Friday, January 8, 2010

The Power of Prayer and Life in the Spirit

Those of us on internship have a schedule of rotating responsibility for offering a weekly devotion. Here is some thoughts I have been having that could just as easily apply to anyone in ministry, lay or rostered and gratitude for Brian Stoffregen for getting me going on the prayer and ministry theme at Crossmarks.

• As I contemplated the devotion I wanted to share, I was inspired by our lectionary as we celebrate the Sunday of the Baptism of Our Lord. (Luke 3.15-17, 21-22; Isaiah 43-1-7; Acts 8:14-17).

As we read the words of the Gospel of Luke, we hear that it is while Jesus was praying that the Holy Spirit descends. Prayer is greatly emphasized in the Gospel of Luke. In all of the following events taken by Luke from Mark, Luke adds the fact that Jesus was praying! After Jesus’ baptism and inauguration of his ministry, there is the cleansing of a leper, followed by Jesus withdrawing to pray. Have there been times you’ve been at the hospital, or with a person in crisis, or mourning and at the end of it find yourself in prayer both for those involved and for the recharging of your own battery? I have.

A theme throughout the moments of Jesus’ ministry looks like this: Before selecting the twelve, Jesus prays; before the disciples question him, Jesus was praying; before the transfiguration, Jesus is praying. Luke emphasizes that it is Jesus' praying that motivated the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus gives them the Lord's Prayer. Only in Luke does Jesus tell the parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. How many times have we been confronted by challenging people or decisions, times of trying to balance needs? Surely the phrase, “the power of prayer” is more than just a great cliché.

The power of prayer is about more than prayer’s effectiveness or our ability to speak prayers. More importantly, the power of prayer is about the power source in the midst of our times of praying. The power of the Advocate, the Spirit. In our lesson from Acts 8:14-17, Peter and John went to the baptized believers in Samaria and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, laid hands upon them and they did. For the baptized believers, we see prayer and God’s empowerment in the Spirit.

Our schedules are full, our lives are busy, sorting out the demands can take much of our energy. So how will we do all we are called to do? By remembering to take our cue, being constant in turning to God in prayer, believing that our prayers are more than speeches or lists of demands to God, but times when we are drawn again into the power and movement of the Spirit. I am reminded of the four steps of prayer: We talk; God listens; God talks; We listen. Prayer in the Spirit is a dialogue. And as we see in Acts, prayer in the Spirit happens not in isolation, but in community. Prayer is where we can hear that the question is not “How will I do this?” but the place we can seek where God is working in our midst.
As I have listened to the many stories shared about our time on internship, I know there a many times each of us has asked for prayer and times we have seen God at work. I know for each of us there are many more stories beyond that- for each of you, I pray for all of the times we all need prayer:

when we walk in the midst of important moments in the lives of those whom we shepherd,
when we have important decisions to make, for clarity to make them,
when we find ourselves with those in the greatest needs of body, mind and spirit, especially when they challenge our ability to remain with them,
when we need to know whether to speak or to be still and listen,
when we are told to do something way beyond our comfort zone,
when we need strength for times we lose heart, or face questions, even our own,
when we are uninspired and are facing that newsletter article, sermon, meeting, _______.
when we feel isolated,
when we are trying to see God’s activity in events that confound us,
when we are balancing our ministry and our loved ones.

I am sure there are other things to add to this list.

Whatever these times have been or are, for you, as we head into the second half of our internship, and the busy pace of all that is on the horizon, may we remember the power source of our prayers, and wherever the moments take us, in the life of the Spirit hear the words of Isaiah:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.

May God continue to richly bless each of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ!

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