The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12C (7/28/2013)
Lessons:Genesis 18:20-32 Psalm 138 (8) Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19] St. Luke 11:1-13
Semicontinuous Series: Hosea 1:2-10 Psalm 85 (13) Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19] St. Luke 11:1-13
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us your abundant mercy. Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
11:1 [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give 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!”
St. Luke 11:1-13. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
I’ve got a prayer list that runs longer than my arm. It includes church members and family and friends who are experiencing difficulties; world situations that seem extremely troubling; ministries that I’d like to see God bless and increase; personal and professional concerns that I’m facing in my own life. Some of these prayers have been on my list for years (meaning, of course, that they are not resolved, and still concerns). Some of them seem unlikely to find a satisfying resolution any time soon. Frankly, some of them seem quite beyond any earthly hope at all.
I know that we are called to pray constantly, and with confidence (for example: St. Luke 18:1). Yet I also believe that God doesn’t dole out answers in proportion to the prayer’s earnestness or faithfulness. So why is it that Jesus asks us to pray? Why are we instructed to open our hearts up and pray: for God’s kingdom to come into our lives, for daily bread and forgiveness, for God’s presence in times of trial…
One of my favorite authors is Frederich Buechner, and he describes prayer (in his book Wishful Thinking; A Theological ABC) in this manner:
What about when the boy is not healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer the God you call upon will finally come, and even if you do not receive the answer you want, God will come to you. And maybe, at the secret heart of all our prayers, that is what we are really praying for.
Wishful Thinking; A Theological ABC, Frederick Buechner (Harper & Row, San Francisco, ©1973), page 71.
“Keep on beating the path to God’s door… the God you call upon will finally come.” Buechner reminds us that God is not the great vending machine in the sky, and prayer is not the coin that puts the machine in motion. Prayer, instead, is our attempt to place all of life into God’s hands, and to open our hearts to the presence and promise and power of God. So even when the cancer doesn’t go away, God comes. Even when the desired job isn’t offered, God comes. Even when addiction reigns, God comes. Even when relationships falter, God comes. God comes with presence and promise and power. God comes to heal our hearts, and assure us of our future. God comes to remind us that the gift of eternity is already ours.
So what shall we do? We will pray as if we were a little child, whose interest in a good book demands just a few more minutes of attention. We will pray as if we know God is a loving parent who has a soft spot just for us. We will pray, never ceasing, and know that God will hear those prayers. We will pray honestly, knowing that God would far rather hear what is on our minds and in our hearts, than what we think God wants to hear.
What was it that Jesus said? "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you." People of God, let us commit ourselves to asking, searching, and knocking — for such is the ministry to which we have been called.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why did Jesus’ disciples ask to be taught to pray?
- Did Jesus intend to give them a prayer to pray, or a model for prayer?
- What does it mean that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who pray?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What concerns are currently on my prayer list?
- How can I practice a prayer life that is richer than a list of requests?
- What would change if I prayed, expecting God’s presence to grow in my life?