October 28, 2012 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
GodStory, part 8 of 37
Title: “Living IN a Prayer”
Texts: 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:22-30, 41-43, 52-53
(Gospel text: Luke 19:45-48)
Focus character: King Solomon
We continue our grand sweep through the story of God! If we look back over the past 8 weeks: God creates order & pushes back chaos, we as humankind have a propensity to blow it. . . we fall, we fall again, we kind of get it right, we fall . . . God keeps on providing, and moving, working in front of the scenes, working behind the scenes. . . we behave righteously, we behave poorly, sometimes like spoiled brats & rebels and God raises his hand up and crashes down with . . . grace! I AM WHO I AM. . . I changed my mind! We long for God to show up (and isn’t that what God keeps on doing?) but we ignore it. . . we still long for God to show up, so we ask for human leaders to do God’s work to make God seem more real to us. . . and God sets apart leaders, God sets apart Kings, and surprise, surprise, these leaders sometimes get it very right, and then sometimes they get it very, very, wrong – – and even when a King (like David) gets it very wrong (gets his neighbour’s wife pregnant, then kills his neighbour), God remembers his servant, David, as a “man after God’s own heart. . .
What in the world (of the text) is going on here?
Are you jiving with this story of God so far? Does it ring true for you?
Is this really good news for modern humans (remember that 70’s Bible titled “good news for modern man?” [If I were re-issuing that Bible, I’d call it “Good, but definitely failure-filled news for Modern Humans”]
Welcome to the wild, messy, failure-filled world of the Judeo-Christian sacred texts. Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about running our Bibles through the “failure scan”? Go through your Bible and put an “F” in the margins whenever you see something [someone] that is a failure. You will be amazed at how many “F’s” you insert.
And I hope that we find comfort in that reality. Because then this BECOMES a sacred text that we can embrace with the whole of our lives (not just the neat & tidy parts). You do not need to be good enough, smart enough, religious enough, educated enough to dwell in and out of the story of God. This ought to be tidings of comfort and joy for us. . . the story is full of grace. . . it’s telling us about who we are and who we will be. . . maybe this is good news after all!
And that’s what we’re trying to bring to life week after week with the telling of the God story, so today let’s see what “come to life” as we walk into the prayer-world of King Solomon. . .
What do we know about King Solomon? 700 wives, 300 concubines (quasi-wives). Wise guy (remember the “cut the baby in half” story?), Writer (Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). David’s 2nd son after the first one tragically died. Rich (he inherited a strong, United Kingdom of Israel from his Dad).
[youth group shout out: ]
And from today’s text, we also know that he prayed.
Can we find ourselves in the story of a prayer?
In the words of that great Biblical writer, Jonathon Bon Jovi, “Take my hand, and we’ll make it I swear, Oh, Oh, Living on a prayer!” Though I’m tweaking the lyric a little and say “Living IN a prayer.”
We can live IN this prayer because Solomon was just a person like you and me. . .
ha ha! Yeah, right.
You say: I’m not a King! I’m not rich! I’m not smart! I don’t call the shots!
Uhhhhhhhhh. . . really, North American Citizen? We all have dominions of some sort. Relatively speaking, we’re loaded! And educated! And we are privileged to make decisions. . . (ie. When I was in Africa. . . I was reminded of all the choices we have – – at least 10-20 choices before we leave the house each morning!)
So, maybe we CAN locate our lives in this prayer. . . and as we do, we might encounter a God of providence, who is seeking to transform us (individually + corporately) and this God might just invite us (push us, prod us) to join him as he restores the world with a living message (prayer) of hope and grace.
LORD, teach us to pray. . . not what to say, not what to get what we need (see Charlie Peacock lyrics).
This prayer, prayed by King Solomon, [987 BCE ] 4-5 years after committing to build a temple for God and finishing the promise of his Father David:
Now, just so you can better imagine living in this prayer, know that Solomon is probably about 30 years old when he prays this prayer. . . (wisdom begins at 30?).
