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Vessels of Prayer | Place of Grace Fellowship

Vessels of Prayer

 

Today, we are on part two of our four-part series on prayer. The series will look at the Lord’s prayer from Luke chapter 11: 1-4. Let’s begin by reciting together the Lord’s prayer.

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

Previously, we talked about how Jesus commands us to pray. That we are to view God as our Father and our provider for our needs. When we pray, we are to ask God for our needs. We call on God to meet our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Asking for stuff is the primary way we pray because it stresses our dependence and our reliance on God. 

 

We also pray “Your kingdom come.” This expresses our hope for Christ to usher in a new world, a reality without suffering and pain, in the future. It also expresses our desire for God’s mercy, healing, forgiveness, restoration and justice in our lives today. We believe that God’s Kingdom is already present with us because we are vessels of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul would say, God’s Spirit possesses us. This week, we will look at us as vessels of prayer and of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul believed that prayer gave us real power and a deep connection to Christ. Despite profound trials and ordeals, prayer helped Paul achieve serenity in his life. He believed that through his connection with the Spirit, he could experience peace and joy no matter what his circumstances. As amazing as Paul’s ministry was, I think the peace and joy that Paul experienced through prayer was the greatest miracle of following Christ. Prayer connects us to the Holy Spirit. Like with Paul, prayer can bring us peace and joy. I do not know about you, but for me, both peace and joy are things that I wish I had more of. 

Although the Holy Spirit gave Paul peace in difficult times, Paul had times when he was troubled and struggling. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we find Paul at one of his lowest points. He is despondent and struggling with his faith. He had been in prison and suffered during his ordeal. Here he is speaking to the Corinthians about the afflictions of our human existence and yet, the life we have in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Death was at work in Paul before he became a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul was a Pharisee. In his words, he was the greatest of all Pharisees. His faith was legalistic, but it was also a regal public spectacle. I imagine he prayed the most profound prayers. Jesus was critical of the Pharisees. He often criticized the Pharisees because they were concerned with their status and outward appearance, while their interior appearance was dark and smelled of death. Paul, after he encountered Christ, began to see himself as a Pharisee the same way. Paul realized that the Torah, the Jewish laws, could only bring death, and the Gospel was the only way that could bring life. The Gospel connects us to God the Father through Christ the Son. After receiving Christ, Paul saw himself as a clay jar filled with the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. His former self was like a well adorned vessel promising something great within only to profoundly disappoint. Paul may have been a beautiful piece of religious pottery, but he had nothing inside to offer. Paul was an empty pot.

Lucky for us, in next week, we will have full pots of chili. We will pull out our best chili recipes. We will work to get the right blend of peppers, meat and spices.  Some may add a little honey to mellow out the heat and keep the flavor. We will take those recipes and tweak them to come up with even better chili. Great effort will go into what ingredients go in our pots. No one will care what kind of pot the chili gets cooked in or served in. When these culinary masterpieces are finished, I know I will only care about what is in the pots. I imagine you feel the same way. The pot doesn’t matter, only the chili matters. In fact, some of those pots may be ugly pots. The pots will be poorly adorned, but the content will be spectacular, tasty chili.

Paul describes us as unadorned ordinary jars, but he helps us understand what’s inside us. He tells us “We have this treasure in clay jars.” Notice what Paul says, we—as in us. He’s not just talking about himself; he is talking about all Christians. We are vessels of the extraordinary power of God. We are vessels of the Holy Spirit. Our clay pots are vessels of prayer because they hold the Holy Spirit. 

In the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “Your Kingdom come.” As clay pots, filled with the Spirit, we pray for the Kingdom of God to come. The Holy Spirit fills our clay pots so that the life of Jesus can become visible in our lives. Everyone of you holds within you the power of God as you pray for people in your life and the world around you.

As human beings, we tend to believe some people have more power than others. Years ago, there were preachers or healers that would tour the country and pray over people for healing. They would hold huge rallies, and people would fall in the Spirit. One of these preachers would wave his white coat and the “wind” of the coat would overcome believers in Christ. As they encountered the breeze, they would collapse filled with the Spirit. The healer claimed that God had anointed him with healing, and he believed that when he touched people, some people would fall over, and others would be healed because the Holy Spirit flowed through him.

