Tuesday, April 26, 2005

April 24 Sermon Feedback

After I preached this sermon, I received some feedback from a parishioner. I'll share part of the Email:

I think you mentioned that God answers our prayers when we pray in a way that reflects God's will for us, and that we are able to pray in this way only after we become "spiritually mature". The thought that struck me was that this "spiritual maturity" is certainly a worthwhile goal, but it may be seen as an insurmountable hurdle for many people. Questions that a person may ask may be: How would I know if I had achieved this maturity? How do I get there? Can I really get there, or is it just for the people who study and worship for years and do everything right, sort of like achieving nirvana? If I don't get there, does that mean that God will not answer my prayers? If God doesn't answer my prayers, does that mean that I have not achieved spiritual maturity? Do I need special training to learn to pray the right way? The notion of spiritual maturity seems to run contrary to the notion of the grace that we are all given. I agree that I am striving to grow in my faith, and to achieve as much maturity in my relationship with the Lord as I can, but this is a life-long effort. In my own practice of faith, I guess that I feel that I can pray to the Lord in an open and unrestricted way without feeling that I must be spiritually mature in order for my prayers to be answered.

Here is part of my response:
Sermon points sometimes get cut out by the Editor's Pen for the sake of simplicity. Fine tuned corollary points are the first casualties. If I had more time (or part II on another Sunday), I would have mentioned another point that I read by Tony Campolo:
Romans 8:26-27 says that none of us really knows how to pray perfectly. But this passage also says that even when our prayers aren't perfect, the Holy Spirit steps in for us before God. So when I finish praying, the Holy Spirit turns to the heavenly Father and says something like, 'I know Tony's prayer was a little selfish. Maybe it even seemed a little immature to you. What Tony should have said was … ' Then the Holy Spirit prays the prayer I should have prayed! I can't think of anything more comforting than that.
I think God honors our attempts, even if they are childlike. In fact, I think even baby steps bring great delight to God. I picture us taking tottering steps towards God. As we do, God is rooting for us, getting all excited, challenging us to take another step, and picking us up when we fall down.

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