Sermon Text 7.24.2016

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As I was growing up there was one thing that happened on a regular basis in my life.  When I was little my parents would always pray with me before I went to bed.  When I got older I continued the practice of praying before I went to bed most every night.  I was taught that prayer is simply what you did as a Christian.  Little did I know, as I was growing up that my parents were teaching me how to pray by simply praying with me just as parents should be doing.  It is clear though out scripture that we should be people of prayer, but prayer is one of those topics and activities that many struggle with.

Do you pray?  Do you pray a lot or enough?  What do you pray for?  When do you pray?  How do you pray?  Have you ever wondered about the topic of prayer?  Prayer is a topic that garners a lot of different questions.  The topic and activity of prayer garners many different thoughts and opinions some of them helpful many of the opinions that are floating around are not helpful nor are they faithful to the scriptures. This morning we will take a look at the topic of prayer.

Last Sunday pastor Bob preached about being people of the Word.  Not simply people who knew the word exists. Not simply people who read the word, but rather people who were consumed by the word and as a result read it, knew it, marked it, and inwardly understood it that it would then be lived it out in our lives.  When we are being people of the word we will also be people of prayer as the word of God and prayer are intimately connected.  First off the word of God tells us to be in prayer.  1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Timothy 2:8 (ESV) I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; Jude 20–21 (ESV) 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. It is clear from God’s word that God’s people pray.  The prayers of the people of God spring forth because of their connection with God and just as Psalm 27:8 says prayer is simply a conversation of the heart with God.

It is also clear in our gospel reading for today that pray is something that one is taught to do.  Just like my parents taught me to pray along with my pastors and teachers the disciples wanted to be taught.  Luke 11:1 (ESV) 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.” When we think of being taught how to pray there are many things that probably come to mind like our physical posture.  Do we kneel or sit or stand or prostrate on the ground?  Do we put our hands in the air or are we supposed to fold them? Do we simply think about the words or do we have to say them?  What words should we say?  I am guessing if you are like me you wish there was a check list of things to do and step by step instructions to follow, but that is not really the case.  There are many wonderful practices that may help one in their life of prayer but they are not commanded as things we must be doing.  We are simply called to pray!  Many other religions have many rules about how prayer is to be done and the amount of times that it should be done, but that is not what is given by Jesus when his disciples ask him to teach them to pray.  I am not going to spend much time on the Lord’s Prayer itself to day but Jesus gives them this prayer to pray and the focus of that prayer has to do with things that God has revealed in His word that He is concerned with.

Where I want to spend a little more time looking and understanding the text this morning from our Gospel reading is from verse 9 until the end of the reading. Let me read that again for us today. Luke 11:9–13 (ESV) 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!” If you have every had something in your life that you were praying a lot about and it didn’t work out as you had hoped you may have read this section of scripture and though that it is not true.  We have all prayed for something that seems very good and pleasing to God yet when we ask we don’t seem to receive. When we have knocked it doesn’t seem to be open. When we seek we don’t seem to be able to find much of anything.

When that is the case there are two ways of thinking that Satan wants to push us into.  The first one is that the one praying is at fault.  We assume that we didn’t pray correctly.  We assume that we were not holy or righteous enough for our prayers to be effective.  Many of us have prayed and prayed and prayed yet not received the good news we were hoping for and instead Satan pushes in a different direction.  He begins to spew the lies that you must not be praying to anything.  You are simply wasting your time.  Even if there is a god he must not care much about you.  I have the solution to both of these issues.

I am going to let you in on a little secret on how to make sure that everyone of your prayers is heard by God.  You may want to write this down.  Trust in Jesus! It’s not a special form of prayer that makes it work better.  There are not magic words that you have to say in order to be heard by God.  One does not have to become a pastor in order for the prayer to be heard.  My prayers don’t even go to the front of the line! In all seriousness though it is not the act of prayer that that makes God hear, but rather it is Christ for you which tugs on the ear of your heavenly Father.  It is because of his righteousness and his holiness that your prayers are heard and answered.

That reality does not simply erase the issue of feeling as though there are times when we pray prayers that seemingly ask for good things but we still don’t get what we are hoping for.   We must always keep in mind that as Christians and as those whose prayers are heard by God our will and desires will always align with God’s wills and desires. 1 John 5:14 (ESV) 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. That is why we will often times pray not my will but your will be done.  It is not to attach on to the prayer an escape clause but it is to acknowledge that God is God and we are not.  A silly example of what I am talking about would be praying to win the lottery. If I prayed to God to win the lottery has God not answered my prayer when I don’t win? That prayer has not come from the will of God and therefore is not heard by God as his concern is not that I am wealthy in this life but rather that I persist in the faith of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.  There are no doubt much more serious situations in our lives that we wrestle with and pray for but we don’t understand.  The truth of that matter is we don’t know best but we have a God that does and a Savior who has completed all things for us one our behalf.

When we pray we can know that our prayers are heard on account of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We can also know that God has our best interests in mind and that it is our connection with Christ which is his main concern.  Even if I can’t understand what happens today I can know that God hears my prayers and gives me His good gifts.  My hope and prayer is that we would be a people of the word and because of that a people of prayer always with Christ as our focus in all that we do!

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