Note: Commercials at the beginning of each broadcast are not provided by Grace Bible Church. Please disregard their content.
Hello again! If you have a bible go ahead and open it up to Luke chapter 11. We are going to be in Luke 11 tonight. Before we get on with that, it is a new year and so I want to just address kind of a housekeeping issue for us as a church. We do have a new budget we are headed into for the new year; we do not have all the information about that but I will say just a couple of things and then just let you know that we will talk more about the budget in the next few weeks. One thing is that we brought in more money than we asked you to give last year so I just want to say thank you for that. We are about to turn 10 years old as a church and you guys have given more than we have asked for every year and I appreciate that generosity. Just to give you a thumbnail sketch for the next year, our general plan is that we are going to try to reach more people for Jesus and spend more money in the process. We will give you more details over the next couple weeks but that is where we are headed as a church. As a lot of you know already, we are looking at some building expansion as well as some other things; there are a lot of plates spinning right now.
So, as we shift to what the topic is about, which is “Pray,” I wanted to start our new year off with this. This has always been our strategic plan as a church – is that God would move and we would be obedient to what he is doing. We have these different core practices and stuff we are about; we say what God asks us to do ministry wise is that he asks us to teach the bible, to gather people in community and to try to take the scriptures across the world to other people. All these little things we do, kind of lanes you might say. Early on when we started this strategic planning as a church, we would have these lanes, kind of like they do in the military because one of our military deacons helped us do this. You know the rainbow chart thing they do in the military for strategic planning? Have you ever seen that before? Anyway, there are these different lanes of effort. We said we are going to be out preaching, small groups, authentic worship, global outreach and all these different things we list out; these are the things we are going to poor our time into. When we first started that we had one giant lane that overlapped all the other lanes and that was prayer. We said the bottom line is that none of this other stuff is going to work unless we pray. So, this kind of makes me nervous as a pastor, like all these new things are happening way faster than I can keep up with, just reminding me I’m not in control and we need God to make ministry happen at Grace Bible Church. That is what he has done and that is our prayer that he will continue to do that.
We are going to talk about prayer today. We are going to be in Luke 11 and then to kind of give you where we are headed preaching wise over the next few months we are going to be in Luke and the Book of Acts over the next several months. I had said before we are going to do Romans but we are now going to bump Romans a little longer and start Romans in the fall. January through May we will be in Luke and the Book of Acts and just looking at portraits of Jesus. The next few weeks will be calendar stuff like just talking about prayer because it is a new year but then we will get into Luke and get into Acts, which was also written by Luke, and then just march through portraits of Jesus and who Jesus is; I think we will call that series, “Meet Jesus;” and we will start that in a few weeks. My prayer for us is that we would just make that central this spring. With all the other stuff going on and all the other things spinning around, that we would be a place that invites people to consider Jesus. So, that’s where we are headed.
Today, starting in Luke 11 – we will read verses 1-13, looking at Jesus’s words about prayer. This is one of the two places where we have what is called the Lord’s Prayer; a lot of you might have grown up reciting this. I went to an Episcopal Church when I was a preschooler, so just long enough to memorize this as a little bitty one, and then when we played football games, depending on the coach, sometimes we would recite the Lord’s Prayer. So, that’s my experience with the Lord’s Prayer; I don’t know what yours is but it’s in scripture. It’s a good prayer and Jesus says this is a model for us to learn how to pray.
So, Luke 11:1-13 -- Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And 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 who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” He said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey and I have nothing to set before him; and he will answer from within, ‘Don’t bother me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you; though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him 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!”
He starts with addressing God as Father; he ends with, he is a good Father. I don’t know about your father because he says earthly fathers are generally evil but God is a really good Father; so, he starts with that and he ends with that. He says our attitude towards prayer and towards God should be one of generosity. God is generous. He is gracious towards us.
Let me pray for us and we will ask God to teach us this tonight. God, we do ask that you would help us. We thank you that you teach us that you give us your Word. We thank you that you love us and that your posture towards us is one of grace and we see that most clearly through the cross. We see that also here through this description and teaching on prayer that we are to come to you as a child that believes our Father is generous and kind. We pray that you would help us to ask you in that way – that you would be with us and meet us here and walk along side us. We pray that your spirit will meet us. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.
