Find out what happens when God’s people rediscover God’s WORD.
Find out what happens when God’s people rediscover God’s WORD.
On Sunday, August 9th, we will bless the backpacks of the students of the parish during our time with children (10AM service). Encourage your student to bring their backpack (without any heavy books) and anything else that is essential for their schooling so that we may ask God’s blessings on them as they begin the new academic year.
You may join the event on Facebook. And make sure to invite your friends!
Due to Rector error, the sermon didn’t get recorded. Because there was a responsive element, it’s impossible to re-record, so I am posting an outline that I hope can help you get the gist of the sermon:
I was raised Pentecostal, so the question of “praying in the Spirit” and the miracle of Pentecost always sits uneasily with me. I never “spoke in tongues” and – frankly – I’m not sure that ecstatic and unintelligible speech most people equate with “speaking in tonges” is what we encounter in Acts 2.
But since I didn’t pray in tongues, I felt guilty about my prayer life (or lack of spiritual power). It’s easy to feel guilty about our lack of prayer, knowing that we do not pray as much as we ought. Frankly, prayer isn’t always easy. There are moments in life for all of us when we can hardly pray at all.
When my fourth son was born, he had to stay in the NICU for three days. We were pretty sure he was going to make it out okay, but my disappointment, anger, and frustration was a HUGE block to my prayer life. And what made it worse was that I was just a few months away from being ordained to the priesthood. I should have known what to pray, or at least how to pray, or…at the very least…that I should pray. But my words failed me. It was one of the few times I wished that I could “pray in tongues” so that my feeble efforts could be used. Because I was at a loss for words.
Looking back on that experience I learned something profound. The more something means to you, the harder it is to pray for it. The reason we can pray so easily for others is that we’re not that deeply invested in them. It’s relatively easy to say a brief prayer for people in Nepal or the Middle East. After all, you don’t know them personally and you’ll probably never meet them and you don’t have any personal investment in them. It is much different when you try to pray for those who are closest to you. The more you care, the harder it is to pray. When it comes to those things in life that really matter—your husband, your wife, your children, your loved ones—those things are hard to pray for because they are close to your heart.
It is precisely at this point that our text becomes so crucial. No…not Acts ch. 2, but instead the epistle lesson. Romans 8:26-27 assures us that when we can’t pray the Holy Spirit prays for us. When we can’t find the words, the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father with groans that can’t be put in words. And when we aren’t sure how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God. This is a wonderful promise of God because as we go through life, we face many situations where we simply don’t know how to pray. In those moments we can be sure that God the Holy Spirit is praying for us.
So what is it that activates God’s Spirit to pray on our behalf? Is it our mastery of Biblical truth? Our eloquence in prayer? Our faithfulness…or at least our faith? Our church attendance? No…none of these. The surprising thing that makes God the Holy Spirit empower our prayers is:
I. Our Weakness
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26a).
The word “helps” is a rich word that pictures someone helping another carry a heavy load. Think of a sofa that’s so heavy, you can barely move it. Then along comes a strong man who picks up one end and together you carry the couch downstairs. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. He continually comes to us and helps us with our heavy load.
We need the Spirit’s help because we are so weak. The word “weakness” is the same word used for sickness in James 5:14. It refers to those moments in life when we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Circumstances have combined to push us over the edge. But it refers to more than momentary difficulty. Weakness is our condition on the earth. As we confess in the language of the prayer book: “and there is no health in us.” We don’t have fleeting moments of weakness…we are inherently weak and unable to help ourselves. Some of us realize that, the rest of us try to bluff and muddle through on our own. So the first step in getting to Spirit-powered prayer is an admission of our own weakness.
What, specifically, is our weakness in prayer? It’s not the eloquence or the frequency…it’s that we do not know what to pray for as we ought. We don’t know what to pray for. And this is one of our chief problems in prayer. How many times have we tried to pray and we didn’t know what to ask from the Lord? This happens often when we are faced with a crisis or when we try to pray for someone else. In the first place, we don’t know the future so we can’t tell how things will turn out. Second, we don’t know what is best for us.
We don’t know what to pray for because our vision is so limited. We see only a tiny fraction of the universe and our perspective is inevitably tainted by selfishness. How can we be sure that what we are praying for is what God wants? Ecclesiastes 6:12 says this very poignantly, “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow?” The answer is, we don’t know what is good for us. When we were little our mothers said, “Eat your broccoli, it’s good for you.” But we’re not so sure anymore. In fact, we’re not so sure about anything.
So it is for all of us most of the time. Rarely can we be absolutely sure what God wants to do in a particular situation. After we have made our requests to God, especially regarding the crisis issues of life, we must cry out, “Father, I don’t know what you want. And I want your will to be done even if it means my will is not done in this situation. I truly believe that you know best.”
When we pray like that, it unleashes:
II. The Spirit’s Help
“but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26b).
We need the help of the Holy Spirit because we don’t know how to pray. Paul says the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Literally it is “wordless groanings.”) In those moments when we cannot pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. It also means that when we lift up our feeble and even ignorant prayers to God, the Holy Spirit takes them and translates them into the language of heaven.
