Prayer Power – Real Prayer Power based on Romans 8:26
Pentecost 5 – Proper 11: July 17, 2011
Pastor Richard Mau
Immanuel Lutheran: Des Plaines, IL
Psalm 119:57-64 Isaiah 44:6-8 Romans 8:18-27 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Here is an exercise to enjoy with a person near you. Just turn to that person, whether you know that person or not, to do something. (wait a moment). Did your command on its own cause that person to do that something? (pause) Let’s try this again but this time just ask that person to do something. (wait a moment) Did your request on its own cause that person to do that something? Now if the person actually did do what you requested, was it your doing or was it because that person did it on his/her own power? Yes, it was according to that person’s will that they did that something.
Likewise, did you ever ask something of someone but you also knew that you would receive that something whether you asked or not? That person had whatever it was you desired and also wanted and had prepared in advance for you to have it. It wasn’t your power and your doing, but again the will of that person.
Let’s try another circumstance. Think back and remember a time when you were in need of something and it was delivered to you just out of no-where. Maybe it was a situation and you just did not know how to get through it. Someone knew or sensed that you could use or needed whatever it was and freely gave it to you even without your saying it out loud. It was as if that person was reading your mind.
As we follow Paul’s letter to the Romans he is addressing the pains each one suffers due to sin. It is the guilt and shame and repercussions of individual sin. It is the messes of this life anyone and all endure due to sin in the world. Remember Isaiah who cries out that he is a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips. The suffering in this world and in each one’s life never ends and it seems to increase and build as time goes on.
Paul begins comfort reminding that these sufferings are not worth comparing with what God holds for you in eternity that is yet to be revealed. Believers are eager to have these sufferings come to an end are anxious to be gathered together with all of the saints of all times. Who does not want to be with loved ones as well as Abraham and Peter and Noah, let alone with Jesus on his eternal throne? Paul writes a vivid description of this pain and anxiety as a woman’s pains in childbirth. The joyful end is so near and yet so painful and unsure of how all will turn out. Let it be over! Now!
All of this conflict points to Christ. Knowing sin tells the need of a Savior and points the sinner to Jesus who has fulfilled all for you. Think of Adam and Eve in Eden. They had known only good, but now it was ruined. When they ruined it all with sin God immediately proclaimed the sentence that what had been only good would now be pain and sorrow in this world. At the same time he gave the promise of the Savior who would destroy sin and all that it brings with it. Adam and Eve were the only ones who first hand knew this world before sin and could visualize what its restoration might be. Through them God began our hope in Christ and the restoring he brings. Ephesians 1 states that God has united all things in heaven and on earth in Jesus [v. 10]. As we live in that separation we receive a taste of that unity in the Sacrament as Jesus joins himself with you for your strength in faith in the forgiveness he has brought. Colossians 1:20 also tells us of Christ’s reconciling all things (in heaven and on earth) to himself in making peace by the cross.
It is hope in this promise that each believer is saved. In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described as the sure and certain hope, knowing it is already there but yet to be revealed.
Think back a few moments ago when I asked you if you had the power to cause another to do or give something and you do not. Not just in this world, but before God, each one is weak and helpless. There are the times of helplessness and despair that you just do not know how to talk to God about it. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words, [v. 26]. “…The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God,” [v. 27b].
In all of this is God’s gift of prayer. Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts.[i] The Holy Spirit, given you in the waters of your baptism, communicates more in simple groans than the most eloquent words we can utter. Our prayer from Psalm 19:14 is that both the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are acceptable to God. God knows your needs and wants and has answered them even before you can think of them, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear,” [Isaiah 65:24].
Psalm 139 cries out, “Search me, O God and know my heart…Try and know my thoughts,” [v. 1, 23]. God knows even the secrets of the heart [Psalm 44:21]. John writes, “God, who is greater than the heart and he knows everything,” [1 John 3:20]. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts,” [Proverbs 20:27]. God does not want you to live in doubt and wondering any moment of your life. He is all knowing (omniscient), even to the minutest particle of all of creation and into the deepest depth of your soul. He has given you his Spirit, so deep inside of you, to carry to him all that you need according to his will as you pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” [Lord’s Prayer, 3rd petition].
During the 1950’s was a popular TV series, “Father Knows Best.” In this idyllic portrayal of a family, the father always had solid and thoughtful advice for his children in their dilemmas. He wanted and positioned for nothing but good for them no matter what the situation they found themselves in. You have a heavenly Father whose will is nothing but good for you, his perfect and holy good. As he does not want you to miss out on any part of his goodness, he has given you his spirit who has already enabled you to know, seek and trust this goodness, to “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17] in your thoughts and words as you go through each day. He wants to hear your voice in trial, temptation, thanksgiving and rejoicing alike as he has promised, “…you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you,’ [Isaiah 30:19b].
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
[i] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, question 194. ©1991 Concordia Publishing House.