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Pentecost 7C Sermon
Luke 11: 1-13
July
28, 2019

 

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Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Prayer is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. We have called it our vital breath, our communication with God, and our lifeline. An yet, any pastor will tell you that when we attend any kind of gathering of family or friends and someone knows that we are ordained clergy, we are the “professionals” and we get asked to pray much more often than someone who is a Christian lay person does. Maybe we have brought this upon ourselves with long, verbose diatribes quoting scripture and poetically asking for God’s blessings. But as important as the common everyday Christian disciple believes prayer is, few are confident in actually praying, especially in public.

After Jesus shares a short, succinct prayer example with his disciples in Luke 11, he tells a little parable about a late-night visitor who implores his neighbor to share some bread with him since he has just received a visitor himself. At first, the answer is quite abrupt. I can imagine this would be a response most of us would give, especially as we are still wiping the sleep from our eyes and just want to lay back down in bed. Somewhere in this whole story, though, people get persistent and the man gets what he needs from his neighbor.

I must admit, the way Jesus tells the story (or the way Luke recounts Jesus’ parable) is quite confusing at this point, especially in the use of the masculine pronouns. Verse 8 reads, “I tell you, even though HE will not get up and give HIM anything, because HE is HIS friend, at least because of HIS persistence HE will get up and give HIM whatever HE needs.” To which man is each of these pronouns referring? Now, some are pretty obvious, but some are confusing. One could say that when Jesus talks about “HIS persistence” we might not learn from the context which character has the persistence. We assume it is the one knocking at the door … but Jesus talks about what good friends these two are. What if the one knocking knows that his friend is always there for him … generous to a fault, and has told him that his door is open anytime day or night? What if the one knocking is persistent because he knows that his friend is persistent in sharing of his love with his neighbors? What if our call to be persistent in prayer is primarily based upon the persistent love of God, and his desire to be intimately connected with each one of us? That is, I think, the point of Jesus’ parable.
This point is even more effective when we return to the original language of the New Testament. The Greek word translated here as “persistent”, anaideia, is better translated, “shameless.” Some English translations actually say, “Shameless Audacity.” Now audacity can have some very negative connotations – “the audacity of him to bring my enemy to my house …” But audacity can also bring with it a sense of boldness, fearlessness and daring. I am reminded of the song, “Shameless”. It was written and recorded originally by Billy Joel and covered by Garth Brooks. Billy’s version was a top 40 hit on the pop charts, but Garth’s hit #1 in country. It comes from the perspective of a man professing his love to a woman so deeply that he is not afraid to publicly show that love to her in shamelessly audacious ways. “Well I’m shameless, when it comes to loving you, I’ll do anything you want me to, I’ll do anything at all …” That is how the songs starts, and as it goes on the words profess a love and devotion that cannot be denied, even when all of the world is looking on.

While I do think that Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer, always and forever connecting with God in words, thoughts and deeds, I also think that Jesus wants us to know that this one to whom we pray is shameless when it comes to loving us. We may not always GET what we ask for, but God gives us that love and devotion that we need in spiritual and in physical ways. God is like the father who would never give a snake to a child who asks for a fish; like a mother who wouldn’t think of giving a scorpion to a child who asks for an egg. Above all, God is the one who gives the Holy Spirit – and that is what we truly need in life.

Jesus absolutely expects us to be persistent in prayer. We have the example of Abraham, persistently asking God to spare the people of Sodom over the faithfulness of just a few people. We have a parable of a light-night visit from a persistent neighbor, pounding on a door for something to serve his own visitors. We have the encouragement to ask, search and knock. These things would be much more challenging if we were totally unaware of the nature of the one to whom we are praying (imagine going to a stranger’s house late at night and not a beloved neighbor) … or if we knew that this same one is mean, nasty and stingy with requests. But what Jesus tells us is that God is shamelessly audacious in God’s love for us – and in that shamelessness, God desires us to pray constantly, no matter if we are pastors or lay people. Praying for God’s kingdom to come to each of us. Praying that our material needs might be fulfilled, and that we might forgive others even as each of us has been forgiven. And we pray that we might not be brought into times of trial, where our faith is tested, and our resolve tried.
Of course, we know that last one is a futile petition at best! Our faith is tested, and our resolve is tried every day. That is why prayer is so important, and that is why we are called to base our prayers upon the shameless love that God has for each one of us. As you desire to grow in your prayer life, remember that in this passage from Luke, Jesus is pretty short with his example of prayer … but he is certainly clear on the importance of praying to our God who desires an intimate, loving relationship with each one of us. As we increase in our prayers, God promises to increase the experience of Christ within each one of us, connecting more fully with the generous love of our living Lord. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.