Sunday July 25th, 2010.
Asking for Bread and Smarties
Two men were talking together. The first challenged the other, “If you are so religious, let’s hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer. I bet you $10.00 you can’t.”
The second responded, “Now I lay my down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
The first pulled out his wallet and fished out a ten dollar bill, muttering, “I didn’t think you could do it!”
I’m not sure if there is anything else in the Christian life that when mentioned can strike immediate questions, sense of inadequacy and guilt into the heart as that thing we call, “prayer”.
I have noticed that many are scared of praying – particularly out loud in a group. I suspect people are often scared to pray out loud in private too. Many struggle to pray out loud even when surrounded by other people doing that very thing in worship.
Maybe we are fearful of trying to pray because we think we are not good enough at it. We might say the wrong thing. We might cheese God off or just fail in some way at it. Maybe we are not even sure how we might fail. We just feel as though we can’t do it…. and so, we don’t really delve into prayer and what it might become for us in our spiritual life.
Of course, it is even worse when we come across someone who seems confident in praying. It is intimidating to come across someone who can pray a prayer at a single spiritual bound and hold back evil like holding back a speeding automotive train by a prayer!
So, I have noticed that a lot of Christian men and women just give up the “prayer thing” and leave it to the “professionals”, or the ‘spiritual people” – the pastor…..
Can you imagine that s
mall band of blokes wondering about Jesus’ pattern of prayer? They saw him often sitting in silence. They saw him head off into the night and not return to morning. When they asked him where he had been he said “I was praying”.
That must have been quite new for them. They had some experience of prayer. At home when growing up they prayed the Psalms and other parts of the Torah. These were done by the head of the house in a particular way for particular times.
Prayer was what happened when the family went to the synagogue each week and the leaders of the synagogue led the ancient prayers of God’s people (Psalms, Prophets, Wise men). Here, only the professionals were suitably qualified to choose and speak these prayers.
It was even more that way when on the 2 or 3 occasions the family went down to the city for the big public holy days at the Temple. There the priests were in full garb and full swing – offering ritual sacrifices, singing the psalms, leading the liturgy and “praying”. The people had bits to say, but the show was definitely put on by the professionals. They knew what and how to pray. We all just watched and wondered.
But here is Jesus, this admired and authoritative man “praying” differently. Surely the BIG difference about Jesus praying was in the way he spoke to God and also in the length of time engaged in this thing called prayer.Jesus called God, “Father”, and he seemed to mean it when he said it. He called the great, “I AM”, “Papa”, “Abba”.
That was bold. God is to be called Elohim. Only the professionals can call God his special name, Yahweh” or “I AM”, and only then under strict regulations and conditions once a year on the day of Atonement – the greatest holy day of the year. For Jesus, prayer seemed to be quite intimate and personal. Prayer was not only for “the professionals”.
And then there were those “all nighters”. Prayer for Jesus seemed to be more than praying the right words or even asking for things from God. Prayer must have been about just being with God, whom he called his Father. How else could you spend a whole night “in prayer”? Prayer must have been more about being with, than speaking at. His praying seemed to be about wanting his Father’s company more than or at least as much as wanting what his Father could give him.
Are we a little scared of praying because see it in very narrow terms? Are we sacred to we will use the wrong words? Are we sure that we are not good enough at it to offer a prayer out loud? Do we leave the whole prayer thing to the proferssionals because we have not been able to find a way to pray at a deeper or evem bolder level?
Well, for us who may struggle to pray in Jesus way, Jesus does not hold all the secrets of his prayer to himself. When asked by his close firnds how on earth to pray he immediately responds with a great gifts that is very practical that anyone can use to get going and keep going in prayer.
He gives us the prayer he himself prays to his own Father in heaven. He gives us what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer”. What a prayer it is. It covers all of the essential things we need for the day and for life in general – forgiveness, food on the table, help in hard testing, protection from the Evil One….
He says, “Pray this. It is what I pray to my Abba. You can too”. Is this a place to start again in prayer for you? Pray the Lord’s Prayer in its form, in your own way, broken up or all together through the day? As we do, it will begin to shape our day and our prayer and we will be talking with God and most of all being with our Father all the day.
Jesus also then gives another gift of how we can use this prayer or in what spirit we can pray to our Father….
Jesus tells them this story…
Late one evening an unexpected visitor came to a certain man’s home. Now this home owner was certainly glad to see his unexpected guest but, as he welcomed him at the door, we can imagine him thinking, “How am going to feed this bloke! The homeowner is out of bread.
He has to act. So, he goes next door and does the extremely unorthodox thing of yelling out at the front door to his sleeping neighbour, “Hey, mate! My friend has just arrived and I can’t feed him, can you give me three loaves of bread?” He doesn’t want just one loaf but three!But his neighbour says, “No way fella. It’s midnight and I and my family are asleep”. “Go away!”
But then Jesus ends the little story by saying, “I tell you, even though the sleeping neighbour will at first not get up and give the bread, he will get up and give the homeowner what he needs because of the man’s persistence.
Actually, in the original language, the word for “persistence” here is more like “shamlesness”. The sleeping neighbour will give the homeowner what he needs because of the homeowner shamelessness – his shameless asking for what he needs.
What’s Jesus’ point about prayer?
Speak to God about all the movements and needs of the day and of life, and do it often and even quite shamelessly is necessary. If human beings would give another person three loaves of bread at midnight, or if we would give something to someone that really cost us a lot of money and time and effort, then we can be sure that our Father in heaven would give us what we need 10X more, because he is our Father and we his children. He knows our need and he hears our requests and he loves to respond because we are his own children.
And therein lies the nub of the whole word of Jesus this morning to us.
Prayer is simply asking our heavenly Father for what we need.
Prayer is speaking with – being with our Father in Jesus’ name.
Prayer is trusting his grace and not our own resources.
Will you have another go? Start with that prayer of Jesus. Speak it out loud in the morning, at midday and at bed time. Get the Catechism out and see how Luther breaks it down. Pray it broken up in some way through your day. Find yourself “praying” again.
“The fewer the words, the better the prayer”.
Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.
If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.
When I cannot pray I always sing.
I’m hearing that we here need to much more like the 3-year-old boy went to the supermarket with his mother…. Before they entered the shop, she had certain instructions for the little tike: “Now you’re not going to get any Smarties, so don’t even ask.”
She put him in the child’s seat and off they went up and down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the confectionary section. Seeing the Smarties he said, “Mum, can I have some Smarties?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.”
They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items she had to back track and they ended up in the confectionary aisle again. “Mum, can I please have some Smarties?” She said, “I told you that you can’t have any. Now sit down and be quiet.”
Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed that the end was in sight, that this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have a box of Smarties?!”
Everyone in the checkout lanes could not help but be impressed! “In the name of Jesus…!”. They applauded the young lad and pitched in for several boxes of Smarties. He left a very happy little fellow.
The little guy was persistent in his asking. The little guy threw away social conventions, political correctness, fear of being looked upon with shame and asked anyway!
We are that three year old asking for Smarties throughout the day from the our heavenly Father – Jesus, his Son says, ask, seek knock again and again, without fearing shame or what people might say. Ask, Seek, Knock –. You can because he is your heavenly Father.
Our Father in heaven, help us to ask you for everything and persist in prayer for what we need and for what other people need. Amen.
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