Romans 8: 26-39, page 158
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose. For those whom God foreknew God also predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
And those whom God predestined God also called; and those whom God called God also justified; and those whom God justified God also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
God who did not withhold God’s own son, but gave him up for all of us, will God not with him also give us everything else?
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
August 6th is to be a day of prayer, or so hopes Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has called on the president, our nation’s governors, and Texas lawmakers to fill up Houston’s reliant stadium with people who are “Christ-loving and realize that our country has gotten off track.”
Governor Perry has touched a nerve with many Christians in our country who hope that a day of prayer will spur a return to God, a change of heart, and a new direction for our nation and our world.
It must be a hopeless feeling, believing that such a drastic change is necessary – a hopeless feeling that our nation, our representatives, maybe especially our President, no longer seeks to follow the will of God, or at least, no longer represents their religious values.
If a Texas Governor in a nation led by a President who is a Protestant feels a need for this kind of dramatic change, we can scarcely grasp how the congregation Paul addresses must have felt each day living in an empire led by an Emperor who was a Pagan.
Certainly the Emperor of Rome couldn’t have supported the church that Paul addresses in this letter, and certainly the church must have felt cut off from an Empire who pledged allegiance to different gods, followed a different code of ethics, and neither respected nor even recognized the existence of Christianity.
But Paul doesn’t urge this fledging group to storm the coliseum for a prayer meeting – instead Paul offers this group assurance, that their relationship with God is not contingent upon the empire who rules over them, nor is their relationship with God at all in question.
That must have been hard to believe, as I think it will always be hard to believe – this idea that we need not pray using formal or even beautiful speech, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”.
So many have lived their lives believing something else entirely – that God is distant, hard to reach, and surely we have fallen too far afield to be heard.
There’s a story about Jim Morrison, the lead singer for the Doors, a rock and roll band who pushed the limits of what was acceptable with their controversial lyrics and scandalous stage persona during the 1960’s. The story goes, Morrison is brought to a place, the Factory, to meet the artist Andy Warhol, who greets Morrison like the returning prodigal son though it’s not clear that they’ve ever met. Warhol gives Morrison a golden telephone, which Warhol picks up and holds out to Morrison saying: "Somebody gave me this telephone... I think it was Edie... yeah it was Edie... and she said I could talk to God with it, but uh... I don't have anything to say... so here... (giving Jim the phone) this is for you... now you can talk to God.”
In some ways, for some people, this is easier to believe – that it must take something magical, something special, to be heard by God, to be noticed by God – and so those who know that they have fallen off track, slipped backwards, and believe they have lost favor can’t believe that communication with the Most High God is as simple as getting down on your knees wherever you are. It must be more complicated than that – there must be a need for a golden telephone – surely God will not hear and be merciful to me, a sinner.
Not realizing that God is ever more ready to hear than we are to speak.
Not believing that if God is for us, surely no one could be against us.
Not daring to trust in the assurance that in all things we are more than conquerors considering the one who has loved us beyond measure.
After all, our world just doesn’t work that way.
Ours is a world of loss and gain – in the workplace, some gain favor with promotions and raises while others lose it. In school the push to succeed is so strong that teachers themselves in Georgia have been found guilty of cheating on standardized tests. And in society those who have made it hardly know where they stand if they don’t know whom they have left out.
In our world of lay-offs, failing math and science scores, and social hierarchy, who could ever believe in a God whose love is not given based on deserving, but whose love is simply poured out in the hope that you will see yourself for who you truly are?
Not according to the opinion of your boss, who saw you as replaceable.
Not according to the standardized test scores, which saw your need for improvement.
Not according to society, who lifted up the Pharisee over and above the thieves, the rogues, the adulterers, or even the tax collector.
For while we must always demand better of ourselves, striving to use our gifts to the fullest of our capacity, we can never forget that in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.