by Brian Stoffregen, Marysville, CA
Scripture: Luke 11:9-13, Matthew 7:7-11
First of all, we need to admit that prayer is not "putting coins in a vending machine." It is not putting our prayer in the right slot, pushing the right button, and waiting for the vending machine God to spit out exactly what we want. God is not a vending machine. God is "Father" or "Daddy." Prayer is a relationship -- an intimate, loving, caring parent/child relationship.
I image that many of you parents can remember the first time your child uttered "da-da" or "ma-ma". It was the start of a new relationship. The child knew who you were and called you by name. What excitement! At that stage, we care for our children, giving them what they need, even before they can ask.
As the child gets older, "Daddy" or "Mommy" may often be followed by "I want." Sometimes we answer, "Yes." Sometimes we answer, "No." But most often (as any child will attest) the answer is, "We'll see." Does God answer prayers with a "We'll see."? I think so.
What is meant by "We'll see"? Sometimes it is just a sophisticated way of saying, "No". You don't want to hurt the child's feelings right now, and maybe later he or she will have forgotten all about the request.
Sometimes, however, it can really mean, "We'll see." Maybe daddy doesn't know right now if he can afford what you want -- although that logic wouldn't apply to God. Perhaps daddy doesn't know if you are able to correctly handle or understand all the implications about what you ask for -- be it a new rifle or bicycle or make-up kit or motorcycle or paint-by-number picture or a pet dog or cat or bird or $1000. Often God's answer of "we'll see" is precisely this. God knows that we can't really handle whatever it is we asking for. (Although I've seen a T-shirt with prayer something like, "God, let me win the lottery to show that it won't spoil me."
If you think about it, even Jesus' request in the garden was answered with a "We'll see." It may have been possible for Jesus to avoid the suffering and death if all the leaders suddenly converted, repented of sins and believed in him. But, as we know, that didn't happen. We pray for healing. The answer is often, "We'll see." Sometimes our prayers may result in healing, perhaps miraculously or through the human knowledge and skills of the doctor, nurses, and medicines. Sometimes the best efforts of the medical team and our prayers aren't enough and the "we'll see" becomes a "no".
Prayer, most of all, is a relationship: a child with parents, friends talking with each other. The second part of our gospel lesson uses the image of a friend asking another for some food for the sake of another friend.
Sometimes we are able to meet the needs of our friends. "Can I borrow a screwdriver?" "Can you help me with this?" But there are many times -- and perhaps their most important requests, where we can do nothing to change the situation. "I'm out of work, can you get me a job where you work?" "I've got cancer, can you make it better?" "I'm so depressed, that I don't know if I will ever be happy again, can't you do something to help me?"
I remember being a part of an impromptu discussion among some high school kids. One of the boys had recently lost a sister in a car accident. Some in this group confessed that they had thought about going over a visiting after the accident, but they didn't know what to do or what they should say. However, one of the friends didn't let his fears keep him away. He had spent most of that day with his friend. He admitted that he didn't know what to do or say either. The one who had lost his sister said that what was most important to him at that time was just somebody being there with him. He thanked the one who had visited. Even though he couldn't do anything or say anything that would change the tragedy, his presence was a great help and greatly appreciated.
I think that in many ways prayer is like that. It's a relationship. It's the presence of daddy or mommy, not always saying or doing things to change the situation, but their presence can often change you as it brings their comfort and love to the situation -- and perhaps you are better able to accept what lies in the future with their support. You can live with the uncertainty of the "we'll see" answer. Patiently waiting together to see what will happen.
Prayer is the presence of God -- not that God will always change the situation, but knowing that God is with you, that God is going through the tragedy or suffering or depression or even death with you, not as a far off God, way out in space, but as your very close and loving father. "When you pray," Jesus says, "say Father."
How to Pray by Walter W. Harms
How do your pray? Who taught you to pray? Maybe no one ever taught you how to pray and what it is all about. Do you pray a lot? A little? Too little? Think you ought to pray more? Perhaps a more important question is: why pray at all? If God is in charge and he loves you and accepts you, then why pray?
The God Who Delights In Answering Prayer by Rev. Bryn MacPhail
Prayer is an institution of God. Over and over again, the Bible commands us to pray. And yet, I suspect that many of us, having prayed, have wondered about whether our prayers will actually change anything. The importance of persistence in prayer; why some of our prayers may not answered; what should we pray for? These are some of the topics covered in this article.
Exploring a Life of Prayer by Jane E. Vennard
Prayer is our response to God's loving call. In this reflection I will invite you into activities to help you affirm and learn from these experiences of prayer. We will explore what keeps us from responding when deep in our hearts we long to be in relationship with God. I will encourage you to try different forms of prayer to discover which ones fit you best.
God’s Generous Response to Boldness in Prayer by John MacArthur
But our God is absolutely available, absolutely approachable, gracious, merciful, compassionate, kind and you can go into His presence boldly and ask for whatever you want. You can go into His presence any time and not interrupt Him. In fact, He desires you to do that.
'A Shameless Path' by Jana Childers
After all, I believe that there is something to this thing called prayer. We know about what happens in foxholes. We are glad if a person whose faith we admire says she will pray for us. We see prayer working in other peoples' lives and we believe Mother Teresa—don't we?—when she puts it to her novices so pithily: No prayer, no faith, no faith, no love, no love, no devotion, no devotion, no service. Yes, we say, we need that.
Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 2nd sunday after Shunoyo
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