You Can Do Hard Things Wk 1: Prayer
Sunday 29th Week in Ordinary Time: You Can Do Hard Things Week 1: Prayer
Welcome to the first week of our new message series called you can do hard things. Doing things we find hard, or difficult, often requires persistence. We heard a lot about persistence from the bible readings today. Making a good life is hard work which requires doing hard things, and there’s no substitute for persistence.
Persistence is half of what Jesus tells us about prayer. And the other half is confidence that God can be trusted with our lives. God doesn’t need a daily briefing from us, nor does he have to be nagged into helping us; his heart is already there. We’re the ones whose hearts need to change, and that’s what prayer is about. If we approach the Lord with affectionate trust and then don’t pull away – as we so often want to do – our hearts will slowly become more attuned to him. We’ll experience subtle shifts in our hopes and aspirations and find ourselves beginning to see the world as God sees it and to want what God wants.
Foolish ideas and ambitions that we’ve treasured for too long will begin to evaporate as our long-term conversation with the Lord continues. Changes we’ve labeled “impossible” will get re-labeled as “possible.” Hopes we’ve allowed to die, will come alive again. All of that will happen, if we persist in that heart-to-heart conversation and hold firm to our conviction that God can be trusted with our lives. It’s a life-and-death truth: God can be trusted with your life! So why not give it to him now?
But sometimes our spirit does falter, and whispers of “why bother” and “what’s the use” echo in our ear.
Those are the times we have the least heart for praying, but they are the times we most need to pray. Because those are the days we most need to see the world through God’s eyes. That is where good prayer always starts, trusting God enough to let go and look through his eyes -. the eyes of a wise Father. If we do that, and if our hearts are open, we’ll begin to see what God sees, and hope as God hopes. We’ll begin to want what God wants, and do what God does.
That’s what praying in faith does inside us. It slowly reshapes our ideas, and our perspectives, to match God’s, slowly reshapes our values, and our expectations of life, to match God’s.
Ever so slowly praying changes us, and in time it even changes the way we pray. And precisely because real change comes only very gradually, we have to stick with that inner conversation with our Lord, God has so much to show us and to teach us. We have so much to learn, so many new doors that need to be opened, and so many old ones that need to be closed permanently.
So where do we begin? By telling God our story once again, all the parts of it this time, both the grim and the bright. And then by speaking the words the prophet Samuel spoke in a darkest night so long ago, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
If we are listening from the heart, we will change. Even the most gnarled parts of us will change!
So we have something to give you today to help you pray. It is called pray, P-R-A-Y.
Many members of our church have found the acrostic, P.R.A.Y., to be a helpful tool for fervent, effective prayer. Let’s review that.
The first letter P stands for Praise. The “P” of praise reminds us that prayer is primarily a vertical, God-focused act.
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he begins with praise. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” It’s good to begin our prayers by focusing first on God and God’s agenda.
You can begin by saying things such as: Father, I praise you for your love. I thank you for your goodness. I thank you for your presence. I thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus.
The R is for repent. When we put our faith in Jesus, it’s true that we are totally forgiven of all our past, present, and future sins. Yet, we still sin. And those ongoing sins disturb our fellowship with our heavenly Father, and sometimes even break it.
Therefore, we need to repent of our sins and confess them to God, and in the case of serious sin bring them to the sacrament of confession. To confess is to say the same thing God says about our sin. It’s no longer making excuses but agreeing with God that our attitudes and actions are sinful.
Jesus constantly calls us to a lifestyle of repentance. To repent is to change your mind about a belief or a behavior that produces a change of life. It’s turning from an old way of thinking and living that enables us to live new.
When our hearts are God-oriented in praise and purified through repentance, then we are ready to “Ask.” The A in P.R.A.Y. stands for Ask. No doubt there are many things you would like to see God do for your family members, for your friends, and for yourself.
God will give you what you need. Note I did not say God will give us what we want or what we ask for, but God will give us what we need. We ask for what we need and trust God in his providential love to provide what we need.
One of the things I ask God for all the time is: God help me to see people and the world as you see people and the world.
The Y of P.R.A.Y. stands for yield. We must be willing to yield our desires and our thoughts to God’s wisdom. Our model is Jesus. As he faced the cross, he prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” We must pray with that same spirit, humbly yielding our will to God’s will.
Instead of grumbling about “unanswered” prayers, we can thank God that he doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we think he should. When we pray for God’s will to be done, we shouldn’t be trying to manipulate God into rubber-stamping what we have already decided needs to happen in our lives.
We close our prayer by “yielding” to God which is a way that we submit our desires to him. In the end, it is our way of acknowledging that his will is what will truly satisfy us anyway. God’s will and plan is better than ours. His foresight is further, and his love for us is greater than ours.
You can do hard things. Be persistent and P-R-A-Y and when you do, yield to what the Lord is telling you, so that you can see as he sees.