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Why Aren't You Praying?

September 15, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Mark 9:29

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Mark 9: 14-29 ~ Why Aren’t You Praying?

Pentecost 17-B, Proper 19 – CELC Cleveland, 9/16/2018

And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."                 Mark 9:29 ESV

Dear beloved of the Lord:

                Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down the mountain height from Jesus’ Transfiguration into chaos.The other nine disciples are arguing with the scribes while a great crowd observes the turmoil.Untamed tongues(James 3:5-10)have set ablazea confrontationthat Jesus walks into unexpectedly and all rush over to Him.Oh yes, there’s this boy rolling around on the ground, convulsing, grinding his teeth and foaming at the mouth. You couldn’t blame Peter, James, and John had they tugged on Jesus sleeve and asked: Uh, can we go back up the mountain? Peter’s suggestion of setting up three tents and camping out there is looking pretty good right now!

                But no, they can’t go back. This is why Jesus came. This is life. This is your life, with all its joys and sorrows sins and griefs. Sure, the details are a bit different, but is your life all neat and tidy, or more like chaos? Is your life going according to plan, or filled with interruptions, unexpected problems, arguments, troubles at home, problems at work or school, issues with family, betrayal by friends, and people convulsing and grinding their teeth? Yes, this is it, isn’t it? Life in a world of sin, filled with sinners, with the devil directing his minions to turn God’s well-ordered, harmoniously-orchestrated creation, into chaos. Each of us playing our own tune, blowing our own hornand making a mess of it all.

                Into this confusion steps Jesus.With Him disorder becomes order, chaos becomes harmony, fear becomes peace, death becomes life. He who rebuked creation when it was convulsing and rebuked the sickness and disease that had taken hold on people, now rebukes this unclean spirit, this mute and deaf spirit(v 25)(which does hear Him!) and drives it out.When His disciples later ask Him about it, He answers: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”(v 29)

                We’d like to know more Jesus! What does that mean? Are there different kinds of unclean spirits? Are some more powerful than others? What makes this one different? Why could this one not be driven out by anything but prayer? Tell us more Jesus. But not just about this … we ask about a lot of things. About things that are happening in our lives, in our country, in the world. Why did I lose my job? Why is my family so divided? Why did my loved one die? Why so much evil in the world? Why are Christians being persecuted? Why am I suffering so? Tell me, Jesus!

                “Why” is the question the disciples asked: Why couldn’t we do it?Jesus’ answer seems to be no explanation, but, if I may paraphrase to say itsimply it’s: Why weren’t you praying?

                The prophet Isaiah says: Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.(Is. 50:10)Walking in darkness and having no light is our situation when things happen and we do not know why. In the darkness, you don’t know where things are coming from. In the darkness, you can’t see where you are going. In the darkness, it’s frightening.We use our tongues, as James said(Janes 3:1-12), to curse the darkness, to curse things we stumble into . . . but that doesn’t do any good. In fact, that usually just makes things worse. Agitating us, agitating others, making the darkness darker, the chaos worse, and turning us against each other.

                Instead, Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.Isaiah didn’t say those words lightly. Israel in his day stumbled about in a whole heap of trouble and darkness. From wrong belief and idolatry within, and from enemies threatening them from without. No amount of fighting and cursing could change that. They tried! It just got worse. And so, Isaiah said, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on [your] God.Or, if I may paraphrase, Isaiah is saying: Pray. Why aren’t you praying?

                For to pray is to call on the name of the Lord and rely on Him. It is to entrust all your “whys?” to Him. It is not to know all the answers, but trust that God will do what is needed and what is right and what is good. For it’s not that prayer itself does anything—it’s that the one we pray to can. He wants us to pray, and has promised to hear our prayers, and has promised to answer.

                So, why aren’t you praying? Oh, but we do, right? Or, are we arguing? Or, are we fretting? Or, are we looking to our elected leaders or the courts to solve our problems? Or, are we trying to do it ourselves? Or, have we given up—resigned to the fact that this is just the way things are and prayer doesn’t do any good? 

