The Moving Power of Prayer
Fourth Week in the Season of the Resurrection
In the Church in the Struggle
I asked a friend recently if he prayed and if he prayed with his family. He said yes and he told me about the prayer of his youngest daughter. Every time the family prayed, she prayed for her grandpa –although she had never met him. When my friend told his father about this constant prayer, his father cried.
Today, we want to understand something about the meaning and the practice of prayer. And we want to learn how it can strengthen the little churches we are asking you to form this year.
Think about the child who prays to God for the Grandpa she has never met. Although they do not know each other; although they have never seen each other, or talked, or touched each other; her pure and simple and sincere belief has brought them to know each other. She has touched the old man’s heart, bringing tears to his eyes. Where there was distance, love has been unleashed in both their hearts.
More than that, through her belief, through this little girl’s prayer, she has been connected with her history, her place in time –and he has been connected to the future for which he lived. Through her prayer, she has moved into God’s time in which there is neither the separation of death or sin, of time or space, and through which both love and destiny are in her and in the old man and both are also in the same love and destiny.
And what is the proof of this miracle of prayer? The proof is in the tear that falls from the old man’s cheek and the light of hopeful anticipation in the young girl’s heart; the assurance that someday she will see the old man on this earth.
Recall now that we are in the season of Resurrection, in which each appearance of the resurrected Jesus reminds the disciples, and reminds us, of the Way He taught us to live together.
Jesus has appeared to most of the disciples, but Thomas was not present during these appearances. “I will not believe,” said Thomas, ”until I can put my fingers in the holes in his hands and the hole in his side.”
Now Jesus appears again to the disciples but, this time, Thomas is there. “Go ahead,” says Jesus, ”put your fingers in the holes in my hands and in my side.” “No my Lord,” says Thomas. “I believe it is you, resurrected from the dead.”
“Blessed are those who see and believe,” says Jesus. “But more blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
How do you believe? How do you come to know God? How do you draw on the protection and the power of His Kingdom?
Jesus taught us to learn from the little children. Remember the little girl who prayed for her Grandpa, who she had never met or seen. In her prayer, she knew him. To know what you have not seen, to know God, is something we CAN do in prayer. Knowing God, knowing his PROMISE that we will see his kingdom on earth, is knowledge that is found in prayer.
Blessed are those who have not seen but believe…
Before his crucifixion, knowing he will die, Jesus prays for the believers. He prays that they will know that they are one with God as he is one with God. He says that, after his crucifixion, he will be in them and they will be in him. And then Jesus says, as he prays for the believers, “May they be brought to COMPLETE UNITY to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Let’s break this statement down.
Jesus wants a people to have such unity that they can let the world know that God loved Jesus. If God loved Jesus, than evil men have killed an innocent man; they have done a wicked thing. They are convicted.
If the world knows that Jesus loved the believers, than the believers will know that God loves them and they will know the power of Jesus who was willing to sacrifice his life for his people.
You see there is great power in the Good. Look at the politicians who cause us such suffering. Even in their selfish and wicked ways they claim to be good. They claim to walk in the favor of God. Listen to the Republican candidates for President. They claim to be Christians – at the same time they pledge to destroy millions of families, steal the labor of millions of workers and leave millions of children in poverty.
Jesus prays that the unity of the people, the unity of the believers, will reveal the truth of God’s favor and strip the hypocrites of their claim to be in God’s favor. And where will this unity come from? Jesus prays that a “complete unity” will come when they “know God” through prayer.
When we pray, as we prayed today, we pray that God will protect us or heal us, or will protect or heal those we love. The power of those prayers is that, in praying, in that moment, we are one with an all powerful God. And we are together with those we love – even if we are separated from them by space or time – or even death.
When we pray in confession, we humble ourselves before God and ask for forgiveness. The effect of sins is to separate us from God. But when we ask humbly for forgiveness, we are no longer separated from God.
We pray for miracles, acts of God that humans could not perform on their own. We want to be in touch with the power of God. When we speak to God, we are believing in what we cannot see, we are with God, and in God we are more powerful than sickness or sin or death.
There is one more thing that prayer does when it puts us in touch with God. It shows us our place in his plan. It shows us our destiny. Our time alive on earth is short, a few tens of years. And yet we can know the history of our people, long before we were alive. In prayer, we can also know the future, long after we will live.
In the Bible, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, it says a man is finite but God has planted the idea of infinity in his mind. When we pray, we know God, and we know God’s time, which has no beginning and no end.
When we pray we find ourselves in God’s time. We go beyond our small dreams for ourselves. It is then we see our place in creation; that God has planted a people here in this nation, has made that people to be fruitful and multiply, so that this nation could be changed to bring justice to the Americas.
In the last few weeks we have talked about the gifts of the teaching of Jesus. And we have said that we can practice these gifts in small groups, in “little churches” in our homes. And we have said that we can begin a movement of little churches that will spread across the nation and be the foundation for the rise of a new and powerful people.
Of these gifts, none is more powerful than prayer. Prayer will be the foundation of our little churches, the foundation of our movement. Out of prayer, we will find complete unity, and we will find our place in the destiny God has for us.
Lord, teach us to pray; teach us to believe when we cannot see the future; teach us to love even those we do not know; teach us to walk in your way even when we do not know where it will lead us; teach us to trust in you.
Precious Lord, it seems that you have given us a heavy task and left us alone. You charged us to challenge the President of the United States to stop the separation of families. Now we have to find a way to complete that task. Our plans are not wise enough. Our forces are not strong enough. Teach us to rely on you. Teach us to go forward in faith that you will make a way where there seems to be no way.
Precious Lord, it seems you have charged us to raise up those who have been excluded from the health care that gives life, to fight the 20 year death gap that makes short the lives of millions, to raise up an army of young people in this cause, but our plans are not wise enough, our forces not strong enough. Teach us to go forward in faith that you will make a way where there seems to be no way.
Precious Lord, 50,000 died in Mexico because of the 20 million in this country who buy illegal drugs. Thousands of our young people know no future but death or jail because of this plague. Even today, one of our own lies shot in a hospital bed. Our young people face death and prison on both sides of the border because the greed of a few has given them no other way to make a living. You have charged us to find a way out of this plague. Our plans do not have wisdom enough. Our forces are too weak. Give us the faith to walk forward that you might use us.
Precious Lord, we can do nothing without you. Today, we ask that you show us the way to know you, to believe in what we cannot see, to believe that we will see your Kingdom on this earth. Show us the power of prayer. Work through our hands when we reach out to heal each other. Join us together with those we are separated from, even by death, even from those we do not know yet.
Lord, teach us to pray. Close your eyes. Pray like a child. Pray to be with God. Say,”Lord, Let us see your face.” Teach us to pray like children, with simple hope, with loving hearts. Thank You Lord for the Gift of Prayer!
Amen ? Amen! Amen!
Holy Scriptures for the Fourth Sunday
in the Season of the Resurrection
Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face! ” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
John 17:20-23 Jesus Prays for All Believers
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one —I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 20:24-29 Jesus Appears to Thomas
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”