Ask.

Luke 11:1-13

The Lord’s Prayer

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father,[ahallowed be your name.Your kingdom come.[b]

Give us each day our daily bread.[c]And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.And do not bring us to the time of trial.”[d]

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[f] to those who ask him!”

I love being a dad. All of it. From the time my kids were born, my prayer has been to always take in every age. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, oftentimes I’ve struggled with the concept of how to be a good dad.

Plus, being a son, I’ve had to unwrap my own relationship with my dad. How that relationship impacted me in good ways, and in ways that I’m still trying to figure out. It’s all that much harder now that he’s passed away.

But, I’m finding out more and more, the biggest thing as a dad is to simply be committed to being in deep relationship with my kids. I don’t beat myself up too much for mistakes I’ve made along the way, but try to always keep the deep love that I have for my kids in front of me. I also remind myself of the deep love that my own dad had for me, even if it has been rocky or absent at times.

The past few weeks, you’ve heard us share about our son’s trip to the UK to be with close family friends and to work with refugees and asylum seekers. Even though we could not be there with him, we were so excited for him to have this experience. The growth, the adventures, the relational connections were all wonderful for him. As parents, we were a bit worried about him going, but we were also filled with excitement for him! How could we not encourage him on this ventures.

Our gospel lesson this morning finds Jesus using the word “father”. It’s a teaching moment for his disciples as one of them asks Jesus to them to pray. They noticed that Jesus had a deep sense of intimacy with God, that Jesus prayed and conversed with God and that it seemed to have a calming and transformational effect on Jesus.

Our gospel lesson this morning finds Jesus using the word “father”. It’s a teaching moment for his disciples as one of them asks Jesus to them to pray. They noticed that Jesus had a deep sense of intimacy with God, that Jesus prayed and conversed with God and that it seemed to have a calming and transformational effect on Jesus.

Jesus takes in the request and starts with this line of addressing God as father. On the surface, this may seem that Jesus is being very patriarchal, but in reality, Jesus is redeeming a concept. In Greco-Roman culture, the father had absolute authority. He ruled over his household, his wife and kids. Children were persons non-grata.

Sometimes, it may seem like a good idea to have that kind of control we may think. But, really, any kind of absolute control or attempting to exert control over someone can lead to a loss of relationship, a void that leaves both persons feeling empty eventually.

Jesus is using his relationship to God to redeem the word “Father”. In Jewish understanding, beyond the patriarchal implications that could be there, father is a relational term. It should denote a sense of deep and abiding love and commitment. As we’ve said before, the word to describe God’s characteristic the most in the Bible is Hesed…which means ever loving, ever faithful, ever compassionate, and ever loyal to us in community with us.

So, the writer of Luke is saying that God is a father not like the Roman fathers, but a father filled with care and commitment to his children.

Jesus is also saying that we should respect God’s name, we don’t take it for granted and we don’t use it in vain as some seem to do these days. Honor and respect are important for any relationship. If we want to grow in our relationship with God and with others, then we need to honor and respect that relationship, which is also honoring and respecting ourselves.

Jesus goes on to say that praying for the Kingdom to come is important…not just a kingdom in the future, but to for Kingdom or Presence of God to made known to us every day and that we are to pray for God to provide for us sustenance, or to carry us with nourishment every day.

It’s also important to note that we are to ask for God’s kingdom, no one can give us God’s presence…no one can say magic words and eyes will be opened to see God or ears cleaned out to hear God’s word…that we have to realize that we are surrounded by God’s presence and we should converse with God to be aware of that presence. It doesn’t say in Scripture to “build” God’s Kingdom, but to “seek” it…to see it literally.

Our Reformed understanding of worship gets this. One of the things that it emphasizes is that worship is not a spectator sport. We can get into all sorts of conversations about what happens up front, and those can be important, but the real work is being done by all of us together. We can go into any worship service, or any setting really, and experience God’s Presence, God’s kingdom…but it’s up to us to be in prayer for our lives to be settled and to let go. When we can do that, we can experience more fully the blessings of God’s Presence.

