Summary: All of us at one point or another wonder if prayer works? Does God hear us? Do our prayers just hit the ceiling and bounce back?
Today, we are finishing our series A Search for what is real. We have been looking at what a real faith, a real spirituality looks like. Let me ask you something, have you ever asked the question, does prayer really work? Maybe you know someone who always seems to have their prayers answered and you think, why doesn’t that work for me that way. I know countless people who always seem to have their prayers answered exactly like they want them to and I think, how do they do that?
Have you ever thought, is there a formula you need to follow when it comes to prayer? Maybe you have to say certain words or do something? What about unanswered prayer? What do you do with that?
If you have your bibles, you can open them to the book of Exodus chapter 40, which is on p. 69 if you grabbed a bible in the lobby. God is giving Moses the instructions for building the tabernacle, which is the place where God dwelled after the nation of Israel was taken out of slavery in the nation of Israel. God has specific instructions on how it was to be built and how everything was to be done in the tabernacle. The tabernacle was where the nation of Israel gathered for worship and to make sacrifices to God. So because it was God’s house, he was particularly about how it was to be built, what materials were to be used, etc.
After telling them how to construct it, this is what God said in verse 9 of chapter 40: 9"Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons (they were the spiritual leaders of Israel) to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations."
Whenever someone or something is anointed with oil in the Bible, it is being set apart as something special. Kings were anointed, prophets, the first born son was anointed, and here God says after building the tabernacle, the place where people will meet with me, you are to anoint it with oil to set it apart. To say, something different is going on in this place. The words set apart, literally mean to make holy in the Bible, so God is saying, anoint the tabernacle with oil so that everyone knows, this is a holy place.
Flip over to 2 Corinthians chapter 12 which is on p. 830. The church in the city of Corinth who this letter is written to is a church that has its priorities messed up. In this part of the letter, Paul is talking to them about how to handle suffering, and how to handle when things are not going the way you expect them to go. He is using an example from his own life, which he refers to as a thorn in the flesh. By the time Paul has written this letter, he has been tormented for several years by a thing he calls his thorn. We are never told what it is, but we know it is something that caused him a great deal of pain. He says this in chapter 12, verse 7 of 2 Corinthians: 7So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So, Paul is tormented by this thorn. In verse 8 he says that he pleaded with God. That is more than asking isn’t it? He asks God to take it, 3 times he asks. Here is the guy who wrote almost 25% of the Bible, being tormented, and asking for a way out and not finding it.