Luke 11:1-13 (Pentecost 7C)                                               

St. John, Galveston 7/24/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

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

I’ve been to many gatherings, pastor’s conferences and the like, where, as a part of a group exercise, we’ve all been asked rate our faith on a scale of one to ten. I have to say, I really dislike these things. It seems that you’re sort of forced into giving yourself a big ole 5, because if you say one or two, others are likely to think something like, “and you call yourself a pastor.” For those of you who thought that pastors aren’t or can’t be judgmental, I’m sorry to inform you otherwise. On the other hand, a pastor should be wise enough not give himself a 9 or 10 because that seems to put him in the company of Simon Peter. Yes, Lord, all others may forsake and abandon you, but I never will. Faith though is a gift from God, so, an evaluation of its quality on our part would seem to be less than salutary. 

But how is your prayer life these days? Is it great, or is it not so great? Actually, and more to the point, perhaps I should ask, “if you are satisfied with prayer in your life, what is it that makes you satisfied? And, if you’re not satisfied, what is it that dissatisfies you?

The disciples came to Jesus one day and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” By their request, it appears they had some concerns about prayer. The questions that arise in our minds no doubt arose in theirs too. We’re they doing it right? We’re they petitioning God for what they should have been petitioning Him for, or were they’re requests misguided, perhaps even self-directed and centered?   

None of us, I suspect, are completely “satisfied” with the various aspects of prayer in our lives. Perhaps our dissatisfaction involves time, not spending enough time in prayer. Luther once said that if he didn’t spend three hours each morning in prayer his day was of little use. Most of us, I suspect, can’t imagine spending anywhere near that much time in prayer. We’re also often dissatisfied with the RESULT, or the outcome of our prayers, aren’t we? At times, we wonder whether God even hears our prayers.

Jesus gave His disciples and us the perfect prayer, His prayer. Certainly, there are many messages that could be preached on that prayer alone, but this morning I would like to focus on the two parables that He told immediately after giving the prayer. They tell us something about the attitude of God toward us when we pray to Him. The first parable was about the friend who sought a loaf of bread late at night from another friend, and the other one was about the father, who though evil, wouldn’t give a snake to his child when his child asked him for a fish. 

Persistence is the point of the first parable. We are called to be persistent in prayer. Not, however, because our persistence will finally wear God down, but because persistence helps us define our real need, it helps us to get to the bottom of what we really want and need from God. 

Rev. John Kleinig, in his book titled “Grace upon Grace,” reminds us that we are all beggars before God. As such, our journey with Christ contradicts popular religion and common piety. Popular piety presupposes our unrealized spiritual potential, as if we were a bird waiting to fly. We simply need a few more of our requests answered by God. God, why don’t you give me what I ask so that I can fly, so that I can soar in my faith? 

Jesus teaches us that we begin, continue, and end our journey with Him as beggars before God the Father, the heavenly King. As such, as we follow Jesus, we do not become increasingly self-sufficient. Rather, we learn, bit by bit, the art of begging from God, until at our death we’ve learned to say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!”

In Jesus’ first parable about prayer, He teaches us to keep asking though heaven’s door may appear to be closed. “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 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’?  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistencehe will rise and give him whatever he needs.” 

So, persistence in prayer is a good thing. Not because by it we are going to bend God’s will, but, because through persistence God molds, He bends our will to conform to His own. “How long, O Lord, the psalmist said?  Will you forget me forever?” Certainly, God never forgets His own. By its very nature, persistence thrives on that realization. In regard to persistence Paul directs our attention to the cross and reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It is a settled principle of our faith that God is, in all things, FOR US. How do we know that?  Well, because He did not spare His own Son, but He gave Him up for us all!

The second parable deals with another aspect of prayer all together. Yes, we are beggars before God, but we are beggars who have been exalted by the sacrifice of Jesus, who, though created a little lower than the angels have been given angelic status. Dr. Kleinig, who reminds us that we are all beggars before God, reminds us that as we prepare to receive the body and blood of our dear Lord, we sing the Kyrie, Lord have mercy. But he also reminds us that in our next breath, we join the heavenly chorus to sing the praise that rang forth at the birth of our Savior.  ”Glory be to God on high: and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” 

We are beggars before God but He has exalted us, He has exalted you with angelic status. We turn again to God’s goodness and grace, that He is, in all things, FOR US. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  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!” 

It's an argument from the lesser to the greater. If a sinful, even evil father, knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will your heavenly give what is good to you. And you, my friends, are those children, sons and daughters of the Crucified, heirs of the Kingdom of God.

Luther reminds us that part of the process of growth in the faith is this thing that he calls tentatio, that is to say, spiritual struggle or temptation. The silence that we experience from time to time from heaven is never to do harm to our relationship to our Heavenly Father.  Rather, it is a loving Father’s hand resting upon His dear children, bringing them to the maturity of faith that can only come through this tentatio, this struggle, this reminder that we are beggars before Him, but we are beggars with angelic status. I suppose it’s little wonder that when Luther died, he was found with a little piece of paper in his pocket. Written on the little piece of paper was this, “It’s true, we are all beggars before God.” 

Thankfully, by His grace, we are beggars who sing with angels, and who are given all that God has to give for our life and salvation. Afterall, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”   

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +