“Dale, I can’t pray!”  I can still remember my father-in-law’s panicked voice.  He had been having a quite a few medical problems, and because of his medications, he wasn’t able to concentrate enough to be able to pray.  He wanted to, but it was like his mind had hit a brick wall.  This isn’t all that unusual.  Physical illness, depression, or extreme stress, can make talking with God very difficult.  We just can’t put our thoughts together.  Or, in some cases we just don’t know what to even ask for, because there doesn’t seem to be any good solutions.

For example, Abraham’s nephew, Lot was living in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot was in danger of losing his faith.  His wife already had, because of the kind of people she hung out with, and things they were doing.  Lot’s two daughters were also in danger.  They had recently married.  They didn’t children yet, which was just as well.  Because of the kind of men they married, even if they didn’t lose their faith, passing their faith unto their children would be nearly impossible.  So, what should Abraham pray for?  Should he pray that God take Lot and his daughters to heaven, while they still have some faith left in them?  God sometimes does that.  In I Corinthians 11, there were some, who were abusing the Lord’s Supper, and this was harming their faith, and so God took them home.  Or, in Matthew 24, Jesus warned that in the end times, the world is going to become so wicked, that for the sake of protecting His wheat, Jesus will move up the day of His return by a little.

Is this what we should be praying for?  We may!  The Apostle John did in the last verse of the Bible.  But we may also pray for more time for both the wheat and the weeds.  That’s what Abraham was doing in our Old Testament reading.  More time, means more time for believers to grow in faith, and share their faith, and for  the to come to faith.

You know, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, in a way we are asking for more time.  With the words, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, we’re asking God to send out more pastors and teachers, who will speak His Word clearly and exactly.  We’re also asking God to enable Christians everywhere to be living witnesses of His grace and mercy.  

With the words, “Thy Kingdom Come”, we ask God to bless His Word in hearts of all who hear it, so that unbelievers will come to faith, and believers will grow in their faith and in the fruits of faith.  This is what Abraham was praying could still happen in Sodom and Gomorrah.

But what if, no matter what anyone says, people despise God’s grace and mercy, and mock His Word, and do everything they can to keep anyone else believing it?  At such times, it might be God’s will that there be no more time.  Or, if He does allow more time, it might be His will to send trouble after trouble in one last effort to break open hard hearts.  For this reason, after we’ve prayed “Thy Kingdom Come,” we also pray, as Jesus taught us, “Thy Will Be Done.”  

Unfortunately, because of our sinful natures, there’s still also some hardness in us.  Now, we don’t want that hardness to spread and grow, and eventually crowd out our own faith.  At the same time, we don’t want to go through the troubles God might send help us get rid of our hardness.  And so, whenever I pray, “Thy Will Be Done”, I often go back to praying again,“Thy Kingdom Come”, because I would rather that God cleanse my heart through His Word, than through hardships.

Nevertheless, when hardships come anyway, when we get health problems, or money problems, and when it seems like about 50 more shoes are about to drop on our head, even though we pray, “Thy Will Be Done”, we may also pray, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”.  Here, we thank God by counting our blessings.  Here, we ask Him to help us be wise managers of all He’s entrusted to us, and in the future to give us only those things that will truly be for our best.  But sometimes this, too, is hard for us to pray.  Maybe there’s still a little greed in us, or maybe we’re not fully trusting that we are His dear children, and that He is our dear Heavenly Father and friend.  

Realizing this about ourselves, we next pray: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us.”  Here, we ask God for Jesus’ sake to forgive all our sins, both those we remember and are attacking our conscience, and those we aren’t aware of.  We don’t want any sin to come between us and God, not the least of which is, if we’re refusing to forgiven anyone, because that’s a sin too.    

You know, sometimes as we realize what messed up sinners we are, it gets harder and harder to know what to even ask God for.  If He sends us troubles, we don’t want that, plus troubles can keep us from doing all the things God’s given us to do or we see needs doing.  On the other hand, if God sends us health and blessings, how quickly we fall back into our old ways, and we don’t want that either.  

