7/25/04, P8C (Prayer)
Afraid to Ask
he secret of baseball is learning how to play and the secret of praying is learning how to pray. Chipper's Mom and Dad reared him to produce hits and RBI's. His Dad was a baseball coach at Stetson College in Florida where his Mom could pitch batting practice to Little Larry every day. She taught him to switch hit. Hopefully she and the old coach will make a trip from the big ranch house in Texas so they can teach him to hit all over again. The Chipper is in a long slump.
My folks taught me how to pray. Sometimes I need them to make a trip from the Gates of Glory to teach me how to pray all over again.
Jesus' disciples saw him praying and asked him to teach them to pray. Don't we all need to have Jesus teach us to pray too. I know that I do. It's a thing we learn and need to re-learn over and over. Sometimes our prayers don't reach the ceiling. Sometimes we get in a hitting slump, or praying slump and it seems that the fences are 600 feet from home plate. We're just hoping for a walk; even being hit by the ball: Anything to get on first base.
Our private prayers are the most important. They are without ceasing. Really, none of us who are close to Him are ever far away from Him. It's like my computer with which I am typing this page; in addition to concentrating on this sermon I am monitoring the live Atlanta Braves victory over the Mets. Most of us can multi-task, and we do it all the time. Why not include Jesus in on our subconscious thoughts?
Prayer is turning our attention from our little stuff to the great big things that concern God. He has been on hold all the time that we were fussing and fuming about the small stuff. One slogan that follows business people around is, “Don't sweat the small stuff--- and its all small stuff!” Prayer takes to higher and nobler interests. We are reminded that there is a whole world out there that sometimes looks like it's on the brink of self-annihilation; even after the Cold War has been over so long.
However, before we pray for others we need to get our carnal selves under control. We do that by praying. “O God forgive me again!” is my typical way of beginning a private time with just Jesus. He already knows so it's easy to confess. We can't pray for others until we have gotten our heart turned right.
Retired Bishop Nolan Harmon taught us how to pray way back in seminary days. He taught more about private prayer than about high sounding public prayers with fancy words. Some of the fellows were learning to pray from scratch; but I had a praying Preacher Pop and a Mom who prayed on her knees every night beside the bed, sometimes with her arm around my shoulder. Lots of her prayers were for me.
Private prayer, you know, is in its purest form, simply talking to Jesus. Usually, there are not enough perfect words to express our tender emotions. Sometimes we groan with unintelligible utterances that can only be known by us, and by God. He is the best counselor in the world because He does not need to pull the real truth out of us. Knowing Him who knows us best is the Christian's greatest advantage.
Public prayers, where others are listening in, are always addressed to the Father by the power and unction of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus' name. Most people who pray regularly find it helpful to keep a prayer list. We call the names of folks who have needs. We need to tell folks who are in trouble that we will be praying for them. It has meant a lot to me in the deep dark valleys of life.
We also pray that hard hearts will be softened so that our friends will come to know the Lord as have we. We have to be careful not act superficially pietistical when we dare indicate that we are praying for someone else to reach a spiritual mountain top. We are humbled by our own memories of the valleys.
And we pray for ourselves. We ask for more that forgiveness, we are also encouraged by Jesus to ask for broader vistas of opportunity, if it is His will; “ Ask and it will be given to you!” (Lk. 11:9) We are the aggressors in prayer. We are the ones who have to willingly open our hearts to receive His grace, and His answers to our prayers. Prayer is something that requires doing. It's not enough to think about praying. That would be as non productive as sitting and thinking about exercising. We have to make the conscious decision and effort to actually pray. We ask, we search and knock, and keep on knocking on God's door. “For everyone who asks receives .” (v.11) Jesus describes God as being like a neighbor to will give you what you ask for, if we are persistent enough. And what father would gibe his son a scorpion when he has asked for a new baseball glove. Jesus describes his Father as being like our spiritual Father too. We are also, “The King's Kids!” Jesus says that because our Father wants the best for us, He will give us more and more of the Holy Spirit.
Also, our Heavenly Father will enable us to get to the place where more of the Holy Spirit is what we know we need: More assurance, forgiveness, grace and peace: More understanding of others and knowledge about things divine.
Even when we are in a hitting slump like Chipper Jones we can know that the Spirit will get us back in the game someday soon, and this might be our day to break out.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor