5.27.18 Teach Us to Pray ~ Mark 1:35-39

5.27.18 ~ Teach Us To Pray: In the Morning Mark 1:35-39

            35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

 

            There once was a man who was learning how to pray and so one day he asked God, “God, a thousand years is a long time for us, but how about you?  What is a thousand years to you?”  God thought about it and replied, “Well, I suppose it is about a minute.”  “Oh, very interesting.”  The man said.  The next day the man was praying again and asked God a similar question, “God, I was thinking, a million dollars is a lot of money for us, but what is a million dollars to you?”  God thought about it and replied, “Well, I suppose it is about a penny.”  The next day the man was praying again, and this time he thought that he had finally figured this whole God and prayer thing out.  This time he was praying and he asked God, “God, I’m wondering if you would like to bless me with a penny?”  And God said, “Sure.  Just give me a minute.”

            My friends, this is us when we pray.  Because when we pray we think we know what we need.  We even know when we don’t need something but we really, really want something and we pray for it anyway.  And because we think we know best about our lives we feel like God must agree with us when we pray.  And because we think this we end up praying some pretty interesting prayers, much like the man who was learning how to pray.  In fact, I love how that joke is set up.  There once was a man who was learning how to pray.  Because that is exactly what he was doing, “learning.”  He was learning that prayer was not just about trying to get what he wanted, but prayer was an encounter with a God who sees life and the world very differently than we do.  And because of this prayer is not a divine candy store where we say just the right words and we get what we want, instead prayer, really is an experience of having our perception changed, whether it is how we view time and money, or what our attitude is toward death, sickness, our enemies.  Prayer can teach us things.  That’s what happened to the man learning how to pray, he had his perception changed.  And then, on top of that, the man who was learning how to pray learned that you cannot trick God in your prayers.  God is no fool and is not gullible.  God cannot be manipulated and there are no secret magic words that if you just say the words in the right way, then you can make God do whatever you want.  You cannot force God to do anything or answer any of your prayers.  You have to let God be God.  Otherwise you are not praying to God the creator of the universe, you are only praying to a god the one you have created in your own imagination.

            “But wait a second,” you might say, “what is the point of praying at all then, if I’m not really going to get what I want?”  The reason we pray, is because at the core of who we are, we were made to be in relationship with God.  And when we pray we return to this the very reason for our existence.  Life without prayer is like a fish out of water, it is not what the fish was made for.  The fish was created to live and breathe and exist in the water.  We were created to live and breathe and exist in a relationship with God.  And prayer reminds us of this, it refocuses our lives, and reinvigorates our faith because it brings us back to the very basic fundamental reason of why we are here—we are here to be in a loving, joyful, delightful, and abundant relationship with God.  And that relationship is sustained by prayer.

            This whole summer we are going to be talking about prayer and we will also be encouraging you to actually pray!  Imagine that!?!?!?!  Your pastor is going to ask you to pray more this summer.  I really am.  I’m going to ask you to pray and learn how to pray and go deeper in your prayer life this summer because I believe that prayer is the fundamental Christian practice.  I think prayer is important than everything else.  More than worship, service, study and fellowship as Christians, more important than all of those is prayer.  So this summer we are going to be in a sermon series called, “Teach us to Pray.”  Let’s pray.

            Breathe on us breath of God, fill us with life anew, that we may love whate’re you love and do what you would do.  Amen.

            There are so many wonderful things that Jesus taught, but only one thing that the disciples asked him to teach them.  Of all the things that Jesus did and taught, the disciples wanted him to teach them to pray.  Isn’t that amazing?  They could have asked how to cast out demons, walk on water, and multiply loaves and fishes, but they wanted to learn to pray.  There was something in how Jesus prayed, something about his connection to God that they wanted more than anything else.  Teach us, master, to pray.

            Prayer, like I said before, is foundational.  It is essential to Christian living.  So, let me start with a very basic definition of prayer.  Prayer is anything, and I mean anything by which you communicate with God and God communicates with you.  Now that is a very broad and general definition, but it is what we are after.  We are after the ability and experience of speaking to God and also listening to God.  That is prayer.  And you can do prayer with words, or silence, art, music, drama, dance, video, and maybe one day someone will create a prayer video game.  But prayer is anything by which we communicate with God and God communicates with you.

            And the reason we pray is because communication with someone else is essential for a good and healthy relationships.  Actually, let me rephrase that, good communication with someone else is essential for a good a healthy relationship.  And prayer is how we communicate well with God.

            Now we know this to be true, because even Jesus needed to pray.  We are often told that he went off by himself to pray.  What did we read today?  In the very first chapter of Mark? 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

            Now, I like to say, when you are reading scripture, pay attention to where your eyebrows go up because that is the place the Holy Spirit is trying to show you something.  My eyebrows went up in that last part of verse 35, “Where he prayed.”  Why?  Why does Jesus pray?  I get why all the rest of us have and need to pray, we get lost so easily we get disconnected and distracted all the time, but Jesus?  He was God, he said he and the father are one, Jesus’ will was absolutely in sync with his Father’s will at all times!  Why, then did Jesus pray?  So that’s where my eyebrows went up…Are you with me?

