Grace and peace are yours in Jesus name, Amen.
Like any normal person, Christian’s have to breathe. However, Christians breathe in something extra; life, grace, and the forgiveness of sins which all started in Baptism, we were introduced to and indeed given God’s grace in all its fullness. That day the Spirit descended upon us and breathed new life into us and until this very day we have breathed the fresh air of life in Christ. As Christians, we are constantly inhaling, breathing in Christ’s life for us.
This Christian breathing, however, is not as instinctive as normal breathing. We must learn to breathe as Christians; it must be practiced. And so it was in our text that the apostles approached Jesus with their first and only request for Jesus to actually teach them something; “Lord, teach us to pray.” We make the same request today, and the Lord answers, just as He answered the apostles’. Teaching them, and us, how to pray.
Jesus teaches to pray with “boldness,” or “persistence”, but I happen to prefer the Greek’s interpretation; pray with “shamelessness” or “rudeness.” Normally, telling someone they are shameless or rude is a chastisement. A comment made as an observation of someones behavior that needs to be changed. Jesus, your Lord, however, encourages shamelessness in our Gospel for today; telling us to pray like the telemarketer who won’t let you off the phone, telling us to pray like a used car salesman who tries everything possible to keep you in his office. Jesus teaches us today to pray like a beggar with no shame and like a child with no doubts.
So, how do you pray? Do you pray? Are you shameless? Are you confident that God will and must do what He promises to do? If you are like most Christians, heck, if you’re like me, you’ll have to admit that your prayers are often not persistent nor are they shameless. If you’re like me, you might look at prayer sometimes and say, what’s the use? You might even begin to believe the lies of the evil one “Has God really said that He will hear you?” Has God really said to bring all that you have to Him? Has God really said that your so important as to be able to address Him directly? After all Satan does have a point, God’s God, we’re not, and Satan love nothing more that for us to believe that God has more pressing items, petitions, people that He is preoccupied with. Satan wishes for us to see God as an unapproachable businessman or the CEO of the world who has some clearing house to be passed through where your petitions will be triaged and those with the most pressing needs, or faithful hearts will be moved to the front of the line. Brother’s and sister’s, if this is what you think… Repent. If you have been swayed by the lies of the Devil, the deceptions of the philosophies of this world; Repent! God has promised to hear you and He knows that breathing in and breathing out of the great gifts of God does not come naturally for the sinner, in fact it is impossible for the sinner to do these things without the work of the Spirit. We must confess that we are undisciplined, unholy, afraid, battered and bruised, trembling before Mighty God. But dear Christians do not forget the very first thing Jesus explains to us today; Begin with “Our Father”; with this petition God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our True Father and that we are His true children that with all boldness and confidence we may bring our petitions to him as dear children would to their own Father. Jesus goes on; “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
So does that mean we will always get what we want? If that was the case the Seahawks would have won twenty Superbowls, I’d be 6’7” and weigh 235 pounds and would be able to bench press 2000 pounds, I’d be able to fly and would be bulletproof. Graciously though, God does not always answer our prayers with a “yes,” He does promise, however, to always hear us and He always gives us an answer, and His answer, whether it be, yes, no or wait is always what is best. I regret to inform you… I am not bulletproof. The Seahawks have never won a Superbowl, and I get to drive a Toyota corolla to church rather than flying in. I have yet to grow into my 6’7” 235 frame and can’t bench press my own body weight, but find that my 6’0” 195 pound frame is sufficient for all God has for me to accomplish in this life. For you, I’m sure when you consider some of the things you have prayed for in the past, you also are glad to have prayers God has answered with His “no.” And there is comfort in this.
God’s “no” is not an obstacle to our persistent prayer, but an impetus to it. If God has said “no” to one request, He has another plan in mind, and we persistently and shamelessly beg Him to carry His plan out for our benefit. Today, Jesus uses present tense verbs when He tells us to seek, ask, and knock. In Greek, the present tense indicates continuing and habitual action. It is a way of life: continual seeking, asking, and knocking. In other words, we don’t do prayer; instead, we live prayer, our lives as Christians in one filled with constant prayer. But this may not take the form that you and I always think that it should.
Too often we think of prayer as we would a conversation with the Queen of England, let me explain. Are you always trying to say the right things in the right way with the right intentions? Are you afraid to pray because you think you might speak the wrong words, or because you While the Queen of England might not be able to see through our facades, while she might see some of our mannerisms as quite nice, civilized or whatever other terms a Queen might use, Our Heavenly Father, the Very One who created us and breathed life into us, is not so easily duped, He knows when somethings wrong and commands us in the 2nd Commandment to pray to Him, why? Because He wants everything we have, He wants us to dump it, to leave it, to bury it in the tomb with Jesus. If he’d wanted us to stuff it, internalize it, ruminate over it and kill ourselves with stress then He wouldn’t have sent Jesus, but He did, for you and for me. Besides this, remember your childhood, when you hurt, when you feared, when you had done something wrong… did you approach your mother and father like you would approach the Queen of England? I doubt it, instead you approached your mother and father with no reservations, believing (while not knowing fully how they would do it) that they could and would take care of you.
