Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Risen and Living Savior, Jesus Christ.
We just sang hymn 454 from The Lutheran Hymnal. In the fifth verse of that hymn we sang…
“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath”
The point isn’t that a person has to pray in order to become a Christian. The point is that prayer is an ongoing part of a Christian’s life. It’s as much a part of spiritual life as breathing is a part of physical life.
Jesus talks about the Christian’s life of prayer in our reading for today. Open your Bibles to Matthew 7, verse 7. In this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sums up the life of a Christian. It is a life of trusting God and loving others.
One way a Christian expresses faith is through his constant prayers to God. Another expression of his faith is the way he treats those around him.
“7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened“ (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV).
Jesus appeals to our common sense. Those who ask, RECEIVE. Those who actually seek what they want, FIND IT. If you want to enter a building and the door is locked, it’s a good idea to KNOCK on that door until someone comes to open it. Jesus tells His disciples, Pray to God like this.
It might be a THING that we’re praying for. It might be an ANSWER to a Bible question that we have. It might what we should do in a certain situation. Whatever it is, Jesus says, talk to your heavenly Father about it. Then, also make an effort to find what you are asking for.
Bible study is a good example. When we read a puzzling verse in the Bible we should ask God to give us the correct understanding of it. But, then we need to listen to Jesus and go further. We need to PICK UP our Bible and read the chapters surrounding the verse in question. We need to read the cross references that connect that verse to other parts of the Bible. We need to ask our brothers and sisters in Christ how they understand this verse. We need to ask our pastors to help us consult the original Hebrew and Greek.
Jesus adds one more thing, Keep on knocking. Keep on returning to God in prayer. Keep on going back to the Bible, expecting an answer, until God opens the door.
A Christian prays persistently because he KNOWS that when his prayer isn’t answered IMMEDIATELY that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. When we pray persistently we are telling God…
…Hey, I believe in You. You promise that because of Jesus my sins are forgiven and I can approach You as Your own son or daughter.
…I know that You WANT TO BLESS ME, because Jesus died for my sins long before I came to know You. I know that You WANT TO BLESS ME because You sent Your Holy Spirit to ME when I was a unbelieving sinner! You took the time and effort to make me Your own by faith in Your Son.
…Of course I know You want to bless me in this littler thing that I’m praying about. So I’ll wait until you do. I’ll keep praying, until you do.
Persistent, expecting prayer expresses our belief that God’s promise of forgiveness is true, and His love and power are real.
Think about it like this. When a miner believes that there is gold in a mountain, he finds a good place and begins to dig. But if the miner really believes that there is gold to be found there, he digs deeper than two feet. With the first shovel full of dirt the miner ASKS. With the shaft dug deep into the mountainside he SEEKS. And with repeated days, weeks, months of digging he KNOCKS on the mountain’s door.
We know that all good gifts, spiritual or otherwise, come from the God of the Bible. So we knock on His door.
Jesus appeals to common sense again in verse 9. Turn to Matthew 7, verse 9. If God is our Father, than let’s take a look at what fathers do. Jesus says…
“9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV).
My daughter Marnie a very happy child. She flits around like a little beam of sunshine. But the weather of her mood can change very abruptly.
When she was younger she would get terribly upset about the most trivial things. One time I was sitting at the kitchen table when I heard Marnie let out a horrible wail of anguish.
I jumped up and rushed to her room expecting a broken bone or a bleeding cut or some kind of injury. But when I reached the bedroom, there she was, sitting on the floor trying to get a shirt on without unbuttoning ANY of the buttons.
Over and over we would tell her, Honey, settle down. It’s okay. You don’t need to get so frustrated little things like this. All you need to do is ASK FOR HELP.
And her sad little voice would come back: Dad, will you help me?
Dad: Of course I will. Come here.
Brothers and Sisters, don’t get so frustrated. Your heavenly Father is beside you, WANTING TO HELP, WAITING to help. Ask him.
Or how about this one. Ever have a child trying to find something?
Mom, I need my shoes for practice!
Well, did you look in your room?
Thirty seconds later…
Mom, I still can’t find my shoes! I need them for practice!
You didn’t look very hard, you were only in there for thirty seconds!
That’s us sometimes isn’t it?
Heavenly Father I need an answer to this question. It’s very important, but I just don’t know where to find the answer! Help me!
Did you look in the Bible?
Try looking there. And don’t just glance. Dig in and root around in there till you find the answer. My Holy Spirit will help you. And I bet you’ll find some answers you’ll need for tomorrow too.
It’s common sense. He who seeks, finds. So lets make sure that seeking is an ongoing part of our life. Seeking through the Lord’s message to us. Mining the Scriptures. Finding answers for today and gems for tomorrow. Let’s USE the precious gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us. Let’s PRAY! Let’s HEAR His Word!
Turn to Matthew 7, verse 12. Up to this point Jesus has been talking about our relationship with God. Now He changes direction and talks about our relationship with one another. Jesus says…
“12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).
In the Old Testament God gave the Israelite Nation a handy summary of His will. We call that summary the Ten Commandments.
The first part of that summary deals with how God wants us to treat Him (Commandments 1-3). The Second part of that summary deals with how God wants us to treat each other (Commandments 4-10).
Here Jesus takes that second part and condenses it further. He gives His followers an axiom, a rule of thumb, a guide for knowing how to treat each other.: Do to others what you would have them do to you.
Now, if you study other religions you can find statements similar to this “Golden Rule”. Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all have teachings that sound like Jesus’ Golden Rule. But they’re not quite the same.
A famous Rabbi, Rabbi Hillel is quoted as saying, “What is hateful to thyself do not to thy neighbor”. But here’s the difference. Jesus doesn’t say to be REACTIVE. He doesn’t say to wait till someone does something bad to us and then be sure not to do that.
Jesus teaches His followers to PROACTIVE. He says, Think about how you want others to treat you, and then do that to them FIRST!
It’s just like Martin Luther explained the Seventh Commandment. You shall not steal. Sure God doesn’t want us to take what isn’t ours, but there’s more to it than that. God also wants us to, as Luther put it…
“…HELP (our neighbor) TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT HIS PROPERTY AND WAY OF MAKING A LIVING” (Sydow Catechism).
As Jesus said in another place,
“…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).
And here lies the greatest reason why prayer truly IS the Christian’s vital breath. Because we haven’t done either thing. We haven’t loved God with all that we are. We haven’t loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have sinned against God’s whole Law, over and over and over.
These sins weigh our hearts with guilt, fill our minds with regret, and make our souls unfit for heaven. But when the Christian feels this unworthiness, he prays: Father, forgive me. Wash away my sin in the blood of Your Son. Without Him, I am lost.
And God hears, and answers that prayer. By His Son’s death on the cross He has put away our sin forever. By His Holy Spirit and through His Word He makes this known to our hearts. He breathes LIFE into the one who trusts His Son.
The Christian life is one of persistent prayer to our loving Father, who teaches us to love others by revealing how much HE loved us. So pray to Your Father in Heaven, for He loves You dearly and wants to bless Your in every way. And love each other as yourself.
The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.