Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PRAYER LESSONS FROM JESUS

PRAYER LESSONS FROM JESUS
©Wendell Griffen, 2016
July 24, 2016 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost)
New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

Luke 11:1-13
11He 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.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father,
* hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
*
3   Give us each day our daily bread.*
4   And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
*
5 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;6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”7And 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.” 8I 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.
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for* a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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* to those who ask him!’
         Lord, teach us to pray… 

602 people have been killed during encounters with police in the United States so far during 2016, according to The Guardian Newspaper.  88 have been unarmed.  25 of those unarmed people have been black. So far this month, police have killed 54 people across the United States.  That averages two deaths a day.  During 2015, police in the United States killed 1146 people.  79 of those slain people were unarmed black people.

Lord, teach us to pray…

A gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida last month.  A gunman killed 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas earlier this month.  A gunman killed 3 police officers in Baton, Rouge, Louisiana this month.  This past Friday (July 22), an 18 year old man who had been treated for depression and complained of being bullied went on a shooting rampage in Munich, Germany and killed 9 people before killing himself.  In Nice, France, 84 people were killed by someone who ran over them with a truck earlier this month. 

Lord, teach us to pray…

In Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, war, famine, poverty, and other threats are causing people to become refugees.  Parents fearful for the safety of their children are leaving their homelands and risking death in efforts to travel somewhere they can live safely.  Meanwhile, politicians and citizens in nations that are relatively safe (by comparison) and more prosperous are complaining about being over-run by refugees.  In the United States, Republican Party presidential nominee Donald J. Trump claims that illegal immigrants threaten the health, safety, and prosperity of the United States.

Lord, teach us to pray…  

Those words take on an awesome and great deal of urgency for anyone who is sensitive about life, suffering, peace, love, truth, and justice in the face of recent events.  How do we pray given all we have seen and heard?  How do we pray for our loved ones who are struggling with life-threatening or life-ending illness?  How do we pray for ourselves and others as we try to cope with personal and public anxieties?  How do we continue to believe in prayer?

The model prayer that Jesus taught his first followers offers some lessons.

Pray!  It may seem to be stating the obvious, but Jesus first told his followers, “When you pray, say…”  Jesus told them to pray!  Jesus did not tell them to discount prayer, avoid prayer, question the need for prayer, or doubt that praying does any good.  Jesus told his followers to pray.

Remember our relationship with God!  In the model prayer Jesus left us, God is identified as our divine relative—Father!  Followers of Jesus do not understand God to be distant from us, disconnected from us, or otherwise unconcerned about us.  Jesus said, “When you pray, say:  Our Father…”

We are God’s children.  We are not moral vagabonds and orphans in the world.  We are God’s children. 

·      We are God’s needy children. 
·      We are God’s fearful children. 
·      We are God’s threatened children. 
·      We are God’s migrating children. 
·      We are God’s misunderstood children. 
·      We are God’s frail children.
·      We are God’s fallen children.
·      We are God’s oppressed children.
·      We are God’s grieving children.
·      We are God’s dying children.

Remember that we pray as children to One who knows us, loves us, and desires to be in union with us as “our Father.”

Remember that we pray as children to One who is holy (hallowed be your name).

Remember that we pray as children to One whose rule is real and true despite any and every other force we encounter in life  (Your kingdom come).  The kingdoms of this world—including any and all empires and powers—cannot and will not prevent the Holy Spirit from equipping and guiding the people of God’s kingdom.  The kingdoms—including any and all empires and forces—cannot overcome the kingdom of God!  Jesus taught us to pray with this in mind despite the kingdoms we face at work, school, home, the world of commerce, and elsewhere. 

We are needy children.  Admit that in prayer. Give us each day our daily bread is an admission that we are never self-sufficient.  We need God’s provision each day.  We need God’s forgiveness each day (“Forgive us ....”).  We need God’s protection each day as we pass through difficult situations and circumstances that threaten our sense of God’ love, presence, and strength (“Deliver us…”).  

But what happens when we pray and things don’t turn out right?  What happens when the disease isn’t cured?  What happens when the oppressors don’t go away?  How and why should we pray when things don’t change? 

According to Jesus, we are to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.”   According to Jesus, when things don’t change the proper respond is not to give up on prayer, but to persist and persevere in prayer. 

It’s important that we remember that life with God is not like doing a search on Google.  We are accustomed to entering a search request on an Internet browser and within moments getting an answer to our question.  A few keystrokes are required to get the information we seek.  That isn’t how life works.

