WARNING: SERMON SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE AT SOUTHERN HILLS SUNDAY EVENING!!
I'm preaching this coming Sunday night. My sermon will coincide with the end of our congregation's "40 days of prayer." To be honest, this makes for a difficult subject for me to preach on. My prayer life is ... well ... not as strong as it should be.
So I started to examine the factors that had weakened my prayer life. While there are many contributing factors, one factor was intellectual. While I understood that the Bible taught that prayer was important and that it claimed that prayer was powerful, there was something that just didn't add up to me. Why would God require me to pray about things that he already knows? Wouldn't those be wasted words? It seemed to be against his proactive and loving nature to require that I tell him things that he knows even better that I do before he would respond. For example: why pray for an ailing friend? God already knows their ailment. He already knows that they need help. He loves them and doesn't want them to suffer. So why would he require that I pray about it?
In the midst of this quandary, my brother-in-law introduced me to the word Shekinah. Its a Hebrew word that isn't found in the Bible, but that the Jews used to describe a very real Biblical teaching. It describes the VISIBLE presence of God. It was present in the exodus, at the giving of the Law, at the dedication of the tabernacle, at the dedication of the temple, at the birth, baptism, and transfiguration of Christ. The Shekinah dwelled permanently on the mercy seat (the place between the two cherubim on the top of the Ark of the Covenant). The ark was kept in the Holy of Holies, which was inaccessible to anyone but the hight priest, and that once a year.
What does all this mean? No one could live in God's presence! God could only be seen from a distance and through the veil of a cloud! His glory was permanently kept separate from man by a veil/curtain in the temple!
When God came to live with us in the form of the Messiah, it seemed like everything was solved. God could now be approached! But then the Messiah died. Was all hope lost? No, because at the death of Christ, something special happened. Until recently, I never realized the importance of it. The curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the people was ripped!
That curtain kept the holy inaccessible. That curtain kept the Shekinah invisible. That curtain illustrated the separation between God and us. That curtain was destroyed when Christ died!
I can now approach God in all of his glory! I don't have to go through anyone (save Christ). I can approach anytime I want to, about any topic I please, wherever I may be. I have complete, unhindered, open access to God!
My question ("Why do I have to pray?") was simply the wrong question. The real question is, "Why wouldn't I WANT to?" I no longer think of prayer as something I HAVE to do for some inexplicable reason. Rather, through prayer I GET to walk right up to God and spend glorious time in God's presence! Why would I pass that up? If offered the opportunity to spend time with the president (all politics aside), I wouldn't hesitate! If I was able to go spend some time with Bono or Sarah McLachlan, I wouldn't even have to think! How much greater should I view the opportunity to approach God?