The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Luke 11:1 “And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’ 2 And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’ 5 And He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’” (NASB)
The propers for the service this morning have a consistent theme. In the Introit, we prayed, “For your name’s sake preserve my life . . . O Lord listen to my cry for mercy.” The Old Testament lesson recounts Abraham’s persistent plea to save Sodom and Gomorrah, even though “their sin was exceedingly grave” in God’s sight. In the Gospel, a disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray as John the Baptist had taught His disciples to pray. The Epistle lesson is the exception to the theme this morning. It is not about prayer or praying. It is not even about the so called “sinner’s prayer.”
The Epistle lesson however, in one of the clearest and most compelling presentations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the New Testament. It makes it clear that before we were called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified through the water and Word of Holy Baptism, we were dead in our sins. It makes clear that “In Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” and that “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having wiped away the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”(Col. 2:13-14)
Everything else in the propers for this morning is about prayer. I have also made mention before that in Jesus Christ, God reveals Himself to us as God our heavenly Father in a way that He did not in the Old Testament and this is particularly true when it comes to prayer. The fact that the Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth, the Holy of holies has made us His children and that He is Abba Father to Christians in a way that He is not to unbelievers puts us in a unique position in regard to prayer. This is proven out in Jesus’s response to the request that He teach us to pray.
“And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’ 2 And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Thy name.’”
Luther wrote in the Small Catechism of the introduction, really the address to the Lord’s Prayer, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
In Word and Holy Baptism (and there’s the Epistle’s connection to the rest of the of the propers this morning), you have been adopted. You have been made to be a brother or sister of Jesus Christ. As such you are a son or daughter of God. He is your Father because you bear the image of the Son of God Jesus Christ.
God then is truly your heavenly Father. The Gospel of John makes this clear (1:12-14) “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In the Small Catechism Luther addresses God as our “dear Father” and says you are His “dear children.” Now think of the relationship between a good and loving earthly father and his loving children.
Now after giving us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells a parable. By the way the prayer is often called by some Christian traditions, the “Our Father” because the Gospel of Matthew includes “our” in the address, whereas the Gospel of Luke simply addresses God as Father.
Now all too often preachers treat the Lord’s Prayer in their sermons, but never get around to the parables that follow. But Jesus told the parables as an additional part of the lesson. In Luke 11:1-13 Jesus not only teaches us what we are suppose to pray, but He also teaches us what our attitude is suppose to be toward our dear Father, particularly in regard to prayer.
Right on the heals of teaching how Christians ought to pray, Jesus told a parable about a man who showed up at his neighbor’s house at midnight looking for food because a friend of his had shown up at his own house in the dead of night.
Now in the ancient world a long journey was just that a long journey. When I go on a long journey, usually that’s to Tucson it takes at the most two days of 12 hours driving. But in the ancient world, a long journey took weeks or months. So when the sojourner finally arrived, the host was expected to feed the visitor first and provide the travelers’ with rest. As is true still today, a traveler can’t always show up at his destination between sun up and sun down.
They of course did not have modern communication. So a friend or a family member would normally show up, unannounced and out of the blue, a genuine surprise. Now if a visitor did showed up out of the blue and in the middle of the night, it would not be unusual for the cupboards to be bare.
So the scenario in Jesus’s His parable was not unheard of. Jesus’s disciples would have had a natural empathy toward the neighbor in the parable. At the same time we and they understood the frustration of the neighbor.
Most people of the day did not live in a house with several rooms. They lived in very small houses with one or maybe two rooms. It was common for everyone to sleep in the same room. It is midnight when the head of the house heard a knock at the door. He was asleep, so were the children. As most parents know waking up a child in the middle of the night can be a big mistake. So the head of the house says to his neighbor, “‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
In case the point is still lost on the hearers of the parable, Jesus adds the following. 9 “I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.”
In other words, be persistent. Don’t give up so easily. In fact, annoy your dear heavenly Father with your petitions. Your Father will hear you. He will take action of some sort with regard to your prayer. After all, Jesus continues, what earthly father would give his children a snake when they ask for a fish or give their children a scorpion when they asked for an egg?
Jesus is making an argument known as an argument “from the lesser to the greater.” If something is true of the lesser thing, then it is more true of the greater thing of the same category. The category here is the category of “fatherhood.” If an ordinary earthly father is about the business of doing good toward his children, how much more will our heavenly Father be about the business of doing good toward His dear children.
Lesson one; pray in this way, in the way of the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father. Lesson two; be persistent, even annoying. We have an example of that in the Old Testament lesson. Abraham was praying, petitioning God. He was interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah. His prayer took on the form of a negotiation. God had resolved to destroy the city on account of their wickedness. Abraham sought to save as many as he could.
But Abraham did what we tend to do. He overestimated the number of righteousness men in the city. He asked God to spare the cities if fifty righteous people were found in it. Before he was done, Abraham got God to agree to ten, just ten righteous would have been enough to save the city. We like Abraham think that there are a lot of righteous people in our city. We think that because we don’t take sin and the human condition as seriously as we should. We also don’t take faith, true Christian faith as seriously as we should either. We look around and see basically good and decent people in our town. But if the criteria is true Christian faith in Jesus Christ, that is if we take abiding in God’s Word as the baseline, well then there might not be as many Christians running around out there as we first thought. That then would lead to the question, what are we going to do about that.
The problem for Abraham was that God knew more about the cities and the people in them than he did. Abraham underestimated the depravity of the people. Ten righteous were no where to be found. Thus, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But what of Abraham’s persistence? What of his prayers? Were they for naught? No, God answered Abraham’s prayer. It just wasn’t along the terms that Abraham had laid out. Abraham was trying to save a city, two cities in fact. In God’s ordinary economy, He saves people one individual at a time, one baptism at a time. One person speaking His Word to another person.
In this case God warned Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and Lot and two of His daughters escaped the city before the destruction. Lot lost all his wealth, but his life was saved.
Lesson one: Prayer in this way . . . “Our Father Who art in heaven…” Lesson two: be persistent, even annoying like Abraham. Now on to lesson three: pray with confidence that your heavenly perfect Father hears you and will do good toward you because Jesus is the One who makes it possible for us to pray with such confidence. That brings us back to the Epistle lesson again.
Jesus allowed His enemies to nail Him to a cross so that He could offer those same enemies a place in His family. By His suffering and death on the cross and in the water and the Word Jesus makes us His brothers and sisters and thereby we become dear children of our heavenly Father. As such we poor sinners can approach God boldly for Christ’s sake. We can be stubborn. We can be persistent. We can be annoying just as we are toward our earthly fathers. After all that is what Jesus has taught us to be in regard to our godly prayers to our dear heavenly Father.
Always remember that just as an earthly father will not always or even often give their earthly children exactly what they are asking for, the child’s faith and love for his/her father is not diminished. The father’s willingness to do good toward his children is not diminished by the face that sometimes the children to not always ask for the wisest things. We tend to ask for things or events to solve our problem.
But God’s answer to faithful prayer is faith—not more faith, but strengthened, purified, and renewed saving faith strengthened by His Holy Spirit, who enables us to behold and bear each and every cross that comes our way.
Finally, recall how God the Father, the Father to His only begotten Son Jesus Christ answered Jesus’s prayer. Did He spare Jesus from Judas’s betrayal? Did He enable Jesus to escape arrest? Did He change the hearts and minds of the religious and political leaders who wanted Jesus dead? Did He spare His only begotten Son from the cross? No, He did none of that. He sustained His Son. Gave Him the promise and hope of the resurrection and ascension. God the Father guaranteed the outcome, bringing us back to the Epistle Lesson. “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having wiped away the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.