July 27/28, 2013
Text: Luke 11:1-13, Genesis 18:17-33
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Nowadays, it’s pretty common to see people walking and talking over a hands-free cell phone with Bluetooth connection. When I first saw this happen several years ago, I thought this guy was crazy, insane talking to the air, or talking to himself. No one was around him. Of course, he was having a phone conversation with his friend or family member using a hands-free device. Prayer is Similar to this. It’s not a monologue talking to the air, or to oneself, but a conversation with our father in heaven. Unfortunately, for many people prayer becomes a monologue. This is dangerous to our spiritual life. You may hear people say, “I give up this Jesus’ thing. It simply doesn’t work! I having been praying for my job. But I still cannot find one.” You may hear yourself saying similar things. Maybe you did not find prayer to be a meaningful experience as you would expect and understand. Another example is a biblical one. It’s in Luke 18, where “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘’God, I thank you.’” then he went on with his laundry list of how many good things he has done. But as we know, in the end it’s the tax-collector who said only one sentence, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” is justified. In both cases, one thing is in common. Prayer becomes a monologue. It’s like talking to the air, or talking to oneself. God may not be listening. He is certainly not answering. True prayer is relational. It’s not a monologue, but a conversation with heavenly Father.
First of all, Christian prayer is about father-son relationship as shown clearly by the first word that Jesus teaches us to pray in today’s Gospel lesson. The word “Father” literally means that a Christian prayer is like a child talking to parents. When child is a baby, he/she doesn’t even know how to speak. It’s like a new Christian who doesn’t know how to pray. A baby expresses its desires, needs, and feelings by crying and by babbling and murmuring different sounds. As child grows older, he/she can utter some words to ask for something. Out of love, parents like to hear their children ask questions but not necessarily have to satisfy everything they asks for. For example, Children always ask for more candies, “candy, candy, more candy.” However, most parents won’t satisfy their request. The reason is simple. Too much candy is not good for teeth. Similarly, God as our loving Father in heaven, always cares for our needs, but He does not always have to satisfy what we ask for. When we pray, even pray those selfish, self-willed, or self-righteous monologue-style prayers, God hears us, but He won’t necessarily listen to us and answer us according to our will. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread, bread for this life as well as for the life to come, but not for luxuries or anything that is not good for our soul. God knows that too many worldly stuffs may not be good for our spiritual “teeth.” Like a child before father, our prayer should be humble before God, Who is the giver of all good things, acknowledging our total dependency on His grace and mercy. We need humbly to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness and eternal life. That’s why the pharisaic prayer is dangerous to our relationship with our heavenly father, because instead of acknowledging our dependency, we may puff up and exalt our own good works in prayer and even in the name of thanksgiving as that Pharisee did. But the Bible says the pharisaic prayer is praying with himself. His prayer was a monologue.
Secondly, Christian prayer is about friendship with God. This loving relationship usually extends its reach to others. When God places a burden of intercession for others in your heart, you know you are His friend like Abraham, of whom God says, “Can I hide anything from Abraham?” Praying for others is what Abraham did in our OT lesson, in Genesis chapter 18. God revealed His imminent judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. As a friend of God Abraham was seeking God’s favor for people in the city of Sodom. From the context we have pretty good idea that one of reasons that the number he was asking went all the way down to 10 is that he may have had Lot’s family in mind. In our Gospel lesson, the person in Jesus’ story who was knocking and asking for bread was asking not for himself, but for his friend. When God wants you to intercede, He will reveal a situation or a need of others to you. What has the Lord brought to your attention today? Do you see the need of others? Friendship with God is also part of the reason why we forgive others as we are forgiven because God in Jesus died on the cross for others too. You don’t want to hurt your Friend by not forgiving your Friend’s friend, right? especially when your Friend has already paid for the sins of that person who sinned against you. So, Christian prayer is not a selfish, self-centered monologue-style prayer. It’s relational. When we pray, we should be mindful not only of God, but also of others.
Thirdly, Christian prayer is not a monologue, but a two-way conversation. We do expect God to answer our prayers. And God does promise us to hear us and answer us. Jesus says, “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.” Since Christian prayer is about relationship with God, we should confidently expect the best from God. Jesus goes on to say, “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!” The problem with many people in regards to these verses is that they misunderstand what the best thing is. The best from God is not the worldly stuffs, not the “toys and candies” of this world. It’s not these things. These may be your definition of the best thing. But certainly it’s not the best that God wants to give you. God knows everything. He knows what is the best for you as book of Romans says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” All things mean all things, whether they are good or bad by our definition. Here in today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says clearly, the Holy Spirit is the best that our heavenly Father gives to those who ask Him. When you ask for the Holy Spirit, He will come and will convict your sin and give you faith in Christ Jesus, in Who God’s name will be hollowed, Whose kingdom will come, Who will feed you the Bread of life, forgive your sins, bring you not into temptation, but deliver from evil, and Who will be found by all who seek Him and will open the door of heaven to all who believe.
Prayer is not a monologue. It’s a “phone conversation” with our heavenly father. It may seem to be like a monologue, talking to the air. But it’s not. It’s a relational conversation. Your faith in Jesus Christ is the “Bluetooth connection” to God. He is your father in heaven and your best friend because Jesus has mended this relationship by the reconciliation of His blood. That’s why we end every prayer by saying, “we pray all these in Jesus’ name.” Through Jesus Christ, we are confident that God is our father and friend, Who will answer our prayers and give the best to us, His Holy Spirit.