Your Kingdom on Earth: During Lent

Psalm 63: 1-8
LUKE 6: 46-49 & 11: 2-3

March 20, 2022

This Wednesday was a powerful day of prayer here at St. Paul’s. People came in the early morning, at noon tide, and in the evening to pray. To pray for Logan … to pray for Kathie … to pray for those with cancer and to share in Holy Communion. It was also in that evening, once the prayers of the church in this sanctuary were over, that our friend and brother in Christ, Leigh Klinger, went home to be with the Lord.

Amongst the attributes of this church called St. Paul’s is the fact that we are a church that prays hard … prays in unison … and answers the call of our prayer warriors who make phone calls or send e-mails. We together, as a loving and connected church family, have witnessed the power of prayer … perhaps many of you, like me, have actually felt the benefits of the prayers of this church, our church, God’s church.

And, so we come together on this Sunday midway through the Lenten season for worship, for friendship, and for prayer. As I stated on Wednesday, it was during a text message chat with young Logan Ski that I asked him what he wanted from this church family … his church family … and I had left the question wide open for any type of response …. But Logan did not ask for more Pokémon cards; Logan did not ask for an array of gifts that your typical 11 year old might ask of his pastor when asked ‘what do you want from St. Paul’s church family?’ Logan answered quickly and precisely that what he wanted from his church family was that we KEEP ON PRAYING.

Friends, the power of prayer is real …. KEEP ON PRAYING!!! Keep on keeping on … chatting with God who created the heavens and this planet earth. Every human’s image is that of God. Engage in conversation with God, which means we each have to allow God to be part of the discussion. God calls on us to do exactly that throughout Scripture.

My God … MY GOD!!!” The psalmist, in the verses from Psalm 63, writes about searching for God, thirsting for God and desiring God. The psalmist admits sensing God in the sanctuary but that he needs and wants more.

The psalmist knows that God’s value exceeds the occasional moments and so out of prayer; out of need; and out of the process of accepting the fact that prayer is a two way conversation, the psalmist “meditates on God in the middle of the night because God has been a help to him.”

Friends when you pray at night is it the precursor to you soundly falling off to sleep? We teach our kids to pray before sleeping but shouldn’t we be teaching them to pray as they wake up? Shouldn’t we be sitting with them in their bedrooms and then teaching them to first reach out to God in prayer and then meditate, read Scripture, listen to praise music of faith so that God’s reply is alive to them before sleep takes control? Why not a little SHOUT for JOY knowing God upholds us in our dreams? Before sleep … in the waking hours of focus and concentration rather than as a filler for our yawns.

As you move through this Lenten season … have you considered where prayer fits into your life. Not just prayers for Logan, Kathie and those fighting cancer … not only prayers asking that Barbara, her boys, and the rest of Leigh’s family find peace … not just for the people of the Ukraine whose essence is being destroyed by its invader seeking profit amidst the deaths and destruction . But for your faith life; breathing moments of you days and nights.

When you read Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing … are you taking into consideration that Paul is reminding people of faith that God’s presence is always around us? That the two way benefit of prayer is God’s response not our asking? Have you ever paused, perhaps in this Lenten season, to realize that by opening our eyes, listening with our ears or just allowing our senses to be actively engaged that we might become better connected with God; that we might get a response to those prayers?

When we do not restrict God to the sanctuary or to a few pre-sleep hurried words or to a tired repetitive prayer or to a meal blessing … when we allow God to thrive in our lives friends then we just might hear God’s answers to our prayers and God’s communication with us.

David in the Psalms declares, “How precious to me are Your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them. Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand … when I awake, I am still with You.”

God’s thoughts … God’s messages … God’s love … and yes, God’s challenges to us all come through the stream of communication called prayer. God’s message should bring peace and beauty and love to us pushing aside fear and anxiety. Perhaps the simplicity of the cardinal in your bird feeder or the poem you can recite by memory. The sunrise at dawn or tableau of colors in a sunset … God’s reaching out to each of us amidst the storm. “GOD, My GOD, I search for you!” And yes, God is right there trying to get us to join in God’s way of living life … the Holy Spirit whispers and nudges … prayer.

