And what does God's Word say?I direct you to the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the 6th chapter, verses 5- 15:
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
What a privilege is ours that we may pray, speaking to God in our words and thoughts! In truth, God commands and invites believers in Jesus Christ to pray and in our prayers ask for everything that tends to the glory of God and our own and our neighbor's welfare, both spiritual and bodily blessings. We should pray in the name of Jesus, that is, with faith in Him as our Redeemer; we should pray with confidence that for Jesus' sake our prayers will be heard and answered; and we should pray according to God's will to be done.
During this Lententide, through the Office of Faith Lutheran Church, and I, serving as its Pastor, will speak to you a message based on The Lord's Prayer and its Petitions. Let us begin with:
"Our Father who art in Heaven" … in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
This week begins a holy season of prayerful & penitential reflection. And without exception, let us pray that our dear Father in heaven, for the sake of His beloved Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, richly bless us this Lententide as we come together to worship in Word & prayer - as we look toward Jesus' holy passion & the great day of Easter. And let us begin our journey through Lent mindful that Jesus prayed & prayed often, giving us an example that we too should pray. Scripture reports that He rose in the early morning while it was still dark, went out to a solitary place, and prayed. His longest prayer recorded for us was His "high priestly prayer," recorded in John 17. And you may be thinking, since He was by nature true God, who did He pray to? And since God is almighty and all- knowing, why would He have to pray? We reason, it's more for us to pray since we poor sinners are so far removed from being right w God.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, which begins His holy passion, because He was by nature true man, He prayed a prayer directed to His paternity: He begins by saying: "Father." Because Jesus was truly the Son of God, He spoke to His true Father. The Gospel of St. Matthew, part of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5- 15) says so & the Gospel writer Luke (Luke 11:1- 4) tells us that one day as Jesus was praying, a disciple said to Him: "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." And so Jesus, faithful to His Father, directed His followers to His heavenly Father but He said it like this: "Go into your room, close the door & pray to YOUR Father… for YOUR Father knows what you need before you ask Him." And then Jesus gave them the Lord's Prayer as an example of how they & His followers should pray. And I'm reminded how a father might instruct his children in the art of prayer maybe saying something like: 1st we bow our head in humble reverence to God, then we fold our hands so that they don't become occupied by other things, then we close our eyes so we can really concentrate on the words of prayer, & then we begin saying: "Father in heaven, thru Jesus Christ, hear my prayer."
In the Catechism, our manual for Christian instruction, it admonishes fathers to teach his children how to pray & to pray in the example of Jesus. It goes further and divides this prayer into 9 parts and poses a "What does this mean" question after each statement. Today, let us consider the 1st of these parts mindful that Jesus prayed to His Father who is your heavenly Father.
The Petitions to the Lord's Prayer begin with: "Our Father who art in heaven. What does this mean? And answers: "With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father & that we are His true children so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father." Yes, it's as personal as that! - that we're speaking to our father, like in a family way; like a family rite; a family practice. But I'm reminded of our earthly father & have to ask you:
True or False? Are they perfect people? True or False? Are fathers always in a good mood? True or False? Do fathers always understand the matters of raising children? True or False? Are fathers never too busy to listen or spend time with their children? And my friends, if the truth is spoken, we're quickly brought to the matter of a father's imperfections!
From the Commandments, we learned to know ourselves as we truly are in the sight of God and man –sinners all in need of God's grace. In the Creeds, we confess our faith and here are taught that God is not only our Creator, but also our Redeemer from sin, death, & hell (as well as being our Sanctifier to live a godly and holy life). We now come to the prayer of our Lord, the Catechism's 3rd chief part in which He teaches us where to find help in all our needs & troubles so to find peace and live life as His dear child. Here we are firstly taught to pray: "our Father."