He would then reign for another 30 years and then would die in his 60’s. What kind of prayers were you praying at 30? Are you praying those same prayers now? Realistically, the younger ones in the room will “look ahead” to this “era” of prayer, while others of us will “look back” to this prayer. Either way, may this prayer provide something for us to grasp onto in the way that we reach out to a living God.
I’ve divvied up this prayer into 5 movements, with 3 themes. . . I’m calling it “King Solomon’s Pentacular Prayer!” Pentacular. . . and spectacular I might add. . .
This has got to be one of the highpoints in Solomon’s life. . . imagine a highpoint in your life and the prayer that might spill out of your life at that moment. . . would it not start with gratitude? ?
It did for Solomon. . .
i) God, You Reign! You are Sovereign!
vv. 22-26: Solomon spread out his hands towards heaven and said – –
Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you
You keep your covenant of LOVE
You keep your promises, you fulfill your promises
May your promises keep on coming true to every generation that walks wholeheartedly in your way, to every generation that walks before you faithfully. . .
And Solomon’s gratitude, turns to “grasp-itude”. . . in the best sense. . .
ii) Pay Attention. . . we humbly ask with all boldness. . . look at us!
We humbly acknowledge that you cannot be contained in a temple. . . yet – –
Hear our cries, hear our prayers
MAY YOUR EYES BE OPEN toward this place of worship and prayer
Hear the prayers of your servants
Hear from heaven, and this place of your dwelling. . . and forgive!
And in movement 3 we get to the high point of the prayer. . . HELP!
iii) Help, Help, Help, Help. . . Forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive. . .
In MOVEMENT 3, Solomon wisely points out all the places where God’s people need help and forgiveness. . .
vv. 31-32: When we treat each other poorly, judge us, vindicate us
vv. 33-34: When we get what we deserve because of our sin, hear our confession and forgive
vv. 35-36: When our land and our lives are parched and barren, hear our confession and forgive. . . show us the right way to live
vv. 37-40: When calamity and enemies overwhelm us, hear our prayers for forgiveness and deal with us, since you know every human heart we won’t try and bluff you. . . help us to revere you with fear and awe
vv. 41-43: For those who are in the margins of our community, who hear of your GREAT NAME, MIGHTY HAND, OUTSTRETCHED ARM. . . hear their prayers so that ALL of the people of the earth may know your name and revere your name
vv. 44-45: And when we fight against our flesh and blood enemies. . . uphold our cause. . .oops! (And this is where the prayer starts getting really complicated. . .and prophetic )
vv. 46-51: And when we blow it. . . when we sin, for we all sin. . . and when we really, really, really blow it. . . [when we get our “bottoms” handed to us because of our own pride & folly! ] when we blow it so bad that we are displaced by our enemies from the land that you promised to us, and this temple that is your earthly dwelling place gets looted, pummelled and toppled to a mound of rubble. . . when that happens, and we become captives in the land of our enemies. . . if, 5-10 years into our 70-year captivity, we come to our senses and have a “change of heart”. . . then show mercy. Forgive! FORGIVE! FORGIVE!
And Solomon asks YHWH to look again – – more “grasp-itude” in the 4th movement – –
iv) Pay Attention. . . we humbly ask with all boldness. . . look at us!
v. 52: May your eyes be open to the pleadings of your people. . . individually and corporately.
And Solomon’s closing words in the 5th movement of his prayer is not about self, but about God – –
v) God, You reign! You are Sovereign!
v. 53: You chose us, we are your own, Sovereign LORD. . .
When Eugene Peterson reflects on God’s sovereignty in the book of Kings, he makes the following comments:
“[when] we begin to realize that God’s sovereignty is never cancelled out by the deeply sin-flawed leaders in both our culture and our church, we can quite CHEERFULLY exult in God’s sovereignty as it is being exercised (though often silently and hiddenly) in ALL the circumstantial details of the actual present.” (“The Invitation”, pg. 67)
Well this is quite the prayer! Not necessarily prayer “fodder” for a north American Sunday morning church service huh? Or is it?
