As we prepare the way for our Lord in our hearts and our homes, we’re looking at different sections of Psalm 119, the Bible’s longest chapter. Last week we considered meditating on God’s Word, but today we prepare the way for the Lord with prayer.

READ PSALM 119:145-152

So do you really need to pray? The answer is really “NO.” You don’t have to pray. You don’t have to pray to get to heaven.  If fact, prayer can’t get you to heaven. You don’t have to pray to have a good life. You don’t have to pray to have God notice your problems in life. You don’t have to pray to get good grades, to have a nice job, to find someone willing to marry you, to have angels watching over you. You don’t even have to pray to be blessed.

So why in the world would we prepare for Jesus’ birth this Advent season with prayer if we don’t even really have to pray. Well, it’s the same reason the composer of Psalm 119 said, “I call with all my heart, answer me, Lord! And I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.”  He had a need – we don’t know what it was, but he had a need and the God who created him and redeemed him and loved him promised to fill that need.

Did you catch that he called to God “with all his heart”?  That means his heart was “all in,” totally connected to God in faith. Whatever his need was, his heart was already with the God who invites us to bring anything on our mind to him. The same is true for us. While God does not force us to pray, he wants our hearts to be “all in” with him – trusting not only that through Jesus we have access to God but also trusting his invitation to pray. 

So in prayer God gives us a blank check to bring anything on our mind to him. I suppose the only reason we wouldn’t pray is if we had no need. Hhhhm….no need to pray? Don’t we all have needs all the time and this time of year especially – you’ve got work to do, gifts to buy, tests to study for, houses to clean, food to make, etc. But those really aren’t your needs. While Jesus showed at the wedding at Cana that he cares about all our physical, even unimportant needs, he also showed with Mary & Martha (and a thousand other conversations) that he cares most about our soul.

Look at the spiritual needs you have. Like Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, the greatest needs we have to pray for are all invisible and they all have to do with God’s plan of getting you and me and all people to heaven. God says the big needs are his name, his kingdom, his will, his forgiveness, the fight against evil. We all have spiritual needs – simply ask yourself, “Where am I at with God?” If your answer is “Perfect! No need for any help, my faith is super strong, I don’t fight with any sins in my life – I’m good” then you’ve got a huge need. If the answer is “I need God’s help with this sin I’m wrestling with” or “I need an infusion of love and patience for some of my family members” or “I need help thinking about other people instead of myself” then you know what to pray for.

This Christmas season, look at your needs, the needs for your soul and the souls of your family members, and then take those needs to your Savior. The point of preparing the way for Jesus at Christmas is not about any outward decoration or custom, it’s about making changes in our heart so we are ready to receive the newborn King as our Savior and Lord. Maybe that means we get specific in our prayers this months about our faith, our sin-struggle, our priorities, our tendency to give physical things greater value that spiritual things. And maybe there are family members who need prayers brought to God’s throne in heaven from you. With all your heart – as much as you put into decorating or finding the right presents or putting up outdoor lights – or making the best surprises for your family – go to your Savior and plead with him for spiritual help…to help you and your loved ones and your fellow believers here at Immanuel.

But who has time to pray in December? The Psalm writer who was just as busy as you found two times in his hectic days:  “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night…” When did he find his best times for prayer? Early every morning and late every night. For some of you, early in the morning is the best time for Bible reading and prayer. I know many of you are up at 5:00 or earlier – that’s when your mind is fresh. For others of you, your mind is fresh and alert at night.  Maybe for you 9:30-11:00 at night is your best time to be “all in” with your prayers for you and your loved ones.

Whenever you find the best times in your day to pray, remember what enables you to have a conversation with the Almighty in the first place. “Hear my voice in accordance with your love.” The only way you and I can approach the holy Judge of all mankind is that he would make a change in our standing. And he did.  God the Father’s love begotten….his eternal Son Jesus….is the Word of God incarnate….God in a human body. That was love. That brought imperfect people back to a perfect God. That’s Christmas. God’s love not only sent the Savior but that same love took Jesus to his cross so we now stand in God’s love. And that love invites you to come to your Savior God with all your prayers, anytime, every day, for big things or little things, physical or spiritual. But this advent I would encourage you zero in on your faith and the faith of your family and friends, zero in on your struggles with sin and the struggles of your family and friends, zero in on your love to God and people and the love that’s growing in your family and friends.

Maybe a couple practical suggestions on how to do that in the next few weeks.  First of all make a list. Either make a list of people that you feel the need to pray for:  friends, cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents.  OR start with the Bible verses or devotions you read, jot those down each day and then pray for the first person you think of when you read that verse.  Second idea is using Luther’s “four-strand” idea.  Read any part of the Bible, even a single verse, and ask yourself four little questions (when is God saying? What makes me sad? What makes me glad? Who can I pray for).  OR, use “pray” as an acronym:  p is for praise, r is for repent, a is for ask, and then y is for yield.  Finally, if you happen to fold clothes in your house, whosever shirt or socks or towel you are folding….pray for that person. Then you fold a shirt of a different family member and you say a prayer for them.

But however you pray, whenever you pray, whatever you pray for in these next two weeks, pray with confidence that your Lord and King, Jesus the Savior,  was born for you…so that you now can go to him with what’s ever on your heart. Amen.

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray. You already know what we need but you love to hear us. Help us appreciate this privilege you give us and let our Advent preparation for your coming be a blessing to our faith, our fight against sin, and the love that you are growing inside of us. All for your glory! Amen.