Sunday, 5 August 2007

Why pray?

Pentecost 10 year C Sermon Prayer 1 The Invitation
Jer 29 Matthew 7:8

Why bother to knock on God’s door – doesn’t God already know we’re standing out there... doesn’t God already know what we’re thinking and what we want?

and if that’s true... is prayer just a waste of God’s time...and maybe even ours?

Ever asked yourself questions like that?

Like what’s the point of praying...
Like is there a right way to pray there a wrong way?

Or why are some people content...just to sit with God in silence... while others sound like they’re yelling at God...getting louder and louder...

Does God listen to everybody’s prayers – even unbelievers? Is there something different about Christian prayer? Why does God seem to answer some prayers and not others?

What does God really want us to do... and how do we find out? How do we know?

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? Clap if you’ve never had any questions about prayer. See how common it is? You’re not alone.
Ok Just buzz a minute with the person next to you... about some of the questions you’ve had.


Were there any questions I didn’t mention before?

I’m one of those who can sit happily in silence in the presence of God and I do...maybe forty five minutes a day – with few words...and a lot of listening and loving. A year ago I started wondering… about why God wants us to pray and how does God want us to pray.

I needed some words to talk about prayer and not just a about how I happen to pray. Some of you have a rich prayer life some feel dry and reluctant to bother God.

And out there, we’re constantly rubbing shoulders with people who never pray. What can we say to them if they asked us why we pray or what’s the right way to pray?

Some people join our Christian community in search of fellowship and hoping to find God but without any background in the Christian faith. Others to whom we minister in our outreach programmes are searching for God in all kinds of places.

On the other hand, I hear Christian’s praying for some display of God’s power… for signs and wonders …people trying to live without the necessity of faith or the surrender of their own will to God’s.

I needed words to talk about prayer… I needed tools…a compass and a light… to help me find answers to my questions about prayer…and yours…
so you and I don’t get lost in some weird religious maze or worse give up praying because... we didn’t know.

So a year ago I decided I’d make prayer the topic of my study leave…and for a whole year these questions worked away on me… and on my own understanding of prayer.

What treasures I’ve found. In the last month…I’ve written over sixteen thousand words on prayer…and the best part is that early on I realised there is indeed.. a bright light and sure compass to show us the way…

And I discovered… the fundamental question… lying behind all our wondering about prayer…
isn’t why or how or what to pray…but

‘what does it mean…to be in communion with the Creator of the universe?’ to be in relationship with God?’ [pause]

Today I want to give us some words to answer the why question …why knock at the door…why pray at all. Next week we’ll look at how…God wants us to pray and the Sunday after that we’ll examine the relationship between our prayers and how we live as Christians. Why praying together is important for our church.

On the fourth Sunday we’ll talk about difficulties with prayer… about reluctance and dryness and doubt and despair. About the times when God doesn’t seem to be there at all.

But today the question is why. And before we can even begin to answer why God wants us to pray… we have to ask…

how is it… we can know anything about God?

And the answer is… because God chooses to reveal himself to us…God has spoken and God speaks to us…in many ways…yes… through the beauty of creation… and through the words of the prophets like Jeremiah …did you notice…

‘When you seek me you shall find me – if you search with all your heart. If you pray to me I will listen to you. I know the plans I have in mind for you – plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. If you pray to me I will listen to you.’

But people ignored the words of the prophets …didn’t they?
so God chose to make his word…his self revelation… flesh…incarnate… in Jesus.

Right from the beginning God has been inviting us to enjoy his presence to communicate with him – to join him in intimate communion … And suddenly we know the answer to the question why pray?

We pray because God invites us to pray… and the amazing thing is…we’re free not to free to reject the invitation…so when we do pray our prayer our free response… to God’s desire… to be in relationship with us.

The great theologian Karl Barth puts it this way,
slide words
God ‘doesn’t will to be God without us. He calls us to His side. He summons us to make His purposes and aims the object of our own desire.’ [pause]

We pray because God invites us to pray. And in response we say without reservation
“I am human and you are God.”

So prayer isn’t a state we’re in its… an action we take …and at that moment when we turn toward God in free and glad obedience…conversion occurs …
and the relationship desired by our Creator is restored.
I don’t know about you… but I find it strangely comforting… to know that I pray out of obedience to God’s will and command. It takes the pressure off…it removes from me any question of whether I’m bothering God or important enough…

God sent in Jesus an invitation to communion with the living God, “bodily” present with and for us…and we respond bodily. God has spoken…and the message… the good news has been delivered in person… in Jesus Christ.

And as Jesus promised we are enabled to join in communion with God…by the faith poured into our hearts by God’s own Spirit.

This Trinitarian understanding sets Christian prayer apart from other forms of prayer. In faith – and not in open sight – we’re drawn into… communion with the Father by the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus ‘Prayer is made what it ought to be… by the very God to whom we pray…through Jesus… God’s grace enables us to look toward him through the eyes of faith
and cry Abba - Father

That’s why Paul says
‘He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will’. [pause]

And so we begin to understand that ‘To pray is actually to share in the Divine Life’

‘Whatever could we say to God if God himself hadn’t taken the first step in communicating and manifesting himself to us…and next week we’ll discover how we are taught what to say and how to pray by the Son of God.

And so with Jesus as our compass and our guide…
you and I can discover and help others to discover what it means to be in communion... with the creator of the universe.

We are no longer blind and deaf to God’s invitation. We have the courage... not only to knock but to enter... we have the courage and freedom to speak out loud and ears of faith to the one who loved us first...the one at whose command... the stars and the galaxies came into being.

My prayer is that each one of us will respond to God’s invitation with all our hearts, with all our strength, and all our minds.