Devotion for Thursday, April 23, 2020
1 Chronicles 29:10-13
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Collect: Almighty God, Your words give us boldness and confidence to acknowledge You as our true Father and ourselves as Your true children. May Your Holy Spirit lead us to trust in Your fatherly goodness, call upon Your name in every need, and glorify You as the author and giver of every good and perfect gift; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of Reflection: In Holy Conversation (LSB 772)
I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone this week. Today, I have my first Confirmation class since the pandemic started, and I have the topic on the brain, so I thought I’d share it with you also today: Prayer.
As you’re read in the verses above, it is an important part of our lives as Christians; one that we are commanded to do regularly – constantly – for our own well being. The disciples themselves saw how often Jesus prayed, and asked Him the best way to do it for them, so that they could be heard by God too, and from this request, we receive the Lord’s Prayer which Christ Himself tells us to pray: “When you pray, say:…” (Luke 11:2b)
From a young age we are taught the words of this blessed prayer, as well we a few others, ‘now I lay me down to sleep…’, ‘I thank you my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ Your dear Son…’, or maybe even, ‘Lord give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…’ etc. There are many such prayers handed down to us, some of are better than others, and some miss the mark completely, but what makes a prayer a prayer? Some will argue that: “Pre-written prayers are worst than worthless; God only listens to earnest heartfelt prayers.” I agree with half of that statement, and I’m sure you can figure out which half. The critics are right in that we can often let praying become a thing of rote repetition, and not heartfelt addressing, but that’s not because of the words we use, it’s because of the mindset we have when we pray. Really, when it comes down to it, the real question behind all of this pondering of what makes a prayer a good God pleasing prayer, is: What is prayer? Once you know the answer to that, the rest follows suit.
So…what is prayer? A conversation with God? Yes. Coming to God with your troubles? Sure. Asking for healing for yourself and other people? Absolutely. But that’s really just what prayer does – what it’s about – but what I’m asking is: What is it; what’s behind it?
Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts, yes, but it’s more than just that: Prayer is faith – Prayer is trust. Faith that the one you’re talking to can answer your prayers, and trust that He will answer them as is best for you.
In today’s confirmation class we’ll be starting on the Lord’s Prayer, so we’ll cover the Introduction and the 1st Petition: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. and in those words, you see the kind of faith and trust I’m talking about. Faith and trust that we have a heavenly Father who is listening to our prayers. As a child, who do you trust most? Who is there to answer your questions, keep you safe, provide for you food, shelter, and love? Your parents.
In a perfect world, both mother and father would equally share this responsibility and help you to grow in body and soul by feeding you with physical food, and spiritual food, helping you to mature into a stable God-fearing adult who can then do the same for his/her children. Granted, our world is not perfect, and this seemingly simple equation often breaks down due to sin. Sometimes one parent is absent because they are gone or just not engaged in the child’s life. Sometimes, both parents are missing and the child is raised by another. Sometimes, unfortunately, parents can be physically present, but due to the sin in their lives they do not raise their child properly and because of either neglect or abuse the child is forced to fend for themselves at a young age, and never truly knows the proper love of a parent. This relationship can be twisted and abused, as with all things in this fallen world, but at its core is the initial intention of faith and trust. It was designed for that because God based it on His relationship with His creation – His children.
He is always there. He doesn’t abandon us, or abuse us. He always listens and helps in the ways that are best for us. Like a parent with a small child who really wants what’s not good for them, He will deny us our requests sometimes because He can see the ultimate outcome of granting the request, whereas we can only see the immediate benefits. He knows what is needed to see us home to Him at the end of it all, and He will not do anything, whether we ask for it or not, to see that outcome changed. He loves us, and wants to be with us.
So…why do we pray? We pray because He is our Father, and no relationship is one sided. Often, we act as moody teens, whose parents talk to us regularly, but whom we only respond to with one-word answers if at all. That is not a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship has back and forth conversations, not one-sided ones. We talk to God, because He talks to us: through His Word of Scripture, though the words of the pastor as he preaches, we hear what God has to say to us in response to our prayers, which bring us back to Him again in prayer and conversation.
Why do we ask for healing? Because in His Word He first promised to hear us when we call on Him and give whatever healing He deems as most beneficial, whether that be of body or soul.
Why do we tell Him our troubles? Because in His Word He first told us to cast our cares and troubles upon Him and that He would give us rest from our burdens.
Why do we pray for those whom we love? Because in His Word He first promised to hear the prayers of His faithful on behalf of others, and that He would always do what was in the best interest of those who believe in Him.
As Jesus told His disciples: And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. (Matthew 21:22)
We pray to God because He has already talked to us, and continues to talk to us, and tells us that He is not only listening to us, but tells us He wants to hear from us, regularly – that we need to talk to Him regularly for our own well being. That’s what the two New Testament reading above are talking about. How do I live as a Christian? How do I live life as one who trusts in God for what I need and not the world or my own sinful flesh?
“9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)
Prayer isn’t a magical incantation and it should be heartfelt. No you don’t have to make up new words to say each time you pray, but you should really be thinking about the ones you do use – mean them, trust God, and have faith that He will do what is best for you because of them, even if it’s not what you want. And know that He wants you to, He loves you, and wants nothing more than to sit you on His knee as you tell him about your day, about your thoughts, dreams, hopes, trials, loves, frustrations, hurtings, everythings.
As our Small Catechism tells us in relation to the Introduction of the prayer that Jesus gave us:
Our Father in who art in heaven.
What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children as their dear Father.
(SC, LP: The Introduction)
And as the questions section in the back of the newest catechism puts it:
As Christians, we confess that God welcomes us with open arms so that we can always approach Him in complete confidence as our dear Father on account of Christ, our Brother.
In this time of quarantine, where we cannot gather in His house where we know He serves us through His means of grace, we can take heart that He is with us still as we come to Him in prayer. No matter where we are, no matter how often we call upon His name, and no matter the words we use, we can be confident that He hears our heartfelt prayers and answers us always, for the sake of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
God’s richest blessings on you during this time as you continue to go to the Father in prayer and reflect on His Word from the safety of your homes, trusting that one day, this too shall pass and that we will once again be able to join together in praise, prayer, and thanksgiving to our Father in heaven, celebrating His goodness through it all.
In Christ and His service,