GOD ASKS US TO PRAY AND SAYS HE WILL LISTEN
In the following quote from Jeremiah, God says something astonishing. Astonishing not that it is great for God. We are talking about the creator. Nothing is too big! But God invites his people, to come and pray. To speak, so He can LISTEN. That we should SEEK Him and FIND Him! Astonishing. Amazing.
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
Jer 29:13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
This morning I am going to speak about prayer.
But perhaps because prayer is available that the specialness is somewhat diluted. What do you think? Taken for granted?
Well we all have our own way of praying don’t we? Not just up here, at home, quietly alone, at work.
What does prayer really mean in our lives? Do we see it as a formal process, is it a conversation, is it a chat, or something else? Do you feel it a one way dialog? Do you search for that “perfect pattern” of words – hoping that the message gets through and that the partition is granted?
Whatever we have in our thoughts, it is God that has initiated the dialogue and it is God that has invited us to speak to Him! Amazing.
This verse in Jeremiah stands in a large volume of verses which present God not only as the Almighty, but also who has formed us in families, and then presents Himself as Our Father.
Incredible, we are invited to converse with Our Creator. He has presented Himself as Our Father and we as His children. Incredible.
Even Jesus reaffirms this point when asked by the apostles how to pray. Jesus example starts with “Our Father who is Heaven…”
One important aspect of any conversation – is the vocabulary. Whether it’s children, work / jargon, here. Jesus taught the apostles and successive generations a vocabulary.
We see it here each week, not just adults, but with children. See them singing the words of hymns. Not so unusual, it is something children do. Watching their parents, grandparents, friends, singing. And they join in. Long before they learn to read, children are learning the vocabulary.
Children repeat what they hear, and also follow the actions of parents then later their peers.
In regard to speech, we start when babies are very young, using “baby talk” – just to get a response or a smile. And isn’t it fantastic when you get that response.
They respond with their own thoughts and the bond is developing.
Isn’t that what God has been doing from the beginning. He is teaching us about Himself and about us. Our connection, a family. So it’s not surprising, He is teaching us a vocabulary.
God has been showing His love since creation. Not just in words but by works – what He has done – actions say so much. This is at the broadest sense the vocabulary. The vocabulary I’m speaking about is more than just words, it covers thoughts, and actions. That is what God has been teaching His children.
And so just as with children growing and taking small steps when the light come on and realise something new. We are here this morning to acknowledge – what God has done.
We are also here to remember Jesus’ response. To offer prayer and sing and reflect on our actions. To thank God and to thank Jesus.
Difficulty speaking to God
Not suggesting that this is always easy or comfortable. We know there are times in our life when we find it hard to speak. Talking to teenagers can be hard. Or when husbands and wives have a problem – talking can be difficult.
Doing the “right thing” can be hard.
Likewise in prayer, each of us will have times when we find it difficult talking to God. All of us. It’s common – because it is of our nature. We doubt, we fear. It is our sins that separate us – our nature holds us back.
We can read of people – here are David’s words. Ps 32:3-8.
Psa 32:3 When I kept silent about my sins, my bones began to weaken because of my groaning all day long.
Psa 32:4 Day and night your hand lay heavily on me. My strength shrivelled in the summer heat. Selah
Psa 32:5 I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to you, O LORD. Then you forgave all my sins. Selah
Psa 32:6 For this reason let all godly people pray to you when you may be found. Then raging floodwater will not reach them.
Psa 32:7 You are my hiding place. You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyous songs of salvation. Selah
Psa 32:8 The LORD says, “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.
When we feel we cannot speak to God, it is not because of God’s indifference, is it? It is not because God is deaf or asleep. He is with us always. His “eyes watch over us”!
If there it is difficulty in our prayer, it is from us, our nature forms the barrier. It is sin that creates the gulf. Sin in all its many forms, separates us from God. But it is Our Father, whose outstretched hands invite us to come to him.
We all have families. The family is where the most important development occurs. It’s where we learn to walk and talk; it is where we learn to trust and share – to love.
So where else can we learn about God unless it is close to Him – in His family. With Him and His only Son – Jesus? This is the core of the family.
The Bible says: James 4:8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
Being “with God” transforms us – it must. Paul, in Romans, encourages us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. It is a choice.
What is the alternative? The alternative, the easy road, is the path of least resistance. It is the path of conformity with the world around us.
But we are invited to something higher, and better. It happens by listening to God’s words, speaking to Him, thinking God’s way.
In a much broader sense this is the vocabulary I am speaking of. This is the dialogue with Our Creator, it is our words, it is also our actions, it is our heart.
In the family at many levels, as parents and children we share thoughts / emotions – there are bonds that are forming – aren’t there?
Likewise when we spend time with God. Our prayers aren’t to tell God what he knows.
I spoke to my granddaughter about this at a sleep-over a couple of weeks ago. Sorry, if I sound like a blessed grandparent. But I asked my granddaughter, why are we praying to God if he already knows everything?
Well, her answer was not what I was expecting. I was thinking of something like gratitude or acknowledging God. My granddaughter’s answer was far better, summed all my thoughts in a beautiful succinct answer – “To tell God we love Him”.
It’s true isn’t it?
Lots of ways, summed up. All the components together, our words and actions we saying we love You. You are Our Father; we want to be like you. That is the vocabulary I’m speaking about.
Jesus likewise. More than just repeating his words, we follow his example. The Son of God, we have been adopted into that family!
So what does God expect from us?
READ Mic 6:8
– Do Justice – this is equity – what is right
– Love mercy – a heart felt desire to do good to others.
– Walk Humbly – Be lowly in our own eyes – consider others better than ourself.
This is a life walk. It’s a picture of a walk together. A daily walk – can you see it – see yourself “walking” with God. Whole of heart, whole of life. It is a walk, in Jesus’ footsteps.
We can and must speak with “Our Father”. We also need to seek Jesus’ lead in what we are doing – Remember what Jesus said before he went to be with God – “I am with you always even to the end of the world. ”[Mt 28:20].
Well another difficulty our nature has created, it may be subtle. But, have you ever felt, when praying, trying to find that “right pattern of words”, which if we say them correctly, will be like the special key. Almost like a password. Then God might hear me. Otherwise He mightn’t QUIET UNDERSTAND, We will not get His attention. Ever felt like that when praying?
God knows what we need even before we say anything. It is our nature which invents the illusion that once I get the words, like password accepted, then I get through! It’s not like that at all. God asks us to pray, and is waiting and wants to listen.
A summary of all this is found in Philippians 4
Phi 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Phi 4:7 And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
That’s what we are here for – following Jesus. With our hearts and minds kept through Christ Jesus. Praying, making supplications with thanksgiving.
So now let’s reflect on our words and actions. Let’s try to develop our conversation with God. It is a precious gift (from Him).
It will be difficult at times and we will say things that may be awkward, vague, even silly. But let’s avoid the silence which forms a distance between us and Our Father.
We mustn’t allow our nature to hold of us back from speaking with Our Father.
Also we have Jesus who is our mediator; he did what we would dearly want to do. Now he wants to help, if we are willing.
We can start by telling God:
- how Wonderful and privileged we feel because he is “Our Father”.
- we have fears,
- that there is somebody else that also needs help too.
Be excited to share with God what we have found and how we feel.
Be excited to share with Jesus that we are following HIS LEAD.
By doing this we, each grow a little closer to God and we are a little more like Jesus, in words, in our works, in our hearts. That is the vocabulary. The sum of all our actions and words. That is the perfect prayer.