No one knows exactly how this happens because it is a ministry that goes on between the Spirit and the Father. But I imagine it is something like this. We may pray for a new job but the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father like this: “Father, he thinks he wants a new job because he is weary of the pressure. But I know it is your will that he learn to depend entirely on you. So Father, please don’t give him the new job right now. Give him supernatural strength and please send a Christian along to give him some encouragement.” And because the Holy Spirit always prays according to the will of God, that’s the prayer that is answered.
Matthew Henry says the Holy Spirit “excites praying graces.” He makes us want to pray, he teaches us how to pray, and he helps us as we pray. And when we can’t pray at all, he prays for us to the Father. What a blessed promise and encouragement this is. Sometimes we are so confused, so worried, so hurried, so harried so pressured, so ill, so distracted, so tired and so weary that words will not come. Often the best prayers are unheard and even unspoken. They arise from a broken heart to God who hears the groanings that cannot be put in words.
That gives us a new basis for:
III. Our Confidence
“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27).
How do we know that God hears those inarticulate groanings that come from deep within? Verse 27 declares that God constantly searches our hearts. Because the Father knows what the Spirit is thinking, there is perfect intimacy and perfect harmony. There is no contradiction between the Spirit in our hearts and the Father in Heaven. When the Spirit intercedes for us, he always intercedes according to God’s will. So when we pray, we say what is on our hearts. And the Spirit says to the Father, “What he really means is this…If he knew better, this is what he would ask for…She wants to be like Jesus and this is what she really needs.”
God already knows our deepest desires. There are no “unspoken prayer requests” with God. Jesus knows our every weakness. He knows what we need before we ask him.
There is great encouragement in our text though we may not see it at first. Our suffering, our uncertainty, our struggle with prayer, our doubt and confusion, and our worry over the future reveals our weakness. It strips away the mask of self-sufficiency and displays our utter helplessness. It forces us to confront our own inabilities. We are forced to say, “I’m not as strong as I thought I was. I’m not invincible.” And the Holy Spirit comes alongside to help us in our need. The Spirit who is himself the third member of the Trinity prays to the Father (the first member of the Trinity) in the name of the Son (the second member of the Trinity) for us in our moment of weakness. It is God praying to God in God’s name on behalf of God’s children! What an amazing thought this is.
In your weakness, when you feel desperate about the things that truly matter to you, and you don’t know what to say, and all you can do is cry out “Oh God!” the message is, “Don’t worry. That’s enough because there is Someone who is praying for you.”
We know that Jesus is in heaven praying for us (see Romans 8:34). But Paul goes a step beyond that. When you come to the moment of complete exhaustion and can no longer frame the words, you don’t have to worry. The Holy Spirit will pray for you. In your weakness he is strong. When you cannot speak, he speaks for you.
When we lean against the wall of desperation, crying out to God, when we whisper, “God, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to pray about this,” the Holy Spirit comes alongside and says, “Don’t worry. I’ll pray for you.”
And he does.
Martin Luther’s A Simple Method of Prayer
As I studied this text I got some help from Martin Luther. Writing some 450 years ago, he commented that it’s a good thing if we occasionally receive the opposite of what we pray for because that’s a sign the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. We may be praying, “Lord, do this and this and this.” Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is saying, “Lord, what he means is this. Don’t pay any attention to that. He said thus-and-so. If he saw the bigger picture, he’d really ask for such-and-such.”
As we pray from our weak and limited perspective, the Holy Spirit takes some divine White-Out® and “corrects” our prayers, so to speak, so that God’s will is always done even in our most wrong-headed prayers. Since the Holy Spirit knows what God’s will is, and since God searches our hearts, he is able to pray for us in ways that always correspond with God’s will. One sign that this is happening is that we pray for one thing and God does the opposite.
Does that mean our prayers are in vain? Not at all.
Does it mean we shouldn’t pray? Not at all.
It simply reveals our inherent human weakness and the limitation of our perspective on life. We see the part, the Holy Spirit sees the whole. We see one little piece, the Holy Spirit sees the big picture. We pray according to the little bit that we see, the Holy Spirit prays according to his perfect knowledge.
What should this text do for our faith?
1) It should encourage us to pray with great confidence.
God is not judging your words but listening to your heart. We pray to a God who can discern the prayer within the prayer. He hears the words we say and he also understands the heart cry and the hidden desires that lie underneath our prayers. He can give us the substance of what we ask for even while refusing the form they take. That is, he can say yes to our deepest desires even while he says no on the surface. Thus, we get what we truly desired even though it is not what we asked for.
2) It should teach us that our salvation rests in God alone.
Romans 8 teaches us that the entire Trinity is involved in our salvation. We know that God hears our prayers but this chapter tells us that Jesus is in heaven interceding for us and the Holy Spirit is on earth interceding for us. What could be better than that? We’ve got the Father in heaven, Jesus at his right hand, and the Holy Spirit within. You may be weak but the Holy Spirit is praying for you right now.
We have a Trinitarian salvation: God called you. Jesus saved you. The Holy Spirit intercedes for you. Your salvation rests upon the work of the Trinity.
