Notes on Sermon
Luke 11:1-13 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them “when you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Colossians 2:6-15 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who if you child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If 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!”
You may know that I am a chaplain for
a Hospice in
I think this patient shares the same question as the disciples in our text today. We find the disciples warn down and tired from two years on the road with Jesus. Never knowing where tomorrow’s meal is going to come
from. Persecuted and ostracized by their community. They are waiting,
I think a lot of us often have the same questions about prayer. We see the oil spill in the gulf. We remember those who died in the twin towers. We hear about Christians burning the Koran. We lose the people we love the most. Our prayers seem to go unanswered. “Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.”
In such a world as ours, with so much pain, and need, we often think of Prayer as a way to get what we want from God. Prayer becomes a wish list for what we desire most. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We believe that prayer is a response to the injustice and suffering in our life. God wants to hear what we need, what we desire. The problem is when we allow our prayer life to be only about the things we need or want.
The story is told of a small boy who gets his hand caught in a priceless vase. The parents do all they can to get the boys hand out. They rub oil and butter, but nothing seems to work. They call for the doctor and other towns folks, but no one is able to get the boys hand out of the vase. Finally, after they see no other way, they smash the vase, only to find that the boys hand was stuck because he was grasping a penny.
We’re often like that small boy. Using our prayer life to let God know what we need and want. Like the boy we grasp to pennies that we think are so important and forget that prayer is truly a deepening of our relationship with God. It’s about learning to draw near and know God. God craves relationship with us. This is the insight that my patient recognized. That prayer is a spiritual practice. The more we pray the more we are shaped and molded to God’s will. The more we pray the more we are aware of God’s love and grace in our life.
In our passage today Jesus’ teaches us to pray. He begins, “Father.” Some people are quite offended that we are taught to pray to God as a father.
And to the extent that we limit God to a gender, to being male, they may be right. But what is even more interesting and controversial is that the Gospel of Luke omits the Our. By doing so, we are reminded that we do not posses God. This is not My God, or Our God. The God we pray to is creator of all the universe, present through out history, and chooses and even yearns for relationship with us. This God is surely not our property. Stanley Hauerwas writes, “Before we reached out to God, God reached out to us and claimed us, promised to be our God, promised to make us God’s people. Thus, not because of who we are or what we have done, but rather because of what God in Jesus Christ has done, we are privileged to say, “Our Father.”” (Lord Teach Us, Hauerwas, p.25)
We are bold enough to address God as Father. Can you believe that the God of this universe wants to be known chiefly as loving parent? As the provider of all that is good, and protector of all those in need. Thomas Aquinas wrote that we are created for no greater purpose than friendship with God. God desires friendship, relationship with us. In prayer we enter into conversation with God. The more we talk to and listen to God the better friends we become. The more intimate we become. We can understand why Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing.” Paul was saying, always be in conversation, in relationship with God.
Key to our relationship to God, indeed, key to any relationship, is honesty. Any authentic relationship is grounded in honesty which brings forth trust. When I work with people that are dying I often find that they are afraid to talk honestly to God. They are afraid to tell God how disappointed, or how angry they are. Or how they still hope for a miracle. As if God’s can’t handle our anger. God’s love for us is bigger then our anger, our disappointment our unbelief.
In the movie The Apostle, Jessie a charismatic pastor on the run for murder, is seen in his mothers house shouting at God. Jessie is furious at God and he is letting God and the entire neighborhood know. The mother receives a phone call from an angry neighbor. She replies, “Sometimes he prays. Sometimes he just yells.” Our prayers should always be that honest, for it’s in this honesty that we begin to become intimate with God. Don’t take it just from me, honesty in prayer is biblical. Just read Habbakuk, or Christ from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Or in our prayer today, Thy Kingdom Come! God wants, God can handle, our honesty in prayer.
In a bit we are going to sing one of my new favorite hymns. It’s been around a while, but I just discovered it. “O savior in this quiet place.” The sixth verse, is a good example of the honesty I think God craves, “Of all my prayers may this be chief; Till faith is fully grown, Lord disbelieve my unbelief and claim me as your own.” Some times it feels like God is not listening. Sometimes we feel like we are alone. It happens to all of us. Faith is a journey, and sometimes we are on the mountain top close to God, and other times we are in the valley, and we feel alone and scared.
It’s in times like these that I think the Lord’s prayer becomes more then just a memorized chant we say on Sunday without thinking of what it is we are praying. It’s when we don’t know what to say, or don’t have the words or the faith to pray to God, that we can join the two thousand years of saints that have prayed the Lord’s prayer.
If honesty is important to prayer the other side of the coin is persistence. If we don’t read our scripture this morning very carefully we might make the mistake of thinking that we just need to bug God more to get what we want. If we just keep knocking loud and long enough God will get fed up and give us what we desire. Unfortunately this is not how it works. If it did, I’d be playing quarter back for the Dallas Cowboys.
In the gospel of Luke persistence in prayer is just not ‘asking, searching, and knocking." Consistency in prayer includes the receiving, the being found, the opened door. No longer can we only hear prayer as the means to an end. It has become the duration between the spoken word and the final receiving. Prayer is the way of life. Being persistent in prayer means that we are always engaging in conversation with God; Prayer becomes a way of life. The question in our text today is not how do we pray in a way that God gives us what we need. Jesus does not give us a spell or magic words. Rather the question for the disciples, for us today, is are we willing to see prayer as the practice between asking and receiving, between Thy Kingdom come, and thy will be done. This is were being persistence in prayer places us. In a relationship.
If we are willing to live in this place of prayer that’s based in honesty and persistence, then I promise your relationship with God will change. You will become more intimate with God. You will become better friends with God. Your relationship will begin to be grounded in Trust. So today, our scripture is not so much a lesson on how to pray, or how prayer works, but rather an invitation. Each one of us, this church, is invited into a deepening of our relationship with God. We are invited to become good friends of God. And in so doing, we learn to trust God.
Trust that the God we pray to is a good Father. A Father that protects us, “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from Evil. A Father that gives us what we need. While this may not be what we want, it is what we most need. Give us this day our daily bread; indeed.
So in the coming week. My charge to you is to pray. Pray in the midst of your day. Before you sleep, before you eat, after you awake. During work, or while your driving. If you can’t think of anything to say to God, just pray the Lord’s prayer. But be intentional about your prayer. And don’t forget to listen. If we are going to take the time to talk to God, we might as well take the time to hear God’s response. I’m the worst a this. The moment I say amen my mind is some where else. I’m ready for whatever is next. I’ve had to really work at listening. To being still and open to God. So that God and you are like old friends sharing a comfortable silence with one another.
One of my favorite poems is by the Islamic poet Hafiz. I think it’s a good example of the intimacy that God craves.
“God and I have become like two giant fat people living in a tiny boat. We keep bumping into each other and laughing.”