How to Pray with Power
June 18, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
The year was 1971. The season was springtime. The city? Paris. I was 19 years old. It was my first time there. I was on tour with the Westminster Choir College Organ Department. We were touring the wonderful historic organs of Europe. It was a spectacular experience. In Paris, the daffodils were in bloom. I never knew how fragrant daffodils could be until I experienced them in Paris. They were blossoming at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, all around reflecting pools. In the reflecting pool, you could see the beautiful structure of the Eiffel Tower. The fragrance of daffodils was in the air. It was springtime in Paris, a magical place and a magical time.
But I’d like to take you with me to the subway of Paris, to the Paris Metro. It’s a remarkably clean, comfortable, efficient transportation system. I was dazzled and amazed by one thing I found down there. I took the Metro to the Louvre Museum, and when I got out of the subway into the subway station, I was amazed by what I saw. There, open to the public in full view and close enough to touch was a medieval statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus. I couldn’t believe my eyes! In a subway station, there it was!
And on the wall was a very special carving that I’d like to tell you about. It was a carving of a man seated at a writing desk. It was also a medieval work. He had in his hand a plume pen and was writing in a book. On his shoulder was seated a dove. It was as if the dove was whispering in his ear, and the man was listening and writing what he heard. Of course, this was all symbolism. The man was the writer of the gospel, and the dove on his shoulder was a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the nudging of God talking to him and inspiring him to write the scripture down.
As I prepared to talk with you this morning in this, the fourth part of our series on praying with power, I asked the Lord, “Lord, what do You want me to tell Your wonderful people? What is the last word? What word should we conclude with when we think about praying with power?” I had a number of thoughts in mind, but the response to that came so clearly, so gently, it was amazing. It was as though the Lord said, “Tell them…remind them to listen.” I said, “Thank you, Lord. Of course that’s the last word!” We pray, but we also must listen for the response of God.
Sometimes when we think of prayer, we just need to ask for supernatural help. Maybe we’re at the end of our rope. Maybe we don’t know what to ask for. So we just put ourselves in the presence of God and say, “Lord, Your good will be done.” And of course, that’s a wonderful prayer. We need to ask, and it is good to ask, for a supernatural response to our needs. But could it be that we ask for things in prayer, and the Lord says “Okay. Sure. Just be my partner. Help me out with this a little bit. Do your part, and I’ll do mine”?
How do we do it? We do it by listening. So when you go home today and somebody asks, “What did the preacher talk about?” tell them “listening.” Listen for the Lord as a part of your prayer.
I believe the Lord can do and answer things supernaturally. I’ve seen it happen – healings, amazing healings. And isn’t life itself supernaturally amazing? Isn’t life fundamentally miraculous? As we ask for things, sometimes the Lord does answer in a supernatural way, ways we can’t explain. I confess, once I took my godson Dylan fishing. He was just a little boy at the time. We went fishing in the lake. He’d never caught a fish. He wanted to catch a fish so badly. I confess, I said, “Lord, if it’s okay with you, would it be too much to ask to send a fish our way? I know you have bigger things to take care of, Lord, but this would be awfully nice.” The thing is, Dylan did not like to put bait on the hook. He’d decided he was going to fish with just the hook, no bait. So what were the chances, really?
I said, “You know, I really don’t think you’re going to catch a fish without any bait.”
“Oh, you watch,” he said. I guess he had prayers going, too. He threw the line in with the bobber. I just watched and shook my head. The bobber started to go up and down, and it went under the water. He set the hook, and out of the water came a fish, my friend. A fish with no bait! Well, you know, sometimes God does things in a supernatural way.
But maybe the answer to your prayer is closer than you think. Maybe all God is asking us to do is to listen for His response, to listen and to do our part. I’d like to have you take home a scripture. It’s Matthew 7:7. Jesus says, “Ask, seek, knock.” Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened.” Notice the order of that? Asking, as in our prayer. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says, “Seek!” Go looking. Check it out. Listen for what’s going on. Check out the internet. Go to the library. Seek. I will lead you. And then He says, “Knock.” Knock means what? Knock means doing something. Knock means moving your hand; knock means moving your feet. Knock means going out there and responding ourselves, letting God lead us. You see, the closing word is ‘listen’ – and respond.
Bear with me. You may have heard this story. There is a man in his house, and the floodwaters are rising. They come up to his porch, and the man prays, “Lord, please save me from the flood.” The water keeps rising, right up to his front door. A man in a rowboat comes by. He says, “Get into the boat; I’ll save you.” the man in the house says, “No, that’s okay. I prayed to the Lord. God’s going to save me.” The man in the rowboat says “OK” and goes on.
The water keeps rising, and the man moves to the second story. He prays, “Lord, save me from the flood. I’m counting on you.” He waits and waits, and nothing happens. Then the Coast Guard comes by. The Coast Guardsman says, “Get into the boat; I’ll take you to safety.” But the man says, “No, thank you. I prayed that the Lord would save me.” So the Coast Guard goes away.