Today Jesus teaches us to pray like little children without a doubt. We pray constantly remembering our Baptisms where God’s adopted us as His beloved sons and daughters. Jesus teaches us today to pray as a little child who makes requests of his or her parents, trusting that He has our temporal and eternal well-beings in mind, Jesus teaches us to pray knowing full well that we can’t accomplish what we are praying for on our own, Jesus teaches us to pray even though we can’t quite see or understand how our Heavenly Father will be able to hear us and console us.
One of Knox’s favorite games involves me throwing the boy high, higher and higher into the air. During these games I have noticed two things; first, the terrified look on Melissa’s face and second, the implicit trust that Knox has that I will catch him. He has absolutely no idea that, with the height and skill involved, he should be afraid. Instead, he trusts and laughs, often clamoring for more… One more time Daddy! Again! Again! I have learned quite a bit from that little boy especially as it pertains to what Jesus teaches about prayer, I have learned and have seen with my own eyes what a life of prayer looks like. Brother’s and Sister’s our life is one big toss in the air, no, God is not the One tossing us up time and time again, we do that well enough ourselves. Our life of prayer expresses our implicit trust that God will catch us, a trust that was infused into us in Baptism and is strengthened every time we hear the Word, receive Christ in His true Body and Blood and recall our baptisms in Confession and Absolution.
So, do you pray like God is your father, or do you pray like you’re talking to the Queen over tea? Do you measure what you say? Limiting what you pray? Thinking that you must always fall to your knees in order for your prayers to be heard? Do you pray thinking that you ought to only bring prayers of gratitude because God has so many other prayers to attend to that you wouldn’t want to bother Him with your pain, grief, sorrow, sickness or sadness? God is not he CEO of the Universe, with an Icalendar or outlook schedule to keep. You are God’s #1 priority, each and everyone of you. And Jesus reminds us today that your prayers are to be spoken from the heart or grief, from the heart of sadness, from the heart of thankfulness, our prayers are to be shot from the hip even forthcoming, perhaps even sometimes too forthcoming. As a child you were unencumbered, honest, comfortable, and candid with your parents. You had an implicit trust that they would make everything alright somehow, and, even when you were going to them to confess you had done something wrong, you did so with a sure, or at least pretty sure, understanding that they were still going to love you when all was said and done, and that they would prove it with a hug or a kiss.
Jesus teaches us the same today; teaching us to go to our Heavenly Father the same way knowing that; “He will not give you a serpent when you ask for a fish or a scorpion when you ask for an egg. How do we know? See how He has taken care of you as His child so far. He has given you, not only food, drink, house, home, and all that you have but indeed God your gracious Father has given His very Son over to death for you. To date, your Heavenly Father has not only constantly pulled you out of the mud of sin, but has continually bathed you in His grace, mercy and forgiveness. He has not come with a just a hug and a kiss or a conciliatory pat on the back but He has given you, not just a letter about how deep His love is for you, but indeed an entire book. He has given you, not only the promise that He still loves you in spite of your sin, but a constant welcome into His open arms through His forgiveness in absolution. Dearly beloved, if your Heavenly Father has given you these greater things, and the greatest thing of all, His only Son, how will He not give you other, less important things, as St. Paul tells us in Romans 8 [31b, 32]?
Sometimes when we get worked up we have to be reminded to breathe. Today your Lord reminds you and I about what breathing looks like; Breathing in what Christ has said and breathing out all things back to Him. Last week we heard that there is One Thing needful, Jesus. This week we are reminded of what our new life in Him looks like. We are reminded of what it looks like to be a child of God, trusting as we are in the free falls of this life that our Gracious Father in heaven has promised to catch us. He has promised to speak to us, to come to us. He has promised to hear us and He has promised to answer us, in His time, in His way according to His gracious will. We breathe in, better yet, take in the one thing needful, Christ given and shed in body and blood, Christ poured out in baptism, Christ spoken into our ears to instill and nurture faith and we recklessly, shamelessly and persistently breathe out our burdens, cares and worries. You are the children of God, having been adopted as sons, inheritors of eternal life with Christ your brother, Christ your Savior. Your Lord has promised to hear you, He has promised to answer. Go in His peace this day speaking the Amen, Amen, for it is so, now and forever!
May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard and keep your minds in Christ Jesus, Amen!