Sunday, September 30, 2018

Power of Prayer

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

"Shalom" is a Kingdom of God word. It means "peace," including health, welfare and prosperity. When God is King, all will be well. We will be well. We pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Father."

Until that day, we serve God by proclaiming His coming kingdom in word and deed. This is Ancient Christian faith. James tell us to pray and praise; constant prayer in every circumstance. James says go to the church leaders for healing. James tells us to "confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed." Sin and sickness overlap. Jesus want to heal us: body and soul, mind, heart and spirit. Jesus also sends us to do the same for others. Prayer is the door which opens us to Him.  James has great trust in the power of prayer and so must we. He begins the letter (1:5) by saying "ask in faith, never doubting--for the doubter must not expect to receive anything form the Lord." Doubt and fear are drain prayer of its life.

This is our crisis; can we pray with faith? Can we see ourselves and repent of our sins? It is not enough to just 'say' the creed and confession; we must trust and repent. We must let the Holy Spirit heal and transform us by making us one with God in theosis.

The church today is in deep trouble across the board. It is tempting to give in to despair. But the Book of Numbers reminds us that this is nothing new. The unbelief and rebellion of Israel is a template for our own troubled times. We read from Numbers 11:1 "now the people became like those who complain." If we are complainers (and we are), we are not the first generation to be so... However, verse 4 further identifies a "collection" of people which is probably best translated as "riff-raff." These people have a "strong craving." In Genesis this word is used for Eve’s desire for the forbidden fruit. It is the same “sinful passion” which wounds our hearts and cut us off from God. We read that Israel disdains the manna pining after worldly foods, but the church does the same. We, too, take the Eucharist for granted while craving all that world has to offer instead. People skip church without a second thought, while others would distribute eucharist to anyone who walks in the door. We deceive ourselves that we are different, better than those Israelites, but we are not.

James says confess your sins to one another to be healed. We do confess our sins together each week, but we must go deeper to receive the healing. We must face ourselves and uncover the passions and secret sin at work within us. If you do not like the Enneagram find another tool or a spiritual guide, to hep with this vital work. Jesus offers healing, let us bring to Him our maladies.

However, the church in every age struggles with sin. Moses gets mad at God and asks to die. The apostles stop someone from exorcising demons in Jesus’ name because he did not follow them. We each, in our own way, despair of the ministry or become an obstacle to it. We are all prone to forget that God is not in our service, we are in His. Our nous is truly darkened. We are prone to sin.

Jesus warns us not to sin. Jesus says pluck out the sinful eye, cut off the sinful hand, avoid sin whatever the cost. Sin is an obstacle to God’s mercy; especially when it leads the little ones astray. How can we confront this evil within the church? Only by first repenting ourselves. Only by being a people of faithful prayer first. We must pray “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!" We embrace a discipleship focused on repenting and being healed—and the apostolic ministry of healing others and reconciling them with God.

Prayer of faith can do great things. Focus on Jesus and pray expecting great things.
addendum. Expectant prayer envisions the outcome and trusts God is able and willing to make it happen. An illustration. Long ago a minister in a rural community called together the area farmers during a brutal drought. He invited them to come together one afternoon and to pray for God to provide rain to the dry land. At the appointed time the farmers began to arrive, and all encircled the minister as they waited to begin. He looked around at the assembly and then sadly said, "Go home, there is no use in us praying." The people were shocked and began to ask him, "Why? Why cancel? We came a long way, shouldn't we pray?" The minister listened to them all for a moment and then answered them with these words. "You have come together, today, to ask God to open the heavens and pour forth rain upon the earth.... Yet not a single one of you brought an umbrella."

The prayer of faith can do amazing things.
prayer of faith is expectant.

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