Pray With Expectation

Based on:  Luke 11:1-13

Did you hear what Abraham said to God in our Old Testament reading for today (Genesis 18:20-32)? "You wouldn’t do that.  You are not that kind of God, are you?"  Then Abraham proceeded to haggle with God, coming back to God over and over again with his request.  What bravado Abraham had to stand before the almighty God and talk to him this way.  But Abraham had spent some time sitting at Jesus’ feet.  He had listened to God and heard God’s promises of the Savior and promises to bless him.  He knew God would answer his prayer and he knew God would bless him with the best, so he could be bold and persistent.

Last week we heard that the one thing we need is to sit at Jesus’ feet and to listen to his word.  Our eternal salvation depends on this.  Today we talk about prayer.  This is the perfect follow-up to last week.  After hearing about the necessity of God speaking to us what better topic can we have then the wonderful opportunity God gives us to speak to him in prayer?

In the gospel for today Jesus tells us pray with expectation.  Pray with expectation.  From God you can expect an answer and from God you can expect the best.

Luke tells us that Jesus himself was praying.  His disciples see this example that their teacher is setting for them and they respond.  They themselves want to know how they should pray.  We recognize the words that Jesus told them as portions of the Lord’s Prayer that we often use ourselves.  After Jesus gives them this example prayer, he gives them some further instruction on prayer and he tells them this parable.  A man needs some bread and goes to a friend’s house.  Probably all of you at some time or another have had to go to a friend and ask for a favor or ask for some help.  You know what that’s like.  But this man is coming in the middle of the night and it’s a little inconvenient for his friend to fulfill his request.  But really all the excuses that this friend gives are only minor.  There really isn’t anything preventing him from doing what his friend is asking and eventually he gets up and gives three loaves of bread to his friend at the door.

Jesus compares this story with praying to God.  But you know that God is not inconvenienced by our prayer, he loves our prayer and wants us to ask him for things.  So if this man got out of bed even though his kids were in bed and the door was locked, how much more will we receive an answer to our prayer from God who eagerly waits for us to come to him in prayer?

Look also at how bold this man was.  Perhaps this man would have been less likely to go out in the middle of the night if he did not have a friend that he knew he could go to.  It seems pretty bold of him to wake someone up in the middle of the night for three loaves of bread, but he did it.  We have our heavenly Father to go to, who never sleeps, and who is never too busy.

Why do we not go to him more often? Why is it when we pray that we pray as if we’re not going to get an answer?  If you call your friend on the phone and leave a message you expect an answer.  If you stop at a gas station for directions, you expect an answer even if it is just, “I don’t know."  Do we think God is too busy or that our request is too small too big?  Do we think he doesn’t care? Perhaps would rather depend on ourselves or on our friends.

But God tells us to come to him and he promises to answer.  In our reading, God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, is telling us so.  He tells us to ask, seek, and knock.  This is exactly what the man in the parable did – he sought out his friend and knocked on his door and asked for that bread.  Jesus tells us to do the exact same thing with our heavenly Father and he will answer us.

Maybe sometimes we don’t pray because we are afraid of the answer he might give – that it might not be what we want.  But there is no reason to fear – Jesus tells us to expect the best. 

Now to all of you who were at one time a child (that includes all of you) did you always get what you asked your parents to give you?  Did your parents ever tell you "no" to something that you wanted to do?  Did that toy you wanted for Christmas always appear under the tree on Christmas morning? Why not?  Maybe it was too expensive or impractical, but perhaps also it was something you were not old enough to handle or something that might not be good for you.  

My kids like to read that comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  This little boy Calvin is not a good example for kids to follow.  In one comic strip he asks his mother, "Mom, can I have a flame thrower?"  Well parents, what would you say to a little boy like that? You would say "no" wouldn’t you? Out of love you would say, “I can think of some better things for you to have."  But you are not going to give something to the child that would harm them.

Jesus points out that parents on this earth, even though they are sinful human beings, still know how to treat their children well.  How much more so will our perfect heavenly Father give us exactly what we need? You know that his goal for us is eternal life and so everything he gives us is intended to guide us to that eternal destination.

Now when we asked for the very thing a our heavenly father is so eager to give us, when we study God’s word and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith, how much more will he abundantly bless us with his Holy Spirit? Whenever we ask for the things that God already promises, the answer to our prayer is a definite, "yes." 

This gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift above all other gifts.  It is the one thing needed because it comes as we sit at Jesus’ feet.  Whenever the Holy Spirit comes to us in the pages of Scripture, the Holy Spirit always points us to Christ and the forgiveness we have in Christ.  The Holy Spirit wants us to know that we are forgiven for our imperfect and timid prayer life and he encourages us to use this wonderful gift called prayer.

So if we can expect God to answer us and we can expect only the best from our heavenly Father, then we can pray boldly at anytime.

Now as we pray, what can we pray for? The disciples asked Jesus how to pray.  As we look at Jesus example, we can see that he does include daily bread.  There’s nothing wrong with praying for earthly things that we need or enjoy, but let’s notice that the majority of this Prayer has to do with eternal things.  Jesus says to pray that God’s name be holy and that his kingdom come.  Jesus tells us to pray for our own forgiveness and that we not fall into temptation.

Now consider some things we can add to our own prayers.  Pray that God continue to keep you connected to his word so that you are assured of your forgiveness and so that you are better able to resist temptation.  Pray that this congregation is able to reach out into this community and bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost souls so his kingdom comes to them also.  Pray also for our Wisconsin Synod.  This past week our Synod met in convention and Synod leaders continue to struggle with how, when contributions to the Synod do not meet the current need, to balance the training of future pastors and teachers, with home and world missions, and with support services for congregations. 

With all these you can also pray that God use you to carry out his will.

But right now, my prayer is that God give you the same boldness and tenacity that Abraham had in his prayer and that as you pray you expect God to answer you with his richest and greatest blessings.

Amen.

 

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