Thursday, March 26, 2015
Today’s Scripture: Luke 11:1-4
“He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1)
“If you pray and ask God to make bananas red, God won’t, because there is nothing wrong with bananas being yellow. If you pray and ask God to change your health, finances, relationships, employment, and possessions to make you happy, God won’t, because changing them won’t make you happy. Not only is there nothing wrong with the impermanence of the world, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is present in this world of impermanence.” ― Jim Palmer, Notes from (over) the Edge: Unmasking the Truth to End Your Suffering
Based on our opening quote today. Prayer does not mean that particular personal petitions do not matter, or go unanswered. The results we might gain from prayer needs considered from a perspective beyond the particular requests we make of God and whether God answer them. Over the years, I have heard others say, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” or “We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” and also, “God has given us such immense freedom that he will allow us to be as miserable as we want to be.” Prayer helps us deal with the pain, hurt and difficulties life brings our way by building our relationship with God the Father.
The Lord's Prayer points us to the big picture and the long run of being more prayerfully focused on honoring God, yearning for God's kingdom among us, relying on God's daily providence, seeking God's forgiveness, forgiving others, and trusting God's protection. The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives sustains this focus. Though often when we pray we discover ourselves at loss for words.
In our scripture today from Luke, the disciples of Jesus may fear this very same dilemma in finding the right words in their future, so they ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). Jesus responds by instructing them to speak to God as they would speak to a member of their own family, calling God “Father,” an expression of intimacy and familiarity and suggests that they make three requests. They should ask for bread, for forgiveness and for deliverance, and they should trust God to give them whatever they need.
Intimacy, trust and expectation. These are the attitudes that Jesus advises his disciples to adopt as they begin to learn the language of prayer. He encourages them to approach God in the same way that they would approach a loving parent, and to trust God to hear their prayers and answer them in ways that meet their needs.
Jesus goes on to encourage us to pray with persistence, using the language of prayer to plead for what we need (vv. 5-8). And then he assures us that God will hear our prayer and answer us, for if we human parents know how to give good gifts to our children, then “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 13). But there is one important dimension to these requests that disciples need to keep in mind — all appeals need to be consistent with the words “Your kingdom come” (v. 2). God is not going to grant any request that doesn’t conform to the priorities of his kingdom of love and peace and justice.
Requests for bread and forgiveness and deliverance all fit with God’s desires for our physical health and spiritual well-being. “Give us each day our daily bread” (v. 3) is a petition for the nourishment we need each day, and it reminds us that we are dependent on God for our most elemental requirements. Like the manna that the Israelites received in the wilderness, our daily bread comes to us from a Lord who loves us and wants to support us each and every day.
We also need forgiveness, a gift that is as necessary to our well-being as basic food and water. Without this gift from God, we would gradually be crushed by the burden of our guilt, a load that grows higher and heavier with every sin we commit. Without forgiveness, we gradually lose all our hope for the future and sink into the depths of despair. With the gift of forgiveness comes release and renewal, inspiration and encouragement, an assurance of pardon and a deep sense of peace.
This forgiveness from God also gives us the ability to “forgive everyone indebted to us” (v. 4). In fact, the two are not to be separated, since they are part of the same kingdom package for the kingdom is not just about us but about all of God’s people. If we truly want God’s kingdom to come, we are going to want to show the same mercy to others that the Lord shows to us.
Prayer may also become a nonverbal language in which we speak to God by the manner in which we live. Ann and Barry Ulanov, in their book, Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer, notes that “Prayer starts without words, and often ends without them.”
Our responsibility is to preserve this life-giving language, and keep it from extinction. Within the community of faith, we are challenged to create a healthy environment for prayer, one in which we are not afraid to ask for the gifts we need for physical and spiritual health. An environment in which, we knock again and again on the door to God’s kingdom, knock persistently through disciplined daily prayer, knock faithfully and forcefully with the full conviction that our Lord loves us and wants to meet our needs.
God doesn’t need us to ask so that He will know what we want. He knows those needs already, so why does He require us to ask? I believe God instructs us to come to Him with our petitions so that He can infuse us with the answers. He needs us to focus on the need or desire so that He can put into us the blessings and gifts that will draw” ― Cindy Trimm, The Prayer Warrior's Way: Strategies from Heaven for Intimate Communication with God
Today’s Lectionary Readings
Morning: Psalms 27; 147:12–20
Evening: Psalms 126; 102