A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on August 1, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Lord, Teach Us to PrayLuke 11:1-13When there’s a mountain range of problems in front of us, and we keep praying about it, but nothing changes, what’s really going on? Have we offended God in some way, and that’s why our prayers aren’t being answered? It’s possible. St. Peter warns husbands to be considerate toward their wives, so that nothing hinders their prayers. But suppose we’ve examined our lives and we’re repenting daily, but prayers still aren’t being answered. Why? The quick answer is, it’s God’s will. But what if it doesn’t make sense that the problems we’re facing are God’s will? Well, sometimes that’s because God knows more than we do, like when the disciples couldn’t understand why Jesus had to die. At other times the problems we’re praying about are not God’s will. Yet no matter how much we pray, nothing changes. Then maybe we start asking if there’s something wrong with the way we’re praying. Again, it could be. James warns that if we’re praying selfishly or doubting God really cares, we should not expect anything. So, how’s your prayer life working out for you? Is there room for improvement? The disciples felt that need. One day, seeing how Jesus was blessed through prayer, they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This morning may the Lord also teach us! Our prayers will bring the greatest blessings when we 1. Pray for the right things. 2. Pray persistently. 3. Pray Confidently. Please open your service folder to the Gospel reading. The Lord’s Prayer here in Luke is a little different than the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew. The Lord’s Prayer we use is a combination of the two. But why do you suppose the Holy Spirit gave us two versions? Maybe He’s showing us that the exact wording isn’t important, but it’s the thought that counts. Anyway let’s look a little closer at the thoughts of the Lord’s Prayer. As you look at the entire prayer, which word is glaringly missing – a word most people might expect to see in a prayer? The missing word is “I” or “me”. We will have a more blessed prayer life if we focus less on ourselves, and more on God and others. For example the phrase “Hallowed be your name” is asking that God’s name or word be taught clearly and exactly. We certainly want that for our own church. But let’s also pray for that in behalf of churches of every denomination worldwide, because when churches say for example that not all the Bible is true or that sin is no longer sin, the faith of people in those churches could be at risk. The next spiritual blessing Jesus teaches us to pray for in behalf of all is “Your Kingdom come.” God’s kingdom is His ruling in peoples’ hearts. Let’s pray, then, that the Lord strengthen the faith of people everywhere, until we all trust in Him as our Savior and live according to His will. This brings us to another spiritual blessing to pray for – “Your will be done.” Luke doesn’t have this phrase. Matthew does. In some ways “Your will be done” is a repetition of “hallowed be your name” and “your kingdom come”, because that’s what God’s will is. And so, when we pray “your will be done”, we’re asking God Him to defeat anyone or anything that would attack His Word or hinder people in their faith.However, since these things are God’s will, why does Jesus teach us to pray for them? Why doesn’t God just do what He wants to do without our prayers? The answer is God loves us, and so He wants us to be co-workers with Him. Prayer is one of the ways this happens. For example God worked through Abraham’s prayer to save Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. Or, through the Colossian’s prayers, God helped St. Paul speak the Word clearly. In that same way please keep praying for me! After we have prayed for spiritual blessings in behalf of all, it’s good to pray for physical blessings. So, you don’t like the direction our economy is going? Then pray for daily bread for all who are in need. However, Jesus would emphasize daily bread, not lifelong luxuries. And so, when we pray for daily bread, let’s also pray for contentment in behalf of all and for wise management of all God has given. Yet those are really spiritual blessings. And so praying for daily bread takes us right back to praying that God’s will be done. Now, as we pray for all these things in behalf of people everywhere, very quickly specific individuals will come to mind. For this reason notice a wording shift in the Lord’s Prayer. It starts off just focused on God. And then we start seeing the words “us” and “our”. So it was with St. Paul. When he prayed, he would specifically mention the Colossians, because of all the challenges to their faith. Who do you know whose faith is being challenged because of burdens or temptations? Talk to God about what they’re facing! He wants you to, so that He can work through your prayers. However, does all this emphasis on praying for others mean we shouldn’t pray for ourselves? We certainly may. In the Old Testament Hannah prayed for a son, and God gave her Samuel. Still keeping the focus of our prayers on God and others does help us see our own needs in a proper light; and that in itself can be an answer to prayer. Another reason it’s good to keep the focus of our prayers on others is there’s joy in doing the Lord’s Work. And so, even if we don’t get to see the results, doing the Lord’s work through prayer lifts us up. I would urge, then, leave your own worries in God’s hands and spend more time praying for others. See if your joy in life doesn’t increase! See if you don’t start recognizing amazing answers to your prayers! But what if that doesn’t happen? What if you’re going through a dry spell of answered prayers? Jesus teaches us how to deal with that. We read, “"Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” Times were different then. There zero McDonalds and so forth. There were few motels. It was expected that when you traveled, you would friend hop. And if a friend hopped to your home, you would feed him. Anyway a friend had a friend who came to his place and he had zero food. So, the first friend goes to third friend and starts banging on his door at midnight. Understandably he gets upset and tells that first friend to go away. He won’t. And so the third friend finally gets up and gives the first friend what he asked for. Jesus’ point is pray persistently. The third friend didn’t want to help, but God always wants to help us. And so, when an answer to a prayer isn’t coming, keep on praying. We read on in our text, “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.” The three words, ask, seek and knock, show a growing desperation. When your situation is getting more and more desperate, don’t give up. Remember God works through prayer. But sometimes the answer is slow in coming, so that that when it does come, we’ll better recognize this is from God, and that strengthens our faith.However it’s one thing to say this, it’s another thing to really believe it when we can’t stand it anyone longer. For this reason Jesus next teaches us to pray confidently. We read, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” When Jesus says we’re evil, He doesn’t mean through and through. We have a sinful nature, but we also have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As a result sometimes we do what’s wrong, but then the Holy Spirit leads us to ask for forgiveness and start doing what’s right. At other times we may do the right thing, but our hearts aren’t in like that third friend we just heard about. So, if we, sinners, won’t give our children something that might be bad for them, how much more will God, who is good through and through, only gives us what’s truly for our best? We can be confident of this, because God has already given you His best – His Son. Since God is always thinking about you (the Bible says He has written your name on his hand) every answer to our prayers and the timing of those answers is always love! Keep praying confidently and persistently, then, especially for others. There is no burden that we give to God in prayer that won’t someday be changed into a source of joy. Let me say that again. There is no burden we give to God in prayer that won’t someday be changed to a source of joy. May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to believe that! May the Son ever lead us in what and how to pray! And may our Father hear our prayers to His unending praise and glory. Amen.

Back to Sermons by Topic