The Way: Jesus Prayed A Lot--A Whole Lot
This Sunday at the Mount Laurel campus, Pastor Rick continued the message series, "The Way," based on Jesus' words in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the father except through me."
I'll tell you honestly that when I was a fledgling Christian, I thought those words were pretty radical. The way is only through Jesus? Really? Jesus is the only way to the father?
Even though I'm now on board and fully on "The Way," truthfully, when this message series was announced, I had some fear that new folks attending HOPE might want to run and hide--far away from Jesus. However, having attended HOPE for many years now, I knew to "trust the process," and wait to hear the messages.
And, the first in the series didn't disappoint my expectations of HOPE's gentle approach to this subject. Rick summarized it today in his opening prayer with three points:
That we live in a broken world--full of trouble, hurt and pain;
We are responsible for that broken world because of our sin; the brokenness is caused by things we as individuals do to each other; and,
We have responsibilities to communicate to the world we live in that we are "The Way" by the way we act; or as Jesus would say, people will recognize us because of the love we show to one another.
Today, Rick went on to talk about the verse right after that, John 14:7: "If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!"
And those words are exactly what make following Jesus the only way to the truth and the life. Because once you know Jesus, you know His way is The Way.
Jesus used the word "know" here in the relational sense, not in the sense of rote memorization. And, knowing Jesus is a life-long journey of developing a relationship. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen in a week, a month or a year, or even several years. It's an on-going, lifetime process.
This seems like a big nut to crack, right? But if we look to Jesus as an example of where to start, know this, and start here: Jesus prayed a lot. A whole lot. He prayed Jewish prayers, he prayed the Psalms, he prayed in sorrow, in anguish, in thanks, for others, he prayed for the power to heal. He prayed in solitude alone with God and in groups with others. And he taught us about prayer.
So, if Jesus is the Way and we want to follow him, prayer needs to be an integral part of our lives. We need to pray when we're in "caves," when the future is uncertain and we may not know the "where's, why's and how's" of the eventual outcome of the situation. We may be scared or angry about our circumstances--and it's OK to gripe and complain to God.
On the other hand, it's also OK to pray when we know the eventual outcome--which may not be particularly desirable to us. A prime example of this is Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus prayed for God to "take this cup" from him when he knew that the next 48 hours would lead to his torture and eventual death on the cross. He even asked the disciples to pray with him.
If you're uncomfortable or unfamiliar with how to pray, just start with what's on your mind and in your heart. There's no right or wrong way. One of the ways to start is by either writing or speaking using a form which was given to us by Jesus and known as The Lord's Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13:
Praise: Use your own words to praise God and thank him for who he is and give him gratitude for what he's done in your life. Jesus said it this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Repent: Express remorse and regret for any hurt you may have caused.
Ask: In your own words, ask for forgiveness or any other "asks" that are in your mind or heart for yourself or others. As Jesus said: Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.
Yield: Tell God how great and glorious you think he is. Invite him to bring to mind anything that you could do better. Jesus said it like this: For yours is the kingdom, the power and glory for ever and ever.
To end my prayer time, I sometimes use the words that end Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
I can tell you I do pray every day but that I don't pray nearly as often as I should throughout the day. But when I do pray, there are radical results. As I've opened my heart to God in my own personal caves of job loss and relationship loss, he's come through for me in those dark times with relevant scripture, situations and people in my life as an answer to those prayers. And sometimes when I thought I knew the eventual outcome of my situations, when I prayed, God had an even better answer for me.
And, what about those unanswered prayers? There are really three answers to prayer: Yes, no, and wait. And for us humans, waiting can be a difficult place to be--unless of course you spend that time knowing Jesus better and developing your relationship with him. Even now as I finish this blog, I'm praying that you will find ways to pray that will connect you deeper in relationship to Jesus, so that you can continue to become conformed to his image for the sake of others--and a shining light to The Way.
Many blessings, Judy Loane