Summary: Jesus calls on us to use our God-given gifts, including prayer, to further our faith and God’s work in this world. If we are successful, we will receive the help we need to cope with life’s challenges.
The Old Testament reading we heard from Jeremiah earlier in today’s service talks about the destruction of Judah and the pain and suffering felt by its people. The destruction was caused by the sins of the people. Jeremiah identified with the people and their pain and suffering. We as Christians must also identify with people and their struggles and pain, especially when they sin. That doesn’t mean that we join them if they sin. For example, we can pray for certain Canadian senators who cheated on their expenses, but that does not mean that we have to join them by cheating on our income taxes or our employers. We have to open our hearts to the people we serve. When we do, we show God’s love.
All of us need comfort at some point in our lives. There’s no such thing as a pain-free life. God allows pain and suffering because they draw us closer to him. Our pain creates a need for God. God is the “balm in Gilead” that Jeremiah refers to.
One of the ways we can show God’s love for people and therefore identify with them in their suffering is to pray for them. For example, in the Prayers of the People we pray for the victims of all conditions of mankind-war, sickness, poverty, death and so on. Praying in faith gives us power. How does this happen? It happens because we tap into the greatest power known to mankind-God’s power to change things.
God wants us to be a prayerful people, but he also wants us to pray for people. When we pray for others, we are following the instructions Paul gave to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-7. All blessings from God are conveyed through mediation from various agents, including the prayers offered by his children. The chief blessing of our salvation comes from the intercession and mediation of Jesus when we believe in him in faith. If we pray for everyone, we believe that God loves everyone and that Jesus died for everyone. In order to pray for everyone, we must enter into active relationships with them. It doesn’t matter if they are friends, enemies or total strangers. God wants everyone to be saved, and Christ gave himself as a ransom for everyone.
Jesus is the only mediator between us and God. This fulfills Old Testament prophecies. Jesus fulfilled God’s desire for all people to be saved and to know the truth of God’s love. We fulfill these same desires when we share the Gospel. Part of that process includes continually learning Biblical truths and growing closer to God. For example, every time I prepare a homily, my research helps me discover more truths about what is written in the Bible.
It was God’s grace and desire to save lost humanity which saw Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem. It was God’s wish to bring all mankind to the knowledge of the truth which motivated Jesus during his earthly ministry. It was God’s goal to save everyone from an eternity in hell that motivated Jesus to remain silent during his trials, suffer without complaint when he was tortured, and offer words of forgiveness to those who nailed him to the cross. Jesus’ rescue mission show how God was committed to saving us, and it is a rescue mission that we have been asked to share with a lost and dying world.
One group of people that Paul tells us to pray for is our leaders. God is responsible for the appointing of people to positions of authority. We must seek his counsel as revealed in Scripture. We must talk to God about men before we talk to men about God. We do this through prayer. We pray for our leaders so we may live in peace, quietness, godliness and dignity. This is often hard to do because of the situation our world is in today. There are wars and rumours of wars all around us. Look at the current situation in Syria for example.
When we are in fellowship with God, his love enters us and remains in us. When we show kindness to others, his love is revealed through us. Love in this sense benefits both the giver and the receiver. It allows us to become happy people. We show this love when we pray for others. Our prayers are for our own benefit as well. Prayers from other Christians encourage us. Prayer is our expression of faith and dependence on God. When we pray, we serve Christ instead of ourselves. This goes against our carnal, selfish nature with its emphasis on self instead of on Christ. When we pray, we discern God’s will for our lives.
Whether he knew it or not, the shrewd money manager Jesus talks about in Luke 16:1-13 was faithful because he was generous to his master’s debtors. This might not make sense at first glance because the manager was being dismissed for being dishonest but by reducing the amount each debtor owed, the manager was being generous. Faithful people are generous when they don’t have anything to give.