The Second Sunday After Easter May 4, 2003
Genesis 18:16-33, 19:27-29
198, 580(1-4,6,9), 459, 457
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
And [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him;’ and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
In Christ Jesus whose redeeming work has made us children of God and thus given us the privilege to pray, dear fellow-redeemed:
“My Daddy can do ANYTHING!” the little boy said. For that father’s son it wasn’t so much bragging as it was simply stating the facts.
“Mommy…the storm is getting louder…when is Daddy getting home?” When this daughter’s father finally arrives home the storm is still going to be getting louder and stronger, but it won’t matter as much because suddenly she will feel safer.
Let your minds paint the picture of young, energetic, trusting children clinging to every word their father says because in their eyes he is the smartest man on the earth. Hear the children squeal with glee whenever their father arrives back home after being absent for a time. See the children look expectantly and hopefully to their father each time there is chance that they “might get to go along” when he goes on an errand that seems much more like an adventure. In your mind watch those children go to their father every time they have a need and ask him for help, and then see that father always solve whatever is bothering them.
In your minds, create this wonderfully perfect picture of a child-to-father and father-to-child relationship and then transfer that picture to your relationship with God. Can you do it?
At times there can be a sense that dealing with God is much more formal than that. When you go to God in prayer is it with a careful, restrained, measured approach as if you were talking to someone you were meeting for the first time and you weren’t quite sure what to expect? Or do you go to God like a child bubbling and pouring out everything knowing that it doesn’t matter because this is “DAD!”? It is the latter which God desires.
It is no accident that God has chosen to describe His relationship with us as that of a father to his children. For His part, God is the perfect Father—providing, guiding, correcting, helping, and doing so much more in a perfect way. On our part, God wants us to come as loved children go to their loving father.
Today we take time to consider how we go to God in prayer. We will do so, by taking the picture you have painted and applying it to our prayer-life. In our prayers, we cry out: “DADDY…” I. Daddy, can I? II. Daddy, I’m scared. III. Daddy, guess what!
Prayer is at times the most misunderstood and underused gifts God has given. Prayer is not a way by which God communicates to us. God speaks to us through His Word. The Word of God—the Gospel—is the way by which God brings His grace to us and creates faith in our hearts and keeps us in that faith. God speaks to us through His Word and responds to us by the way He guides our lives and controls the affairs of the world. Prayer is not God’s to use. He has given prayer to us. We are the ones who use prayer to go to Him.
Prayer is sometimes viewed almost as it were a magical incantation that anyone can use to approach that “higher being” who governs things in at least some sort of way. It is true that prayers do not need to have a specific form or content beginning in “dear” and ending in “amen.” However, since the LORD God of the Bible is the only true God, only prayers addressed to Him will be heard.
Furthermore, only those who are relying on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins will be heard. Sin stands in the way between us and God. We wouldn’t DARE to approach the throne of a holy God if our sins were still on us. Only through faith in Christ Jesus which brings the forgiveness of sins and takes them totally away from us do we have the privilege and ability to pray. Many prayers are uttered with great piety, but are left unheard because they do not flow from faith. Peter writes, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous [believers], and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
Sometimes, prayer is considered only in view of asking for things. Prayer actually includes any communication we send to our heavenly Father. It might be verbal or it might simply be the thoughts of our hearts. A prayer might be asking God for something, but it could just as easily be thanking Him, confessing wrongdoing to Him, or just praising Him for all that He is and all that He does.
In a sin-burdened world, prayers that are asking something of God are going to be plentiful and that is where we begin: Jesus said, “Keep on asking and it will be given to you.” [v.9]
In these words of Jesus we find our confidence to go to God saying, “Daddy can I??” “May I have this….may I do that…may this work out in this way for me…please Daddy, can I??” Jesus Himself tells us to keep on asking and promises that God will hear.
Here we come to another misconception about prayer. It is sometimes believed that when things don’t turn out in the way for which we have prayed, that God has not answered that prayer. This is not correct. There are no unanswered prayers. When a child runs up to his father and asks, “Daddy, can I?” there is a distinct possibility that the answer will be “No,” or “Maybe later,” or “Yes, but let’s do it this way instead.”
