Today’s sermon is part of a new series, where we’ll look at a question I first heard posed by Tim Keller: Are you experiencing your theology? And by that we mean, is your everyday experience of life in line with what you believe is true about God, the Bible, our faith, and what life is for and about?
If I am a citizen of Heaven, it’s incumbent upon me to look for Heavenly purpose and meaning in all aspects of my life. This is how I cultivate a Kingdom mindset in the midst of a world that interprets things very differently than God does. I want to see what God is doing in the midst of this reality.
I ended up with a set of brief responses about my theology on a whole list of topics: Prayer, Sin, Love, Forgiveness, Healing, Miracles, Salvation, Money, Church, War, Heaven, Work, Reconciliation, Deliverance, Sex, Art, Romance.
As I went through these different aspects of life, I intentionally tried to block what I thought I SHOULD believe about these things, and instead wrote my best honest answer about what I DO believe. I found it surprisingly helpful to break things out this way.
Today, I want to look specifically at our theology of PRAYER. What do we believe about prayer? Given that, are we experiencing it?
Take a moment and write down what you believe prayer IS and what you believe prayer DOES.
My quick theology of prayer: PRAYER accomplishes so much more than we know or can even imagine. Prayer is the single most effective and important thing we do on earth.
This raises the Tim Keller question: Am I experiencing my theology?
A few weeks ago, we gathered around a table and prayed words from the Bible – Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – for three different twelve-year-old girls, two of whom are in foster care, awaiting adoptive homes.
I pray for us constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in our knowledge of God. I pray that our hearts will be flooded with light so that we can understand the confident hope he has given to us.
I also pray that we will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower us with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in our hearts as we trust in him. Our roots will grow down into God’s love and keep us strong. And may we have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May we experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then we will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!
I’ve prayed this every day, as I know some of you have. Already I’ve learned of some astonishing things happen. Hearing about that has prompted me to double down and pray more, because I’m encouraged – I’m reminded that my theology of prayer is that IT WORKS. It makes a tangible, practical, important difference.
At the bottom of the prayer sheets we all took home is this scripture:
“The earnest prayer of a righteous believer has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:16
So now I’m wrestling with this: How would I behave if I really believed this?
I was reading a book about prayer yesterday and was captivated by this suggestion:
“Prayer builds up an insulation in our lives so we aren’t demoralized, depressed, or intimidated by what happens around us.”
The reason this stood out is because it perfectly described something I’d experienced the day before, on Friday.
I’d had a rocky morning, blown out tire on the car. I left the car in the school parking lot and walked home so I could walk our dog. I walked back to the school, where I waited almost two hours for Honda Services…which never came. I walked home again.
At this point, I had walked 4 or 5 miles…by lunch. And I still didn’t have a car. And yet through this, I felt like I was being given a choice, and that the EASIER, MORE DESIREABLE CHOICE was to praise God, notice the sunshine & the cool breeze, and enjoy the walk, to remember that I’ve wanted to walk more. To thank God that this happened at school, where I could safely leave our car.
It’s not like me to feel like all this polly positive thinking is the easier option. But there I was, choosing that with ease. And later that night, Steve was miraculously “happy” to be changing a tire in a school parking lot at 8:30 at night.
Prayer insulated us from this rather crappy thing that happened, so we weren’t depressed, demoralized or intimidated.
I wonder if noticing things like this is more than half the challenge of having a prayer life we love? Because when we notice, we’re encouraged to do more. We wouldn’t miss it for the world. So the Enemy tries to make us forgetful. Distracted, moving forward, whatever.
I’ve been part of two different small groups over the years where someone in the group kept a running tally of answered prayers. When you see that list after 6 or 8 months? It’s INCREDIBLE.
Now, I don’t have anything hugely insightful to say about prayer beyond…let’s do it. To become a “People who pray,” we must each be “people who pray.”
Let’s make this choice by praying every morning, for a set period of time. 20 minutes, or half an hour.
The Apostle Paul talked about this in the letter he wrote to the believers in Rome, describing how Abraham, one of the heroes of the faith, “called things that were not as though they were.” Paul says:
Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.
Prayer brings us into this same process. It’s where we connect with God’s plan and power, which are different and higher than our own.
If we already have a certain, affirmative theology of prayer, this is simply lining up our behavior with our beliefs. If we’re not sure if prayer is worth it, this is how we find out. I think we all have the same reaction when someone suggests we spend 20 or 30 minutes a day in prayer (consecutive minutes), or even an hour: I DON’T HAVE TIME. THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE. But it’s not. God is in charge of time. God makes impossible things possible. Let’s let Him.
- We can pray Psalms.
- We can just chat with God.
- We can make a list and pray through it.
- We can pray over a map, or a newspaper, or a picture.
- If you want, you can pray through your Twitter feed.
- You can spend time praising God for how awesome He is.
- You can ask forgiveness for things you’ve screwed up.
- You can ask for help or advice
Let’s do this prayer thing, every day, asking God to bring our experience in line with His theology.
Let me close with another prayer from the Bible, this one that Paul wrote to the Colossians:
We always pray and give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have faith in Christ Jesus and love for all of God’s people, which comes from our confident hope of what God has reserved for us in heaven. We have had this expectation ever since we first heard the truth of the Good News.
This same Good News that came to us is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed our lives from the day we first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
We ask God to give us complete knowledge of His will and to give us spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way we live will always honor and please the Lord, and our lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, we will grow as we learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that we will be strengthened with all His glorious power so we will have all the endurance and patience we need. May we be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled us to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.