Philippians 4:4-9 and Luke 11:1-13

Paul Harvey told about a 3-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered, she had certain instructions for the little tike: “Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask.”

She put him in the child’s seat and off they went up and down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the cookie section. Seeing the chocolate chip cookies, he said, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.”

They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items she had to back track and they ended up in the cookie aisle again. “Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you that you can’t have any. Now sit down and be quiet.”

Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed that the end was in sight, that this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?” Everyone in the checkout lanes laughed and applauded. Do you think the little boy got his cookies? You bet! The other shoppers moved by his daring pooled their resources. The little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. Just proves that God does answer prayers, even the prayer of a little boy who wants chocolate chip cookies!

In Luke 11:1-4 we read ‘One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He (Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” So, where did: ‘For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory come from? This was added in the 4th or 5th century as a doxology, giving thanks to God for all that he has done for us. Declaring God’s kingdom and power and glory became a protestant prayer. The Catholics do not have that added on.

Jesus taught us what prayer is by his own example. Just read through the gospel of Luke, and you will find Jesus praying consistently at every turn in his life.  He prays as he senses God’s call on his life; He prays before choosing his disciples; He prays as he serves and heals people; He prays as he feels the demands and pressures of his ministry; He prays as he faces the cross; He prays as he finishes his work on the cross.

Jesus is continually praying.  You could say that prayer for him was as vital as taking his next breath.  He knew that in order to live out the life God called him to live, he needed to be continually connected to God in prayer; God was the source of his power.

It was out of his own consistent prayer life that Jesus gives us the teaching we find in Luke 11.  The disciples notice Jesus praying frequently, and they finally get a clue and say, “Teach us to pray.”  They observe that prayer is a vital practice for Jesus, and they want to learn how to do it.  What follows is a profound lesson from Jesus about prayer.  However, notice that it is not a lesson in right technique.  It is not a lesson in right phrasing.  It is not a lesson in how to persuade God.  It is a lesson in submitting to God your life and asking God to help you live for Him.  Effective prayer is a continual connection to God.

If we look closely at Luke 11 and the prayer that Jesus gives us, we will also notice Jesus telling us what is perhaps the most important lesson about prayer.  Effective prayer is not about what we can get from God, but what we receive from God.  There is a big difference!  For, often times, what we want from God and what we receive from God are two different things.  If we pray for money, we may get a job where we can earn the money instead of a gift of money. If we pray for healing of ourselves or a loved one, we may not get the healing, but we learn to depend on God for His strength and peace.

God is not passive, and neither should we be. In fact, Jesus calls us to an active life. We tend to think of prayer as a passive affair, which in many ways it is. After all, prayer is listening before it is speaking. However, it is active listening.

Do you know the difference between passive and active listening? Passive listening is the husband who has one ear to the television when his wife speaks. Passive listening is the wife who has her “to do” list between her and her spouse. Passive listening is the young person who hears everything through ears that are “bored” with anything and everything that isn’t more exciting than what is possible.

Active listening, on the other hand, is giving 100% attention, and facing toward the One who speaks, putting aside remote-controls, “to do” lists, and boredom. Active listening is anything but passive. It’s really hard work, when you think about it. It’s not “zoning out.” Far from it. Prayer is, in part, active listening. How do you receive daily bread from God, if you’re not faced in his direction, attentively reaching out? How does forgiveness become a reality if we don’t step into it – and how are we to step into it if we’re not walking in the direction toward the One from whom forgiveness flows? Active prayer encourages active movement toward God on our part.

Prayer is the presence of God — not that God will always change the situation, but knowing that God is with you, that God is going through the tragedy or suffering or depression or even death with you, not as a far off God, way out in space, but as your very close and loving father. “When you pray,” Jesus says, “say Father.”

Ron Ritche tells a story about his teenage years spend in an orphanage. “My teenage years were spent in an orphanage called Christ’s Home located in a farming district some 30 miles north of Philadelphia. This home was run by some faithful German Christians who were greatly influenced by George Müller, a 19th century Christian who maintained an orphanage in Bristol, England. He lived by faith in God and taught others how to live their lives by totally trusting in the Lord for all their needs. So, my life was surrounded by men and women who were always having private or public prayer meetings in which they would ask God in faith for every need, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, and then expect him to answer their prayers.

They loved to tell all of us kids from time to time the story of how one dark snowy winter day several years earlier at our orphanage, they gathered all the children and workers together in the dining hall for prayer because they had no food. As they were praying to the Lord to provide food for the children, they heard the sound of sleigh bells, which were normally worn on horses that pulled large snow sleds. The ringing of the bells stopped for a few moments, then started up again and slowly drifted away. Finally, the prayer session was finished, and one of the curious workers slipped out of the dining hall to look out on the front lawn. Suddenly there was a great cry of joy, and all the others quickly joined him to see sitting on the steps in the snow enough food for all of us. The only sign of the giver was the tracks the horses and sled had left in the newly fallen snow.

For many years after that Christ’s Home experience I was an observer of prayer, but as the years passed, I discovered, as so many of you have, the need to become a participate in prayer. Why? Because I have been learning from the Lord the same spiritual principle he taught his disciples in Luke 18:1: “…that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” I am finding that there are so many stresses and perplexing problems in my life and the lives of those around me, and that if I am not praying to our gracious and loving heavenly Father, I find myself fainting, simply losing heart.” *

We read in Philippians 4:4-7, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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 transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

The amazing thing is that Paul wrote these words to the church in Philippi, from prison while he was, in effect, on death row. We are told that when he penned this epistle he was literally chained to a Roman soldier and guarded day and night. And yet he could say, “Do not be anxious about anything . . .”

Wow! I think I would have been anxious under such circumstances. But not Paul. He tells us to rejoice. It takes a special kind of faith to proclaim joy in such dire circumstances the kind of faith that comes from living in the center of God’s will and love. You and I were made for such joy.

Poet Carl Sandburg understood about joy and rejoicing. He once wrote about children:
You were made for joy, child.
The feet of you were carved for that.
The ankles of you run for that.
The rise of rain,
The shift of wind,
The drop of a red star on a far water rim . . .
An endless catalogue of shouts and laughter,
Silent contemplations
They made you from day to day for joy, child, for joy**

It is from going to God in prayer that we receive the joy and strength, we need to make it through this life we are living. Joe always says, “Pray first,” and that has become our mantra. I pray that it will become yours.

Pastor Rosemary DeHut

References: * Ron Ritchie, Does God Our Father Really Hear and Answer Our Prayers?
** Rev. Scott W. Alexander, http://www.rruuc.org/index.php?id=191
&sermon=070722.

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