When God answers our prayers, it will not always be in the way we have prayed for it, but it will always be for our blessing. “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” [vv.11-13].
There is not a careful father who would answer his child’s question: “Daddy, can I?” with a “YES” when he knows very well that the “yes” will bring the child to harm. If no earthly father who is sinful would do such a thing, then neither will God. What is more, God knows fully and perfectly what to give! He will make no mistakes. He will make no errors of judgment.
A child may ask “Daddy, can I?” so many times in a day that the father would lose count. Jesus encourages us to do exactly that! “Keep on asking…keep on seeking…keep on knocking.” At another time, Jesus told the parable of a widow who kept going to an evil judge pleading for justice. The unjust judge didn’t care about the woman but he finally gave her what she wanted because she was bothering him (cf: Luke 18:2ff). In our text, Jesus tells of a man who would not come down and give his friend some food because he was his friend, but because of persistence. God wants us to keep on asking until such time that He were to give us a clear “no” in answer to our prayer. God is so much different than that wicked judge. He is so much different than just a mere friend. He wants us to be persistent, to go continually to Him for all of our needs and to ask anything that weighs upon our hearts.
In the storehouse of God’s blessings there are those gifts that He gives to all people. For example, sun, rain, food, and clothing. There are blessings which He gives only to believers and there are those that He specifically tailors for each of you individually. Among God’s blessings there are also those He has prepared for you, but you do not have them because you haven’t asked for them. The apostle James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
If we go to God with our needs and ask, “Father, may I” but then despise the ways He has clearly given us to receive those blessings, then we are not approaching prayer properly. Praying for “daily bread” and not being willing to work conflicts with God’s Word which says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Praying for a stronger faith and never going to God’s Word or avoiding worship despises the means God has given you to strengthen your faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Praying for a better relationship among friends or acquaintances and never once examining yourself to see “what am I contributing to these problems?” again ignores part of the answer God has already given to that prayer in His Word. Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:8).
For what blessings can we pray and ask? “Daddy, can I really be forgiven all that I’ve done?” Come confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness. Jesus said, “…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Through that confession and reliance on the Gospel of Christ, the Holy Spirit will come and work in your hearts and strengthen you and reassure you that “Yes, your sins are indeed forgiven!”
We might pray for safe travel on a large trip, but how about safe travel in that quick run to the grocery store when “I’ll be right back.” We can pray for that as well.
We pray for career decisions—BIG, life-altering events. Let us also pray for decisions that are day-to-day and seem so simple.
Pray looking ahead. Don’t wait until a decision or problem is upon you to start praying. Luther said that it would be good to pray for your child as soon as he is born, asking God to one day provide him with a God-fearing, God-pleasing spouse.
Pray for the people who are without Christ, or without food and the things needful for this life. Pray for those who are in authority. Pray for the simple and mundane things of life. These are the things that you are able to do without even thinking. They become very “matter-of-fact” and an assumed part of your daily life, but PRAY about those things! There is NOTHING too small, nor too big for which you cannot pray!
“DADDY, CAN I?”
The Father’s response: “Oh, My child, My dear, dear child. There will be times when I will say “Yes” and there will be times when I will say “No” and there will be times that I will delay, but always know that I have listened. There will be times when it will be hard to accept My way instead of your way, but one day you’ll see why I chose to answer you in the way I did. So, keep coming to me with everything and trust Me to give you the answer that you need most to receive.
“Daddy, I’m scared!” What child has never been frightened? What child has never needed the comfort of a stronger, more able parent?
When we consider our position in a sinful world, knowing that as children of God the world will oppose us and everything for which we stand, we will find many reasons to be afraid. Jesus Himself said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
We need to acknowledge the great danger which assaults our souls. We have three great spiritual enemies continually working against us. The Devil is out there trying to pull us away from Christ and lead us into sin and condemnation. He is the “roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The world and all of its worldly philosophy and pleasure-seeking lust is all around us attempting to influence us and seduce us into its life. It is a great danger to our souls and one about which we could be very much afraid! The world strives to make us think like it thinks, to feel like it feels, and to love what it loves. The apostles warned the Christians again and again in their letters. Paul warned the Colossians, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Paul warned the Romans, “…do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). John warns, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). If the whole world lies under the sway of the roaring lion who is seeking to devour us is there not cause for fear!?