                Now, there is a time to argue and fight for the truth.  Authorities and Governments have been established by God to preserve and protect us for our good.  We should expect that from them. God does use us in our many vocations to be His blessing to others. That’s all true and I don’t diminish that in any way nor suggest we become spiritual separatists or hermits. No. But these good gifts of God can also become gods themselves, and what we look to and trust for what we need, rather than the one who uses them as His masks; who works through them.  Therefore, we pray to the one who breaks the darkness(LSB #849)—the only one who can. The one who is our light in the darkness. The one who came to bring order into our disorder, harmony to our chaos, peace to calm our fears, and life to overcome our death. The one who came to forgive and release us from the grip of our death-causing sin.

                It is the son possessed by the “mute and deaf spirit”who gives us a picture of what Jesus has come to do for us.Satan wants to convulse us and our world: make us foam at the mouth and grind our teeth at each other; cast us into fire and water, and destroy us.But Jesus came and stepped into the chaos with us.He became the son who wasn’t like a corpse, but wasthe corpse; the one of whom they said,“He is dead” and He really was.  At His death, not He but all of creation convulsed terribly—the sun darkened, the earth quaked and trembled, the dead left their graves and the Temple curtain—the holy barrier to sinners—was torn asunder. 

                By God’s grace, you now know the story doesn’t end there, because the light of God’s Word and His Spirit has revealed to you that Jesus three days later rose from the grave. That just as Jesus lifted up that boy, He Himself was lifted up from the dead.But until that third day, it was a pretty dark time for the disciples.A time for a lot of “whys.”A time when it seemed as if their worst fears came true and all their prayers went unanswered.  Maybe you’ve been there. You prayed, or are still praying, like the father, going to Jesus and asking for help, and an answer.  Butyour son is no longer possessed or convulsing, he’s dead. Great. Thanks a lot, Jesus.

                Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.You know how it turned out for that father, you know how it turned out with Jesus’ resurrection . . . do you think it will be any different for you, O you of little faith? Even if things get pretty dark for a while, all things are possible for one who believes(v 23), for all things are possible for the one we believe in. For He was dead, but now is Alive … Risen … Victorious … Reigning Forever … and Coming Again! 

                Is the evil one throwing you into the fire and water to try to destroy you? Don’t worry—Jesus beat him to it! John the Baptist said it: He who is coming after me is mightier than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (water) and fire(John 3:11). Yes, He has! You were baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection to destroy the sin in you and give you a new life (Romans 6). His life. A forgiven life. A life that neither sin, death, nor devil can end. That when your body becomes a corpse, maybe for a long time, Jesus will then take you by the hand and lift you up to a life where no evil, no darkness, can ever enter again.

                But until that day, what darkness are you in? Who is foaming at the mouth or convulsing against you or what you believe? Pray. Pray for them. Pray for your enemies, for those who persecute you, for those who disagree with you, for those in fear, for those who have been misled, for those who wish you dead and would like nothing better than to stamp out you and your beliefs. Pray for them. Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.Until that day, come and be fed and strengthened by our Lord at the Table He has prepared before us in the presence of our enemies(Psalm 23:5). Notapart from our enemies, but before them, in the midst of them and their poisonous tongues.(James 3:8-10)Here is a place of peace and forgiveness, of strength and confidence, of our Lord with us with His Body and Blood, for us to run to and receive His life.Gather here to: …

Praise the one who breaks the darkness with a liberating light; who frees the prisoners, turning blindness into sight;

who preached the Gospel, healing every dread disease;who calmed storms and fed thousands, with the very Bread ofpeace;who blessed the children, with a strong yet gentle word;who drove out demons, with the piercing two-edged sword;who brings cool and living water,who suffered in our place.The Word incarnate, who died and rose victorious, the True Redeemer, the One who makes us one(LSB #849).

                So, what are you praying? … Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

S.D.G.

 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.