Sunday, July 28, 2013

Learning How to Pray (Sermon preached July 28, Proper 12-C)

Sermon Text: Luke 11:1-13
In the name of T Jesus.
            Jesus is your brother.  Now, Jesus is the Father’s Son from eternity, and you were adopted into the family through the waters of Holy Baptism, but that doesn’t mean you’re any less a part of the family.  You and Jesus are brothers.  In fact, because Jesus’ blood has been poured out on you, and covered you, you are the only adopted siblings in all the world who also share the blood of the family, as you share in the blood of Jesus.  Jesus is your brother.  You and He are members of the same eternal family.  And that means, you and Jesus have the same Father.
            Now, typically, in a family, while the younger siblings learn quite a bit from mom and dad about how to talk, when it comes to talking to mom and dad, the younger siblings learn that from their older siblings.  If the older children talk back to mom and dad, what do the younger siblings do?  They talk back.  If the older children are respectful, and answer mom and dad’s commands with a “Yes, ma’am,” or a “Yes, sir,” the younger siblings will begin to do the same.  They’re brothers and sisters, after all.  They’re part of the same family.  When they speak to mom or dad, they’re going to sound alike.
And so will you.  Jesus is your brother, after all.  He’s your older, from eternity brother.  You are part of the same family.  You have the same Father.  And so today, as you listen to Jesus, you will learn how it is that you might speak to your Father.  And you will learn from Jesus, your brother, how to pray.  But even more, you will learn from Jesus how to believe.
Lex orandi, lex credendi: It’s an old Latin phrase that comes from the 5th Century, and woodenly translated, it means, “law of praying, law of believing.”  Roughly translated, or should I say, translated so we can make sense of it, Lex orandi, lex credendi means, “How you believe, is how you pray.”  Or, in other words, what you believe about yourself, and about God, will determine whether or not you pray, and how you pray.
If you believe God the Father to be unapproachable, for example, or picture Him sitting on His thrown, batting down prayers that are beneath him and unacceptable, for example, well, then that is going to influence how you pray.  And if that is your view of the Father, chances are, you won’t be doing much of it.
If, however, you have learned that your Father loves you, and has shown you His great love through the sacrifice of His one-and-only-Son.  If, you have learned that the same Son who died in your place is serving as a mediator between you and the Father, delivering your prayers like a son delivering the phone to Dad, and asking Dad to take the call.  If, you have learned through the comforting work of the Holy Spirit that the Father is not sitting on His thrown waiting to reject your prayers, but that He delights in seeing the faith of His children who call upon His name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks, well, then, that will also influence how you pray.  And if that is what you believe, by faith, you will pray.  Lex orandi, lex credendi: how you believe, is how you pray.
And so, in learning from Jesus how to pray, we also learn from Him, how to believe, and what to believe, regarding our Father, and our Father’s name.  We learn from Jesus how to believe, and what to believe about our Father’s kingdom, and what our Father desires to give to His children.  So that when we ask, we will seek the gifts for which our brother, Jesus, has taught us to ask and seek; the very gifts the Father has promised to give; the gifts the Father loves to give to you, His children.
Even Jesus begins with a reminder of who it is that you’re talking to when you pray.  And it isn’t some nameless god, who is unknown and remains a mystery.  It’s your Father.  It’s our Father.  The one who created you, even before your earthly mother and father had ever even thought of you.  It’s the one who sent His Son into the world to redeem you from your sin, so that you would not die eternally, but in order to give you life with Him forever.  It’s your Father, who desires for you to live with Him, and who delights in hearing His children’s voice.  Our Father—mine, yours, even Jesus’ own Father.
Luther reminds us, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father (SC, p. 19).  Those of you who have had children, or grandchildren, or have been children yourselves, you know that children who are loved by their parents aren’t afraid to ask them for anything.  They’ll come to mom or dad five minutes before bedtime, and ask to have some of their Easter candy.  But they’ll also come to mom or dad and ask if they can go to Sunday School.  They don’t know if it’s good for them, or bad for them, but they do know who it is that they need to ask.  They ask their parents, because they are loved by their parents and they know that their parents are there to give them what they need…even if they don’t always know—or agree—with what they need.
If children can approach their earthly parents with all boldness and confidence, not knowing, and not even caring if what they’re asking for is good or bad, but not afraid to ask their parents, who themselves Jesus tells us, are evil but know how to give good gifts, how much more, will the heavenly Father delight to hear the requests of His own precious children, whether they are the right requests or not.  Because simply to ask the Father—to go to Him with your requests, regardless of your requests—is to show the Father that you know it is from the Father that all your blessings flow.
And by asking the Father, we are hallowing the Father’s name.  By calling upon the name of the Father in every trouble, by praying, praising, and giving thanks, we are holding His name high above all other names.  We won’t rely on luck.  We won’t place all trust in our government.  We will refuse to believe that all of our blessings, be they spiritual or having to do with our body, come from anyone other than our heavenly Father.  And while His name is certainly holy by itself, as you, His children, call upon His name, you keep it holy, and high, and sanctified among us also.  And so, from Jesus, we learn to hallow the Father’s name, by using the Father’s name, so that Our Father would be held high, and Our Father would be set apart as the one from whom we expect that all our blessings will be given to us, His dear children.
