Good morning, Friends!
Jesus used to tell a lot of stories. We’ve looked at a bunch of them in the last few weeks. Jesus thought that stories were the best way for people to learn about how God works. So, here’s our Bible story for this morning.
Annie body home?
Justin time for dinner.
Luke through the the keyhole and find out.
Ben knocking here for 10 minutes.
Heaven you heard enough of these dumb knock-knock jokes?
Actually, that’s not the way Jesus told the story. This is how he really told it.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend. 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 stay with me. I have no food to give him.’
And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked. My children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, that person will not get up. And he won’t give you bread just because he is your friend. But because you keep bothering him, he will surely get up. He will give you as much as you need.
“So here is what I say to you. Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find. And the door will be opened to the one who knocks.
– Luke 11:5-8
Jesus talked a lot about praying. He prayed for all kinds of things.
Jesus prayed for people to be healed of diseases. He prayed for people who were hungry to have food, and the food they had was multiplied.
Jesus prayed for peace among his followers. He prayed for peace in their hearts, and he prayed for God’s peace to come and fill them.
He prayed for the storm on the sea to be calm, and it happened. Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done on here earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus prayed for his followers to have faith. He prayed to God to deliver him, in his hour of trial, and he also prayed, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”
Jesus prayed for truly impossible things, and he smiled and said, “With God, all things are possible!”
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a story about persisting in prayer. He told about a story about a neighbor, who comes knocking at your door at midnight – you’ve walked the dog, the lights are out, the kids are in bed and asleep. And here comes this idiot, pounding on the door at one a.m..
It’s your friend!
I said, go away! I’ve gone to bed!
What do you want?
Your friend’s all out of food. They’ve got company just arrived from out of town. The pizza parlor stopped delivering an hour ago. Can you help me out? Please?
Jesus said, “Even if you won’t get up and open the door because it’s your friend, you’ll get up and give them something, just because they keep knocking.”
It’s not a tough story to understand. But there’s a really serious point. Don’t stop praying. Don’t give up. Never give up on God. Never give up on prayer.
A lot of the books I read focus on the technique of prayer – how you sit, or how you kneel. People worry about the words they say – what kind of language to use when talking with God.
Today’s gospel says what really matters most is persistence. Just don’t give up. Keep knocking on the door. All night long, if you have to.
Never lose hope. Never stop trusting God. Never stop believing with all your heart that God loves you.
When we read about prayer in the gospels, Jesus says that prayer should be direct and simple. We’re not supposed to make a big, public show of our prayers. We’re not suppose to spend a lot of time repeating our own words, over and over. Magic phrases don’t make things happen. (If you want to check me up on this, go read Matthew chapter 6.)
But don’t give up. The gospel says that prayer is answered. Jesus tells us that prayer moves mountains. Did you know that no one is ever recorded, in all four gospels, as having come to Jesus in good faith, who wasn’t healed, or helped, or answered?
From our own experience, we know prayer isn’t always answered right away. Sometimes, it seems like a long time that we’ve been waiting. Don’t give up!
Sometimes we wait so long that we think that God isn’t listening, or that God is ignoring our prayers. But this morning’s reading says never to lose hope. Keep asking! Never give up!
In one of his letters, Paul says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times, in every prayer and supplication. . .” (Ephesians 6:18) In another place, Paul says,“Pray without ceasing. . .” (I Thessalonians 5:17)
Does anybody here besides me find it hard to pray sometimes? I certainly do! I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble praying for 30 seconds at a time.
We get distracted. We can’t concentrate. Or we don’t think we have the right words. Or we just don’t hope that much. Many people don’t have more than just a few seconds of hope at a time.
I think that in today’s world, prayer isn’t all that easy. We have all these doubts in our head. We have scientific explanations for a lot of things which happen. In many ways, we don’t need prayer, in the way that an earlier society did. We think we’ve got better answers to things. But prayer is important, all the same.