However and perhaps, there's a problem here for us - for today's cultural generation. In truth, there is! For too many, the family is no longer what it used to be. Going back a few years, the singers Peter, Paul, & Mary might put it in a song called: "Where have all the fathers gone." Today fathers may be truant; fathers may be weekend visitors; fathers may be largely invisible. Where there was once a biological connection regarding parenthood, many fathers have left the scene and many of today's children are inhibited in knowing what a real father is. Some will even grow up despising the word: "father."
Because of divorce & out- of- wedlock childbearing, in America 1 out of 3 children living in a home are without a biological father. Today the average child is a child living apart from his or her father. No wonder children are finding it difficult to relate to their heavenly Father –since He appears to be even farther removed from them. Yet, because many families are under stress & breaking down, we've reason enough to teach our children to pray confidently to their "heavenly Father" who truly promises in hear their prayers and answer them.
Jesus, knowing the Father perfectly, says to us, "Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). He tells us to pray with trusting confidence saying: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Mark 11:24) and with that, the Holy Spirit helps us to pray confidently.
When people lack this confidence, they're truly hurting people headed down the wrong path. And we know this because, well, we've been down that path ourselves – tempted by Satan to distrust God's capability while trusting in our own means to satisfy our human desires. We've walked the way without prayer. At one time you may have made plenty of excuses why you weren't praying. And every one of those excuses was wrapped around your ego while Satan grinned from ear- to- ear in successfully having tempted you to distrust the One who indeed truly hears & answers your prayers – your Father in heaven!
By His own Word He, I mean God, assures you that His wisdom and understanding is infinite; He knows your very thoughts from afar; your days are ordained by Him; He gives you all that you need to support your body & life; He forgives you all your sins; He is your Father who loves you to the very point that He … that He gave His one and only Son to die for us that we might live forever made certain by His resurrection.
Ergo, if He's so loving toward you and blesses you so richly with His grace that saves a wretch like you, how much more will He hear your daily prayers and answer them, that we call upon Him to "hollow" and adore Him, give Him thanks, confess our sin having the assurance of His forgiveness through Christ, and pray for others who have need of our prayers. With this in mind, with reverent humility, you know that you can come to Him in child-like trust, praying, "in the name of Jesus" because it's through Jesus that He is your Father and you His dearly beloved.
The Lord's Prayer is our prayer and Jesus invites us to "watch with Him and pray" (Matthew 26:40- 41). And it is our privilege to pray daily, pray 365 days a year –to pray without ceasing because we need our Father's daily life and intervention. And today is just another day that we pray and our prayers are heard by our Father in heaven.
Thus we bow our head, fold our hands, close our eyes and pray: "Father in heaven, enlarge our faith and trust in You so that we may pray to You with all boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear father… for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Yes, yes, it shall be so!" AMEN!
LET US PRAY:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Lord God, our heavenly Father, we thank You that You have accorded us the underserved privilege of communing with You in prayer, and we pray, make us ever more diligent in this Christian virtue. Teach us to consider all times and all places suitable for prayer and to seek Your help especially in times of trouble, and make us truly grateful for all good gifts which You continually bestow on us. Make our lives, lives of prayer. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayer for Jesus' sake. Amen
Gracious Father, the season of Lent is a blessed season of special penitence & prayer. May these weeks, patterned after Your 40 days in the wilderness, remind us that Satan continues to tempt us in our lives but it is by Your Word and power that Satan is thwarted and defeated. Grant also that we may remember often that it was our sins that caused Jesus' suffering & death, yet stamp indelibly on our minds that it was Your great love which caused Him to suffer and die and rise up again for us and for His sake, You forgive us all our sins. And we further pray that our love for You will cause us to look for opportunities to serve You better and cause us to witness Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior of all mankind to the ends of the earth. Bless all who hear the Good News of salvation thru Christ. Hear us heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus. AMEN
Next week, the message of God's Good News in Jesus Christ will focus on the First Petition: "Hallowed be Thy Name."
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The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Sincerely in Christ, The Rev. Dean Rudloff