Today is Mother’s Day. One day of the year is specially defined as a day to appreciate Mothers. Not all of us are mothers, but each and every one of us has in common the fact that we had a mother. This is a special relationship, like none other. Whether that relationship grew to a long-enduring blessed relationship, was cut short by some tragedy, or became scarred or even dangerous, the fact remains that the relationship between mother and child is unique, like no other.
In a way of speaking, the mother “created” the child, the child is part of her very self, her body and spirit. A separate being, but connected always. A special relationship.
Of course that special relationship can be nurtured, protected, developed and enjoyed for a whole life, a life that is blessed because of it. It can also be lost, damaged, even destroyed, either by the child or the mother, or undermined by others, by the use of lies or violence.
Today I want to speak about prayer. The kind of prayer that is a product of a special relationship.
We as Christians know about prayer. I think most peoples do. All religions pray to a god or gods, and even those who think they don’t have a religion, will say things like “I will just ask the universe, or “fate will decide..” The word “fate” comes from the names of Roman goddesses who supposedly were the deciders of the future. Whether humans believe they were created by God or not, there is something in a human, sooner or later, that reaches for an authority higher than oneself, and in so doing acknowledges that humans are spiritual as well as physical beings, and that there is some sort of relationship between the one who prays and the one or ones in some cases, to whom the prayer is directed.
What is prayer?
We are taught about prayer, specifically we are taught that we are supposed to pray. We are taught to withdraw to a quiet place and pray, we are taught to carve out a special time each day for Bible reading and prayer, we are taught not to pray to show off, we are taught to believe that what we pray God will do. We learn we should “pray without ceasing”.
Are there any “problems” with prayer? I think we can all say we have experienced problems with prayer. We question, does it work? Does God hear me when I pray? What difference does it make if and when I pray? The Bible teaches us that God has already decided the future, so what is the use then anyway? Prayer can become a religious exercise. It can have form but no meaning. It can look holy but be empty. as Christians we can be afraid to NOT pray because we are taught we should, but we can also be afraid TO pray. In case it “doesn’t work” and then we are forced to face the bigger question: what happens to our faith if our prayers seem never answered? Even though the bible tells us God hears and answers our prayers, that whatever we ask for we shall receive, etc. I personally know of those who have lost their faith when desperate prayers were not answered as expected. In the face of unanswered prayer, we can cling to our faith, but underneath there’s the fear that maybe we will be forced to question our faith. Am I believing a fairy tale, a myth? Or instead we decide we simply don’t have enough “faith” are not “spiritual enough” and end up feeling insignificant and frustrated, that we are lacking, not good enough. Anyway, how do you pray “without ceasing” We feel guilty, that we aren’t praying enough, that we are not faithful enough, or fervent enough. So it follows that if our prayers are futile, why do it? Doubt sets in. All this can hinder us from living fulfilled Christian lives, from being active intercessors that open the way for God to act.
What is a “fulfilled Christian life”? What is an “active intercessor that opens the way for God to act”?
I want to insert a little bit of Biblical history here. Condensed version for sure!
God created the earth, and mankind, and then said “Let them (ie mankind) have dominion over the earth” so with these words found in Genesis 1: 26-28 God actually gave over the legal authority for all earthly management to mankind. Pretty soon afterwards, Satan whispered lies into the ears of the first humans, partners of God and took their authority over all things earthly. He knew that strong relationship would thwart his own plans so he took quick steps to destroy it. But God is a God of His word, he does not break his word or go back on it by saying something like “oh-oh that was a mistake mankind is now going to mess this up big-time, so I am going to change my Word”.
No, he maintained this structure of authority in compliance with His word, which is now His law. So now if God wishes to have any effect on things earthly, how does He do it, having given that authority to mankind, who then gave it away?
He needs permission from the one in charge. He cannot break his own law, He needs Mankind to ask Him to take charge. Any time God needed anything done on earth, he used a person, for example Noah, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Joshua, Esther. And finally through Jesus, God becoming Man in order to “buy back” the lost authority without breaking His word.
I have here a doll, one that I made when I was about 10. I never really finished her, so she lay in a trunk for many years. I named her Griselda because I figured a name like that would suit such an ugly doll. She’s not beautiful, but you can see there are some lovely things about her. Now I kind of like that name, but anyway.. I made Griselda. She belonged to me only. I had plans for her. But, something disrupted my plan.
SKIT: (*I will have (this person) whisper in Griselda’s ear. Then Griselda is suddenly in someone else’s hands. I need to get her back. So I arrange that she is rescued. (Jesus figure “buys” Griselda back from other person by taking her place). Now she is again in relationship with me, and of course has a special relationship with the one who bought her back. Now Griselda is back, and our relationship is healed.
This little skit demonstrates what happened when God sent Jesus to buy us back. But in His case, once Jesus himself went back to the Father, he then sent his Holy Spirit, not to hover around our heads, but to DWELL IN US. We know this, but do we understand it? If you are a believer in Christ, then God’s Holy spirit dwells with you, in you. Let’s take a moment to meditate on that.
