Mt 6:5-15 /“Pentecost, Power, and Prayer” Pentecost; 5-24-15, ACoB
"The Holy Spirit comes with tears." I have often said!
(As previously, the highlighted orange questions are interactive with the congregation answering.)
ASK: What kind of power did the dis/apostles experience that day of pentecost?
ASK: What do you think they had been praying for?
How can Jesus instruction on prayer inform our need today? (think about your questions, jot them down. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I believe in our ability to hear the scripture speak when we gather around it.)
We begin with the words Matthew’s author has given us.
Text notes - In this part of the sermon on the mount Jesus is giving practical advice and we all like practical advice. He has given his interpretation of the LAW and the ways it is still in force for his followers, therefore for us. (1)
In his practical advice, Jesus illustrates the ways the HEART of the law leads to a new and greater righteousness.” (2) (remember “Greater Righteousness” is the theme)
He chooses for his examples the things that his followers do BECAUSE they are his followers, or CHRISTIANS as we are now called.
ASKWhat things do Christians do because they follow Jesus?
. . .answers
Now, on a empty place in your bulletin, write down YOUR Christian practices. What do YOU do because you follow Jesus?
- Everyone gets “credit” for being here today! Attendance in worship is one of your Christian practices.
Even tho traditions differ among our many versions of Christianity, some things are common to all followers;
ASK: What are common Christian practices?
Tom Long names them this way,
- 2)gathering for Fellowship,
- 3)Studying Scripture,
- 4)Performing Deeds of Charity” (3)
You can fill out your own report card for this semester, I won’t ask you to evaluate yourself verbally.
The illustrations we focus on today are Jesus words about how to pray.
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
Translations differ on “that secret place” - a room, closet, it doesn’t matter because we are not to take this literally. AND because we aren’t to take it literally, it doesn’t mean that public prayer is never appropriate. After all, Jesus prayed in public and among his disciples.
The point, as Tom Long says, is WHO is doing the seeing or hearing. Are we praying for OTHERS to hear & see or praying for God to hear?
There are two ways of performing any of those Christian actions on our report card.
1. One is called “personal piety” or the ways we act and the things we do when we are alone or at home. Maybe this qualifies as “when in our secret place”. (I asked Donna to share from that secret place today so that we might learn more about a tradition we are not all familiar with, from a sister.)
2. The other falls under, “Letting Our Lights Shine” as we learned about last Sunday sitting out on the grass, from another sister, Debbie. These actions are OUT in the world and on BEHALF of the world. (4) (Tom Long’s ‘deeds of charity’)
The point of this being that people notice the deeds and give credit to God. . .by the way, it’s not supposed to be about people noticing and giving credit to our church. “What a wonderful church that must be…” which is sometimes what we expect…
Instead, we are to pray the way we speak to our mother, or father. We speak from a deep relationship with God. This IS our MOST intimate relationship.
Therefore we can say anything, or simply cry.
We can scream with anger, or laugh with delight.
Or merely be silent in God’s presence.
All these expressions are prayer.
As Anne Lamont says in her book I read last week, most of her prayers are simple words, “HELP, THANKS, WOW!”
ASK: Have you prayed those one-word prayers?
Have you prayed NO-word prayers?
So, We are not to “Pour out a flood of empty words. . .because God knows what we need before we ask.” (6:7-8)
ASK: What do you make of that statement?
God knows what we need before we ask
If God knows everything, —why did Jesus pray that night in the garden? (point to slide)
This image in stained glass is what the people at the Nokesville church are looking at this morning. The stained glass window sits at the front of the sanctuary. (behind it is the baptistry) Our sister, Angela is there and it’s her first Sunday as their pastor.
Angela and I spoke about this text and the relationship to the Holy spirit. Angela said, “when we sing "Holy Spirit Come with Power" we're not soliciting the help of a fragile bubble like depicted on the bulletin cover :)”
Is that why Jesus prayed? To solicit the power he needed?
He instructed his disciples to pray and promised them power would come with the Holy Spirit. But it’s not magic. Prayer is not a formula we control.
It is linked closely to the Holy Spirit, which makes it so pertinent today. —— How does prayer work?
Some people say “prayer changes us”.
ASK: What do you think? Is that the point of prayer?
. . .
Does prayer change us? Does it Change God?
Can it Change others?
. . .answers
Does our relationship with God thru Christ guarantee us the Holy Spirit? . . .how do you know when you’ve got the spirit?
The apostle Paul wrote in his Romans letter; (8:25-26)
We ourselves who have the Spirit (as the first crop of the harvest) also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. ..26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. (NRSV: groans too deep for words) 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.
***There is a connection between prayer, our relationship to the Divine and the Divine presence known as the Holy Spirit.***
If Fred Craddock is right when he says, “ The Prayer of Christians is an expression of trust in God.” [then] Our asking is aligning ourselves in trust and acknowledging our need.” (5)
We ask in order to align ourselves with God - in trust.
We ask in trust and it helps form us into God-like people as we were created to be.
& We ask to acknowledge our need.
We DON”T have the power to change the world or ourselves - at least not most of the time.
But the Holy Spirit does.
. . .
ASK: So who is changed by prayer?
Us, God, others? - Answer: YES?
We don’t really know how prayer works. But we trust it does.
We recognize that prayer is more than asking, yet we ask.
We we ask for life, for healing, for the end of pain, yet we know that all life ends in death and that people still experience pain.
Some would say, why pray then?
Only you can answer that question.
***I pray because I’m in love and because I am loved - by something greater than I am, something at the heart of my life.***
So I sit in silence, even when my mind tries to wander.
I ask, even when I don’t know how that changes God or me.
I receive - A Peace, A Power, A Presence that is also greater than I am.
—A holy presence, found only in prayer.
|Dove At St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome|
1. Thomas Long Matthew - Westminster Bible Commentary (Louis:WJK, 1997)55
2. ibid 55
3. ibid 55
4. ibid 66
5. Boring and Craddock People’s NT Commentary (Louis:WJK,2004)25-26