Summary: #7 in Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series. This is about prayer, how it is a challenge but it’s worthwhile too. And the Spirit helps us to do it. Lots of good illustrations from other sources.
An unknown Confederate soldier wrote these words:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for…
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
You know, prayer is a challenge. If it weren’t hard, people would do it more often. We would have as many people to prayer meeting as we have on Sunday mornings, we wouldn’t have books and books on how to pray, and the apostle Paul would not have written this paragraph… if, prayer came easy. Let’s read Romans 8:26-27 (quickview) .
Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby gives a very good definition of prayer. He says, “To pray is nothing more involved that to let Jesus into our needs. To pray is to give Jesus permission to employ His powers in the alleviation of our distress.”
Now, that sounds simple enough, but prayer takes time. It takes effort. It takes humbling. And these aren’t so simple. It would be easier to pray if we received instant results from our prayers. Like a loonie in a vending machine, “instant in, instant out”. But God does not punish sin instantly, nor does He answer prayer instantly. I think the reason is that God’s best gift to us is not whatever we prayer for. I think God’s best gift to us is to teach us – about Himself, about ourselves, about His ways. And one thing that God certainly is, is patient. So, He wants to teach us to wait for Him.
In fact, God wants to teach us to pray. And like any other schooling, prayer involves some work. An anonymous author wrote these words: “‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray/ And I know He has answered prayer,/ But it has been in such a way/ As almost drove me to despair.” Again, God is not looking for a quick fix of your situation, but a long-term fix of your character. Which is occasionally painful.
But the plus side is that God is on our side in the process. Our scripture today says that the Holy Spirit is right along there with us in our prayers. And what I find encouraging is one word in today’s passage: groans. It’s the same word that we looked at last week in connection to suffering. V22 says that the whole creation is groaning, as if it’s giving birth to something beautiful. No matter how glorious the new life is, it still hurts to bring it about.
And v23 says that we who are God’s children are also groaning, burning and yearning for the glorious future ahead of us. We are in anguish over the situation of the world, and we are in anguish over the fact that even though we really want to serve God with our whole hearts, everything around us holds us back. And it frustrates us. That’s why we are longing for something better, something more.