“The God Who” Series
February 20-21, 2021
“The God Who Prays For Us”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I worry. And it’s getting worse. Over these last 12 months I find myself worrying about this church – my church. Here are some of the things that I find myself worrying about:
- Will those who haven’t been able to attend worship or participate in other activities at Ascension come back? Will the new normal of life without corporate worship be their new normal?
- I fear for our 13-20 year old youth. These are the years of formation and many of them have not been involved in corporate worship, youth ministry or Bible study, for a year. Who and what is forming them now?
- I worry about our younger children. This is the time of developing habits that are good and godly and permanent. Many of us adults learned from childhood that Sunday was God’s Day and that Sunday School and worship were instrumental to the beginning of a new week. That pattern is being threatened in the life of our children.
I worry. And I’m glad that I’m not the only one. I think a number of you have joined me in this worry. I take comfort that one of the great saints in the Bible, Paul, worried about his people. If you have read any of his 13 letters you can sense his anxiety in many of them. He wrote to the Corinthians, “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.” (I Corinthians 1:11) He addresses this internal conflict with pointed words, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1:13) In the writing to the Galatians he speaks about the congregation running from the cross of Jesus and holding on to their own religious deeds to bring themselves salvation. Paul, in anguish said, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Galatians 4:19-20)
Maybe having a worry about the lives of others can be good. I think it would be a sin to be apathetic or indifferent about folks who are walking the wrong way. A ‘hands-off’ approach or thinking that others will figure it out by themselves would not be the answer to the dilemma. That would not be a gift of love to them.
But there is a better answer to my worry or yours. Prayer – giving the problem, or giving the people we care for, into the hands of God, is the better answer. It is one that I have to practice more. That is what Jesus did. He was worried for the people in Jerusalem when He prayed for them on Palm Sunday evening. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:40-41) This is what Jesus did when He prayed for Peter before Peter spoke his denial of knowing Jesus, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith might not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) Jesus was standing for His friend Peter, who would later deny Him three times. But after the sin of denial Jesus prayed that Peter would have faith that he could be forgiven and still be one of Christ’s disciples. “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith might not fail.”
When you want to get involved in somebody’s life, in a wonderful way, you pray for them. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is a deep prayer. It is a prayer of a pastor for their people. Listen to his heart and his words, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to all the measure of the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
This worry over the lives and future of God’s people is not something that is a new phenomena. Paul had it. Jesus spoke of it. I believe you have it. And I have it. I guess it must be catching!! But there is an answer to this problem of worry. The solution isn’t in our worry – it is in God’s mighty strength. “He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” God can do what we can’t do. When Paul speaks to the Corinthians he contrasts ourself and what we offer with what God does for us. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16)
The greatest comfort we have is the deep, deep love of God in Jesus. “I pray that you…may have the power to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Paul uses those words to show that the love of God is greater than anything we can ever comprehend. Isn’t that wonderful? If we would ever think that we could get a handle on how deeply God loves us we would still fall short of it. One commentator of this says, “And most important, it is beyond our comprehension how God could die on a cross: Can any words adequately describe this mystery, that God is born as a man? That God dies for the human race, the master for his servants, the Creator for his creation, the righteous for the unrighteous?” (Concordia Commentary, Ephesians, Thomas M. Winger, Page 415) As St. John would say, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10) I visited Ed Kriehn, a member who had Lou Gehrig’s disease, which would rob him of his muscles and eventually cause his death. Ed sent me an e-mail that proudly said, “God loves us so much that if God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it.”
Why should I worry? Why should you worry? His hands are stronger than ours. His love is deeper and greater than ours. His plans are perfect for us. And – we have a God who prays for us. Remember one of the greatest gifts we can do for others is to bring them in prayer before God. And the Scriptures tell us that Jesus uses that powerful gift and prays for us.
Romans: “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (8:34)
Hebrews: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (7:25)
I John: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (2:1)
Jesus in His High Priestly prayer in John 17: Jesus who had prayed for His apostles then, prays for us now, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Verses 20-21)
I pray that I will never grow tired of being amazed at God. When I begin to worry about anything and everything, stuff that is out of my control, things that I can’t fix, I have to rely on God. That is actually where I need to be. You, too.
The response we have to all of this? Praise. Joy. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20-21) This prayer started with Paul kneeling and it ends with his hands held up in wonder and adoration.
Why do I worry? Silly me. My God can take care of everything and everyone. My Savior, Jesus, is praying for me, and you, and them. I think He’s got us covered. Amen!!