Friday, July 23, 2010

Luke 11:1-13 - Sermon - Ask, Seek, Knock

Luke 11:1-13
Ask, Seek, Knock
07-25-10

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is the essence of a Christian life. If a person has never gone to a Carolina Panther’s game, doesn’t know any of the players, has never watched a minute of a game, doesn’t know when the team plays, and doesn’t even know what sport they play, would you call that person a fan? If a person has never talked to God before, doesn’t stop in his daily life to make room for God, if she doesn’t adore, confess, give thanks, and supplicate on a regular basis, doesn’t ask, seek and knock is that person a Christian?

Prayer is essential and the disciples were learning this as they followed this rabbi named Jesus around. Here in the eleventh chapter of Luke they have already seen some amazing things. In the tenth chapter Jesus sent out seventy into the mission field and they all came back, he has told them the parable of the Good Samaritan and visited the house of Martha and Mary. He is showing his disciples where their priorities are supposed to be as his followers. They are supposed to be in the mission field, taking care of your neighbors, and remembering to find time for God.

This passage today starts off by saying “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.” Jesus knew that if he was going to do what he needed to do in this world he had to be connected to his Father. So all through all the gospels we see Jesus taking time to be apart from his disciples and finding some time to pray. A disciple, possibly after seeing and hearing that Mary was the one who was doing what was needed, wanted to know more about prayer. He asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." Jesus then gives them the Lord’s Prayer and other illustrations on what and how to pray.

The Biblical version of the Lord’s Prayer is a little different than ours and that is because over the years this prayer has been translated from its original language into English, looked at in different manuscripts, it has gone through reformations and kings, and eventually we got to the one we are most accustomed to saying today. The essence of the prayer is the same. In the Lord’s Prayer, whether it is beautifully sung, said by one person or a congregation simply asks for the basics. It asks for God’s kingdom and will to come, for daily bread and for forgiveness, and a request to live as God desires. When we pray this prayer we remind ourselves of what we should be focused on and the awesomeness of the one we are talking to.

Jesus doesn’t stop there though he goes on to tell them a story about a guy who is knocking at the door at midnight asking for three loaves of bread because he had a guest show up unannounced and he needs them to show hospitality. Eventually the person on the inside, although woken up, does give the man what he needs. Jesus tells us that we should pray the same way. When we talk to God we should ask with boldness and persistence. But this is hard for us to do but we will get into that in a little bit. Jesus continues his lesson on prayer by telling them to ask, seek and knock. He then wraps it up by reminding them if a child asks his father for a fish, even a really evil father, wouldn’t give his kid a snake. And that is how we should pray.

When we read this piece of scripture, we confess it is a little hard to follow the train of thought. I mean we are in 2010 and this was said in a whole other culture, time, and language. Some of Jesus’ examples don’t make much sense and this lesson in prayer seems choppy and like it is missing something. Yet, when we dive into it and try and understand each piece of this lesson, our eyes are opened to an amazing story that does flow nicely and only in a way Jesus could explain it. When we peel back the layers we start to see how this is actually an outline for how we are to be in relationship with God and our community.

First though we have to get past some of the abuses for the text. I confess that I don’t think of many positive things when I read, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Maybe I’m the only one but there is an image that jumps to the front of my brain when I read this. To give you a picture of this I’ll need your help, {clap}. This is what I hear when I read this passage…

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?

There is a movement that has been afoot for a while called Prosperity Gospel. At the heart of their message is that God wants us to be prosperous and they quote random scriptures from all over the Bible. This scripture is one of them but they have also used the Prayer of Jabez and other scriptures to say that what God really wants out of our lives is to make us rich and happy. But this isn’t the message of Jesus. This isn’t the message of the God who parted the Red Sea to free his people and then sent his Son to die our death. This is the message of the golden calf, the god of consumerism. This is the message of a god who people have created because they pray “MY kingdom come.”

Once we shake this image out of our head and I’m sorry that you will be singing that song all week now, we are confronted with something else that stands in our way of praying like Christ tells us in this scripture. Jesus says we are to be like a man who bangs on a neighbor’s door at midnight to ask for bread. We cannot imagine this because we, in our heart, desire to be completely independent and sufficient. Society has created this in us and we must address it because it goes against what God wants out of our lives. Behind this part of the scripture lesson is a culture where hospitality was important and 24 hour grocery stores were not invited. The man has had a friend who stopped by his house while on a journey and as the man went to his cupboards to look for something to offer him, he didn’t have anything. So he woke up his neighbor to ask for help.

