There comes a time in every life when God seems far and distant and irrelevant to one’s circumstances. It is at these times when the spiritual seems to be a non-existent reality. Therefore, questions of doubt arise, for example: “Where is God?”; “Why would God allow this to happen?”; “God did not answer my prayer.”; “I can’t believe anymore.”
It is at these times that many people walk away from the Lord and His will for their lives. People get angry at God over something which happened to them or someone they know and love, or they blame the way someone at church treated them or acted. They begin to do things they know are not right. People get busy living their lives and going through their daily routines, but ignoring God. Before they realize what is happening, God, Jesus, and spiritual things speak like a foreign language from a galaxy far-far away. They become a person alienated and indifferent to the spiritual life.
This scenario plays out too many times for followers of Jesus. We forget that we are human and must continue to grow in our faith and renew our faith. Like the seasons of the year, there are times of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter in the spiritual life. There are times when God seems distant and not caring about one’s circumstances. The dark night of the soul is part of the spiritual life, and is the time to go deeper with God rather than away from Him. Our relationship with God cannot become stagnant, or it will become dormant.
The dark night of the soul may be a time when we need rest (winter); and we need an emotional quiet. Our distance of God may be a process to prepare us on how to draw near to him. Our distance from God may help us see ourselves and our inner motives for what they really are. As people who have been engrained by our culture to live for “me, myself, and I”, it takes work to press in and get close to the Lord when we don’t feel like it or need rest. Our distance from God, also, may be a time to change our focus because; and in reality, God is never distant. As Jesus is quoted in Hebrews: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).Jesus never said following Him would be easy. He said quite the opposite: deny oneself, pick up your own cross, follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The dark night of the soul is never easy. It takes us to our core and God can seem very distant. And yet… if we can hang on, if we can work through our circumstance, we will discover that God really is present and really does want the best for us in life. We will discover that Spring does come after Winter and light after darkness. We will discover what Jesus meant when he said: “. . . I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Am I Ready to Pray? (Bude, Cornwall, UK)
INTRODUCTIOIN -- Prayer is: 1) spending time with God – acknowledging God’s presence in all our lives’ activities; and 2) conversation with God – listening to and talking with God. Prayer reflects on our relationship with God. Why don’t we pray. The Apostle James, in James 4:2-3, provides a perspective regarding Prayer Life: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."
SUNDAY MESSAGE – In James 4:3, we are told: “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”. As followers of Jesus, we are given the awesome privilege of being able to come before God, the Creator of the Universe, in our prayers. We are given a multitude of alternatives for our prayers that include prayers of "petition" (praying for one's own needs) and prayers of "intercession" (praying for the needs of others). God wants prayers of "petition" from us -- all our needs and concerns should be brought to Him in prayer because He loves and cares for us. However, God want us to, also, focus on others and their needs (intercession) -- physical and spiritual. "Intercessory prayer” is fundamental to deepening our prayer life and our personal relationship with God.
However, we often enter into our prayers unprepared – there is sin in our lives, or our prayers are all about “us”; and we seek “our will” and not “God’s will”. Therefore, we need to learn to “pray rightly”.
To “pray rightly”, we need to consider: “1) Am I “clean” before the Lord – have I confessed the known sins in my life that I have not repented? 2) Am I in “communion with others” – are there people with whom I am not at peace? 3) Am I “confident in God’s Word” – do I believe God’s promises are true? 4) Am I “committed to God’s will” – am I committed to act on and obey God’s answer to my prayers even though His answer is not my desire? 5) Am I “centered in the Holy Spirit” – am I focused and tuned in on the Lord, filtering out the “noise of the world”? and 6) Am I “concerned for God’s Glory” – the ultimate purpose of our prayers is uplifting and glorifying God’s name?”.
Additionally, in both our worship and our prayers: “Are we expecting to encounter God?”.
Remember, Jesus taught us that: 1) God is more ready to answer prayer than we are ready to pray; and 2) we must be persistent in our prayers until we have an answer.
Pray specific prayers, in the Holy Spirit and in Scripture, for ourselves and for others -- be persistent.
TODAY’S AFFIRMATION: I affirm that because of what God has done for me in His Son, Jesus, I AM RIGHTEOUS IN GOD’S EYES. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
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SCRIPTURE REFERENCE (ESV): James 4:3; Isaiah 59:1-2; 1 John 1:8; Matthew 5:23-24 Matthew 6:14; 1 Peter 3:7; Luke 11:9-13; Jeremiah 33:3; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 5:14; Psalms 37:4; John 14:23; James 1:5; Romans 8:26-27; John 14:26. (Click the blue below to read the full Bible text for these scripture references in BOLD.).All Sermons by Archbishop Foley Beach