Over the past year we have done a lot of thinking about prayer. We started with a study of Philip Yancey’s book Prayer, Does it Make Any Difference?. He probes such questions as: Is God listening? Why should God care about me? If God knows everything, what’s the point of prayer? Why does God seem to answer some prayers and not others? He describes prayer as the intimate place where God and humans meet.
Then we moved on to a study of the Lord’s Prayer by Walter Wangerin. This is the model prayer that Jesus gave us in response to the disciples asking Him to teach them to pray. We are in the middle of that study now as we meet on Saturday mornings. We are looking at it phrase by phrase hoping to gain insight on how to keep it from being just a remote saying that we recite every Sunday. Dr Wangerin sheds light about what the Lord’s Prayer reveals about God’s nature and our own nature, and how we should live in relationship with God and one another.
But last Saturday evening, I received a real lesson in prayer. I was with a group of people from church who gathered at the Museum of Science to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was an amazing exhibit. Tiny bits of Scripture that have been preserved over centuries were on display. If you have an opportunity to see it I strongly encourage you to do so. At the exit was a duplication of the wall of the ancient temple at Jerusalem. The wall was constructed like the wailing wall, and we were invited to write prayers down and put them in the cracks in the wall. We were told that the prayers would then actually be sent to Jerusalem.
So I looked deeply into my heart and wrote down my most common prayer and my greatest concern. It was a prayer that I have prayed many times over the years. It is one that has never been completely answered. I have attempted to bargain with God to answer this prayer. I have offered to do this or that or give up something important to me is God would only answer it. That answer has not yet come. But somehow the act of physically writing the words down and putting it in the wall helped me. I can’t explain it. I don’t understand what happened. But I am sure that my prayer reached heaven. I am expecting a response from God any day.
NEW STUDY THIS FALL
FAITH, HOPE and LUCK
Sundays - 11:30 am
Starting on Sunday, September 22, 2013, this 5-week
study will transform your thinking about the
difference between faith and hope. You’ll be
presented with a definition of faith that will shed
new light on both the Old and New Testaments.
Join us for this exciting new study which will be facilitated by Mark and
Maybe it sounds trite to say that “Freedom isn’t free,” but it is true. My father was a soldier in World War II, and many men of his generation died fighting for freedom. They fought for freedoms for Americans, but they also fought for freedom of those in other countries. They fought for freedom against evil leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini. For many, it cost them their lives. Wives lived without husbands, and children grew up without fathers. That freedom wasn’t free.
Since then wars have continued to rage. The 9/11 terrorists attack on our country happened when I teaching school at Ft. Riley, Kansas. All the children in my school had at least one parent who was a soldier. Many had two. The children cried in fear at the idea of losing a parent in war. Many of their parents did go to Iraq and many did die defending freedom. That freedom wasn’t free.
But there is another kind of freedom that isn’t free. That freedom is our freedom from sin that was paid for by the precious blood of Jesus. He who was without sin took upon himself our sins and paid for them with his life on the cross of Calvary. So it was very costly to Him. But strangely enough, He gives it as a free gift to all who believe and put their trust in Him. There was a cost to our spiritual freedom. That freedom wasn’t free either.
Recently I mentioned the often repeated biblical phrase “the name of the Lord” in a message I preached on trusting God. I was preaching on Psalm 20, where the words were repeated three times within a few short verses., ending with “...we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
This simple phrase is often passed over by those who read the Bible, since it is so commonly found throughout the scriptures. The wording varies slightly from time to time. The phrase is repeated variously as “the name of the Lord”, “the name of the Lord our God”, and “the name of Jesus.” It always means the same.
So why is this phrase such a big deal? Why do Christians today routinely end their prayers in the name of Jesus? Why does this phrase appear in Psalms, a book written generations before Jesus, as well as biblical books written years after he came?
Why does the writer of the book of Acts, which details the exciting lives and times of the first Christian believers quote a prophet in the Old Testament, bringing this phrase across the centuries and across religious boundaries (from Jewish to Christian) with the following:
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:21)
Why is it seen embedded in the powerful everyday ministry experiences of the early church?
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
Why does it reach the pinnacle of praise when the Apostle Paul practically celebrates with an enthusiasm usually reserved here in Boston for our over-the-top 4th of July fireworks display on the Charles?
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Why? Because when we say it we are not believing in a magical phrase that suddenly makes our every whim and wish come true. It is not a good luck charm.
The “name of the Lord” is the Bible’s way of talking about the living presence of our powerful, almighty God. The “name” is a direct link to God’s character, to God’s essence, to God’s core reality. It’s at the very heart of our faith -- the very heart of God. There is power in that name
because there is power in the personal, infinite God of the universe.
And one of the amazing things is that powerful, almighty God cares about you. Our God wants to be involved in your daily life, wants to live personally connected with you. The first step in making that relationship a living reality is calling on the name of the Lord -- the person of Jesus be saved. Have you done that? Are you living right now in “the name of the Lord”?