This is the second half of the sermon I am due to preach on Sunday.
And when we come to prayer we are apt to be dumb before him lest like Job we
“speak of things we do not understand; things too wonderful for us to know.”
Yet we are commanded to pray. How could we have the audacity to do so?
Someone once wrote:
I doubt a God with stars to see
Would ever deign to look at me.
We can sympathise with the feeling. Imagine the ant we are about to step on shouting up at us, “Don’t step on me!” Imagine the bacterium in our intestines saying at the top of its voice, “Don’t take that antibiotic!” Imagine a small fish at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean crying out to George Bush, “Save me from that shark!”
We are so puny and God is so great. How could He possibly care what we say.
Perhaps an illustration from medicine will help. Imagine a man with a small cancer. He looks normal. He behaves normally. No-one would ever know there was anything wrong with him. You are his doctor and he comes for a check up. You do all the usual things. You look at his tongue. You make him say, “Ah!” You listen to his chest. Nothing. You take his blood pressure. Normal. You feel his tummy. Nothing abnormal to feel. You look in his eyes with your ophthalmoscope. You peel back his lower lid. You look in his ears with your otoscope. You bang his knees and ankles with your patella hammer. You test his sensation with a hatpin. You do a blood test; in fact you do a range of blood tests. You test for hemoglobin and urea, white count, red count, platelet count; prothrombin time, liver function tests, kidney function tests, thyroid function tests. You test for uric acid, you test his immunoglobulins, you test his PSA, and LDH and CA125. They are all normal. Still you are not satisfied.
You order a CT Scan and an MRI scan and a PET scan. All you see on your computer screen are images in various shades of grey. Everything seems normal. Then you start looking inside with sigmoidoscope and gastroduodenoscope and colonoscope – but all seems normal. There is a cancer there – I told you there was, but it is so small that you cannot see it.
Finally, you take an anti-cancer antibody labelled with radioactive iodine and inject it into his body. Then you scan him with a gamma camera. On the cathode ray tube shining out for everyone to see is the cancer. It is tiny, but detected by the antibody it shines out like a flare at sea on a dark night.
It’s like God has an antibody to sin. My house is an insignificant dot on the map of England. In all the vast and mighty universe it is an infinitesimal spec. Yet sin beams out from it like a beacon across infinities of space. No wonder God notices it. Everywhere else in every galaxy God is obeyed. Here alone, on planet earth, is rebellion. Here alone was it necessary for God to send his son to redeem the lost.
In the passage we read from Galatians, Paul pictures us a slaves; the most insignificant members of a household. We count for nothing. We can be bought or sold on a whim. Our lives or deaths mean nothing. We can have no access to the head of the household. Our complaints are as nothing; our desires meaningless; our lives pointless.
It is when we see our smallness and God's greatness that we can begin to appreciate what Jesus has done for us. Do we see differences between ourselves? God sees none. I am greater than he; I am more important, I am cleverer, I am richer, I am more hard working; I am a man and she is a woman; I am white and he is black; I am a Jew and he is a Gentile; I am English and he is an immigrant. All God sees is a sinner in need of a savior.
And when we are saved he sees only His son whose blood has covered us.
"You are no longer a slave but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you an heir."
As a slave we could not pray. God was so remote. So 'up there' to our 'down here'. But as a son and heir we can say Father or even more intimately 'Abba' or 'Daddy' and know that he longs to listen to us.
For what father is not eager to hear his son speak? The idea that we have been adopted as sons is a wonderful blessing to us. Peter in his first letter, writing to husbands informs us that with our wives we are heirs together of the gracious gift of life to remind us to be considerate and treat them with respect. Why? So that nothing will hinder our prayers (I Pet 3:7).
Romans 8:17 tells us we are not only heirs of God but we are co-heirs of Christ.
Do you ever have difficulties in knowing how you should behave? If like me you came from a working class background, you might be hesitant about appearing in polite society. There is a story of a famous Lord eating dinner in a middle class household. He was perplexed to see silver circles at every place setting. "What are these for?" he asked his wife. She replied, "They are napkin rings. You thread your table napkin through them when you have finished your meal so that they are ready for the next meal." "You mean to say they re-use them!" he exclaimed.
His problem was quite the opposite of mine when I went to University. I didn't know which fork to use, when to sit and when to stand; all these posh people left me perplexed.
Do you know how to be an heir of God? How fortunate we are to have a brother heir in Jesus Christ. You can read about him in the Gospels. When you do so what is very noticeable is that he was often in prayer. You might think of all individuals who ever lived he would be most self sufficient, most able to stand alone. But no. He was often in prayer. And if he was so should we be.
The answer to the question, 'why should we pray?' is ultimately 'because Jesus did'.