Hear the words of the Collect for the Third Sunday after Trinity:
O Lord, we beseech Thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom Thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by Thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be alway acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. We pray in the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Collect for today is a prayer about prayer and those who pray. We have so many misconceptions about prayer that we often pray for the wrong things or the wrong reasons. Paul in 1st Thessalonians chapter 5 beginning at verse 17 shares his insights into prayer and by studying these insights we can look at how we often go wrong.
He says in that verse “Pray without ceasing.” So do we pray in all situations: joy as well as sorrow, health as well as sickness, or do we only go to God when things go wrong and we need divine intervention to fix them? In prayer do we ever just thank God for the day, or for flowers, or just to praise Him?
In verse 18 we read “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Do we give thanks for our promotions at work? Do we thank Him when we get a flat tire? Do we thank Him for anything at all; the difficulties as well as the victories?
Do we understand that bad things can happen for a reason? That pain and sickness can be helps for our spiritual lives if we use them correctly?
Verse 19 says “Quench not the Spirit.” How many times do we tell God, “No I want what I want not what you have given me.” How many times do we spurn the gifts of God for the things of this world that sparkle in the sunlight yet are no help to us in the darkness that we all face in this world and possibly the world to come?
Verse 20 says “Despise not prophesyings.” When God warns us of the results of bad actions we say, “That can’t happen to me. I don’t like that prophecy and therefore will not accept it. For after all for God loves me too much for that!”
Verse 21 says “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” How many people do we know that have accepted things that are patently untrue just because they sound nice, or they fit in with their desires. We do not test the comfortable words we like; only those words which we don’t like.
Verse 22 says “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Not just the actuality of evil but also the appearance of evil. Sometimes we do not give thanks before meals or go to Church on Sunday. We are sometimes just forgetful or we want to go fishing that Sunday. Well when people who are weak in the faith see us not doing what they are not doing they may think they are ok in not going to Church too.
The Epistle for today continues this description of how we are to pray. One of the greatest ways we can go wrong in prayer is to approach God with a false sense of humility. We very easily say with our mouths, “Thy will be done,” but in our hearts we are really saying, “My will be done.”
Now there is nothing wrong with asking God to grant a prayer request for another, or even for ourselves. What is wrong is that we do not approach God with the willingness to accept the answer that He will give us. This also does not mean that we cannot continue to pray for something for a long period of time. The answer may well be yes, however the time is not right in God’s perfect Will, which is something we do not know, so we may continue to pray for it.
This is what Peter means by the phrase “in due time.” We are so very impatient for answers to our prayers. We want what we want when we want it, like right now. We must always remember that our time is not God’s time.
Next Peter tells us why we are to pray. We are to pray because God cares for us, He loves us, and wants only the best for us. This does not mean that everyone will be a millionaire tomorrow, for riches may be the worst thing God can give an individual. God loves us so much that He has prepared a way for us to return to Him who created us. That path is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on The Cross of Calvary.
We should always be vigilant in prayer. Through it we can resist the evil one and detect his wiles because we are aware of our relationship with God and what interferes with it. When we are constantly in prayer it is almost impossible for the devil to distract us. I say almost because we could be in prayer for the wrong things or the wrong reasons and give Satan entrée into our hearts and minds.
We are also not to be distracted by the idea that we are being unfairly singled out for bad things. Peter tells us that both Christians and non-Christians suffer in this world in the same ways. So what is the purpose of prayer in our suffering? Here Peter tells us that the ultimate end of these bad things is actually good for us. Through suffering the things of this world are pushed away and we can come closer to God. We recognize through this separation how they have interfered with our spiritual lives.
In suffering we become established in those things we believe in. We are given strength to endure whatever the world and this life can and does throw at us. We become settled in the ways of God and put aside worry and faithlessness. We gain peace and stability in all things until we return to God and are made perfect indeed.
This brings us to the Gospel lesson for today. Saint Luke records the words of Jesus in defending Himself against the Pharisees accusation that He hangs around with sinners. We know that God is searching for the lost people of this world, but today I would like to place each of us in the role of the searcher. So what is it that we are searching for in the life? What is it that we want to know? What is the answer to the question, “Why?”
The way to answer all of these questions is to pray and then listen for the answers that God will give to those who do so. We are to pray expecting an answer. We are to pray expecting to receive what is good for us in the eyes of God. We are to pray knowing that we pray to a God who loves us so much that He could not endure to live eternally without us.
So let us pray with all this in mind until we find the ultimate answer to our prayers in being reunited with Jesus Christ in Paradise.
Rev. John Jacobs