Do you realize that this prayer was probably written 500 years after it was delivered? [ 580 BCE ]. O that we as a community of faith might write some prayers with THAT kind of longevity hmmmm?
Well, you and I might not write a prayer like Solomon, but. . .
How might we live INTO and then OUT of this prayer today?
I’m not going to ask you to pray more, or pray harder, but I am going to remind us ALL that God’s people pray. . . they pray in spits and spots whenever they can. . . but they also pray during sacred times and in sacred spaces like we do in this hour of worship, praise, and prayer together.
How might this prayer form us in our corporate journey of faith?
I’d like to suggest that we use a prayer like this centre us!
In our closing time, I’m going to invite us to consider a 2-minute round of Centering Prayer. I want to demystify it for us ok? Centering Prayer is simply sitting with a sacred word or phrase or image and using that word/phrase/image to center our thoughts on God and our relationship with God. But we do it in silence. . . and in the silence, as you centre on the word/phrase/image, you push back on the noise and clutter that is always waiting to push into your world and you centre and rest in your relationship with God through that 1 word/phrase/image.
This is what we do in our centering prayer group. . . but you don’t need to join the group to do centering prayer. . . you can use this “prayer practice” during silent times in a church service, during a silent drive/trainride to work or school, or in silent times that you carve out in your life in the morning, noon or night.
As Tony Campolo puts it: I wake up in the morning before I have to and I do this thing called Centering prayer. I take about 15-20 minutes to become inwardly still and drive back the animals…those 101 things that come in to absorb your mind, the things you have to do that day, the things from the day before that are worrying you and your head starts spinning, I’ve got to drive them back and create what the Celtic Christians call the “thin space”.
It takes me about 15 minutes (at least that!) to become inwardly still, inwardly quiet, focused on Jesus. . . the African spiritual “Woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus!”
This is another kind of prayer where you centre down on Jesus in stillness and quietude. In quietude and stillness you wait. . . you wait, patiently, for the Holy Spirit to invade you, to permeate you, to flow into you, to energize you, to begin to lead you in what you do in a given day (Tony admits it’s not magical, and every morning is not the same! But it gives the opportunity to be “alive in the Spirit”).
Now, for today, perhaps your centering word/phrase/image might have to do with 1 of the 3 movement: You are Sovereign, Pay attention, Help!
Aka: Gratitude / Grasp-itude / Help & Forgive
* see scripture insert as well if you need to
If 200 of us, for 2 minutes, participate in a simple centering prayer for this worshipping space & community of ours, that’s 400 minutes seeking God’s favour for this place!
And it’s working!
Eg: yesterday, about 20 of us served 275 people in this space during a funeral. And one person came up to me and said: Thank you. . . I was here 3 years ago for a funeral and when I came back today, I just knew that the service would be in good hands. . . Thank you!
Or the prayer group that started praying in our chapel on Friday: “I’ve driven by this church a hundred times and when we needed to find a place to pray that was downtown, I thought I’d see if you let us pray here. . . thank you!
So, let’s keep on praying for this sacred space in the city. . . and for each one of us in this community of faith who are a connection to people knowing and receiving the blessing of this space and our people.
Because the good news for modern humans in this prayer is that God reigns. . . God has drawn up plans for US as God’s people and set them into motion. . . and all is well – –
And our mission (should we choose to accept it anew today) is to PRAY. . . to PLEAD…to HUMBLE ourselves, to JOIN in.
Drive back the animals. . . drive back the chaos. . . and keep in step with a Living and Loving God who slowly, intentionally, and in community, WITH US. . . is making this place / AND US! / a blessing for this city. . . and dare I say, a blessing even to the ends of the earth!
[ 2 minutes of silence ]
[ ring a bell and come out of silence ]
+ the Lord’s prayer