It may be helpful to remind ourselves that prayer isn’t always asking. We know that. But we don’t always remember it. Sometimes prayer is asking for things. That’s OK. God knows what our needs really are. God knows. We can ask. It’s OK to ask.
Prayer also has to do with giving thanks. Jesus started out many of his prayers by thanking God. Maybe we should give thanks more. Giving thanks is always a good place to start. Whenever my prayer life seems stale, I find that that thanking God for everything I can think of, even the littlest things, is very helpful.
Right after Paul says, “Pray constantly,” he goes on and says, “Give thanks in all circumstances. . .”
Whether you’re up, or whether you’re down. Whether you’re joyful and happy, or whether you’re depressed. Pray when you’re feeling fresh and full of energy, and pray when you’re so tired you feel you can’t take another step. Always pray, and don’t give up.
Prayer also has to do with remembering. We can spend a lot of good, useful prayer time, remembering what God has done, studying the way God does things, and thinking about how it all fits together. Whenever we do that, we’re not just thinking. We’re praying.
If you read the Psalms, you realize that a lot of prayer is poetry. One good way to pray, is to let prayer flow out of us in the form of poems. For three thousand years, people have used the Psalms to pray. Poetry feeds the soul.
We can also use writing to channel and discipline our prayers. Many people find that writing a journal helps them to say things which seem too difficult, or too fearful, to share in any other way. Spiritual journals are definitely a form of prayer.
Prayer can also take the form of action. Caring for people. Cooking. Dancing. I even know people who pray while they’re ironing. I’ve done a lot or prayer myself while I’ve been out walking. You can work off a lot of energy that way. Talk to God while you’re doing something.
I mention all of these examples, because I want you to take home the idea that praying constantly isn’t such a wild or strange idea after all. If we can shake loose from the idea that prayer only has to do with folding our hands and sitting quietly, then maybe we’ve gained something.
I still remember some of the things that I read, in those first few weeks and months that I was hanging out with the Quakers. Here’s one of them:
“When your heart is wandering and distracted, bring it back quickly to its point, restore it tenderly to the Master’s side, and if you did nothing else the whole of your hour but bring back your heart patiently and put it near our Lord again, and every time you put it back it turned away again, your hour would be well-spent. . .” (Francis de Sales)
Constant prayer is not just for spiritual super-heroes. It’s a way of life. It’s for ordinary people, just like you and like me.
The first point in this morning’s gospel reading was to pray constantly and persistently. The second point is to never give up hope.
Jesus said, “Think about that neighbor. Think about what he did. Won’t God give an answer, to the people who God loves, who keep knocking, day and night?” That’s what hope is about. It’s faith in what we don’t see. It’s hope in what hasn’t happened, yet. It’s trusting that God’s not going to abandon us.I wish that we could be a people of prayer.
Right after today’s reading, Jesus said,
“Parents, suppose your child asks for a fish. Which of you will give them a snake instead? Or suppose your child asks for an egg. Which of you will give them a scorpion? Even though you are evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Even with all our flaws and imperfections, we know to give our children good things which will be safe for them. But God is better than any of us — won’t God give us the things we need?
I wish that we could be a people, for each other, who would build each other up in the kind of prayer that Jesus talked about.
I wish that we could have more silence, and that it would not be a burden, or boring.
I wish that we could have more singing, and that we would feel a spirit of prayer in our songs. I wish that people would ask for songs, out of the silence of open worship.
I wish that we could share more of our experiences in prayer, and that people who are having struggles and spiritual difficulties would feel safe to share those struggles and difficulties with us, in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
I wish that we could ask each other to pray for us. I think that prayer is the greatest gift that people of faith and hope can give to each other.
I wish that we could open our lives more to God, and use every part of our whole lives as a way to talk with God in prayer.
Remember what Jesus said: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks, receives, and everyone who seeks, finds; and for whoever knocks, the door will be opened. . .”