6th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear friends in Christ: For some people, prayer is a way of life. No day is started or ended without it; no meal is taken without it; there’s not a need so trivial nor a blessing so small that prayer does not address them. For others, prayer may not come so easy. Maybe not necessarily because we don’t see the value of prayer or are not appreciative of the new day; or the next meal or the latest blessing. And it’s probably not because we don’t believe someone is listening. Polls consistently show that over 90% of Americans believe there is A god; some supreme being. But that poll does not say they all believe in the same god; the One true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and that they understand prayer as part of the good and gracious will of the One true God. So, maybe that’s one reason why we do not pray so much – we don’t really know how much God wants us to bring our prayers to Him.
If you think about it, our entire Nation has been called to pray; especially in recent times, with terrorist attacks and the on-going wars; and the natural disasters and other tragedies, such as [the bridge that collapsed recently in Minneapolis.] Often, these events initially spark a great deal of interest in spiritual matters. Right after 9/11/01, church attendance really went up, but sometime after, ...it went right back down where it as before.
And when these traumatic events happen, even the media will not avoid the subject of prayer; as is often how their attitude is reflected toward godly matters. When bad things are happening in America, the news media will allow the President to call for prayer without suggesting that he is failing to keep a separation between church and state. So, another reason why we all don’t pray so much might be that we reserve our prayers fo the really big stuff, the really bad stuff that happens in our lives. It’s almost as if, we don’t want to bother God on the trivial matters, kind of like some fishermen who were caught in a sudden storm on Lake Superior.
The wind and waves gave every indication of swamping their boat. None of the men were experienced at prayer, so they selected one from among them, who had not been in church for years and had not prayed much during that time either, to speak on their behalf to the Almighty. This was the prayer of the man who did not have much praying experience; “O Lord, I have not asked you for anything for 15 years, and if you deliver us out of this storm and bring us safe to land again, I promise that I won’t bother you again for another 15 years.” So maybe that’s another reason we sometimes justify our lack of prayer activity? “Well, I just don’t want to bother the Lord over my little problems.”
Another reason that prayer is not always in abundance today is that we may not think it makes any difference, especially as it affects our own well-being. Yes, even for Christians, that may be the case. “Ah, what’s the use God’s not really going to intervene in my problems that I myself caused. He’s not going to fix what I messed up.” In the movie, “The Simpsons” there is a scene where an apocalyptic calamity descends on Springfield. We see the [Simpsons] church with [Moe’s] bar sitting right next to it. So, when the apocalyptic calamity comes, the people in church run out and over to the bar; and at the same time, the people in the bar come out and run over to the church. It seems to be depicting that “religious” people, when faced with some tragedy, do not believe that prayer can make a difference; while the “not so religious” facing the tragedy are figuring “what else can we do?”
So, so far the reasons why we don’t pray more: 1) We don’t really know the One true God: or understand how much He wants us to pray; and 2) We don’t want to bother Him with our trivial stuff. And 3) We don’t believe prayer can make a difference. But another reason why we don’t pray as we ought is that we do not know how. We simply don’t know how to address the Lord or how to ask for what we want. This was the issue, perhaps, that the disciples of Jesus were dealing with. In our Gospel: One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Please understand that what follows is not a prescription of the exact prayer to say, over and over again, guaranteed to produce results, no matter what the problem, simply by saying it. What Jesus says next is an abbreviated form of what we call the Lord’s prayer. He’s not suggesting that this is the only words we are allowed to say to God. He’s simply teaching us:
How To Pray
He said to them, “When you pray, say;” “Father...” In Matthew, it is “Our Father.” ...Now, how is it that we can think of God as “our Father?” We might say “because He has created us.” But the primary reason we can speak of Him as our Father is the relationship we have to Him because of our trust in Jesus – the only begotten Son who came into the world and paid for the sins of all who inhabit this planet. Jesus is our brother; we’ve been adopted into the family through His death on the Cross. Because of this, we, as the redeemed children of God can come to Him and say, “Our Father.” Not my Father, no, even when we pray alone, we come to God, collectively, as part of the church, saying “Our Father.”...
