Our Church’s Strategic Plan: Prayer

The Mission:  Briefing #2
Our Strategic Plan:  Prayer

John 12:20-33

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

 

As You look around you, may you realize the great need there is for the grace, the mercy and love that is yours to give, for that is your gift from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

At least we can? Not..

It’s probably a matter of semantics, just the way people phrase things, but I have heard it a lot this week.  It’s been said different ways, but it still sounds the same…

“Pastor, we’ll be praying, but if there is anything we can do….” Or

“Pastor, we know there is probably nothing we can do, but we’ll be praying for you and your family…”

By the way, if you’ve said that, I know that isn’t how we mean it. Or at least I don’t think we think that way.  Or maybe….. we do.

In contrast – today’s epistle reading takes a different tact…


I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

In our Lutheran Confessions, Melancthon wrote of it this way,

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.[i]

So I repeat Paul’s words – and will more and more today, I urge you, first of all… to pray for all people!

Where is our faith?

       

Whether we realize it, or not, when we set prayer as a secondary action, as a safety valve, we are breaking the first and second commandment.  You heard me, we are sinning, by placing another god in our lives, by not calling upon God in both prayer and praise.
Luther wrote about it this way:

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?

Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart;

 

For faith is not just about salvation, it’s about deacon Mike’s favorite theological phrase! It’s about that intimate relationship we have with God. It’s about trusting Him in everything – and running to Him first when we don’t know what to do, or how to love and care, all that we know is that He is where we find hope, and comfort, and love.

So Paul urges not just Timothy, but us to pray for all people.  To get God involved in their situation, to deliver them from whatever is oppressing them, especially the sin and unrighteousness of this world.  To pray that God would save them, even as He has saved us.  That His grace, His mercy and love that we know – for that is why we praise Him…would be revealed to them so clearly it would knock them over…like Paul was knocked over on the road to Damascus.

You see that’s how we deal with all people!  Yes – I mean all people.  Pray for those who annoy you, who irritate you, who’ve hurt you, who’ve betrayed you!  Put them in God’s hands, let God help them with their hurts, and your will find yourself healing as well.  For that is what it means that God is our God – that we trust Him with our who heart – even with our bruised and battered hearts…

For He is faithful and He will reconcile us all in His heart.

We have to grasp the heart of God!

That is really what prayer is about, and why it makes so much sense to put those we care for, and those who we struggle to care for, into the very hands of God.  He’s the one who can take care of their burdens, and the burdens and anxieties that they can cause us.

That is why Paul brings in God’s will.  He just does not want everyone to be saved – that is a weak translation there.  The word is desire; it is a word full of passion and zeal.  It is all about His heart yearning to know each and every one of us, to bring healing to us, and you know – that means He has to deal with those we love whose situations break our hearts… and those who simply break our hearts.

For Jesus came and lived and died for each of us, even as we broke the Father’s heart, and occasionally still do. As we get to know God’s heart; as His love is revealed to each of us.

That’s why the great prophecy about baptism in Ezekiel 36 talks about God cleansing us and removing our hard stone hearts and putting in them a heart of flesh and His Spirit – that’s part of the transformation that begins in us when we are baptized, when God gives us His Spirit.

The closer we come to God, the more His love is revealed in our lives, the more we find ourselves trusting in Him enough to give Him our pains and anxieties, which so often include, or are about, or caused by others.

The same “others” that Jesus also hunt on the cross and for whom He died.

That’s what we have to understand, that is what is true – the love of Go, seen as Jesus, the only one who can act  as an intermediary between God and man – does that very thing.

We’ll talk about that more in Bible study – but think about this – the reason Jesus can bring God and man together.. is because He is… God and Man.

His heart is for us, and He brings us into His sacred heart – He brings us into a relationship so clear that the more we spend time in it, the more we heal and our new heart is revealed to be His.


But our first step isn’t to go on a crusade…

        Protos panton

 

That is why our first step is not some crusade to go save the world.  Our first step is to fall on our knees and ask God to bless people, to help them, that’s why we intercede on their behalf.

It’s not something we do as a last resort, or when we can’t think of something else to do.  Paul urges us, literally he comes along side to help us and points out our first step – is to reach out…not to them, but to the Father who will have Jesus intercede in their lives.

This is the strategy of our mission as believers, our mission of the church.

I urge you, first of all to pray for all people.

And Paul repeats the concept – Ask God to help them..

Intercede with Him on their behalf.. even if you don’t like them… ask God to be with them..

Four times in four ways… God asks us this.  It’s called a parallelism.

It’s like when you wife, or your mother, tells you to do something… if she tells you twice..  uhm you better listen…

But if she gets to three…

But this is even more important…we’re talking about our eternity here, and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God…. Like communion its not an individual thing – but a God pulling us all into Him thing. That’s what He does – that’s why we go to Him, and as Paul says – as Paul urges us, we go to Him first.

 

A last thought:  Why give thanks?

As we chew on this, for the heart of God is something we cannot just academically “get”, as we strive to realize what it means that God wants us all, in Christ, reconciled, as we learn to pray for all men, I would ask one more thing….

Why do we give thanks for them?  Why are we urged by Paul, along with praying for them, to give thanks for them? Even the politicians and bosses and all that oppress and antagonize us?
Because, when we realize God’s heart toward them, our hearts melt as well… and even more..
Because whether positive or negative influences in our lives…when we are urged to bring them and their situation before God.. wefind we are in His presence… and there…

 

There is peace. And may your realize that unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on September 22, 2013, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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