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Vol. 78 - No. 10
October 2007

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

Prayer Works!
                 Last month, when we commemorated the attacks of Sept. 11, many people noted that there
have been no further assaults on our country since that day six years ago. These comments were made
with a sense of relief, but also of surprise. If you remember the days after 9/11, we fully expected that
“they’ll hit us again”. And we waited for the other shoe to drop...and waited...and waited... But since
9/ll, our homeland has dwelt in peace.
                Certainly credit for this belongs to our military, intelligence, and law enforcement services.
They have foiled many plots before they could develop into full-scale attacks, and we thank God for
their work in keeping our nation safe.
                However, I think that in explaining our nation’s safety since 9/11, we also have to give credit
to God, for listening to our prayers!
                Immediately after 9/11, we at St. Paul’s began praying for the safety and security of our
nation. It’s a rare week that we don’t have a prayer in our worship for God to protect our country
from danger and attack. I suspect that, since 9/11, just about every other congregation has included
the same petition in their prayers. And those prayers have been heard. We cried out to God to protect
our nation–and God has spared our nation from further harm. (This doesn’t take any credit away from
our military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies–God can help them in their work and use
them as His instruments).
                Before the hurricane season of 2006, most forecasters spoke of the probability of many storms
forming and hitting our coastline. They especially talked about the virtual inevitability of a large
storm hitting Long Island. In response to this, I began what I hope will be a tradition in our
congregation–the “hurricane season prayer”, which I’ve offered in June of 2006 and June of 2007.
In that prayer, we ask God to spare the coastlines of our nation from devastating storms. And what’s
happened in the wake of our prayers? The 2006 hurricane season was practically non-existent. The
2007 season has been busier–Hurricanes Dean and Erin claimed about 60 lives between them
(certainly a tragedy for every family involved)--and there remains the possibility of a late-September
storm (I’m writing these words on Sept. 19). But this season has not spawned the numerous,
massively destructive storms everyone predicted. Again, I think God has heard the prayers of His
people, and granted their requests.
                Prayer does work! A few years ago, I had a Baker’s cyst on my knee, causing a lot of pain
and swelling. A member of our congregation came to our home and prayed for me–and in a short
while, the cyst was gone! Once a lady I know was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer–we prayed
together, and a few weeks later an x-ray revealed that the cancer was gone. Prayer does work!
                It may sound arrogant to say, “There hasn’t been an attack since 9/11 because we’ve prayed”,
or “There hasn’t been a major hurricane in the U.S. because we’ve prayed”. But it’s not arrogance
at all–it’s confidence that God listens and responds. As the poet Tennyson said, “More things are
wrought by prayer than this world dreams.”
                There’s a story I love to tell about a pastor making a hospital visit to a lady who couldn’t
walk. He stood by her bed, took her by the hand and prayed: “Lord God, bring her healing, renew her
and restore her if it be your will. But if it’s not your will, then give her the strength to bear her
affliction.” The woman suddenly leapt off the bed and began dancing around the room. “I’m
walking!” she cried. “I can walk again! The pastor healed me! The pastor healed me!” As she
danced down the hall, the Pastor quietly left the room and went down to his car. Before getting into
the car, he paused, looked up toward heaven, and said with annoyance: “Don’t You ever do that to me
again!”
                That story pokes gentle fun at those who pray but don’t have real confidence in the power of
prayer (especially if they are pastors!) And it should remind us that prayer does work. We can always
pray to God with confidence–as Jesus says in the Scriptures, “You can ask for anything in my name,
and I will do it.” (John 14:13).

                We should not take that as a blank check–we always have to pray with the understanding that
God will answer our prayers according to His will. That’s why we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy
will be done.” My will can never override His will. That’s why not every prayer is “answered” the
way we’d like it to be–because not everything we ask reflects His will. We see this most powerfully
in the scene in the Gospels where Jesus prays in Gethsemane. It’s Thursday night; the next day, Good
Friday, Jesus will face the cross. And so He cries out: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass
from me.”
(Matthew 26:39). Jesus was praying to be delivered from the cross. But then He added:
“Yet not my will, but thy will, be done.” So Jesus submitted to the Father’s plan for the salvation
of the world–and He went to the cross for you and for me. Even Jesus prayed “Thy will be done.”
And that’s the attitude we take in our prayers.
                Still, we want to be confident that God hears. He tells us, “Call upon me in the day of
trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).
So we will continue to pray that
God would shield us from terror attacks and hurricanes and other calamities. And we will give Him
glory, for He always listens to our prayers.
                God loves you and so do I!

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