Well, the Lord’s Prayer was featured in an advertisement recently; I don’t know if you saw this on the news, maybe a month or two ago, but it was about the Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. So, the new Star Wars movie just came out and everyone is excited about it and in England, the Church of England was going to have basically a commercial for prayer before the Star Wars movie. It was a real cool commercial; it was basically just like random diverse people with different backgrounds and different genders, just reciting part of the Lord’s prayer, and that was just going to run before The Force Awakens, and it was just going to have a little tag on the end that says, “Prayer is for everyone.” It sounds like a really cool idea; you’re like, way to go Church of England, cool idea. But they band the commercial. Whoever was in charge of that in England decided no that is going to be too offensive because there is going to be people that can’t stand to hear those words before the movie or it might upset them or something. So, a lot of Christians were kind of freaked out and offended that other people were worried about offending people by reading the Lord’s Prayer. There is this whole cultural thing and I’m sure there is a lot of rock throwing on Facebook about it. It was really interesting – they actually interviewed Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, about it. They asked her what she thought and she was like, “Man, they just need to get over it – it is not that big of a deal. Why are people going to get offended by the Lord’s Prayer?” She’s not even really a believer. She is not on the Church of England’s side necessarily she just thinks it’s no big deal. What was interesting was that a Christian blogger wrote and article about it and said, “Well, it actually is offensive.” I thought that was really an interesting take. The Lord’s Prayer does not offend me. I love the Lord’s Prayer. I want to learn from the Lord’s Prayer because I honor scripture. His point was that it is offensive. We should not be so desensitized to it that we think it just makes sense. I mean, if you don’t believe in God, that’s offensive, right? If you don’t believe in God it’s offensive when someone says that God is real. I mean if you don’t believe in God, God is one of the most threatening people you can imagine, because He wants you to change your life and he wants to tell you what to do with your life. So, there is a sense, again, I’m not saying it should have been band but there is a sense that it really is offensive and we need to not be desensitized to the amazing claims that Jesus is making here; that God is God that he exists and that we should ask him for help, that he should rule our lives, that he is gracious and kind. A nonbeliever believes God doesn’t exist and if he does he is capricious and hateful. So, we have to really recognize that these are really strong claims that we are making. These are really radical things that we are saying when we pray these words and allow ourselves to hear them with fresh perspective. What does this look like to someone that maybe has not heard this before, maybe someone that didn’t grow up reciting it in preschool like I did, but someone who has never heard these words before – what does it mean?
The first thing that I want us to kind of meditate on is that we should pray these words. He has actually given us a prayer to pray. You might have done this with your kids, if you have kids. We had one of the prayers we would do before dinner is, “God is great, God is good, and thank you God for this food.” There are these different little memorized prayers, like, “Now I lay be down to sleep at night;” you know there are memorized prayers that you teach kids and when you do that you are not saying, “And don’t you ever dare pray another prayer besides this memorized one.” I mean, that’s not what you’re saying, you’re just giving them some words to say. You are helping them along as training wheels in prayer. Jesus, to some extent is giving some training wheels here, saying here’s a way to pray. The disciples said, “Jesus, teach us to pray.” He gives us some words to pray. We need to not miss that. I think the reason it might be easy for us to miss that is because we are culturally, our church, is on the informal side of the spectrum. There are more formal Christians that do more ritualistic things and then there are Christians that do things that are less ritual, less formal, and if you are new here, you may have already figured it out, we are kind of on the less formal side of things. Less formal people can kind of condemn anything that looks really structured or formal. So, we need to be careful not to go too far and say, you know, “How dare you ever speak memorized prayers or written prayers.” They can really be helpful; I would encourage you to consider memorizing these prayers.
