+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 11:1-13
Theme: A Receptive Father
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The house of God is always a place of prayer. It is a refuge from the chaos of the world. A place of quiet in a culture of noise. It is to be a place in tune with the mind of God as opposed to the discordant tones of the secular world. It is a place of peace. Everyday violence is broadcast over our airways. The world has housed a culture of hostility since the Fall. Evil has always been prevalent, we just haven’t had the information so readily accessible as we do now. But, we shouldn’t be naïve, there are many other things happening we are never told of! Still, God remains a mighty fortress.
Genuine prayer is motivated by confession, a confession about who God is and what we believe His intentions to be. As such, it is conceived as a response to truth. The perception is only growing that a standard of truth that transcends human opinion and consensus is unattainable. For some it seems to undesirable: “Each to his own.” What need does modern society have for truth? There is a commonality between the intellectual skeptics who are aggressively trying to remove any reference to a higher power from the equation and those who just want to be freed from any parameters, responsibilities, and judgments. Both want to be freed from God’s jurisdiction.
Many of the intellectually elite believe that some form of ‘scientific truth’ is achievable. But science can never answer questions on morality and the meaning of life. Science has enabled us communicate almost instantaneously from anywhere, build sky-scrapers, and send objects into outer space. These capabilities are of immense value. But science cannot tell us if adultery is immoral, lying is unethical, or if eternity involves pain, pleasure, or obliteration. It cannot attach meaning to the intangible and spiritual things of life. It cannot tell us we’re sinners or call us to repentance. No wonder we are warned by the Holy Spirit who says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”1
Only the believer can pray. All other words offered in view of chance or destiny are vain ramblings without aim or trust; like gambling, like playing the lottery. God is not whimsical, fickle or erratic. He still bestows good on the unbeliever. But He does so in spite of the absence of faith. Jesus is saying quite clearly today that we should nearly beat down the door in our eagerness to bend the Father’s ear. We are to be persistent, as if, to rouse Him from a divine slumber. A half-hearted query won’t do. How often are our petitions offered with lack of resolve? Our lips may move but our hearts are still. Our tongues may wag but our minds are blank. We are defeated before our prayers even ascend. There is a vast difference between desperately seeking God and offering a prayer of futility. The prayer offered without true hope is one offered without true faith. Nothing is impossible for God. Through sheer fiat He created the universe. In display of His glory He raises the dead. Do you think any request you have is beyond His interest or ability? Do you think He is too busy or too apathetic? Never!
The hospitality of God is never lacking. Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”2 The real challenge of prayer is not believing God can do anything, but believing His answer to prayer is what’s truly best for you. Here’s where things can really come unraveled. Here’s where our human desires conflict with the will of God. Here is the pointy end of an authentic life of prayer.
Prayer is both an individual and communal activity. The rhythm of our prayer should emanate out from the church’s public prayer and liturgy in the Divine Service like concentric circles around a centre point. It’s no coincidence that forgiveness is at the centre of the Lord’s Prayer. We never mature past the need for forgiveness. If we think we have than we are either self-righteous, or we have grossly misunderstood what it means to live in proper relationship with God and with one another. Forgiveness is the greatest gift we can receive from God. It unlocks the door to heaven and brings peace to the soul.
We have no authority to retain those sins God has forgiven. We have no right to maintain a grudge when Christ has granted pardon. We have no permission to put conditions on clemency when God has already granted amnesty. Attempting to usurp His rule will only result in conflict and heartache. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”3
Prayer is an activity of the baptized. Jesus gave His life on the cross for your sins. He rose victoriously from the grave. These blessings become ours through the faith given in baptism. In baptism we become so closely identified with Christ that His death becomes ours, His resurrection ours too. St. Paul says today, “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”4
Prayer is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The immobile heart cannot shift itself; the Holy Spirit must move it. The hardened heart cannot soften itself; the Holy Spirit must temper it. The cold heart cannot thaw itself; the Holy Spirit must warm it. And these movements of repentance and faith cannot take place without the word of God which is the sword of the Spirit. No wonder Jesus says today that we should ask the Father to give us the Holy Spriit5.
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with groanings too deep for words.”6
We are never alone in our prayers. The crucified and risen Christ is enthroned. He makes intercession for us before the Father. His intercession is informed by His own experience of temptation. He shares our human nature. He knows our fears, our phobias, and our false perceptions. Therefore, the Scripture encourages us saying, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”7 Dear friends, we can scarcely fathom what it means that Jesus invites us to address God as Father in the same manner in which He does. An earthly father desires to give good things to his children. How much more does our heavenly Father, who is perfect in grace, desire to give good things to believers who call upon His name! Our Father in heaven is always receptive. He sent to us the Redeemer. He desires that we be in His presence. Prayers are answered. God is true to His Word. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
24 July, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Colossians 2:8 2 Luke 11:9 3 Romans 12:19
4 Colossians 2:12 5 Luke 11:13 6 Romans 8:26
7 Hebrews 4:16