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Lord, Teach Us to Pray
Luke 11:1


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—July 25, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to call upon God as “Our Father who art in heaven.” St. John writes, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” We have the privilege and honor of addressing God as “Our Father” because he has made us “born again” as his children though faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says in today’s Epistle Reading, “When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins . . . he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” We trust in Jesus as our Savior and we pray in his name, confidently believing that he is interceding for us and that for his sake our Father in heaven hears and answers our prayers. As St. Paul says in 1st Timothy, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men;” and in Romans, “Christ Jesus . . . is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has just finished praying when his disciples say: “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” We also are disciples of Jesus and we also must learn to pray from him. We will learn to pray from Jesus by looking at the example of his own life. The Book of Hebrews says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions.” In the life of Jesus we see a beautiful pattern and example for our own prayers.

The first prayer lesson we learn from the example of Jesus is to pray frequently. Look up in a concordance the words relating to prayer as they occur in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke and John; you will get an entirely different perspective on the story of Jesus’ life. At every turn, the Evangelists record Jesus in prayer. Sometimes it seems there could hardly be a spot in all the Holy Land where Jesus did not once withdraw to pray. As St. Luke says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Learn from Jesus to pray frequently. As St. Paul says in Colossians: “Devote yourselves to prayer;” and in Romans: “Be faithful in prayer;” and in 1 Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing.” And as the Book of Acts says of the early Christians, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Like the first Christians, learn from Jesus to pray frequently.

Learn from Jesus to make the Lord’s house your house of prayer. When Jesus drove the money-changers from the temple he said, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Even as a young boy, Jesus’ parents found him in the temple. “’Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” And at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, St. Luke says simply, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath Day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Learn from Jesus to make the Lord’s house your house of prayer.

But learn from Jesus also not to neglect to pray in private; just you and the Lord, one on one. At one place St. Matthew says, “After he had dismissed the disciples, Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” As Jesus taught, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Learn from Jesus not to neglect to pray in private.

During one of the busiest periods of Jesus’ ministry, St. Mark reports, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Learn from Jesus to take time to pray, especially during your busiest times. There’s a poem that puts it this way:

I got up early one morning,

            and rushed right into the day.

I had so much to accomplish,

            I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me

            and heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.

            He answered, ‘You didn’t ask.’

I got up early this morning

            and paused before entering the day.

I had so much to accomplish

            I had to take time to pray.

When you feel too busy to pray, remember that during one of the busiest periods of Jesus’ ministry, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Learn from Jesus to take time to pray especially during your busiest times.

Learn from Jesus to pray for guidance when facing important decisions. St. Luke says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the whole night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Before making this important decision of choosing the twelve apostles, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer. Learn from Jesus to pray for guidance when facing important decisions.

Learn from Jesus to pray in times of trouble. Jesus says to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. . . Sit here while I pray.” When Jesus faced the torture and torment of Calvary, even he found strength and comfort by kneeling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Book of Acts records that when Paul and Silas were in prison they “were praying and singing hymns to God.” As Psalm 50 says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” And as St. Paul says in Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Learn from Jesus to pray in times of trouble.

Learn from Jesus to pray “Thy will be done.” In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed so earnestly that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. He was praying that if it be possible the cup of suffering he was about to endure would pass from him. But he concluded, “Yet not my will but Thy will be done.” In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, “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.” But we must always balance that promise with God’s plan and pray as Jesus did, “Yet not my will but Thy will be done.” As St. John writes, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Learn from Jesus to pray “Thy will be done.”

Learn from Jesus to pray for your enemies. Even as he was being nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And so Jesus practiced what he preached: “I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him.” Learn from Jesus to pray for your enemies.

Finally, learn from Jesus to pray in the hour of your death. St. Luke says, “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” The Book of Acts records the simple prayer that St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, prayed as he as stoned to death: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Like St. Stephen, learn from Jesus to pray in the hour of your death.

“Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” As disciples of Jesus we will learn to pray from him by looking at the example of his own life, for in the life of Jesus we see a beautiful pattern and example for our own prayers.

Learn from Jesus to pray frequently: “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Learn from Jesus to make the Lord’s house your house of prayer: “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” “My house will be called a house of prayer.”

Learn from Jesus not to neglect to pray in private: “Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” “Go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father.”

Learn from Jesus to take time to pray, especially during your busiest times: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” “I had so much to accomplish, I had to take time to pray.”

Learn from Jesus to pray for guidance when facing important decisions: “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the whole night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”

Learn from Jesus to pray in times of trouble: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. . . Sit here while I pray.” “Call upon me in the day of trouble.”

Learn from Jesus to pray “Thy will be done:” “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” “Yet not my will but Thy will be done.”

Learn from Jesus to pray for your enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Learn from Jesus to pray in the hour of your death: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions.” “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”

Amen.

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