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When faced with a challenge, don’t forget about God.
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. A lot of people think it is. We say, “Oh God, you are so reluctant to give me what I want. Please God: please can I change Your mind in any way?”
It is not overcoming God’s reluctance; instead, it is laying hold of our own highest willingness. There is a huge difference. The power of God Almighty is waiting to give to you and to bless you. But we have to be willing in our awareness to turn to God and accept, and God says, “Yes, I will open up the windows of heaven for You – until you say it is enough.” Whoever rises from prayer a better woman, or a better man has already had his or her prayer answered.
God wants to give it to you; you can have the ultimate prayer of a human’s life answered.
Prayer is your key. It unlocks the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at your disposal. You might say, “Well now, it is the priest, or the rabbi, or the minister who has God at his, or her disposal.” No, it is you too. You have it right where you sit this morning.
Often, we say, we are too busy to pray. We are just too involved with our busy lives to have time for God. Do you know what that really means? We are too busy to have power. Because our human self runs out of power quickly, but God never runs out of power.
A kindergarten class went to a fire station for a tour and some instruction in fire safety. The fireman was explaining what to do in case of fire.
The fireman said, “First go to the door and feel the door to see if it is hot. Now fall to your knees. Does anyone know why you should fall to your knees?”
One of the little children said, “Sure, to start praying to ask God to get us out of this mess.”
We have a great deal of activity in our lives, but we accomplish little when we try to accomplish it without God. When we have God in our lives, we can accomplish greater things than we ever dreamed possible. Nothing is impossible to God’s giving grace.
It has been said, there is more religion in some men’s curses than there is in some men’s prayers, especially if the former is sincere, and the latter is just ritual. When we pray, when we talk to God, we have to talk to God like God is our very best friend and talk from our heart. Then we have a connection.
There was a man who took his little six-year-old son fishing. They put the line into the river and then they went up to the cabin. After about an hour they went back to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew there would be Daddy.”
The father asked, “How did you know?”
The boy replied, “Because I prayed about it.”
They baited the hooks again, put out the line, and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward they went back to the river again. There were fish on the line, and the boy said, “I knew it Daddy.”
The father said, “Son, how did you know?”
The little boy said, “I prayed again that there would be fish on the line.”
So, they put the line back into the river and went back to the cabin. Before bedtime they went back again and this time there were no fish. The child said, “I knew there wouldn’t be any fish on the line.”
The father asked, “How did you know?”
The boy said, “Because, I forgot to pray this time.”
The father said, “Why didn’t you pray?”
The boy said, “Because Daddy, I forgot.”
Don’t ever forget the first and foremost thing in your life is God. Put God first; don’t ever meet any situation alone. Don’t ever go into a problem turning like a tornado in your mind, or outside of yourself without God. Go with the power, the awareness, and the consciousness of God’s help, and everything will change. Everything will be better. Sometimes better than you can ever imagine, receiving the Grace of God.
Our failure to think of prayer as a privilege may be partly due to the fact we can pray any time. The door to prayer is so open, so continuous, that we fail to avail ourselves of an opportunity which is always there. We take it for granted. Yet it is the most incredible thing in the whole universe. Each one of you this morning, even if you are here for the first time, can take this knowledge with you as a gift of God. You cannot be alone. God loves you, and God is with you every single moment. You can talk with God. God is not way out there somewhere. God is not reluctant toward you. God is with you, right where you are.
We have heard commercials on television say for years that what is important for a good life is a strong portfolio of stocks. There is nothing wrong with this, and over the long term it is probably very wise. But I ask you to have a strong portfolio first of prayers and investments in faith.
A lady said, “I can’t pray for more than two minutes at a time. I try, but I just can’t. I run out of things to pray about.” She said, “What can I do?”
Her minister asked her, “What have you been thinking about or worrying about this week?”
She said, “Well,” and then she talked for 15 minutes.
The minister said, “Change all that into a prayer.”
Instead of thinking and worrying about things, talk to God in a solutions oriented positive way and ask God’s help to see your challenge in a new light. She had a spiritual solution, and right then they sat down and prayed. She led the prayer and prayed for 15 minutes easily and could have talked for an hour about things that had been bothering her in her life.
You can estimate the weight of the world. You can tell the size of a certain city. You can count the stars in heaven. You can measure the speed of lightning. You can tell the time of the rising and the setting of the sun. But we as humans cannot estimate the power of prayer. The power of prayer, when it works in and through you, is beyond anything that the human mind of any time or any age can comprehend. It is more because prayer is as vast as God is, because God is behind it. Prayer is as mighty as God is, because God has committed all that God is, to answer our prayers.
There was a little girl who had an uncle named Uncle Mack. She was visiting her uncle with three of her siblings and they were all thirsty at the same time. The little girl went to Uncle Mack and said, “Uncle Mack, I am thirsty. Can I have a drink?” The other children immediately decided they were thirsty too so all four lined up. The bigger ones pushed the little ones out of the way, so the smallest one was at the very end. “Uncle Mack, we’re thirsty,” they said. He had a bottle of apple cider in the refrigerator, and he poured the apple cider into clear glasses. Three got clear glasses of apple cider, but the little girl got the very bottom of the cider which had some sediment in it.
