- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Robin Rauh at the Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Va.

The Psalms have been a great resource in our look at prayer in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus is a model of prayer for us in His critical moments of decision.

At His baptism, He prayed to the Father in obedience to the ministry given to Him, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him. He did not ask, but the Spirit came. Before He called the disciples, Jesus prayed all night. I can just about get in 20 minutes before I run out of things to say. But it raises the question: Is prayer more than just talking?

The Roman Catholics have "the holy hour" tradition" for the hour that Jesus asked His disciple to stay awake with Him in His suffering. He said to Peter, "So could you not watch with Me for one hour?" Prayer is not always talking, it is as much listening.

How many of you value your time? In Northern Virginia, time is more valuable than money. Just think how God values our time. He delights in the gift of our time. I think of the verse, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." Jesus is knocking, and if we open the door, we have supper together. There's no agenda. We just want to be together… .

The Hebrew word "shema" explains what it means to hear God's voice. Hearing God means being attentive, and then obedient to what He says. Studying Scripture every day, for example, is listening, and it is His time to speak to us. Here is where the Greek words "logos" and "rhema" also help us in reading Scripture. Logos is the whole Scripture and its general meaning. Rhema is a word the Holy Spirit brings us individually, as an inspiration or in a time of need. It is a special word that cuts right to the situation like a sword, whereas our general knowledge of the Christian faith will not.

But here's the catch. You can't have a rhema unless you are being absorbed regularly in the logos. We can't say, "I don't have a quiet time to study or listen to God, but anytime God wants to give me a specific word, I'm here. Send a lightening bolt." No, it works like a close relationship that we cultivate every day. Then, we are ready for the time of crisis and a specific word from God.

Jesus' prayer, when He pleads with the Father for escape, in all His humanity, on the cross, is a good model for us. We get trapped in seeing prayer as a stained-glass work we give to God, but we save our real personal struggles for our intimates. But look at Jesus' prayers. They are prayers of holy humanity. We can be angry with God. Most of the time we get angry at people we love, because we have expectations of them. God can take anything, except being ignored… .

The Christian writer Oswald Chambers says this about prayers that produce only silence: "When you cannot hear God, you will find that He is trusting you in the most intimate way possible, with absolute silence. Not a sound of despair, but one of pleasure." … That is a profound thought in a world dominated by noise, with cell phones stuck to our heads while we drive in traffic, radios going, computers beeping… . God wants us to have a secret relationship. We don't have to tell everyone what happens in our prayer life… .

What does it mean to ask for something in the name of Jesus. In this case, name means "authority." It is a prayer based on the character of Jesus' relationship to God. God calls us to pray in the name of Jesus to move us past the infancy of prayer, which is all about us, to a wider perspective of what He wants. By praying in Jesus' name, we are willing to share Him with other people.

And this brings us to the highest form of prayer intercession for others. In Matthew, Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." And when Paul says to practice "unceasing prayer," it simply means being in the presence of God.

Next week: a sermon at a District of Columbia congregation.

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