The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12C (7/24/2016)

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.” 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.”

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; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 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.’ 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.

“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.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

This Sunday at Saint Peter, I am presenting the second of a four-sermon series entitled “What Is?” The topic of the week is, “What Is Faith?” I want to invite our worshippers to take an interest in the conversations people are having (mostly in theological circles) about how to understand and articulate the relationship between the death and resurrection of Christ and our standing with God. I am convinced that this is an important undertaking. If we are going to reach the numbers of people who don’t know about our faith, or who have walked away from our faith, we will have to develop the capacity to tell our own faith story with clarity and in a compelling way. So what is faith? How does it make a discernible difference in our lives? What makes it worth commending it to another human being?

As a Lutheran Christian, of course, I can’t embark on this project without grounding it in Scripture. This weekend’s text provides an opportunity to do just that. Jesus himself is praying, as he often does, and when he has finished one of his followers asks him to teach them how to do that. Evidently John the Baptizer had provided some training in prayer for his closest followers, and the disciples of Jesus want something similar from him.

Jesus provides them with a model for prayer. We have come to think that he provides us with a prayer to pray, but it serves us better if we think of it as a model for how to pray. In this model, one can glimpse what faith in Christ is all about. It has to do with honoring God’s name (speaking respectfully about God, and not using the name of God for foolish purposes). It has to do with longing for the kingdom to come (as Luther taught us, the kingdom will come in and of itself, but in this prayer we ask that it might come to us). It has to do with trusting that God will provide us with what we need for daily life (we’re not asking, here, for remarkable prosperity, or a rainy-day fund that will sustain us for years to come… but we’re asking for the peace that comes from knowing that God will not abandon us). It  has to do with living in such a way that forgiveness stands at the center of all our relationships (our relationships with each other as well as our relationship with God). It has to do with trusting that God will be our strength when we are tempted to drift away from our faith (not that difficulties will never come our way, but that God will be our strength through everything that comes).

Jesus asks us to pray in this way, as believers who (1) honor God, (2) long for the kingdom, (3) trust in God’s providence, (4) forgive and are forgiven, and (5) lean on God during challenging times. What a great way to think about what it means to be a person of Christian faith! So much more so than speculation about who’s right or wrong, who’s in or out, who’s rewarded or punished…

And here’s the kicker: no matter how we pray, or what we ask to receive, we are promised that God will give us whatever we need (whether or not we know what that might be). What is faith? It is putting our lives in the hand of this One, who loves us enough to die for us.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why do the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray?
  2. Does he teach them a prayer, or a model for praying?
  3. How might this conversation have influenced their personal prayer lives?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How would I describe what Christian faith means to me?
  2. What does the Lord’s Prayer teach me about faith?
  3. How can this prayer deepen my relationship with Christ?