Sermon for Sunday 8th of August 2010 “Prayer”

Isaiah 11: 10-12:6

2 Corinthians: 1: 1-22

May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Just for a moment I want you to think back to your early childhoods, try and remember the profound effect on your early lives of two of the shortest words in the English language; the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

My early life as a child revolved around those two words. For me they seemed the only two words my parents ever used to communicate with me in response to any question I ever asked them, and of the two words they used their overwhelming favourite seemed to be NO!

Mum can we go to the beach? – NO!

Dad will you buy me an ice-cream? – NO!

Mum can I stay up for a little longer? – NO!

Dad, are we nearly there yet? – NO!

And so my daily routine would unfold as I constantly probed for that magic ‘Yes’ that I so desperately wanted to hear. In time, as I grew up and matured, I learned to qualify my questions in an effort to extract that magic ‘Yes’ from my parents.

Mum if the rain stops, can we go to the beach?

Dad if I dry up while you wash up, can I stay up a little longer?

The answers were still mainly ‘No’ and often for very good reasons which weren’t apparent to me. The answer to the question; ‘are we nearly there yet?’ when there was still 120 miles to go still had to be ‘No’. But when I plucked up the courage to question my rejection the reply was invariably ‘the answer is no, because I know what is best for you!’ But occasionally the response would be a ‘maybe‘ and on those precious rare occasions I would get that magic ‘Yes’ that I was so desperate to hear.

Now as children and parents we have all had conversations along these lines. So why then are we so surprised and hurt when God sometimes says no to our prayers, for we after all are His children, and I think with such a parent it is safe to say ‘He knows best’ when it comes to our best interests. But was I, and are we, overcomplicating once again things that God makes simple. Perhaps the simple answer is we are asking the wrong questions in the first place or asking the right questions at the wrong time. We get to know very quickly as youngsters that if you ask for an ice cream just after you have poked your little sister in the eye and made her cry, the answer is almost certain to be no. If we upset our heavenly Father it may be that we have to be on our best behaviour for a considerable time before he too feels able to relent and grant us what we have asked for. Or it may be in that time of waiting we realise that what we have asked for, in the heat of the moment, isn’t what we really want or needed after all.

Instead of asking for things that will give us instant gratification, we should try asking God what he wants’ us to do, and give him the opportunity of helping us. What we really need is a change of heart – our own heart, not God’s. We need to become again as little children, ashamed of the times we have disobeyed God’s wishes, and to understand what pain it causes our Father when we do. We need to appreciate that his love’s is more important than any possessions. We need to realise how much our Father loves us. We need to understand that a lifetime of frustration and suffering is far outweighed by the eternal joys of heaven which come as his reward. We need to realise that in Jesus God has said ‘Yes’ to the things we truly need. Jesus on the cross shows us, yes, exactly how much our sin hurts our Father. The simple lifestyle of Jesus, the servant of all, shows us, yes, just how little possessions matter compared to love. Jesus not only tells us that yes, our Father loves us – he shows it, by laying down his life for us. We stop grumbling about our own life, when we compare it with the life of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus proves to us that, yes, there is life after death, he has gone to prepare a place for us, and it’s far more wonderful than we are capable of imagining. Jesus is God’s ‘Yes’ to the questions we haven’t even thought of asking yet.

We usually end our prayers with words something like; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ ‘Amen’ is a Hebrew word; the Jewish people use it to end their prayers with, and it means ‘truth’ or; ‘may it be so’, In effect ‘Yes, I agree with this prayer.’ But when we say ‘through Jesus Christ’ it means, ‘Yes, I think Jesus would agree with this prayer’. Jesus told us to pray in his name, and that probably means always trying to pray prayers that Jesus could say ‘Yes’ to.

The Bible is full of promises. Wonderful things Our Father has promised to his children who love him. Jesus has chosen you and me, not for privilege, but for service; to care for others, and to share with each of them the message of our God who demands justice, but who is willing to forgive and who will keep his promises. To each of his promises, God in Jesus says ‘Yes’, he will surely give them to us eventually, when he knows that the time is right. Or, as St Paul put it:

The Son of God, Jesus Christ was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it was always ‘Yes’. For in him it is always ‘Yes’. For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’. For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.

 

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