Before I go any further with that point, I have some books on prayer that I wanted you to check out after the service. Since it is a new year, you can check these out and consider; these two have memorized prayers in them. So again I know, casual church that might be a little scary for you. One is the Book of Common Prayer – Church of England guys. I don’t understand half of what’s in this book; it’s like you need a decoder to get it but there is also some good written prayers in here. And then this one is a little easier to understand – this is called, Valley of Vision. Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers, really beautiful poetry. So again, these two are kind of on the more literary end of the spectrum. If you are a reader of old books and you like old language, I think you might really enjoy these and I would recommend them to you. These other five are modern language, a little more explanatory, helping us understand prayer in modern words. I would recommend all of these; these are mine so please don’t take them but come flip through them and see if you want to buy or order one. They are really good and have been really helpful to me.
So, what I would like us to understand is that it is okay to memorize the words. I would say that a good goal for 2016 would be to memorize the Lord’s Prayer; there is a slightly longer version in Matthew. There is also the classic version that you will find in the Book of Common Prayer if you grew up in a church that recites the Lord’s Prayer in a liturgical sense. This is a memorized prayer that you can memorize. If you struggle to know how to talk to God, here is the framework for you. I would say it is a great place to start. But, again, don’t hear me saying that is the only way to pray, only memorize; I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that these are good training wheels and this is a good place to start. This is scripture – learn it. It is clear that Jesus wasn’t saying that this is the only place to pray or the only way to pray because there are two different versions, even in the bible; there is the version in Matthew and the version in Luke, and they seem to be different occasions and different times and Jesus is using different words and that seems to be okay with Jesus. You can pray two different versions of this prayer, so I would start there.
And then I would say to take it another step; I’m giving you a lot of homework for 2016; another step would be to translate it yourself. Make your own translation of the Lord’s Prayer. I have a book here; it’s called a thesaurus. Have any of you used this for term papers? So, your teacher says that your writing is boring, so you go to the thesaurus and you pull it out and you find the big words. I used to try and stump my teacher. Now, that I’m a communicator I work backwards and actually try to use the simplest words possible, but when I was a smart aleck teenager I would try to use the biggest words possible to try and stump my teacher. I would pull out the big thesaurus and try to find words they didn’t know and it was like a little game I would play with them. The thesaurus is a great tool; it just gives you multiple other words for the same word. If you look up the word hallowed or kingdom, it gives you like four or five other words that mean the same thing. So, it can be a really fun tool and it could help you make your own translation. I would encourage you to do that, again, as a way of deepening and understanding what Jesus is saying here. What is he actually saying here in the Lord’s Prayer, writing your own version of it. So, he has given us this pattern. This is the way to pray.
What is he saying in the Lord’s Prayer? I just want to look really quickly at the details. The first thing he says that I want to press is that he says, “Father, hallowed be your name.” I want to press on you that this is kind of talking about both sides of how we understand the character of God. That God is absolutely holy, majestic and huge; hallowed, which is more like holy, saintly, set apart – “hallowed be your name,” may your name be great, may your name be important and weighty and have gravity to it. And then he is also saying address him as Father. Only in Christianity and only through the gospel of Jesus can you know God in both ways simultaneously. Every other religion, and again, I know this is a big claim so I would love to talk to you about it, but correct me if I’m wrong, but I have studied religion quite a bit; I study Christianity more now but I used to study other religions. But my understanding is that every religion veers off one side or the other of that track; either God is super eminent or God is super unapproachable, big and scary. In Christianity he is both; he is absolutely holy, “hallowed be your name,” and he is close, Papa, Father. And so Jesus says bring that into your prayer; recognize that in your prayers. Then he says another kind of pairing here, “Your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread.” So, here he says pray for these kinds of things. God, may your kingdom reign on earth, may your will be done on this earth. May your kingdom come and can I have some bread today, daddy?” You know, just your daily needs. It is okay to pray like that; don’t be so super