Monday, July 29, 2013


I would like to start this morning by telling you all a story.
I came to know a homeless man named Vinnie.
He was one of the people who were bringing a lawsuit against the state of New Hampshire so that he could continue to camp out on state propriety.
I was talking to him at one of the rallies in support of the homeless in Concord.
He was telling me his story.
He told me that he was a computer tech, and that he had lots of experience and certifications as a computer tech.
Our church needed some help with our computers.
The computer in the church office was not sufficient for all the work that needs to be done for the bulletin.
Our administrative assistant kept asking when we could get a new one.
It wasn’t in the church budget this year.
Someone donated a new laptop for me, but the DVD drive was not working.
I had someone else look at it, but it didn’t look good.
So I hired Vinnie to come in and do some work on our computers.
He fixed the church computer saving us at least $1,000, and he got the DVD player on my laptop to work.
A couple of weeks ago my keyboard wasn’t working so I called Vinnie.
He came in and we were talking.
Some of you may know that he and the other homeless guys lost their law suit.
They had to be out of the campsites by the 24th.
I was asking Vinnie what he was going to do next.
He told me he wasn’t sure.
But if he could get a car then he could live in the car, and he could get to some jobs that were offered to him outside of Concord.
(Vinnie never asked me to find him a car I just was offering.)
I told him that I would ask around.
That very day I got an email from Diana who is a newer member of our congregation.
She was going to be getting a new car and wanted to know if I knew anybody who needed her old car.
That is a great story!

Now, some might call this mere coincidence.
But as a person of faith I see it as God at work in our prayers
God was answering prayers of Vinnie and of me.
But more than this God was also answering the prayer of Diana who told me, “I have been praying for new and inspired ways to donate and I just felt like this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.”
I told her that Prayers for ways to help others are always answered!

Jesus this morning tells us that when we ask it is given, when we seek we find, and when we knock the door will be open to us.
This is a challenging piece of scripture, because we have all had prayers that were not answered in the way that we wanted them to be.
We have prayed for a loved one to be healed and the outcome was different.
We have prayed for someone to find their way and they only got lost.
We have prayed for outcomes that just don’t turn out well.

I know that one of my constant prayers is for people that are experiencing homelessness to find a home.
To me that fact that there are homeless people is simply unjust.
The idea that I have too much, enough to give away what I don’t need, and others have nothing, is just not the economy of God.
It is a problem that will be fixed when God’s kingdom comes.
Our world might be about the survival of the fittest, but God’s is not.
It is clear in scripture that those who have nothing now will someday eat at the same banquet as everyone else.
But as much as I pray, as hard as I pray, there is still homelessness in the world.
There are still refugees wondering the world because no one wants them.
There are still people sleeping in tents, cars, or under the stars.
If Jesus says that our prayers will be answered why has that prayer not been answered?
Why are any of our prayers not answered?

Now there are plenty of crafty explanations that I am sure you have all heard.
Things like God sometimes just says, “No”.
“We don’t understand God’s ways.”
Maybe those explanations work for you, and that is fine, but I want more.
I want to know why people still starve in a world of abundance?
Why do good people die too young?
Why are there horrible illnesses?
Why is there war?
Why doesn’t God make right what is wrong?

Truth is that I don’t have a good answer for any of those questions.
And even the answers I might come up with seem hollow.
Here is what I think we are missing about what Jesus says about prayer this morning.
Is that it is an ongoing process.
And sometimes the process is more important that the answer.
Jesus tells us to seek.
Sometimes we forget this part of our prayer lives.
We remember to ask and knock…but we forget that prayer is also about seeking answers to very difficult questions.
Seeking to me indicates an ongoing process.
When we set out to find something it takes time and energy.
Prayer cannot be the simple fall back when things seem to go wrong.
Prayer is an ongoing conversation that we have with God.
Think about the Lord’s Prayer.
We ask that God’s kingdom will come, thy will be done.
We can say for sure that the unfolding of God’s kingdom and God’s will takes time.
How many of us can say that we always do God’s will?
Not many of us.
But in our prayer life we struggle with God to figure out what that might be in any situation.

There are moments when things like what happened with Vinnie happen.
There are moments when the heavens open and God’s hand reaches down and does something that just takes our breath away.
But even when those moments are not happening in our lives can we still believe in God’s promises.

All prayer is ultimately not about our prayer but the way that God works in us through those prayers.
The prayers may not change God, but they may change us.
In prayer we might come to some new revelation about our spiritual lives.
We might find a way to be more compassionate, more giving, more helpful.
But even more we might find ways to be more thankful to God for the things we do have.
We might find more miracles in the midst of everyday life.

One thing that always bugs me is when people seem to give up on prayer simply because it doesn’t work the way they wanted it to.
I once had a friend tell me that he didn’t pray to God anymore because it never seemed to help, because in the two or three times in his life when he asked God for something it didn’t happen.
So in the middle of a crisis he was giving up the one thing he had left and that is prayer.
Not because it would change the outcome, but because in the praying we come to find something.
We find faith, we find God holding us up when we thought we would fall, we find God promising everlasting life, we find hope, we find God offering forgiveness, we find gratitude for the blessings God does give.
And yes, on occasion we find that God does directly answer our prayers in the way we want God to, like they did with Vinnie.
Most important we learn to trust God.
We learn that our prayers are not so much about us as they are about God entering into our lives in a very real way.

So let us go forth to ask, seek, and knock.
And trust in faith that God is at work in our prayers.

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