Pentecost 9 – Proper 12-C 2010
Pr. Kurt A. Van Fossan
Last week in the reading about Jesus in Martha and Mary’s home we heard that there was a time and place for everything—a time to serve and a time to be served. When Christ is present through His Word and Sacraments (as He is this morning), it’s time to be served by God. After the Divine Service, renewed and strengthened in our faith in God’s promises, we leave this place and go out into the mission field where God gives us plenty of opportunities to use the gifts He has given us to serve those around us—to share the peace and love of God through our words and actions.
We also heard that the real hero in all this serving is not us but Christ, because when we go out into the mission field, we don’t go alone. Christ is in us. Any good that comes from the things we do, is by the grace of God. So we go forward in repentance and faith, seeking God’s forgiveness for all the ways we continue to mess up and for faith in His forgiveness and blessing every step of the way.
The same thing is happening in today’s Gospel reading on the topic of prayer. Prayer is not something that we do or produce, its something that God produces in us.
Our text begins with Jesus praying, but His work in His disciples began much earlier. Can you image what it must have been like for Jesus’ first disciples to be in the presence of someone who follows God’s will perfectly in everything He does, including His prayer life? Such perfection always exposes our imperfections—our sins. But instead of causing the disciples to give up, they go to Him seeking help. That wasn’t by chance. Not only did they witness His perfection, but they also witnessed His power over all things—over nature, over sickness, and over the forces of evil. They also witness and experienced His love, His compassion, His patience, His forgiveness. They heard His preaching through which the Lord made it clear that He was the promised Saviour who had come to deliver them from all sin in them and around them. Through this Good News God was working to create faith in their hearts. So now, when they saw and heard Jesus praying, instead of causing the disciples to give up and run away from the Lord because of their failure to pray like Him, they turn to Jesus for help. They pray:“Lord, teach us to pray.”
Prayer is not something that we do or produce,
its something that God produces in us.
It’s a gift!
How does Jesus answer their prayer? He gives them (and us) His prayer. It’s a gift. Have you ever considered the Lord’s Prayer as the Lord’s prayer—the prayer He Himself uses to pray for His church?
Who alone could call God, Father? His only Son, Jesus Christ. Now Jesus says we can call His Father our Father. How is that possible? Because Jesus assures us in His Word that He has taken on our sins and all the forces of evil which separated us from God and He has overcome them—defeated them by nailing them to the cross—by suffering and dying in our place—and then rising from the dead in victory.
By His powerful Word and work in Holy Baptism He gives us all the good things He has done. His death becomes our death. His resurrection becomes our resurrection to new and eternal life. His perfection becomes our perfection (our righteousness). He makes us one with Him, which means His Father is also now our Father. Through our faith in Christ, almighty God the Father is our Father who hears and answers our prayers—our every need just as He hears and answers the prayers of Jesus Christ.
So, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, who’s the hero? Not us, but God.
The Lord’s Prayer is the perfect prayer, but we certainly don’t pray it perfectly. We fail to appreciate what a great gift it is, our thoughts often wander while we’re praying it, and our sinful nature also causes us at times to doubt and despair that any good will be done as a result of our praying the Lord’s Prayer. That’s why even during our praying of this prayer we seek our Lord’s forgiveness and help with every word—His help to even understand what we are praying for!
That’s one of the reasons I am so grateful for Martin Luther’s meanings to the Lord’s Prayer. As Martin Luther considered the Lord’s Prayer in the light of the rest of God’s Word He, by the grace of God, came up with some Biblically sound and therefore useful summaries which can help us to make better use of this incredible gift. If you haven’t yet memorized these summaries (and I would highly recommend you do), or have forgotten them, you can turn in your hymnals to page 323 where you will find Luther’s Small Catechism and the section on The Lord’s Prayer.
Take for example the introduction which I’ve just been talking about, “Our Father who art in heaven.” (Luther uses the fuller Lord’s Prayer which is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew 6:9-13). What does this mean? 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.”
Jesus works to produce this very boldness and confidence in the rest of our text for today. He talks about someone who has an unexpected visit by a friend in need. Unfortunately this person “has nothing to set before him” [no food to give his friend in need], so he goes to another friend at midnight to ask for his help. Although this other friend is grouchy and reluctant to help, he eventually does help because his neighbour keeps asking and saying “please! please! please!” The needy person on the journey is like those around you who are in need—the sick, the jobless, or those who have no faith in Christ. You’re like the person who has nothing of himself to give them. So you go to your Friend next door for help. That friend next door is God. Jesus makes the point that if your grumpy, reluctant friend next door may eventually give you what you need, how much more will your heavenly Father, who has gone to such great lengths to save you, how much more will He give you what you need to help your friend in need.
What does our Lord give us? His prayer; His promise to hear and answer our prayers in His name and according to His good and gracious will; His Holy Spirit; His very self through His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He gives us far more than we ask for or imagine (1 John 5:14-15; Ephesians 3:20-21).
Thanks be to God! Amen.