Yesterday I started my Lent Sermon Series entitled “Prayer!” It will consist of 5 sermons with the theme of prayer at the center of each sermon. I don’t normally write my sermons, but something moved me to write out this series. Not that I believe that I am a great preacher, but I have really enjoyed putting this series together. Anyway, some of my congregants wanted me to post my sermon on my blog. So I will do that each week for this series. Now Lent runs 6 Sundays, but one of the Sunday’s I will be at a spiritual retreat at a Monastery in New Mexico, so there is only 5 sermons. You can read it if you want, or just ignore my sermons. Even though I wrote out my sermons does not mean I preached it verbatim, but what I post is the bulk of the sermon. Also, please excuse my punctuation and spelling. Enjoy!!!
Prayer: The Heart of the Matter – Ephesians 1:3-10
What is prayer? If I was to ask you to teach me to prayer where would you begin? How would you describe it? Do I sit, stand, kneel, lay down to pray? Do I pray alone or with others? Do I remain silent or do I speak it out loud? The most basic understanding of prayer that I found is, “A devout petition to God or an object of worship.” Wow, how underwhelming! A devout petition to God or an object of worship. Does this seem to answer all our questions? Another understanding is that prayer is a “religious observance.” How exciting! If someone was to ask you “what is prayer?” is this where you would start? If not where do you start?
Some might say that prayer is how we talk or communicate with God. In fact I remember how prayer was explained to me as a youth, “Prayer is like making a phone call to God.” Isn’t that nice; prayer is like picking up the phone dialing a number and talking to God. What if I dial the wrong number? What if the line is busy. I can just picture heaven having a connection room where angels are like telephone operators connecting millions of lines to God’s phone. He probably has different phone colors depending on the situation with a big red phone that only rings when something cataclysmic is going to happen. Is this the best example we can give? Or do we need to dumb down prayer so that people will understand? Or do we dumb down prayer because WE really don’t have a full grasp on what prayer is?
I think that prayer is hard for us because we have never truly sought the depth of prayer in our lives. I remember a man named Darrel who was dying and he didn’t know if he had ever prayed because he never understood prayer. This might sound sad, but I bet if you looked deep within yourselves you might just have the same fears. No, I believe we have so much trouble with prayer because we truly do not understand WHY we pray. So lets get to the heart of the matter.
To get to the heart of the matter about prayer we must look at our own existence. Why are we here? Why did God create us? These questions seem like they do not fit with prayer, but I assure you they have everything to do with prayer. In the beginning God created everything and called it good, but when He created humanity in His own Image, He called it very good. All of us, all of humanity was created in the Image of God. Thats right, all humanity that was and will be are created in the very Image of God. From the most perfect human to the most devilish human, we were all created in the Image of God. This was God’s purpose for humanity, to be His Image in creation. We believe this, either all humanity was created in the Image of God or none of us were. But, what is this image?
The best way to understand God’s Image is what we call “Holy Love.” God’s image is Holy Love. God is Holy. He is completely set a part from everything else because there is nothing like God. God is outside of everything. He is perfect and nothing compares with God. He is Uncreated. He has always been and will always be. God is love. Unconditionally perfect in compassion, grace, joy, and justice. He brings happiness and compassion. He gives forgiveness and acceptance. He proclaims favor and encouragement. He is gentle and kind, who does not easily get angry and never remains angry. He is patient, hopeful, faithful, and always has His creation at the center of His thinking and feeling. But most of all Holy Love is transformative. It transforms and creates. It changes and molds everything it comes in contact with. If I was to explain God to someone I would use Holy Love and we, all of humanity, are created in the Image of Holy Love. This is why Paul explains God’s plans in Ephesians as “bringing all things together in Christ, both on earth and in heaven.” Through God’s Image all things are united and equaled and changed to co-exist together in Holy Love.
The problem is that we are not like this image. It seems like every time we turn around we fail to be the Image in which we were created in. But here is the good news and here is where prayer receives its meaning, “God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to b e his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love.” This is the heart of prayer to become holy, blameless and God’s children through the love of Jesus Christ. We pray because it is what we were created to do. When we pray our hearts join Jesus’ heart to bring “honor and praise to God” who is Holy Love. Prayer is the “heart language” of our very being. The Psalmist got it right when he stated, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the LORD’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God!” Listen to it again… Now that is prayer. Prayer comes from the depths of our very being. It cries out to the One that we are drawn to. Saint Augustine of Hippo said it best, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.” I will say it again… Even though we are not like the Image God created us to be, our essence or heart yearns for this. Our hearts yearn and long to be in the very presence of God and to be like Him. Our sin redirects this yearning toward something else, but prayer redirects it back. Prayer undoes the sin in our lives!
I think now we can start to see why prayer is so important. Prayer is not just something that we do. It is not just communicating with God. It is not just a religious action. In fact prayer is not something we do at all. Prayer is the heart language of our lives. Prayer is not something we do, but something that is done to us. To understand prayer properly is to consider this. Is prayer something we do, or does prayer do something to us?
You see we understand that prayer is a Means of Grace. It is a channel that God has ordained so that God can give or bestow to us His grace and love. Grace is always transformative. If grace does not change and transform you then it is not grace from God. It might have the same characteristics, but God’s grace is always transformative. As our scripture explains, “We have been ransomed through his son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding.” God died so that we would be transformed back into the Image of Holy Love. Our hearts desire to become the Image of God because the One who created our hearts wants us to be His Image in creation. Prayer is our hearts crying out to God and to the world to reveal this same want. Prayer is our heart language and through our prayers we are transformed because in prayer we encounter the very Presence of God.