This last year that I’ve been filling the role as the senior pastor of the Cathedral ministries, it has been a year of tremendous surprises. It’s been much, much harder than I ever could have dreamed it would be. But of all the surprises that I encountered, the biggest surprise and it was a surprise, was the depth of the love that God has placed in my heart for you, for you the people. You the people at home who watch on Hour of Power. Even though I don’t know you, even though we may never met, I have this tremendous, tremendous love for all of you.
Well, we all know Art Linkletter. We miss him already and on “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” there’s one little boy, darling, sweet little boy Kyle, and Art went up to him and he said, “So Kyle, what do you want to be when you grow up?” And Kyle said without hesitation, “I want to be a bus driver or a pilot.” Art said to him, “Well what are you going to say if you’re a pilot and you’re flying and all four engines suddenly go out?” And Kyle said, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
Today we’re talking about the Lord’s Prayer. I pray the Lord’s Prayer every day because Jesus said this is how to pray. And there are principles in praying the Lord’s Prayer every day, and I pray it not word for word as it’s written in Matthew, but I use it as a template. So in the beginning, it says “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” We begin our prayers with praise. We begin our prayers with a ‘He can do it’ attitude. When we begin our prayers with praise, we suddenly are praying positively. Our prayers become more positive. You know it’s really tempting, I know I was that way until I started praying this way a couple years ago, I grumbled a lot in my praying. A lot of times I’d go oh God, why do I have to do this and Lord I.. I whined and cried and help me, and I’ve learned that if we can discipline ourselves to begin with praising God, it changes the way we pray and it changes the way we live.
You know we’ve been doing HA! Hallelujah Anyway! And some of you have written to me and said, “Sheila I love that, in fact, I love that HA! Hallelujah Always!” Well it was actually hallelujah anyway, but I think hallelujah always works just as well. And so that’s kind of what praise is, praising God. But I will tell you that there are some of you who have a hard time praising God. And even the whole topic makes you feel uncomfortable because you have a hard time with it. Either it sounds boring, or it’s just something really difficulty. And I understand that. Let’s just look at how the Lord’s Prayer starts out. “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
I recently wrote a devotional on our positive minutes and if you don’t have that, you can subscribe to that online and you will get a positive devotional in your e-mail every single day. People do it, thousands of people, and I wrote one for Father’s Day, and it was entitled “Heavenly Father’s Day.” And I talked about my dad, and what a great dad he was. And I got an e-mail back from somebody who said, “Sheila, you know, you talk about your father, what a great father he is. But my father was a monster. My father abused me. My father abandoned me.” And I hear these stories. So many of you had challenges with your earthly fathers. You did not have a godly, earthly father and so when you come to something like praising, when you come to something like our Father who art in heaven, that’s hard for you because it brings back memories, it brings back images that get in the way and it’s hard. How can you praise? How can you praise God, the Heavenly Father, when you had such a horrible earthly father?
Well my response to this woman, and boy I had to chew on that one, what to say to this woman. I had been blessed with an amazing godly, earthly father, and she had not. And I said to her, I said after praying, I said, “You’re right, but you know what? It’s my responsibility then to share my godly earthly father with all of you who were not as blessed. To share him with you, to help use him, paint a portrait of what an earthly father is supposed to be. And in so doing, maybe your image of God, your Heavenly Father, can be changed. Maybe that paradigm can be switched.
And so today, I just want to share with you a little bit about what it was like to have this amazing godly, earthly father and what he taught me about my Heavenly Father.
When I was a little girl, every Sunday, I loved to go and stand with dad as he shook hands with everybody at the end of the service. And he wore a robe like he does now, and as a little girl, I thought I was being very clever and I would go and I’d slip underneath his robe and you could see my little shoes and my little bobby socks, and then when people came to shake hands with dad, I would stick my hand out right about where dad’s tummy was, and they would giggle and they’d shake my hand and then they’d shake dad’s hand. And we would do that all morning long, shake hands. And I just thought I was being so clever and of course I wasn’t at all being clever. But I learned that my father, my godly earthly father, who teaches me that my Heavenly Father is all powerful, and when I start to feel afraid, sometimes I imagine myself as a little girl covered in dad’s robe, covered by my Heavenly Father. He says I have you covered in My power. My dad is bigger than life, my earthly father is bigger than life, and our Heavenly Father is bigger than life, but I would see my dad and he would push doors open, push doors open and all I had to do was walk behind him. And he opened doors for me; he opened doors for me so that it made it so easy for me. All I had to do was walk behind him and this past year, so much of the time I’ve heard God say to me, Sheila, I go ahead of you. Just walk behind Me, just walk behind Me; I’m pushing doors open for you. I’m pushing doors open for the Crystal Cathedral. All you have to do is hide behind Me, hide. I cover you because I am an all powerful God. There is nothing too big, nothing too hard for Me to do.
One day, I’d had it. I was probably in 5th grade. I was fed up to here with my family, and so I packed my few belongings in a pillow case, hid it under the bed and I wrote a little note that said, “Dear Mom and Dad. I’ve had it; I’m running away from home. Don’t take it personally, Love Sheila” And I hid it in the napkin holder, in the middle, thinking that night at dinner, when I was gone, now we little kids, we think kind of weird sometimes, but they would get to that place in the napkin holder and they’d find my runaway note.
