Let us pray: Dear Savior, prayer is a wonderful blessing! Being able to talk directly with You and pour out our hearts to You is a great comfort. But even more importantly, knowing that You actually listen to our prayers and respond to them beyond our wildest dreams, is nothing short of pure joy! Today teach us how to improve our prayer life so that nothing may prevent You from hearing them and answering them. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST WHO TAUGHT US THE PERFECT PRAYER!
TEXT: Luke 11: 1-13
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Let’s be honest, most of us have an intermittent, spotty prayer life. We pray when we really feel a need, when things spiral out of our control. The rest of the time we go our merry way and don’t really pour out our hearts to God. Is that because we think that God’s too busy for us? Or maybe it’s because we feel we need Him in difficult times, but not in good times? Ah, how foolish we mortals be! For we have a personal God Who wants us to talk to Him every day and pour out all our thoughts to Him. Peter says it well, “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.” Likewise, Christ adds: “Pray without ceasing.” In other words, adopt prayer as a mindset, something you do automatically, like breathing. After all, like all loving parents, God wants us to share with Him not only our fears and concerns, but also our hopes and our dreams. Everything about us is important to Him. Remember that He gave His life for us on the cross and thereby redeemed the whole person, not just a part of you.
Well, our lesson is a primer on prayer. And by studying it we are taught by the Master Himself just how to:
IMPROVE YOUR PRAYING
To be sure, there are hindrances to effective prayer. For example, there is praying to the wrong God. Think back on our OT lesson from Genesis 18. The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah certainly had gods and certainly prayed when they went to the temples of those gods. Yet, they were destroyed because they worshiped and prayed to the wrong god! They lived a lifestyle which didn’t honor the Almighty God, the Trinity, and thus cut themselves off from His grace and blessing.
When you let a particular sin dominate and take over your life like the people of Sodom, in actuality you’re replacing the Lord with your own god of your own definition. By definition there can be only one God, otherwise He’s not God! And thus, He must define Himself. He does so in the Bible. He does so by the commandments, by His revelation of forgiveness in Christ alone and by His bestowal of grace—undeserved love—given to us by Spirit-wrought faith. Therefore, picking and choosing which commandments are important or not, deciding what sections of the Bible we like, or not, and praying to someone other than Christ is really praying to the wrong God. It disrespects Him, ignores Him, and thus He turns a deaf ear to those prayers.
Another hindrance to effective prayer is praying for the wrong things. God has rules and laws with which He governs all creation. Praying for Him to ignore sin, which is a violation of those rules, is therefore wrong. Note well that in our OT lesson, Abraham never asks to God to ignore the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. He simply pleads with God to save the righteous.—And God does by saving Lot and his family from destruction! Thus, when we pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we’re doing the same thing. When we pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” we’re doing the exact same thing.
Some prayers to God are wrong in that they’re done in the wrong way. Don’t pray timidly!—That’s the message of our text. Note that the friend who bangs on the door in Christ’s parable doesn’t take “No” for an answer.—No timidity on his part. And because he is persistent, knowing the neighbor’s kind heart, he doesn’t give up and eventually gets what he asks for. Well, God has the kindest heart of all! So, never quit praying to Him because you know He’ll respond!
The positive side to improving your prayer life is to also follow Jesus’ directives for effective prayers. Praying to the right God is #1. And that right God is defined for us in our epistle from Colossians 2. It is Jesus Christ Who suffered and died on a cross to save our souls. It is Jesus Christ who has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” It is Jesus Christ Who has risen from our graves and put His life-giving, hope-sustaining faith into our hearts. It is Jesus Christ who triumphed over all evil by making a public spectacle of it, triumphing over it on a cross. Jesus is our direct Go-between with God Almighty. So, why pray to Mary, or a saint, or a dead relative? To do so overlooks the only Source of real help. Go directly to the Source—Pray to Christ!
We should also pray for the right things. Now what are those “right things?” They include anything in accordance with His commandments. They especially include spiritual gifts—because after all, He’s already promised them. This does not mean that you cannot pray for a new car, a new home, or help with school or work.—But all those things must come under the heading of: “Thy will be done” and thus left up to His good judgment. However, aren’t faith, hope, and love greater than a new car? Are not patience, kindness, and self-control more long-lasting than having a new pet? So pray for things that enlarge you and the people you touch. Pray for others as Christ has prayed for you.
And that brings us to our final point. We need to pray in the right way. And the right way is in humility and unselfishness. When Abraham prayed to God to preserve those evil cities for the sake of the righteous therein—he was more concerned about those believers than he was about himself. Aside from parts of Jesus great prayer in Gethsemane, most of that prayer and all the other prayers He ever spoke were about us and not about Him. As Luther once said: “If everyone would pray for each other, we won’t have just one prayer going up to God on our behalf (our own) but thousands!”
Well, there you have it. There’s your introduction on how to improve your praying. If we all put it to good use this week, next Sunday we’ll all arrive back here happier, more blest, and certainly more refreshed, won’t we? Amen