“Jesus, the master of the art of living, was trying to teach his Disciples about kingdom living — living on earth as if they were already in heaven,” the Rev. Cynthia Hale said. “The Disciples were dependent on Jesus, and he was trying to teach them how to negotiate life without him. Prayer was and still is the key — to pray and not give up.”
Hale delivered her sermon, “God Will Answer Prayer!,” at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service Monday. Her selected Scripture text was Luke 18:1-8.
“Prayer is the permanent occupation of the believer; it is a daily activity, not a last-ditch response,” she said. “We can’t live without constant prayer. Luke mentions it more than any other writer. Prayer occurs in key times and places in Luke-Acts, from people praying in the temple [in the beginning of the Gospel] to the Disciples in the upper room [in Acts].”
Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit while he was praying.
“Why do you have so little power, so little control over your emotions? You are like a drained battery and you need to hook into a source of power,” Hale said.
That power, she continued, is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus prayed in public and in private. He prayed daily.
“He lived his life in the power of prayer so that he could choose God’s way and not his own,” Hale said. “It was no easier for Jesus than it is or you and me. He was tempted by shortcuts that he had to work out in prayer. The Disciples could see the power, peace and perseverance, and they asked Jesus, ‘Teach us to pray.’ We have to always pray and not give up.”
Hale said that a “well-meaning” member of her congregation once told her that she would be more effective if she stopped using the words “should,” “ought” and “must.” He told her that people were more open to suggestions and invitations.
“I thought about his words when I was working on my sermons,” she said. “Jesus [in the text] was not issuing an invitation. There are no suggestions in the Bible. Jesus said, ‘This is my command.’ He is unapologetic that we should always pray and not give up; that is God’s will for our lives. Jesus knows what we are going through and that we ought to pray always without ceasing.”
To pray without ceasing does not mean to stay home in your prayer closet, she said.
“Prayer is not an event or a part-time activity — it is a lifestyle as natural as breathing. Someone said that prayer is the atmosphere in which we live.
“We have to keep asking God for what we need,” Hale continued. “The fear is that we will give up before we get what God has in store for us.”
In the Scripture text, the widow will not leave the unjust judge alone until she gets justice. Some people think the unjust judge is God, but, Hale said, the judge should be seen in contrast to God, not in place of God.
“We don’t have to badger God, to wear God down,” she said. “God is more willing to give than we are willing to ask. God will answer those who are in covenant with him. That relationship has benefits. When we persevere, God won’t delay but will answer quickly — on God’s time table.”
God, she added, answers prayer according to kairos, not chronos.
“As my grandmother used to say, ‘God answers prayer on time, in time.’ We don’t always persist in prayer. We think that God hasn’t come through so prayer doesn’t work. Prayer will work if you work it.”
We live in an instant culture, she said, and we don’t want to wait.
“We say, ‘I am waiting on God,’ but really it is God who is waiting on you,” Hale said. “We ask, ‘Why does God prolong heartache and headaches?’ God is the creator and we are the created; God is the parent and we are the children. God is the source of what we need and hope for.”
God answers prayer because of unmerited grace.
“Christ opened the door through which we unashamedly go through over and over again,” she continued. “God measures us by our persistence. How badly do you want it? Remember your courtship when you went after the sweet young woman who became your life mate? Or your career or a degree — you kept at it. You should not be ashamed to keep knocking. How bad do you want what God has for you?”
Hale told the congregation that “we have to have faith to persevere. We have to believe, trust, have confidence and not give up. God sometimes allows us to stay in places that are difficult because God is working something out in us. God is getting the ugly attitudes and undesirable things out of our lives. Prayer changes things and changes us.
“Delays are not denials,” Hale concluded. “God will answer. We just have to persist. God will show up and show out; when we persist in prayer, God will answer.”
The Rev. Robert M Franklin presided. The Rev. Ed McCarthy, a deacon in the Roman Catholic rite, read the Scripture. The Motet Choir sang “How Can I Keep From Singing?” a Quaker hymn arranged by Gwyneth Walker. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund and the Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy support this week’s services.