The others drank their apple cider and the little girl just stared at her apple cider and said to Uncle Mack, “I don’t want that. Look, it’s got all that stuff in it.”
Uncle Mack said, “That is the best of all. It is filled with vitamins and that is good.”
She said, “Yuck! I don’t want any part of that,” and she started crying. As they were talking, Uncle Mack looked over at the cider and told her to also look over. They saw a miracle. All of the sediment in the glass had floated to the bottom. It was as clear as the others were.
That is what happens in our own minds during prayer, it allows the sediment to fall to the bottom of us and gives us clarity.
Allow me to share a parable of Jesus Christ from Matthew 22:1-14. “Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: `The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again, he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fatted calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
“The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
There is a book written by author Elizabeth Sand Turner, which explains this parable of Jesus. She says in her book, “Your Hope of Glory,” the parable of the wedding feast and the wedding garment, relates that God has prepared a feast for you and invites you to it. Those in lower human consciousness make light of God’s invitation. They not only pursue their worldly interests, but definitely reject God’s summons. They kill the king’s messengers. They reside literally at the bottom of the glass in the sediment of life. This is a spiritual meaning of the fall of man, our highest thoughts are often allowed to sink to our lowest realms. In other words, we have Divine urgings inside of our minds, but we kill those thoughts. We say, “Not now, not now.” Then we go our own way. The price we pay is death to the good we would have had; the good God has already prepared for us. Those who accept God’s invitation must prepare themselves properly and wear a wedding garment.
You must prepare yourself in awareness. What does it mean to put on a garment of God? It means to know God is one with you, and to accept the good God has for you. Our preparation for God’s good consists of spiritual thinking and living. The robe of righteousness is the only fit wedding garment. Without this we shall not be permitted to eat at God’s table. Does God choose? No, it said earlier that the good and the bad were invited. God cares more about your present moment, your future, and your willingness to change, then God does about your past. God invites all to this banquet. God wants all to accept it, but in order to accept it, you must synchronize your human mind with God. Otherwise, you cannot even comprehend the good that God has already prepared for you.
Once, some years ago, a five-year-old girl was attending a formal wedding. The child was sitting with her grandmother. She had been in Sunday school, but had never attended a formal church service. During the wedding the minister said, “Let us pray.” Each person bowed his or her head in prayer. The little girl looked around, saw all the heads around her bowed, and everyone’s eyes toward the floor. She cried in her loudest voice, “Grandma, what are they all looking for?”
What are we looking for when we pray? Let us seek God first all the time. Sometimes in our human mind we try to twist God’s good.
There was an overweight businessman who decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet very seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. However, one morning, he arrived at work carrying a gigantic coffeecake. His co-workers all scolded him, but a smile remained on his face. He said, “This is a very special coffee cake. I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning. There in the window was a host of goodies. I felt this was no accident, so I prayed, “Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place directly in front of the bakery. Sure enough,” he continued, “The eighth time around the block, there it was.”
A spiritual solution for your life. So often we want something our own way, the way of our human mind, which is not to our highest good. We must pray to God first. Second, we must move as God directs. In Matthew 6:10 the Bible states “Thy will be done.”
Sometimes a person will say, “I want to do God’s will but how could know whether the leading that comes to me is God’s will or my will?” This implies that our will and God’s will must necessarily conflict. When we pray to show the will of God, our own human will is illumined. God acts through our will faculty. And we know that it is God’s will because of the feeling of peace we have, because of the sense of rightness we have. We know that it is God’s will because of the good results that show forth in us and in our lives.
“Not my will, to Thine be done” is one of the most far-reaching positive affirmations of Jesus, and those who follow Jesus and keep Jesus is saying are finding great peace and relaxation in daily life. We are to pray that the will of God enters into us as the great clarifier allowing all the old sediment to fall to the bottom of our hourglass of life.
This will become a moving factor in your life towards real solutions. God does not take our will from us; rather, God gives us the utmost freedom to find creative solutions.
There is a story of an old Scot who was quite ill. The family called for their minister and as he entered the sick room he sat down. He noticed another chair on the opposite side of the bed, a chair which had been drawn close. The minister said, “Well, Donald, I see that I’m not your first visitor for the day.”
The old man looked up, was puzzled for a moment and then he recognized from the nod of the pastor’s head that the pastor had noticed the empty chair. “Well Pastor,” he said, “Let me tell you about this chair. Many years ago, I found it quite difficult to pray, so one day I shared this problem with my minister. He told me to not worry about kneeling or placing myself in some posture such as a Lotus position But instead, sit down with a chair opposite me and imagine Jesus sitting in that chair. Then he said to talk with Him as I would a good friend.” The aged Scot then added, “I’ve been doing that ever since.”