spiritual that you don’t pray to God for a new job, bread, and God I need you to take care of my basic needs. We can ask God for those things and we should also pray that God’s will would be done. We see a world of injustice. We see people starving and we see people hurting and we pray, “God, would you bring your kingdom to bear in this world as well.” So, Jesus is saying we should align our hearts with these kinds of priorities. And then he says, “Forgive our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” When you read some of the statements of Jesus, you get kind of startling statements that make it sound like it is conditional, that if we don’t forgive we will be unforgiven; you know, kind of an if/then type statement. When you read the rest of the New Testament, I think it’s pretty clear, then you can kind of look back into what Jesus is saying and you can understand that what Jesus is saying is the only way you’ll be able to forgive other people is if you know that God has forgiven you. So, if you have a hard time forgiving other people, chances are you struggle to really recognize how sinful you are or I am. When I’m looking out and all I can think about is judgment towards other people, that means I haven’t really dealt with the judgment that I deserve in my own broken heart, my own selfishness, my own sin, my own rebellion against God. But when I have dealt with that internally, that frees me up to forgive other people. I don’t mean then that makes it magical like if you know the gospel then everything is easy, but you won’t be able to forgive other people unless you know the forgiveness that God has for you in Jesus. I believe that’s where Jesus is going here, again, with this prayer. It’s not just a thing to think but it’s something that we pray. And then he says, “And lead us not into temptation.” Again, we ask God for what we want and that’s okay. I’m not taking us to this kind of out there health and wealth gospel that says ask God for a Cadillac and he has to give it to you. I’m saying it’s okay to say, God please keep me from suffering and temptation, please help me I’m sick; you know, it’s okay to ask God for those things. Sometimes God’s answer is my power is perfected in your weakness and my strength will be revealed as you struggle; sometimes that’s his answer but it’s okay to ask him when we are struggling. Again, we need not be so super spiritual that we kind of ping from, well health and wealth gospel is this extreme so let’s run over to this side to the poverty gospel and say I should just suffer all the time. It’s okay to say, “God I don’t want to suffer anymore but if that’s your will, I will deal with it.” And the model for that is Jesus’s prayer in the garden, where Jesus says, “If this cup of suffering can be taken, take it, yet not my will but your will be done.” So, Jesus models that even for us as a human praying to God the Father. We believe that Jesus is God. We believe in the trinity but we also believe he is a model for us that shows us what it’s like to be a human living in a dependence upon his heavenly Father and he says, “God I don’t want to go through this suffering, but if that’s what you want Father, then I’ll go there, I trust you.” So, we have a great freedom in prayer to come to God and say God this is what I want, this is what I need, this is what I’m worried about, this is what I’m stressed about, this is what I have anxiety about, can you help me? And then we are handing it to him and we trust him as a good Father to deal properly with what we need.
So, the first thing I want to say is that I have asked you to memorize some of these prayers. I’ve told you that written prayers are cool and a helpful tool, helpful training wheels for us in our faith. Another way to say that would be even when we sing songs, we are praying someone else’s written prayer; that is what a song of praise or hymn is – it’s someone else taking scripture and rewriting it poetically and setting it to music and we are then praying it as we sing it. So, we already believe in written prayer; it helps us to talk to God and communicate with God but don’t let that keep you from talking casually to God.
So, in 2016, I want you praying – that is my prayer, that we would be a praying people. Memorize the Lord’s Prayer, read some books about prayer, pray some written prayers, pray some of your own spontaneous prayers. The idea is to pray and don’t veer off one side of that or the other and think well this feels weird so I just won’t pray, or this other kind of thing feels weird so I just won’t pray. Talk to God. Pray in 2016.
There is this great quote from Tim Chester in one of these books that’s up here titled, you can Pray. It talks about how we often have intimidating images about prayer and I’m sure that all of you have different baggage and different background, whether you come from a religious or a nonreligious upbringing, you kind of have preconceived notions of what prayer is that might keep you from thinking you can pray or want to pray. Chester says, “When we have these intimidating images in our head we need to be reminded that Jesus says prayer is just like a child asking her Father for help.” It’s as simple as that, just a child asking her Father for help. So, don’t overthink it. Pray. Pray.
