THE LORD'S PRAYER
April 10, 2017 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Verse: Psalm 91:15
THE LORD'S PRAYER: EXPECT AN ANSWER
Once in a little town in Arkansas, there had been no rain for six months. The people asked the pastor if they could have a prayer service on a hill overlooking the town. Maybe God would hear better if they prayed on a hilltop. The pastor didn't think it would matter where they prayed, so long as they believed God would hear them. Still, there was no reason not to agree, so they set the service for 3:00 PM on Saturday. The pastor saw them coming and said, "We might as well not trouble the Lord if you don't expect an answer."
The mayor stepped up and said, "Pastor, we do expect an answer."
"No you don't," the pastor replied. "For if you did you would have brought an umbrella."
That little story illustrates what David says in Psalm 91 -- He shall call upon me and I will answer him. That is God's promise. He doesn't say "I'll think about it," or "if I have time…" He says, "I will answer." We must not let our unworthiness distract us. God knew we were unworthy when He commanded us to pray for things. There are no conditions in this Psalm. We do ask these things in Jesus' name because He is our worthiness. You can't get more worthy than that. God invites us to pray with no strings attached.
For what should we pray? Holy Scripture contains many lists of petitions. But not every petition is a "gimme." If you look at St. Paul's prayers, you will see almost half of his conversation with God is giving thanks. That's the best place to start because you already know that you and God agree on what He already gave you. In the General Prayer we begin with thanksgiving. In collects we put the remembrance before the petition. After that we're ready to tackle the list -- for the Church, the State, the family, the needy, those in distress, and finally for ourselves. Of course when we pray in Jesus' name we must pray for something Jesus wants, otherwise we are blaspheming. We must not try to use our Lord's Holy Name as a magic incantation to manipulate the Almighty. We want God's will to be done. So look at the pattern of prayer that Jesus sets before us. He gives us the Our Father.
Jesus tells us that we should expect an answer to these prayers. So when we pray the Lord's Prayer, do we really want what we're asking? Hallowed be Thy Name seems easy enough, for how could God's Name be anything else? But we aren't praying for God here. We're praying that we hallow His Name by what we do and say. Then we say, "Thy kingdom come…" Would we be surprised and a little uneasy if it did? What kind of umbrella do you bring for that? Perhaps we do hesitate, but there is no better king than Jesus. He rules us with grace now, and we pray for the time He will rule us in glory. His kingdom of grace comes to us with a cross, while His kingdom of glory comes with a crown. We want them both in God's own time. So we add, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
"Our daily bread" is a very comprehensive idea. Here we're praying for all the right conditions: temporal peace and order, good weather, honest neighbors, employment for ourselves, and the abundance of nature. But Jesus doesn't want to be the Bread King. When the people in John 6 tried to make Him the Bread King He hid Himself. He wants us to get our food the normal way. Miracles served their purpose to show that Jesus was the Messiah, but He usually prefers to do things the slow way. Nor do we pray for next year's bread. God will take care of 18 in 18. One cannot pray for stored up treasures on earth in the name of Him who warned us not to store up treasures on earth.
Next we say, "Forgive us our trespasses…" God did that in our Baptism. But we haven't always held onto His grace. In fact, we sin daily. So forgiveness is just as important as bread, and to make that point, Jesus puts the fourth and fifth petitions together in the same sentence. He is the Bread of Life. More important than our daily bread is our consecrated bread, the bread of Holy Communion, because Jesus gives us that to forgive our sins. Ah yes, the petition has another clause in it … "As we forgive those who trespass against us." Once again remember we are expecting an answer. If God really does what we ask here, He will forgive us the same way we forgive our neighbors. It's easy to see what the umbrella is here, isn't it. Forgiving others is a sign that we are forgiven, and therefore generous as our Lord is generous.
The last two petitions are for help against the devil, the world, and our flesh. Never a day goes by when we are not tempted. The flesh is lusting, glutting, guzzling, and loafing; the world fills us with envy, spite, and resentment; the devil has us despising God's Word, or making us think of ourselves as "above the law," wanting to have all things go our way. He even gets a few people to make the bargain of Faust. Suppose we do stand up to temptation. There is still all the ill fortune that fills the world - sickness, poverty, defeat, famine, violence, all waiting to make things worse, to make the next temptation harder still. But that is a trick. If you pray that God deliver you from evil, believe that He will, including self-inflicted evil from your human weakness. With the Lord beside you, the temptations get weaker, not stronger.
So learn from the True Teacher of the Church the pattern for your prayers. Do not think they are too great for God. Jesus told you to ask these things. Pray in His name, by His worthiness, for something He wants. You already know that He approves, so count on getting an answer. AMEN.