The Rev. Frank
How Much More!
Jesus is a person of prayer. This is most clear in Luke’s Gospel. While all of the Gospels write of Jesus praying, it is Luke who makes sure that we know Jesus was in prayer all the time, and particularly before every major event in his ministry. In the section from which we read this morning, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. He will die when he gets there.
After being apart for a time of prayer, one of his disciples asks, “Teach us to pray.” Some of his disciples had also been disciples of John the Baptist and so it is perhaps not surprising that the disciple says, “Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray.” John had given a formula for prayer to his followers and now they want the same from Jesus.
Jesus does give them just what they ask for, but he gives them more. First, Jesus gives his disciples the prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer—the Our Father. Jesus teaches them a specific, very simple way to pray. Not a lot of words, convincing God to act on our behalf, but a simple prayer. The most amazing thing about the prayer though is that it begins by addressing God as father. It begins with a relationship and a close relationship at that. After teaching The Lord’s Prayer, he is not anywhere near finished with teaching his disciples how to pray.
Jesus continues with a story. A man has a friend who comes at midnight in need of a place to stay. The man wants to host his friend, but he has no bread in his house. The would be host goes to the home of another friend and knocks on the door. It is midnight. This friend is asleep, already tucked into bed with his whole family. The host in need of bread knocks and calls out, “Give me three loaves of bread. A friend has come and I need to take care of him.” The man awakened at midnight says basically, “No way. I’m not getting up. I’m not giving you any bread.”
Jesus uses this story to show that even if he won’t climb out of bed at midnight to fetch some bread for you just because he is your friend. But I have a funny feeling that if you kept knocking at the door at midnight saying, “Just give me three loaves of bread and I’ll go away” the friend would do just that. “Fine! I’ll get up.” He fumes. He stamps over to the bread opens the door and more or less tosses the bread at his friend and shuts the door.
Jesus is teaching here from the lesser to the greater. If your friend who is no where near like God, would, if you kept asking him, give you what you ask for, how much more would God give you what you need. If the imperfect friend would wake up in the night and give you what you ask for, what about God who was never asleep to begin with. How much more will God take care of you!
Jesus goes on saying, “Ask and it will be given. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. For anyone who searches finds, anyone who asks receives, anyone who knocks finds the door opens for them.”
If you stop right there, it sounds a lot like a blank check. God signs the holy name on the bottom and all we have to do is fill in what we need. You have a book of blank checks from God. Anytime you want something, just ask and you’ll get it.
The only problem is that we all know that it doesn’t work this way in the real world. There are plenty of times when we ask and we do not receive, we search and we don’t find and we knock and the door stays locked tight. There are things we want from God. We ask for them in prayer and we do not get them.
I want to lay alongside this scripture a scene from the movie Bruce Almighty. In this short clip Bruce has reached the end of his rope and reaches out to God in prayer.
There he is lying in the middle of the road dying and he doesn’t pray for himself at all. Bruce prays instead that his girlfriend finds someone who sees her the way God sees her. Bruce in the movie learns a lot about what it is like to be God and to answer prayer. In this process he goes through the heart-changing encounter of seeing the world as God sees. From that new perspective, he sees prayer differently.
Jesus put it like this. He said, “Is there anyone among you who if your child asks for a fish will give a snake instead of a fish or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” Jesus once again is arguing from the lesser to the greater. Your father who is lesser than God is not going to give you these other things. Jesus’ teaching opens up other possibilities. I wonder at once, “But what if the child asks for a snake or a scorpion?” What would God do then?
The wonderful thing about this analogy is that the answers to these other questions is already built in. For if the earthly father who loves their child has that child come and say, “Dad, give me a scorpion.” The answer will be “No.” If the child asks for a snake, the answer could be yes, but the snake will not be a Copperhead or a Diamond Back Rattler. The father will give something good to their child, but not something harmful.
Jesus teaches us to see through the imperfect love of a good earthly father for their child then imagine how much more perfect God’s response will be. The check cannot be completely blank. You will not be given whatever you want, whenever you want it. The relationship simply does not work like that.
Jesus goes on to say, “If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Oops! It’s not how much more stuff will the heavenly Father give you. It is not how much more will the heavenly Father give you everything you every ask for in prayer. Jesus says, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” God’s own presence.
This is the beginning of a deeper experience of prayer. It begins with admitting that I don’t have all the answers, but I have an idea that you do, God. What I really want is your presence in my life. For when you do get the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in your life, then God can be with you more fully in the junk life throws at you. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance wrong desires can be less of a problem—you might ask for a scorpion a little less often. Maybe sometime you will ask instead for that daily bread.
Today we have a great example of asking for the Holy Spirit. Three families are here to baptize children. The parents and Godparents will ask for the Holy Spirit on behalf of these kids. They will ask that these children be marked today as Christ’s own forever.
Asking for this takes the faith to say, “Lord I know that you know what my child needs more than me. You know what is best for Riley, Chrystalyn and Brendan. I want for my child what you want for him or her. I don’t want what I want for them. I want something more. I want you lord in their lives.
A lot of us here have had parents who have done that for us. They brought us to that point, baptizing us in the sure and certain hope that turning our whole lives over to God would turn us over to something infinitely better for us. In just a moment, we will search, ask and knock at the door saying, “Lord, all that stuff we think these kids need does not matter compared to you, your presence.” If these parents want that for their kids, how much more does the God who created it want it for these children. How much more does God want that for you!
The thing that God has been wanting you to search for, the thing that God has wanted you to ask for, the thing that God has been wanting you to knock at the door to receive is God’s own spirit in your life. Just as surely as we can stand and make these baptismal vows along with these families, we can use it as a time to reaffirm these promises for ourselves. Now is the time to say, “Lord, forget about the stuff I have been asking you for, what I really want is you in my life.”
King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526