"In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes with groans that words cannot express"
One of the most painful things for me to do is listen to the sound of my own voice, or watch myself on video. At my age, I may get a kick out of watching an old home movie of say, when I was 6, and in the backyard I pretended....no I was Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva of my beloved Minnesota Twins...combined. I would dart around back there, creating crucial pressure situations in my mind in which to get a big hit or a game saving catch, and in fact, or so my mother would claim, I would do my own play by play and be my own cheering section, creating fan noise when I pulled off the big play. But aside from those old 16 mm classics which take me back to what might have been but never was, I do just about anything to avoid having to watch myself on film or hear my voice on tape.
So the thought of what my prayers sound like to God, even some of my better most faithful ones, is rather un-nerving. The thought of my prayers going word for word to heaven and being recorded on some sort of cosmic voice mail rather makes me shudder. Imagine if I had to listen to all of them again, or watch the posture and circumstances in which I prayed. I can just imagine the good Lord sitting us all down for a little home movie night...a break after that nights picnic, and offering up a few reels...under the title of "Heaven's Funniest Prayer Videos"!
Rev. Ken Nelson
But what if ... the show begins anyway before I can excuse myself ... and the first sound out of my mouth .... is perfect! What if I was not only faithful and earnest, but humble and attentive to God's response? What if I showed surprising concern for my older brother Wayne (which I almost never did growing up). What if I really wept for the poor, the suffering and the grieving. What if I was righteously angry at those who hurt or exploited other people, or pleaded for Christians who were persecuted for their faith? What if I prayed forthrightly for leaders in government, regardless of whether I shared their political views, and asked God to cleanse them of all pride and lust for power. What if I prayed for my family members who had grown cold toward the faith, or fellow church members who had drifted from participation in worship and service? What if?
And what if above all, I spent generous time simply praising God for who he was, and what he meant to me, all the while never asking of him one single thing, and when I did get around to requests, I didn't utter one of them till I thanked God for the ones he'd already supplied? What if I opened and closed in the name of Jesus every time, and the name seemed to linger on my lips like the sweetest tasting thing I'd ever had?
When my movie reel was over, and God put it quietly away for the next time, I would be sure it was doctored. Someone must have gotten hold of all my prayers and made them all so much better than they actually were. What if?
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.
Well, according to our text from Romans 8:26, that pretty much is what happens every time we pray we benefit from a secret prayer partner, a divine prayer editor. The Holy Spirit takes what we who do not know how to pray as we ought and intercedes for us with sounds no words could describe.
We have something going for us that cannot be matched by anything in all of creation ... we have a prayer partner, the Holy Spirit. We have a forgiver in Jesus Christ for when our words and actions fail us and God, we have a Spirit who helps us in our other weakness ... our prayers, with passion that words cannot express, much less explain.
In my imaginary prayer video, the one God could roll out on heavenly movie nights, there will not be a single word that is awkward or self serving, or hints at pride of any sort. I don't know how to pray prayers like that, but I know someone who does.
When God speaks the name of Jesus Christ into our hearts by his Spirit, he sends us a prayer partner who never ceases to seek our good, and guard us till the day of our Lord's coming. Amen.
Rev. Ken Nelson is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Minot.