This morning I’m going to preach a sermon. It’s the one sermon more than any other sermons I’ve ever heard that helped me. It was a sermon that I wrote many, many years ago but it grabbed me with a passion and would not let me go.
First, I know that faith is something we believe even though we can’t prove it, and if we can prove it, it wouldn’t be faith. What I know very deeply is that we live in a spiritual universe. The space is filled, filled with prayers that have been praying before we came there, prayers that are always ahead of us when we come into an empty room or a room with people. There were people yesterday that prayed for you. The yesterday may be fifty years ago but I ask you this question and I’ll give you the answer. What’s the lifespan of a prayer? Good until the end of the year? Good until you reach a certain age? There are no life spans to prayers. Keep that in mind because that’s very, very important. Then stop and think: of all the prayers that have been prayed for you when you were still in the womb and the grandmother to be prayed for that little child that was to be born. Think of the prayers that are prayed for you when you started school. Maybe when you were baptized as a little baby. How do you add them up? How do you recollect, remember and recall? You can not. No way will you ever know all of the prayers that have been prayed for you, but they’ve been prayed and they’re out there. They’re out here.
You and I are living in a spiritual universe. There’s a lot I don’t know about the faith I believe in but I know it works and that’s why I keep believing in it more and more the older I get. There are a lot of things I don’t know about prayer but I know one thing we are living in a prayer world, believe it or not, we are. We live in a world where people are praying, even people who don’t believe in God. But they’re praying. It’s amazing.
A few things I do know about prayer that I can say in the introduction and that is number one all prayers are answered. You say God doesn’t say anything. Well God’s delays are not God’s denials. Silence can be an answer. You say but what if He says no? That could be the greatest answer you could ever get. For at least you’re getting divine guidance and you don’t want to make a mistake. You don’t want a yes if God has a better idea.
All prayers are answered. By whom you never know. How? It’s hard to tell. But we live in a spiritual universe where like it or not a lot of people have been praying for you and for me. And you can’t push a button and get a replay from the prayers out of the sky. It’s all in the realm of faith power.
I ask the question again: the span of prayers good until the end of the year December 31? Or good until you reach the age of seventy? There’s nothing in the bible that suggests that prayers have a lifespan. They are more something that comes out and it never goes away. So when you step into tomorrow, tomorrow is not an empty event. Tomorrow is already waiting for you, it’s waiting for me. A lot of prayers. Wow.
We don’t step into an emptiness; we are not in the forefront. There is always somebody ahead of me. There’s always somebody ahead of you. It’s probably your mother, your father, maybe your grandmother, maybe a teacher, maybe a neighbor, maybe a friend. But God only knows who’s been praying for you. I don’t know. And all who would pray for me, I don’t know. But I know that when I step into tomorrow I’m stepping into a very alive spiritual environment full of a lot of live prayers that went on ahead of me. Same is true for you. Yes and many of us are being shaped right now in this church by prayers that were prayed for us long ago by someone who prayed that we’d keep the faith, that we’d be faithful in church or God knows what.
One of my favorite authors, a man who impressed me and shaped me and taught me a lot, was a psychiatrist named Dr. Scott Peck. Many of you knew the name and many of you read his book, The Road Less Traveled. He had an interesting story there of a colleague. This colleague related to Dr. Peck about an occasion when he was driving on a winding curvy road around a lake. He drove that dangerous road often. But one time he said to Dr. Peck unlike every other time, a thought came into his mind. The thought was this is a dangerous road. He’d never seen it that way before. The thought continued: if somebody comes around that curve up there on my side of the divider line, we’d have a head on collision. The only way to avoid that would be if I knew before time stopped and waited at the side. And then he said to Dr. Peck because of that impulse I pulled over, stopped completely, and just as I stopped a car came at break neck speed six feet on my side of the divider line. The psychiatrist telling that story asks of the hundreds of times my friend passed that same curve why did that thought, that compulsion to stop, why did it never recur before? And Dr. Peck says I can only believe somebody was praying and that was an answer to prayer.
You know you and I listen: you have no idea how often you have been guided by prayer. It was a miracle. You never thought of it. Nobody reminded you of it. They didn’t know, but we are all being guided by a God because people are praying for us. It’s the kind of people we are. We are people here of faith and belief. Now I want you to remember one thing and that is that prayer: are you ready for the answers? You pray for it. What if you get what you asked for? Are you really ready for that? It’s been said by others that be careful what you pray for you may get it. But then well what will I do? How will you handle it?
Well it depends on what the answer is, obviously, that’s a given. But in the old classic prayer that Schuller wrote forty-eight years ago God answers prayer either with a no. If the idea is not right it’ll be a no. If it’s wrong it will be a no. If it will hurt others the answer may be a no. Oh there are lots of reasons why a God of love would give a no answer to a lot of prayers. Can you handle that? Yes, by simply knowing that God knows more than you do and His answer will be a blessing even if it’s spelled N-O.
Are you ready for the answer? Well when the timing is not right God says slow. Not no, but slow. But God’s delays are not God’s denials. You’ve heard me say that before. What a catastrophe it would be if God answered every prayer the way we asked for it when we wanted it. How do you answer that prayer when the prayer is wait? Do you know the word w-a-i-t is used over three hundred times in the Bible? Think of that. If God answered it when you wanted it, the way you wanted it, who’s working for who anyway? When the idea is not right it’ll be a no and that will be a blessing. When the time is not right the answer will be slow. When you are not right the answer will be grow. And the selfish person has to grow in unselfishness. The cautious person must grow in courage because if He gave it to you without growing in courage you’d misuse it or run away from it. The timid person must grow in confidence. If you don’t grow in confidence you won’t give leadership to it. The dominating person must grow in sensitivity. Yes. So people will be able to work with you affectionately. The critical person must grow in tolerance. The negative person has to grow in a positive attitude toward details because God is always in the details.
Well when the idea is not right God says no. When the time is not right God says slow. When you are not right God says grow. And when everything is on target God says go! And then the miracles happen. The hopeless alcoholic is set free. There’s a new mood, there’s a new momentum, there’s a new insight, there’s a new perception, there’s a new awareness. And a drug addict finds release and the doubter becomes a believer. Diseased tissue comes to life. The door to the dream suddenly swings open and there’s God standing, smiling and saying come in. We’re ready for you. And God makes the miracle happen. Hallelujah.
Let’s pray. Now I pray for people sitting in this auditorium listening to the sound of this voice who need to make a decision. They’ve been delaying it, they’ve been doubting it, they’ve been even denying it, but God this is the moment of truth for them. This is the time. And I pray that they will raise their hearts hand up and say here I am God, I’m ready, I’m ready. Hallelujah. Amen.