“Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!” (Psalm 17:1 ESV)
Roy Minich tells of a strange discovery he made as he was walking along a country lane near his summer camp. In a weedy fence corner, he noticed a large stone that had been hollowed out as a watering trough. Upon closer examination, he found on the stone a noble inscription: “My help comes from the Lord.” But instead of offering water to the birds and little animals, the hollow of the stone, the trough, was now full of rotting leaves. Further investigation revealed that there actually was a well on the hill above. Also there had been a pipe leading from the well to the stone, but it had long been broken and rusted. There was still need for water in the fence corner, and there was still an ample supply of water up on the hill, but the contact—the means between the need and the supply—had been broken.
Isn’t that a good picture of the means of grace, that is, the Word of God—spoken and written Word, the Word of God in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—isn’t that a good picture of the means of grace in the life of modern man—or rather, the lack of means of grace in the life of modern man? The need for God’s help in our lives should be evident to everyone. And God is ready at all times and in every kind of difficulty to help and sustain us. But the contact we can have with God by the means of grace is largely broken and rusted as a result of neglect. I am sure this is true for many of us. We are inclined to ignore one of life’s greatest sources of faith, strength, peace, and courage—and if there is anything we need most urgently today, it is faith, strength, peace, and courage!
When we have God’s strength and peace, then we want to communicate back to Him. That’s prayer!
Jesus knew the power of prayer, as He spoke often with the Father. It didn’t matter when or where either. He prayed at His Baptism (see Luke 3:21); He withdrew from crowds to pray (see Luke 5:16); He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest (see Luke 22:43-44); and He prayed three times on the cross, as He was dying for the sins of the world (see Luke 23:34; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
Prayer is—or should be—a vital and active part of our lives, as we are strengthened through the means of grace, through the Word of God, especially in operation when things are not going so well. It is said that on one occasion when Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, was crossing the Atlantic, a fire broke out in the hold of the ship he was on. A friend said to Moody: “Let us go to the other side of the ship and engage in prayer.” The evangelist replied: “No! We will stand right here and pass buckets and pray hard all the time.” That’s living like Jesus did: praying while serving others—all the time staying close to the Heavenly Father.
Unlike that hollowed-out stone that hadn’t received a drop of well water in a long time, let us receive God’s life-giving strength through His Word and then talk with God regularly. If we do, we will receive blessings of refreshing from Him—blessings that are good for us and good for others.
THE PRAYER: Thank You, Heavenly Father, for listening to our prayers. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
From “Praying and Working,” a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have you ever not spoken with someone for a long time, and then resumed? What caused the reconnect?
2. How might we pray deceitfully? Is there a way to protect against this?
3. What do you bring to the relationships you’re in—good humor, thoughtful perspective, empathy, a ready ear?