July 25, 2010
St. James, the Apostle
Sermon: Praying with Fire
Trinity Anglican Church
Preacher: The Rev. Michael Trent Shaw
Luke 11: 1-13
Romans 8: 16
Luke 5: 1 – 11
Supplemental scripture references:
Malachi 3: 2,3
Matthew 3: 11
Luke 12: 49
Acts 17: 22-28
Hebrews 7 :25
Lord, we, your disciples, at your instruction come to say, “Teach us to pray.” Help our minds grasp the overwhelming necessity, our spirits be testified to by Your Holy Spirit fire, our souls experience at each and every time of prayer the depth of your love. Teach us to pray. LORD, teach us to pray. We implore this for your Name’s sake, Amen.
This passage and its parallel in Matthew’s Gospel account – see Matthew, chapter 5 – are among the most preached upon Biblical texts in the world. In fact, one of my preacher’s helps states that due to the scope of what we have before us, “only the boldest of preachers will dare take on the entire lesson”. OK. How are we set for time? My dear Trinity Church family, please trust me. We’ll only look at some highlights. This is a master class in the School of Prayer. A master class given by the Master…Jesus.
One word of recommendation, if I may. This sermon is interlaced with several Scripture passages. Many of you know by now, I’m prone to teach. So, please make note of these passages and read and dwell on them this week. That’s your homework.
Combined together we all have prayed the LORD’s/disciple’s Prayer millions of times. And yet, we all return to it time and time and time again.
Something in it draws us in. Some One in it draws us in. You and I are being reeled in like fish. The prayer fascinates us. We take the bait…as it were…time and time and time again. And it’s good bait isn’t it? That’s some truly heavenly food at the hook end of the line isn’t it?
Who is this Good Fisherman?
Luke, the doctor, Gospel writer and historian early on in our subject book recounts the following story. Read Luke 5:1-11
So let’s look with refreshed eyes, minds, hearts, and souls at this prayer, shall we?
Take a moment…
Taken as a whole, what do you notice about the text of the prayer itself?
There are not a whole lot of words.
The original, koine Greek – 38 words. Two popular translations, the ESV – 36, the NIV – 34.
If you laid out the words on a fresh piece of paper or up on screen like ours here, you’ll notice a tremendous amount of blank space.
May I suggest that this is the LORD’s strong indication that we should listen for His presence and his testimony. Remember Romans 8:16? We won’t spend significant time here, but I would highly recommend prayer time throughout the upcoming week with this passage as your focus.
If we who have received the Holy Spirit’s adoption as sons and daughters are provided His internal witness that we are children of God – does not the Holy Spirit provide us witness of his presence and testimony? In other words, pay attention, before, during and after prayer. Prayer is a holy activity which provides a moment of that which will make us whole.
The Regular practice of prayer
Teach us to pray – The disciples for a long time had noticed something they growingly knew they needed. Jesus’ practice of prayer had really gained their attention. Jesus prayed a whole lot. Doesn’t bringing Jesus’ practice of prayer to mind encourage us to pray a whole lot – regularly? Picture Him. On the Mount of Olives. At the various occasions of healings. In the temple. Walking along the Galilee at night. In the Upper Room. At Gethsemane. Before the Jewish and Roman rulers. On the cross. At Emmaus. At the right hand of God, always making intercession for us – (Hebrews 7:25).
Look at the very first word of the prayer. Pater (in the Greek). Father. Papa. Dad.
We have immediate access. Remember Moses’ immediate access? The burning bush. The refining, holy fire of God’s presence. After Moses’ time on Sinai, he came down from the mountain and his face shone because he had been talking with God (Exodus 34: 29).
We have further evidence of that fire in the next words of the prayer. Hallowed be your name. Sacred, holy, worthy of eternal veneration.
So now, you can see, we’re praying with fire – in a manner of speaking.
This is the Fire of presence – Father… burning bush…on the mountain of Sinai…pillar of fire, leading the children of Israel out of bondage…the refiner’s fire – read – Malachi 3:2,3
Refining us like gold and silver, removing that which is of no lasting value.
And yet, the Father is also (from our processional hymn this morning):
Father-like he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows.
Is this not also tender fire?
There’s a second fire. The Fire of purification – from the Son – read Matthew 3:11 – We are to take up our crosses daily, be made righteous through his righteous blood and sacrifice, and in turn, by grace, be purified.
I think we’re discovering that this passage, Luke 11:1-13 is a very Trinitarian passage.
In further support of this, make note of the 3rd fire, the Fire of preparation the Holy Spirit’s fire. The Holy Spirit prepares us with Help, Comfort, and Counsel. His counsel we’ll do well to recall from Romans 8:16. Remember your homework!
So we have prayer with presence, purification, and preparation.
Application – Pray with fire
Are you missing something in your spiritual life? Is it lacking punch, drive, meaning, power, force? Then pray. Realize, along with the noted 20th century priest, humanitarian, theologian, Henri Nouwen, that “we come to the shocking, but at the same time self-evident, insight that prayer is not a pious decoration of life but the breath of human existence.”
At the beginning, in the heat of the day’s activities, at eveningtide – do you find yourself breathless?
What better way to begin than in prayer to the Father? Martin Luther, the reformation icon, began his day, at 2am mind you…any insomniacs here(?) began his day in this way. In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Followed by multiple hours of prayer.
You’re no doubt asking yourself by now, he’s really been having fun with alliteration, isn’t that enough?
I must answer:
There’s one more p. For persistence. Read Luke 11:5-13. Persistence! Persistence! Persistence!
And I don’t mean occasional bursts or flurries of hurried activity. We must be:
Persistent. Pertinacious. Persevering. Relentless. Resolute. Steadfast. Stubborn. Tenacious. Tireless. Unflagging. Unshakable.
Trinity Church, may our prayers be set afire with presence, purification, and preparation!
Beloved of Christ – let us be persistent in prayer!
© 2010 – The Rev. Michael Trent Shaw – All rights reserved.