Prayer. Changing the mind of God!
The power of prayer…Answered prayers, or as Garth Brooks crooned, “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers”.
This past Sunday in our Gospel lesson, the disciples ask Jesus to pray. Luke 11:1-13. Jesus responds with a metaphor. Prayer is like someone who Asks, Seeks, or Knocks. Remember those classic verses?
Luke 11:9-10 (NRSV)
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
When I first arrived at Christ Lutheran, some members of my Thursday Bible Study class wanted me to include in each Sunday worship service, a segment called, “Answered Prayers”. I refused. I don’t believe God works that way. Sometimes people pray for healing and the person lives, others times, large groups of people pray to end violence, injustice, or heal a child…and all fail. Was God persuaded to heal this person, but not that child? Did I have better “Prayer People” in my group? Were we able to persuade God to see things our way? Can we change the mind of God through our prayers? Is that what it means to “Ask and it will be given to you?”
I don’t believe prayer works that way. The best prayers are prayers in which one is seeking, knocking, searching, listening, and asking….Jesus’ metaphor speaks to the condition of the heart. A searching, asking, knocking heart is a “yearning heart”, a “receptive heart”, a heart desiring something. Initiative is vitally important for the one praying. As the Buddhists say, “When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears.” The posture of seeking, searching, knocking and asking, is the posture of the student, ready to receive. A student with a receptive heart will receive the Holy Spirit. God will not disappoint.
Don’t take literally, Ask and it will be given unto you…Asking is a condition of receptivity that is essential to the spiritual life. When I pray, I offer words of thanks. When we pray in church, we pray that we, those attending worship, would know our responsibility to be God’s hands, or Christ’s presence in the world. We don’t ask for God to fix what we can fix. We don’tpray for God to end violence, when it is within our capacity to make this world more loving. People, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, can be the best ANSWERED PRAYERS!
Answer some prayers today!
April 16, 2019
On Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the hot bed of his frustrations. In our reading this Palm Sunday, Luke 19:39-48, the religious leaders of the day tell Jesus that his disciples should “Shut Up and Get Out”, not a literal translation of the text, but that is the jist. Jesus replies if his disciples are silent the “Stones will Shout out!”
My experience is that in history when humanity experiences a truth, a truth planted within them, God’s word you might say, nothing will be able to keep it quiet. From women and black/civil rights in our country, to religious insights revealed during the Reformation, and the rights for LGBTQ community, these truths will never die.
Will there be forces that resist change? Will there people who want to keep the status quo or “keep it in the closet”? Absolutely, but that is when stones start to shout!
Jesus is embracing a truth. Jesus is revealing a seed within him. Jesus is proclaiming the Word of God. A seed that we share! In the New Testament Letter by James, James calls this seed the “implanted word” (James 2:21). This implanted word seeks the truth in love with humility. It is unstoppable! And its within YOU!
After entering Jerusalem, Jesus goes into the temple and quotes, Isaiah 56:7 which is very similar to Jeremiah 7:11, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” In doing so, Jesus condemns the religious practices of his day and insists on making the Temple not a capitalistic machine, but a place of prayer for all people.
He is not the first to make the statement that the temple needs reform, he’s following in Isaiah and Jeremiah’s footsteps, but he might be the most successful…even though he died for his actions and truth telling. As an Emergent Christian, or Progressive Christian, I reject the idea that Jesus died as a human sacrifice for my sins. Jesus live a self-emptying life of love and service to humanity. He did not back away from needed reforms and paid with his life for his love of God and Love of people. We too are called to follow his example of the self-emptying life.
Jesus died because he spoke truth to power! The power of the resurrection is that God’s truth survives the pain and suffering people inflict upon one another. The Power of the resurrection is a defiant “NO”, when people want to eliminate God’s love. Jesus lives, God’s love wins, and nothing will stand in the way of this truth.
Speaking truth can cause pain and death. Truth will not fail. The seed of God implanted in us is also implanted in others. We are not alone. Jesus was not alone! He relied on shouting stones and so must we.
I sense that I am a pastor of a “Shouting Stones Lutheran Church”. Realizing the shallowness of scriptural literalism stones are shouting out. People want more. They are hungry for spiritual growth not being fed beliefs they have to accept. People are looking for a spiritual life that touches their minds and hearts. People want Jesus’ wisdom in helping live their lives.
Call it the Emergent Church or Progressive Christianity, STONES ARE SHOUTING! Join the chorus. Sing of God’s implanted word within you. We do it with humility always asking ourselves, “Is what I am saying and doing loving God and Loving my neighbor”.
This Christian thing is not hard to understand, we just need to be authentic in our struggle to get our Faith in God and Jesus aligned with our actions.
Come join the journey as we seek to love as Jesus loved!