Summary: I first put this Lenten address together in 2008, and when the Vicar's wife said she found it good and thought it should go on "Sermoncentral" - so who was I to disagree. I offer this series as a help and it is based on Richard Foster's excellent book Prayer
This series on Prayer is based on Richard Foster’s BRILLIANT book simply called "Prayer". If you want to study Prayer seriously it is a book you must read.
Story: This series of studies came out a time of retreat at Mariastein, near Basle in Switzerland in October last year (2007)
I went for a retreat for 4 days and took this book and half a dozen other theological tomes with me
Yet the only book I read was Richard Foster’s book on Prayer. It was so rich – and so thought provoking
I don’t know if you are anything like me – but I feel a real beginner in prayer. Yet Richard Foster’s book opened me to dimensions that I didn’t even think COULD be prayer.
As you can see, I can really commend it to you!
I am going to use some of the titles he uses – because I find them so helpful
Tonight I’d like to look at two areas
1. Simple Prayer
2. Praying the Ordinary
1. Simple Prayer
Strange title – what is simple prayer.
Dom Chapman summed it up well when he said: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t”
Many people think you can’t pray until you have the right MOTIVATION and SERIOUS and IMPORTANT THINGS to trouble God about.
But simple prayer is childlike prayer
We all come to God with mixed motives
As Richard Foster puts it
“The Truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives – altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad…”
For me that was a real eye opener – because God loves us because we are his children. He knows our motives – we can’t kid him – and all he wants us to do is to come to him!!
I am not a great fan of the Psalms – I always had trouble with Psalm 137 verses 8 and 9 which read
O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us
He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks (Ps 137 8-9)
But it suddenly dawned on me how real this prayer was – however horrible it sounds to 21st Century ears. The Jews were in captivity – they were Babylonian slaves with no rights – and this is a prayer from the heart. THAT is how the Psalmist felt.
And I realised that God wants us to pray what is in our hearts and not “superspiritual” and lets face it so often unreal prayer as to where we are at
Many of the great saints of old riled against God in their darker moments.
Take Moses in Numbers 11
Moses said to GOD, "Why are you treating me this way? What did I ever do to you to deserve this? Did I conceive them? Was I their mother? So why dump the responsibility of this people on me? Why tell me to carry them around like a nursing mother, carry them all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people who are whining to me, 'Give us meat; we want meat.' I can't do this by myself—it's too much, all these people. If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favour and kill me. I've seen enough; I've had enough. (The Message)
Let me out of here."
You can almost feel the prophet Jeremiah shaking his fist at God when he said, in Jeremiah 20:7-10:
You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it.
You were too much for me.
And now I'm a public joke. They all poke fun at me.
Every time I open my mouth
I'm shouting, "Murder!" or "Rape!"
And all I get for my God-warnings
are insults and contempt.
But if I say, "Forget it!
No more God-Messages from me!"
The words are fire in my belly,
a burning in my bones.
I'm worn out trying to hold it in.
I can't do it any longer!
Then I hear whispering behind my back:
"There he goes crying “Wolf” all the time.” Shut him up! Report him!"
Old friends watch, hoping I'll fall flat on my face:
"One more mistake and we'll have him.
We'll get rid of him for good!" (slightly modified version of the Message)
God takes it too – he allows us to be disrespectful!
Because he wants us to tell him of our fears and hurts, our pains and disappointments
Because he is the God who wants to heal!
One of God’s names in the Old Testament is Jehovah rophe (rophay): Jehovah heals