The flood waters rise, and the man is sitting on the peak of his roof. He prays, “Lord, save me from this flood!” Nothing happens. Then a helicopter flies overhead and drops a ladder. A voice says, “Grab the ladder. I’ll take you to safety.” The man says, “No, thank you. I know the Lord is going to save me.”
Well, a big wave came and the man was washed away. The next thing he knew, he was standing in the presence of God. God said, “You’re early.”
The man said, “But God, I trusted in You. I prayed that You would save me from the flood. Why didn’t you?”
God said, “For crying out loud, I sent the rowboat, the Coast Guard, and the helicopter. What more do you want?”
Are we ever that way? Do we ever pray and ask, but miss the listening part? Can we make an agreement this week that we are going to listen for the Lord in response to our prayers?
How are we going to listen? We can listen for insights; we can listen for nudgings; and we can listen for the word of others. Insights – maybe you’re praying to God to be a better person, a kinder person, to live a more peaceful life. The response to that prayer is going to be an insight that comes to you. Let me tell you something that happened to me. I once had a colleague who wronged me and caused me a lot of pain. I was upset. I ran into him and said, “Why did you do that? I was really upset about what you did.” I let him know my feelings. He was very defensive and didn’t have an explanation.
I went home, and I didn’t feel good about it. I prayed, “Lord, did I do the right thing?” and the insight that came was, “Was that worth it? Was it worth the relationship? Why don’t you fix it?” So I did. I called him, and I said, “I owe you an apology. I am sorry. I came down really hard on you, and I regret that. I hope you will forgive me. Are we friends?”
He said, “Yes, we are. And I am really grateful for your call.” I felt clean inside about it. I had to listen for that insight and then move on it. How about you? Will God touch your heart with insight as a response to your prayer this week?
Sometimes it comes in the form of a nudging. God may say, “Call this one now” or “Write this letter now” or “Mend that fence.” We might say, “Later, Lord. I’m busy right now. I have other things to do.”
“No, do it now,” urges God. But He’ll never force us. If we listen to that nudging, though, we’ll be in a better place. I call that ‘flying with your angel.’ Do you ever fly with your angel? You hear that little voice that says that ‘this is a good thing to do now.’ It could be as small as ‘Water the plant; it’s thirsty.’ Listen to your angel; fly with your angel. Be open to the nudging of the Lord.
Sometimes it can be very important. On Thursday night, October 21st, I was quite sure I was having bad indigestion. It was like a fist gripping in the middle of my chest. I wondered what I had eaten. It was so bad I could hardly breathe. I thought it would pass, I’d be fine. I took an aspirin, went to the board meetings that night, and the pain came back. I realized that I really hadn’t had anything bad to eat. I thought I’d be all right. But then I heard this little voice that said, “Go to the doctor now.” But I don’t like going to the doctor! I’m scared of the doctor. I don’t like pokey things in my arm. I don’t like what he might say or do. “Go to the doctor now.”
So I did. I decided to bite the bullet and call the doctor. He said, “Sure, come on in. It’s all right. I’m just going to give you a little test.” He gave me a little test, and then he said, “Lie down and be very still and take this and give me your arm.” And the next thing I knew there was an ambulance and there were police cars and we were shooting off to Somerset Medical Center. They saved my life. I was having a heart attack. I’m glad I listened to the nudging.
How about you? Is God nudging you in a way that is going to benefit you? I thanked that doctor. I wrote him a letter and thanked him for saving my life. “You’re very nice, and I cherish this letter,” he said. “But I want you to know that you saved your life because you listened to your nudging to come in. if you hadn’t listened to your nudging, there wouldn’t have been a tomorrow.” Amazing. Is God nudging us to our highest good?
Last of all, the voice of others. It’s amazing; somebody may say something to you that is the “aha” moment, the response to your prayer, the insight you’re looking for. God could be speaking to you through another person. You never know. It may be a very educated person. It may be a person without nearly the education you have. But let’s respectfully listen to him or her, because the voice of God may come to us through another person.
Not this last winter but the winter before, I was trying to start my snowblower to clear the snow from the parsonage driveway. I had gas in it, and I was sure the sparkplug was hooked up. I pulled the starter, and nothing happened. Over and over, no response. It was a little thing, but I prayed to God about it. Then I said, “Lord, I really have to clear this driveway. Could you give me a little hand here?” Still the snowblower didn’t start.
A neighbor came by. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.
“Trying to start my snowblower.”
“Not having much luck, eh? What about that key thing there?”
“What do you mean?”
“You have the key set on red?”
“Yes, I do. Red for run. R-R.”
“Oh, okay,” my neighbor said. “The other position is green.” I decided to humor my neighbor, so I turned the key to green. And of course, the snowblower started right up.
Sometimes God helps us out through other people, if we’re humble enough to listen and to take good advice.
That’s my prayer for you this week. As we go into the week, as we are people of prayer, let’s do it. Let’s pray to God. Let’s know that prayer is positive and powerful and personal. Let’s practice his presence. Let’s give thanks; let’s give praise to God. Let’s listen for the response, because the answer to your prayer may be closer than you think.
God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski