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Sermon for July 24, 2016

Luke 11:1-13 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 12—Series C)

“Teach Us to Pray”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

July 24 2016

 

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.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” 5 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, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 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’? 8 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. 9 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. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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!”

 

          “Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray.” With these words we are invited each Divine Service to pray together the Lord’s Prayer. But don’t we already know how to pray? And don’t we already know the Lord’s Prayer? Why, like the disciples, would we ask the Lord “teach us to pray”? In his third sermon series on the catechism in 1528, Martin Luther proclaimed regarding prayer and the Lord’s Prayer, “In the first place necessity itself requires that we not only admonish you to pray but also teach you to pray. You should pray and you should know that you are bound to pray by divine command. For the second commandment teaches that you shall not swear, curse, or conjure, but call upon the name of God in every time of need, pray, praise, and exalt him; hence that it is commanded that we pray.”[1]

          Since we are commanded to pray, we want to honor God and get it right. And what better way to get it right than by learning to pray the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us. And by learning the Lord’s Prayer, I don’t mean simply memorizing the words by rote so that you can repeat them on command. I mean learning the Lord’s Prayer. What are you saying when you pray these words back to God? Why are you praying with these words? I’m fairly certain that if you wanted to, you could recite the Lord’s Prayer while chewing gum and walking at the same time. You could rattle off those words as fast as your mind and mouth can go. But the Lord’s Prayer isn’t meant to be like a list of math facts or multiplication tables. It is meant to be thought about and contemplated, meditated on. For God promises that our prayer will be heard by Him. He takes our prayer and the praying of the Lord’s Prayer seriously. So because our Lord has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear our prayer, we want to pray rightly. “So Lord, teach us to pray.”

          The first thing which Jesus teaches us is our relationship with God. He is “Father.” God can only be our Father if we are His true children. By nature, we are not children of God. We were conceived and born sinful. We were children of the “elementary principles of the world,” slaves of the evil forces that oppressed us—the devil, the world, and even our own corrupt flesh. But God took us away from these evil masters and “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 ESV).

Our adoption as the children of God happened when Jesus, the true Son of God, took our place under the “elementary principles of the world,” under the power of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Jesus suffered at the hands of the devil and the world. He endured temptation and trial, in fact, being tempted in every way as we are, but without sin (Heb. 4:15). He was abused and mistreated by the world, indeed, by His own people of Israel (John 1:11). Even God, who He alone could call Father, forsook His One-of-a-kind Son as He bore the sins of the whole world in His body on the tree of the cross.

Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, God the Father has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Christ has won the full forgiveness for all our sins including the original sin with which we conceived and born. We have been legally adopted into the family of God. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:4-6 ESV).

In our adoption as children of God the Father, God’s name has been given to us. “We have been baptized in his name, we have the Word which makes us God’s children, we have his sacraments, which unite us with him. He has implanted his name, Word, and sacrament among us.”[2] That is why we can address God as our “Father.” We can, with all boldness and confidence, ask Him as dear children ask their dear father because we ARE His children in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit whom He gives to us through Word and Sacrament.

As children of the heavenly Father, when we pray “hallowed be Thy name,” you and I must remember, as we are instructed in the Large Catechism, that “it is our duty always to act and behave ourselves as godly children, that [God] may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us. . . . It is a shame and disgrace for a flesh-and-blood father to have a bad, perverse child that opposes him in words and deeds. Because of that child the father suffers contempt and reproach. In the same way also, it brings dishonor upon God if we are called by His name and have all kinds of goods from Him, yet we teach, speak, and live in any other way than as godly and heavenly children.”[3]

It is by the power of God the Holy Spirit, then, working through the Word and the Sacraments of Christ, who enables us to live as children of God with faith and trust in Jesus our Savior. This means that we not only pray the Lord’s Prayer, but live the Lord’s Prayer. We have received God’s Holy Word that has made us His children. We have received the gift of saving faith in Christ alone as our Savior from the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. As a result of the Spirit’s work in us, we believe in Jesus and live holy lives. We pray that God’s name would be kept holy among us in our living! We pray that His kingdom would continue to come among us through the Word.

As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught what God gives and how we respond. Luther put it this way in his 1528 sermon, “O Lord, grant grace that the gospel may be purely preached; let thy name be hallowed in us through thy Word; let thy Word be proclaimed to us. . . . Grant grace that we may diligently accept it, that it bring power to us, and that the people may sincerely adhere to it.”[4]

Adhering to the Word means living it! It means that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we honor God’s name with our words and our actions. We live as children of the heavenly Father, children of the kingdom, as we seek to follow His Commandments and live His Word to the fullest. Adhering to the Word also means praying the words our Lord gave us in faith and trust when we say, “Give us each day our daily bread.” Daily bread, as we learn in the Small Catechism, includes “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” In this petition our eyes are then turned to everything that would prevent our daily bread from coming. Again Luther rightly reminds us that we “pray, therefore, against the devil and the world, who can hinder the grain by tempest and war. We pray also for temporal peace against war, because in times of war we cannot have bread. Likewise, [we] pray for government, for sustenance and peace, without which you cannot eat: Grant, Lord, that the grain may prosper, that the princes may keep the peace, that war may not break out, that we may give thanks to [You] in peace”.[5]

As Jesus teaches us to pray, we learn that we are children who call God Father and so we hallow His name with our words and lives. We pray for daily bread and against all things that would cause us not to receive what the Lord generously gives.  But “although we have and believe God’s Word, do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings, our life is still not sinless. We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people. They do us much harm and give us reasons for impatience, anger, revenge, and such. Besides, we have the devil at our back. He attacks us from every side. . . . So it is not possible to stand firm at all times in such a constant conflict. There is here again great need for us to call upon God and to pray, ‘Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses.’ It is not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer. (He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it.) But the purpose of this prayer is that we may recognize and receive such forgiveness. The flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it neither trusts nor believes God. It is ever active in evil lusts and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed, by what we do and fail to do. By this the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of God’s wrath and displeasure. So it loses the comfort and confidence derived from the Gospel. Therefore, it is always necessary that we run here and receive consolation to comfort the conscience again.”[6]

The Gospel is God’s gift to us for comfort and consolation. It offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins won by Christ for us. It assures us that, because of the saving work of Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been made children of God who have God as our Father. We are heirs of His kingdom, inheritors of everlasting life. He gives us our daily bread, all that we need to support this body and life. As He forgives our sins, our Father in heaven also enables us to forgive others when they sin against us. Our Father defends us against all danger and guards and protects us against all evil. Truly, He alone gives good gifts to His children!

And so we run to the Gospel, indeed, to the Prayer which our Lord has taught us, for comfort and consolation. We run to the throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and speak to our heavenly Father as dear children speak to their dear fathers here on earth. As Pastor Luther concluded his 1528 sermon, “These seven petitions . . .  are great petitions, indeed, but God, who wills to do great things, is greater. Therefore, let us learn to pray well since God wants us to do this. Then we shall experience the power of God, through which he is able to give us great things, to make us good, to keep the Word, to give us a holy life and all else.”[7] Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 169.

[2] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 172–173.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 413.

[4] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 175.

[5] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 177–178.

[6] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 419.

[7] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 181.


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