“What Are We Looking For?”
Jeremiah 31:27-34; Luke 18:1-8

What a year it has been in the news. First the destruction of Haiti, followed by other large earthquakes around the world causing destruction and death for many, many people.

There were floods, including the complete devastation of parts of Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of people were, and continue to be, affected.

And just this month there was the terrible spill of toxic sludge in Hungary. Killing people and contaminating everything in its path.

So what a relief it was on Wednesday to witness the amazing rescue of the miners in Chile. One by one, 33 times, millions of people around the world celebrated with the crowd who had gathered at the top of the 700 metre shaft, just 22 inches across. All over the planet voices cheered with them, “Chi chi chi! Le le le!”

We needed a good news story. The world needed to see something worth celebrating. People prayed for a miracle, and it seems our prayers were answered.

We know the dangers of mining. Here in Cape Breton, we know them well. The importance of safety, and the challenge to get out as much of the ore as possible.

Yet accidents do happen. Things happen beyond our control, and we are left to trust that, in the end, things will work out.

We have to. If all we do is focus on the bad news, then how will we ever get brave enough to leave the house?

I love the show Dragon’s Den on CBC. It’s a show where entrepreneurs bring their ideas to a panel of very successful business people in hopes they will invest their millions into their ideas. Last week there was a woman who came in and began to go on about all the germs and other assorted “extras” that can be found in hotel rooms. For $129 you could buy her package. A special sheet and other assorted items to keep germs at bay while you stay in a hotel room. What she shared would make you want to live in a bubble and never leave your home. She left without any funds mainly because of the ‘eww’ factor of her proposal.

We have to leave our homes. We have to have the frame of mind that when we do leave our house the risks to our health and lives will be minimal.

I asked Bev the other night, “What would you do if I was trapped in my workplace for 70 days, and you had to ship food, medicine, and other things to me through a tube into the church?”

She said, “I’d get a kid to break the window.”

We just can’t live in fear. Which is why we sometimes struggle with stories like the one we heard from Luke today which is supposed to teach us about the value of persistent prayer.

This woman was being mistreated by some heartless judge who wanted nothing to do with her. Yet she kept coming back to him and asking him to help her. Every day she came and asked for justice to be served. Finally he relented. To get this bothersome woman out of his life, he gave her what she wanted.

Is that the moral of the story we’re supposed to get today? If we bug God enough He’ll give in to our wishes? If we want a safe recovery of the miners we just keep praying for it? Or if we really, really want a new house we just keep praying to God and He will make it happen?

I confess that I do pray that way some times. I’ll pray for someone to be healed, I’ll pray that a good outcome will happen in an emergency. We want to pray for good things, we want our loving God to help us and those in need.

Yet the last two verses from Luke tell us something about what God is looking for when Jesus says, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

What is it God is looking for?

He is looking for faith.

God will answer our prayers. He will bring justice to the oppressed. But the answers, the methods may not be what we expect. God does things His way. He created it all, He sees it all. We have but such a tiny little window into His plan. Yet we are part of it.

When we look to the book of Jeremiah and what we read this morning we see how faith can form us. How being responsive to the message God sends to us through Jesus Christ and our relationship with him can mould us into His image and be a fuller part of His plan for the world.

In Jeremiah 31 God says through His prophet, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Imagine, God will write His law in our hearts. There will be no more need to wonder if we are following His plan, because it will be plain to us. We can know it instinctively.

If we let God speak to us.

Prayer is a key element in our connection to our heavenly Father. It’s is our communication channel. We pray to God for all kinds of things: healing, help, strength, comfort, direction.

But do we ever listen?

I think we can take from our readings today that God wants to answer our prayers. But do we listen? Do we, in our prayer times, stop and listen for a response? Do we wait to see if God will write it on our hearts as he says He will?

We ask God for so many things. Yet do we stop to see what God is asking us to do? Is it easy? No. We live in a world where we expect, and even demand instant gratification. Fast food, microwaves, internet, cell phones we like to have all the answers at our finger tips. Yet sometimes it has to take time.

It took 17 days to find the miners underground, and another 52 to get them out. People were praying the whole time they were down there.

There’s a certain amount of responsibility to prayer. If we are willing to pray for something then we should be willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

I have just come back from two days of meetings for the Church In Action committee for Maritime conference. I heard stories about what Canadian mining companies are doing in Guatemala. I heard stories of working with First Nation communities to build relationships. I heard stories of working with people who have no voice, so they may be heard. All because we are people of God who want to see justice and equality for all God’s people. We pray for these situations. We pray for the leaders, we pray for those who are oppressed. But we also take action. We do the work to bring about the change we are asking for.

For instance, if we want our town to be safer then we need to be willing to step up to the plate and help make it so. We need to be willing to let God direct us in ways which will make his presence known in Sydney Mines.

Often when we read the story of the persistent woman we think about the old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, but without tread on that wheel, it doesn’t go very far.

When we pray, what are we asking for? Are we sending up a wish list, or are we asking for what we pray for here each and every Sunday together, that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”

Prayers are a call to action. We are asking God to act, but we also have to acknowledge we are part of the action. We are God’s people, and it is through us that His will will be done.

So let’s let God write his law upon our hearts. Let us allow Him to speak His word and will to us so that we know just what it is we are asking for when we enter into times of prayer.

Times when we sit and talk not to God, but with God.