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How is prayer like communion and communion like prayer?

Pastor Mike Gerhardt, July 2, 2007, Series on Prayer - Outline 2, Prayer Communion With God. Introduction: Relearning to pray may be relearning to love. I Corinthians 11:17-34: In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. …When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? … Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. …But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. … So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

We look back, to remember. John Piper writes: Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. (Desiring God, p. 92) Christ accomplished salvation on the Cross. We reflect back to the cross. This was the eternal moment when God showed His love for all of us.

We look within, to repent. State employment officials in Tucson, Arizona, posted a sign over a full-length mirror directed to all job hunters, it read: Would you hire this person? In another office, a mirror and sign posed this question: Are you ready for this job? Paul also mentioned self-evaluation in 1 Corinthians 10:2: So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! Believers in Christ need to judge themselves to avoid being judged by the Lord. Prayer is communion to evaluate our lives.

We look around, to reconcile. Matthew 5:23: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

We look forward, to rejoice. You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Paul did not say if He comes nor in case He comes. There is no doubt about His coming just not sure about the time. The Lord’s Supper is to assist us in our remembering Him until he comes. There is a historical purpose and a prophetical purpose in the Lord’s Supper. It is the proclamation of what has happened and the promise of what will happen. All the while, we look up. True prayer is when we are occupied with no man save Jesus only. The Lord’s Supper is our visit to Calvary wherein the quietness of the soul the Christian contemplates and meditates on Christ. Nothing but Christ should be magnified in the Lord’s Supper and in our prayers. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was not an invention of the early church. It didn’t come by man’s reasoning but by God’s revelation. It was instituted in the gospels, practiced in Acts, and taught in the church epistles. It is not an ordinance that is optional for the church, but rather it is an obligation in place by the Savior himself. God knows that we forget important matters easily. He designed this supper to help us remember and worship Him.

1 Corinthians 10:16 (KJV): The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The word translated “communion” in KJV and “participation” in NIV is the Greek word: Koinonia. The word is often translated fellowship, emphasizing an interpersonal relationship. Eucharist actually comes from verse 24 when he had given thanks, that is the Greek word: euchristos. It comes from two words eu (prefix for “giving”) and charis (translated “kindness, gift, thanks”) which together means thanksgiving, to show gratitude or favor. We celebrate the Eucharist, the cup of thanksgiving, an important prayer.

On March 13, 2007, construction workers began to build the memorial for those who died in the World Trade Center bombing of 9-11. The footprints of the twin towers now contain two reflection pools. Ramps give access to memorial spaces around pools, where names of the dead are engraved. A staircase gives access to displays, an exhibition area, library and space for services. How we memorialize someone is an important aspect in remembering the reason why they lived and died. A little girl was watching her mom prepare Sunday lunch. Her mom cut off each end of the ham before putting it in the roasting pan. Her mom explained that it allowed the juices to enter the ham and she did that because it was the way her mom had roasted her hams. The little girl then went and asked her grandmother why both ends of the ham were cut off before roasting. Sure enough, she got the same answer. So the little girl phoned her great grandmother and explained that both mom and grandma had said that they cut off both ends of the ham to allow the juices to enter the ham and that was the way she had taught them. Her great grandmother started to laugh and said, I used to cut both ends off the ham because my roasting pan was too small for the whole ham, that’s the real reason. Do we know the real reason for communion and for prayer?

I want to say that part of the real reason I believe for communion and for prayer is forgiveness. How we remember that is important.

October 2. 2006 a demented gunman, Charles Roberts, took a schoolroom full of Amish girls hostage in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Before he ended his life, five were dead and five more severely injured. In his article in the Boston Globe, entitled Undeserved Forgiveness, Jeff Jacoby wrote: Within hours of the shooting, several members of the Amish community visited Mrs. Roberts (wife of the killer) and her family, to express their sorrow over her loss and to say they did not hold anything against them. Another Amish man visited the killer’s father. A Roberts family spokesperson said, “He stood there for an hour, and he held [Mr. Roberts] in his arms and said, ‘We forgive you.’” Four days later at the killer’s burial, some 70 people in attendance were Amish. And when funds began pouring in for victims after the shooting, the Nickel Mines community established a fund for the shooter’s wife and children. Reactions to the news of this forgiveness ran the gamut from awestruck to disgust. Detractors like Jeff Jacoby finished his article by saying: I cannot see how the world is made a better place by assuring someone who would do terrible things that he will be readily forgiven afterward. But what Jacoby and others miss is the broader context of forgiveness. It is not a cheap forgiveness that denied the pain and wrong of what had happened. From amazing grief through amazing faith came amazing grace.

Amish forgiveness and grace. In a book titled Amish Grace, Amish elders explain: Our actions are rarely random. We all embrace patterns of behavior and habits of mind that shape what we do in a given situation. There are “habits of forgiveness” in the Amish culture. The Amish celebrate Communion only twice a year. There is a month-long season of preparation. During that time, the Amish take seriously the admonition that if anyone holds a grudge against his brother, he is not to partake in the communion until he has put things right. How serious are we? How are we working in our church to build cultures of grace and forgiveness? Do we teach our children to forgive? Are we actively working to restore offenders? And are we overcoming the evil in the world by doing good? Do we pray for the things of God? Or for our own agenda?

Prayer is communion with God. And communion emphasizes all the aspects of prayer. How should we prepare for communion with God? How will you prepare to fellowship with the Father who loves you and sent Jesus to die for you in your prayers? Remember forgiveness in prayer and communion.

Let us take forgiveness as seriously as God does.