WHAT A PRIVILEGE!
10th after Pentecost C
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." 2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'" 5 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you 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!"
Martin Luther once wrote, “No one believes how great the power and efficacy of our prayers are, unless he has learned it by experience … (but) This I know; As often as I have earnestly prayed – prayed in dead earnest, I have certainly been freely heard and have received more than I desired…”
Maybe not everyone believes he or she has ever had such experience and the whole idea of prayer is a struggle. Why should we pray? The Catechism also poses the question: “What should move us to pray?”
The answer we’re given is: “God’s command and promise, our own and our neighbor’s need, and gratitude for blessings received…” For a Scripture example, the Catechism cites our Lord’s command to “Ask” and “Seek” and “Knock.”
THE COMMAND TO PRAY
Anyone might reason: “Why should I bother to pray if God is Omniscient, already knows what I’m going to ask, and already knows whatever He’s going to do about it?” Such a question could actually be an expression of fatalistic unbelief or, at best, just a weak and “back-handed” way of saying that “I believe God has my best interest at heart and has promised to see me through.”
Whichever the inner rationale for not praying (pessimistic fatalism or superficial optimism), we have the Sovereign God’s COMMAND through the teachings of Scripture and words of our Lord, nevertheless! Any human reasoning to the contrary is no excuse for neglecting or refusing to pray.
Or someone might wonder: “Why should I go on trying to pray when it always seems like God’s not listening or answering?” Many are they whom Satan has led to give up and feel defeated in their prayer lives!
They quit before giving it a sincere shot. Their doubt doesn’t excuse them. The COMMAND still stands!
Some Lutheran Bible Translators once told how villagers from a certain African tribe would have to go out behind their huts to find any privacy for praying. Over time some quite distinct paths were made through the thick brush, and they actually became named “Prayer Paths.” The village elders would occasionally have to visit someone to say, “Friend, something appears to be wrong with your path.” The neglect of praying of course resulted in weeds and brush growing back as a tell-tale sign.
Some maybe have no particular reason for not praying. They just aren’t in the habit. Let it be said again, therefore: We ARE to pray because it’s COMMANDED of us!
PROMISES ATTENDING PRAYER
Let’s not forget the many, many PROMISES God’s Word applies to prayer, though! If we could sift out every one, put them all together and sum them all up, we would have to conclude that God is at all times keenly aware and caring about even our slightest need. Through faith in the redeeming blood of our Lord Jesus, God PROMISES to fill all of our true needs at just the right time. He DOES hear and answer! His mercy and grace are not stingy. His own Holy Spirit also ensures our petitions being conditioned by His Will, which we know is a merciful and gracious Will. And we have the absolute guarantee that, as we pray for it, God’s perfect Will is GOING to be done!
That’s nothing to feel fatalistically resigned and miserable about! It’s actually extremely comforting, since we can’t control everything, don’t always know what’s best, and aren’t always in-tune with all sides to everything. Remember the story about the six blind men who each got a different impression of what an elephant is like … ?
Jesus said: “…Everyone who asks RECEIVES; he who seeks FINDS; and to him who knocks, the door WILL BE OPENED!” All the guarantees are void if we don’t avail ourselves of them, though. God wants to bless us and handle our needs, but He PROMISES to do so only as our fellowship with Him is maintained – and that itself is the primary need for us to pray about.
Consider Abraham’s petitions, how he was repeatedly answered and the real picture of God’s heart shown in Genesis 18:16-33. God wanted even the people of Sodom to be saved!
If your prayer-life is lacking, search out, listen to and take hold of the precious PROMISES in God’s Word! What should move us to pray? Not just human needs and God’s COMMAND, but His PROMISE!
THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER
Some might especially need to hear and heed God’s COMMAND to pray, but it’s a lot easier to simply receive it as the PRIVILEGE it’s intended to be! No person on earth deserves to have an audience with the Almighty Creator and Lord of the universe. We are dust. We’re specks of nothingness! If God willed, we would have no access to Him or recourse for anything. We could only do His bidding like robotic soldiers. Just imagine if our lives were like that!
Besides being the puny little creatures we are, though, we also deliberately cut-off our channels to God with our willful sins and transgressing of His Law. Adam, AND WE, have destroyed what was once Adam’s PRIVILEGE, walking and talking with God in Eden’s perfect paradise. We don’t deserve the PRIVILEGE of prayer because we’ve also turned away from God’s good and gracious Will!
He wants us to receive His best anyway, and “so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son (Jesus Christ), that WHOEVER believes in HIM should not perish, but HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!” Jesus was raised to LIFE again from His death on the Cross for our forgiveness and face to FACE fellowship with God in glory forever!
When He was hanging by those nails and God’s back was turned on Him for our sakes, Jesus personally felt your every sin, every pain, every illness, every worry and fear, every awful thing about you and your life! When He said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me,” He was of course referring to Heaven in the first place, but any level of communication we would have with God is included. Jesus re-opened the way for us to commune with God, and it was shown so dramatically by the curtain in the Temple ripping wide open from top to bottom when He died!
The restored relationship isn’t just for some future day, though, but also NOW! He in Whom “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” earned the present fabulous PRIVILEGE of prayer for us. And that means He can sympathize with our human weaknesses and can deal with them because He IS Almighty GOD!
It can make all the difference in the world to understand Christ’s commands as invitations rather than imperatives. He invites us to live and operate according to God’s Will, and He provides the strength and wherewithal to do it. Someone once compared the PRIVILEGE of prayer to a rich man giving his nephew a million dollars with an invitation to just go ahead and spend it all, then promising to keep replenishing it when it was used up. THAT’S the sense in which we should understand the Lord’s invitation to KEEP ON “Asking” and “Seeking” and “Knocking.”
Which of us would encourage anyone to keep nagging us for something? Yet that’s exactly how Jesus wants us to understand His invitation! “Let us then with confidence draw near to the Throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” it says in Hebrews.
The Lord’s account of the neighbor’s late night request for bread is another way of helping us realize too, once again, that God’s is a good and merciful and gracious Will for us. And He especially wants us to ever-experience the presence of His own Holy Spirit, who alone can keep us in constant and proper fellowship with our Heavenly Father! Ask for that every day along with all your lists of sins, doubts, worries, fears, requests and thanksgivings.
Conclusion: To have an audience with the Almighty God isn’t something that’s open to everyone. It’s a PRIVILEGE for Christian believers – a BLOOD-earned PRIVILEGE through which we can even call the Sovereign God our FATHER!
HEED His COMMAND! TRUST His PROMISE! GRAB the PRIVILEGE – and oh, WHAT a PRIVILEGE!