Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Keep On - July 28, 2013 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Luke 11:1-13
Two weeks ago we were reminded, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, that our salvation is not dependent on ourselves because there is nothing we can do to gain eternal life. Rather we were reminded that eternal life is a free gift, earned by Jesus and given to us by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, the Word of God and Holy Baptism. Last week we were reminded that the one thing needful is to continually immerse ourselves in the Word of God, which is one of the means of grace, that is, one of the ways through which the Holy Spirit comes to us to give us faith, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This morning, by the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the words of our text, we are encouraged to respond to all that God has done and continues to do for us by coming to Him in prayer.
Our text begins, “1Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread, 4and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”’” (v. 1-4). Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus in prayer. Prayer was an important part of Jesus’ life. What a wonderful example He is to us that we too should be in prayer to Him. What a wonderful gift God has given to us, to know that we can be in conversation with the Lord. He speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. Here in our text Jesus gives us a model for prayer. If you have studied the Lord’s Prayer you have seen that there are seven petitions, all seven petitions asking for spiritual blessings and the middle petition also asking for physical or bodily blessings. Through the words of this prayer our Lord shows us how to pray for spiritual blessings, for daily bread and for protection from temptation and turning from evil. If we ever want to learn how to pray, we can look at the outline of this prayer and use it to help us in our own prayer life. As for those who suggest that the best and only truest prayers are those that are made up and offered from one’s heart, might we suggest that noone can make up a better prayer than Jesus Himself and so, should we not pray the best prayer of all, the one He gave us?
Not only does Jesus gives us an outline of how to pray, He also gives us the actual words we may use to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful prayer to pray, one we use almost every Sunday. How much better can we pray than to pray the very words our Lord has given us to pray! And He loves to hear us pray these words which He has given to us to pray. And here we are reminded that not only is this the best way to pray, we find this is the best way to worship as well, which is why we worship liturgically, that is we worship speaking back to God the very words He has given us to say as His Word permeates our worship, which truly makes our Sunday morning a Divine Service, a service in which the Divine, God Himself speaks to us.
In our text, then, we see that Jesus is a good teacher. Not only does He show us how to pray, He gives us the words to use to pray and He helps us in our own prayer life. But there is still more to our text, as we continue we will see how our Lord also encourages us in our own prayer life.
Our text continues, “5And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, 6for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; 7and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.’” (v. 5-8). Jesus has given His disciples and us an example of how to pray and now He encourages us to pray. Notice the difference between the man in the house and the friend who knocks at the door, and how we come to God the Father in prayer.
In our text we are told that a friend came to another friend to ask for a favor. In our prayer life, it is we who are the children of God, who are known by God, who are coming to Him in prayer. In out text the friend comes to his friend at midnight. In our prayer life it is we who can come to God at anytime. In our text it is a friend coming to another friend asking for help for someone who is unknown. In our prayer life it is we who are coming to our God who knows us intimately. In our text it is a friend who is asking for bread. In our prayer life we may approach our gracious God and ask Him for all things physical and spiritual.
In our text the friend answers his friends request because of his persistence. In our prayer life our Lord answers our prayers because of His great love for us. So, as we can see, there is really no comparison. We are motivate to approach our gracious and loving God in prayer, knowing that He will hear and answer our prayers and we can be confident, even more, because we know that He will answer our prayers according to what He knows is best for us according to His good and gracious will.
But there is still more encouragement. Our text continues, “9And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (v. 9-10). Our text says, to ask, to seek and to knock. Here is one of those places where the Greek loses a little in the translation. The emphasis on the words in our text, which are imperatives, comes out better when we say that we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. This is not something which we do once and give up, but this is a continuous action, we keep on, we are persistent in our asking, seeking and knocking. What a wonderful example we have from Abraham in our Old Testament reading for this morning. Abraham boldly persisted in his prayer and request as he prayed, not so much for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but for the few, his family, who lived in those cities.
Yet, we realize that it is not because of our persistence that God answers our prayers, but, as we said before, it is because of His great love for us that He answers us and because of His great love for us He answers our prayer according to what He knows is best for us, according to His good and gracious will, which is truly loving.
And there is still one more word of encouragement. Our text continues, “11What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 11-13). Here we have the imperfect love of an earthly father compared to God’s perfect love for us. Just as our earthly fathers who love us will not give us a snake instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg, so our perfect Heavenly Father, God the Father, will give us more and better gifts than we can think or imagine. And He has given us the supreme gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Greater love can no one have than this, that a person will give their life for another person and that is what Jesus did for us. He gave His life for ours. Jesus is God in human flesh. Jesus is God who came down from heaven, was born as a human, lived perfectly, took all our sins upon Himself, suffered and died for us so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. He rose and ascended back into heaven. And He continues to give us His Holy Spirit who comes to us and works through the Word and Sacraments to create, strengthen and keep us in faith.
What joy fills our hearts as we have been reminded that we have eternal life, earned for us by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, that we have forgiveness of sins, and that the Holy Spirit works a response of faith in us. Now we have Jesus’ example of how to pray. We have His words and a model of how we can come to Him in prayer. We also have His encouragement that He wants us to come to Him in prayer, because He wants to hear us pray. We even have Jesus example as we see Him many times in prayer while He was on this earth.
There are countless books on prayer. There are even more quotes on prayer. The biggest problem comes in that prayer for us is usually only our asking God for material things, or a half hearted attempt too get something, or a vane recitation of some pious (nice) words. How often do we pray the Lord’s Prayer without thinking about the words, what we are saying. It merely becomes a repetition of pious (nice) words. How often it is that we do not pray until we are in need of something, help from trouble, or the like. And of course, it is okay to come to the Lord in times of trouble, that too He encourages. Unfortunately it is not too often that we just pray to God to say thank you and I do not mean like man who says, “I thank you Lord, why just the other day I was 30 minutes late for work and got in without the boss seeing me . . . and I said ‘Thank God, he didn’t see me.’” That is not a prayer of thanks. Certainly we would do well to remind ourselves, as we remind our children and grand children to be thankful for all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has seen fit and continues to see fit to bestow on us.
And so, we do pray, not because God needs us to pray, but because of our need to pray. We pray in order to acknowledge and give thanks to God for all His good gifts and blessings. We pray in order to make supplication and petitions for the desires of our hearts. And we pray that God’s will is done, because we know that He knows what is best for us and we trust that He will answer our prayers according to what He knows is best for us according to His good and gracious will.
As always, again we see that we get it right when we get our focus right, when we focus on our Lord and what He has done, is doing and continues to do for us. It is the Lord who has given His Son and the life of His Son so that we might have forgiveness of sins, that is so that our relationship with God the Father has been mended so that we can come to Him in prayer. It is the Lord who gives us all the gifts He has to give through His means of grace and thus encourages us to be where those means and gifts are given, especially in Divine Service. And now, it is the Lord who encourages us and gives us the very words to speak to Him in prayer. Indeed, God gives and we are given to.
It is God’s will, as we have heard in our text for today, that we are, each one, encouraged in our own prayer life. What a joy and privilege we have, because we can be in conversation with our God. We can hear Him as He speaks to us through His Word and we can respond to that Word by speaking back to Him in prayer. And, like last week, the order is important. The order is that He speaks to us through His Word, first, and it is His Word which motivates us and gives us the Words with which to speak to Him. May the Lord bless you in your prayer life that you might be encouraged to “pray without ceasing.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.