Let Us Pray – 7/26/19 Luke 11:1-13 – Pastor Donna Doutt

Over the years, I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to bring a group of chattering people to quiet is to ask, “Who would like to lead us in prayer?” Most often that will bring any Chatty Cathy or Chatty Chuck to dead silence.

 

Evidently people rank praying in front of others right up there with public speaking. As a pastor with a comfort level of praying, this makes me scratch my head in wonder, but hey…that’s my job.  

 

Here’s the thing: prayer is prayer whether it is silent and private or out loud and public.  So, let’s ask this question…“How comfortable are you praying in general?”

 

Some might not want to pray aloud because they are covering up the fact that they don't really pray at all. Why? Maybe because they’ve never been taught. Now that we’re in adult life, we’re embarrassed to admit that we don’t know how to pray. However, I think prayer can be easily taught.

 

Even though scripture in the gospel of Matthew Chapter 6 verses 5-8 tells us not to be loud and to go quietly away to pray: 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

 

However, that’s not always how it happens. Prayer is a big part of what we do as Christians. We pray during our worship time each Sunday, we pray at our meetings, our community events. We have a prayer chain to lift others in intercessory care.  

 

Whatever our reason for our hesitating to pray out loud,  not knowing how to pray should not be one of them.

 

Our scripture this morning from Luke starts out sounding like something for which we’re all familiar: The Lord’s Prayer. That would be the one you are most familiar with from Matthew 6:9-14. But this scripture has a twist.

 

After starting out like a lesson replicating the teaching of the Lord’s prayer, winding up to the forgive us our “debts” (but as Methodists we say “trespasses,”) the scripture goes way off on us into what sounds like this crazy story about baking bread, waking people up through the night to feed them, giving children snakes instead of fish. It makes your mind spin with questions.

 

I need to confess, if I were trying to teach someone to pray, that’s not how I would go at it! But once again, we find that Jesus has a method that we need to work at understanding. If praying were so easy, whenever I said, “who would like to lead us in prayer,” people would be falling all over themselves to be first.

 

So let me try to clarify the mystery of this scripture.

 

Let’s begin at the beginning. Jesus instructs us to call God to our attention by saying, “2-4  “When you pray, say, Father…” We are to approach God as “Father.” This is something that is written about so many times, because we say it so often. However, we forget that God looks on us as family. We are His dear children.

Then we speak, “hallowed by your name.” “Your kingdom come.” Jesus is telling us that we need to ask our Father God to take charge of our life.

 

The few remaining petitions center around our request that God provide for us nutritionally, whether it be by true food sustenance or spiritual sustenance, forgive us our sins, and please don’t take us to trial for our sins.

Now comes this story of the sleeping person with the bread. Let me now re-read that scripture to you from the interpretation presented as “The Message.” I think you’ll see how much easier it is to understand when put into simple language.

Luke 11:5 Then he said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’

7 “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’

8 “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need.

9 “Here’s what I’m saying:

Ask and you’ll get;
Seek and you’ll find;
Knock and the door will open.

And those confusing verses, about the child wanting a fish and getting a snake, or asking for an egg and getting a spider, here this interpretation:  “10-13 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”

Does that interpretation help you see that section of scripture more clearly? To begin with, in Jesus time, someone knocking on your door and asking for food would bring about an act of hospitality that was expected. You wouldn’t want your neighbors to hear someone repeatedly calling to you in the night for help, and you’re refusing them because you’re too lazy to get up, even though you have the means to help them.

One of the biblical scholars I follow writes this,[1] “In a world where hospitality was highly prized, the continuous and shameless knocking would broadcast to the world the shameless behavior of a friend who stays in bed rather than answer hospitality’s urgent need.”

Jesus is telling us that God is that sleeping friend, and if we need his help, we can waken Him with our prayers. We can simply call His name, “Father”….”Our Father.”

This illustration shows that God is eager to help us, even more than any friend. He’s obliged and committed to responding to us when we’re in need. It also shows that we must be persistent in our prayers. What immediately follows Jesus lesson is his instruction to “Ask…search…knock.” We need to keep on seeking, knocking, and asking.

So praying is easy as 1, 2, 3, (or maybe 4, 5).

  1. Call out His name. Prayer is a conversation with God, and every conversation begins by addressing the person to whom you are speaking by name. Jesus begins with “Our Father in heaven.”Writer, Marilee Duncan, advises this: God is three distinct persons in One: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. She says, “I find it helpful in my prayer times to focus on which of the Holy Trinity I need to talk to. Often I talk to Jesus, the friend who is closer than a brother and the Savior of my soul.Other times I cry out to the Holy Spirit, who fills and empowers me to do the tasks Father God has called me to do. Having a distinct sense of who I am speaking to helps me formulate what I want to say and how I want to say it.”

  2. Praise and thank Him. Every prayer I pray begins with praise and thanks.

  3. “Thy will be done.” Acknowledge your placing yourself in God’s hands. The Lord’s Prayer is not the only place where Jesus role-modeled a heart of obedience and submission to the will of God over his own desires and needs. In Luke 22 in the Garden of Gethsemane, only hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, he would once again pray, “not my will, but yours be done.”

  4. Say what you need. “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is a metaphor for the spiritual nourishment we need.

  5. Don’t forget to ask for forgiveness. James 5:16 remind us,  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. If we want our prayers to be heard, our hearts need to be right with God and with one another.”

And after you’ve got all that in your head, practice. Think of the five-finger prayer:
Praise, Thanksgiving, Intercession, Petition, Confession.

Jesus instructs us how to pray and to enter into conversation with God. Even with all this instruction, what is most important is you and your earnestness to be heard.

Today’s Gospel story invites us to reflect on our own prayer life and where it can take us. Let us continue to ask, Lord, teach us to pray. We can take comfort in the fact that, even when we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit can help us.

[3]Writer Anne Lamott says she has two basic prayers: “Thank you, thank you,” and Help me, help me, help me.”

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Amen.

] [1]James A. Wallace, C.SS.R. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 3. P.291

[2] https://www.worldvision.org/christian-faith-news-stories/keys-powerful-prayer-life-2019

[3] James A. Wallace, C.SS.R. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 3. P. 289

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