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Our Declaration of Dependence

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On July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king.  Next week we celebrate the 241st  anniversary of the Declaration.  Many of us will celebrate with cookouts and watermelon.  Some of us will participate in the Red, White, and Blue Days at Morton Park and watch the fireworks at the airport when night falls.  The Declaration of Independence is something many of us Americans deeply cherish, even revere.  But as Christians there’s another declaration that deserves even more devotion—our Declaration of Dependence upon God.

Every time we pray we are declaring our dependence upon God.  That’s what we saw in last week’s sermon.  We observed a widow declare her absolute dependence upon God.  Her husband had died and the creditor was coming to take her two sons as slaves to pay the debt.  The woman was desperate.  She had nowhere to turn but to God.  And God miraculously provided for her by causing the small amount of oil she had in a little jar to continue flowing until she had filled every container she could lay her hands on.

Just about everybody prays when they are desperate. We sometimes hear the phrase “foxhole praying,” which, of course, comes from the idea that when you are pinned down in a foxhole with bullets flying all around you, almost everyone is inclined to pray. The idea is that in life we all get to some point where you realize you can’t accomplish something without divine intervention, and so you go to God in prayer.

But what about the times you can handle on your own without God’s help?  Is there as much a need to pray then?  Actually, there is never a time that we don’t need God’s help. We are absolutely dependent upon God—not just in case of emergency, but in every moment. We are dependent on God and we can do nothing without Him.  We can’t even pray without His help.

This is why the disciples came  to Jesus and asked Him to teach them to pray. It’s not that they had never been taught to pray.  They prayed in the synagogue.  They prayed on the Sabbath. And they knew to pray in the observance of their religious rituals. But they saw something very different in Jesus. They saw something in his life that was more than just a religious ritual. Prayer was something that literally nourished Him. It was a necessity for Him, and his life was dependent on it.  The disciples saw the difference, and they said, “Lord, teach us to pray like you’re praying.”

This is significant.  You don’t  see them anywhere in the Gospels asking Jesus to teach them to witness or teach or even heal.  All you see is them saying “teach us to pray.”  That’s because prayer is the core upon which our faith is dependent.  We pray to show we always need God.  We pray to declare that we are completely dependent on Him.