The Scripture lessons for July 24, 2016 were Genesis 18:20-33; Colossians 2:6-15; and Luke 11:1-13. Pastor Krause entitled his message “Keep Praying.” For me the line or sentence that best summarized Pastor Krause message was when he said: “God always answers prayer. God gives us what we ask for Or He gives us something BETTER” (italics and capitalizations are mine).
Pastor Krause began his message with the Old Testament lesson. God confides in Abraham that He is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinful behaviors. Abraham has a hard time with this. In his mind he finds it impossible to understand why a good and just God would punish the “righteous” along with the unrighteous. Thinking and feeling as he does, Abraham confronts God with the question: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” (Genesis 18:23-24 – NIV). Being both just and merciful God tells Abraham He would spare the cities if fifty righteous people could be found.
We all know the story. Abraham continues to test, if you will, God’s sense of justice and His mercy –“What about for forty-five righteous people?” “What about forty?” “What about thirty?” “What about twenty?” “What about ten?” Finally, when God says He would spare the cities for ten righteous people, Abraham seems to be satisfied. Now the text is not exactly clear as to why Abraham was satisfied with the number ten. It could be because his confident in God’s sense of justice and mercy had been restored. God is not going to make the righteous pay for the sins of the unrighteous. Or, it could be that Abraham felt, even as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah were, with all the people in those two cities certainly there were at least ten righteous people. After all there was his nephew Lot and his wife and their two daughters – that was four which left just six more to find? Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Abraham seemed satisfied with ten.
Pastor Krause used this story of Abraham’s persistence with God to affirm the value and importance of our being persistent as well. Pastor Krause cited Jesus’ example as well. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prays long and hard. We know that it was long because Jesus caught His disciples sleeping on three different occasions while He had been in prayer (Mt 26:39-45), and we know it was hard or intense because He prayed so hard that He sweated as He prayed and His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
While I agree with Pastor Krause that we need to pray long and hard, I also think that a word of clarification needs to be offered. Praying long and hard does not mean WE are doing most of the talking in our prayers. If you notice, at least from what we find in Scripture, Jesus although praying long and hard in the Garden of Gethsemane, actually used very few words –”Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” Luke 22:42 (NIV). In Matthew 6 as Jesus teaches the people how to pray and leading into what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer,” instructs those present “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV).
It would seem, at least to me, that the most important part of prayer is not what we say “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not 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 with God’s will” Romans 8:26-27 (NIV). It seems to me the most important part of pray is listening and learning to listen. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” James 1:5 (NIV). Notice what happened as Jesus prayed long and hard in the Garden: “‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” Luke 22:42-43 (NIV).
We should pray long and hard not because the longer and harder we pray the more likely God will be to hear us and to act according to our all too often misguided will and understanding. We should pray/listening long and hard until God settles our hearts and minds and brings our will into one accord with His.
Colossians 3:15 (NIV) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts….
Philippians 4:7 (NIV) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Remember: “God always answers prayer. God gives us what we ask for Or He gives us something BETTER.”
What about you? What are your thoughts and feelings about prayer or about whatever?
Chime in with your thoughts and questions in the comment section!