The next thing I want us to see is that we should pray persistently. He gives us this little parable here, this little story in verses 5-10. He said to them, “Which of you has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey and I have nothing to set before him; and he will answer from within, ‘Don’t bother me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything’? I tell you though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. That word impudence could also be a shamelessness or persistence, kind of a not giving up – it’s kind of like doing something embarrassing or socially strange. It is this interesting word that gives us this image that he explains further as he goes on. Arise and give him whatever he needs. Verse 9, “I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. So, again, he is not going to the extreme of saying every single thing you ever asked for in prayer, God will kind of mechanically give you exactly that thing. We are still trusting that he is God and he is in charge and he knows what is best for us. So, he might say yes, he might say no, he might say later, he might change that and say well I will give you something like that but this is better for you. But, we are to ask. A way I have been thinking about it this week, at our church, we have talked about how we have set aside 10% for global outreach and we are kind of big enough where people know and there is enough money where we have a lot of people come asking for it now so we tell people no a lot more than we used to which is kind of weird. In that process I have started to realize that the people who never ask, don’t get anything. There are all these missionaries out there; there are all these people raising support, but the people who ask and the people who ask a lot get more than the others. So, that’s just a simple fact of reality, simple logic. Jesus is saying, ask. So, he uses this word impudence. Like I said, this word in the Greek could be translated shamelessness. Some commentators even debate if it’s the shamelessness and the impudence of the guy that is getting up to give the bread, versus the guy who is asking for it. I tend to lean towards it’s the guy asking for it because the other explanation and the kind of repetitive persistence that he is talking about here, keep asking, keep seeking. Either way, Jesus is doing this interesting thing that he does in other parables where he gives us what we might think of as an immoral example to show us how we should relate to God, which is really kind of interesting. There are several ones where Jesus does this, so he is not saying this story tells you everything you need to know about life and how to live. Like, wake people up in the middle of the night and be obnoxious – that’s not really what he is saying. I think he is trying to help us to understand that there is a feeling we get when we approach God that we are not okay and I would say at one level if you have that feeling that is a right feeling because you are not okay; the bible calls that sin. We are not okay but God took care of that problem. God bridged the gap so we don’t have to make ourselves okay; God made us okay through Jesus. So, then we can be free to approach him with what would seem like on the surface to be impudence, socially inappropriate behavior -- You can’t bother God – don’t go banging on God’s door, he’s God, you need to leave him alone. Jesus is saying, no, we need to go bang on God’s door in the middle of the night.
So, my question for you and this is a question I have had – I have really wrestled with this. I’ll just make this personal, there are things I know that I stopped praying for because it just hurts too much. I just don’t want to think about it. It’s easier to not think about it. Do you all ever do that? I just can’t go there. I don’t really want to cry anymore about that – I don’t really want to think anymore about that so I’m just not going to pray about that. I say that Jesus is pushing us to be impudent, shameless, and persistent in our prayer and to keep banging on the door. Another more light-hearted example of this is that I used to be a telemarketer; I know, don’t boo me, I’m sorry. For two years I was a telemarketer. I was newly married and that was the only way I could figure how to pay the light bill. So, don’t hate me for it! It taught me some good things about being impudent, shameless and persistent. I learned some hard lessons. I think about that; I don’t want to be that annoying guy and Jesus invites us to be that annoying guy with God; yeah, bang on his door and keep banging on his door. I have a picture here of someone knocking. I use this too because this is another culturally inappropriate concept, right? Because we don’t knock on each other’s doors anymore. Have you ever noticed that? When I was a kid, we knocked on each other’s doors and we would go sell cookies and bang on the door for random things – we would bother our neighbors all the time. We just never do that anymore as a culture. We never approach each other’s homes; some of you may. You might live in one of those friendly neighborhoods; the last few friendly neighborhoods left but most of us don’t go bother each other. Jesus is saying, go bother God, go bang on his door, go knock on his door, keep asking him, and be persistent.
So, what is the thing that you are struggling being persistent with God about? What are you having a hard time asking him about? I would be saying that the application is, go back and bang on the door again, keep asking him, keep talking to him. I’m not saying he is going to say, Oh yes, absolutely, I didn’t hear you the first time. But what I’m saying though is that he wants you to bring that stuff to him; whatever that difficulty is that you want to talk about or you’re afraid he won’t say yes so I just don’t want to ask.