Today we would never do this because we have this disease of independence. If we move past the cultural example, which we have a hard time relating to today, the heart of this story is that the man asked his neighbor for help. We do not look fondly at people who ask their neighbors for help. It pains us to do this. And before you give me weird looks and think I am crazy, think about it. What words do we use in our culture today when we ask someone for help? “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry to bother you but I need…” “I hate to ask but…” These all have a negative tone to them and we feel bad about asking someone else to interrupt their lives in order to help us. We feel selfish and almost grieve the fact that we are asking for help. The one I get all the time when people call me is “I know you are busy but…” Most of the time I’m thinking in my head, “Busy? Really? I’ve been on this coach for two hours watching TV, but if you want to call that being busy, than yes, I am REALLY busy.” Our disease of independence tells us that if we have to ask for help we are inconveniencing people and they really don’t want to help. So we make up excuses to apologies for bothering them in their busy lives.

When I was in the sixth grade I woke up on day for school to find my neighbor downstairs. Mrs. Walkneack had come over to help us four kids get ready and off to school that morning. During the night my dad had a heart attack and my mom had to take him to the hospital. Now just a show of hands, if I had to make a call in the middle of the night for someone to come over and watch Dean and Campbell so Alycia and I could attend to an emergency who should we call? Okay…if anyone in our church had an emergency and they needed help raise your hand if you would be willing to help them out in whatever way you could? This is what a Christian community should be like. We should be willing to help people out in any way possible no matter when or where and most of the time we are. Even if someone is knocking at our door at midnight and needs some bread to help out a traveling friend, we would get up and give them some.

You all saw the hands that went up. You all saw who is willing to help. So let’s make a deal, let’s drop the harsh, apologetic, grieving language we have when we ask for something. No more “I’m sorry to ask”, “I hate to bother you”, or “I know you are busy.” Let’s promise each other today that we will simply ask, we will simply seek help when needed, and we will be willing to knock on our neighbors doors when we need something. If you agree say Amen.

God is the same way. God wants us to ask him for help in our lives. He wants us to be in contact with him and confess our hearts desires to him. It isn’t selfish. It isn’t stroking your own ego. If we are honest with what we really need from God than we should ask, and ask often. Children understand from early on. How many times a day does or did your kids ask something of you? “Can I watch TV?” “Can I get that new toy?” “Can we go out to eat?” Kids ask all the time and sure there are times when it gets a little annoying but think of the alternative, what if they never asked for anything? Imagine a five year old walking around your house and the only thing he says to you all day is hi and goodnight. Sure sounds like a dream come true for the first 24 hours but then after that it gets scary. I mean he hasn’t asked for anything to eat, how is he eating. He hasn’t asked for anything to drink, or clothes, or toys, or wanting to play with friends. He is just walking around doing stuff but almost ignoring your presence the whole time. The truth is we would be calling the doctor or a child psychologist soon because when a child stops asking for things, something isn’t right.

Yet, how is that different than us and God. As we grow up and that independence disease grips our souls, what do you think God thinks of us, his children, as we live our lives and don’t ask anything from our Heavenly Father? Do you think he is saying, “Well great, she is self-sufficient, I don’t have to worry about her anymore.” Or are God’s eyes on us even more and he is simply pleading with us, just ask for my help please. One of my darkest fears as a parent is the day my children stop raising their arms, in that silent request to be lifted up and held. I don’t care if they are 3 or 43, I will always, ALWAYS pick them up. How many of you are the same way? Yet when is the last time you turned to God and raised your arms up?

Are you afraid that God won’t answer? Are you afraid that he will give you a snake instead of the fish you wanted? What kind of father do you think God is? Our independence as individuals doesn’t amount to anything in the Christian walk. It is our dependence on each other and God that marks a true disciple. How about we make a vow to get over ourselves and be willing to ask, seek and knock. “For everyone who asks receives and everyone who searches finds and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Tommy is going to give us a gift today and has he does so I want you to simply close your eyes and let the words wash over you. As they do, reach your arms up to God, ask, seek, and knock. If you feel compelled to come down front, I would be happy to pray with you and ask God for whatever you need. Because we should pray with boldness. We worship a God who can do anything and can do everything we need, he just wants us to ask for his help.

{Listen to song that will be sung}

And all God's people said...Amen.

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