The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 11:1-13

A VERY WISE PRESIDENT OF A LUTHERAN SEMINARY ONCE SAID THAT IF YOU ARE GOING TO PREACH ON PRAYER YOU BETTER CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE FOR THE NEXT WEEK, BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE COMING TO YOU WITH QUESTIONS. I CAN APPROACH THIS BOLDLY, SINCE I AM LEAVING TOWN TOMORROW FOR TWO WEEKS, AND SO LEAVE ALL THE QUESTIONS FOR STEVE. WE ALL HAVE QUESTIONS, AND EVEN OPINIONS, ABOUT PRAYER. SINCE WE ALL HAVE HAD THE SAD EXPERIENCE OF HAVING PRAYED WITH NO APPARENT EFFECT, WE MIGHT WELL WONDER WHAT’S THE POINT IF GOD DOES NOT ANSWER PRAYER. THUS, SOME THINK PRAYER IS POINTLESS. SOME OF US HAVE HAD THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING OUR PRAYERS ANSWERED IN A SPECIFIC WAY, AND SOME HAVE HAD THEIR PRAYERS ANSWERED IN TOTALLY UNEXPECTED WAYS. WHAT, THEN, IS THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER, AND JUST HOW IS IT THAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO PRAY?

THE DISCIPLES WERE ACCUSTOMED TO SEEING JESUS PRAY, FOR HE OFTEN WENT OFF BY HIMSELF TO SPEND TIME IN PRAYER. PRAYER WAS A LARGE PART OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THE JEWISH FAITH. THERE WERE FORMAL PRAYERS FOR VARIOUS TIMES OF THE DAY, WITH BECAME THE BASIS FOR THE DAILY CYCLE OF PRAYERS IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. EVEN TODAY, IN ISRAEL, YOU CAN SEE WHAT ARE KNOWN AS THE TEFFILLIM BOYS, YOUNG MEN CARRYING THE STRAPS TO BIND THE FOREHEAD AND LEFT ARM, RUNNING UP TO MEN ON THE STREET ASKING THEM IF THEY HAD PRAYED TODAY; THEN STRAPPING THEM UP FOR PRAYER. THE DISCIPLES, KNOWING JESUS’ DEEP CONNECTION TO GOD, NOT REALLY KNOWING YET HOW DEEP, FIGURED THAT IF ANYONE KNEW THE RIGHT WAY TO PRAY, IT MUST BE JESUS. SINCE JOHN THE BAPTIST TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES TO PRAY, ONE OF JESUS’ DISCIPLES ASKED HIM TO TEACH THEM HOW TO PRAY.

HIS ANSWER IS WHAT WE KNOW AS THE LORD’S PRAYER; “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.” THIS IS A SHORTER VERSION OF THE PRAYER FOUND IN MATTHEW, BUT THEY ARE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME. WE CALL IT THE LORD’S PRAYER, BUT IT IS MORE APPROPRIATE TO CONSIDER IT AS THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER. IT IS HEBRAIC IN STRUCTURE WITH A DOXOLOGY FOLLOWED BY PETITIONS, MUCH LIKE MANY OF THE PRAYERS FOUND IN THE PSALMS.

“FATHER, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME,” IS THE OPENING DOXOLOGY; GIVING GLORY TO GOD. WHEN WE PRAY THIS TOGETHER WE SAY “OUR FATHER,” BUT THERE IS NO “OUR” IN THE PERSONAL PRAYER. JESUS USES THE MOST COMMON INTIMATE WORD FOR FATHER, “ABBA,” MUCH LIKE OUR SAYING “DAD,” OR “DADDY.” HE INVITES EACH OF HIS DISCIPLES, AND US, TO THINK OF GOD, THE OTHERWISE UNKNOWABLE AND UNAPPROACHABLE KING OF GLORY, AS THE INTIMATE LOVING FATHER OF EACH ONE WHO CALLS UPON HIS NAME. THE WORD, “HALLOWED,” MEANS TO BE HOLY, OR SANCTIFIED, WHICH WE USUALLY THINK OF AS SOMETHING WHICH HAPPENS TO US. HERE, WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR GOD TO BE HOLY, BUT FOR OURSELVES TO HOLD GOD AS HOLY AND SANCTIFIED IN OUR HEARTS. THIS IS THE STARTING POINT IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER.

“YOUR KINGDOM COME,” IS THE FIRST PETITION. THE KINGDOM HAS COME IN THE PERSON OF JESUS, BUT WE ARE TO PRAY FOR IT’S COMING IN ALL ITS FULLNESS, CASTING DOWN ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD AND USHERING IN THE GRACE, PEACE, AND JUSTICE OF THE RULE OF GOD OVER ALL. IN THIS PETITION, WE ARE INCLUDED AS INSTRUMENTS OF THE COMING OF GOD’S KINGDOM; WE ARE TO PROCLAIM IT EVEN AS JESUS PROCLAIMED IT. GOD DESIRES TO BRING HIS KINGDOM TO THIS WORLD, AND ENCOURAGES US TO EMBRACE ITS FULLNESS EVEN NOW.

