Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from God our father,
Jesus our savior
and the Holy Spirit our comforter and guide. Amen
Today Jesus’ disciples ask him how to pray
and he gives them a lesson on the goodness of God.
This is Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer,
you may have noticed that it’s a little bit different
than the one we usually pray,
that version comes from the gospel of Matthew
who has a different focus to his gospel.
it seems that Jesus is not as concerned
with the exact form of the prayer
as he is with the one who receives the prayer.
Jesus follows the simple petitions that he gives them,
With some scenarios that illustrate who God is
and how God relates to us in prayer
First Jesus says
image that you have a friend come in the middle of the night
and you have nothing to offer them in the way of food.
So you think to yourself,
maybe my neighbor has something I can borrow,
so you go next door in the middle of the night
and bang on the door to ask for some bread.
And your neighbor is not happy with you,
they’ve locked the door and gone to bed,
you are seriously annoying them,
but you keep up your shameless begging,
you’re starting to make a scene
and Jesus says, the neighbor will get up,
not because they’re your friend
but because it is the honorable thing to do.
“When you pray, say Father hallowed by your name.”
God will act to honor God’s name,
even when we act in dishonorable ways,
even when we’re seriously annoying God.
Now there’s something to be said for persistence in prayer,
Jesus has other examples of that,
but the point here
is that God is good
even when we are not.
It is the goodness of God
that drives God’s response to prayer.
And that’s why we pray for God’s kingdom to come,
for that unwavering goodness to be the rule rather than the exception.
Even now, in this world,
God knows what we need,
daily bread and forgiveness
and God provides it, like a parent caring for children.
God, Jesus says,
is better than any parent
again he turns to the crowd and asks them to consider
their own experience as parents or caretakers of children.
“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give 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.”
God is good.
God is eager to give,
though notice Jesus specifies the Holy Spirit there at the end
God, while eager to give
is not a cosmic vending machine,
where if we put the right amount of prayer in
and specify what we want
we’ll get it.
Prayer rather is about being in relationship
with the creator of the universe, the source of all goodness and life.
and the way to build a relationship
is to spend time together.
That’s what prayer is,
spending time with God,
getting to know God.
And we struggle with this,
the disciples, watching Jesus pray
want what he has,
that intimate relationship with God,
and so they ask him, how do we do that, teach us.
We see others pray and we think,
I want that, that intimate relationship with God
but I’m not sure how to do that.
Professor Matt Skinner likens learning to pray with learning to kiss
“You learn some by watching others do it. You should be discerning about whom you will allow to teach you. You certainly make mistakes. And maybe you always worry deep in your head that you might be doing it wrong.” (www.workingpreacher.org)
Funny but true right?
As much as we pray,
with whatever techniques or words we try
we worry that we’re not doing it right,
but that’s Jesus’ point
it’s not about the how but the who.
God who is good,
who listens, who wants the best for us.
So yes, our attempts at prayer
are probably going to be fumbling and awkward at first,
and we might try a few different ways of doing it
before we find what feels right
and God will be there
even through these times
because God is good, and listens and wants the best for us,
wants to spend time with us.
And gradually through spending more time
we will get to a place where prayer,
if not comfortable is at least familiar
and from there the relationship builds
And the thing about building a relationship with someone
is that we are changed in the process,
think about your best friend and how you became friends,
it took some time to get to know each other
but you learned to trust your friend
with your deepest fears and secrets,
and the things that are important to your friend
became important to you
because of your love for them
and through experience
you know in your heart as well as your head
that they have your back.
That’s what prayer does with God,
we get to know each other,
we learn to trust God with our deepest fears and secrets
and the things that are important to God
become important to us
That’s what we want,
when we say teach us to pray Jesus,
an intimate relationship with God.
and God who is good
Gives us Jesus to show us what that relationship can look like
the Holy Spirit to guide us as we learn
and the freedom to focus on the who rather than the how. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.