Sermon Pentecost 23 October 28, 2018

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 10:46-52
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We have been following the story of Job over the last little while, his life journey took him from prosperity to total discomfort – physical, emotional, spiritual and economic – to the happy restoration of all of them. But on the way in his distress he had contemplated assisted-dying, his trials being more than he could stand (Job 7:15). But what a mistake that would have been because he did not know what God had in store for him. None of us know, the important thing is to let life unfold and let God work things out. Job never gave up his trust in God but sometimes bad situations can direct our thoughts and actions to where we normally wouldn’t go. The last verse in the Book of Job, says “And Job died, old and full of days” (Job 42:17). I hope that we all reach such an end. That our lives be rich in experience and full of wisdom leading to contentment, while all the time maintaining unwavering trust in God, just like Job.
Job after his restoration to fame and fortune came to the conclusion that while he was in distress he should not have questioned God, realising how limited his understanding was. Yes God allowed Job to have serious troubles but they were a learning experience for him.
One thing, one key to his recovery was that he prayed for his friends Eliphaz, Baldad, Sophar and Elihu. Without justification they had accused him of many things, exploitation of the poor and needy while accumulating his fortune was probably the worst. Putting all of their accusations aside he prayed for them. Those who oppose us are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but whatever, they need prayer too, either to convince you that you really are wrong or for them to realise that you are right, either is the best solution. Jesus said “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) and praying for them is surely love and another way to find God’s will for us.
Now prayer is a thing that most of us don’t come to easily. There are all sorts of prayer styles with fancy names and techniques, some include letting your mind go blank, to not think about anything at all (it’s very difficult to do) but some claim that by praying that way they allow God to enter their spirits and minds. It’s like batheing in the Holy Spirit. Clearing your mind of thoughts is extremely difficult, like breathing is to your lungs, thinking is to your brain, it really wants to do it. So some try and drown out unwanted thoughts by repeating and repeating a key word until thoughts go away. Some have formulaic methods first of all voicing praise for God, acknowledging His almighty power, then confessing sins, then giving thanks for all the blessings received, then last of all supplication, asking for help with what troubles you.
I believe that there is a way that’s open to us in that last series of steps. When it comes to the supplication, the intercession for God’s action in your or someone else’s lives. The biggest mistake however is giving God the answer you want to see implemented, God doesn’t need your advice. Always remember “Thy will be done”. But we know that a trouble shared is a trouble halved and that’s one of the benefits of prayer.
Perhaps the most accessible way to pray is to lay out all your thoughts about what troubles you. How you got to where you are. And why. Who is or was involved. What the current dilemma is. Who is being hurt. Who is perhaps taking advantage (remember don’t be a judge) so let’s just say who is benefiting from the situation. And who needs help.
This way of praying does two things. It lets God know you are concerned about something, and are not just idly standing by to see what happens. Second it clarifies your own thoughts and allows God to inject possible solutions in your mind and therefore your actions. How many times have you talked problems over with your friends and the circumstances seem, not so problematical, or just by talking, airing the issues, finding relief. A trouble shared is a trouble halved.
But there are some things none of us would like to share with others, such as indiscretions or fears or hopes in case the last two would seem silly to others or the first one might destroy a friendship. You cannot destroy God’s friendship with you, nor will God laugh at you, if your hopes or fears are silly. Jesus was human and went through the same things fear of being abandoned, disappointment at being ignored, fear of pain, yes pain that was what His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was all about, not the fear of Death but the fear of excruciating pain. He shared that fear with God the Father and He was able to face His tomorrow, it led to victory. We must do the same.
Read again today’s Psalm it’s all about prayer and answered prayer. It is a manifesto of belief in prayer and God’s response. It is a Psalm written by David in one of the most desperate times in his life. You can tell that things worked out and that David was thankful for it. No less we. If we don’t express thanks for answered prayer who or what are we ? When we receive a gift from someone we always say thanks. Even if it’s “wherever did you get it” or “you shouldn’t have” hoping there is a receipt inside so you can return it. You always say thanks, it’s the right thing to do. We even say thanks in the Eucharistic Prayer because “It is meet and right so to do”. So let’s do.
Prayer is a wonderful God given resource, safety valve, comforter, healer. Take advantage of God’s gift of prayer in all your life’s circumstances, it’ll do you good. And that is the Good News for today. Amen.

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