When You Want To Know What's The Use, You DO Have a Prayer!

You may not know him by name. You may never have read his story. But just about everybody here knows the feeling: pushin' that rock up the hill! Old Sisyphus made that story famous as a character in Greek mythology. Well, your rock-pushing and mine may never be so widely known. But it is deeply felt. It's spiritually exhausting and immensely frustrating every day. It makes us lesser people for each other and lesser souls for God. Just when it looks like we're gonna get over the hump, look out. That stone goes rollin' back down hill. And we have to do it all again. We all know what it feels like to do a thing, pursue a thing; repeat a thing over and over, all the while asking, "What's the use?!" What's the use of goin' to that math class today? Doin' this job today? Takin' this, this stuff, off of somebody in my life today? What's the use of cleaning up what somebody else is just going to come along and dirty up, before the day is done! What's the point of getting' up today and struggling with my ailments and my pains, knowing full well they'll still be there tomorrow. What's the point of livin' what I'm livin' when it looks like nobody cares and there's little or no blessing on it, or in it? Do we have a prayer, even a prayer, of ever getting over the hump and on to a new day? Do we have a prayer?

If any of this sounds or seems even a little bit familiar, there's news today. Good news. At least, we do have a prayer! A chance. A way to frustrate the frustration and overcome the overwhelming in our everyday lives. And it was Jesus, Jesus himself who gave us the words. And we know 'em. 'Have for a long time. Now all we have to do is say them, mean them, apply them. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

On earth as in heaven, God has a plan. There IS a point, a purpose. All of this MEANS something. Knowing this, trusting this, empowers us to overcome feeling overwhelmed. Be assured. We're not the first to hear Christ teach and wonder, "But what am I to do?" We're not the first to hear those lofty, stirring words, like the Sermon on the Mount and say, "I want a life like this, a heart like this, but I'm not sure where to begin. 'Not even sure how to pray for it." That's the setting for the Lord's Prayer, as Matthew gives it. Luke tells it like this. It's after the vision of Jesus' talking on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. It's after they've heard Jesus is going to the cross. It's between the glory and the gory of Jesus. 'Between the new life he offers and the old agonies they suffer. These are believers standing in the breech, just like us. Unsure. Unsettled. In need of a prayer. If we're ever gonna see the grand sweep of God's hand in our life and times, we're gonna need some help. So Jesus says when you pray, begin like this. First, honor God's name. But here's the very first thing you need to ask. Ask God to bring the Kingdom. Right before our eyes.

When you're wondering what's the use, you're really wondering, what's the plan! Sometimes it's hard to see. But the old song still holds. "This is my Father's world, O let me n'er forget that though the wrong seems oft' so strong, God is the ruler yet." Granted, there is competition, opposition, intermission, interdiction, contradiction and affliction. There is darkness that wants to pour out on the Light. There is Satan on the subject, and "the principalities and powers" at the ready. There is indecision and indifference. But God has a plan for this world that moves it to the next. It's all about righteousness. (Making God No. 1 in your life and in our world.) It's job 1. "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things (the stuff we worry and strive for) will be added unto you." It requires singleness of mind and heart. (Easier a camel through a needle's eye than someone with their eyes set on riches entering the kingdom.) Its rewards are astounding in scale. Like the tiniest mustard seed that becomes the biggest of shrubs. Only a little faith can bring the Kingdom's giant blessings. Here, justice rolls down like waters. Why, the poor get the first crack at it, no longer in line behind the rich. Jesus describes the kingdom as "God's good pleasure" and greatest gift. He says it's a place that requires no special knowledge or list of righteous works performed. The ticket to admission is the faith of a child. That's all. In addition to righteousness, peace and joy are the heart of the kingdom. Now if it all seems too abstract, try this. The kingdom has a face and a heart we can see and touch. Jesus himself is the kingdom made visible. We are too, as his church, when we make others see him through us. Jesus is God's plan for our world and for our lives. For believers, here's the use!

We're part of the plan. All we need to do is plan to take our part. God in Christ can frustrate all our frustration by his plan for our life. When you and I were born, God was there. The Psalms tell us that. (139) "When I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me…." God formed us with both a time and a purpose in mind. When God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you…" he was describing the way our every soul comes into this world. ('Not that we'll all be prophets, but that there's a point to every life.) We stray at our peril.

Let me encourage you to look to your calling. So often when the question is, "What's the use?" we're asking the wrong question. We need to be asking, "Am I doing my part? Am I doing my project? Am I being what God called to be? Am I directing my life in the direction God set out for me from the start? When your life is messing up, it's time for fessing up, "I may have lost my way." I had a friend, a generation older, who used to say of pastoring, "Do it, only if you can do nothing else." Skills are not the issue. Calling is. Passion. Do you have a passion for what you're doing with your life? If you do, there's use in putting up with what you put up with. There's a point to the struggle. There's a meaning.

I opened this message with that fella, Sisyphus, pushin' that rock up the hill, only to see it roll back again. Is that what your days feel like? Maybe you need to be asking, "Is this the rock I was meant to get behind in the first place?" Maybe we need to take to heart what David prays, long years before Jesus, when he's in a dry spot too.
"I'm not trying to get my way in the world's way. I'm trying to get your way in the Word's way. I'm staying on your trail;
I'm putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not giving up.

I call you God, because I'm sure of an answer. So – answer!
Bend your ear, listen sharp! Paint grace-graffiti on the fences;
[take in your frightened children
who are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.]

Keep your eye on me; hide me under the shadow of your wings."

If it seems to you God's not blessing what you're doing, friends, it may be a good time to look for what God is blessing and do it!

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Put your knees into it, before you put your back into it. Pray. That's the way. I admit I'm always grateful for something fresh, if not original to bring to you. And sometimes God obliges me. But not today. No, we don't need original today, just faithful. Let's just lift the notion of where Jesus says to go to find direction. To find hope when we feel like despairing. He says, "Pray." Pray the prayer he taught. Begin by aligning yourself with God's kingdom. Begin by saying, "God, I want what you want, for my life and for our world." "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

We sit at the head of a new year. How can we make it a new day? What would it be like if each of us were to ask that a little piece of the kingdom would come, right in the middle of our life? By what we do, how we serve? And suppose we selected one family member, from our own household or our extended family, and prayed for that person to find and fulfill this very year, God's purpose for that life? We've recognized leaders here today. They've agreed to help us think about, plan for and commit ourselves to crossing into the future of our church through an exciting adventure in discipleship, giving, and building together. The only place to begin is on our knees, asking how we can be going where God is guiding. We live in a nation among the nations, all of whom cradle the souls of God's children. How can we pray for the kingdom, and not pray for peace among the kingdoms of the earth? And for wisdom among our leaders. And for safety against the wiles of evil and the doubts of those without faith. How can we wonder what's the use, so long as we have this prayer to pray in Jesus' name?…
Our Father who art in heaven, allowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….

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