Faithful Prayer

To most of you, I am a completely new face so let me just briefly tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Erika. I’m currently a student at Rochester College. My passion has always been medicine, but through an unexpected turn of events, I’ve discovered a new passion for preaching. I’m now on a very interesting journey of exploring both of these ministries! Thank you for having me here today and allowing me to worship with you!

I freely admit it, I do not pray as much as I think that I ought to. And I don’t even count half of my prayers as actually being prayers because somehow, maybe you’ve heard of this before, my prayers undergo this crazy transformation where they turn into to-do lists or replays of the events of that day. They often end up going like this, “God, thank you for all of the ways in which you have blessed me. Thank you for my family and friends… Oh! I forgot to ask my friends what they were bringing to the pot luck. Maybe I’ll make pasta salad? Do I have pasta already? I definitely need a couple more tomatoes. And cucumbers…and I can’t forget cereal this time. ”

10 minutes and a mental shopping list later, I’m asleep.

When I was younger, I used to think that if I didn’t actually say “Amen” at the end that my prayer wouldn’t be delivered. Almost like trying to send a letter without a stamp. I would occasionally throw an “amen” in the middle of my prayer just to make sure at least half made it.

Or does anyone else try to get reeeeeally specific with their prayers? “Please protect my family all day, every day, all night, every night. Oh and by the way, when I say ‘family’ I mean my mother, my father, my brother, my grandma…”

Maybe God is concerned with technicalities like that… “You prayed for ‘family’ but you didn’t say which family!” I thought unanswered prayers must have meant that I was praying wrong. That I had somehow used the wrong words.

So when I read Luke 11, I always want to give that disciple a pat on the back, because that’s a question I really want to know the answer to. “How are we to pray? Teach us to pray.”

We are given numerous accounts of Jesus praying in significant moments of his life. Jesus prays at his baptism, before choosing his apostles, at his transfiguration, on the cross, before his death…

Luke 5:16 reads, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

The Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us, the one with the most direct line of communication with God – often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Surely then we cannot take the significance of prayer lightly. So when Jesus tells us exactly how to pray, we ought to really pay attention.

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

We have recited a version of this, the Lord’s Prayer, probably hundreds of times. The words flow effortlessly from memory and disappear back into memory as soon as they’re spoken.

But this is the prayer Jesus himself taught his disciples to pray. Have we ever asked ourselves why? Why these words? Why this prayer? What is Jesus trying to teach us about our relationship with God?

In the verses that follow, we see a bigger theme starting to emerge. We begin to see that Jesus is calling us to an intimate relationship with God. One that must be attended to daily. One in which we are urged to have faith that God hears our prayers and that we can shamelessly ask for whatever we may want or need.

In just the first word of the prayer, “Father,” we already begin to embrace that loving, intimate relationship. A father provides, a father loves, a father gives freely of himself for his children. This, too, is how our heavenly father cares for us and this is the relationship God wants with his children.

Jesus tells us to turn to God for our daily nourishment, our daily bread. The version of the Lord’s Prayer I’m used to saying reads, “give us THIS day our daily bread.” I find that to be more fitting for the relationship we are being called to. We pray for nourishment, be it spiritual or physical, for THIS day. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today. And then tomorrow we seek our daily bread again. We rely on God THIS day and every day. Consequently we pray to God THIS day and every day. It’s not like going to the grocery store and stocking up and then we’re good until next week. We acknowledge our daily dependence on God and confirm our faith in God that he will provide. In this one line of prayer, we learn so much about what God wants from us. God wants that intimate relationship with us. How are we to achieve such a relationship without daily communication? God wants us to rely on him for his mercy, love and goodness and for us to know that we CAN. How are we to remember this unless we ask God daily for his gifts?

In the parable that follows, a man seeks the help of his friend at a most inconvenient time. Personally, I hate being woken up, I sympathize with the man who doesn’t want to get out of bed. I understand his initial response. But the friend comes in a time of need, asking shamelessly for provisions for his guest. The man, if for no other reason than to avoid public dishonor, will oblige his friend.

Even we, who tend to act out of our own self-interests, will eventually give in to a shameless request, even if for the wrong reasons. Surely then our loving, caring, holy God wants us to come to him with such requests. Knock on his door at midnight, ask for what we want and desire. Come to God without shame.

Now that we have this recipe for prayer, we know what words to say, all of our prayers will be answered, right? “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Yet any of us who have prayed know that this isn’t always the case. Prayers seemingly go unanswered. We’ve asked, sought, knocked and been denied.

This is the hardest part about prayer. Sometimes in our shameless asking, we ask unwisely. Sometimes we have received our answer and it’s simply “no.” This is where we are asked to be more than just faithful in our daily prayers to God. We must pray WITH faith. Faith that God, your Father in heaven, knows better than you do how to give good gifts. Faith that he will not give you a snake instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg. Faith that he WILL give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

As we now sing the Lord’s Prayer together, let us hear the words as Jesus spoke them, remembering that we are called to be shamelessly present before God daily. To rely on him and to have faith in him.

Erika Schmeck

Rochester College Student