2) It should teach us to pray boldly, with confidence.
Romans 8:26-27 tells us that when we are so discouraged, when the pain is too deep, the disappointment too profound, the sense of loss so overwhelming that we can’t put it into words, the Holy Spirit says, “My child, I understand. Let me take over. I’ll talk to the Father for you.” And he prays for us with groans that words cannot express. Even when no one else cares or knows or understands, even when we can’t understand anything around us, even when the present is bleak and the future a dark hopeless mystery, the Son in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth are interceding for us. We are being prayed for by the #1 Prayer Team in the Universe. One is above, one is below, we’re right in the middle. That ought to encourage us.
God has given us the gift of prayer. It was never meant to be a burden but rather the source of unlimited blessing for us and for those around us. And God has made it possible for us to pray about anything, anytime, anywhere. When we can’t pray, when the words won’t come, when we don’t know what to pray for, God has given the Spirit who prays for us.
What an honor, what a privilege, what a gift. And what a God who would make such provision for us. Amen.
1. The majority of people who are currently not attending church are open to visit a church. I think sometimes we are nervous about inviting friends because we are afraid they will be offended by an invitation. Both statistics and my experience say otherwise. Most people are open and definitely not offended by an invitation. Think about it. Being invited to something that is important to a friend is great act of kindness and most perceive it that way.
2. Most are open to come when invited and hosted by a friend. Some statisitics say that as many as 85% will come if invited BY A FRIEND, NEIGHBOR OR FAMILY MEMBER. A personal invitation is THE single most fruitful way for people to visit and explore church. It’s even better if I can bring my friend or at the very least wait for them to arrive and host them through the whole service.
3. Easter Sunday is the single best day to invite people to church. The majority of people in North America have a connection to church, even if it is just a church background. Very often people consider attending on Easter Sunday and are happy to have in invitation from a friend to join in Easter Sunday.
Who can you invite to Easter Sunday? Why not plan on reaching out this week and offering an invitation to your friends who are not connected to church? It’s most likely they will appreciate it, attend and might even re-initiate a connection to Jesus and the church.
ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICES Due to an expected 1-2” of overnight snow and continued showers through Wednesday (with 20-30 mph winds & subzero temperatures).
You can still observe Ash Wednesday with your customary fasting discipline. If you would like to read the 1979 BCP service for the day, click here. If you prefer the 1928 BCP office, it is here and can be used in conjunction with Morning or Evening Prayer as heard via Cradle of Prayer (from the 1928 BCP). Prior to the 1928, and still in those churches using the 1662 BCP, the Commination was read; it denounces sinners and calls all to repentance with the promise that God will forgive all who turn to him.
We will open our Sunday service with a special penitential office to help us focus on our Lenten discipline. Have you chosen a particular discipline Aaron? If not, here are two suggestions:
Fasting. No…I don’t mean giving up chocolate. It’s highly unlikely that chocolate is interfering with your ability to love God and love others. But there are some surprising things that DO get in the way of serving the Lord with gladness. Here’s a great list of things from which to fast that might actually have an effect on our relationship with the Lord.
Prayer. Above, I’ve provided links to various aids to prayer from our tradition. But perhaps keeping the daily office is not right for you. DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU FROM PRAYING. Here’s something I’m doing this year. I’m praying for a specific person each day of Lent. I’ve filled out almost half of my calendar with specific people to pray for. Everyone in the parish will make an appearance…but what I’ve added is special intercessions for those who are going through a difficult time, or those who feel far off from God, or for specific leaders/opinion shapers. When you pray for these people, ask God to give special ear to their prayers (assuming they are Christians). If they are far off from him, ask God to send the Holy Spirit upon them to call them to himself. Who knows…you might even want to call and share your compassion with them.
Even though we are having to forego some of our traditional ceremonial for opening Lent, that doesn’t have to keep us from having the most holy and life-changing Lent ever.
Be safe, stay warm, and we will see you this weekend.
A quick reminder about our upcoming Christmas schedule.
9-11AM Breakfast with Santa ($3) Pictures with Santa and face-painting also available.
4:30-5PM Chili Supper at Church before Parade
6:15PM (approx.) Live Nativity (follows mayor’s reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 14th Congregational Meeting following Holy Eucharist
Sunday, Dec. 21st Christmas Potluck
Wednesday, Dec. 24th Christmas Eve
5PM Family Service
10PM Midnight Mass
Investiture: What is an investiture service?
An investiture service formally marks the beginning of the ministry of a new archbishop. Archbishop Beach began functioning with the full authority of the office at the end of Assembly 2014 in June, but this worship service officially acknowledges and celebrates this new ministry.
The Service of Investiture for The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, will take place at 7pm on October 9th, 2014 at the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. All are invited to attend. There is no cost, but the planning team would appreciate your RSVP.
A reception will immediately follow the service sponsored by theAnglican Global Mission Partners.
Here’s what’s happening over the next few weeks:
Have you committed to inviting someone to come to Holy Week and Easter services? Make sure to take some of our invitation cards this week so that you can evangelize with ease. And prayerfully commit to honoring our Lord’s passion in this time by coming to at least one of the special services.