If His Spirit dwells IN US, do we have to use special words to call Him down, to ask for His presence, to hope He hears us? If we are believers, God’s spirit lives with us, in us, and we live in Him. We have a special relationship, like no other, even closer than a mother. This too is a relationship that can be neglected, or nurtured to grow into a dynamic and blessed relationship. How important is it to nurture this relationship?
When I was in my twenties, I loved travel, loved learning about other cultures and languages. I worked hard and saved my pennies so I could go travelling. It was in the 70’s. Once I was at home at my parent’s in Saskatchewan and having learned to do yoga, I was doing a headstand on the living room floor. My dad was sitting there, and eventually said to me, “Deb, what are you seeking? what are you searching for in your life?” I told him I wasn’t “seeking” really, I just loved travel and discovery etc. Then he said to me, “Remember, life is about relationships.” He talked about living in community with others, participating, giving and taking, nurturing.
Relationships. At that time I just thought, yeah okay. But I didn’t really understand what he was saying.
Life. Relationship. Jesus said He came to give us life, and that more abundantly. He came to reestablish a relationship with God that had been destroyed by lies and violence. He came to pave the way to a life lived in community, giving and taking, nurturing. A community like we have here today, a community with Him in our midst.
So let’s recap our position and how we got there:
1.God created the earth and mankind. 2. He gave mankind authority over his creation. 3.This authority was given away to Satan because of his lies. 4. God the Creator bought us back by redeeming us with the life of Jesus, who as a man had authority on the earth, but who, as God, was able to bring things back to the beginning, which is why he is called the “second Adam”. 5.Jesus returned to Heaven. 6. He sent His Spirit to dwell in us. 7. His spirit in us allows us to connect with God and know His will and enact it. He needs us to fulfill His eternal purposes on earth
It is important to remember the Spirit of God is a Person, not an idea.
When Jesus prayed, or spent time with the Father, He “found out” what God needed done, and invited Him to do it. Jesus acted as a man while on earth, so it was in keeping with God’s law. He didn’t just say to God , I want this done, so I am asking. He said “ your will be done on Earth, the same as your will is done in Heaven” in other words, you rule in Heaven now please come and do the same on earth, enact that which you have revealed to me by your Spirit in me is your will. He was in constant relationship with God, constant communication. So he had already known what God wanted done by the time Jesus himself enacted it. He was the hands that God needed to do God’s will. For instance when Jesus healed the sick or lame, He already knew that God had willed it and Jesus enacted that will, because the Spirit within him had told him.
We are those hands today. We also have the spirit of God in us, we also can ask God what is His will and invite Him to do it.
Prayer is living in a dynamic relationship with God, through the work of Jesus and the presence of God’s Spirit. We are ALWAYS connected, we do not need ritual to “call God down” He is here in us and among us.
Prayer is the act of aligning our spirit with God’s Spirit, opening ourselves to His will, and asking Him to enact that will on earth. Our words our thoughts, (unspoken words) connect with the Holy spirit in us.
My dad told me Life is about Relationships. It is true, when life is threatened or ending, we recognize that the only thing important is our relationships with others, the love that we have or could have. Think on this for a minute: look at your own life, what you like, you don’t like, your path, your decisions, your possessions, everything. Now look at it all again, through the filter of valuing your relationships first, and every decision or desire is enacted to honour those relationships only. Does your story take on a different meaning?
The most significant relationship we will ever have, the one that brings life and peace not only to our own being but also to the world around us, is the relationship with the spirit of God within us. Stronger and bigger, closer than the relationship with our own mother. Through this relationship we have the right and power to request that He come and through us enact His good and perfect will for mankind. Prayer is the powerful tool that literally changes the world. Everyone who believes can use this tool. Roman 8:26-27 says The sprit helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance to God’s will.
Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes. Let us take time.
Take time to recognize the spirit of God dwelling within you. Just say hello, and welcome God’s presence within you. Take time to open yourself to Him doing His will through you. “God I am opening myself to you doing your will through me” Take time to ask God His will for you today. allow your spirit to speak the question: God what is your will for me today?” Allow Him to direct your thoughts towards what or who may need God’s intervention right now. Take time to be His hands on earth. “God I am offering myself to be your hands on earth”
When we allow ourselves to aways be open to the spirit of God, then all of our actions thoughts and words can be prayers. You think of someone, through the filter of the spirit, lift them up to God. The young man who does a wheelie on his motorcycle at the Rockburn crossroads-lift him up to God, ask God to keep him safe-anything you hear about on the news, through the spirit of God in you, ask God to intervene, to enact His will. Hugging someone who seems like they may need a hug, cleaning up after the family or thoughtless persons, lifting them up to God in the meantime-all these things are prayer and allow us to pray “without ceasing”
Do we need liturgical texts, special meetings, fiery preachers, fancy words to call on God to move? No we don’t, though they are not wrong..
Prayer is the natural expression of the relationship between God and mankind, working together to enact the good and perfect will of God for all. It is the natural consequence of a living relationship with God who is there. God who is here. Amen