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Description: Thankfulness to God when Praying for Others
Thankfulness to God when Praying for Others
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We are in Colossians 1:3a, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray
for you.” What came home to me was attitude. I think that hymn is right: ‘Prayer is the soul’s
sincere desire.’ I think in Paul’s statement there is an expression of the deep concern that he has
for them; the deep attitude of thanksgiving to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what
comes home to me about prayer. It seems to me what we mentioned a few Sundays ago, it’s feeling the
way God feels. It’s having the attitude that God Himself has. It seems that is what he has done.
He’s committed himself to doing only what some human being or human beings here on earth really
It’s back to that old statement which we think is ironic. That God does give you what you want. He
does give you what you want. In a way, if our prayers are not being answered either with a yes or
no, when there is absolute silence to his answer, such as in Hamlet’s step father (uncle) praying
for forgiveness. “My prayers are set, my thoughts remain below.” The old king had killed his
brother was so born with guilt that even though he tried to pray up to God his thoughts fell back
down. Whatever our experience is, whether yes in prayer or no in prayer, real prayer brings a yes or
no when it is an attitude; when it is a real desire in the heart. I think it is easy for us to say
our prayers — the way our Moms and Dads used to say, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” There is
a strong tendency to say our prayers. We say the words therefore we prayed. That’s not prayer.
That’s why I read the Psalm about prayer being a desperate desire. It is asking God something that
you cannot do at all. It is a desperate desire; a strong desire. This is what came with this verse,
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you.” You get the
feeling he’s praying for them often and he really feels for them. He really thanks God for them
from his heart. It is because he really wants these things. I think that’s what I would say to all
of us. Do we really want what we are praying for? Do we really want it or a matter of ‘ought’ to
pray for those people in China? Or we ought to pray for the people in this country? Oh, I forgot to
pray for this person.
The only thing God wants is a heart that desires what he desires and wants what he wants. That’s
what makes sense of this business of praying because you remember Jesus says in the gospel, “Your
heavenly Father already knows what you need.” [Matthew 6:32] He knows what you need so he doesn’t
need the information. There is no point in giving him the information he already knows in case he
has lost his prompting card about who to help next. The purpose of prayer is not to prepare God —
he knows all about it anyways. The purpose of prayer is to express whose heart — the only one who
is praying for us night and day before the Father — our own high priest, Jesus. Jesus is in each
one of us and he is here to pray through us to his Father on behalf of the human race.
It seems to me that’s where it comes in. Prayer is allowing Christ to express his strong desires
and wishes for people and for things through us ourselves. That’s where I thought the hymn puts it
in a quiet, detached way. But it says it exactly right. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire;
uttered or unexpressed.” That’s what prayer is. It’s the soul’s sincere desire. I think I mentioned
to you once before Alexander Pope, the 18th century English poet, where he always talked about the
important thing of the ruling passion in your life. What is it that makes you go? What is the heart
and main desire of your life?
It seems to me that’s where it comes into connection with your own life’s attitude. What is dearest
to you in this life? I sympathise with you if you come up with an empty bucket. If you say I don’t
know what is my deepest desire, then turn around to reality — look at the one that is within you —
then turn around to Jesus and say Lord you are in me. I haven’t given you much room. If you have
desires; if you can see the situations I’m involved with and the people I knew and you want
something for them. Lord, will you reveal that to me? Will you give me those desires so that you
can express through me those desires to your Father? I think Jesus would like to hear you.
I sympathise with you because I don’t think we can produce it ourselves. I think we are all
intellectualising. We cannot produce in ourselves. We can’t even know in ourselves what the right
thing is. But the Savior is in you. He will listen to you. Then that’s your prayer; those are your
prayers what Jesus wants for different situations that you know about. It seems to me as he does
that then it is his body speaking to his Father on earth on behalf of the human race. That’s what
God has in mind. Then God can ACT on the basis of the wills of someone here in this human race and
not using his own will to overrule. There is no point in overruling. The purpose of God creating us
was so he would have children who would love him because they wanted to love him. So that’s the
basis of everything he does. He will not act against his own will and he cannot act apart from our
will. Even better is he cannot act against his own will and he will not act apart from our will. He
has tied himself to our wills. Let us pray.
Holy Jesus, Lord, we would give you our hearts and our wills to use them as you and your Father
wish. We would trust you by your Holy Spirit to give us your heart in all the situations in which we
are involved; with all the people we know; with relatives, friends and colleagues. Then with unknown
situations that we will come into we would ask you, Lord, to speak with your Spirit and give us your
attitude and thoughts and explain them to us so that we can desire them with all our hearts from
your dear Father.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
one of us now and for evermore. Amen.