Well I remember it was about three o’clock in the afternoon and I was contemplating where I was going to spend the night. I was thinking about the park. I had a little flashlight in this pillow case of mine, along with a hairbrush, I think, and that was about it. I don’t remember what I was going to eat or anything, but all of a sudden dad came into my bedroom and he sat on the edge of my bed. “Sheila,” he said, “where would a little girl go if she were to run away from home?” “Oh well,” I said, “she’d probably run away to the park.” I was so disgusted. He had obviously found my note before I’d had a chance to run away. Everything was spoiled. And here’s my father, you know, me a prodigal daughter, I didn’t even have a chance to run away from home. God is all perceptive. He knows everything. We think we can hide those little run away notes in the middle of the napkin ring. We think we can hide things from Him, but it’s good that He knows everything because He wants to step in between you and something that will harm you. He will come in then and rescue you. And He’s all pardoning, like the prodigal father. He doesn’t care; He just wants to welcome you home with arms that say I love you as you are today.
When I was in junior high, we had a walk, quite a walk from my junior high school to home, and back then there was no air conditioning and it was hot and it was hot. And I walked home with two girls who lived on our block, they were twins. There was two of them to one of me and as we were walking home, we stopped in a little deli and one of the girls said to me, they were buying ice cream and they said, “Sheila, don’t you want to buy ice cream?” And I said, “Oh I can’t. I don’t have any money.” “Well you don’t need money. You can slip that ice cream right there between your sweater and your notebook.” I had never thought of that. I could? So I took the ice cream, I slid it right there between my sweater and my notebook and I walked out of the store with it.
As we were walking home, that ice cream began to melt underneath the sweater because guilt, oh I was feeling guilty. The one girl said to me, “Sheila, aren’t you going to eat your ice cream?” I said, “No, doesn’t sound good now.” “Oh, can I eat it?” “Sure, you can have it.” I walked in the back door of the home and mom happened to be facing that door, and I walked in and she said to me, “Sheila, what did you do that you should not have done?” See, I could never get away with anything, so that’s part of the reason why I was kind of a good girl. And so I spilled the beans immediately. Of course the guilt had been building and building and I just was eager to confess. I said, “Oh Mom,” you know, “I stole an ice cream.”
Well I was in my bedroom and probably grounded later that afternoon, and the doorbell rang. And I still remember looking down, peering around the corner of my bedroom down the hallway to the front door, and dad went and answered it. And at the door were the two girls, the twins. And they said, “Is Sheila here? Can we hang out with Sheila?” And dad said, “No, no, you can’t hang out with Sheila any more. You’ve not been a good influence on her.” Do you know what I felt standing in that hallway and I heard my dad say those words? Whew! What a huge relief! Those two girls, there were two of them to one of me, and they were peer pressure that was not good for me. My dad stood between me and something that would harm me. Our Father, your Heavenly Father, He’s all powerful. He’s all knowing. And He’s all protective. He’s all pardoning. That is who this God is that we pray to. That is who our Heavenly Father is.
When I was a freshman at college, I had a roommate who became depressed when a boy broke up a date with her. And it happened to be the middle of winter and my father happened to be out there at Hope College where I was attending. He was on the board of trustees at the time. And when I came back to my cottage, I was met by a resident adviser and she said, “Sheila, I have terrible news. Sarah is in intensive care. She tried to take her own life, she tried to commit suicide. She’s in a coma. We do not expect her to survive.” And I remember those icy, slippery sidewalks, racing, running across the campus to where I knew my father was meeting. And I knocked on the door and I said, “I need to see my dad. I need to see my dad.” And out came my dad and we walked the sidewalks together. He was there for me.
People, your Heavenly Father is all pardoning. He loves you no matter what. He is always there for you. He is all protective. He stands between you and anything that can harm you. So praise Him. Praise Him. Begin your prayers with a He can do it attitude. Otherwise, we can pray I can’t do this but no we can but He can do it! He can do it. That’s what we learn with the very beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. And I have learned to pray in all circumstances. Look at Paul when he was thrown in prison and bound in chains. And there they were at midnight, he and Silas, they were praising, they were singing songs when their chains broke free. It was the praising. Their chains broke free and an earthquake rattled and they were free, they were liberated. As a result, the jailer and his whole family came to know God and came to know Jesus. Praise, praise at all times. Praise in your prisons, praise even though you feel bound, praise even though you don’t know how you’re going to get through this. That’s the time to praise. Praise heals, praise can break the chains. Its one thing to praise, but the more you pray it, the more you pray it pretty soon you’re living it and you notice things.
This morning, I went out to get fresh basil for my omelet that I made for myself and I noticed a spider web in the morning in the dew and the sunlight hitting it. And I said thank You Lord. Look at this beautiful world that You have created. When I’ve walked across this campus when it’s been really hard sometimes, I’ve said thank You Lord that there’s not enough money because Your will will be done, because You will show, because Your glory will be revealed. So begin your day, begin your prayers, live your day praising God. Hallelujah Always.
Lord, here we are Your people and we are here to praise You. Lord, You can do it. You will protect us. You will pardon us. You will always be there for us. And so, oh Lord, we Your children look to You a beautiful, loving, powerful, Heavenly Father and we say Lord, thank You. We worship You, we bow down before You, we praise You, amen.