Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Robert E. Slade at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia.
God may not give us the answer we want, but God does indeed answer prayer. When I go over to Washington Hospital Center or Providence Hospital, and someone has gotten well or was sent home, I know God has answered prayer. When folks ask me to pray for them, I will ask the Lord to do a new and mighty thing in their life.
If you dont believe prayer is going to change things, nothing is going to happen. When youre about to give up, try taking it to the Lord. And I mean getting on your knees, praying in a mighty way. The other day I was shouting hello to a neighbor across a big yard, and thats the kind of prayer I mean. “Hello, Lord.”
Prayer is opening up the doors of your heart and letting the Lord come in. We are afraid to open that door, because we dont want the Holy Spirit to do a new thing. Nothing comes to us except through prayer.
We need to stop wallowing in our spiritual poverty, and pray.
We find it easy to talk about what other peoples sins are, but what about telling God about our own sins? Prayer is about looking at ourselves in that way.
Sometimes we say, “Lord, take away this pain,” when we should be saying, “Do thy will.” Prayer is listening for a response from the Lord. God answers all of our prayers. Sometimes the answer is “yes.” Sometimes it is “wait.” And sometimes it is “shut up” — the Lord is already doing His will. We often must wait and be patient… .
In our reading , Peter takes the stage with two prophetic deeds, one of them restoring life to a Christian woman who was known for her generosity. I want to ask us today, church, when you leave this life, what will you be noted for? Will some think of you for falling asleep in church, for being a hell-raiser, or will you bring back marvelous thoughts?
This woman in Scripture, Tabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek, was a Christian disciple and well liked in the city of Joppa. She was full of good works and charity and alms giving. I believe she was a philanthropist, someone in the “have” category who gave to the “have not” category.
She gave and got her blessing. Have you given and received yours? And when we think of Tabitha, how would we react if a stranger walked into our church right now? We should say, “Let me help you with something.”
Now they tell me that when old Tabitha died, word went around, and Peter heard of this in another city. We dont know what they wanted Peter to do, but when he came they were crying and weeping. And Peter put them outside the room and knelt to pray, and then he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, rise.” He took her back downstairs to her sisters.
We need sometimes to go into a room by ourselves and pray like that. Let it all hang out. No one else will hear, and God already knows every hair on your head, every speck of dirt down to your toenails.
When I thought about old Tabitha, I thought about Mother Teresa. She said, “The fruit of silence is prayer.” She said if you want to find God, take the trouble to pray every day. She said you can pray any time, anywhere.
Your work doesnt have to stop. When youre doing that thing on the computer, you can be saying, “Lord, have mercy.”
She tells us, like old Tabitha, “We have to put our trust in Him, we have believe in Him, we have to love Him, we have to work for Him.” We cant just come on Sunday for a temporary high; we have to make it all week long. And if we pray, we will get the answers that we need. Remember, Paul spoke of a thorn in his flesh, and if God did not remove that trouble from His servant Paul, why should we expect more. God wants to answer our prayer, but also remind us that we are His.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Christopher Yim at Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Md.