Another personal experience is that God answered a prayer positively that I just literally did not want to pray for because I thought he would say no – I just didn’t want to pray for it. Have you ever done that? Am I the only one that is this sinful when it comes to prayer? I say bang on the door, ask him; ask him the stuff you are embarrassed about – be shameless with your prayers. Be persistent in your prayers. We have to pray. One of the themes in Tim Keller’s book is that we have to – like, we can’t survive without it. His wife really helped him to get to this point. He is a pastor in New York City and they went through 9-11 more strongly than we felt it here because they were right in the middle of it. So that was kind of a shocking turmoil filled time in history of their church and a year or two right after that his wife was struggling with Crohn’s disease, which is terrible; I have family members that struggle with that and then he got cancer. So, they are struggling and they are getting hit in the face, again and again, with all these different issues. His wife, Kathy, said to him, “If we don’t pray together to God, we are not going to make it because of all we are facing; I’m certainly not.” This was Kathy’s appeal to Tim to pray with her every night. She used the illustration of chemo. She said, “What if a doctor told us that you had to take this pill every night for your thyroid cancer or you are going to die.” She said, “You would do it.” She said that was how she was feeling about prayer. She felt like they HAD to do this. That kind of became a thread for him. They began doing that and it became a practice that they committed themselves and have done that ever since. Even when they are separated they will pray on the phone. What he realized was that yes they have to do this to survive. We are going to go nuts and not survive if we don’t do this. I would encourage you to begin to seek prayer in that way; to be persistent, to keep banging on the door, keep talking to God. For our own sanity we need to pray. So ask yourself what is the thing you have given up on and keep praying for that thing.
I would say this, and then we will move on, earlier in the Lord’s prayer he said, “May your kingdom come” and in the other version of the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “And your will be done.” So, that’s what we are praying for and when we look out at the world we see a world that is far from God’s kingdom and God’s will. What do you do with that emotionally? Do you just yell at the TV and throw things at it or do you get really angry or do you post rude things on Facebook; what do you do with it? Jesus says to persistently pray. You keep not seeing God’s justice and peace on earth and instead of just going numb or instead of just railing at the world, we should pray. So, again, this is an area where we should be persistently praying for the heartache that we feel when we see pain and brokenness in the world around us. Again, we should pray.
We spent a year in the Psalms together a couple years ago as a church and one of the things that just rattled me again and again in the Psalms is how we bring all of our emotional junk to God in prayer. That is the model that David and the other psalmist give us in the Psalms. We bring ALL of it – we just say, “Here it is.” There is often a happy ending by the end of the psalm but it doesn’t start out happy and it is just bringing our stuff to God in prayer.
So, that is where I would like us to go as a praying people. My prayer for us is that we pray persistently and shamelessly.
The final thing that he tells us is that we can pray with his help. So, he gives us this beautiful picture of God as a generous Father and he says this is the picture that should grab hold of your mind – that God is generous. I know that some of you struggle with this concept of God as a generous Father because you haven’t known your own Father in that way. I would say that part of how we know that our earthly Father was missing and there was a hole there and something wrong there is because God has made us in his image and so we know what a Father should be. God is that Father that should be and so that is kind of the Father that judges the rest of us as incomplete.
So, let’s look at the text 11-13. He says, “What father among you if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish will give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg would give him 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!”