“GIVE US EACH DAY OUR DAILY BREAD,” SEEMS A PRETTY SMALL THING IN RELATION TO THE COMING OF GOD’S KINGDOM; WHICH MAY BE THE EXACT POINT OF THIS PETITION. WE ARE INVITED TO TRUST GOD IN ALL THINGS; TO RELY ON THE MERCIES OF THE FATHER WHO KNOWS OUR NEEDS. IT IS TRUE THAT WE NEED THE ESSENTIALS OF LIFE, BUT THE PETITION FOCUSES US ON WHAT WE NEED, NOT ON OUR WANTS OR WORRIES. IT OPENS US UP TO SEE THE HAND OF GOD IN ALL THINGS, AND, BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO SENSE THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN OUR LIVES, EVEN IN THE BREAKING OF OUR DAILY BREAD.

“AND FORGIVE US OUR SINS, AS WE OURSELVES FORGIVE EVERYONE INDEBTED TO US,” CAN ALSO BE TRANSLATED AS “RELEASE US FROM OUR SINS, AS WE RELEASE EVERYONE INDEBTED TO US.” FORGIVENESS OFFERS RELEASE FROM SPIRITUAL CAPTIVITY, FOR THE FORGIVER AS MUCH AS FOR THE FORGIVEN. BOTH ACTS FIGURE IN THE PETITION, NOT BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID THAT GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE US UNLESS WE FORGIVE OTHERS, BUT BECAUSE WE PRAY TO MODEL OUR LOVE FOR OTHERS ON GOD’S LOVE AND MERCY FOR US. THE INCLUSION OF INDEBTEDNESS AS WELL AS SIN, SERVES TO REMIND US THAT MONEY, AND ECONOMIC INDEBTEDNESS, IS ALSO A MATTER OF THE SPIRIT AND CALLS FOR OUR GRACE AND MERCY.

THE PRAYER CLOSES WITH OUR ASKING THAT WE NOT BE BROUGHT TO “THE TIME OF TRIAL.” IT IS OUR PRAYER TO BE DELIVERED FROM THE TEMPTATIONS WHICH CAN CRIPPLE OR DESTROY OUR SOUL. LUKE’S GOSPEL OPENS WITH SCENES OF SPIRIT FILLED JOY, AND JUST BEFORE IT CLOSES IN THE SAME WAY, WE FINED REFERENCES TO THIS SORT OF TEMPTATION. JESUS TWICE TELLS HIS DISCIPLES TO PRAY THAT THEY MAY NOT COME INTO TEMPTATION, THE KIND OF TEMPTATION HE RESISTED IN THE DESERT, AND EVEN HE IS TEMPTED AGAIN BEFORE THE END TO AVOID THE CROSS.

HIS LITTLE PARABLES WHICH FOLLOW ARE INTENDED TO STRESS THE NEED TO BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER, AND HE SETS THEM IN COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCES TO DRIVE HOME HIS POINT. THE MAN IN NEED OF BREAD WILL BE GIVEN BREAD BECAUSE OF HIS PERSISTENT BANGING ON HIS FRIEND’S DOOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. “ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN YOU; SEARCH AND YOU WILL FIND; KNOCK AND THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED FOR YOU,” IS NOT A PRESCRIPTION FOR PRAYER AS A SORT OF CELESTIAL SLOT MACHINE, WHERE WHATEVER YOU ASK FOR WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU. LOOK, IF YOU ARE WISE ENOUGH TO GIVE WHAT IS GOOD FOR YOUR CHILD, AS MOST PEOPLE ARE, SO IF YOUR CHILD ASKS FOR A FISH, YOU DON’T GIVE HIM A SNAKE, OR IF HE ASKS FOR AN EGG, YOU DON’T GIVE HIM A SCORPION, HOW MUCH MORE WILL THE HEAVENLY FATHER GIVE YOU WHAT IS GOOD; WHICH IS “THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM.”

NOW KNOWING HOW TO PRAY, WE ALSO KNOW THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER. THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS NOT TO CHANGE TO MIND OF GOD, BUT TO SHAPE OUR MIND AND SPIRIT. THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS TO KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF HEAVEN, LIFTING UP OUR MINDS AND HEARTS BEFORE THE LOVING PRESENCE OF OUR FATHER. HE WANTS US TO KNOCK AND FIND HIS HOLY SPIRIT WAITING EAGERLY TO ENLIVEN, FEED, AND DEFEND US. THIS IS THE ANSWER TO THE ALL THE PETITIONS OF THE PRAYER; THE GREAT GIFT THAT THE FATHER WANTS TO GIVE US – THE FIRE FROM HEAVEN THAT MAKES US FIT FOR THE KINGDOM NOW AND IN THE AGES TO COME. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THIS GREAT GIFT AT OUR BAPTISM, AND THIS PRAYER INVITES US TO SEEK IT OVER AND OVER AS A DAILY PART OF OUR LIVES; LIVES READY TO LIVE IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD.
AMEN

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