Sermon for Proper 12 cycle C Luke 11:1-13 Move Boldly July 28 29, 2007 CtK
July 21, 1986 Columbia, SC newspaper – had a news story
Summer long drought
100 people gathered at the Lexington Cty Courthouse
Led by pastor Hank Moody, Pigsah Lutheran – 20 minute service
“We prayed for a gentle soothing rain for the land, a rain without lightning and storm, a rain that will nourish the land and refill the ponds.:
The weather service reported that it wouldn’t be filled anytime soon!
That’s like the world – pray – but don’t expect God to act!
Yet that Friday the rains did come
Not gentle though, More rain in a week than in the previous 3 months
Did God hear the prayer? Was the storm the answer to the prayers on the courthouse?
B & S we come this day like those first disciples in Luke
Asking, Lord teach us how to pray.
Prayer is the first mark of discipleship
Daily prayer – I would argue that prayer should be more frequent than once daily.
Yet whenever I preach on the topic of prayer I get comments from people about the difficulty they have praying.
It seems that in a world that lifts up experts we think one needs to be an expert to pray.
Reason why lay led prayers are important – MSG to Children
Once there was a family who used the Lord's Prayer as their table grace. One night, as they were gathered around the dinner table, and the father got to the phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread," the youngest child said in a loud whisper, "Ask for cake."
Luther reminds us that when Jesus taught us to ask for bread, he was instructing us to ask for everything a Christian needs to sustain life. All necessary food, clothing, shelter and also the work we do, our family and friends and even the government which protects us, we should ask for in prayer. Bread means everything we need to have a safe and happy life. But, when the little child asked for cake, it represents our asking for things we don't absolutely need, such as luxury cars, designer clothes, and more sweet desserts than our bodies can handle. We have a lifestyle that even kings in another era would envy. Perhaps it is all right for us to have many of these things, but it is not God's duty to see that we do. We have no right to expect them as our due. When Jesus taught us to ask for bread, he meant bread, not cake.
Before digging in to the model of prayer offered here lets look at some insights in Luke
In Matthew they seem to know how to pray – just need instruction
In Luke they ask Jesus to teach them how to pray
Perhaps – non Jewish audience – thought they didn’t know how to pray
Or didn’t know the Jewish prayer patterns & styles.
The other interesting note is that the disciples compare themselves to John’s disciples
They must have a prayer that defines them as the Baptists disciples
Jesus’ disciples are asking for the same thing.
There is a sense then that our prayer defines our discipleship.
Yet there is an important note – the verbs in the prayer are 2nd person Plural
This prayer from the beginning was a communal prayer – more than personal.
I remember working with a family – A CA dx – prayer for healing
When I buried their father & husband
I guess God didn’t hear our prayers
Yet that brings us to the full text before us
When Jesus invited to teach about prayer he offers 2 stories to help lift up prayer
It also helps us to understand God’s role in prayer too.
1) Intimacy, Jesus starts by calling God Father.
Tony Campola – in You Can Make a Difference
“I have a twenty-year-old son, and I cannot imagine him walking into our house and saying to me, “Oh, thou chairman of the sociology department at Eastern College, Oh though who doth clothe me, feed me and provide me with every good and perfect gift; I beseech thee this day, lend me the car.” That’s not the way he talks to me. I’m his daddy. So, like a good Italian boy, he walks into the house, throws his arms around me, kisses me and says, “HI Dad, can I borrow the car?” You see, we love each other.
What Jesus is lifting up is that God seeks an intimacy – a relationship – not unlike parent/ch
a. God isn’t seeking to play tricks on us
b. The example of the child asking for a fish and giving a snake.
i. Water snakes – inedible – thrown back.
c. Eggs – scorpions
d. We are reminded then that when pray we can do so in confidence. God doesn’t us tease us with the good things we need!
a. The story of the friend knocking on the door – a reminder of persistence.
b. Can you relate to one who get’s unexpected guests
i. Janice’s mom- in the parsonage – baking bread all night.
c. I think we get confused by the notion of persistence.
We don’t like to be bothered. It isn’t that we are insensitive to a cry for help, but often we would rather not be bothered. We worry, knowing how we are, that God will respond the same way. – reluctant to answer, slow to act.
We then wonder about God’s response to our prayers. That is the question and teaching behind this story of the fool, neighbor and midnight conversation. If we are slow, is God the same?
No! Jesus point is not a hesitant God, unwilling to answer our requests. In lifting up persistence he isn’t telling us to keep badgering God until we get what we want.
Persistence has to do with us more than God. It has to do with clarifying our need and God’s will. To persevere in prayer is to move from pettiness and selfishness to a passion for God’s will, God’s sovereignty, love and goodness. It is to pray “yet not my will but yours be done.”
When we grasp intimacy, confidence and persistence we can move to boldly pray as Jesus taught us.
Once upon a time in a church that had four elders, it seemed that every time something came to a vote, the vote would be 3-1. One elder would always be by himself on the losing side. One beautiful, sunny day the one elder who was always on the losing side began to pray with the others. He said: "O Lord, I know in my heart that I am right and they are wrong. Please show us a sign now, so that they will understand that I know your ways." As soon as the elder finished praying, a storm cloud moved across the sky, rumbled, and then disappeared. The elder said: "Did you see that? A sign from God! Now you will have to believe me." But the other three disagreed, pointing out that storm clouds just sometimes form on hot days. Again the elder prayed: "O Lord, I need a bigger sign to show them that I am right and they are wrong. Please, God, give me a bigger sign." This time four storm clouds appeared out of nowhere and rushed toward each other to form one big cloud. Then a bolt of lightning came down and knocked down a tree ten feet away from where they were standing. At once the cloud disappeared. "See, I told you I was right," said the lone elder. Reluctantly, the other three said: "Okay, we'll agree with you that God thinks you are right. But that only makes the vote 3-2." Jesus directs us to pray for God's will, not our own, to be done
We may pray, your will be done, but unless we listen and allow God’s response we turn God into a vending machine that we can manipulate and push the buttons waiting for blessings to drop down.