How to Pray with Power
June 11, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! We’re talking these weeks about how to pray with power, and this is part 3 of that series. If someone asks you to pray for him or her, or if you have a prayer need on your own heart, what should you do? What words should you say? What attitude should we have? That’s what we’re talking about together in these weeks. Next week, we’ll conclude our series with a message called, “How to Make Prayer Practical.” We’ll look at some very concrete things we can keep in mind as we form our prayers for ourselves and for others.
Let’s take a quick recap of where we’ve been. Two weeks ago we talked about the foundations of prayer. Prayer is a positive thing – that’s the first thing to remember. Prayer is not a last resort. Prayer is a first resort. It’s a positive thing. And when someone says, “Let us pray together,” there should be a feeling in your heart that says, “Oh, yes! Let’s do that! That would be a great thing to do.” Prayer is a wonderful, positive celebration. Think of it – we are guaranteed by the Lord Jesus that when we go to an attitude of prayer, we are in communication with the creator of the universe, with the very center of existence. We, mere human beings, are in the mind of God. Psalm 8 says, “What are humans that You are mindful of them, mere mortals that You visit them? Yet You have made them a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned them with glory and honor.” Prayer is a privilege; it is a positive thing. And when you go to prayer, when you are saying a prayer, it should be like rainbows inside of you. It should be like colorful fireworks going off. There should be a feeling of exuberance and praise and joy, because you are connected to God. Prayer is a positive thing.
Second, we talked about the idea that prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. Prayer makes a difference. Every prayer is answered somehow. It could be in the way we thought we’d like it to be. It could be in a brand new way. It could be in a surprising way. It could be simply through the conveyance of love, one person to another. But prayer always gets results. Prayer changes things. Prayer is powerful. So when you decide to pray, you are doing something concrete and positive and powerful.
Third, prayer is personal. Prayer is a gift of love. Remember that wonderful quote from Marcus Bach, “Keep me in your prayers, friend. Keep me in your prayers. Half the power of praying is knowing someone cares.” When you trust someone enough to say, “Will you say a prayer for me? Will you remember me in prayer?” and that person says, “Yes, I will,” what a gift of love they are giving you. And what a gift of love you can give to others when you pray for them and hold them in a consciousness of prayer. Prayer is positive, and it’s powerful, and it’s personal.
Last week, we looked at the first two elements of prayer that are very important. Since this sermon is a combination junior and senior sermon, I brought some objects to share with you today.
[Pastor Tony takes out a candle.] The first thing we need to do when we go to prayer is to light a candle in our hearts. The candle is a symbol of the presence of God. The first and most important thing you can do in prayer is put yourself in the presence of God. Practice the presence of God. Take a moment to be still and know that the Lord is God. Take a moment to focus in on God. When you go to pray before a meal with your family, maybe you have a set prayer you say. Take a moment before you say grace to think about God. It puts everybody into a different frame of mind. The first and most important thing to do is to be still and know that the Lord is God, to light a candle in your heart. Even if you don’t do anything else as part of prayer, even if you don’t use any other words, if you simply put yourself in the presence of God, you’ve prayed a good and powerful prayer.
And the second thing is to hold a positive picture. [Pastor Tony takes out …. Ed. Note: since I am merely transcribing, I don’t know what Pastor Tony took out to illustrate this point. But perhaps that’s even better. What would you use to illustrate this point? You have the opportunity to envision your personal reminder.] Hold a positive picture in your mind about what you’d like the Lord to do with your life. If you’re praying for someone to get better, see them better. If you’re praying for prosperity, see yourself prosperous. If you are praying for peace of mind, imagine what it would feel like to have peace of mind. Hold the positive picture. Don’t dwell in a state of worry and anxiety. Sometimes we have that in our world, but when you pray, picture yourself well. Picture yourself raised up, prosperous, in a state of safety and peace. That’s a very important part of the entire process. Remember the blind man who came to Jesus? Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said, “Lord, that I may see.” And Jesus said, “Be it done according to your faith. Your faith has made you well.” And the man was able to see. Hold the positive picture in your mind. Even when it seems impossible, even when it seems unlikely, dare to be a person of vision. Dare to hold the positive picture.