And one of those blessings being given to us is the blessing of His kingdom, and so Jesus teaches us to pray: Your kingdom come.  Of course, His kingdom is a kingdom like no other.  Sure, there are enemies to His kingdom.  There are many that would see His kingdom destroyed and put to shame.  Sin, death, and the Devil will not stop in their attempts to keep the Kingdom of God from coming to you, the Father’s children.  But we pray, as Jesus teaches us, that through the Father’s Word—we pray that through the preaching of Christ crucified for sinners—the Kingdom of God would come and the Lord Jesus would reign by having the Holy Spirit call, and gather, and sanctify us to believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here on earth and there with the Father for all eternity.
When we pray, Thy Kingdom come, we are not praying for some army of Christians to purify our government, or to rid the city of crime, or even to reclaim a proper understanding of marriage, although all of those things would be extraordinary blessings from the Father.  When we pray, Thy Kingdom come, we are praying that the Father would be pleased, through the preaching of His Son, to have the Holy Spirit change the hearts of a lost and condemned people, one person at a time, to believe in Jesus, and to trust in His forgiveness, and to praise the Father, for sending the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.  Because when the Holy Spirit has called you to believe, and has gathered you into the family of faith, and enlightened you to see Jesus as your Savior, then the Kingdom of God has come even to you.  And Jesus teaches us to pray, that the Kingdom might come not only among us, but among all of us, in this world, so that the plans and purposes of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh might be undone, and Jesus would find us holding firm to the faith, and calling on the Father’s name, until we die, or until He comes again.
And until He comes again, Jesus teaches us to ask the Father to Give us each day our daily bread.  You see, God the Father certainly gives daily bread to everyone even withour our prayers—even to all evil people.  He sends rains on the just and the unjust.  He puts food on tables, and clothes on bodies, and houses over heads, and gives husbands and wives, children, workers, and good government to all people, whether a person be Christian, or Atheist, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu.  The Father, who created us all, will sustain His whole creation, even if His creatures have no idea from whom these blessings flow, or even reject the One who gives these gifts altogether. 
And so, if a person does not know who it is that gives these gifts, that person will not receive them with thanks, or praise the Father for them.  But in learning from Jesus to pray each day for daily bread, we are reminded once again of the Father who delights in giving to His children what they need to make it through the day.  So that when everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body is given to us, and often times in great abundance, we might receive it with thanksgiving, and give praise to our Father in heaven.
And even then, in addition to all the material blessings the Father bestows on us, and all people, so that we have all that we need for the support and needs of the body, Jesus teaches us that there is even something more important for which to pray.  Even if our bank accounts are full, and are tables are loaded, and our families are healthy, and our jobs are secure, if we do not have the forgiveness of sins, then we would remain in our sins, and the Father would be grieved.
But thanks be to God, that in Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins.  And we have it freely, so that no matter what you have done or left undone, and even though you deserve temporal and eternal punishment, the Father teaches His children through His one-and-only-Son to simply ask for forgiveness, and it is already theirs.
Because of Jesus, whose blood was shed, and whose body was pierced, you whose sins once alienated you from the Father, have been made one with the Father.  Your sins have been atoned for in the death of Jesus.  They are forgiven.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation, and so Jesus teaches us to ask for what the Father has promised to give.  Like a child who is told by her father that she can have chocolate milk for dinner, when the child asks for what the Father has promised to give, the answer is always the same: “Yes, you can have it. Yes, it is yours.  Yes, yes, yes.”
And so, you see, above all, that the Father desires His children to have the forgiveness of sins.  He desires You to have, and be certain, of the forgiveness of sins.  In fact, the Father gives the forgiveness of sin to all who ask their sins to be forgiven.  And He gives it so freely, that His children become so certain of it, that they cannot keep it to themselves.
Sinful children, who are forgiven children, will forgive those who sin against them, because they have learned from Jesus what the Father intends to give.  And so you, the Father’s children, go into your homes, and your jobs, and your schools, and throughout the world, having confessed your sin, and hearing forgiveness, so that when someone has a sin they have committed against you, you will know what it is that the Father intends to give them, as you yourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to you.
And Jesus knows this isn’t easy.  He knows that the Father’s enemies are the children’s enemies.  He knows that those enemies will be working to lead you into temptation.  He knows they will be working to deceive you and to mislead you into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.  And although those enemies will daily attack you, Jesus, your brother, teaches you to pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, working to strengthen you with God’s Word and Promise, you might overcome them all, and win the victory.
You see, Jesus is your brother.  By His blood, you’ve been adopted into the family of faith, and you have the same Father.  If children can learn to talk to their earthly parents by listening to their siblings, maybe we will learn to pray by listening to Jesus, our brother.  And by listening to our brother, not only will we learn how to pray, but we’ll know what to believe, and how to believe, about our Father.  For everyone who asks the Father for what the Son has taught them to ask, will receive it.  And everyone who seeks from the Father, what the Father desires to give, will find it.  So if Jesus is the One who is teaching you how to pray, then you will pray, and you will do it with all the confidence of a child, who knows his Father well.  

In the name of T Jesus.  Amen.

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