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Monday, 10 November 2014

First Sermon

   On the weekend I was going through some of my old papers and came across a handwritten sermon that I wrote fourteen years ago, when my firstborn was less than two years old.  Actually, it's not really a sermon.  It was a "talk" to be given at a hospital chapel service.  My mother-in-law was organizing the service and the pastor who usually did this part of the service had a conflict and could not be there.  With some trepidation I gathered together some thoughts on prayer and put them down on paper.  What made my delivery all the more intense was the fact that the pastor actually showed up expecting to give the message and he listened along with the frail hospital guests!  It remains relevant all these years later, so I offer it for consideration here.

   I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes about prayer.  I've been thinking about how we learn to pray and why we pray.
   I brought my son along with me, and he is almost two years old.  My husband and I have been teaching him to pray since he could sit up in a high chair.  Before he would eat the first bite of food, we would say a simple prayer of blessing, helping him to fold his hands and especially emphasizing the word "Amen."  Today these mealtime prayers are part of his pattern of life.  He often has his hand fold before we do and says, "Pray now?"  He can say many of the words by himself.  He also now prays before going to bed at night.  Prayer is something ordinary and common throughout the day for him.
   Many of you may remember a parent or grandparent or Sunday School teacher teaching you to pray simple prayers--grace before meals, and later, perhaps, the Lord's Prayer.  But is prayer just for children?  When children are very young, prayer seems to be natural for them.  Their eyes are wide with amazement at the snowflakes falling or at the twitching nose of a live rabbit.  They are awestruck at the beauties of creation when we adults are so used to them that we stop noticing them or thanking God for them.
  Sometimes we may think that prayer is something we outgrow, something we leave behind like the training wheels when we can ride a big bike.  As we get older we think we can manage on our own and we don't need to pray to God anymore.
   But the lesson I want to teach my son today and for the rest of his life on earth is that we are dependent on God.  Prayer is a realization of this dependence, for we thank God for things we never knew we needed--2000 years ago He sent His son Jesus to earth to rescue us from our evil thoughts and words and deeds.  We were not alive then, but God was thinking of us in His amazing love when He did this.
   We thank God for the sun, which begins each new day.  We have no power to make it shine, but He made it to give light and warmth and even to produce the food we eat.
   We thank God for each breath.  We do not have to think about breathing most of the time, but it continues because of how God designed our brains to work autonomously.
   We are dependent upon God in too many ways to list them all.  Even when we are young and strong, earning plenty of money and seemingly controlling our own destiny, we still need God and we still need to pray.
freerange stock photo
   Maybe you continue the childhood pattern of prayer today and reap its blessings.  But if not, it is never too late to start praying or to start praying again.  God is real and close by.  He loves us and wants to hear about our joys, our struggles and our needs. Not only does he have a listening ear, He has the power to do something about our struggles and pain.  But we do have to ask him.  We need to depend on Him, not on ourselves.
   There is a true story in the Bible, the book of Truth, about a very evil man.  This man was so band that he was condemned to be killed for his crimes of robbery.  As he was nearing the end of his life, he realized that the man being executed beside him was a holy man.  He realized as others insulted this man named Jesus that Jesus was really a king.  He said with simple trust and without knowing very much about God or the Bible, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."  He prayed only one sentence, and this thief was told, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
   Even if you don't know all the answers, even if you have done things you wish you could change, even if you have lived most of your life depending on yourself instead of on God, it is not too late to pray. Speak to God in your own words and He will hear and answer your prayer of faith.

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