He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. (Isaiah 30:19 NKJV) and “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:14b NKJV)
God’s promise to hear our prayer is one of the pillars of the Christian faith. Here the prophet Isaiah has the task to proclaim to God’s people that he does not only hear them, but that “He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry.” God’s prophet does not exaggerate. He does not use hyperbole excessively, but rather keeps his pronouncements straightforward, simple and matter-of-fact like. Yet still he proclaims that God will be very gracious. It is comforting enough that God is gracious. That he forgives sins and does not deal with us as we deserve it, but rather according to his goodness and mercy. However here it is highlighted by the prophet, that God will do this to a very high degree, yes, God is very much like this – very gracious. Heavy on goodness, exceedingly large on showing his kind favour and flowing over with divine abundance and godly power to overcome evil and sinfulness and in the same breath multiplying light, peace, love, hope and all these amazing outflows of his vital presence and life giving exuberance. Now if we should have been comforted and gladdened by God’s grace and mercy, which is new every morning, how much more should we be uplifted and encouraged by the fact that God’s being has these positive outflows for us in excessive measure? The more trouble, the more help God has. The more sin there is on our sin, the more forgiveness on God’s – and we just can’t catch God unawares or unprepared or without the most positive and helpful answers, resources and solutions. Our weakness is counterbalanced effectively by his power, our lack by his abundance, our negatives by his positives, our evil with his goodness.
That is why we should never keep quite, but rather call on God in all misery, sorrow and trouble on our side. We should not tire of calling him for help and deliverance in all our suffering and calamity. God wants to hear our prayer. He has command us to pray. He has promised that he will answer us and finally we do have enough reason to call upon him, don’t we? Just look at your own life, the life of your family and friends, the life of your congregation and that of the Church – locally and at large. There is plenty reason to complain, to object and to improve. Now – whereas most complaining just increases the negativity and hardly leads to a positive solution, complaining to God is not in vain. On the contrary, he has promised to hear and help us. He will answer in the most amazing way in his time and in his marvellous ways. Our calamities and impossibilities are God’s opportunities to demonstrate his unlimited resources and capabilities to create good out of evil, all out of nothing and thus overcome all our worries and anxieties. Therefore call upon the Lord. He will hear and answer you – and you shall praise him. For he is very gracious indeed!
Our Lord and God has even given us an array of prayer templates to use daily and in all places when we pray for all people, for the government and all in leadership positions, for those in special needs and trouble. There are the psalms, there are the ancient Church hymns and spiritual songs, there is the “Our Father”, the main parts of the Christian faith in the Catechism, there are the parts of the familiar liturgy. Thus the Holy Spirit addresses our incompetencies and helps us to pray aright even and especially where we are at a loss for words. So let us not neglect these wonderful promises of God. Let us not deal lightly with his invitation and admonition to pray to him always and in every situation. Rather let us pray and call upon God in continuous rhythm taught us by the ongoing breathing rhythm of the Church: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison +
The story of Cornelius is one of many in the Bible, where God shows us that his promise to hear our prayer is not empty, but that he indeed keeps it faithfully. God does not only hear the prayers of his most holy men – like Moses or Elijah – but also those of outcasts like the lepers, those possessed by evil spirits and like this pagan Cornelius. So let us not despise and block of the prayers of those calling to God from the extremities of this world, our society and even beyond the confines of the Church – but rather let us join in the prayers and call in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he will have mercy, send his Holy Spirit, who will lead and guide in all truth – the truth which is Jesus Christ personified. Amen.
Almighty God and Lord, come to us with all your power and help us who are anxious and troubled. Send us the Saviour, that he may enter our hearts, and with your light illumine our night, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1. O Lord, how shall I meet Thee, How welcome Thee aright? Thy people long to greet Thee, My Hope, my heart’s Delight! O kindle, Lord, most holy, Thy lamp within my breast To do in spirit lowly All that may please Thee best.
2. Thy Zion strews before Thee Green boughs and fairest palms, And I, too, will adore Thee With joyous songs and psalms. My heart shall bloom forever For Thee with praises new And from Thy name shall never Withhold the honor due.
3. I lay in fetters, groaning, Thou com’st to set me free; I stood, my shame bemoaning, Thou com’st to honor me; A glory Thou dost give me, A treasure safe on high, That will not fail or leave me As earthly riches fly.
4. Love caused Thy incarnation, Love brought Thee down to me;
Thy thirst for my salvation Procured my liberty. O love beyond all telling, That led Thee to embrace, In love all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race!
5. Rejoice, then, ye sad-hearted, Who sit in deepest gloom, Who mourn o’er joys departed And tremble at your doom. Despair not, He is near you, Yea, standing at the door, Who best can help and cheer you And bids you weep no more.
6. Ye need not toil nor languish Nor ponder day and night How in the midst of anguish Ye draw Him by your might. He comes, He comes all willing, Moved by His love alone, Your woes and troubles stilling; For all to Him are known.
7. Sin’s debt, that fearful burden, Let not your souls distress; Your guilt the Lord will pardon And cover by His grace.He comes, for men procuring The peace of sin forgiven, For all God’s sons securing Their heritage in heaven.
8. What though the foes be raging, Heed not their craft and spite; Your Lord, the battle waging, Will scatter all their might. He comes, a King most glorious, And all His earthly foes In vain His course victorious Endeavor to oppose.
9. He comes to judge the nations, A terror to His foes, A Light of consolations And blessed Hope to those Who love the Lord’s appearing. O glorious Sun, now come, Send forth Thy beams so cheering, And guide us safely home.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676
Composer: Melchior Teschner, 1613
Tune: Valet will ich dir geben