Prayer is the Heartbeat of the Church

 
 
Imagine not having to purchase what you need the most today.
 
            Maybe you are in a real pinch.  Your budget won’t budge this month.  Perhaps you’re wondering what items you need to do without for a while.  It could be that the bills aren’t all getting paid.  Or maybe you’re concerned with how in the world you’re going to pay off that credit card, after buying Christmas presents for the family.
Imagine having all the love you need today without working to earn it.
 
            Maybe you have a strained relationship.  It might be that you’re hurt from a marriage or a love that has gone sour.  Perhaps a friendship is on the rocks, or a family member won’t talk to you.  You’re wondering if it will ever be better, if love will find you again.
Imagine having the experience this week and every week of your church full of the grace of Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
            Maybe your church has a legalistic bent.  Perhaps the church is withdrawn into cliques and special interest groups.  It could be that the Spirit hasn’t shown up since 1959.  You’re tired, weary of the chronic sameness and status quo of a stagnant place.
            There is good news… really good news!
 
Prayer is the currency to what you need most, the means of receiving love, and the path to a gracious and powerful church.
 
Jesus Christ himself said, “My Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.” (John 15:16).  Prayer is the heartbeat of the church.  The promise of prayer still stands.  God gives.  We receive.  But we must ask!
 
Sometimes God just gives without us asking.  That’s great.  But God wants so much more for you and me and our churches.  He longs for us to be vitally connected to him, and that connection happens through prayer.  We can bank on the answers to our prayers when we:
·         Stay joined to Jesus (John 15:4)
·         Let Christ’s teachings become part of you (John 15:7)
·         Remain faithful to Christ’s love for you (John 15:9)
·         Obey Jesus (John 15:10)
Imagine having your will align with the perfect will of God.
 
Then, “you can pray for whatever you want, and your prayer will be answered.” (John 15:7)
            Perhaps you are skeptical.  You’ve prayed a long time with nothing happening.  You are discouraged and feel like prayer doesn’t work, or that something is wrong with you.  There is a mysterious and mystical aspect to prayer that we will never quite understand.  But I do know that Jesus didn’t put a timetable on the answers – they will come when they come.  They will, however, come.  And maybe we will discover that what we want and need the most is to let God’s will and way be done in us, no matter what it is.  Perhaps the point is to change us, and not always to change our circumstances.
            We have an incredible privilege.  We simply get to ask.  We don’t buy answers to prayer.  We don’t have to do backflips to get God’s attention.  We ask.  We don’t have to try and work to earn God’s favor.  We don’t have to draw up detailed plans like some sort of architectural design to see a fruitful, loving, and powerful church.  We simply ask, and remain closely connected to Jesus.
            So, pray… about everything.  Some of the best prayers you will ever pray are the psalms.  Great prayers can be found in the church fathers from the ancient church.  Beautiful soaring prayers exist from the medieval mystics in church history.  There are also your spontaneous, specific, and special prayers offered to God.  Whatever prayers you pray, in whatever form or shape they come in, the thing to do today is to pray.  I conclude with an ancient one which I pray each week for your use now:

 

“O Lord, grant me to greet the coming of this day in peace.  Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will.  In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me.  Bless my dealings with all who surround me.  Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all.  In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.  In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You.  Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.  Give me the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.  Direct my will; teach me to pray; pray You Yourself in me.  Amen.” –St. Philaret of Moscow 

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