Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we pray that You teach us to pray—even better than we currently do. Don’t let our prayers get bogged down by incessant babbling, or hypocritical show, or that common malady of praying to a generic “god” instead of to You, alone. Teach us to pray honestly, often, and from the heart. And always cause our consciences to recall Your wonderful words of truth: “The prayer of a righteous person avails much.” Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR WHO PRAYS FOR YOU!
TEXT: Luke 11: 1-13
Fellow Redeemed Children of God:
Imagine if you were born blind, deaf, and without the ability to speak? Imagine how lonely, scared, and empty your life would be? Well, that was Helen Keller’s life. She was born with all those disabilities. But, her parents didn’t abort her, or put her in an institution to rot away. No, they were Christians. They loved her. They viewed her as a blessing from God. So they hired a special therapist called: Annie. Annie labored for months to find a way to reach little Helen’s brain. She was frustrated at every turn, but she kept trying. Then one day Annie was pouring water from a pump. Helen showed delight at its cooling touch. Immediately Annie spelled w-a-t-e-r with sign language on Helen’s palm. For the first time a conscious connection between the object and the sign language began to imprint on Helen’s brain. The dawn of Helen’s tremendously full life occurred at that instant. And the rest is history, isn’t it? Helen and Annie became very famous people during their lifetimes. People who really made a difference by inspiring countless others.
You and I can have eternity opened up to us. We can have the fullness of God’s truth, joy, tender care, and compassion flood our hearts and lives. It happens when we pray. When we talk to God. When we take time to pour out our hearts to Him and have Him answer in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. All of you already know this. But, since none of us is perfect in our praying, today let’s ponder and learn how to:
IMPROVE YOUR PRAYING
First off, you can improve your praying by avoiding whatever hinders effective prayer. What are such hindrances? Well, our Old Testament lesson clearly reveals one of them. It is praying to the wrong god. Those residents of Sodom and Gemorrah certainly thought of themselves as religious people. But they loved their sin of homosexuality more than they loved the One True God. And by permitting that sin to rule their lives they alienated themselves from God. They prayed to the ‘god’ of their own minds. To ‘god’ as they wanted him to be. They prayed to a ‘god’ who really didn’t even exist. Surely such a ‘god’ could not help them. And eventually they were destroyed. Do we fall into a similar trap? Well, I do know people who appear to. Recently I was talking to a fellow who occasionally goes to a church and considers himself a Christian. But, when I probed a bit, this fellow said: “Well, I believe in god, I believe there’s something or someone ‘up there.’” I hate to say it, but that’s not faith in Jesus Christ. This fellow’s prayers, however well-intentioned, are to the wrong God. They’re not specific. They don’t speak from a personal relationship with the one and only Savior. If you pray merely hoping that “someone up there” will hear, that doesn’t honor God or show any trust in Him. It disrespects Him. Don’t let that happen to you! Jesus is your direct access to God. Pray in His name and you’ll always get through!
Another hindrance to prayer is praying for the wrong things. Look at our psalm for today–#138. Notice what David doesn’t pray for.—He doesn’t pray for money, for personal glory, or for covering up his sins. In short, he doesn’t pray for all that earthly stuff which usually occupy about 99% of our prayers. O don’t get me wrong. We can certainly pray for material blessings. But, aren’t spiritual gifts, aren’t the things which make you richer inside more vital? And as to praying in order to cover up sin, isn’t that directly counter to the whole concept of repentance, and thus counter to Christ who wants you to give all your sins to Him and not try to hide them?
The third hindrance to prayer is praying in the wrong way. In today’s gospel, Christ reminds us to pray boldly and with total confidence. Obviously we need to pray in accordance with God’s gracious will. For God is not a God of contradiction, and thus He cannot grant what is against His very nature. Yet, even our prayers which are Biblically correct often fall short. We sometimes pray with vain babblings, merely going through the motions without reason or thought. We pray thinking: “God really isn’t going to give me this, but I better hedge my bets.” Seldom do we challenge God in prayer. And every time we act in a lackadaisical manner we mock those words of our Lord: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
When it comes to prayer, the best we can do is to follow Jesus’ directions for effective prayer. And what are those directions? First, we must always pray to the right God. Our epistle today shows us Who that right God actually is. And the epistle is all about Jesus Christ. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” And how did God’s Son give such fullness, such Godliness, to us? “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it all away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” There it is, folks! Nothing, not even God’s 10 commandments can condemn us to hell because Christ fulfilled them for us and paid the death penalty which our non-compliance demanded. Through humble faith in Christ, we have forgiveness and access to the throne of God’s grace. There is only one Savior—Jesus Christ. We can approach God only in and through Him, by praying and believing in His holy name.
Secondly, we can improve our prayers by praying for the right things. Note that when we say the “Our Father” spiritual gifts predominate. We pray for His name to be holy among us; for His kingdom, His Church, to grow and flourish among us; for the ability to forgive sins, and for the power to overcame and avoid temptations. Yes, we also pray for daily bread, which includes everything we need for a healthy body and life. But, isn’t it very telling that the Lord’s Prayer contains 6 petitions for spiritual gifts and only 1 for material blessings?
Also, at the end of our lesson, Christ says: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Yes, God can out-parent any parent! But the amazing thing here is that we so seldom ask for the Holy Ghost to be sent and given to us, even though that is the very best gift God can grant! Additionally, you and I can make huge improvements in our prayers by praying for others and not merely ourselves. (Think of the prayer connection here at church.) Why is this so important? Because it reveals the exact same type of love that Jesus has for us. It shows that like Him we’re unselfish. That like Him, we care more for others than we do for ourselves.
Your prayers can be made more effective by praying in the right way, too. When Abraham prayed for those people of Sodom and Gemorrah, he did so confidently. When that man in our lesson comes and keeps knocking at his friend’s door, he does so confidently. You see, those two men knew that God loves a confident prayer. And why? Because a confident prayer shows true faith. Faith in a magnificent, almighty, eternal God Who can do anything and everything. If you pray wimpy prayers, what you’re really saying is: “My God is wimpy.”—But the Triune God is not! Instead, He’s the God Who created us out of nothing, Who gave His life in place of ours, and Who desperately wants to help us with the most mundane tasks of life.—All we have to do is ask!
Improve your praying! Do so by asking before each meal, before each bed-time, during each day, and even while driving your car. Pour out your heart to Him. Tell Him everything that is on your mind. Pray for others, too. And always remember to thank Him. Because if you do, like Helen Keller, the fullness of life itself will become revealed to the innocent child within each of you! Amen