LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY
- Teach us what to pray
- Teach us how to pray
Text: Luke 11:1-13
Service video (sermon starts at 32:40)
The cover of the latest issue of Christianity Today is interesting. The cover describes this issue’s main article: “Grappling with the God of the Two Testaments.” Sometimes people think that the way God is portrayed in the Old Testament, “pre-Jesus” part of the Bible is different than the way God is portrayed in the New Testament, “Jesus” and “post-Jesus” part of the Bible. And, to be fair, if you take certain sections of the Old and New Testament and consider them outside their context, you could easily come to that conclusion. The cover weaves together God’s words to the ancient Israelites in 1 Samuel 15:2-3 and Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-31. Side by side, switching between sections back and forth, it sounds like two gods are being presented:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel do good to those who hate you, when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Bless those who curse you, Now go, attack the Amalekites pray for those who mistreat you. and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. Do not spare them; If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Put to death men and women, children and infants, Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. Do to others as you would have them to do you.’”
There is an answer to this apparent contradiction, but our goal today is not to study the presumed differences between the Old and New Testament on the matter of dealing with one’s enemies. Our purpose today is to study what Jesus has to say in today’s Gospel on the matter of prayer. But here too, we come across an apparent contradiction between what Jesus says about prayer in today’s Gospel and what God had to say about prayer in one place in the Old Testament. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” God says that the sinful condition that resides in our hearts and the way that condition rears its ugly head each day of our lives is more than enough reason for God to turn a deaf ear to us and ignore us now on earth and forever in hell—not a pretty picture! But in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to speak to God as our “Father,” and to pray with complete confidence and boldness.
Despite what it may seem like at first glance, we’re not dealing with a contradiction here. The answer, as always, is found in Jesus. God didn’t ignore the barrier that we built between him and us by our sins. God sent his Son, Jesus, to destroy that barrier when he paid the penalty for our sins by his death on the cross. God sent his Son, Jesus to replace the sin that separated us from God with the perfect holiness that he lived on earth and that now counts for every person who trusts that Jesus did everything to make us right with God and ready for heaven. Through faith in Jesus, your guilt is gone, your eternal future is secured—and on top of it all, God’s throne room of prayer is open to all who trust in Jesus as their Savior from and solution for sin. Since God has turned a listening ear to us, we would do well to turn our listening ears to his Son, who teaches us about prayer in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and Jesus responds by teaching them—and us—what to pray, and how to pray.
Jesus starts with what to pray: He gives his disciples a model of what they should pray with the Lord’s Prayer. Each phrase of this prayer deserves its own sermon; Luther virtually does that in his Large Catechism. There’s no way we can do justice to the Lord’s Prayer in a sermon that covers not only the Lord’s Prayer but several other thoughts from Jesus about prayer. What we will try to do is get a big picture, “30,000 foot” overview of the prayer Jesus taught. Read More…