Now, before I get to the third point, I would like to bring a gift to this congregation, an extraordinary gift of a person who has been through a lot. I am privileged to call him a friend, and I would like to invite Bill Jones to come up and share with us a thought about the positive picture and the importance of prayer.
[Bill Jones speaking – a short bit was lost before Bill started using the microphone.] They desperately needed to get me to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. I was not a good candidate for being moved. The doctor on the case at that time was a man named Bill Haynes, who has since retired. He was a cardiologist, well-recognized in the area, who had written a book called A Physician’s Witness to the Power of Shared Prayer. The resident on the case was a woman, Kathy Robison, who happens to live nearby. She now works at Princeton Medical Center.
They finally got Robert Wood Johnson Hospital to agree to take me. The hospital didn’t want me because I would probably die on their statistics instead of Princeton’s. It’s brutal in the hospital business sometimes. They made arrangements to ship me anyway. As they were getting the gurney to put me on the ambulance, Bill Haynes said, “Wait a minute. We’re going to pray.” So Bill Haynes, my wife, Kathy Robison, and the nurse all had their hands on my head. Bill Haynes prayed with assurance of full recovery. Kathy didn’t believe I was going to get to the other end. I didn’t either – until I heard Bill Haynes talk. But I knew about his book. And I believed it would be okay.
[Pastor Tony speaking.]
Talk about holding the positive picture! And we have the gift of having Bill here with us. I have the privilege of calling him “coach”, because Bill has been singularly helpful to me personally in my own recovery from a heart attack. I am grateful for his ministry in my life. Thank you so much, Bill.
There is a third element that I invite you to think about as you make your prayers one for the other, as you channel your powerful prayer power from one person to another. We talked about being in the presence of God. We talked about holding the positive picture. There’s one more element. [Pastor Tony takes out a Thanksgiving decoration.] Give thanks. Give thanks in advance for what you are praying about. If you’ve got a prayer request that you want God to bless in your life, put yourself in His presence, hold the positive picture, and then give thanks. Have the attitude of heart that you would have if you had the favor. Feel what you would feel if the request were already granted. It will open up channels in your life. It will feel like an opening up inside as you allow yourself to have thanks for what is yet to be.
Thanksgiving is like a magnet that draws good, positive things to you. Pray with thanksgiving, and then leave it alone. Go and do other things. The next day, follow the same pattern: presence, picture, and praise or thanksgiving. Put it before the Lord that way and then let it go. If doubt or worry creep into your mind, put it aside and say you’ll address that the next prayer session. Keep the attitude of thanksgiving going in your heart.
I know a child who is very good at saying thank you, whether it is for a meal or a ride or a present. Whatever it may be, he just naturally knows how to say thank you in a good and gracious way. When people say thank you to us, don’t we want to do more for them? Aren’t we inclined to? So is the Lord.
I’ve also had dealings with an adult – nobody connected with this church, I assure you – who does not have this gift, but does have what we might call an attitude of entitlement. This person makes requests of me and then expects that I will do what is asked, without the please or the thank you. Do we do things when we’re asked like that? Well, sometimes we do, but aren’t we more inclined to say yes to the person with a thankful heart? So is the Lord. Having a thankful heart makes us available to more blessings. So that’s the third important element when you pray.
Do you remember the story of Jesus and the lepers? Ten lepers came to Jesus. He made them all well, and they went off to get their certificate of good health. One came back to say thank you. Jesus said, “Did only one come back to say thanks? A Samaritan, at that. Go your way, my friend. Your faith has made you well. You are doubly blessed. You are not only healed; you’re cured.” And that man went away with wholeness in body and in spirit.
So, my dear friends, as you pray this week, your prayers become more powerful when you invoke the Lord’s presence, when you know that picture in your heart, and when you say “Thank you, God, for everything,” because God loves you. I do, too. More next week. God bless you all. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski