Monday, April 4, 2011

This week's Message- Pray

Luke 11:1-13.

In this section of scripture, we read three of Jesus' teachings on prayer: the Lord's prayer, Parable of the friend at midnight, and God gives good gifts. Each teaching flows into the next creating a united message that God is our Father who longs to give us not only answers to our prayers, but his very self when we seek him.

The passage begins with Jesus praying. His disciples come to him asking that he teach them to pray according to his method of prayer, just like John had taught his followers to pray according to his own practices. This may seem odd to us. We don't typically ask each new pastor or teacher how we should pray, but it was not an uncommon practice for students to ask their rabbi to teach them to pray.

Jesus gives them a model prayer which fits with the Matthew Lord's Prayer, but is not quite as fully composed. The disciples may have been shocked and amazed when Jesus told them to address God as "Father." If you look at the Old Testament, you will find prayers addressed to God Most High, or The One God, but you will not find a prayer addressed to "Father." Jesus as the Son of God invites his followers to address and experience God as more than a far off , all-powerful deity. He invited them, and invites us today to see God as our Father.

Moving into the second teaching, Jesus tells a parable. The situation is this: a friend knocks on your door at midnight asking for bread to give to a traveling friend, do you get up or not? Jesus says you might get up, but not because of your friendship. He says the mere act of boldly knocking at midnight will make you get up and get your friend whatever he needs.

Many times we do not ask God for things we feel are beneath him. We don't want to bother God with our problems. If the friend at midnight had said to himself, "I shouldn't bother them with my problem," he would have received no bread. In order to have answers to our prayers, we must pray! And Jesus concludes that teaching with the words "So ask, and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you."

Moving into the third teaching, Jesus poses a question to his hearers intended to shock them into realizing a truth about God. He says, "Who among you, if your child asked for food would give him a deadly predator to sting and bite him?" In this question, Jesus addresses another reason we often do not go to God in prayer: we don't trust him. We don't pray because we think he'll answer in a way that will hurt us.

Jesus corrects this fear by saying "If you, then, who 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." Now this differs from the Matthew account of this teaching, Matthew says God will give good gifts to those who ask. Luke shows us a different intent. God does not merely want to answer our prayers. He wants to give us himself when we seek him.

God does not always give us what we ask for. Sometimes when we ask for a fish, he gives us an apple. Sometimes when we ask for an egg, he gives us bread. His answer may not fit our desires, but they do fill our need. God, like all good parents, knows when the desired outcome is good for us and when it is not. Sometimes God must answer "no" to our prayers.

Regardless of his answer, in spite of the outcome of our situation, God gives us himself. And at the end of the day no miracle we seek or ask for is greater than the God of the Universe giving us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us; to be our comforter, guide, companion, and friend.

God is our Father. He created us and delights in us. He longs for us to bring him our hearts desires, our needs and dreams. He longs to answer our prayers, giving us good gifts, and the greatest gift of all--his presence.

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