Ask, Seek, Knock, Pray Genesis July 28, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who stay in regular prayer said … AMEN!

St Thomas Aquinas wrote: “The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.”[1]

Brett Blair writes: “Prayer makes us consider our principle need: Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done. Prayer forces us to consider our physical need: Give us this day our daily bread. Prayer forces us to consider our personal need: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Prayer forces us to consider our pious need: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”[2]

The interaction we see Abraham with God, and we can certainly call this prayer, might seem almost amusing. God doesn’t have a problem interacting with us in prayer, He knows the outcome, but He still wants us to communicate with Him, He wants us to talk to Him, just as we would want a child to talk to us. I get it, adults don’t like being compared as children, but, compared to God we aren’t even close. Our children will grow up to be like us, good, bad or indifferent however different, still being adults. We are never going to approach being anything like God. He is infinitely above anything we are or ever will be. Even in time of the most intense trial, it is a huge comfort that God is still waiting on me, to hear from me. I don’t doubt He is listening to me, He listens to us as He was listening to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no doubt that He was in intense and intimate communication with the Father, as He is in today’s reading teaching us to pray and how to pray. I might feel the level of intensity heighten, or see something I know is God’s assurance to me, any other imaginable way I’ve experienced, I know He is communicating with me. I know especially during prayer. I can feel the Holy Spirit changing my mind, my perspective. All of a sudden I have insight, that I really wouldn’t have known, yet it pops into my mind for either a hmmm or aha moment! I do get those moments, and anyone would if they give prayer a legitimate chance and really look for God’s response versus trying to set the expectations of how God needs to respond to you and expecting God to follow your guidelines. I’ve had it happen too many times, that I’ve left the issue/question open, looked for God’s response and all of a sudden realized His response, know it in my head, see it right in front of me and go from there. Paul Harvey told about a 3-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered she had certain instructions for the little tike: “Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask.” She put him in the child’s seat, off they want. He was doing fine until they came to the cookie section. Seeing the chocolate chip cookies he said, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any.” They continued, but in their search for certain items she had to back track and ended up in the cookie aisle again. “Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you you can’t have any.” Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed the end was in sight, this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?” Everyone in the checkout lanes laughed and applauded. Do you think the little boy got his cookies? The other shoppers moved by his daring pooled their resources. The little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of cookies.[3]

Too many times we set the expectations, it simply has to be this way or I’m not interested. In one of my classes we’re talking about family dynamics, and how we as individuals speak different languages, hear what we expect in the way we want it in a way we consider to be “loving”. Sorry doesn’t work that way with God. God is going to put it to you the way that He wants, and the ways that He gives it to you underscores what He’s trying to communicate. In this way He emphasizes His will, His wisdom, His love for you, even in the most difficult circumstances, as He was doing with Jesus at Gethsemane. A pamphlet from Lutheran Hour Ministries addresses prayer: “God knows everything about us, and He is perfect in His ability to see around the corners of our lives and into our complete future. He knows how anything we ask will impact us – both immediately and far off in the future. He also knows how those things will impact our family, friends, and neighbors. He knows exactly how they will touch people we can’t possibly even imagine. So He answers our prayers in the way He knows will be best for us individually, and for everyone whose life is impacted by ours.”[4] Ruth Bell Graham, Billy’s wife, tells about how she prayed to marry a man before Billy. She was glad God didn’t answer the prayer she wanted. I’m sure we’ve all had a similar experience.

In Abraham’s situation he was sure he knew better than God about Sodom and Gomorrah and prayed God to spare those towns. He didn’t. He probably thought there was some value to be found and there simply wasn’t. There is none righteous, no not one, St John tells us. So Abraham’s request was wrong to begin with, God knew there were none righteous. Maybe he should have just told Abraham, yet Abraham seemed to want to bargain Yahweh down, instead of listen to reason. These people, as all who were located in Palestine, weren’t just “not righteous”, but profoundly evil. Yahweh told: “ESV Jeremiah 23:13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” It’s estimated there were up to 1200 people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham prayed for mercy, for people who were profoundly evil, not even ten were worthy. God wants us to pray, but also wants us to recognize He is aware of much more than we are, and knows when there is something, He does not want His people associated with. We trust in Him and His justice then our uninformed opinion.

Luther closes us out: “…it’s a mistake to prefer other prayers over this one [the Lord’s Prayer]. Watch out for those written…in the hope that God will give us health and long life, possessions … indulgences to free us from punishment… Through these kinds of prayers, we pursue our will and our honor more than God’s… the true Lord’s Prayer, which is inner and spiritual is despised. All forgiveness, all blessings, all that is useful and everything else that a person needs for his body and soul on earth and in heaven overflow from this prayer.”[5] It’s God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s plan that is going to rule and guide us. In order to get in line with His plan, His will, we need to keep in prayer. We need to continually lift up His words to Him in order to conduct our life to live most effectively and that is effective living in Him and that is only through consistent prayer in His will, in His time, looking for His guidance in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin. Christ has risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, as quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2763 quoted in https://www.sermons.com/home/illustrations/2019-07-28

[2] Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com

 

[3] Brett Blair, Sermons.com. Story from Paul Harvey Commentary and News.

[4] Prayer When You Don’t know what to say  Project Connect  Lutheran Hour Ministries pamphlet

[5] Martin Luther Through Faith Alone devotional edited by James Galvin p February 28

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