Summary: This sermon examines God’s pursuit of us and the prayer that results.
Have you ever caught yourself doing something in reverse? That happened to me on my first attempt at snow skiing. We were in Boone North Carolina and had chosen a beginner slope as a place to sharpen our skills. However, yours truly (out of control) skied onto a slope with a black diamon rating. A black diamond is a slope for experienced skiers. It was covered with moguls. (Moguls are the small hills that add exhiliration to the experienced skiers.) As I skied into this danger zone I decided I would carefully make my way through the moguls to the far side and exit the black diamond field. As I wove my way through the black diamond field I got turned around and started sliding down the mountain backwards. Judy looked up the mountain and witnessed this episode. She saw a person coming down the mountain going backwards. She thought, "who is that idiot." It turned out to be her husband. Sometimes going in reverse can be dangerous. There are other times when going in reverse can be a life saver. That is sometimes the case with prayer. God sometimes reverses prayer. Instead of us pursuing Him, He pursues us. We find one such example in Genesis 16.
Hagar, the central character in this text, has a reverse encounter with God. Instead of her pursuing God, God pursues her. "Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, "Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?’’ And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.’’ (Gen. 16:7-8 NKJV) God pursued Hagar through an angel. This same thing occured in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve sinned they moved away from God’s presence. However, God pursued them. I want to take this text, Genesis 16, and draw a few points from it. What happens in reverse prayer?
1. Reverse prayer involves God pursuing me. I am glad that God pursues me when I do not know which way to turn and what to say. That was the situation with Hagar. She was confused! She was disoriented! She was afraid! God pursued her and brought out the fruit of faith.
2. Reverse prayer involves God seeing and hearing our pain and our cries for help. Hagar was in conflict with Sarai. Hagar was feeling rejected. Hagar was feeling hopeless. When the angel confronted her she admits she is running away. God heard her cries for help.
(For other cries see: Exo. 2:23; 3:7,9; Ps. 28:1,2; 34:15,17; 57:1-2: 61:1-2)
There are times when we do not know what to say. " Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Rom. 8:26-27 The Holy Spirit hears our groanings and intercedes for us.
3. Reverse prayer involves our listening to God’s instructions. This is why it is good to start your daily quiet time with Bible reading. God will speak to you from His word.
Most of the time we spend more time talking than we do listening. True prayer involves talking or asking but it also involves listening. Some of our greatest encounters with God will involve our listening to His instructions. That is what occured in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve did not want to hear God. However, in listening to Him they learned of His great love, mercy, and forgiveness.
4. A final lesson is learned in Genesis 16. Reverse prayer involves our affirming God. After God confronted Hagar she affirmed Him. "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’’ If we spend our time only asking of God we miss one of the greatest aspects of prayer. Successful prayer involves affirming God’s presence.
Jesus spoke of this in the Lord’s prayer. He instructed us to begin by affirming God. Affirm that He is: Our Father, In Heaven, that His will be done, and that His name be honored. (Mt. 6:9) Rich prayer gives back to God glory, praise, affirmation, and honor.