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How Does Prayer Help? Exploring the Power of a Praying Church

May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Does anyone suffer from the occasional fit of road rage? I know that I do, and I know many clergy who do as well. There have been times, I’ll admit, that perhaps when someone has been not very bright on the road, I may have loudly called them all sorts of unpleasant names, for example something like ‘you foolish person of questionable parentage!’ but different words – you’ll know what I mean. Others are as guilty as I can be, I remember enjoying watching a senior member of the clergy in my previous diocese, giving certain hand signals energetically when they were on a roundabout. I have been on the receiving end of that too, and will sheepishly admit that the motorcyclist I almost hit last week showed me a lot more restraint than I deserved or would have given had I been in their place. As Christians though, we are not meant to curse others but bless, not meant to demean others, but hold them up, not meant to condemn our enemies but rather pray for them. This is, I think, hard.

Today, both our readings can help us focus in on that most important of Christian practices and that is prayer. In the Gospel reading in particular, we hear Jesus praying for His disciples, and from it we can learn something about how we should pray. So, let’s explore this morning prayer and how it enables us to bless rather than curse.

Primarily at its core, prayer is simply talking to God. You’ll notice at the start of the gospel, we are simply told that, Jesus looked up to heaven and began speaking. We can make it so complicated, but really it isn’t. It is us speaking to the Father who loves us and in the gospel Jesus shows us it is as easy as looking up and opening our mouths. And although that sounds eminently sensible, its also quite hard isn’t it? For some, it’s a question about what to say or how to say it. For some it’s a worry that anybody might hear us. For others it’s a worry about saying anything foolish. But that is not what Jesus does, He just looks up and opens His mouth. How much better it is to say something stupid, which won’t worry God, than it is to remain silent or quiet. So, look up to heaven and say hi to a creator who wants to hear from you.

What you notice in Jesus’ prayer for the disciples is that he uses the word glorify a lot, in fact 7 times in the passage. Part of the work of prayer is to glorify God. The Greek word means to give honour, to show esteem. Now you must understand that this isn’t to massage God’s delicate ego or anything like that. When we glorify God, we place God over ourselves, about ourselves. Now we know intellectually that God is over and above us, yet so often we act like little gods, where we are the most important thing in the room, as if we are the centre of the universe, which is what fallen humanity does. Dare I say, when I am on the road and irritated with a driver, its often because of how their driving has affected me, rather than if their driving was good or bad, because it is tempting to treat myself as the most important thing on the road. Hold God above ourselves, glorifying God is really about getting out of god’s throne in our lives and putting Him in charge. Part of fallen human nature is to try and make it about us, rather than celebrating God in His rightful place. So, for me, I try and start my prayer with praise, acknowledging God’s sovereignty over and above me.

A large component of prayer is also to pray full of faith. To believe in the power of prayer. It doesn’t mean that you lack faith if your prayer isn’t answered, but rather you have put yourself in the vulnerable position of trusting the Lord to do what is best, to be able to say “Lord I am leaving this in your hands.” That also can be tough, can’t it? But it is how Jesus prays again and again. He asks the Father to protect His friends, He does not demand. In the Garden later, He asks for the cup of suffering to be taken away, but what God wants not what He wants. In prayer there is often a petition, but a petition that puts one in the place of vulnerability trusting God and not demanding our will over His.

Finally, prayer becomes more in embedded the further and deeper we travel on our discipleship journey, and with that embeddedness comes joy. Saying our prayers can feel like a chore, but the more we do regular prayer the more joy we find, because there we find the source of joy, in God. You can see this in the account of the Ascension in the first reading, at the end of the reading we hear that the disciples and other followers of Jesus spend their time in prayer – and I suspect with much joy, just as a child finds much joy spending time with their parent who blesses them. We find our lives more blessed and more empowered, full of joy.

You will all be in different places on your own journeys with prayer and there are many different techniques to prayer. There is no right single technique but I would encourage you to explore types of prayer that others over history have found useful. For me I find praying the daily office useful – which we do here particularly on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9am, our set of Church of England prayers that are just so full of scripture. I have recently found taking 15 minutes quiet prayer in the morning useful. I also find singing along to worship songs while driving or doing the cleaning seriously helpful. You will have other ways you find helpful, but you need to explore prayer to find them. There are many other ways ranging from silence, to prayer walking, to writing our prayers down. When we explore prayer, we grow in fellowship with God and it transforms us. Prayer is also the engine of our church, and if we are serious about thriving as a worshipping community, we have to be serious about prayer. It is the fuel of our church, and just like a car without fuel, a church community without prayer isn’t going anywhere. Your prayers more than anything else are the fuel that causes our church to thrive.

So, speak to the Lord often in prayer, glorify Him as you pray, pray full of faith or for more faith, explore different types of prayer because if you do you will not believe the difference it makes to your life, full of joy. Regular prayer is how we grow as disciples. Regular prayer is how we are blessed corporately as a community. I know I couldn’t carry on well as a vicar without relying on people regularly praying for me. Pray rather than curse, find blessing, discover joy and lets just seen how many blessings upon blessings can be laid on our church when we all commit ourselves to prayer. Amen

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I pray everyday. Like my late mother I believe and know God hears us when we pray. Sometimes we don’t get the answers we want but we have to know that the reason for this maybe that the time isn’t right just yet. I have prayed a lot for my husband and I found comfort when God heard my prayers on my darkest days. When my husband struggles to stand I say please God help him stand and each time mu husband stands. I found this log today inspiring and most helpful. Due to circumstances I am unable to attend church which I greatly miss. So each of these sermons bring me comfort . Thank You. Have a blessed week…

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