On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to preach at Western Road URC. The reading came from Luke 18:1-8. The parable is about the nagging wife who, through her persistence, managed to persuade a judge who cared for neither God nor his people to acknowledge her rights. The main thrust of the sermon was about the persistence of prayer and how one keeps on praying even if one cannot see those prayers answered. The parable also causes us to think: if a judge can be convinced by continual nagging, how much more would a loving father give to his children?
I cited that it took Colonel Harland David Sanders of KFC fame 1009 attempts before his chicken recipe was accepted and that WD40 gets its name allegedly because this was the 40th attempt to get the formula right, however, I wanted to concentrate not on persistency, but prayer.
When thinking of prayer, it is very easy to say that God will always answer. Indeed, it is a Biblical truth that whatever we ask for, God will give. "For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:8) Yet, it is also a Biblical truth that, as Jesus said in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done". So, as we consider prayer, I want us to imagine a cauldron or a pot into which we will put some of our thoughts and see what brews.
We know for sure that God is good, God is love and in God, we can trust. We know for sure God hears our prayers. We know that God wants to do God's best for God's children. God is ultimately in control. We know that God answers prayers either now, immediately, or in God's good time and that God surprises us by answering prayers in ways we weren't expecting. We know that we can use our good and bad experiences to help others and in some ways, when bad things happen, the experience not only strengthens us but can be used to inspire other people.
Into the pot goes the many blessings that God gives us for which we must say thank you. We must have an attitude of gratitude but we must also continually look for those blessings because sometimes they are hidden.
Into the pot of prayer goes our positivity of mind and trust. We know God is working for us and we can be assured that the outcome will be what God wants.
Into the pot must also go the tension between what we want and what God wants for us. We have to align our thoughts with Gods.
Into the pot goes our freewill. As we have been given this gift, we can choose what direction to take our lives. We have to accept that our free will may clash with other people's free will.
Into the pot of prayer goes the knowledge that we are a fallen people, we are sinners. Through Jesus Christ, who has paid the ransom for our sins, we have an opportunity to have a new, bright relationship with God the creator.
I am in no way advocating gambling in this next story but there is a joke where a person cries to God asking to help him win the lottery. God hears the prayer and replies, "meet me halfway and at least buy the ticket." The idea is we have to play our part if prayers are to be answered. I want to emphasise we have a role to play, we cannot only rely on God's actions.
The final ingredient into our pot is that we can be the answer to somebody's prayer. We have it within ourselves to be the hand, the heart, and the feet of Jesus. We should be looking for opportunities where God works through us to be the answer to prayer.
So, what have we got in our pot; and more importantly, what other doubts can you put in the pot to make it your personal stew? The final answer will come when we meet our loving God, creator, redeemer, sustainer in heaven as to why things happened they way they did and why it sometimes seemed God's face was hidden.
I believe that through the persistent power of prayer we can lessen anxiety, remind ourselves of our purpose, our meaning and our value by continually looking to see how we can be the answer to somebody else's prayer. I am reminded of a quote, "Helping a person will not necessarily change the world, but it will change the world for that person." So let's nag, nag, nag.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon