Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost


Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 12)
July 28, 2013
Text: Luke 11:1-13

            Why pray?  I mean, God already knows what we need.  God already knows what He’s going to do.  He already knows what is best.  So why pray?  Well, part of the answer is as simple as this: Because He says so.  He commands it. It’s your Christian duty to pray.  You have not been given to know all the whys and wherefores of prayer.  You are simply commanded to do it.  Christians pray, and if you never pray, that’s a sin.  Repent, and then do it.  You also pray because God tenderly invites you to do so.  Ask, seek, knock, as Jesus bids you (Luke 11:9).  And, of course, there is the promise that God hears your prayer, and will answer: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (v. 10; ESV).  (C)all upon me in the day of trouble,” God invites, “I will deliver you,” He promises (Ps. 50:15).  And so, you do, trusting that He is both able and willing to help and to save you.  The proof is Christ crucified for your sins.  If God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you and for all, how will He not also along with Him graciously give you all things (Rom. 8:32)?  Christ is God’s yes to your prayers, and the guarantee of His good will toward you.  So you come before the throne of God through and in Christ, covered by His blood, with confidence in the God of mercy who calls Himself “our Father,” your Father, the Father of all who are in Christ Jesus.
            Jesus is the model for us to follow in prayer.  Often in the Gospels our Lord goes off to a desolate place to pray, to commune with His heavenly Father, and He does this for His strengthening and to pour His heart out to His God.  Prayer is communication with God.  And it is a two-way conversation that begins with God’s speaking to us in His Word.  Then, on the basis of that Word, we respond with our petitions, intercessions, thanksgivings, and praise.  In some sense, prayer is simply talking to God.  Why pray?  Well, why do you talk to your spouse?  Why do you talk to your parents, your family members, your friends?  Because that is what you do in relationship to others.  You communicate with them.  You listen to them.  You respond to them.  So with God.  And so it is that we find Jesus at the beginning of our reading from the Holy Gospel praying in a certain place, and His disciples come to Him with a request.  They ask on behalf of all of us disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).  And indeed, the Lord Jesus must teach us to pray if we are to pray in a way that is God pleasing.  This doesn’t come naturally to us, fallen in sin as we are.  But the Lord opens our lips, that our mouths may declare His praise (Ps. 51:15).  He gives us His Spirit, who prays for us and with us and in us, and brings our petitions before the throne of God with groans too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).
            And here in our text, the Lord Jesus graciously gives us the very words to pray.  Here we have the Lord’s Prayer, which is recorded in two places in Holy Scripture.  The expanded version with which we are more familiar is recorded in Matthew Chapter 6 (vv. 9-13).  Here in Luke our Lord gives us a slightly shorter version.  And don’t let that bother you.  Our Lord taught this prayer on more than one occasion, not always using the exact same words.  It is important for us to have a common version of the Lord’s Prayer that we all know by heart so that we can always pray it together, but of course we pray other prayers that are God-pleasing, and all of them in one way or another express the same petitions that we find here in the prayer our Lord teaches us.  The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect prayer on earth because it comes from the lips of Jesus, and He places it upon our lips and in our hearts.  The Lord’s Prayer is the most complete prayer on earth, encompassing every possible need of body and soul.  So when you don’t know what to pray, pray the Lord’s Prayer, and you will have prayed for everything you could ever need.  I’m not suggesting you don’t pray other prayers too.  You can make your own prayers.  Especially pray the psalms.  Pray the hymns and collects of the Church and the Catechism prayers.  But definitely pray this one.  Luther suggested you pray it in the morning when you arise, before and after every meal, and in the evening before you go to bed.  This is not a law, but the point is simply that you pray it often, because you need it, and because it pours out your heart and soul to God in a way that no other prayer can.  And, of course, it is the very Word of God, so that even as it brings your petitions before the Father, it also feeds you as a means of grace.  Here we call upon God as “Our Father,” recognizing that He has redeemed us in Christ to be His own children (that’s the reality of our Baptism: God’s own Child as we sing).  We are His true children, and so we come before Him as any child comes before his earthly father, making our requests in faith that God will do what is best for us.  And we pray for and with all the other children of God in the holy Church, thus we say “Our Father,” not “My Father.”
            And notice all the things we ask of Him in this prayer.  We ask that His Name, which is already holy in itself, be hallowed (kept holy) among us also (Luke 11:2), both in terms of what we say about God (our doctrine) and how we live our life, which also reflects upon our Father.  We ask that His Kingdom come (v. 2).  We know it will, even without our prayer, but we pray that it would come among us, that God would give us and all others His Holy Spirit, “so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1986]).  In Matthew’s version, we also pray that God’s will be done (Matt. 6:10), that God would break and hinder every evil plan and purpose of our three main enemies: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.  We ask that God would give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3), which, of course, He graciously does for us and for all people even without our prayer.  But we pray that He would lead us to recognize this, look to Him for every good gift, and give thanks to Him.  Here we pray for all the needs of the body, and the list is endless: “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like” (Small Catechism).  If you’ve prayed that petition, you’ve prayed for everything you need for this body and life.  Of course, we pray also that God would forgive our trespasses, our sins (v. 4), because we don’t deserve any of it, any of the things for which we pray, but we know that He gives them to us by sheer grace in Christ Jesus.  And we, having been thus forgiven, will surely forgive everyone who sins against us.  So also, we pray for God’s assistance against temptation (v. 4), that He would “guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.  Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory” (Small Catechism).  Finally, in Matthew’s Gospel, our Lord teaches us to pray for deliverance from the evil one, the devil (Matt. 6:13), and of course from all the evil he would bring upon us.  In this petition we pray for divine rescue from all that would bring us spiritual and bodily harm, and that in the end we would have a blessed death, which is to say, that we would die in the faith of Jesus Christ and so go to be with Him in heaven.  To all of this the Church adds her doxology: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever,” and her hearty “Amen,” which means “yes, yes, it shall be so” (Small Catechism).
            And it is so, because our Lord promises.  Oh, it is true, God does not give us exactly what we pray for as we have prayed it.  Imagine if He did that.  We would be in a world of hurt.  But He always answers, and He always responds.  He always delivers exactly what we need, when we need it, in the way we need it, for our good, even if it be a cross.  We ask and we receive.  We seek and we find.  We knock and the door is opened.  Because God opens the rich storehouse of His treasures and pours out upon us grace upon grace.  He gives us His Spirit.  He gives us Christ.  And in Christ, we have all things. 
            But do our prayers actually change anything?  Abraham seemed to think so in our Old Testament lesson (Gen. 18:17-33).  And though the city was not spared, for there were not even ten righteous people in it, Lot and his family were saved.  St. James, the brother of our Lord, writes: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).  He learned that from the Lord Jesus Himself.  It is true, God already knows what we need, what He is going to do, and what is best.  But in His infinite wisdom, which so far surpasses our own that it appears to us to be foolishness, He has given us to participate in His activity by our prayers and intercessions for ourselves and for one another, for the Church and for the whole world.  That is our role as the royal priesthood chosen by God to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  Why pray?  Because it is your privilege as God’s redeemed children, because it is His gift to you, because it is powerful because God says it is, and you believe the promise.  And when you pray, you pray as one covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  You come before the throne of grace covered by Christ, clothed in His righteousness by virtue of your Baptism.  God will not refuse you.  “For when any good Christian prays, ‘Dear Father, Thy will be done,’ God in heaven answers, ‘Yes, dear child, it will most certainly be done despite the devil and the whole world’” (Luther’s Large Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1978] p. 83).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       

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