Text: Luke 11:1-13

Sunday July 24th, 2022 – Pentecost 7

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this 7th Sunday after Pentecost is from Luke 11 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that there is no prayer prayed in your name that goes unanswered. Remind us that according to your good and gracious will you always give us what we need. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

I don’t know about you, but listening to Jesus describe prayer in our Gospel lesson for this morning makes it sound a lot better than how things tend to really work out in life.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” It’s all so easy, right? “Well if it’s so easy, then why don’t all my prayers get answered? Am I doing something wrong? Am I wrong? Am I not “holy/good enough” to merit what I’m asking for?

Is there something I need to do in order to get right with God before He’ll bless me with everything I ask for? Or…is Jesus maybe exaggerating for effect here? Maybe it’s not me after all. Maybe Jesus is just embellishing the truth a little. After all, we don’t get everything we want and pray for. All prayers don’t get answered, right?”

It’s unfortunate, but when struggles and questions like these arise (and they do!), many people are quick to toss prayer aside like its some “lucky” rabbit’s foot that’s lost its power. It doesn’t work, at least not as good as we want it to when we want it to. Apparently, prayer (and Jesus) can’t always be counted on.

Now, I know that this sounds like a pretty harsh and sinful thing to say, but I also know, without asking for a show of hands, that everyone here has, at one time or another, prayed for something and then not received the desired result.

Everyone here has prayed for something that we really wanted, be it big or small, and come up empty. That hurts, doesn’t it? You can deny it all you want, but those very same sinful questions and conclusions have a way of entering into our hearts and minds when things don’t go the way we planned and prayed.

“Why God? You said, ‘Ask and you will receive.’ Well…I’ve worn myself out with all my asking, and I’ve received NOTHING in return. In fact, Lord, I’ve basically asked you for a fish, and you’ve given me a serpent in return. I have asked for a simple proverbial good egg in my life, and you have given me a wretched scorpion.”

That brings up an interesting point. When you pray, whose plans are you concerned with—your’s or God’s? We know the right answer, don’t we? “Thy will be done,” and not, “My will be done.” We also know the ugly truth that plays out in our prayer lives all the time—the Burger King prayer life, as I like to call it.

“I want it my way, right away.” Now, in faith we confess that we do understand that God, as our loving heavenly Father, does not always say “yes” to each and every prayer. We get that. We understand. We know that God is not some “genie in a bottle” who simply exists to grant our every wish and command.

In faith we understand that God also answers “no” to our prayers. That’s a fact that is very easy to teach and share with others when they’re struggling, but it is a bitter, jagged pill to swallow when you’re on the receiving end.

Saying “no” to someone you love: We certainly understand this reality in everyday family life, don’t we? As adults we understand that not everything a kid asks for is good for them. Do you say “no” to your kids sometimes?

Why do you do it? Do you say no just to be mean; to power-trip and lord over the little minions under you? No! When you say “no” you say it out of love because that’s what needs to be done. Sure it doesn’t make them happy.

They may even throw a temper-tantrum and call you names. They’ll tell you and anyone else who will listen that they hate you. They’ll make a dramatic “poor pitiful me” scene and then storm off and slam the door on you. It happens. It happens at home with loved ones.

It happens at church with loved ones. Big deal! You’re not called by God to be their friend. You’re called to be their parent—the head of the household. Nobody ever said being a good parent is easy! The kids may be unhappy with you because you dared to tell them no and stand by your guns.

They’re upset…but they’re safe. They’re protected. Someday when they mature a bit they may have the wisdom to finally recognize and give thanks for your love—a love that was willing to say “no” to them for their own good and well-being.

My friends: This is the same reality in our relationship with our heavenly Father. I don’t care what Garth Brooks says. There is no such thing as “unanswered prayer.” No prayer is ever unanswered. If you didn’t get your desired result it means that your loving heavenly Father either said “not yet” or “no” for your own good and for the good of His people.

