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Afghan of Prayer

278. Afghan of Prayer

Five or six years ago I preached a sermon titled “The Afghan of Prayer.” I asked the congregation to imagine we were sewing an afghan together and the part I was suggesting would have nine squares about prayer. They might have another two or three or fifteen squares, but then—and now—we’ll start with nine.

1. The first square says: God answers prayer—Yes! A friend told me the four possible answers God gives in response to prayer. The first answer is, “Yes, I thought you would never ask.” The second is, “Yes, but not now.” The third response is, “Yes, but wait till you see what I have in store for you.” And the fourth possible answer from God to a person’s prayer is, “No. I love you too much.”

2. The second square of the afghan is: Make time for prayer. I support Jubilee Partners in Georgia and they tell the story of long, hard work days and someone in that community remembering Mother Teresa saying that when you get really tired, that’s when you need to pray more. Jubilee Partners already had over-full days but they decided to get up an hour earlier—at 5:30 instead of 6:30—for prayer. They did that and found that it worked. They looked forward to that hour. They had made the time.

3. The third square of the afghan is: Wait and receive. So often I think I have to do all the talking, when what I need to do is be quiet and wait.

4. The fourth square of the afghan is: We need to pray together. Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, believes that there is energy in prayer when you pray alone AND that there is even greater energy when you gather together to pray. When I was a local pastor at St. Paul’s in Nyack, NY, there was a Korean Church that also used the building. I was quite impressed that some of them, a few of them, gathered at 6am every morning for group prayer.

5. The fifth square of the afghan is: You never pray alone. There’s a whole crowd of witnesses. There are people praying at the same time in different places. There are all those in your life who have died who will pray with you. Sometimes I forget to summon them and even to introduce them to each other.

6. The sixth square of the afghan is: Prayer is a practice. In First Thessalonians 5:17 it says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Lila, in my family, and her friend Maryellen have a practice (as I do) of lighting a candle for prayer. We call each other when there is a special need.

7. The afghan’s square seven is: Show up. Planning to pray isn’t enough. Feeling I ought to pray isn’t enough. I need to show up and pray.

8. Square eight is: We are each important to God. Often it is hard to fathom how prayer works. But over and over the Bible tells us that God cares about the world AND about individuals. God cares about Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth, Jacob, you, me. God is the God of each one of our names.

9. And the ninth square of the afghan is: God is speaking to you. And telling you always to not be afraid because you are loved.

And that’s the sermon. And like a lot of sermons it needs to be lived.

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