Sermon for Sunday 24th July 2022

Do you remember the first time you prayed? Maybe it was a prayer in assembly at school or perhaps a prayer taught to you by a friend or relative. As with many things in life, it is by observing their relatives and other significant adults that children often learn to pray.

Mrs Cameron invited some people to dinner. When everyone was sat at the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say grace?” I don’t know what to say,” the little girl replied. The guests all smiled politely in order to encourage the little girl. “Well Just say what you hear Mummy say, ” her mother said. The little girl bowed her head and the guests all did the same.  “Right – what mummy says –  ok- Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these tedious people to dinner?”

In another household a five-year-old said grace at family dinner one night. “Dear God, thank you for these cream cakes.” When he’d finished, his parents asked him why he thanked God for the cream cakes when they were having chicken. The five year old smiled and said, “I just thought I’d see if He was paying attention tonight.”

How do we know what to pray? And what should we expect in return for our prayers? The little five year old was obviously expecting magical transformation of chicken into cream cakes – and I’m totally with him on that! And sometimes such innocent expectation can appear to be rewarded.

During the intercessions one Sunday in one particular church, there was a loud whistle from one of the back pews. Calum’s mother was horrified. She hushed him into silence, and after church, asked: “Calum, whatever made you do such a thing?” Calum answered soberly: “I asked God to teach me to whistle… And just then He  did!”

If only it was as simple as that.

In our gospel passage this morning we find Jesus teaching His disciples about prayer. In fact, verse 1 tells us that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They wanted to learn from their teacher as John the Baptist had taught his disciples.

The Gospels record for us again and again that Jesus Himself prayed daily and it was His practice to go out early in the morning and pray.

His disciples wanted their Master to teach them to pray. Jesus provides for them the model prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer.

He showed them that prayer should be respectful of God and yet very personal.

He showed them that prayer should be full of thanksgiving and yet with requests.

He showed them that prayer is asking for forgiveness of sins and also asking to resist sin.

All of these different elements are part of Jesus’ prayer… but He does not stop His teaching there. He continues with a parable.

As we look at this simple parable, it seems to be a story about neighbours and the need to borrow. And that certainly is what the story is about on the surface.

Jesus’ story tells of crowded village life in His day. Bread was always baked in the morning and so if the day’s supply ran out, borrowing was the practice.

The east doors of many homes were usually open during the day and shut up at night. Knocking on a closed door meant that it was an extreme emergency.

Now many people in Jesus’ day travelled at night to avoid the heat of the day and so to have guests arrive at night was not unusual.

We hear that one neighbour had guests arrive and there was no bread. So what do you do? You ask your neighbour if you can borrow.

In his story Jesus tells us that the neighbour did not want to rise and wake his family, but did eventually get up and provide for his neighbour. That’s human nature.

There is more to the story of course. Jesus is teaching about prayer and this parable is meant as an illustration and as insight into prayer. Jesus teaches us two lessons in regard to prayer in this passage. First, that we must be persistent in prayer and second, we ourselves may in fact be the answer to prayer.

BE PERSISTENT IN OUR PRAYERS

Persistence is not something that we usually associate with prayer. I think that our habit in prayer is to ask for something or to pray for someone once or twice and then stop.

Perhaps we then pray for something or someone else. We are instant kind of people and are used to things happening as we ask for them.

We have instant coffee so that you do not have to wait for your hot drink in the morning. There is instant replay at sporting events where referees can look at play again to make the right call.

Many competitions offer an instant prize so that the person does not have to send for it. We are used to an instant kind of life. And sometimes that attitude leaks into our prayer life.

The word that is mentioned in this passage in verse 8 is actually, “boldness.” It is because of the “boldness” of this person that the neighbour consents to rise and provide the bread.

This word is meant to make us think of persisting without regard to time or place or people. It is the same word (used twice in the New Testament) in Acts 4:29 when Peter prays for those preaching the Gospel, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

Peter wants the messengers of God to speak about Jesus at all times and to all people without any fear or question. He wants them to be bold.

And so it is with us in our prayers.

The parable shows that a bold and persistent person receives help from his neighbour.

The example in verses 11-13 are meant to be a logical argument for our persistent prayers before God. Jesus knows that when a child asks for something from a parent, they obviously do their best to accommodate their child.

If the child asks for a fish, the parent will get a fish. If the child asks for an egg, usually the response is an egg. It is absurd to think that a parent would give their child a snake. It is absurd to think that a parent would give their child a scorpion. If that is true for us, then how much more true of our Heavenly Father (11:13).

Jesus wants us to know that when we boldly come to God in prayer, He hears us and desires to answer.

Colossians 4:2 commands us, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” The King James Version says it a little bit better, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” This word “continue” means being steadfast and to continue being devoted to something. Acts 1:14 and Romans 12:12 uses this word in connection with prayer and continuing to pray with others. God wants us to be persistent in our prayers.

WE MAY BE THE ANSWER TO PRAYER

When I read this parable, I can imagine myself as the person in need, but I can also imagine myself as the other person in the story.

I can see myself as the one asleep and a neighbour comes knocking on my door in need of something.

I am the father that is asked for bread or an egg. I am the one that has the opportunity to help.

God certainly answers prayer and perhaps he uses me or you to answer someone else’s prayer. James 2:15-16 says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

What good is it if we say we will pray for someone, but do nothing to help if we have the means? What good is it to pray that someone will get a job if we know of jobs available and do not communicate such information to them? What good is it to pray for someone’s financial situation if we keep extra money to ourselves? What good is it for people to go without clothing when we have wardrobes full of clothing in our homes? Sometimes we might be the answer to someone’s prayer if we are willing to be used by God.

So, be persistent in your prayers – but also be prepared to be the answer to other people’s prayers. Be diligent, be steadfast – God hears us and He wants to answer us.

I just want to end my sermon by sharing one final prayer from a little boy-

“Dear God, please take care of my daddy and my mummy and my sister and my brother and my doggy and me. Oh, and please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, we’re all gonna be in a really big mess.” Amen.

Fr Simon

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