“But pastor, what about the whole ‘ask and receive’ thing that Jesus was talking about? He said Himself, ‘everyone who asks will receive.’” Well, you’re absolutely right. Jesus did say that, and He meant every word of it. He still does.

However, what is a faithful child of God to be concerned about—their will or the will of their heavenly Father? Are you hearing echoes of Christ’s faithful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane?

“Father, if it be Your will, take this cup of suffering from Me. But, not my will be done; let Your will be done.” If you remember, Christ prayed that prayer three times that evening. Even He wasn’t entirely happy about hearing “no.”

However, in faith—perfect faith—He did listen to His Father because He knew and trusted that His Father knew what was best for Him and for His people; that best thing being Christ crucified on a criminal’s cross.

I want you to think about that for a moment. The answer to Jesus’ prayer was not only “no,” which is hard enough in itself to come to grips with sometimes, but that “no” answer also included pain, suffering, and death on a cross. God’s answer to His own Son’s prayer for deliverance was a death sentence.

Now, does this mean that God is a hateful, vengeful God? No! In fact, it’s just the opposite! God said “no” to His own Son, Jesus, so that we could have everlasting life. He said “no” to Jesus so He could, in turn, say “yes” to us being declared completely innocent and forgiven and redeemed in Christ’s blood.

Make no mistakes: The only way to complete forgiveness and everlasting salvation is very narrow and leads right through the bloody cross of Calvary. There are no shortcuts or alternative routes. This is it!

“Pastor, you’re right, but you still haven’t addressed the whole ‘ask and receive’ thing as it pertains to us in everyday life.” Well…in a way, I have. As baptized children of God with a firm faith in His grace alone because of Christ alone, our most important concern must be Christ and our faith in Him and what He’s done for us.

As children of faith, we know that the worries and concerns of everyday life in this fallen and sinful world must take a necessary backseat to proper fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 13 when He speaks of the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

Notice that the heavenly Father’s answer to the faithful prayer is not temporal or material in nature. What I mean by this is that God doesn’t try to shut you up when your struggling by simply throwing a materialistic bone your way.

“Lord, I’ve lost my job and my health is failing. Help me, Lord. Deliver me. Preserve me. Protect me. Give me this day my daily bread, and forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”

Your Lord doesn’t respond by saying, “Here’s a winning lottery ticket. That should solve all your problems. Now go away and be quiet.”

That’s not how God works. That’s how we often work. We try to solve problems—even spiritual problems—not by getting at the root cause of the problem, but by simply throwing money or goods at the problem until it goes away. Sadly, that’s what we sometimes want from God. That’s what we sometimes unfaithfully pray for—full bellies and full bank accounts.

Just mask the problem and make it out of sight and out of mind. But those sorts of loveless, empty materialistic responses don’t make the problem go away, especially when the problem is a trust problem; a trust in God above all things problem.

Those false materialistic crutches and promises are the lies of the devil. “All this could be yours if you just bow your knee to me.” That’s not the truth, and that’s not God’s answer to faithful prayer.

I know this will sound strange, but God’s answer to faithful prayer is faith in Jesus—not more faith, but strengthened and renewed saving faith. His answer is faith that is renewed and strengthened by His Holy Spirit, who enables us to behold and bear each and every cross that comes our way; who enables us to behold each and every one of His good gifts in our lives—big or small, temporal or eternal—and praise and thank Him for His divinely unmerited and undeserved goodness, providence, and love.

My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus: May your heavenly Father grant you this humble, simple saving faith of a child all your remaining days so that no matter what befalls you in this life, no matter what crosses you find yourself bearing, you too may always call upon your Father with the blessed assurance of saving faith, trusting that He not only hears you, but that He answers you according to His good and gracious plan for you and for all His people—a good and gracious plan that begins and ends with the crucified and resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ.

You know…recognized in faith; recognized through the lens of Christ’s cross, I guess this asking and receiving thing really is that easy, isn’t it? The life lived in faith—faith that talks to God just like a child unashamedly and boldly talks to daddy; faith that trusts in the fact that our heavenly Father really does know what’s best for His children. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.