Unpacking

Scriptures: Acts 2:42, Psalm 31, John 14:1-14

Please join me again in this prayer of Ted Loder’s:

“Lord, I believe my life is touched by you; that you want something for me and of me. Please give me ears to hear you, eyes to see the tracing of your finger, and a heart quickened by the motions of your Spirit.”[1]

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Recall from last week the four points of vital ministry as outlined in Acts by the earliest example of the Followers of the Way: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). Today’s lessons unpack some of the depths and kinds of prayers to which a vital community devotes themselves. I suspect if we were to examine these different kinds of prayers more closely, they would stem from something in common: a deep yearning for connection to God – longing for deliverance, comfort, awe, encouragement, wisdom, thanksgiving, presence, assurance, love, belonging, or some other missing piece within us sensed but not understood.

Contemporary author Anne Lamott whittled down her own searching experience with prayer into three categories and published a little book by the same title: “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.”

The prayer from Psalm 31 in today’s reading is a kind of prayer for help; specifically deliverance, beseeching God for salvation from enemies and persecutors. However, it also includes the Psalm text quoted in Luke’s gospel by Jesus from the cross; which was another kind of deliverance, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Today’s text from 1 Peter calls for followers of Christ to long for “pure spiritual milk;” I think of this as a prayer for wisdom: sustenance for a thirsty soul. Ruth Haley Barton takes prayer for wisdom a step farther. She writes,

“It is crucial that those of us who want to become more discerning learn to … recognize places of un-freedom where we are inordinately attached to a particular outcome rather than being indifferent to anything but the will of God.”[2]

The theme of prayer is continued as one of the main revelations of Jesus in today’s portion of John’s “Farewell Discourse,” chapter 14.

“The brevity of the words belies the depth and breadth of Jesus’ teaching. Those who believe in him are promised that they will do greater works [than his] because (1) Jesus will be with God, a place of advocacy and intercession, and (2) these works will bring glory to God through the Son. Works that glorify God issue from prayer that is in accordance with Jesus’ own mission. The disciples are instructed to “ask in [his] name” (v. 13), and he assures them he will grant what is asked.

A superficial interpretation of the privilege of praying “in Jesus’ name” is that if the formula is used, this is tantamount to effectual prayer. To pray “in the name of Jesus” is to align one’s spiritual longing with that of one’s Lord. When one believes in Jesus, one begins to believe in God with the same depth of trust and hope, out of which mature prayer flows.”[3]

So where does that lead and why so much emphasis on prayer? Turning to wisdom from the Celtic tradition, John Philip Newell writes,

“We and all things have come from the One. Deep within us are holy, natural longings for oneness, primal sacred drives for union. We may live in tragic exile from these longings, or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of our being, waiting to be born afresh.”[4]

In prayer, in all forms of prayer, we move more intentionally inward toward that oneness. To briefly dwell on the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and which we pray every Sunday, it should be noted that when we utter the Lord’s Prayer, we are once again renewing and pledging ourselves to surrender who we are and what we want; offering instead the space to allow the will of God to speak into and through our lives. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

In the next three Sundays, as the lectionary leads us to Pentecost and receiving the Holy Spirit, I hope to dig a little deeper into the other three hallmarks of a vital church. I urge you to take notes, for the Spirit is at work moving and re-shaping the body of Christ for a new awakening; perhaps even as different as is a butterfly from the caterpillar from which it came. Be attentive, be alert; for the Spirit is coming and is now here, and Christ is calling for all who hear his voice to follow.

May all glory be to the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

Is the “dwelling place” (John 14:1–14) of which Jesus speaks a place for   us after we die, or does it include our life in the present? What does Jesus mean when he says that his disciples “will do greater works”? What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”?

Household Prayer: Morning

Lord Jesus,

as I serve you this day,

let not my heart be troubled.

Help me to believe with conviction

that you are with me,

and I am in you,

and you are in God. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Faithful God,

my rock and my fortress,

into your hands I commit my spirit.

As darkness falls,

let your face shine upon your servant,

and keep me in your steadfast love. Amen.

[1] Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace (Philadelphia, Innisfree Press,1984) p. 29; quoted from Ruth Haley Barton’s third chapter closing prayer in Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice For Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012) p.73

[2] Barton, Ruther Haley. Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice For Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012) p.64

[3] Marshall, Molly T. Feasting on the Word—Year A David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press; Louisville, Kentucky; All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] Newell, John Philip. The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings; Skylight Paths Publishing, 2014.

 

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
This entry was posted in Conversation Starters, Sermon. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s