January 24, 2018 Pray With Shameless Audacity- Psalm 141:1-2, Luke 11:5-10

Jesus in Gethsemane

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:1-2 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

 “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. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10 (NIV)

It is true that when we pray we are approaching Almighty God. We should address Him bearing that in mind.  Fear of the Lord (“fear” meaning reverent respect) is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10) This is why it is good for us to know a few things that Scripture teaches us about prayer.

Prayer is meant to be bold. Do we really believe in the power of the One we pray to? If we do, then why do we pray as if we are begging for scraps, as if God is only willing to give His leftovers?

God gives us the privilege of calling him Father (the word Jesus uses, “Abba,” is more accurately translated to the more intimate English word, “Daddy,”) and He invites us to include Him in our whole lives- the good, the bad and the ugly. God knows our needs more intimately than we do.  Prayer is more than anything a way for us to come closer to God. God does not want us to show Him a sanitized PG13 compartment of our lives.  God wants our whole heart, our whole life.

While one can debate the theological position of whether or not God changes His mind, (perhaps it is more correct to suppose that He changes our minds,) Jesus entreats us to pray boldly- with shameless audacity.  We should pray with complete surrender, and complete openness.

In other words, pray as though we have no boundaries and nothing left to lose.

In some traditions bold prayer is frowned upon, as though one can only approach God with nothing more than sweet platitudes and rote prayers. Those prayers have their place, but so do the prayers that come from the deepest, darkest gut wrenching depths of sorrow, desperation and yes, even anger.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane it was said He sweat blood, His prayer was so passionate and heartfelt.

If we believe God is Who He says He is, we can surrender everything and anything to Him. He is big enough to handle our anger, our rage, our passion and all of those charged emotions we don’t like to deal with.  If we look at Jesus as a Precious Moments figurine or as a sanitized ethereal being (aka Wayne Newton in a white robe?) we miss His humanity, we miss His power, we miss His earthiness, we miss His sovereignty.  We miss the opportunity for Him to come to us in our human weakness, in our surrender and brokenness, so that He can make us whole again.

Jesus tells us to keep banging on the door, to make ourselves pests. Ask! Look! Keep knocking until the door opens. Keep asking, until our wills align with God’s will.

September 27, 2017- Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread- Matthew 6:11, 1 John 3:21-23

Give-Us-This-Day-Our-Daily-Bread

Give us this day our daily bread. -Matthew 6:11 (NRSV)

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment; that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:21-23 (NRSV)

The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer has to do with God’s provision for us. God always provides for us, otherwise we would not have the ability to take our next breath.  The purpose of praying for our daily provision from God is to underscore that we are connected to Him, and that we can trust Him to provide everything we need.

Behold, thus God wishes to indicate to us how He cares for us in all our need, and faithfully provides also for our temporal support, and although He abundantly grants and preserves these things even to the wicked and knaves, yet He wishes that we pray for them, in order that we may recognize that we receive them from His hand, and may feel His paternal goodness toward us therein. – from the Explanation of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Large Catechism

God is a generous giver. He wants to give to us but often we hesitate to ask.  It is also true that He gives to us according to His will and not necessarily by what we think we want and need. Sometimes what we ask for is not the best thing for us.  When my son was 14 and going through a growth spurt he begged me for some outrageously hideous $100 skater pants.  He really wanted those pants, but he certainly didn’t need them, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy them.  He would have outgrown them in weeks, and he would have looked silly in them anyway. I said no- not because I wanted my son to go without clothes, but because I had better and more practical clothing options for him.

God as our heavenly Father is equipping us for eternal life, not just life here on this earth in these mortal bodies. God wants us to ask Him for everything and to come to Him with everything- but like a good parent He knows when to say “yes,” “no,” or “I have a better option for you.”

Perhaps as we pray it is best to leave our options open to God. He knows the desires of our hearts better than we do.  He knows what we need better than we do.

It is telling that Jesus instructs us to pray for “daily” bread.  Not bread for a week or a month or a lifetime, but daily bread. We are supposed to come to God with everything, trusting that He supplies our needs all the time, every day- not just on Sundays or in times of crisis.  It’s not possible to wear God out. He has the ability to take anything we have to throw at Him- our anger, our frustration, our needs, and our desires.  He wants us to bring it all to Him.

Sometimes we feel guilty about praying for ourselves and our own needs. But the act of praying for provision is much like the pre-flight instruction to parents to put the oxygen masks on themselves before attempting to put the masks on their children.  If we are not equipped ourselves, how can we be of service to others?  The key to putting this instruction in proper perspective is our motive in prayer.  Do we pray for ourselves simply so we can benefit ourselves, or do we pray for provision so that we can care for our families and serve our neighbors?  The more we pray the closer we get to the heart of God. Even if our prayers come from an imperfect motive, it is not about our prayers, but the One to whom we pray.  He uses our prayers to transform our motives and to renew our minds and hearts.

Have we brought our every need and heart’s desire- as well as our request for daily nourishment-to God in prayer today?

December 22, 2016- Wise Men and Kings, Matthew 2:1-2, Matthew 2:13-18

wise-men

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-2 (NRSV)

Herod wasn’t exactly a nice guy.  Especially when anyone threatened his sovereignty.  Herod saw himself as being In Charge, and anyone who may have been seen as a challenge to that control was seen as a threat to be neutralized. Later, when Herod learned that Jesus was indeed the long foretold King of the Jews, born in Bethlehem, he ordered what was to be known as the Slaughter of the Innocents-

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:16-18 (NRSV)

Historically not much is known about the wise men from the east.  Legend has it that there were three, however, the Bible does not give a number.  There may have been two, or twenty.  The important part of the story is that they followed the star that was put forth as a sign, and they searched after Jesus without even really being aware of what His coming meant for the world and for humanity. They also took heed to the warning given to them in a dream not to return to Herod, allowing time for Jesus’ family to take Him to safety in Egypt during this time. (Matthew 7:13-15)

It is said that “wise men still seek Him.”  But do we really seek God with diligence in everything we do, and in everyone we encounter?

“Ask, and it will be given 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.” – Matthew 7:7-8 (NRSV)

Wisdom isn’t necessarily found as much in the answers as in asking the right questions.  When we search and knock and ask God we might not get the answers we think we are going to get.  The wise men sought after an earthly king- but they discovered what appeared to be a poor family with a infant that was born in an animal barn.

Did they know that they found the King of Kings?  Are we seeking Him also?

Are we asking the right questions?  Are we listening to the answers, and the warnings that God gives us?