Sermon for July 25, 2010

Luke 11:1-13 (9th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

July 25, 2010

 In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 11:

Now 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.” And 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 who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And 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, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and 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’? I 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. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him 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!”

 How’s your prayer life doing these days?  I’m ashamed to admit it, but mine is looking a little shabby these days.  No, it’s not that I don’t pray at all, but I don’t pray as much as I need too.  If find it hard to set aside time just for prayer.  You think it would be easy to grab a quick 5 or 10 minutes to commit to prayer.  But it really isn’t that easy.  Daily routines and the demands of life tend to take up most, if not all, of our time.  By the time I get into bed at night my prayers dibble off into drool as I drift off to sleep.  If you are at all like me and your prayer life needs an uplift, then we have come to right place.  Like one of his disciples, today we too can ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” 

As Jesus show us, prayer is not particularly difficult to do.  “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 forgiven everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.’”  Yes, this is a substantially shorter version of what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Jesus likely didn’t just teach this prayer only once, but taught it differently in a variety of settings.  So we have the version here that St. Luke recorded by the power of the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus teaches us today in connection with this model prayer is a strong encouragement to pray, to let nothing deter us from prayer.  This encouragement to pray “Our Father” lies in the promise that our prayer will receive its answer even as Jesus’ declares, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.” 

 To illustrate this encouragement to prayer to our heavenly Father, Jesus tells the story of a man in need of some loaves of bread to feed a traveling friend who just arrived on a journey in the middle of the night.  This man goes to his friend in the village, about midnight, and bangs on the door, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.”  The now formerly sleeping friend replies in a loud whisper, perhaps from a window, “Be quiet!  Go away and don’t bother me.  We’re all in bed here and I can’t get up to get you anything ‘cause I’ll wake up the whole house.”  (In these small village dwellings, entire families often slept near one another on the floor.  The man didn’t want to wake up the kids—and I don’t blame him!)  But, Jesus says the man does get up and get his friend whatever he needed, not because of their friendship, but because the now-awakened man wanted to avoid the shame of being a faithless friend.

And here’s the point, the man is only a friend, but God is the heavenly Father.  The request is made at midnight, a time that offers the best excuse for refusing a request.  With God there is no night, no inconvenient time, no intention to use anything as an excuse.  The man asked food for a stranger whom the sleeper doesn’t know and to whom he is under no obligation, but we are known to God.  We are his own children.  If this friend could and did succeed with such a friend as his in such a case, then you and I can and will most assuredly succeed with our heavenly Father when we pray to Him.  Nothing, then, should deter us from praying—not time, not need. 

“But I asked and I didn’t get it.  I sought after it, but never found it.  I knocked on the door, but it never opened for me.”  Ever have that experience with God in prayer?  Maybe one of the reasons we become less than faithful pray-ers is because we wrongly believe that our Father in heaven, who wants us to pray and has promised to hear and to answer us has gone out to lunch and left us in a lurch.  Jesus says that God is better than a friend; He is a Father.  He knows how to give good gifts to His children.  “I asked, sought, and knocked, and nothing!  What’s up with that?”  The early church father Cyril of Alexandria tells us “what’s up.”  “We sometimes come near to our bounteous God offering Him petitions for various objects according to each one’s pleasure.  Sometime we pray without discernment or any careful examination of what truly is to our advantage, and if granted by God would prove a blessing or would be to our injury if we received it.” 

Yes, God our Father truly knows how to give good gifts to His children.  The problem is that we children don’t always ask, seek, and knock for the truly good gifts.  We ask God influenced by our sinful, selfish nature for the things we believe are “good.”  But God knows best how to be our Father and how to give us truly good gifts. 

In our lost condition, would we have ever asked God to save us from our sins?  No.  That’s the nature of sin.  It loves itself, thrives on itself, and wants absolutely nothing to do with God and the things of God.  As we confess in the liturgy for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, “We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  But the Father of all mercy and grace has sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Our Father in heaven, out of pure grace, chose to save us from sin, death, and the devil by giving us His Son, Jesus, to go to the cross and win our forgiveness.  The forgiveness Jesus won for us and His own righteousness applied to us reconciled us with God.  In Holy Baptism, God claimed us as His sons and daughters through the saving work of Jesus Christ.  He adopted us as His children, heirs of life and salvation.  Because of the saving work of Jesus, as children of the heavenly Father, we now have the honor of coming before our Father in prayer with faith in Jesus our Savior and Redeemer, expecting to be heard and given what is truly good and best for us. 

With faith in Christ, we ask our Father in heaven for that which God wants to give us.  And what God wants to, and has given us, is the Holy Spirit.  God the Holy Spirit prays with us and for us to our heavenly Father.  Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, who helps us to pray with a heart of faith in the name of Jesus.  We pray with a faith that truly asks and seeks from our Father the very good things He has planned for us according to His good and perfect will—both physical and spiritual blessings.  God the Holy Spirit always expresses our prayers perfectly before the Father in heaven even when we do not. 

What a blessing it is to know that when my prayer life falls short, God the Holy Spirit Himself still prays for me and with me!  What great joy it is to have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who took away my sins so that I am now a child of God by baptism, a child who can boldly call on “our Father in heaven” in the name of Jesus and know that I will be heard!  What great comfort it is to know that God will not give me the things that I think are best, especially those requests stained with my sinful nature.  The Lord will only give to me that which is truly good and right according to His grace and love for me as His child.  If I ask for a snake or a scorpion or anything that He knows will hurt or harm me in body and soul, I can depend on Him to give me what is just right for me—whether it be a fish or an egg. 

God our Father knows how to give good gifts to those who ask Him with faith in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  May this same Spirit through our  Lord Jesus Christ re-kindle in our hearts today the fire of His love and teach us to pray anew each day with trust and hope in Him who is “Our Father.”  Amen.