Praying with the trinity.
Bible reading: Psalm 29
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion[b] like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Today is Trinity Sunday … we wonder about the mystery of God as three in one, three persons yet one God, traditionally expressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This mystery reminds us that we cannot fully understand God and keeps us humble. However, it is also a truth that can shape how we practice christian faith and a truth that we can feel in our hearts. So I invite you to reflect on how the Trinity can shape our prayer. (This is inspired by a sermon I saw online by Mike Highton, a professor of theology at Durham University, which was called “The trinity in words of one syllable”)
First of all, we pray to God as the one who made us, the source of all that is good, who made the world, and holds the world , and reigns over the world in love.
Have you ever watched in awe at the power of a summer thunderstorm, billowing clouds towering in the sky, the tension in the air? You know what’s coming but you don’t know exactly when. Then, boom! Thunder rolls followed by a crack of lighting and those big drops of rain which fall on the dusty ground and create that distinctive smell. I remember as a child it always used to make me jump, then I would be mesmerised by the sheer energy and power, then I would want to run out in the garden and feel the rain. But storms are powerful. I remember the storm of 1987, when Michael Fish got the weather forecast spectacularly wrong. In the UK, that storm brought down about 15 million trees! Back in Kent where I was living, the town of Sevenoaks became the town of “one oak”.
This morning’s bible reading, Psalm 29, describes “the voice of the Lord” likening it seven times to a thunderstorm. It reminds us that we pray to a God, who is powerful, who can create and shake and break, a God who reigns, a God who gives life and strength to his people. Yahweh, The Lord is so much greater than our difficulties, the Lord’s care extends way beyond our little corner of the world, the Lord reigns over the most powerful of earthly leaders . So we can bring our smallest and biggest concerns to God in prayer.
But that’s not all. When we pray, we do not pray on our own. There is one by our side, God with us, the one we call the Son. As John 3:16 tells us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”. This was Jesus:
who prayed to God as Dad and teaches us to do the same;
who said and did just what God would do and calls us to follow suit;
who laid down his life so that we could have life.
Hebrews 7:25 explains that Jesus ‘is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’ We don’t just pray to a mighty God enthroned on high, we pray with God the Son…who is beside us and is praying for us. So be encouraged, especially when you feel isolated or alone. Jesus is praying with us and for us.
We remember Jesus in the sharing of bread and wine. And for us at St Andrews it has been over a year since we did this together in person. Thankfully, it is not only through this sacrament that we experience God with us. For God has also given the Holy Spirit, as we celebrated on Pentecost Sunday last weekend.
Let's read Romans 8:14-17 and 26-27:
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Here, the apostle Paul says that it is God’s Spirit within who assures us we are God’s children, and who moves us and helps us to pray to our heavenly father.
So when we pray, when we yearn, when we long to see God work, when we, in our own small, weak ways, feel love and care flow through us – that is God's life, the Spirit of God, given to us, moving in us and working through us. To borrow Mike Highton’s words, it’s “God in our hearts, God in our guts, God’s life in our lives”.
So, when we pray, we pray to God, our almighty Father.
When we pray, Jesus, God's Son, prays with us and for us.
And when we pray, God the Holy Spirit, is at work within us helping us to pray.
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.