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Sep 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 8, 2019


If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God Romans 8:11-16, 26-27

Intro: Yesterday morning when I woke up, I felt stressed

I think now, that it was worry over preparing today’s talk
(imagine preparing and delivering an oral report every week)
– it began with a mild funk, but gradually intensified
• do you know how it is when you have a big job before you
◦ and you’re anxious to get to it immediately?
◦ having to do all the little daily chores first seems so annoying
◦ and I still had my regular morning reading and prayer time
• one reading was from Hebrews 12, and I thought to myself,
“Yes, yes, I’ve read this a hundred times!”
◦ coming to the words we’re not to grow weary and fainthearted, I cringed
◦ I felt both!
◦ and the key theme of the chapter 12 is endurance
It is for discipline that you have to endure (Heb. 12:7)
– the passage goes on to say God disciplines those he love–like a father
• and in the moment, all discipline seems painful
◦ then it hit me, “That’s what this moment is about!”
◦ my nervous system was in a reactive state and needed to be calmed
◦ this was an opportunity to practice my discipline in prayer
• God does not create our misery or stressful situations
◦ the world does — as Jesus said:
. . . do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own troubles (Mt. 6:34)
In the world you will have tribulation (Jn. 16:33)
◦ what God does, is make this an opportunity to practice discipline
– it’s like the first time I took a bad spill when learning to ride bike
• my dad did not cause me to fall off my bike
◦ but he was there to comfort, me and encourage me to get back on
• God did not want me to be miserable yesterday morning,
◦ but neither did he want my misery to be wasted

Today’s talk will cover unique forms of prayer

Practicing these disciplines, will improve our progress
– remember, we are rewriting the owner’s manual of our brains
• like Paul said in the Romans passage above,
we are putting to death the deeds of the body
• we are breaking the connections between brain cells of old habits
– these prayers are unique, because in them we don’t do all the talking
• I think most of us have learned to pray with our rational minds
◦ in prayer, we express our thoughts and feelings to God
◦ so our prayer tends to be a monologue rather than a conversation
• prayer from our spirit, and in the Spirit is wordless
If I pray in [an unknown language] my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind (1 Cor. 14:14-16)
◦ Paul is saying, public prayer has to be with the rational mind
◦ but our private prayers can come from another place within us

A few weeks ago I tried to frustrate you by reading from Romans 7 in the King James Version of the Bible
– there Paul described the “human condition” as it played out in his life
• he knew right from wrong, and wanted to do right,
◦ but something within him drove him to do wrong
• the answer to that inner conflict is in chapter 8
◦ God’s dynamic, powerful Spirit lives in us
◦ he assists us with everything God wants to do in our lives
– this includes prayer
• and when we do not know what to pray, the Spirit prays in us
• prayers too deep for words

So what are these unique forms of prayer?

First, we learn to seek God
– this is all through the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures
• sometimes we’re told to seek God–and something else
Seek the LORD and his strength (Ps. 105:4)
◦ but mostly we are to seek God for himself
Seek his presence [face] continually (Ps. 105:4)
• this speaks to our primal need for God
◦ the creature in need of its Creator
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
(Ps. 42:1-2)

When Paul argued his faith with philosophically-minded Athenians, he explained that God organized the divisions of humankind according to their place geographically and in time. He did this so that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:26-28). He was speaking to their primal need for God that drove them to seek him beyond all of their other deities, even though he was “unknown” to them.

– we never outgrow this essential need for God
• searching for God, we do not settle for ideas about God
◦ we don’t spend our time contemplating a God-concept
◦ we may notice our ideas about God, but we move past them
• it’s important to remember what Paul said about God being
not far from each one of us
◦ we do not conjure God, we do not make him present
◦ we open ourselves to the present moment and find him here

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD (Jer. 29:12-13)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (Mt. 7:7-8)

Next, we learn to wait for God
– this too is found throughout Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Psalms
• but the classic verse that most of us know is in Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint
(Isa. 40:28-31)

• everyone loves the idea expressed here – and wants it that renewal
◦ but few are willing to actually do what it requires – wait for God
– waiting is not passive, just sitting around doing nothing, killing time
• it is looking forward to the arrival of something important
◦ anticipation, alertness, attentiveness, and a readiness to respond
• we pause – we center ourselves in God – we rest – we trust

Next, we learn to watch in prayer
O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress
(Ps. 59:9)
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mk. 16:38)
– typically, we are watching for whatever threatens us
Martin Laird says, “This . . . is an ancient contemplative practice called vigilance or watchfulness.”
• we’re not watching in fear or anxiety
◦ it is a quiet and calm observation of the present moment
◦ we observe whatever thought or feelings occur
• this was the job of the gatekeepers in the temple
◦ they monitored what was brought into the sanctuary
This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there (Jer. 17:21, the Message)
◦ we monitor whatever enters the time we spend in God’s presence
– eventually we discern that thoughts and feelings are not reality
• they only appear real when we are lost in them
◦ you are not what you think or feel about yourself
• we also learn to discern the difference between thoughts
(and the stories we add to our thoughts and feelings, which cause us chaos and distress)
◦ rather than being victims of our thoughts, we become witnesses of them (Martin Laird)

Another unique prayer we learn is to be still
Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10)
I do not occupy myself with things
to great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed [or stilled] and quieted my soul . . .
(Ps. 131:2)

The last unique prayer I’ll mention is that we learn to be silent
– notice the following verses combine waiting, seeking and silence:
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD. . . .
Let him sit alone in silence
when [the yoke] is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust–
there may yet be hope
(Lam. 3:25-29)
• “mouth in dust” is not about people degrading themselves
• it simply means, stop talking!
◦ silence all those inner voices that distract us from God

Conclusion: Our rational minds can form words and concepts of God

But we cannot with our rational minds embrace God himself
– we embrace him with the soul
• it is our with our spirit that we seek God
◦ that we wait, watch, and sit in silent stillness
• when we find, receive and the door is opened
◦ the encounter with God is Spirit to spirit

These strange forms of prayers
become the arms with which we reach out to God,
and when we enter the stillness of the present moment–
waiting, watching, listening–
God draws near,
embraces us in his love,
and breathes new life into our spirit

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