I think celebrity revivals gave us the impression that beautiful pots heal clay pots. I am not saying that people were not healed at these revivals, or that these healers did not pray for people and see them healed. In fact, I applaud their faith and their confidence to stand in front of thousands of people and pray for healing. I think that level of faith and bravery is something we could learn from. What I am saying is that they paraded around, and people saw them as specially adorned pots. Beautiful pots filled with wonderful giftings. People believed these healers were able to capture the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that others couldn’t. 

In my own life, 25 years ago, I had cancer. I attended a couple of healing services. One was at Jan’s sister church with a famous healer. He would have nothing to do with the bald guy with cancer. At that service, ordinary believers gathered around and prayed for me. At my in-laws’ church, a group of children prayed for me. The children heard I was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant, a much riskier procedure back then. The children wanted to pray specifically that I wouldn’t have to go through the transplant. God answered the prayer of the children and spared me from the procedure.

Last week, we heard the remarkable healing story of Dave Root’s childhood friend. God heals miraculously. Was there a woman with a spiritual prophetic gift whose prayers helped him reach the hospital without bleeding out? Yes. But he called out all the people who prayed for him and showed him the love of Christ during his ordeal as vitally important to his miracle and his healing process.

Do we have spiritual gifts? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that we do for the support of the church. Paul doesn’t tell us that those gifts adorn us or make us special. Paul tells us a different story. In 1st Corinthians, he tells us that the least adorned hold the greatest honor. [Insert scripture] In 2nd Corinthians, he tells us that we are all clay pots. That we all hold the same Spirit and that we all have power.

Paul healed people through prayer, and the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in his life. Yet, Paul did not claim this as a special gifting. As a Pharisee, Paul was a braggart about how he was a righteous, beautiful, wonderful piece of religious pottery. Yet, as a Christian, he made no claim to be any more than a clay pot, but because of Christ, one that holds awesome power of the Holy Spirit.

In Paul’s previous life, prayers took on a beautiful texture. Paul once believed that his adherence to the Torah and his pious prayers, visible to all, gave him a special place in the Israelite community and thus with God. The law and Paul’s status achieved through his own efforts and work gave him social status and standing. In his former life, Paul was not a simple clay pot, he was an extraordinary, adorned vessel of the Torah.  

Then Paul received Christ Jesus as his Lord and Savior. As he received the grace and peace of Christ, his prayers changed, his self-perception changed and his reliance on God changed. Paul’s prayers flowed from the free grace of God. God, as Paul’s Father, desired to hear Paul’s prayers. Paul no longer followed the “Law.” Now Paul spoke directly to God. The Spirit of God that possessed Paul connected Paul to the Father and Christ through prayer. As Paul grew closer and closer to Christ through prayer, prayer began to guide Paul’s actions on behalf of Christ. Everything in Paul’s life began in prayer.  

If there was ever a person who could have had pride in his prayer life, it was Paul.  After reading Paul’s letters, can you imagine the eloquence of Paul’s prayers. My prayers would seem lame next to Paul’s. Yet, despite its importance to Paul and his beautiful prayerful prose, Paul never saw any of the power of prayer beginning with him. Paul identified himself as an ordinary clay pot. He was never more than a clay vessel which held the unbelievable presence of God’s Spirit. The prayers of the great Apostle Paul held no more significance or power than your prayers.  

As I talk to Christians about prayer, I hear perspectives that are different than Paul’s. I hear sadness over striving towards joy and peace, but that place of serenity feels far off. I hear discomfort with prayer, feelings of inadequacy and an uneasy self-awareness before God. Some never find time to start a prayer life and remain distant from the closeness of the Spirit that comes through prayer. I want to encourage you to put aside whatever may be holding back your prayers.  

We hold the presence of God in our clay pots. The Kingdom of God becomes real in our lives through our prayers. Paul is clear. It is not we that give our prayers power, it is the Spirit of Christ within us. As Paul says: “this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” Miracles are one prayer away. Yet, we hinder our prayers. We attribute special status to others and deny the Spirit in our own lives. We believe the prayers of some hold more sway with God than our prayers ever could. On the one hand, we limit our prayers. On the other hand, God tells us that our prayers hold extraordinary power. Do we believe our self-imposed limits or God’s word? Our prayers hold power because the power comes from God our Father. The same God who commands us to ask for our needs, no matter how simple or miraculous our requests may be. The exterior of our pots may be clay, but what our pots hold is the Spirit that gives life.



About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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