No!  Life is more like farming.  Farmers know better than to expect a harvest within a few days after they plant a field.  Farmers know that droughts happen.  Fields can be flooded by torrential rains.  Insects can ravage the best planned crop.  Farmers know about crop failure.  But they don’t quit farming.  They return to the work season after season, year after year, whether the crops are bumper or busted.  Farming is a better examples of the persistence and perseverance needed in prayer than is Google.

According to Jesus, don’t quit praying when the police won’t quit killing us and the politicians and judges won’t do anything about it.  Ask, then, seek, then knock.  Continue praying!  Continue asking!  Continue seeking!  Remember the farmers!

But Jesus adds “knock” to the instructions on how we should carry on when things don’t change as we need.  Jesus tells us to “knock.”  And in doing so, Jesus adds another metaphor for God by telling us to think of God as Friend, not Father only. 

·      Jesus tells us to knock on God’s door as we would knock on the door of a trusty friend in a time of need.
·      Jesus tells us to knock on God’s door and assures us that God will not be offended by our persistence.
·      Jesus tells us to knock on God’s door because we are needy children and friends of God.
·      Knock on God’s door because we are not strangers.
·      Knock on God’s door because we are not enemies of God.
·      Knock on God’s door because God is too good to ignore us. 
·      Knock on God’s door.

What does knocking on God’s door look like? 

It looks like Joshua and the Hebrew people parading around the walled city of Jericho every day. 

It looks like Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

It looks like black people in Montgomery, Alabama walking to work, school, and elsewhere for a year as they boycotted the racially segregated public bus system. 

Knocking on God’s door looked like Martin King refusing to stop demanding justice for poor people, working people, war-threatened people, and other oppressed people. 

Knocking on God’s door looks like Freedom Riders sitting at segregated lunch counters while being tormented, taunted, and threatened.

Knocking on God’s door looks like civil rights protestors walking onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday.

Knocking on God’s door looks like people calling on God’s help as they demand that police officers who kill unarmed people be held accountable. 

Knocking on God’s door looks like people who refuse to quit complaining about income inequality, poverty, state sanctioned killing of unarmed people by police, and politicians who will not use their power to correct those ills. 

Jesus tells us to knock!  We do not knock to awaken God.  We do not knock to amuse God.  We do not knock to inform God.  We knock because we often face forces and situations that are not solved by softly uttered petitions. 

When politicians and judges will not hold police officers who mistreat and murder innocent people accountable, it’s time to knock.

When politicians will not stop sending people to risk death and sanity in military adventures begun in the name of empire, it’s time to knock.

When rich nations will not open their borders and hearts to help desperate refugees trying to escape death, violence, disease, and poverty, it’s time to knock. 

We knock because the situations for which we have asked and searched are not changing.  We knock because we believe God loves us.  We knock because we believe God is our Father and Friend.  We knock because we are not ashamed to be seen calling on God.  We knock because God is not offended by our insistent and persistent prayer. 

Jesus teaches us to pray believing that God will hear us.  God will come to our aid. God will make a way.  God will open doors.  God will set the captives free.  God will provide bread in a starving land. God will give water in our scorched places.  God will send friends to help us.  God will turn enemies back.  God will!  God will!  God will!

During the 250 year horrors of slavery in the United States slaves prayed for freedom.  They did not stop praying despite generations of slavery.  They asked, searched, and knocked on in prayer. 

Women prayed for the right to vote from the time the United States developed a government until 1920.  They prayed and marched.  They prayed and protested.  They prayed and carried signs.  They prayed and knocked.

Peace activists prayed for an end to war in Southeast Asia for scores of years.  They prayed despite troop buildups.  They prayed and protested bombing raids.  They prayed despite being called Communist sympathizers and cowards.  The peace activists prayed and knocked. 

Jesus taught us to pray, so let us do so.  Jesus taught us to trust that our prayers are heard by our Divine Parent and Friend, whose kingdom will come.  Jesus taught us to be persistent and insistent in prayer, so let us do so.  Beloved, let us boldly, honestly, and persistently pray with the assurance that God, our Divine Parent and Friend, is able and willing to meet our needs, come to our aid, and equip us to be people of divine love, peace, joy, truth, freedom, justice, and hope.


Amen.  

2 comments:

  1. God has a prophet in Arkansas, and Wendell Griffen is that man. Hear ye him. We are in disturbing times, and we need to hear from the Lord. Judge Griffen gives us the Word from God, and God's children hear his voice and know it is truth. Thank the Lord for his man in Little Rock.

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  2. Wendell your a stupid racist. If you mess with the Police your ass deserves to get shot. Have you ever read Romans chapter 13 where it says that you shall obey the laws of the land. Oh yeah I mean heck you don't remember 1 Corinthians 6:9 where it says homosexuals shall not inherit the Kingdom of God but you think it's okay for them to get married. You ain't no Christian

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