The Devil and the world are “out there” trying to destroy us, but the most fearsome of our enemies lurks within each of us: our own sinful flesh! Our flesh is the most fearsome because it goes wherever we go. We are a danger to ourselves. We can have sin growing in us. “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18).
Add to all of this the evil and harmful things in the world that could trouble us: Disasters of every sort—floods, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, fire, loss of property, loss of home, loss of employment, loss of family, and harm done to property, possessions, our own lives, or those of our loved ones. Every time you hear the siren travel across town, you know SOMETHING has occurred.
Temptation, disaster, and evil surround us on the outside and temptation, struggles, and fears afflict us from within. They’re everywhere!! One of our hymns expresses it so well: “Fightings and fears within, without!” [TLH #388, st.3]
In the midst of so much fear and insecurity we can pray, “Daddy, I’m scared!” and our Father in heaven will hear and answer. Jesus says, “Keep on seeking and you will find.” When you are in need of courage and strength, when you need security and help in trouble, seek the Lord and you will find! The Lord our God will provide security and He will help! “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
God wants us to keep on seeking His help in every need and at times of every trouble. He says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). God also promises through Paul, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
“Daddy, I’m scared.”
The Father’s response: “I know my child, I know. I cannot take hardship totally away from you in this life of sin. At times I will allow hardship and trouble and fearful times to come, but remember I am with you always. Remember My power and ability to help you. Remember my love for you and how I will watch over you. Remember that I have redeemed you, you are Mine (cf: Isaiah 43:1ff). I will not let anything separate you from the love of Christ (cf: Romans 8:38). You are My sheep nothing and no one is going to pluck you out of My hand (cf: John 10:28). You are SAFE!
It is hard to find a greater exuberance than a young child excited by something that has happened or something he has received. “Daddy, guess what!” and excitement flows.
The excitement we express to our heavenly Father is like that of a child who is excited because of a gift he has received from his father, or something his father has done for him. “Oh, Daddy! The gift you gave me is so wonderful it does….and I can use it for…and it’s perfect….THANK YOU SO MUCH! Daddy, guess what!! I LOVE YOU!!”
Jesus says, “Keep on knocking and it shall be opened to you.” As we pray and as the Lord richly blesses us out of His grace, He will open the storehouses of His blessings to us. When the doors of God’s grace are opened to us, Oh, what great things we will see! “Every good and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the father of lights” (James 1:17).
As we grow in our prayer life and keep asking more and more as a regular part of our daily lives; and as we remember to thank God more and more for the many blessings He gives, our eyes will be opened to see even more blessings we have been missing together with new ones God is giving. God knows very well those things of which we have need, but He wants us to pray so that we will learn (as Luther explained) “to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” [Small Catechism, 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer]
The greatest reason we have to become excited and to give great praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to God goes far beyond the “daily bread” – the many material blessings He gives. To have the door of God’s grace open to us and have that grace so abundantly outpoured upon us so that our sins are all completely forgiven is truly amazing and well-worthy of Christian excitement! Each time we look upon the cross and recall how Jesus offered His life for us so that we could live with Him forever, we can be filled with awe and thanks. “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20)
If we faithfully realize all that the Lord gives us out of His grace when He opens the doors of His blessings, then we too can be filled with excitement and overflow with thanksgiving:“Heavenly Father, how wonderful You are to me and everything You give to me is so great. Thank you!…Thank You! … and Daddy, Guess What!! – I LOVE YOU!!”
“DADDY, GUESS WHAT!”
The Father’s response: Oh, dear child, I’m so glad you are mine! If you think these blessings are great, just wait until you see what else I have in mind for you. Keep asking, I want to shower even more grace upon you (cf: John 1:16). I have even greater things in mind for you in this life and even that cannot begin to compare to what I am preparing for you in heaven! The glory and the joy you will have with me is so wonderful I can’t describe it to you; but trust me, you will be blessed! Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking and I will keep hearing your prayers and answering them.
“Behold! What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1) and be able to approach him saying: DADDY! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.