What’s the point? Have you ever invested time and energy into an ambiguous or seemingly futile endeavor? You work, study, struggle, and sweat…all for not. Maybe its a college major with no employable skills taught. A job assigned by a superior with no apparent value…or one that doesn’t best use your skills or time. Sometimes some church programs and ministries can fall into this category. They start with lots of gusto and end up be a no-go. No matter the situation, we find our selves pondering, “What’s the point?”
At times I have found myself thinking this about prayer. I know prayer is an essential discipline, responsibility, and gift we possess. It connects us with the Almighty God. But after years and tears asking and asking…prayers seem to go no where. We read in Matthew 6:8 that God knows what we need before we ask. So why ask? What’s the point?
Continuing our Sermon Series, Stumbling Blocks, we dive this week into that point and reason for prayer. Our goal as followers of Jesus Christ is to align ourselves fully and completely with Jesus. What He believes, we believe. What he does, we do. How he feels, we seek to feel. How Jesus prays…we pray. Fortunately for us, Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus’ answer might surprise you. “The Lord’s Prayer,” which we recite every week, reveals the point and purpose for our every prayer.
Prayer reminds us whose we are and what that means for the way we live. Slowly work your way through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-12). It begins by reminding us we are brothers and sisters with God as our Father. Its a we, not a me. God is the authority, the provider, the one who loves us, and the one who will care for us. Our goal: “hallow” God’s name or keep God’s reputation upstanding. God is the Father and we honor God’s role as father by being obedient children. What God wants…we want. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” We chose to trust that God will provide what we need today: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not tomorrow’s or next week’s bread, but give us today’s need. Its about now, and we choose to not worry but trust. Give God the consequences, God will take of them too. And forgive…just as God forgives. In fact, Jesus will go as far as saying that if we can’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. We’re to be like our Heavenly Father. We, together, belong to him.
What I notice in this prayer is that there is no mention of asking for my desires to be met. Does God know I’m concerned about the health of my friend…maybe even myself. Yes…again, Matthew 6:8…God knows. We don’t tell God to remind God. We tell God through prayer of our fears, our joys, and our desires to remind ourselves that God loves us, will always take care of us, and we can trust God.
Ultimately, Prayer changes me so that God may bring change to the world through me. Prayer is about humbling myself and listening, offering myself and serving. Prayer that matters brings change in me and through me, reinforcing my intimacy and connection with the Holy Father of Heaven! Confidence in prayer comes through commitment to God in prayer.
At church on Sunday I handed out little bookmarks displaying John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Like Matthew 6:9-12, John Wesley used and taught this prayer as a recommitment to God, reminding ourselves of what it means to receive and live into God’s grace. I encourage you to pray it daily. Allow the words to become your words to your heavenly Father. Trust as you fully commit that the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of Creation, the God who loves us so much that He freely ransomed His only Son on our behalf, will take care of you as you live for God, empowered by the Holy Spirt, into the likeness of Jesus. May we prayer this prayer together as brothers and sisters eager to watch our Father in Heaven move in our midst.
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, 1780:
I am no longer my own, I am yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be useful for you or laid aside for you; praised for you or ridiculed for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your pleasure and service.
And now, Glorious and Blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And this covenant which I make with you on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.