Friday, December 30, 2011

A Living Prayer

By Rev. Mark Reece

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This week we wrap up our sermon series built from these words of Jesus offered in John 15:7. Jesus offers us the opportunity to ask of God in the spirit of abiding or obedience. Following the path and teachings of Jesus maintains an unselfish, giving and loving presence about us that will control our asking. This is particularly important because asking dominates much of our prayer life. The best preparation for prayer is to abide in Christ, through daily word and deed, in order to prevent us from offering what I’ve referred to as selfish reactionary and impulsive prayers. We are the branches and Christ is the vine. A clean and honest life keeps us connected to the life source.

There is a human asking and a divine giving at work in John 15:7. Gospel of John scholar Susan Hedahl says that it is “through this process of human asking and divine giving that we become disciples.” John 15:8 essentially says that the Father is glorified when we ask with obedience and our prayers are granted. This week I’m focusing on the divine giving. I was with a mentor of mine a few weeks ago for lunch and he pulled out a little book that was full of names. I could see the notes by each name and there were a few check marks. He was keeping notes of how God was in the process of answering his prayers. He had check marks by those prayers that he felt had been answered. I know that God answers prayers. God continues to answer my prayers. However, I’m continually amazed at the ways by which God answers my prayers.

John 15:7 begins with conditional statements “if you abide in me” and “if my words abide in you” and then moves to the declarative. One thing that I’ve discovered in my relationship with God is that the divine giving often comes with expectation. We often pray that God might give us more of something – perhaps patience, generosity or compassion. But what if God answers our prayer by giving us opportunities to exercise more patience? We pray to be more compassionate. Perhaps God gives us opportunities to exercise compassion. This thought process keeps us united in a partnership with God whereby we’re prevented from becoming complacent bystanders; rather, we’re always becoming active participants in our spiritual lives. We move from saying a prayer to living a life of prayer. Pray on and be blessed this week.

Mark Reece is the pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Mount Airy, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Grove.

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