That Presence of God can also bring healing. As a pastor, there are so many times that I pray for folks. That I want to see something happen in their lives that will bring them joy, health, and growth. And, often I work really hard to see that happen as well as praying. But, really, I have to remember that it’s not up to me to see someone experience God…God gives the daily bread in whatever ways God chooses…and it’s up to others to receive it.

Jesus goes on to say that it’s important for us to know that we are forgiven, that God is not concerned about the past. That doesn’t mean that we can’t grow from the past, and that we should own our past, but it does mean that God wants us to move forward. That we are forgiven in God’s eyes. And, because of that, we should forgive those whom we feel owe us something.

As a parent, sometimes I want my kids to say they are sorry, I may work really hard to get them to understand that…and, my kids are pretty aware and eventually, most of the time, will come around to that. But, I’m more focused on them realizing that my love for them, the love that will carry them through this part of their journey and hopefully take them to the next, is not dependent on their actions. I’ll love them and forgive them no matter what.

Jesus is saying that same thing. God loves us, and God wants us to practice loving others. When we do, we’ll find our relationships with ourselves, God, and others will thrive.

Forgiving debts is also important…I think that word “debts” is huge. We live in a world that piles up debts, not only monetarily, but to so many things that hold us back…

Our friend, Dr. Walter Brueggemann says that we are all a part of a pharoh economy, that we are all enslaved to something.

As people of faith, we are called to walk away from whatever we are enslaved to, just like the Israelites walked out of Egypt. Freedom isn’t easy, but it does beat being broken by the debt that’s put on us. But, God doesn’t send us to freedom by ourselves. The Israelites as a people gathered were freed together, none of this rugged individualism, but a called out people together. We cannot do this journey towards freedom alone, we have to depend on one another.

We are also to ask God to not test us. We don’t have anything to prove. God’s love for us is a transformational relationship. It isn’t a transaction. God is not going to love us any less if we pass or fail or a test. We will always have things or people in our journey in life that will want to test us, but not God. God wants to love us into growth. As that happens, we can find ourselves able to overcome so many obstacles.

The second part of our gospel narrative gives us more of an understanding of the practical aspects of prayer. The verb to ask is very similar to the verb to pray. It is an action. I believe that it’s paired with the Lord’s prayer because Jesus wants us to understand that our God wants us to be able to go to God as a loving parent, in relationship. God wants us to converse with God, to pray for whatever we may need in order to be sustained and to grow. But, to also realize again and again that it’s always for a sense of relational intimacy and growth. Even with the story of asking a neighbor for bread after they’ve gone to bed…they may not want to get up, but they will eventually give us bread!

Friends, Jesus is telling us that if you want to be sustained in your relationship with God, that if you want to grow, if you want to be strong in who you are as a child of God, made in God’s image…that you need to persevere, that you need to know that God is a loving father and will not give you a scorpion if you ask for bread! What kind of a parent is that?!

But, you have to ask, you have to be aware and to be humble. Asking for forgiveness, asking for God to sustain you, that you can’t do it on your own, asking for eyes to see God’s Presence means that you have to admit that you haven’t been looking or have some blind spots.

I know that for me as a dad that I have to ask my kids from time to time to help me understand, to see what they see, when I ask them that, I grow.

I believe in a similar way, that if we want to grow as a church, we have to be humble and ask others about their experiences. We have a rich resource in this church to learn from….our own children, some who have left the church, some who have not. And, from neighbors of this church…some who have been in this church, some who have never darkened the door of this church, or maybe any church. But, as we pray for growth, we should ask those around us about their experiences…and listen.

May we all ask God, the force that is so intimate and relational…the force that creates, saves, and sustains, to move through us in this moment and in every moment of our lives.


Homework this week:

Take 15 minutes out of your week to pray to God…use the time to ask for listening ears and seeing eyes. Journal some questions.

Then, find someone to talk to, take some risks, ask them what they think about God, Church, etc. See what you learn. Journal some reflection thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s