Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 12)
July 24, 2016
Text: Luke 11:1-13
“Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1; ESV). Teach us, for we know not what or how to pray. Our prayers are weak and inadequate. The words of our unclean lips and the desires of our unclean hearts are unworthy of Your divine majesty. And when You, in Your mercy, answer our prayer anyway, we are not pleased with Your answer. You do not do our will in heaven as it is done on earth. And we don’t like it. Not one bit. Therefore, You must teach us to pray. You must open our lips, that our mouths declare Your praise. You must give us the words. And You do. You give us Your prayer. And in that prayer is included every need of body and soul, for time and for eternity. By that prayer, because it is Your prayer, Your Word, You bestow Your gifts. You grant the faith to speak it in confidence and receive Your answer with thanksgiving. You bring our fallen will in line with Your holy will. You bestow Your Kingdom in bread for the belly and Bread that is Your Body, in the forgiveness of sins and defense against temptation and evil. Your prayer is the perfect prayer, and You give us poor sinners to pray it. And in it You place us before God as our Father. Father, You teach us to call God. As dear children ask their dear Father. For that is who we are, and that is who He is. Baptized into Your death and resurrection, made one with You by water and the Word, God’s own child, I gladly say it! Baptism bestows the right to call God “Father,” and to address Him as little children learning our first words. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
“Father” is a faith word. It is the key word in our text. It is a confession that God is for us and not against us. It is a confession that God delights in our prayers, loves to hear them, and will always answer them. And it is a confession that God will answer in a way that is good for us, in such a way that His Kingdom comes and we are saved. God is a better father than I am, and yet I, being evil, still have some experience giving good gifts to my children and withholding things that will hurt them. Now, there is nothing in the whole world my children cannot ask me. That is what it means that they are my children, and I am their father. They can ask me all their needs and desires, and they should. And I should hear, and I should answer. But it often happens with children that they ask for ridiculous things, and so also it often happens that they ask for things that will hurt them. They’re kids! They’re very smart kids, and they don’t want to ask for things that are ridiculous or may hurt them. But the fact remains, I know what is good for them, and what is bad, and they don’t know. Because I am the father, and they are the children. So, many times they ask, and I say “no.” And they don’t like that word, do they? They think that word is bad, and that my will for them is bad, and that I’m against them, and not for them. The truth is, though, just as I will not give them a serpent if they ask for a fish, neither will I give them a serpent if they ask for a serpent. Because even I, being evil, know that will hurt them. And if that is true for me in relation to my children, how much more will our heavenly Father withhold what is harmful (or just ridiculous), and instead give the Holy Spirit, faith, the very Kingdom, and every good gift to those who ask Him?
We’re the kids, guys! Our Father knows, and we do not know, what is good and what is evil. Adam and Eve thought they could know good and evil for themselves, and look what it got them. Look what it got us. Sin. Rebellion against God. Death. Hell. That is what Adam and Eve chose when they got to do their will. And that is what our will apart from the Spirit chooses, every time. So when the Father says “no,” it is a good thing. He’s protecting us. He’s providing for us. He’s loving us. And we throw our temper tantrums, as children do, and God disciplines us, as good fathers do. Not punishment. Discipline. Teaching. “Lord, teach us to pray.” And notice that the things Jesus teaches us to pray are the opposite of things we choose on our own, apart from the Spirit. Jesus teaches us to pray for the hallowing of God’s Name, that we keep His Name holy. To pray that His Kingdom come, not that we get to be king. To pray for daily bread, for the things we need for body and soul, not for great wealth and possessions. To pray for the forgiveness of sins, which is a confession that we are not worthy of things for which we pray, and to commit ourselves likewise to forgiving. And to pray for defense against temptation, defense against the very things after which our flesh runs with reckless abandon. We’re praying against ourselves in the Lord’s Prayer, against our old sinful nature, and for ourselves as the new creation in Christ that daily emerges from the baptismal water to live before God in Jesus, and in the Spirit. Luke, by the way, gives us the short version of this prayer. For the full version, you’ll have to look in Matthew. But notice how whichever version you’re looking at, it includes everything God promises in Scripture. That is why we don’t have to pray it with conditions, like “if it be Thy will.” The petitions are terse. Demanding, even. But we pray them confidently, because these are the Words Jesus has given us to say to the Father. And there is the Promise: He loves to hear it. He will answer. To this prayer, His answer is always and unequivocally “Yes!” Just ask, seek, knock. You will always receive, find, and enter the Kingdom through the open door that is Christ Himself.
And what about our other prayers? I’ve been with several of you this week who are going through some pretty tough things. We’ve prayed, as our Lord commands, and we know He has heard our prayer, as He promises. Some of the things we’ve asked, He has not given. What does this mean? What are we to do with that? Does this mean God is against us? Has He actually, for the first time in all eternity, failed to act for our good? Our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is instructive here. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). And what is the Father’s answer? … The cross is the Father’s answer. He does not take the cup from His Son. Jesus must drink the cup of God’s wrath for our sin down to its very dregs. It is God’s will. God was against Jesus on Golgotha, His own beloved Son. He was against Jesus who bore our sin, our rebellion, our will so stubbornly opposed to His own. He was against Jesus in order to be for us. And see, look what good God accomplished by bringing the ultimate evil upon His Son. The cross was not some sadistic and arbitrary act for God. It served a purpose; namely, the forgiveness of sins for the whole world and the salvation of all who believe it. And even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through His suffering and death has been exalted. He did all this for the joy set before Him, the joy of saving you and making you His own and bringing you into His Kingdom. And He is risen from the dead, ascended bodily into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. There He rules all things. For you. What great glory. And He’ll bring you there to reign with Him. And He’ll raise you bodily on the Last Day. That is the good our Father accomplished by giving His Son into death on the cross.
And if that is what He has done with Jesus’ cross, that is what He will do with the crosses He lays on you. This call situation is not what many of you wanted, and you will hurt and be sad, and so will I. There are among you some dealing with the death of a loved one or your own mortality. There are some dealing with other great pain and loss. These things are crosses to be borne in faith. Not for your salvation, for that is complete in Jesus, but because God is working these things to Your greater good. And like children, you don’t understand the things your Father is doing. You experience them as bad, though your Father knows they are good. He has given them because He loves you. So what are you to do when God lays a cross upon you? Jesus teaches you what to do. He gives you words to say. You are to address God as “Father,” and pray the prayer the Son teaches you. And then you receive His answer right here in the Means of Grace, in the Word of God and the Holy Sacrament. That is how God’s Name is hallowed. That is how His Kingdom comes. Here is the Bread of Life you really need, the Body of the Lord. Here is the forgiveness of sins and shelter against temptation. Here at the font. Here at the pulpit. Here at the altar. Here where Jesus is for you, here where your Father gives His Spirit. Your Father will give you a cross, but never a serpent or a scorpion. Trust Him on this. He is always working what is best for you. He does all things well. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.