            The reason that Jesus went off to a solitary place, in the early morning, to go and talk with the Father is because Jesus valued the relationship with his dad more than anything else.  He delighted in talking with his abba, his pop, his father.  They enjoyed conversing and being with each other.  Prayer was the greatest joy for Jesus.  Because prayer is simply anything and I mean anything by which you communicate with God and good communication with someone else is essential for a good and healthy relationship.  And that is why Jesus prayed, he prayed because he loved being in that relationship in that conversation, he delighted just being with his father.  And the disciples, they wanted that too!  They wanted what Jesus has with his father.  They wanted that connection, that relationship, they wanted the delightful and joyous conversation that Jesus got to have with his dad.

            I want you to imagine the last time you just had a great talk with someone.  In a great conversation what happens?  First of all, there is a conversation meaning everyone talks and everyone listens.  That is basic.  But in a conversation you can’t have one person monologuing all the time.  For example, this sermon is not a conversation, sometimes some of you try to talk and sometimes I ask you to “give me an amen” or say “yes pastor adam” but for the most part a sermon is not a conversation.  Because I am monologuing up here!  In a good conversation everyone talks and everyone listens.  And then what happens in a good conversation?  It is enjoyable, there is often laughter, and then it is thought provoking, perhaps tense at times, but a good conversation resolves itself.  Now of course to have this experience conversations are usually in a place that is conducive to talking, it is pretty hard to have a good conversation at a TPT rock concert, we are just too loud.  You need a decent place to talk, you need enough time to talk and listen and explore and share.  So a good conversation needs to unfold and not be rushed.  When was the last time you had such a good conversation?  Do you see why Jesus often went off to a solitary place to pray?  Because he wanted to have a good conversation with his father.  Which is another part of a good conversation, usually it is with someone you know, love and trust, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to have good conversations with strangers, but usually we have these kinds of talks with family and friends.  And then, a good conversation is one where each person stays engaged.  They don’t disconnect, get distracted, or play on their phones, but they stay engaged, talking and conversing, and exploring and wondering and offering gentle questions when they don’t understand.  And this means that a good conversation never has someone storming off because someone said something they didn’t like, instead a good conversation requires the trust that the others are NOT going to storm off, but they are going to stay engaged.  Ahh a good conversation.  When was the last time you had one of those?

            By the way, I have never, seen a good conversation like this on Facebook.  And I like Facebook, but I have yet to see a good conversation like this happen on Instagram, text messages, or even over email.  For this kind of conversation, you need to be face to face, or at least you need to be able to hear the other person’s tone of voice and expression.  Please hear me on this!  I like social media and technology, but this good conversation that I’m talking about requires more than social media and current technology.

            So when was the last time you had a conversation like that?  Has it been a while.  When was the last time you had a conversation like that with God?  Have you ever prayed and talked with God like that?

            Jesus did it every day.  It was his daily good conversation with his dad that kept him centered, joyous, wise, and loving in all that he did throughout the rest of the day.  And if Jesus did this, why would you think that you don’t have to do this?  And I am very serious.  What in the world makes some of us think that we can get through this faith thing without good conversations with God?  Have you ever in your life heard a pastor say, “prayer, don’t worry about it, no big deal?”  NO!  but that is how we treat it some days isn’t it as if it doesn’t matter or it can go to the bottom of our never ending to-do lists?  Where in the Bible does it say, pray only if you want to.  NOWHERE!  Instead the bible challenges us to pray without ceasing!  Even among your non-spiritual or not religious friends, they might not want you to talk to them about your religious beliefs, but almost everyone, I will admit some have turned me down, but almost everyone, if you offer to pray for them is thankful when you do so.

            Prayer is 100% an essential for faith.  In fact, you begin faith with a prayer of welcoming Jesus into your life, and then you never stop praying.  Now, I know some of you, if you were honest, you don’t have that great of a prayer life, you might not know how to pray, you might find it to be not a high priority.  I know, and I love you, and I am here to say, this summer let’s learn and kick up our prayer game even more.  I also know that there are some of you who are in a season of dryness when it comes to prayer.  You are faithfully praying, but it seems like your prayers are floating away, falling on deaf ears, or hitting a brick wall.  I know some of you are there, and I love you and I am here to say this summer keep praying, let’s you and me have a good conversation sometime about what that means for your faith.  And then I know that some of you are on fire and passionate about prayer.  And you have these daily good conversations with Jesus and God and you get what I am talking about.  I know that you are strong in prayer, and I want you also to know that I love you and I hope you will share some of your prayer experiences with those of us who can use some encouragement and wisdom.

            This summer is the summer of prayer.  Let’s have some really good conversations with each other and God.  And as we do remember that God loves you and I love you to.  Let’s pray!