Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Never Stop Praying

As I look back over the last twelve months of my life and the shared memories of my family, I reflect on the events that changed my life forever. From the moment of my initial diagnosis and the desperate race to save my life to the painful struggles to recover, I realize that my family and I could not have made it through any one of those moments without prayer. Some of those prayers were prayers of thanksgiving. Others were prayers asking God for the grace to make it  from one minute to the next, literally. Other prayers were expressions of fear, frustration and fatigue. There were times when one step forward led to taking three steps back. Each victory seemed to turn into a defeat within moments. Once again, the only thing that got us through those painful, trying times was prayer.

When I think back to those moments, I realize that I was at the end of my rope, patience or strength. Everything that I desired in my life took a backseat to one thing, the struggle to stay alive. Early in this nightmare, I had a care team that started with twenty-five people. Heads of departments and their combined teams literally working around the clock to save my life. My case became the centerpiece in every discussion over the two weeks I was in the hospital. Thousands of pages of notes, test results, lab notes and imaging documents filled my file. 

Even though I was sick and found it difficult to go on, I would spend time in my hospital room praying for each member of my care team. I thanked God hourly for each one and asked Him to watch over them and take care of those in their care. I prayed for the nurses, the nurse technicians, the lab technicians, food service people, facility team members, housekeeping technicians and many more. When I got up from my bed to walk the ward for exercise, I prayed for each patient in the ward. 

Around midnight to about 2AM, I finally had moments of peace. I had no more treatments, blood tests or medications to take. It was during those moments when my prayers were for my family and myself. I asked God for guidance and to provide me with direction as I continued to take each moment one at a time. I never knew if the next moment would even come. The specialists who handled my case did not hide or keep anything from me. They expressed their fears and let me know that anything could happen. I was never out of the woods. Each day would bring another struggle from sunrise to sunset. I did not know whether or not I would live to see the next day. All I could do was thank God for the gift of that day and the blessings I received.

Prayer is simply a way to talk to the Father. Many will try to make it the most difficult thing in the world. When the disciples asked Jesus about how they should pray, Jesus gave them several key points. He not only provided them with a simple prayer that would later become known as the Lord’s Prayer but he also gave them instructions on how to pray.  

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us, “5 When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

The moment we share with the Father is not one to be filled with excessive or fancy words. We are not to ramble on endlessly. Our “words” can be just simple moans and groans. There were times when I prayed when all that would come out were squeaks and tears. I sometimes did not have the strength to verbalize my prayers, but I knew that God was listening to me as I poured out my heart to Him. There were even times when I was on my hands and knees with tears pouring from my eyes and falling to the floor. I was spent and played out. There was nothing left.

No matter what was happening in my life, I found time and had the spiritual need to have a little talk with the Father. When you look through the Bible, everyone found time to pray even if it meant death. Remember the story of Daniel. Even under penalty of death, Daniel still prayed to God even after finding out that King Darius had signed a law prohibiting anyone from praying to anyone, divine or human, other than him. In Daniel 6, we read, “10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. 11 Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help.”

We all know the rest of this story. Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den and God saved him by closing the mouths of the lions. Daniel’s desire to pray and share that special moment with God could not be squashed or hindered. He was going to pray no matter what.

Paul, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, gives them one simple instruction when it comes to prayer. He writes in 1 Thessalonians 5, “17 Never stop praying.”

It is a simple and easy imperative statement to understand and carry out. We are never to stop praying. Nothing in our life is too big or too serious to stop us from praying. It is our moment with the Father and we should not let anything or anyone interfere with that private and sweet moment of prayer.

My words to you are as simple as Paul’s. Stay focused and spend quality time in prayer with the Lord. Close the door and push the world and its problems away from you. Never allow those things to creep into your place of prayer. Do not just babble and repeat words over and over. The best prayers are the ones that are simple. There have been times when I have just said, “Lord, I am here and listening.” Let God speak to you and fill you with His love and grace. When you do that, I can assure you that you will feel the joy of the Lord deep in your soul and know that you can stand firm in His grace. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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