So, what is God supposed to do with us, then, to protect our faith?  I don’t know.  All I can pray is, “Lead Us Not into Temptation.”  Lord, keep me from gross sins.  Lord, help me quit those little ones too.”  And finally, we pray, “Deliver Us from Evil.”  Lord, take us home, … but maybe not just yet.  Give us have a little more time serve you here and the people who need us, even if they don’t know they need us.  

And now, if there are times when we don’t know what to ask when we’re praying for ourselves, how can we know what to ask for when praying for others?  Sometimes we can guess by observing how God worked with people in the Bible.  Or, sometimes we can guess by remembering that we’re not walking alone.  Jesus is with us, and just as He helps us in all the things we struggle with, we know He’s helping others in their struggles.  Still, sometimes situations are just so complex, or are so dangerous to faith, that we don’t know what’s best.  And, we don’t know, which petition of the Lord’s prayer we should be praying the most.   

We read in our text: The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we should pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that are not expressed in words.  And he who searches our hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints, according to God’s will.  – Romans 8:26-27   For those of you who have a dog, when your dog stares at you and maybe makes a little whiney noise, what’s he saying to you?  You usually know, don’t you.  If it’s time for his walk, he wants you to get out of your chair.  If you’re eating a snack, he wants you to share it with him.  Kind of like that, the Holy Spirit has such love for us, and the Heavenly Father has such love for us, that when the Holy Spirit, who is living in our heart, makes a noise to the Father, the Spirit and the Father are immediately on the same page about what our needs are and what needs to happen.
Well, then, why should we bother to pray?  Because the Almighty, eternal God regards you as His friend and He cherishes hearing from you.   And how do we know that?  The Father made it possible to draw us to Himself to be His friends, by laying our sins on His Son, and causing Him to die in our place and to rise again.

And now let’s think this through.  God, the Holy Spirit, who loves us and lives in us, communicates what we need to God the Father, who also loves us and is the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.  Furthermore, there’s no way the Father will refuse the Spirit’s pleading in our behalf, not with all His Son, whom He loves, had suffered, because of His great love for us.  And now, here’s what this all adds up to.  We live as wheat among the weeds, and are surrounded by so many dangers to our faith.  Yet God keeps us here a while longer, so that through us many more weeds may join us in becoming wheat.  

Still, I haven’t answer the question.  Why bother to pray since God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all on our side, and besides, what we have to say to God often isn’t better than a two-year old babbling?  I just answered my question.  God wants us to pray, because we are His two-year olds, and over time He wants us to keep growing up, so that more and more we will reflect Jesus.  And then our talking with God will also become more grown-up.  In the meanwhile, God doesn’t want us to become discouraged from praying, because we don’t feel we’re very good at it.  That’s like a child who doesn’t practice his piano lessons, because he keeps making mistakes.  Don’t be like that!  Keep praying no matter whatever spiritual age you are (and actually the older we think we are, the more prideful immaturity we’re dealing with).  Still, even then keep on praying, because the Holy Spirit is continually fixing our prayers and making them perfect.  

Finally, what happens with a perfect prayer?  What happens with a prayer that in perfect agreement with God’s will, and is completely covered by the perfection of Christ?  In Abraham’s case, he couldn’t see any good solution to Lot’s living in Sodom and Gomorrah.  He knew Lot wouldn’t leave, because of his wife and his daughters’ husbands.  Yet, if they didn’t leave, they would have to either die young or lose their faith.  Abraham wanted neither, but neither did He want Sodom and Gomorrah to keep on infecting more and more people.  In answer to Abraham’s prayers, God found a solution.  He sent angels to lead Lot and his daughters out of there, and then used fire and brimstone to cleanse the world of that evil.  

In the same way, there are many weeds in our world, and the weeds are growing!  But don’t be discouraged!  Keep on praying!  Keep on praying that God protect His wheat!  When you do see the answer to all your prayers, you will praise God for His wisdom.  And you will thank God for His grace in allowing you to have a role in causing His name to be hallowed and His Kingdom to come, for the preservation of His wheat.  To God be the glory.  Amen.

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