Sermon — What’s in a Name?
Text — Luke 11:1-13
Day — July 28, 2013; Pentecost 10 (Proper 12)
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN! The text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 11th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Abraham’s God is a giving God. And the best gift He’s given is His Name. Giving His Name, Abraham and his sons can call on Him. Thus in the giving of His Name the Lord gives access to His heart. Truly He is a God of Love. For only Love could compel the heart of the Almighty to lend His ear to the prayers of His saints. Only love delights to listen. Only love moves to be merciful.
Yes, beloved, Abraham’s God is a giving God. And our Giving God gives good gifts. To us, the sons of Abraham, He has given His glory. Under the waters of Baptism the Triune God gifted you and me with His Name. We were Christened with Christ and adopted as sons of Abraham. We were taken from the shame of Sodom and Gomorrah, the disgrace of our sins, the rebellion of our heart, and led to a certain place of refuge.
With His Name He has given His glory. United to His Name, He has raised poor slaves to the dignity of freedom and sonship. Bearing His glory, He has crowned our humanity with honor and set before us the love of His heart. For when God gives His Name He gives access to His heart.
Today, through His Son, He gives the sons of Abraham a lesson in prayer. “As He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
Prayer is the voice of faith before the throne of our Creator. Prayer petitions the Heart of God for the good of His creation and the glory of His Name. Our God delights in prayer. He commands prayer. He invites us to prayer. He listens to our prayers. Prayer seeks His heart and the God of Love wants nothing more than to give His heart and Spirit to you and to me and to the world.
But . . ., we need to be taught how to pray. You see, all prayer is language. As children we must learn the language of our parents. To learn the language of our parents we must first listen. You see, language is spoken into us. We learn language by being spoken to. You were all spoken to before you ever spoke. Therefore, all learned language is responsive language. All speech is answering speech.
In the same way we must learn how to speak to our God. We must learn how to voice the faith of the heart. We must learn how to pray.
Now some might say that prayer is easy . . . “simply pray from the heart. God loves a heartfelt prayer.” Well is that what Jesus gives us today? Is that what we hear first? Does Jesus say, “pray from the heart” or “say whatever’s on your mind”?
Think about it. Do we really know our heart well enough to come before God’s throne? It seems to me that if we’re honest we don’t know our heart as well as we might think. That’s why the Psalmist prays, “create in me a clean heart O God.” You see, Holy Scripture tells us that our heart is the problem . . . it is by nature sinful and unclean and as far removed from our Creator as the east is from the west. The heart wants what the heart wants and in our sinfulness we want life on our conditions, not God’s. Heartfelt prayers too often reflect this.
And not only is our heart sinful and full of selfish motives, self-seeking glory, vain desires, dishonest confessions etc, but it is also constantly plagued by the devil and the world. I’m sure everyone one of us at some time or another has been afflicted, burdened, stressed, and/or confused by the circumstances of life and in the midst of that affliction sought to pray, wanted to pray, tried to pray . . . but couldn’t find the words. We didn’t know what to pray for, how to ask for it, if we even should be asking for it. Not only were we ignorant of speech we were also ignorant of God.
Pray from the heart, beloved? It’s not our heart we need to know. It’s the Lord’s heart. Sin, the devil and the world prevent us from knowing His heart aright and therefore we fail to ask for the things that we ought. Instead we spend our time babbling the assumptions of our heart when we should be petitioning His heart, asking Him to give us what He says we need and what His Word says He delights in giving.
The truth is, we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, but on account of our fallen nature we do not know how to ask for them or receive them from the God who lends low His ear. And so, we need to be taught how to ask and how to receive. And who better to teach us than the one whom the Father has sent from His Heart? He knows our heart better than anyone.
Therefore when you pray, say . . . “Our Father in heaven. . .” Jesus gives us prayer. He gives us the Lord’s Prayer. And the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what we should be asking for and what God delights in giving. The Lord’s Prayer is God’s first word to us. He speaks into us, teaches us what to say and what to ask for. Speaking into us, He graciously invites us to believe and in believing to pray.
From the very beginning of the Lord’s prayer, our hearts are set at ease. God once again gifts us with His Name. The Name first given us in our baptism echoes in our ears and reminds us that the God of Abraham is also our God and He wills be to known by us as “Father” . . . not mother, not Allah, or Vishnu, or Hare Krishna or any other name, not even almighty. These are not His Name. These are not what He’s given us. He is Father and He is our Father.
In Fatherly love our giving God has enfleshed His heart in the person of His Son. His only-begotten Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In meekness and humility Jesus unveiled the Love of God for all to see, hear, and touch. His ears harkened to the call of lepers. His hands healed the sick. His voice raised the dead. With bread and fish He served thousands. He forgave prostitutes and paralytics. His arms embraced infants and little children even as He cloaked them with His Word. He supped with the unrighteous and preached to the Pharisees. He girded Himself in the form of a slave and washed feet. He prepares the feast of the Lamb. He is the Lamb . . . the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Taking them away, He triumphs over them, making a public spectacle of them, having nailed them to the cross in His flesh. This is God’s heart . . .set before you and me. Jesus is the first Word, the only-begotten Word, the Word which teaches you and me to pray.
Therefore, when you pray, pray the Lord’s Prayer and pray it with faith and pray it persistently. For in His prayer you ask for all the right things, things which you need, things which God promises to give you. You pray for God’s Name, God’s Kingdom, God’s Will. You pray for daily bread, eternal bread, the bread of life, the bread which delivers you from sin, temptation and evil, even the evil one. Every aspect of life is summed up in the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore, ask! Seek! Knock! Allow God’s first word, the word spoken into you, the Word covering you since your baptism, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us to save us from our sin, our death, the devil and this world, allow this Word to echo back to God what He says you need and what He delights in giving!
In so doing, though your life may seem like you’ve entered a lion’s den where only death and despair dwell, your voice now ascends to the throne of God as a sweet and pleasing incense. And with your prayers you are using words that break cedars, shake the wilderness, make oaks whirl and strip forests bare. The God of Creation, for the sake of His Son, hears your prayers, delights in your prayers, and answers your prayers, not always as you would like, but . . . by faith, you know always for your good.
Beloved in the Lord, the God of Abraham is a Good God, who delights in giving Good things to His children. He has given us His Name, His Word, His Son. He is a God of Love and Love gives all it has. Today, Love gives you the Lord’s Prayer from the lips of His Son. We, by faith receive this prayer, pray this prayer, and rejoice as He answers this prayer from His heart for our good. Amen!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!