Sermon – Pentecost 7 – July 28, 2019
Luke 11:1-13 ‘The Gift of Prayer’
CT: Jesus teaches us to pray out of the new relationship God has made with us. We can set aside all fears and selfish ambitions, and talk to Him as our true Father.
Intro: Paul Brandt sings a country song called, ‘Take it Off’. Now before you let your mind race off in the wrong direction, it’s about being open and honest with someone you deeply care for. “Lay your naked heart down next to mine.” It’s a reminder of how hard it is to be completely honest with one another. When someone asks us how we’re doing, we so easily respond with “good” or “fine.”
I remember my little son not wanting to go to school. That’s when my wife got down on her knees and held him, told him she loved him and asked him what was wrong. And the tears broke loose and the fears came out. He wasn’t told he was being foolish; in fact, mom stepped in to fix the problem. I call this the honeymoon stage of parenting; when you can actually do something about the problem. It’s a bit more frightening when your teenager says, “Mom—Dad, can I talk to you?” What a privilege to have your children open up to you, but as they get bigger so do their heart issues and our ability to do anything about them seems so limited. Sometimes all you can do is listen and cry with them. But we can always take them to God in prayer.
Prayer: There seems to be a natural impulse to pray that is triggered by an overwhelming need or experience. Even atheists have been known to pray. It’s said, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” In times of trouble unbelievers express thanks that someone might pray for them. Maybe it’s just to cover all the bases, or maybe they’re just being polite! I trust if you offer to pray for someone that you take the time to do so. It was Martin Luther who called prayer the heartbeat of the Christian, pointing out that when we can’t find the words or know what to pray for, “The Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) Despite this promise, prayer doesn’t always come easy. (I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day; I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray. Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.” I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak; I wondered why God didn’t show me. He said, “But you didn’t seek.” I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock. God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.” I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day; I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.)
So how’s your prayer life? How well do you understand prayer? Maybe we’re more like the disciples and find ourselves asking: “Jesus, teach us to pray.”
Jesus gives us the real reason for prayer; who we are praying to. Without this, people can only cry out to a sense of someone bigger than they are; often a deity of their own making that is always shaped to meet their own needs and interests. We too are in danger of looking at God as some kind of genie, who will meet our wants and needs. But without really knowing who we are talking to, prayer may be no more than a shouting into the wind.
Familiar: Jesus assured His disciples and assures us that we are not wasting our breath. Yet there is a danger in the familiarity of Jesus’ words today.
I can remember sitting down for dinner with my mom and dad when they lived in Emo. Suddenly there was this loud rumble and whole house shook. Even the china in the cupboards rattled! My kids looked up and in unison asked, “What’s that?” “What” replied my dad? “Oh that! That’s just the train. We’re so used to it we don’t hear it anymore.”
So too with the Lord’s Prayer; it’s so familiar we have trouble hearing it. It can fall off our lips without a second thought as to what we’re saying. Yet this model prayer and the words that follow are key to what prayer is meant to be for you and me. Your small catechism breaks it down for you into 7 petitions, where God bares His loving arm to us that we might ask Him for all we need to keep us faithful and from falling into unbelief. There is only one petition that speaks to our physical needs: “Give us this day our daily bread.” And even there it’s important to remember that Jesus said we don’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (cf Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) And He refers to Himself as the Bread of life that we need to eat. (cf John6:35-51) This prayer is about our relationship with God!
Father: Indeed it begins with “Father,” or as we say, “Our Father.” You can come to and speak to God as someone you know, and more importantly, as someone who intimately and completely knows you. While we often make prayer all about our needs, prayer is first of all a response to who God is.
Jesus explained with an illustration about a brash person waking up his friend in the middle of the night. If we would stretch the boundaries of a friendship, trusting the friend to respond favourably, even if they might grumble, how much more favourably will your heavenly Father respond? In other words, let nothing deter you from prayer. Jesus’ promise is that your prayers are heard and will be answered. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Then Jesus changed the relationship from friends to father and son with those troubling words, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, (yes, we with the selfish sinful human nature are moved to provide for those we love) how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Our heavenly Father will not withhold the greatest and most precious of all gifts; the Holy Spirit. This is the 1st time Jesus told His disciples that the Father would give them the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that descended on Him like a dove at His Baptism in the Jordan. And thus the Trinity comes to you as a gift. Through the Son, you call God ‘Father’ and receive the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit you know the Father and Jesus, whom He sent, and believe and pray. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot know God, little lone as “Father.”
The Cost of Prayer: It is the Spirit who brings faith to us and keeps us in the one true faith. (See explanation of the 3rd article of the Apostle’s Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism.) The Spirit gives us the assurance that because Jesus was forsaken on the cross by His Father so we would not be. Jesus was forgotten that we could be remembered; eternally. He faced what we deserved, the cost of our sin, and was rejected by His Father to tear down all that we put in the way of being God’s children, freeing us to be adopted as God’s children; that we could call God, “our Father” with confidence. This relationship, at the price of our forgiveness, held together by faith, is the chief reason of prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses;” we know where the answer to that comes from and why! Prayer is where we experience what we know about God; who Jesus has taught Him to be and given us to know.
We pray because God the Father has made His love known to us through His Son. This goes beyond the realm of earthly friendships or family bonds; we are taken hold of and held close by a relationship that God forged through the blood of His Son. At a cost we hardly begin to comprehend, we are privileged to call God, ‘Father’; indeed, ‘our Father’.