Hosea 1: 2-10; Psalm 85; Luke 11: 1-13
Pearl: Pursuing God who pursues us, through prayer.
Function: To motivate worshippers to engage the Lord in the Way/Name of Jesus.
God’s people have always prayed.
- The “Shema” is the most frequently prayed prayer of our Judeo-Christian heritage. It is found in Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” They were instructed to recite these words at all times and to write them on strategic places in their homes. This prayer was to become deep in the core of the people of God.
- King David was a man of prayer. His many prayers are recorded in the Psalms. A majority are from him.
also prayed a prayer which is echoed in The Lord’s Prayer. He prayed it at the
end of his life.
- Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name (I Chronicles 29: 10-13).
- The way of prayer for the ancients included mostly prayers of adoration, praises of God, and doxologies (“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures hear below….”)
Yet John the Baptist and Jesus prayed in a different way. Their prayers had more petitions and requests. But their way of prayer was even more than that.
- Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray like John the Baptist taught his disciples. John mentored his disciples; this is what Jesus’ followers desired as well in the area of prayer.
was something about Jesus’ Way of prayer that compelled the disciples to seek the
- Note that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to preach. They successfully performed miracles and what they really wanted was for Jesus to teach them how to pray in the way that he did.
saw an intimacy between Jesus and God which was different than anything they
- Maybe they saw an emotional side to God.
- Maybe they sensed something of what was revealed through Hosea. Hosea was a prophet who was instructed to take for a wife a prostitute to demonstrate vividly how it feels to God when his people forsake him and chase after other gods.
- Abraham Heschel said, “Amos dwells on what God has done…Hosea dwells on what God has felt for Israel” (Interpretation, p. 6). Jesus revealed vividly a living relationship with God. And the disciples saw it. So, they asked Jesus to teach them how to relate to God in this more natural and real way.
So, Jesus began to teach them how to pray. We tend to think that his complete response was in giving “The Lord’s Prayer” but very likely this prayer is a summary of the kinds of ways in which to relate to God.
- It is unlikely that Jesus had it in mind for his followers to recite the actual words of these guidelines for prayer.
is unlikely that Jesus had it in mind for his followers to sing this prayer,
like we love to do. There is nothing wrong with reciting it and singing it, but
it is not the epitome of prayer. Prayer is much more than these words. Prayer
is much more than any words.
- This must be true if much of prayer is listening.
Lawrence writes that prayer “is a simple matter of attentiveness to and
companionship with God.”
- He wrote: “I have given up all devotions and pieties…and instead try to keep myself always in God’s holy presence by simple attentiveness and a loving gaze upon Him. This I may call the actual presence of God, or to speak more accurately, an habitual, silent and hidden communion of the soul with Him…The most holy, the most general and the most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the practice of the presence of God, whereby the soul finds her joy and contentment in His companionship, talking humbly and lovingly to Him always and at all times, without rule or system” (The Practice of the Presence of God).
- What Jesus lived and taught to his disciples was that prayer is mostly relating to God. As Brother Lawrence taught it was about “companionship” with God.
Praying “In Jesus’ Name” is what I am talking about today. Praying “In Jesus’ Name” is more about praying “In Jesus’ Way” than habitually ending every prayer we pray with those words. In fact, we almost use them as if magically they will increase the power and efficacy of our prayers by just saying those three words.
- Praying “In Jesus’ Name” is really about praying in the Way that Jesus prayed. It is about praying according to the same priorities. It is praying according to his mind and his heart.
- Fundamentally, praying like Jesus prayed is about relating to God all of the time as a part of life.
Yet my main point today on praying like Jesus prayed is about “Pursuing our Lord in prayer.” To go further in prayer, to go further in relating to God, it is necessary to pursue the Lord.
- An Episcopal priest, Rhonda, tells the story of pastoring a church in a city. She lived near her downtown church so she was one of the few middle-class people who walked through a certain section of the city on her way to the church.
- One day a woman named Vicki approached her and asked her for money. The priest motioned toward a Chinese restaurant and said, “I haven’t eaten lunch yet. Would you like to join me?” Vicki explained that she wasn’t welcome inside the restaurant so they sat on a retaining wall outside and ate from take-out containers. When Vicki discovered that Rhonda was a priest she exclaimed, “For real?” and grabbed her hand and asked her to pray for her. She closed her eyes as Rhonda blessed her with the sign of the cross on her forehead, and then she dashed off across the street.
- Once a week or so Vicki and Rhonda ate lunch together, had coffee or just talked. Sometimes the priest gave her a bus ticket or a little cash. Rhonda never learned where she lived, and Vicki never asked where the priest lived.
- Rhonda relates that the one constant in their relationship was prayer. Each time they met they held hands, bowed their heads, and shared their needs and thanks to God.
- The last time that Rhonda saw Vicki was on a late winter night. Vicki came and asked, “Rhonda, will you pray with me?” Her need seemed more urgent than usual, so she asked, “Is there something in particular?” Vicki said, “No, just pray for me. Pray for me.” After prayer Vicki darted away. That was the last time that the priest saw Vicki.
- I tell you this story because Vicki intensely always asked Rhonda to pray for her. She pursued the Lord with Rhonda, her priest, at all opportunities. Vicki was always seeking the Lord.
This is what Jesus taught about prayer. We should pursue the Lord. Because the Lord pursues us. And when we stray away from God and God’s ways, he feels betrayed like Hosea was betrayed.
gospel of Luke brings this out. Only in Luke will you find the story of the
“relentless friend at midnight.”
- Thanks to Luke we find that Jesus taught his disciples to be relentless in pursuit of the Lord. God never tires or sleeps. He is always available and eager to relate to us.
- Jesus told this story about a fellow who relentlessly knocked on his neighbor’s door to get some food to share with his surprise visitors. The neighbor was already in bed as was his whole household. He first tried to get rid of him. When he persisted, the fellow rose to give him what he asked for.
- Then Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11: 9, 10).
- Jesus then said, “If you who are evil” know how to give good gifts to your children when they ask how much more does the ‘good’ God know how to give goodness to us when we pursue him?”
- If you don’t feel very close to God it is likely that you are not pursuing Him very significantly. When you pursue God, when you try to relate to God you will find Him!
It is extremely significant that Jesus was a man of prayer! Jesus was God on earth and yet he routinely and relentlessly pursued the Father in heaven.
- Prayer, for Jesus, was relationship, companionship with God.
- This is Jesus’ largest lesson for us on prayer: pursue the Lord individually and corporately, with a relentless constancy.
does not grow tired or weary of your pursuit!
- Actually, God longs for you as your closest companion longs for you and is lost without you.