Worship at 9 am
10:15 am Sunday School
Pastor Glenn Zimbelman
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America|
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Lord's Prayer-Part 1 - August 20, 2017
Picture of Prayer
For the next three Sundays we will focus on the Lord’s Prayer. We will look at Luther’s commentary on each of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. We will also use this time to focus a bit on prayer in general. What prayer is, and what it isn’t.
Picture of Basketball Hoop
When I started out as a pastor in Madison, Wisconsin I joined the YMCA. They played pickup basketball at noon. It was kind of a strange experience actually. These men would come in all dressed in their business suits and change into their gym clothes. It was a Jeckle and Hyde experience. Some of them turned into monsters. You see, there were two courts and as long as you kept winning, you kept playing. If you lost, and there were lots of teams ready to play, you might not play the whole rest of the lunch hour. So it was cutthroat basketball. If you missed a wide open shot, your own teammates would glare at you. So I am sitting on the sidelines and a few people knew I was a pastor. This guy misses a wide open two footer. Instead of running back to get on defense, he runs over to me and says, Glenn, please pray for my basketball shot.”
Well I suppose that was this person’s need at the moment. I can just see God at the switchboard in heaven where God receives prayers. Here is one for world hunger. Here is another for world peace. Oh yeah, someone needs help with their basketball shot. Now I do believe God listens and hears all kinds of prayers. Yet, far too many of us think prayer really is this:
Picture of Santa Clause
We think prayer is the way to get our earthly needs met. We want our wishes answered don’t we? We should of course pray for health concerns. We should prayer for those great needs such as hunger, world peace and failed relationships. Jesus prayed for the well-being of his disciples. While we can continue to pray for earthly needs, this is not the primary function of prayer. The real reason for prayer is relationship.
So Jesus is asked by his disciples, Lord, will you teach us how to pray? Jesus than recites to them what we know of as the Lord ’s Prayer. I had a Roman Catholic secretary in Mukwonago, Wisconsin who taught me a lot about being a Roman Catholic. She had a deep faith and loved to tell pope jokes. One of the things I learned from her, is that when someone died, she called that day of death, so and so’s victory day. They are now home with Jesus. She also taught me that the Roman Catholic name for the Lord ’s Prayer is the first two words, Our Father. You see they don’t pray the Lord Prayer, they pray the Our Father.
Picture of Father
My mover in Ohio who went to a non-denominational church in Cleveland knew that I was a pastor and starting a new church. I can’t recall his exact words but he said something like this,
“if people really want to understand God, it means for them to truly believe and embrace God as Father.”
It is hard for some people to relate to the word Father because they have had bad experiences with their biological fathers. But to see God as Father, means that God is someone who loves, wishes, hopes and dreams for the best for God’s children. This means of course that God doesn’t always give us what we want, but gives us what we need. It also means that with prayer, there is an element of trust. That we may not see clearly what God is doing in our lives. We may have to wait things out. We may not ever understand why things happen this side of heaven. But remember, the point of prayer is to be in relationship with God. It is less about the answers and more about the journey. Wow..that is pretty good. It is less about the answers and more about the journey. Part of that journey is learning, trusting and believing in God as Father. This means that prayer is often a matter of trust and obedience. Are we willing to let the Father have our lives, or do we only want things on our turns. A pastor wrote this,
I cannot say "our" if I’m living only for myself. I cannot say "Father" if I don’t try to act like His child.
So when we pray those first two words, Our Father, everything in the Lord’s Prayer follows those two words. Prayer then is an entry point, a beginning if you will, of our walk with God.
In Luther’s small catechism the Lord ’s Prayer begins with the introduction which is the words, Our Father. What does this mean? Luther writes,
“With these word God wants to attract us, that that we come to believe he is truly our Father and we are truly hiS children, in order that we may ask him boldly, and with complete confidences, just as loving children ask their loving fathers”
So these simple words, Our Father begins as faith. God is truly our Father and we are truly God’s children. This is helped of course by reflecting on all the ways God has blessed us. We can recall of course, the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can remind ourselves of all the blessings of God. We are God’s children. It can never be taken from us. Now because we are God’s children, we can pray with boldness and complete confidence.
The BC comic strip had a panel where BC looks up to heaven and says, God are you up there? The next panel shows a sign coming down from heaven and planting itself into the ground. The caption on the sign said, “I am up here”. We wonder does God ever hear or listen to our prayers? Behind that question is a deeper one, does God care? The Our Father is a statement of confidence that God does care because God loves God’s children. All you have to do is to recite John 3:16 to be reminded of that fact.
The Lord’s Prayer continues what Luther calls the first petition, “Hallowed be Your Name”.
Luther responds under, What Does This Mean?
It is true that God’s name is holy in itself, but we ask in this prayer that it may also become holy in and among us.
Luther than further expands by asking a question how does this come about? This is an interesting response.
Whenever the word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as God’s children, also live holy lives according to it. To this end, help us dear Father in heaven! However, whoever teaches and lives otherwise than the word of God teaches, dishonors the name of God among us. Preserve us from this, heavenly Father!
Did you ever think that not living according to God’s word, dishonors God’s name? When we behave as God intends, God’s holy name is honored.
Now it is interesting how taking the Lord’s name in vain is part of our culture. In fact, we dishonor God’s name so much that we don’t even think about it. A friend of mine use to say upon hearing someone say Jesus Christ or God as a swear word would respond by saying this:
OH Do you know Him too!
Think about this, if prayer is a relationship, we would not let others smear the name of a parent, grandparent or trusted friend. Maybe we can stand up for God’s name because it is God’s name that adds power to prayer. This is why Jesus said, ask, whatever you need and the Father will grant it. And then any good prayer will close with the words, In Jesus Name, Amen. Amen is not an exclamation point but rather it translated to mean, Let it be so. So let’s close with prayer,
Dear Heavenly Father, you love us so dearly that you even let our Son die for us. You long to gather your children into your arms. Help us dear Father to climb into your lap, and trust you with our lives because we honor your name and know you love and care for us. We ask this prayer in the name of your most beloved and precious son, Jesus Christ Amen.
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