Summary: What are faith basics? The Lutheran/Biblical Mind Knows the Importance of Praying, Pondering, and Persevering.
OK you car fanatics, I have a question for you. What are the basics of car maintenance? One website I read listed these items. Regularly change the oil and oil filter, replace dirty air filters, and keep your tires pumped to the right pressure. There is more that you need to do to keep your car running well of course, but those three things are a good place to start right?
Do you suppose there’s such a “basics” list for maintaining our faith in Jesus and therefore our hold on eternal life? Martin Luther came to that conclusion after studying Psalm 119. We’re going to look at a portion of that psalm to learn what it means that the Lutheran/Biblical mind knows the importance of praying, pondering, and persevering—the basics of maintaining faith in Jesus. Listen to our text.
Prayer has been called the believer’s life-breath. It’s what you do if you’re a Christian: you talk to God. But what do you talk to God about? How do your prayers compare to the one offered in Psalm 119? The unnamed author of the psalm wasn’t having an easy time of it. He said that his life was down in the dust (Psalm 119:25). But then look at what he asks for—not rescue him from his troubles, but that the Lord would give him better understanding of his Word! The psalmist prayed for spiritual strength rather than physical.
Is that what you ask for—that God would provide your spiritual needs—or do you primarily ask God to take away your aches and pains? Do you supposed that the best thing God could do for you is to make you rich, or give you a better paying job with a gold-plated retirement package? When you pray for family members, is it that God would keep them safe or that he would strengthen faith?
While we can and should pray for physical blessings, Jesus emphasized the importance of praying for the spiritual when he taught the Lord’s Prayer. Consider the First Petition: “Hallowed be your name.” The first thing that we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer is help in keeping God’s name holy. If we call ourselves Christians, then we will want to act like little Christs. We will shun temptation. We will willingly help and encourage others. But as we were reminded last Sunday, our sinful nature doesn’t want us to act like that. It’s running interference so we need God’s help in carrying out his will. And carrying out God’s will should be the most important thing to us—more important than acquiring fame and riches.
But does God really listen to our prayers? The psalmist was confident that he did. He said: “I told You about my life, and You listened to me” (Psalm 119:26a). I love that verse. I can just picture the psalmist plunking down next to God on a flight to Toronto and even before the plane has taxied away from the terminal, he begins telling God his whole life’s story and he doesn’t stop until the plane touches down four hours later. If you’ve ever had a seatmate like that, you probably wished they would be quiet after a while and leave you to your book. But God is not like that. He invites you to pour out your life’s story to him…even though he already knows it. He enjoys giving us his undivided attention because he really cares about what’s going on in our lives and in our minds. He wants you to pour out your life in prayer because by doing so you’re not giving him information, you’re giving him your heart. It’s when we fail to pour out our hearts like that in prayer that we became overly anxious and walk around with a short fuse ready to snap at the slightest provocation. Instead take all your cares and concerns and give them to the Lord. Do this often. It’s one of the basics of maintaining our faith in Jesus.