Summary: First in a series on prayer.
Some people are always full of confidence.
Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of England during World War II, and while he may have privately harbored doubts and fears, publicly he radiated an air of confidence.
In one of his first speeches after becoming Prime Minister, he addressed a nation that was losing the war. Many believed that the Nazis would defeat England and rule all
of Europe. Speaking to the nation, he told them, "...we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
It was that kind of confidence that made Churchill and effective politician, leader and speaker.
Occasionally I meet people who seem to have that kind of confidence.
Perhaps you have as well.
A teacher, a boss, or a parent.
Some people just radiate a confidence.
St. Paul from the Bible was such a man.
Paul always seemed so assured of what he was doing. He was so knowledgeable of Scripture. So confident.
Many of the books of the New Testament are actually letters that were written by Paul. Some of these letters were written while Paul was in prison, such as his letter to his coworker Timothy.
When he wrote Timothy, Paul wrote what may have been his most despairing words.
There he is in prison.
He is there because he was doing God’s work -- proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in Rome.
You can hear how tired he is.
"Alexander, the metalworker, did me great harm. The Lord will reward him according to what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself because he was violently opposed to our message... No one stood by me the first time I defended myself (in court), all deserted me."
He stands as a man locked in chains. He is in a prison cell. He is tired.
Overworked. Without much support. Only his doctor and close companion, Luke, is with him.
And yet, even through the darkness of that despair a light shines. Paul is still certain of the Gospel. He is still confident. He is still able to say "The Lord stayed with me. I was able to proclaim the message."
Such dedication to a task.
Paul is always confident. Even in this, his darkest hour. He always uses words
and phrases like, "I am confident..."
"I am persuaded..."
"I am convinced..."
In Romans (2:19), Paul is CONFIDENT that God is a guide to the blind and a light to those in darkness.
In Philippians (1:6), Paul is CONFIDENT that the work God has started in Philippi will be finished.
In the second letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul is in prison. He faces an uncertain future. Many of his companions have deserted him, only his close friend, Luke, remains.
And yet Paul still opens this letter with the confident words, (1:12), "I am still full of confidence, because I KNOW whom I have trusted and I am SURE that he is able to keep me safe."
I am persuaded.
I am confident.
I am convinced.
Biblical scholar Fred Craddock says you can take Paul by the hand and lead him to the edge of his own grave. Let him hear the flapping wings of the vulture perched on his own gravestone. Let him taste the dusty odor of the freshly dug earth. Let him curl his toes on the edge of his grave. Then look at Paul and ask, "All right Paul, NOW what are you so sure of?"
And Paul would look at you and without hesitation say, just as he did in his letter to the Romans, "I am persuaded that neither Death nor Life shall separate us from the love of God."
I am persuaded.
I am confident.
But --- you can walk with Paul into the sanctuary. Sit with him in a pew on Sunday morning as the people gather together for worship. And then Paul will turn to you
and admit, just as he did in his letter to the Romans, that he does not know how to pray.
This man who has so much confidence, this man who is so secure in his knowledge of religion and of God, this man who is always confident, who is always persuaded, and who always knows -- does not know how to pray.
Paul says in his letter to the Romans, "In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray."