A sermon preached on July 24, 2022, by Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Before I launch into the sermon, I want to try an experiment. Humor me and say together the Lord’s Prayer out loud…
Did you hear it? The prayer moves along in a ta-da, ta-da, tada, ta-da, daaaa. You ended it on the downbeat. Beloved, when the early church began using this prayer as a way of codifying its Christian identity, it added to it a doxology – “To Thine be the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen!” Friends, dosxologies don’t end on a down-note, a down-beat. Doxologies are a form praise. Instead of rattling the prayer off by rote and ending it on a downbeat, each word of the Lord’s prayer is to be said as though you and I were telling it to Jesus face-to-face. It ends with a crescendo of praise, “TO THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, AMEN!!” The prayer Jesus taught his friends ends on an up-note, an upbeat.
It’s my contention that we approach this wonderful prayer as well as many aspects of our spiritual life out of a sense of rote. We simply go through the motions. The prayer, the liturgy, has become too familiar to us and over time it’s lost its meaning and power. So today, we are going to slow down and pause. We are going to look at the familiar once more and see if can recapture the power of prayer.
This morning we are looking at Luke 11:1-13. Immediately following last week’s reading of Martha and today, we find Jesus at prayer.
Prayer is an important topic for Luke, and we find Jesus and others in prayer often woven through both Luke and Acts. Luke opens his Story with Zechariah praying in the Temple when an angel tells him his post-menopausal wife is going to give birth to a little boy and Luke’s gospel ends with the disciples gathering at the Temple together in worship and prayer following the resurrection. Prayer is vital for Luke. Listen to the Word of the Lord!
11.1 He 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. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5And 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 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!” 
The disciples ask Jesus a reasonable question: How are we to pray? It was not uncommon for students of prominent rabbis and teachers to learn “the method” of prayer their teacher proscribed. John the Baptist has told his disciples how to pray and now Jesus’ disciples want to know what their teacher says about it. They personally witness that prayer is important to Jesus because we find Jesus in Luke’s Story praying all the time whether over people he meets, in the Garden when he was betrayed, and a prayer were the last words he uttered before he died on the Cross. Prayer was central to Jesus as much his breathing in the air. 
“Lord, teach us to prayer, just as John taught his disciples.” What does Jesus’ teach them, teach us, about how to pray? Jesus teaches us prayer is simple, prayer is trinitarian in its expression, and prayer is persistent.
Jesus teaches us prayer is simple. So many people have a hard time praying out loud; they become self-conscious and worry they’re doing it wrong. The great news is this: There’s no wrong way of doing it! If we understand that our prayers are simply our way of invoking and sitting in God’s presence, then we realize prayer is really uncomplicated. Hear that again: Prayer is simply asking God to sit in the Lord’s presence with everything we bring with us and with everything we are.
In my first church out of seminary, there was an old saint of the congregation named Mary England. She was in her 80’s but no one could keep up with her. Her nickname was “Flash.” One Sunday after church, Flash pulled me aside. Smiling that sweet, soft smile of hers, she told me, “Preacher, you’re new at this and let me give you a word of advice: Stand up to be seen; speak out to be heard; and sit down to be appreciated.” She patted my chest with her right hand and walked off. It was the wisest preaching advice I ever had received! In essence, this is what Jesus is telling us – when you pray, keep it simple and to the point.
When we pray, Jesus is telling us to boldly approach the Creator of all that is, was, and ever shall be with an intimate, “Daddy, in heaven…” When he tells us to pray to the Father, he’s telling us the recipient of our prayers loves us deeply as a parent loves their child. When we approach God this way, it’s just like a preschooler who inquisitively asks, “Momma, why is such and such.” Jesus is showing us how to bring God down to our intimate level. We simply pray with the trust of a child that God bends down to listen intently to what we have to say when we open our mouth and hearts in prayer.
In this simplicity, we pray for the basics: Food; forgiveness; and boundaries. His simple prayer is to beseech God for just what we need to get by because by doing so, we personally demonstrate our trust that God will provide the rest. A simple prayer is an expression of the depth to our faith; we know that when gives us what we need, that ultimately it will lead to God’s abundant blessings.
So our prayers are to be simple, but Jesus secondly indicates our prayers should have a trinitarian shape to them. Our prayers include God, ourselves, and they also include our neighbor. Prayer is not a binary exchange between just me and God. Prayer seeks to include God, those around me, and how I relate relate with those about me. Individually, we ask for the basics (give us our daily bread) but we also plead for reconciliation with God and with our neighbor (forgive us our sins as we forgive those indebted to us). The whole notion of ‘shalom’ or peace-fullness is when all is in balance. We experience shalom when we are personally right with the Lord but also when we are right with our neighbor.
When Jesus tells us to forgive debts, his Jewish audience hear the words from Leviticus 25 when Moses talks about the Jubilee year. The Jubilee year occurred every fifty years and it was a time Hebrew society was brought back to balance. All debts were wiped clean. If your family got in a bind and had to give your property away to pay a debt, at Jubilee your property came back to you. If you had an indentured servant, at Jubilee the person was released from their service to you and could return to their family. All debts were cancelled. All debts were wiped clean. Jubilee was a societal re-boot button.
When our debts are forgiven, our personal relationship with God is brought back into balance. In turn, you and I are told to seek out the one next to us and bring about balance in that relationship as well. As God forgives you and me through Jesus’ work on the Cross, so we are to follow Jesus’ example and forgive those who we have wronged or who have wronged us. Simple prayer is about you, me, and God – all three.
Finally, we learn our prayer are to be persistent. We are to ask, to seek, and to knock on God’s door. We are to have the expectation that when we call out for help, God will respond to us and provide our needs just as a parent loves and responds to their child. Ask, seek, and knock! We are to be persistent. The parable about the person banging on his neighbor’s door at midnight is telling us that God knows what we need, and God will provide it.
You see, everyone who lived in Jesus’ time knew the importance of hospitality to the stranger. If a guest came to your home, it was your duty and responsibility to drop everything and tend to their needs regardless of the inconvenience it brings you. The point of the parable is that as his door was getting pounded on, the grumpy guy in bed was of course expected to help his neighbor entertain his guest. If you failed to show hospitality, it brought dishonor not only to your home but to your entire village. The parable is telling us, “Of course God will tend to your persistence because that’s what is expected.”
“Well, this is all good preacher, but what if I pray simply to our Lord, pray for balance and restored relationship with God and with those around me, and what if I pray persistently but all my prayers appear to go unanswered?”
Fair question. I would say that our perceived unanswered prayers reveal more about us than they do about God’s lack of attention to detail. Remember how we said earlier prayer is asking God to simply to come and sit in the His presence bringing everything we are and have. I surmise that our apparent unanswered prayers are being answered but we must continue in faithfulness to keep looking for answers to questions we may not yet know we are looking for. When God’s answers seem silent, then it’s our task to delve spiritually deeper into ourselves and look for the answers and maybe even new questions. Not hearing God’s answers to our prayers is an invitation for us to deepen our spiritual depth.
Beloved, this week, let’s all pause and take a good, long look at the familiar, i.e., how we pray. It’s all so simple. It’s all so trinitarian in its perichoretic dance about you, me, and God. It’s all so persistent with asking, seeking, and knocking. And don’t forget, to see and embrace answered prayer requires our hard, spiritual work. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
© 2022 Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min., Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.