the Gospel during Lent we see that our Lord blesses us in a simple way. It is the Gospel. The Gospel is simple, as we have seen. We saw our need for the Gospel in the Law, which condemns us of our sinfulness. And we saw the salvation our Lord gives in the Gospel. Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world and that saves us from the condemnation of the Law. It is so simple that it might seem there’s not much to it.

There is, in fact, a lot to it. Even as the Gospel is simple it is also profound. The Law, which condemns us, also is used by God to guide us in the new life we have in Christ. The Law is more profound than in simply condemning us. The Gospel, even as it is simple, is profound in that we can never exhaust the glory of it. The more you look at who God is and what He has done in His Son, the more you see the mystery of grace and mercy to human beings who don’t deserve it. The Gospel is beyond compare and truly profound.

One aspect of its profoundness is the life we live in Christ. When we are saved by our Lord we are given new life. The new life we live is in response to the grace God gives us. Prayer is the natural response of the Christian to God’s grace. When someone loves us, we respond. When they help us we thank them. Relationships mean communication. We talk with those we love and know. With God, we talk to Him, we thank Him, we praise Him. Prayer really is that simple. The new life we have in Christ is marked by prayer.

And our Lord even helps us out here. He gives us words to say. “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name…’” The words of the Lord’s Prayer are some of the most well-known and well-loved words among Christians. There are few words from Scripture people know by heart, but these are ones that Christians from young to old know well. They are simple words given to His people for the simple act of praying. God loves us and so we pray to Him according to His will.

It’s amazing, though, how difficult we often make prayer. Sometimes we think we have to pray from the heart. Sometimes we think that we need to leave it up to the pastor. Sometimes we think that our prayers need to be about high and holy things and not ordinary things. Sometimes we think that prayer is only prayer if you are speaking the words. Of if you’re folding your hands and closing your eyes. Prayer is as simple as talking to God. Even if you can’t think of a whole lot of words to say, you can still speak to Him. and you can do so whether you are speaking the words out loud or in your mind. You can speak what is on your mind and you can use a prayer book. Prayer is simple. Too often we make it difficult.

Prayer is a blessing from God. As we have seen with God’s love, His blessings not only are simple, they are also profound. This is with prayer as well. Prayer is profound, beyond what we could ever capture in simply speaking some words to God. If we struggle with prayer or it seems difficult, the problem is not with prayer and not with its being profound. It is because by nature we don’t pray to Him. It is because our sinful nature does not pray to God according to His will but according to the sinful will.

If you have difficulty praying, pray as the man did in the first reading this evening: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Pray in the humility of knowing that you don’t know the words to pray for on your own. Pray in the humility of seeing that in the words of the Lord’s Prayer are not just a few things to pray for but a gold mine of petitions for every need you have. Even as the prayer our Lord has taught us is simple to pray, we can never master it. There is so much more there than the asking of God for a few things.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus has shown us that we are invited to know who God is and that He desires nothing else than to give us everything that is for our good. We are invited to see and to know that in telling us that God is our Father then that means we are His children and children are bold to go to their father for all of their needs. We see that His name is holy and therefore He will give us what is good and perfect through His holy Son. We see that His Kingdom comes and that we ought to seek that it come among us, that we receive every blessing of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We see that His good and gracious will not only is always done but that we are exhorted to pray that it would be done among us so that we may know that whatever happens to us, God will work through it for our ultimate good.

We see in the Lord’s Prayer that God blesses us in body soul. Jesus might have listed many things to pray for that we need in this earthily life but He used one thing to show us that God gives us is what we need: bread. And we are invited to pray that we receive it daily, not worrying about tomorrow, but entrusting each day to God to give us what we need.

What makes prayer so profound is that our communication with God flows from His communication with us. We are worthy to pray because we are forgiven. So we pray that God would continue to forgive us and that we would rejoice in forgiving others. We pray that God would defend us from temptation and deliver us from evil.

What Jesus invites us to pray to our Father in heaven for is beyond what we would think to pray for on our own, except for the things we need in this life. The abundant blessings of the other petitions are eternal. We need them all the time and He gives them to us all the time.

Some people may wonder why prayer is all that necessary, then. The answer to that is given by the apostle Paul who says in 1Thessalonians 5 to pray constantly. How do you pray constantly? You are called by God to serve Him and others in many ways, how do you pray when you are doing that? How do you pray when you’re asleep and your conscious mind is not in control?

You live the new life God has given you in Christ. Praying without ceasing is living as God has called you to live. In everything you do, your life is a prayer offered up to God because of His Son who offered up Himself as the sacrifice for all of your sins. In Romans 12 we are exhorted to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.” If you think of prayer as simply the words you say to God then you are not seeing prayer fully for what it is. The prayer our Lord has given us does not just tell us the words to say but also the life to live. We live under our Father’s grace. We live according to His will. We entrust ourselves to His care in body and soul. We live because we are forgiven and therefore freed up to forgive others. We live in the sound confidence that our Father will deliver us from evil.

In the Lord’s Prayer we see that we’re not just praying for certain things that we need. The Lord’s Prayer encompasses all of our needs in this life and eternally. That is why prayer, even though it is so simple, is so profound. When you have new life in Christ your whole life is a prayer. Certainly that means we ask our Father for help in time of need. It also means giving thanks to Him for all His blessings. And it means as well that everything we do is in loving service to Him. We do not live to ourselves but to Him. We are His children, He is our Heavenly Father. He loves us, His dear children, and we, His dear children, respond in love to Him. Amen.


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