As an earthly father, I wish that he had said, even though you earthly fathers aren’t that bad, 90% good but he says we are evil. He is kind of brutal; he just says we are evil. We are just evil. He says you are just plain evil and you still do a lot of nice stuff for your kids. You are still generally generous towards your kids. How much more is God the Father, the perfect Father, the real Father, generous and kind and he knows how to give good gifts. Jesus is saying that’s our motivation for prayer; that should make us want to talk to him, right? You may not be sure about your earthly father. You may not be sure about your friend. You may not be sure about your spouse but he is saying he is there for you. He is not going to let you down. He loves you. He wants to hear what you have to say. He wants you to bring all your junk and bring it and lay it out on the table and talk to him about it. So, we should see God as having this gracious disposition, as someone that loves to give good gifts. I have a picture here of a kid opening a present for Christmas. I liked this picture because I’m an evil earthly Father, so I’m cheap; I like the idea of giving a little $2 dinosaur and my kid being really happy, right? God is not that cheap. God loves to give good gifts. He is not thinking about economics. He loves to see the smile on our face. He loves to see the delight in our heart. We see this most clearly in the gospel and it’s kind of where the book of Luke is going – the end of the book is heading to the climax of Jesus dying and rising again for us and the picture there is that even though God is unapproachable because of his absolute perfection and holiness that God has closed the gap towards us in Christ. God has laid our sins on Jesus on the cross and he has given us Jesus’s righteousness and so then when God’s sees us he delights in us. He loves you as his child. He is pleased with you, not because you have prayed the right words but because of Jesus. He is pleased with you, not because you have done everything right in your life, but because of Jesus; what Jesus has done for you. So that image of God having a fatherly, kind, gracious disposition for us, that should then guide us to pray, understanding that God will help us, even when we feel like we can’t pray. What’s really fascinating here is that he’s talking about gifts, and again, the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer is Jesus is saying ask for bread, ask for God’s help, pray for these things that you need, ask that God would lead you out of temptation. Ask for these kind of earthly, me-centered things – it is okay to pray that way. It is okay to pray selfish prayers in that sense but then he moves on and he says it doesn’t just stop with those gifts – he says how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. So, we ask for the gifts and it’s okay to ask for the gifts but really we have to say, “I want these gifts but you know what God? I know I really need you. You are the ultimate gift. I want you. I need you. You are the ultimate gift. You are the only thing that will really satisfy and that’s where Jesus is bringing our prayer and he says God will give you the Holy Spirit. God will give you himself in his own person; that is the richness that we have when we are going to God in prayer. So, we have this Father who approaches us in love – we sing that song – he has grace for us. He has chased after us. Humanity is running the other way and God has this predestining, chasing, pursuing love where he grabs hold of us. Jesus, the son, executes that for us. He is the one that makes it all possible in the sense that he is the one who actually purchases us. Then the Spirit is where we sense that; we feel and experience that as the Spirit comes in and lives in our life and makes that real in our hearts. We often call that union with Christ, the idea that the Spirit indwells us. Paul talks in Romans about how the Spirit causes our heart to cry out Abba, Father. We can’t even subjectively see God as Father apart from the Spirit, helping us to see him that way so that we can pray and talk to him. Paul goes further in Romans 8 and I know Stephen did a great job preaching last week in Romans 8 and there’s that verse in Romans 8 that says we don’t even know how to pray but the Spirit intercedes for us. We don’t even know the words to say, so again, don’t get caught up reading these books or praying written prayers, thinking that if I just have the right words then everything will be okay and I’ll know it’s the Spirit and it’s what God has done for us that makes it okay. We have this freedom to just talk to him. Sometimes it’s not even talking, it’s just babbling incoherently, right? It’s just crying or sobbing to him or groaning to him and Paul says in Romans 8:26, the Spirit will clean that up for you. The spirit is going to make that make sense and the Spirit will intercede for us with groanings that words cannot express.
I want to wrap up, again, just going back to finishing place, just thinking about Jesus’s prayer. Jesus gives us a model prayer in the garden. Because Jesus prayed, what he prayed in the garden, we can pray. Because Jesus said in the garden, “If there is any other way, let this cup of suffering be taken from me; let this pass from me Father. Yet, not my will but your will be done. So, Jesus both was completely honest with his desires as a human with his Father God. He also submitted himself to God’s will and went to the cross for us. He took our sins upon himself and gives us his righteousness. So, because Jesus prayed that prayer we can pray that same kind of prayer. We can come to God and be honest with our stuff; like, God I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I don’t know how I’m going to survive this. I’m trying to spin plates and the plates are falling. God will you help me? We can pray that to him. We can also then walk away. We have left it in his hands, saying, I trust you. Whatever you say papa. Whatever you say daddy. I trust you. You’re good.
Let me pray for us and then we will respond in communion. God, we thank you that you are good and that we can approach you as a gracious heavenly Father because of your kindness to us in Jesus and I pray that your Spirit would make that real in our hearts. God, we cry out to sense this on a daily and regular basis, things that we feel like we only get little glimpses into, the sweetness of your delight in us, your kindness to us. We pray that you continue to help us to understand and that we would be a praying people that respond to you and trust and in faith.
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.