I’m assuming that everyone in this room prays  I’m hoping you pray ofte regularly even
morning and evening before meals
I’m assuming that everyone in this room believes in the power of prayer
I’m hoping that you have seen prayers answered (or at least heard tell of such things)
That you have at some time or another felt the presence of God when you prayed
But I want to challenge you to think about all that for just a moment
I want you to imagine that you are talking to a non-Christian  And he/she asks you “Why do you pray?”
Could you answer that question?  and then could you answer the question, “What is it okay to pray for? 

Aren’t some things too trivial to bother God with?”
I have recently been asked both of those questions and struggled to put my answers into words.
As one who has faith, I know that prayer is powerful and necessary,
but the challenge is how to explain that to someone who doesn’t yet believe?
I know that prayer changes things, so, I could point to big miracles
like a miraculous healing  I could offer an example, like
Grace Wilson (who miraculously stopped needing dialysis)
Or my friend Clarabelle Kellow from Walnut Ridge
who defied all predictions that cancer would take her in a matter of months
and lived a happy and fulfilling 10 years beyond that prognosis

Or I could point to the dozens of small miracles that I see in a day
Miracles like running into a friend you need to speak to
Or how when I’m struggling with a spiritual issue or a personal dilemma,
at least half the people I talk to that week are struggling with the same question.
And each conversation gives me another chance to look at the question with fresh eyes and rethink my response
Or I could point to changes in the human spirit that I have seen result from prayer
These are different from simple answers to prayer.
I’m talking about the changes in the person who prays
Changes in his or her attitude  And the growth of their faith
Changes that seem to be a by-product of prayer
But remember I was talking to a non-believer
And it takes faith to see how prayers are answered
It takes faith not to dismiss those miracles, large or small, as mere coincidence
It certainly takes faith to see inward spiritual changes as anything other than mere human psychology at work
(never mind that human psychology was invented and created by God,
because it takes faith to see that, too)
So I talked about all those things, but I heard my answers being swatted away by the persistence of unbelief
Finally, the unbeliever asked a specific question
“Do you really think it’s okay to pray to God for a parking place near the store?  Isn’t it ridiculous to think that God would have time to worry about where you park?  That God would care about such things?  ”
I had to stop and think for a minute
The first part of my answer was easy
Of course, God has time for even the trivia of my everyday life
God’s time is infinite
God’s power is infinite
God can be everywhere doing everything all at once
The second part was a little tougher
I believe God does care about even the trivia in my life.
Sometimes God provides the smallest things for me, even a parking space close to the Wal-Mart, if I really need it
Before I could get that much out, I was asked, “If God does answer prayer, how do you account for the fact that you don’t always get the parking place you want?  Are you not praying loud enough or sincerely enough?”
As soon as I thought about how I react when there’s no parking place near the door at Wal-Mart,
I knew the answer to the question
When I ask God for a convenient parking space, I then trust God to answer my prayer with whatever is good for me
If I find a parking space close in, I thank God for it
If I have to park all the way across the parking lot
I assume that someone needed that close in space more than I did
I think that perhaps I needed the exercise more than the convenience
And I accept God’s answer to my prayer
On the other hand, if I just drive around looking for a space without bringing God into it
When I have to park a ½ mile away from the store
I just feel frustrated and grumpy about it.
My prayers assume that God cares and will answer my prayer with whatever I truly need
Prayer serves not only to place my request before God
(who surely knew I wanted a parking space,
whether I prayed about it or not)
Prayer also reminds me that God is in charge
The universe is not governed by random chance or capricious fates
The events in my life are not controlled by impersonal stars in the zodiac
The ups and downs and ins and outs of life are under the sovereign power and infinite care of my Lord
And so instead of frustration when I don’t get what I want
I trust God to have a reason for denying my request
God isn’t just lazy like the neighbor in the Jesus’ parable
God isn’t on vacation or not listening
God is wiser than I am and looking out for the needs of us all
When I don’t see proof that God has answered my prayers, I still have that “hope for things unseen” that Paul talked about  And if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Not with frustration  And instead of just a momentary elation when I do get what I want
My faith is renewed by every answered prayer
I cannot pass over the coincidences and quickly forget about them
I store them away as one more proof of God’s loving providence and God’s infinite power
Because think about it . . . Which would be easier for God?
To wipe out all the cancer in one person’s body?
Or to arrange for a parking space to come available where I need it when I need it?
And to deny my request when I don’t need it as much as I think I do
The latter takes careful planning and coordination
And God must start working on it way before I pray for it.
And sometimes when I really need it, God goes to all that trouble, for me
And that is awesome  In the original sense of that word
Something that inspires awe  So why do I pray?  Because prayers are answered
Because prayer places all the moments of my life  my wants and my needs
my ups and my downs  in God’s hands
When I pray, whether for big stuff or small I quit relying on my power or my judgment
and I start relying on God’s  I remember that we are weak, but he is strong
I remember that God only is wise And however God chooses to answer my prayers
I am saved from needless fear of a random and unpredictable universe
Because I am reminded that the universe is not random
But ordered by a loving God  And I am saved from needless frustration or anger when I don’t get my way
Because I am reminded that my way is not always the best way  But God’s is
I want you to take note
Jesus’ disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to pray;  they simply asked Jesus to teach them to pray
There is no right way or wrong way to pray  But it is right that we should pray
And pray without ceasing

 Giving thanks to God in all circumstances

Last Weeks Sermon