7th Weekend after Pentecost 7-24-2022

7th Weekend after Pentecost 7-24-2022

July 24, 2022 | Bryan Simmons

Passage: Luke 11:1-13

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    Yeah. So the topic of the day is prayer, right? And I've got to tell you, from a from a pastor's perspective, I always get a little nervous talking about prayer from the pulpit, because there are a lot of different views about prayer and the power of prayer, how prayer works and all of that sort of thing. And the reason there's a lot of different views is because there's a lot of different things to latch on to in Scripture to try to think about these things. And I think that the danger is if we get too simplistic in how we view prayer. For example, if you jump straight to the ask, search and knock -- and you think to yourself: oh, all I have to do is ask or search or knock, and I'll get what I want. And that works great until it doesn't. Right? And then you're forced to ask yourself some pretty important questions, like, well, maybe my faith isn't strong enough. Maybe I'm not good enough. Worthy enough? Maybe God isn't strong enough. Or maybe God isn't good. These are awful questions to wrestle with. And I think it's because it's too simplistic to say: ask, search and knock -- and all this stuff will come your way. In fact, there's a term for that I've heard it, that kind of turns God into a cosmic vending machine, right? Where you put the quarter in and then you look at all the selections and then you hit the button and get what you want out of it.

    So there's clearly more to it than that. And then you think about, well, okay, you've got this other part in here about the persistence of the friend. And so maybe it's just this idea of -- keep asking, keep searching, keep knocking. Be persistent to the point where you annoy God enough, God has to give you what you want. Except there's been a lot of people here who have been diligent, righteous prayer warriors. And maybe events didn't turn out as we had hoped they would. Maybe. Maybe the cancer didn't go away. Maybe the relationship didn't work out as planned. And these are tough things to deal with. These are tough things to wrestle with. And when we think about prayer and the power of prayer, we want to know and be reassured that prayer does something. Or otherwise, why are we saying the words? I think Luke is very careful here to craft this portion of the gospel in showing how Jesus talks about prayer. And Jesus often goes off to pray in Luke. In fact, Luke depicts Jesus praying more times than the rest of the Gospels. And he's always going off to be in prayer. And so one of the disciples says to him, Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.

    The very first thing Jesus does is gives us this Lord's Prayer that we talk about, right? That that we understand. And of course, the difference between Matthew and Luke comes to different conclusions as to what the Lord's Prayer is that we end up saying together in church every week. Right? But the idea is the same. And the idea is actually quite wonderful when you think about it. He doesn't teach the disciples to pray in individual prayer to God. But teaches the disciples to pray a prayer together that affects all. And the interesting thing is, if you look at the petitions of the Lord's Prayer. These are things that God is going to do anyway. These are characteristics of God already. We petition God to do what God does. And for those of you that went up through confirmation in the Lutheran Church and had to suffer through The Small Catechism, right? "This is most certainly true," is the thing we only remember now. But it was important enough to Martin Luther to put this in the small catechism, to look at each petition in the Lord's Prayer. What does this mean? And you'll notice in all of those petitions, Martin Luther talks about how God's name is going to be made holy, with or without our help. The kingdom will come with or without our help. God provides daily bread, with or without our recognizing it.

    God abundantly forgives sins. The question in these prayers isn't whether God is going to do it. But the question is, how can we be a part of it? How can we have it come in and among us? How can we walk with God to the point that we also are doing the things that God is going to do? How can we make God's name holy? How can we make God's kingdom here now on Earth? How can we forgive sins as we forgive others knowing that God forgives us? How can we ensure that the daily bread we have is fairly distributed to all people? This is a prayer of relationship, of belonging, not only to God but to one another. We pray it together and join in this one body. To pray these truths about who God is.

    And so when it comes to this idea of asking, seeking and knocking, it's not about a transaction. It's not a business relationship that we have with God. It's a personal one. And the difficulty, I think, for us is that this relationship is a little more difficult than relationships with one another. Right? I mean, you often hear that prayer is a conversation with God, but in a conversation with one another, if I say something to you, you're generally going to say something back. If you just sit there and stare at me, it's going to be a bit awkward.

    And the same is true with prayer. You speak these words into the air, you generally don't hear a voice back. Some people do. And God be praised that they do. Most don't. I don't hear the voice of God. Maybe some of you do, and that's a wonderful thing. But I think most don't. Most hear God in a different way. For me, it's more of this tugging within, this gentle nudge toward something. It's also an interacting with others. It's also an interacting with scripture itself. And that the way I read the words in Scripture and the way that I understand conversations being spoken back and forth with me, all line up with the prayers that I've been praying. And it gives them new meaning as I hear God's voice in those words.

    But it is different, this relationship with God. But when we pray and we think about the good things that God has given us, it tends to move us away from specific asking for our own benefit. And it tends to move us towards reliance on the relationship that we have with God. For the good things that God has given us are forgiveness, life, peace, joy. Things that carry us beyond this world. Miracles do happen, healings happen, and we praise God for them when they happen. But when they don't we know that we are still forgiven, loved. That we are welcome eternally into God's loving presence. That all this has been accomplished for our sake.

    So the asking and the seeking and the knocking is more of an identity of who we are as Christians in this world. We are askers, seekers and knockers for the sake of Christ. Living in the promise of God and the truth of that promise. That love wins, that life prevails. That even though this world of death in sin can conquer us temporally, we are eternally gods. We are eternally children of God. We are eternally welcome into the kingdom. So when we pray it is a prayer of relationship.

    You think about the bargaining that Abraham does with God in Genesis. It's not a transaction. It's one of relationship. It's one of trust. It's one of talking about talking to God about who God is, because you know what God can do. So that whether your prayer gets answered in the way that you think it should, you are still in relationship with the one who created all, the one who redeems all, and the one who loves all. May we pray, for God to be God. And for us to join in what God is doing for the sake of the world. And may we pray that this relationship with God continues through our death into new life, promised for us. For all time. Amen.