Summary: The sermon looks at how to pray, when to pray and what to pray.
TWO EARS AND ONE MOUTH
Text: Matthew 6:1-15
"It is hard sometimes in prison to sit and to pray, and to read of those who were in prison, and to read of their prayer, and to how the prison door or roof cracked open, the chains were released and they walked out.
It’s hard when one has been for four years praying everyday and the door remains firmly locked and the chain remains firmly padlocked around one’s feet."
Those were the words of Terry Waite spoken at a Christian Booksellers Convention held at Bournemouth in March 1993, when he spoke a little about his ordeal as a hostage in Beirut.
After six months, his captors had allowed him a Bible to read, and you would have thought that this would have given him some comfort during those years of solitary confinement. And yet he found it harder to read in black and white of examples where prisoners were released through prayer, and yet his were seemingly not being answered.
I suppose everyone can recall a period, or periods where prayer has become particularly fruitless, tiresome, tedious and boring.
Often it is difficult to know how to begin praying let alone spending considerable time in communion with God.
There are times when we pray and it seems like God isn’t listening. Bishop Mervyn Stockwood in a letter to David Watson wrote that:
"The greatest test of a Christian life is to live with the silence of God."
It has been said that ’Silence is Golden’, but in a prayerful sense it can be very painful. No longer is there that intimacy between you and God.
It’s as if, using the analogy of the telephone, that you pick up the receiver and dial but there is total nothingness on the end of the line.
At one time, as an economy drive, we had our BT telephone modified so that we could only receive incoming calls. This was fine unless we needed to make an urgent call and then found that the local call box was invariably out of order, or had been vandalised and you are left frustrated, and maybe even panic stricken.
Before mobile phones were common place. There were times when there would be three or more people waiting outside the call box, and the one inside had a pile of coins ready to be pumped into the slot!!
If it was urgent that a call be made you would consider ‘how else can I make this call?’ - Ah, I can nip around to a friends house - they’ll let me use their phone, so long as I pay for the call. If they were in, they were usually more than glad to help - if it is an urgent call.
Of course these days mobile phones are all the rage, but even now there are times when the battery is dead, or you just can’t find it, and once again you have to borrow someone else’s phone to make a connection.
This situation can be very much like our prayer-life to God. We are quite happy to receive God’s many blessings and perhaps make the occasional call from time to time when necessary, or when we think about it, but when we require his urgent attention it is invariably then that communication breaks down and no matter how hard we try it feels impossible to get back in touch with Him.
Mind you there is nothing wrong with God’s end of the line. He is receiving calls all the time, but it is at our end that communication has broken down.
Just as an aside, have you ever noticed that it is at times like this that we no longer call him Father, but God. He seems to have lost His intimate title through our separation from Him.
Unfortunately I suffer from M.E., which is also known as Post Viral Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At times the M.E. has been really bad and I found during one period that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get through to God in Prayer. It seemed as if I was stood underneath a brick wall that interfered with the transmission and blocked the prayer waves from getting through. It was at this time that I needed the prayers of others to make the connection for me.
The preacher David Pawson tells of how he needed his wife to say his prayers for him following a breakdown he suffered through overwork.
I’m glad that there are friends around me who I can turn to whenever I need to use the telephone, but more importantly I am extremely grateful that I have caring friends who will pray for me when I am in need.
When people say that you don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with God, I wonder how they get on during those spiritual hang-ups?!