Back in the days when I was preaching on a weekly basis, I would write an acrostic prayer as a part of my preparation and reflection on the themes and topics of the sermon. Now that I no longer preach on a regular basis I have missed the blessing and discipline of this activity.
This Sunday I am preaching on the story of Elijah, who has just come through an intense battle working with and for God as God demonstrated once again that he is greater than the gods of the world. In the battle between God and Baal it was clear that God had all the power and Baal none. Baal’s prophets were unable to bring fire down to consume the offering. Elijah, acting on the direction of God doused the burnt offerings with water and then asked God to receive the offerings, which were consumed along with the water and the rocks. God is powerful, and there is none whose power can match that of God.
After this showdown, Jezebel, the Queen, vowed that she would destroy Elijah and take his life.
Elijah demonstrates his humanness and runs in fear. Tired from the battle, forgetting all that God has done to prove himself as the True God, and forgetting that he has nothing to fear, Elijah disappears into the wilderness in discouragement, and perhaps even depression. There in the wilderness he is ministered to by angels who bring food and water with the instruction to eat.
Rested and nourished Elijah then hears the voice of God and travels to Mount Horeb where he complains to God about his fear, discouragement, loneliness and hopelessness.
God responds with a great wind. But God is not in the wind.
God responds with an earthquake. But God is not in the earthquake.
God responds with a fire. But God is not in the fire.
Then in the deep silence God speaks in a still small voice.
I certainly know from my own journey into prayer that there are times when I feel the strength and power of God in a mighty way. There are also times when I forget what God has done and can do and react in fear to the situations that life brings to me. I listen to the voices in the world that say that God cannot and will not help me. I trust what I can see rather than what God has promised.
It is comforting to know that this is a human reaction, and that God is greater than the fear of the moment. It is comforting to be reminded that after the discouragement comes the uplifting that can only come from God.
In that comfort I am reminded that my most important responsibility is to tend to my relationship with God. If I need to pour out my heart and complain, God can handle it. If I need to wait through the wind, the earthquake and the fire, God will give me strength. And then, when I surrender and enter into the silence and wait on God, that still small voice will remind me that God is more powerful than everything that has happened. In that reminder will come the confirmation of what I have been called to be and to do and God will once again send me forth as his servant.
This is the cycle of faith as we come to God in Discouragement and then in finding the grace for the moment we are uplifted.
Let us pray:
Despair has filled me and I have wondered about your care.
I confess, O God that I have doubted that you can and will rescue me from the trials of life.
Search me now and know that I do love you.
Come to me with the care that I need to grow strong in faith.
Open my heart to receive your blessing.
Uphold my faith and fill me with the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Remind me that you are God and there is none like you in power and strength.
Align my will with yours and call me forth.
Grant me the grace for this day.
Empty me from all discouraging thoughts and fears.
Mend my heart with the balm of your grace.
Energize me with your Spirit
Nudge me onto the pathway of faithfulness.
Tenderly lift me up onto the high places.
Until, O God, I walk once again in the victory of faith.
Praising you with every step that I take.
Lifting my eyes to heaven.
Invigorated with your strength.
Filled with your Spirit.
Transcending all that attempts to bind me.
Eager to go forth in your name.
Delighting in my calling as your servant.
In Jesus name I pray. Amen.