“Hallowed be your name..” Anyone ever have trouble as a child understanding that word, ...hallowed? The Greek means “to set apart and treat as holy.” That’s how we treat God’s name. In Scripture the name of God is often equivalent to God himself. This petition not only shows God the respect due Him but also prays that my whole life—everything I think, say, and do—will hallow God’s name. Luther says: “Reverence for God is worship at its best.”
“Your kingdom come..” Are we asking God to bring down the curtain on this world and start His heavenly Kingdom right now? Not necessarily. The kingdom of God comes not only on the Last Day. It comes, as Luther said, “when his Holy Spirit comes and we ...believe his holy Word and lead ...a godly life.” Jesus once said, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” ...What did He mean by that? ...Simply that when He himself, inhabits your heart, the kingdom has come to you! ...Oh yes, there’s more to come, but for now, right now, we are living in His Kingdom! The kingdom came, ...the kingdom comes, and ...the kingdom will come in the Second Advent of Christ.
“Give us each day our daily bread...” ...Were we to take this literally, we could only expect bread on the menu every day. But, the phrase, “daily bread” means more, it means all that it takes to meet our basic needs of life. In this way, Luther broadens the meaning of “bread” to include “everything that belongs to the support of the body, including good government, friends, and neighbors.” In this country, compared to other places, there is very little hunger. So, this prayer is a way for us to acknowledge it is God alone who provides us with all that we need.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us...” It is surprising that this is not the First Petition and that it does not come before “Our Father”! We cannot pray with any confidence nor address God as our gracious Father unless our sins are forgiven. Luther is correct in saying that our sins deny our prayer. Forgiveness not only allows us to pray but also ...confirms that God hears us. Forgiveness assures us that we can talk to God with all “boldness and confidence.” Luther said, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” And yes, this includes prayer life. Without forgiveness, we’re tongue-tied. We are not able to pray any petitions.
“And lead us not into temptation...” Temptation is often associated with blatant and obvious seductions. But temptation is anything that draws us away from God and His kingdom. Listen to what James says, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone,” How, then, should we understand this petition? Luther explains that we pray for God’s help in warding off the tempters of this world, by whom even our Lord Jesus was tempted, yet he without sinning. “Whether evil comes from other men, inner impulse, circumstances, or the Enemy finally seen, prayer for deliverance is appropriate. ...We may ask to be spared the final overwhelming test.” Since this petition comes at the end of Jesus’ prayer, we may recap: “Lead us not away from ...our heavenly Father, whose name we hallow. Lead us to ...His kingdom, where we freely receive Jesus’ bread of life and forgiveness of sins.”
The remainder of this reading tells us to never, never give up asking God for what you need. I think some of us have discovered that, in His time, God always delivers, according to His promise to us and His purpose for us.
5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him’
7"Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
In this parable, Jesus clearly intends for us to continue, relentlessly, to storm the gates of heaven with our request. Don’t ever give up! If you have the need, state it with boldness and with regularity in your communication to God! Whether it is our own need or the need of the people we care about, He delights in our dependence on Him. Maybe we’re not seeing what is really best for us in our request, that’s okay, God gives us what we need; not necessarily what we want. Your need might be transportation and you’d like that need to be met with a Mercedes 450 SL. God knows you may not have the money for gas and insurance and repairs; so He meets your need with bus fare. You see, we are like children sometimes, just because a child sees and wants a nice shiny razor blade (do they have them anymore), we won’t give the child something sharp that will cut their little fingers. In the same way, God’s not going to give us something we ask for that will hurt us. But keep asking, because He ...will answer!
9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and the him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Do you believe that, church? If so, let’s sing it, in the Name of Jesus. AMEN
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;
and all these things will be added unto you, Allelu, Allleluia.