Pentecost 10c

Preached: August 5, 2007

Pray without Shame
Luke 11:1-13

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who pours out his Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. That word today is Luke 11.

And it happened when he was in a certain place praying, that when he stopped one of the disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, just as also John taught his disciples. He said to them, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us daily bread day by day. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive all who owe us. And lead us not into temptation.
He said to them, Who of you would have a friend, and go to him in the middle of the night, and say to him, Friend, lend me three pieces of bread, since my friend came to me from a journey and I do not have something to set before him. The one inside answers and says, Stop troubling me. The door has already been shut and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you [bread]. I say to you, even though he will not get up and give him [bread] because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
I myself say to you: Keep asking and it will be given to you. Keep seeking and you will find. Keep knocking and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks, it will be opened.
Now which of you who are fathers, if your son asks for bread, wouldn't give him a stone, would you? Or asking for a fish, wouldn't give him a snake in place of the fish, would you? Or if he asks for an egg, wouldn't give him a scorpion? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more the father from heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

Moxie, chutzpah, audacity, nerve, pluck. Those words could describe the man in Jesus' illustration who troubles his friend in the middle of the night. Could you picture yourself doing that? You come to the house. All is dark. They've obviously been in bed for awhile. You don't have a pressing need that couldn't wait until the morning. No one was going to die of hunger. I think I would be far too embarrassed, far too ashamed, to disturb their rest for just a few pieces of bread. Oh, if I had a pressing problem and needed help right away, then of course go to a close friend or family or pastor or counselor but for just a few pieces of bread?

Now if I had gathered the pluck to go up the door and then was told in no uncertain terms, Stop bothering me. I can't help you now. Get out of here. I'd leave apologetically, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. I should have known better. But not this man, he keeps on persistently asking and asking. What moxie, chutzpah, audacity, nerve, and pluck! He asks without shame.

Jesus is not teaching social etiquette here, as you well know. He is illustrating prayer. Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11:1 NIV), a disciple asks him. Then after summarizing what we now call the Lord's Prayer, Jesus gives this illustration about the boldness, or we might even say shamelessness, with which God wants us to pray. This brings us to our theme: Pray without shame.

Now such an attitude in prayer can be sinful if it comes from the wrong reasons. To pray without shame because we think we have earned God's favor by our attempts to do good is unbelief and not prayer. To pray without shame because we think we can make a deal with God as if he were on our level is blind ignorance and not prayer. To pray without shame because we don't think that our sins amount to anything to be ashamed about is denial of reality and not prayer.

But Jesus makes it clear in the text why we are to pray without shame. Pray without shame because the Father has adopted you. Pray without shame because God has promised the best.

A. Because the Father has adopted you

Look no farther than the opening of the Lord's Prayer for why we pray without shame. How does Jesus teach us to address the almighty God? Father (Luke 11:2 NIV). What Good News is in that single word! Father. But wait! How can we, mere creatures, call the almighty Creator by such a familiar name? Even more so, how can we, dirty sinners, claim the holy God as our Father? How can we, who were born as rebels and his enemies, claim a place in the Father's family? How? Because of the Son.

What Good News is in that word, Father, when we speak it with faith in the Son. For the Son, Jesus Christ, came from the Father full of grace and truth. He made the Father known. He, who is one God with the Father, became flesh like us as well. Why? To bring us, who are flesh, into the family, to make you a child of God. That's what he did for you in Baptism. In Baptism he clothed you with his righteousness to make you God's child. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27 NIV).

When you pray, pray without shame remembering your Baptism. For in your baptismal faith you do not stand before the holy God in the nakedness of your sin. That would be something to be ashamed of. But rather you stand clothed with Christ in his royal robes. You are clothed with the Son of God, for through faith in him you are children of God, adopted by your heavenly Father.

Pray without shame as you remember your Baptism. For at you Baptism you were reborn into God's family. You were reborn not because of good things you had done but because of God's mercy. You were reborn through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, which is called Baptism.

As a reborn, baptized child of God, call on God as your true Father, for Jesus has truly brought you into the family by his blood shed for your sins. As a reborn, baptized child of God, call on him without shame, call on him with the boldness of dear child going to his or her dear Father, for you are clothed with Jesus' righteousness. Remember how Luther explained the first part of the Lord's Prayer in the Catechism: With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father (Luther's Small Catechism, a contemporary translation, © 1979 Northwestern Publishing House). Pray without shame because the Father has adopted you.

B. Because God promises the best

Yet when we recognize just the greatness of our sin and our inborn wretchedness, and even though now we cling in faith to Jesus' blood that washes us clean each day that very humbleness of faith that confesses our unworthiness and looks to Jesus alone for forgiveness, that very humbleness may lead us to wonder whether we dare to pray. God has already given so much we don't deserve. Shouldn't we be embarrassed and ashamed to keep on asking? Dare we ask for more?

Yes! Dare to ask. Pray without shame. Jesus knew how our sinful flesh would abuse Spirit-worked humbleness to mislead us into thinking we should not ask from God. So he commands: Ask. Seek. Knock. Or if you want to better reflect the form of the Greek verb: Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking. So if the devil whispers in your ear: How dare you, sinner, to talk to the holy God! Beat him back by saying, My Father has not only invited me to pray. He has commanded me to do so. So great is his desire that I pray. And his command is greater than anything you say, Satan. Pray without shame because you have his command that shows how much God wants to hear your prayers.

And to this command, Jesus has added a wonderful promise for your faith to hold on to. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9, 10 NIV). God answers every prayer that comes from you, his dear child. Pray without shame because you have God's promises.

And his answer is the best. If earthly fathers give good gifts to our children, even though we are evil, how much more doesn't our good God give what is best! And that is why sometimes we may feel that God hasn't heard our prayers. We are looking for the answer we think is best instead of trusting him to give what he knows is best. For example, we might think we need more money, when God's answer may be to teach us contentment in him. We might think we need a better situation in life, when God's answer may be to strengthen us to persevere by trusting him. We might think we need recovery from illness, when God's answer may be to take us to heaven to be with him.

And Jesus reminds of the best gift God give in answer to our prayers.How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13 NIV). The Holy Spirit is God's best answer. Through the Word and Sacraments the Father answers your prayers and gives you the Holy Spirit along with all his fruit and gifts, so that we grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and in all good works and service towards others. And so also, in the Lord's Prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit in us to keep God's name holy and to let his kingdom come is prayed for first.

So pray without shame not with pride or arrogance or self-importance, but with faith. Faith believes that our shameful sin is covered with Jesus as our Baptism promises and that we are reborn as God's children. Pray without shame because the Father has adopted you. Faith hears the Lord's command to pray and his promise to hear. So faith prays boldly without shame trusting our Father to pour out his Holy Spirit. Pray without shame because God promises the best.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep you in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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