Seek God in Prayer

by | Jul 24, 2022 | Sermons

Seek God in Prayer

Our passages from Luke today has us looking at the Lord’s Prayer. While the passage is small, the importance of this prayer in the life of the church can’t be overstated. It’s central to much about what we believe in the character of God and reflects how we are encouraged to approach God in prayer. 

Scripture: Luke 11: 1-13

Prayer is an integral part of Christian life. Prayer coupled with the reading of scripture is how we ground ourselves and understand ourselves as children of God who participate in creation. No other prayer has a more central place in our devotional life than the Lord’s prayer. This prayer is included in every worship service we hold. It is central to our understanding of God’s grace. It helps us understand what God’s hopes are for us and the purposes of creation.

What is interesting is where Luke inserts the passage in his gospel. Chelsey Harmon writes, “Coming straight on the heels of Jesus telling Martha that her sister Mary will not be deprived of sitting in the presence of God, Luke depicts Jesus as doing the same. The stories are less chronologically connected (i.e., there is no indication that this scene immediately played out after his night as a guest at Martha’s home), but there seems to me to be a clear purpose to link them on Luke’s part.” (Chelsey Harmon)

In Martha’s home we found Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus learning about the Word. In today’s passage we find Jesus sitting at the feet of God. It’s a wonderful parallel that Luke has provided for us, providing a rich tapestry of devotion and attentiveness to God’s Word and the subsequent response through prayer.

In scripture there are two versions of the Lord’s prayer, here in Luke and in Matthew’s gospel. Luke’s version is the shorter version of the two. Luke and Matthew are writing to different audiences and therefore the reason why they present this prayer and how they do so matter. Each gospel is received in its own context.

Niveen Sarras writes the following, “The evangelist Luke wrote his gospel to the Gentile Christians who did not learn to pray like their Jewish counterparts … Luke’s introduction explains the reason behind Jesus introducing the Lord’s prayer. Jesus was praying, and one of his disciples asked him to teach them to pray like John taught his disciples (verse 3) … [Matthew’s] purpose is not to teach his audience, the Jewish Christians, how to pray but to reform their prayer and place it within the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-6).” (Niveen Sarras)

The Lord’s prayer is well established within Christian tradition. It was taught by Jesus, the early Christian communities prayed it and its final form was adopted about a century after Jesus. The Lord’s prayer is a reminder that we are encouraged to pray, and that this prayer invites us into relationship with God.

After the prayer we receive two parables. While Luke’s gospel has two parables Matthew only shares one of them.

The first parable is that of the insistent friend which on one hand appears to encourage us to persist in our prayers towards God. This parable is only found in Luke’s gospel. The message here is that if we aren’t hesitant to ask a close friend for help, we should also not be afraid to ask God for help. We should note that the neighbour has a guest and this is who is being interceded for. This is who he is asking for food, not for himself, but for his guest. This is powerful! And a reminder that prayer is often about more than us and our immediate needs. The parable reminds us that prayer is communal, that prayer has concern for community.

We should be mindful about what this parable is trying to teach. As I mentioned a moment ago, the parable appears to be about encouraging us to persist in prayer, but surprisingly persistence in prayer is not the primary concern here. Chelsey Harmon writes, “…there is some consensus across the historical interpretation of the church into the modern day that this parable’s main point is not about persistent prayer (look to other parables for that) but about the nature and character of the God to whom we pray: always listening, always giving the good that we need, always providing the Holy Spirit. Or as Ken Bailey writes, ‘The parable said to the original listener/reader, ‘When you go to this kind of a neighbor everything is against you. It is night. He is asleep in bed. The door is locked. His children are asleep. He does not like you and yet you will receive even more than you ask. This is because your neighbor is a man of integrity, and he will not violate that quality. The God to whom you pray also has an integrity that he will not violate; and beyond this, he loves you.’” (Chelsey Harmon)

The second parable asks us to focus on the answer to prayer. The examples that Jesus use are common sense. If I asked you for help, you wouldn’t do something that harms me. The same is true of our expectation of God. God is not interested in punishing or harming us. God created the heavens and earth and wishes us to enjoy that creation. Think of the beauty and majesty of creation. The images we received recently from the James Webb Space Telescope are breathtaking. The scope, vastness, colour, and shape of creation. And God made this and called it very good!

Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer asks the audience to consider God as our creator who wants goodness for us. A God who provides space for us to grow in the generosity and grace of God’s creation. Who views our requests not with judgment or harshness, but with compassion, grace, and love.

Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer provides a rich template for us to emulate and trust in. A reminder that just as we sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate on God’s word in scripture. We are also encouraged to seek God out in prayer. Just as Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, so did Jesus seek the feet of God. We should do likewise.

In doing so we are reminded of the character of God. If God wants us to pray, then God wants goodness in our lives. God wishes for us to find harmony and grace. And most importantly, we are reminded that we are not in it alone and we do not pray for ourselves alone. The Lord’s prayer is a communal prayer, it concerns the individual, the community, and all of creation. On Earth, as it is in heaven.

It’s not forgive my sins, it’s forgive our sins. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Us, not you, not me, but all of us!

It’s why we pray it together. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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