Summary: Prayer and what it means for our spiritual life. Part 10 of 13 on Spiritual Disc.
Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer
Sermon Number 10
March 2, 2008
There’s a story about a small town that had been historically “dry,” it was alcohol free. A bar was going to open on Main Street and upon hearing the news, the only church in town organized an all-night prayer meeting, asking God to intervene. The congregation told people in the community about their plans and while they were praying lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming the prayers of the congregation were responsible for burning down the bar. The church hired a lawyer, claiming they were not responsible.
After hearing both sides, the judge said, “no matter how I decide this case, one thing is clear -- the tavern owner believes in prayer, while the church doesn’t.”
Friends, are we a church that believes in prayer? If the same thing happened to our church, would we take responsibility for the answer received or would we think it was something. . . like a coincidence?
In order for a tree to be full, healthy, and growing it must send its roots deep into the earth. For you and I, our roots must be firmly planted in Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. Our behavior (what we say and do) and our character (integrity), are directly related to the invisible part, our roots, our spiritual life, our relationship with Jesus. When our spiritual roots are shallow we will struggle with our behavior and our character because they are directly linked to our spiritual life. If we are going to experience the abundant life God desires to bless us with, then we need to grow spiritually. As our roots go down in Christ, our behavior and character begins to change as we grow more and more like Christ.
If we are not changing to be more like Christ, we are not growing spiritually. We have stagnated, we are root bound. A plant that is root bound may look good, but it will now grow, and eventually it will start to suffer and die. Fortunately, God wants us to have an abundant fruitful life so to help nudge us along God has given us practices, or disciplines, to help us grow spiritually, these are the same practices Jesus did when he walked this earth.
By themselves, Spiritual Disciplines will not change anything in your life, instead they make us available to God to be changed by Him. This is what we have been talking about for the past 9 weeks, as we are looking at many different Spiritual Disciplines, designed to help us become more Christlike, as we move closer to Him. And today we are looking at prayer.
Richard Foster wrote, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines, prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father. . . Real prayer is life creating and life changing.”
That is a great statement from Foster. Prayer launches us into the spiritual world as we seek to have a conversation with God, so that we can communicate with God. When we pray, we are engaging God in one of the deepest conversations we will ever have. Prayer opens the door to our learning and understanding what God wants for us in our lives, the lives of our family and friends, the lives of people in our community and ultimately when we engage in prayer, we have the opportunity to call upon the most powerful person in our lives, God. We have the opportunity to change the world, along with ourselves, if we are willing to open ourselves to God.
I find it interesting that the disciples could have asked Jesus for just about anything in the world. They walked with Him for 3 years, they saw Him in action, yet, Luke tells us “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples spoke to him. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Isn’t it interesting that these 12 men would ask Jesus - - “teach us to pray.” They had seen miracle after miracle, healing after healing – the blind were able to see, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear, the dead could breathe again; the hungry were fed. They could have said, “Lord help us feed the 5,000 like you did” or “Lord, give us the wisdom to say the right things at the right time.”
These men grew up in the Temple, they knew all about prayer, the times of prayer and the Sabbath prayers. They weren’t just looking for an easy answer. They noticed something different about Jesus and His prayer life. They saw Him pray at different times of the day and in different situations. They saw Him pray during crises, when He experienced need, when He was tired, when He wanted reconnection and wisdom from His Father - - the response from Jesus was to pray.