The Amazing Power of Prayer:
Prepare for Prayer
November 8, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic for today is “Prepare for Prayer.” We’re continuing the series, “The Amazing Power of Prayer” which we began two weeks ago. After I delivered that sermon, a wonderful member of the congregation came up to me and said, “Pastor, I like this series on prayer that you’re doing, but could you tell us how? How do you pray for other people? People ask me to pray for them, and I’m not sure what to do. Is it a matter of pleading with God? Are we supposed to beg God to change his lot? What should we do?” So, over this week and the next two weeks, I’d like to talk with you about that, how to pray for other people.
This week, we’re going to talk about how to prepare for prayer. Next week, we’re going to talk about a special prayer formula. I’d like to give you a very simple prayer formula that you may find useful as you want to do spiritual good for other people through the power of prayer. And the third week, we’re going to talk about sealing your prayer with power. So stick with us, and we’ll explore these topics together.
Today we’re going to talk about “Prepare for Prayer.” I know that a number of the members of our congregation like to jog and run and walk. I like to walk long distances. The one thing, I think, that we all hold in common when we walk or run or exercise is that we should warm up. It’s good to stretch and get the body accustomed to what it’s going to do, in order to do it well. I know that those times that I just charged ahead and walked without warming up, I got tired easily and winded and achy. The warm-up makes a big difference, so that you can go the distance.
I want to talk with you today about warming up for prayer, about summoning your spiritual power so that you can send out spiritual power and bless the world, bless all the loved ones you want to pray for. Warming up is very important. As a choral conductor, I know that singers always sing their best when they’re warmed up. I know that I play the piano best when I’ve had a decent amount of time to warm up with special exercises at the piano. Perhaps you can relate to it in the things that you do in your life.
Let’s talk today about warming up for prayer, about preparing for prayer. Jesus gave us a big hint about this in this selection from the gospel that we’re talking about, Matthew 6:6. In the King James Version, it says, when thou prayest, go into thy closet, and close the door and pray to your Father in secret; and the One who hears in secret will reward you openly, greatly.
I think we need to interpret that statement a little bit, because if your closet is anything like my closet, going in there would be an experience – dark and small, with hangers clanging around and boots on the floor. I’m not sure that’s what Jesus had in mind for us. But He is telling us that when you pray, make sure that you go to that special place. Make sure that you go to the prayer room in your heart and get ready to pray.
So, how do we prepare for prayer? I would suggest you do this: imagine going through a door into that special prayer place, that special room, that special area, that is bright and filled with God’s heavenly light. And I would suggest that you orient yourself toward God. You might say, along with so many Biblical writers, “Lord, I am not worthy. I make mistakes.” Let the forgiveness of God cover over you and fill you with His light. Let it purge away any of those thoughts, because you are not fundamentally a mistake-maker. You are fundamentally a child of the Most-High God, and He has wonderful things to do for you and through you. So, let the power of the cross purge you of all of those mistakes that you’ve been carrying around, and all of those regrets. Let the power of the cross be your light of forgiveness. After all, how can you move forward with powerful prayer when you’re carrying around a burden of guilt? Let the power of Jesus’s cross forgive you.
Dr. Bell, you teach piano. I’ve taught piano. If we were to begin our lessons by reminding our students that we’re just mistake-makers, that we need to watch out for mistakes, that we need to focus on mistakes, I’d be willing to bet that our students would be so tied up in knots that they wouldn’t be able to think about making beautiful music. We are not mistake-makers fundamentally. We are musicians. We are wonderful people of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
We need to put the mistakes behind us and let them be washed over by the beautiful music, by the beautiful things that God wants to do for us and through us. Let forgiveness fill your heart; let the light of God surround you in that way.
Second, surround yourself with the light of God in the form of God’s love. You are a unique creation, centered in the midst of the miracle of life. You are loved by the very heart of the universe. Know that and let that love surround you and fill you as you prepare for prayer. There is no one like you, and there is no moment like this. Let the love of God fill you with His light.
And third of all, be filled with the light of God’s power. Prayer is an amazing thing. Prayer changes things. Prayer has amazing effects, and you have been bestowed with that power, on this earth, at this time. Be thankful for it. Acknowledge it. And let God work through you to accomplish great things. Prayer changes things and does amazing things. I think all of us can probably witness to that in some way in our own lives or the lives of others.
When I think of the power of prayer, I think about the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, a long time ago. For those of us old enough to remember, that looked like an impossibility. That looked like something that would never come down. That looked like something that was going to scar the world forever. But the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. I just saw on CNN the other day an article about how you have to go around with a guide on a motorcycle to look for ruins of the Berlin Wall. The guide will show you a little spot in the street where there are some stones that used to be the Berlin Wall, or point to a building standing now where the wall used to be. Friends, that looked like an impossibility 30 years ago, that it would come tumbling down. And I believe in my heart that it was the intention of good people praying to God that helped bring down that which looked impossible. So be thankful to God for the light of His power, radiating through you and manifest in the power of prayer.
And so, dear friends, as you go into this week, I invite you to join me in making a spiritual discipline of simply preparing to pray. Take care of yourself spiritually, and see yourself surrounded by the light of God and orient yourself to God’s divine presence. And when we do, we will be ready to pray powerfully. God loves you. I do, too. I wish you a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski