Prayer can be very complicated, began Chaplain Barry C. Black, U.S.Senate Chaplain, as he began his sermon at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA, on July 4, 2010. He went on to say that if he wanted a face to face talk with a Senator that it would take an hour or so to get on his or her calendar. If he wanted to have a face to face talk with a Justice of the Supreme Court, even though they are only located across the street, that it would take days. And if he wanted a face to face talk with the President it might take months or years to get on his calendar.
But with the One who created Presidents, Senators, and Justices we can come boldly to the throne room of the omnipresent (present everywhere), omniscient (all-knowing) God of the universe any second, any minute of the day or night. Sometimes, even when we are going through the ‘dark night of the soul’, we can break through the silence of God.
He read the story of the Canaanite woman, in the Bible, who came to Jesus to ask him to heal her daughter in Matthew 15:22-28. “A woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying , Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she cries after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Guidelines to remove barriers to answered prayer:
a. Sin will keep prayers from being answered. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
b. Selfishness will keep prayers from being answered. “You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)
c. Doubt will keep prayers from being answered. And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)
Know that God is listening even when he doesn’t speak.
He is omnipresent, everywhere, he hears, he listens.
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
He had heard the prayers of the people crying out to him. Exodus 3
Persevere through all of the obstacles to receiving your answer.
“Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
The Canaanite woman persevered through all the obstacles:
Through Jesus’ “answering her not a word”
Through the disciples’ complaint; “send her away, she’s bothering us”
Through Jesus talking to the disciples and not to her.
Through seeming insult: “It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs.”
A modern day story of the outcome of perseverance in prayer
The Chaplain, then, gave a testimony of the perseverance of his Mother’s prayers for his Father.
When he was growing up she would teach him and his siblings how to pray, morning and night. She would have them repeat after her this prayer: “Dear Jesus, Please help Daddy to stop drinking”. He said that prayer all the way through elementary school and all through Junior High School but no answer. He stopped praying for his Father in High School. He would prayer for everybody else. In College he prayed for everyone except his Daddy: he prayed for the pigmies in Africa, he prayed for the lepers in Calcutta and for Mother Thersea but he would not even mention his Fathers name.
In his junior year in college he went home to visit his Mother and while there he attended church. The pastor asked him to preach the sermon that day. At the end of the sermon, the future chaplain, extended an invitation to anyone who had not confessed Jesus but who believed Jesus is Lord to come forward to pray the sinners prayer to ask the Lord to be Lord of their lives. And who should come down the aisle for prayer but his alcoholic Father. God was using the most unlikely instrument for His glory. His Father, by the Holy Spirit, put down the bottle and never drank again!
Even though he hadn’t prayed all those years for his Father, his Mother had still been praying. She had persevered through all the obstacles, saying “I will not stop praying ‘til you bless me”.
You can break through the silence of God! Remove all the barriers of sin, selfishness and doubt, then, remember, God is listening, even when He doesn’t speak. Don’t give up!
Sermon delivered by: Chaplain Barry C. Black, Rear Admiral USN (Retired), Current U.S. Senate Chaplain
Author of the book: “From the Hood to the Hill”