+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 11:13
Theme: Confident Prayer
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The demands of God always reveal the needs of men. The gifts of God always supply those needs. God does not speak His word aimlessly or without purpose. Sinners and their well-being are always in view. As wayward, but frail creatures we are in constant need of attention. Only God can rebuke us for our offenses. Yet only He can offer the hope of pardon.
Today Jesus instructs His disciples on the meaning of prayer and gives them the Lord’s Prayer. Why does Jesus teach such persistence in prayer? Is it only to bolster our resolve and to encourage and inspire perseverance? People do become easily disheartened. Yet the outcome does not depend on human persistence. The crux of the matter is the trustworthiness of God. Jesus teaches His disciples that their prayers never fall on deaf ears. Christians have been granted a sacred privilege to invoke the name of the Trinity via the access granted by Christ. The manner in which this responsibility is exercised reveals our beliefs.
What does our attitude towards prayer and devotion say about our view of God and our status before Him? Where is the reverence in the modern approach to the Almighty? Where is the veneration in prayer? Where is the humility of heart and soul? Do people receive His body and blood in jest? Do they really believe God to be the incontestable judge of mortals and indisputable vendor of grace? Or is He a soft pushover that caters to human whims and lowers Himself to garner their attention? Is He a God who is consuming in His wrath, zealous in His justice, and intense in His passion? Or is He little more than the harmless projection of a human desire for a relaxed but responsive deity?
Dear friends, such thinking downgrades the work of Christ to minor importance. Yet to have the supremacy of heaven and hell, sin and grace, life and death is hardly minor. Nothing is of consequence until the human soul is reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ. Only His unalterable Word can give this peace. When you are doubting whether your sins have accumulated past the point of forgiveness, remember it is written in the Scriptures, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”1 If you are concerned whether your name is written in the book of life then remember His promise, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You are His baptized child. You are born again into His family. When the devil seeks to accuse you by holding your sins in front of you; drive him away by pointing to the cross.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”2 But it is not a license to sin. Never, ever try to dupe God. Never play fast and loose with His mercy. Never demand what is not yours to demand. Believe that He will support you in your struggle- temptation, weakness, addiction, depression, ungratefulness, apathy. But believe even more that it’s not a matter of your success, but of His compassion. The moment you believe it depends again on you and no longer on Him, then everything is lost. If Christ is your Saviour you are one of the elect. If you are one of the elect Christ is your Saviour. Beyond this we cannot venture. Certain divine mysteries are beyond our capacity. Our curiosity or intellect may not be satisfied, but our souls can be comforted.
A crisis of faith can never be resolved by inward assessment of the heart or by speculation into the hidden mind of God. Apart from the firm, clear, objective and unchanging promise of the Word, we have no certainty. If we retreat inwardly we become susceptible to our ever-changing emotions. We also fall into the error of validating our faith based solely or primarily on our own subjective measurements. We are then tempted by the thoroughly egotistical mantra, “If it feels right, it must be right (at least for me).” Or, “If it feels wrong, it must be wrong.” Egoism can just as easily misread things that appear to be negative.
If, on the other hand, we look to solve the quandaries of our personal faith by seeking to decipher the hidden will of God we just as easily come to shipwreck. The temptation to find security in this method is also very powerful. If I can just discover that God has reserved for me a particular resolution to my crisis, then my heart will be put at ease. Dear friends, don’t try to pry into God’s secret counsel. There is no need. Take Him at His Word. You are a hopeless sinner. But Christ is much more the holy and sinless Saviour. He did not die without purpose. He did not die in vain. Neither did He rise from the dead merely to show His power. Christ died and rose so that sinners could be accounted righteous. Through that righteousness we have entrance into His presence.
Jesus illustrates the generosity of God with several examples in His teaching on prayer. One involves a midnight traveler being welcomed by a resident of the village. He, in turn, calls on another for help. Why does the man snuggled safely in his bed with His family get up to answer the door? The rationale is not simply what we may think. It is not just a case of good friends helping out good friends. The picture is broader and the relationship entailed is wider. The man who is called upon in the midnight hour to get up and show hospitality is not just motivated by friendship but by the nature of the community. He meets its expectations of hospitality. He will not be labeled as the inhospitable person of the village. The person in need will find help. The hospitality of God is being illustrated.
No matter what the circumstances God is attentive to our needs. He never makes excuses. God gives because He is true to His own nature. He is not motivated by some influence we wield over Him, but by His own compassionate heart. The believer should have every confidence to approach the throne of grace with boldness. God is reliable. He does not turn a deaf ear. His response won’t be trivial or one of self-defeating indulgence. His response to prayer has laser-like precision. Of course no believer in the history of the world has ever had every prayer answered according to their pleasure. Such desire is always corrupted by the weakness of the flesh. Even St. Paul was to endure his thorn of the flesh. It served greater and higher purposes than temporary relief to one man would achieve.
Dear friends, Jesus ends today’s catechesis emphatically. Believers can be confident in prayer because God desires to give. He illustrates by way of comparison. “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!”3 With the Holy Spirit comes the entire inheritance of the kingdom. Remember Luther’s explanation of what it means to pray, “Thy kingdom come?”4 “How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” 5 May God make it so! Amen.
+ in nomine Jesu +
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
25 July 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 1 Peter 3:18
2 Ephesians 2:8
3 Luke 11:13
4 Luke 11:2
5 Luther’s Small Catechism