God’s messages have a starting point for each of us and they come from this book … When people ask me, “What does God expect? What does God want? Why can’t I connect with God?” My response always goes to the question … do you read God’s Word? When someone dies, I always ask the survivors if their family member had a favorite Scripture passage or whether there is a story of Jesus that they loved to hear? A favorite Psalm perhaps? A book of the Bible that they returned to often so that they could sense God’s calling in their life. How did they communicate with God … besides merely being “spiritual” as many will tell me.

Today, you have heard ‘my Psalm; Psalm 63 verses 1 through 8.’ In fact I have noticed that somehow most Bible publishers know it is mine because the printed version will say a psalm of David.

I discovered this Psalm probably a decade ago when teaching a Bible Study on the Psalms. I always require class members to flip open their Bibles to Psalms in those studies. Wherever the page stops that specific Psalm will be their Psalm to read every day during the study. When I did that tears began to flow because I was reading something connectional God and me … I frequently look out the window at night to think about God while looking at the heavens … I seek God and my very soul thirsts for God especially on my bad or sad days. I have witnessed God in the sanctuary but I always need to remember “God is my help and I do shout for joy!” You must know my favorite verse by now, “Rejoice in the Lord Always, Again I say rejoice!” My favorite book of the Bible is Philippians and the chapter of faith that reflects my theology through Jesus Christ, Matthew 25.’

But that is me … what are yours? How do you “pray without ceasing?” Do those around you know your Psalm, your verse, your book of the Bible, and your Jesus story of faith?

Brother Lawrence, a monk whose book, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God,’ was required reading in seminary wrote “We should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by constantly conversing with Him.”

When we start to have those chats … when we realize that God is alive and ever present in our lives perhaps we can understand why Paul wrote these words to the early Church of Rome, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer.” In almost every letter Paul wrote there was a mention of ongoing communication with God not just in worship; not just over meals; and not just at bed time.

To the Colossians, “Continue steadfastly in prayer being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” There is that sense of joy again … prayer with thanksgiving!

To the Ephesians, he wrote, “Pray at all times in the Spirit … keep alert with all perseverance.”

And, I believe … I truly believe that one of our greatest challenges as Christians in the 21st century who actually do understand how God loves every human … 21st Century people of faith who know God showed God’s love for us through Jesus … that the cross and the empty tomb are real because we know that JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>

I believe that our greatest challenge comes from our disconnect with prayer.

This week I read some statistics about humans. They came from the National Science Foundation. The first, the average person thinks anywhere from 12, 000 to 60,000 thoughts every single day. And, that’s the average person. But the frightening part of that study showed that 85% of those thoughts were negative and 95% were repetitive from the previous day. I don’t know about you but I don’t have a switch to click on to get my brain thinking … it just thinks. Reading those statistics made me have a few more thoughts and they centered on what might happen if people of faith made a concentrated effort to focus our thoughts on God and God’s mission for us in life.

Perhaps then we’d realize that you and I are the answer to our prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Or in today’s language that we heard earlier, “Jesus told them when you pray, say: Father, uphold the holiness of Your name. Bring in Your kingdom.” Friends, we are the answer to the prayer! Focusing in on God … rearranging our thinking habits … living for Christ can bring the Kingdom here and now.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I say?” He then shared the parable from Luke you heard this morning by showing what can happen “when someone comes to Jesus and hears His words and puts them into practice.” Jesus said it was like a house with a solid foundation ready to stand against any storm … well built just like each of us who has Jesus is well built to survive.

We have a challenge … we are in Lent … 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. I know that I am going to work on erasing as many negative ones as possible by searching for God … praying with God and listening for God, are you with me? “God’s Kingdom on Earth?” During Lent and beyond? We can be the start of the change and it begins with two-way prayer. Discovering God and God’s call out to you and to me. AMEN

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