A short time later the daughter of the Scot called the pastor. When he answered, she informed him that her father had died very suddenly. She was quite shaken because she had no idea that death was so very near. Then she continued, “I had just gone to lie down for an hour or two, for he seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. When I went back, he was dead.” Then she added thoughtfully, “Except now, his hand was on the empty chair at the side of the bed. Isn’t that strange?”
The minister replied, “No, that is not strange at all. I understand.” A spiritual solution. When we are in the hospital, we may be in pain, or not feeling well, during such times we may find it is hard to pray. Place an empty chair in front of you, and in that chair, place in your mind the presence of Jesus Christ. Reach out to the chair and pray with that Presence. Oftentimes I have prayed with an empty chair, with the presence of Jesus Christ. You know something? It is a mystical thing, but the chair wasn’t empty. The presence of Jesus Christ was there. It can be in your life too because nothing is impossible for YOU.
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote this: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Therefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats that nourish a blind life within the brain, if knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer, both for themselves and those who call them friends?”
There is one more spiritual solution to help you to pray. This is a hand solution. You have seen hands many times in prayer, but this time I want you to use your hand in a new way. When you don’t know how to pray, or you can’t think of the words, here is a way. First of all, what is closest to you is your thumb. Your thumb is for those nearest to you. You pray for those people nearest to you by looking at your hand.
What is the second finger used for? It is used for pointing. So often in our human life we point at others, we judge and criticize them. Perhaps we are pointing, and we are not forgiving someone. We have to think about those who we are pointing to at the present time. We have to pull back that finger, face it toward ourselves, and pray that we may replace any feeling we have for those people with the love of God.
Our third finger is the longest. So, we think of the tallest people in our lives. Perhaps our leaders of the country, or our city, or perhaps of the business we are in, and we pray for them.
The fourth finger, as any piano player will tell you, is the weakest finger in the hand. That is the finger to help you remember to pray for those around you who are weak, sick, frail, or even for ourselves if we are feeling bad.
Then we have the little finger on our hand. That is for praying for us, to realize that the little finger is the least important. We should always place ourselves in service to God and place God first. When we pray for our life in this way, then we have an added spiritual power and dimension that comes to our life.
Let us pray.
Give me, oh Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards. Give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out. Give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Teach us in this congregation, this morning–good, wonderful God–to serve Thee as Thou deservest. To give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to toil and not seek rest, to labor and not ask for any reward except knowing that we are doing Thy will.
Thank You, God. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.
Prayer / Meditation__________________________
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory. For the sake of Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness”
I ask you to get comfortable in your quiet place, your place of being alone with God. Relax every muscle and let those words of the Psalmist occupy your mind. You are the writer of those words; they are your prayer.
Close your eyes and ears to every outer circumstance and allow thankfulness to permeate your entire being. Realize your oneness with God, your neighbors, your foes, your rivals. You are one with all humans. Your heart swells as you realize your kinship with all life, all are one with
God as you are one with God.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
There is a unity in the universe. In the mood of wonder, joy, and love, contemplate the words a phrase at a time.
“Not to us, Oh Lord.” We get no credit. All good comes from You, God. We listen, act, and receive the benefits. Benefits we often haven’t earned, but that fact doesn’t shame us. It makes us even more thankful for Your love.
“Not to us, … but to Thy name give glory.” We remember that “name” means “nature.” We are giving glory to God’s nature, God’s compassion, God’s forgiveness. Our love for You, God, overwhelms us. All this and heaven too, the whole of the idea floods us with Your love. We are able to love our enemies living in Your nature.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
I ask you to pause and think of something that you have against someone. As you contemplate this, you will see the insignificance of your complaint. This is the time to allow the love of God to come through you. You forgive all parties to the incidents, including yourself. We have no enemies, only brothers and sisters.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
This is the time not only to think of God’s love, but to allow the love of God to come in and through you, forgiving all those who you hold anything against. You will do so as we listen to the words of the old hymn Rock of Ages. (OPTION sung softly)
Rock of ages,
Strong foundation, ever mine;
Safe, secure, I here remain,
In the peace God doth ordain;
Living ever in the fight,
Pure and perfect in God’s sight.
On the rock of Truth I stand,
Destiny at my command;
Filled with peace and power of God,
Boundless good, eternal love,
Safe with Truth, so firm and strong,
Praising in triumphant song.
For the asking I attain
Every height in Truth’s domain,
Every wish within my heart;
For no blessing can depart.
All of good is ever mine,
On the rock of Truth divine.
Rest in the silence of prayer …
God’s love gives us the ability to do good even to those who have spitefully used us. For the sake of Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness, we are only repaying in a small way what we have received. God has forgiven us so many times. We try to emulate God’s goodness. We forgive as we have been forgiven, with no reservations, and with no exceptions.
Dear God, this morning we say with the Psalmist, “Not to us.” Use us in bringing to pass the good you want to give us all. We are open and receptive.
We thank You through the name and nature of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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