24th July 2022 (Pentecost 7)
Sermon Title: Faithful Prayer and Response
(Psalm 85: 1-13 & Luke 11:1–13)
By Heeyoung Lim
Looking back to the past, the psalmist reflected upon God’s mercies displayed in previous years. Remembering God’s mighty working in the past brings confidence in the present. The psalm 85 recalls God’s past blessings to his people, and the psalmist calls for God to restore and revive his people, remembering God’s favour in the past. Their restoration was not only a physical relocation to their land but a spiritual one which includes their relationship with God that had been greatly affected. God forgave the sins of His people, set aside all his wrath, and turned from his fierce anger. It was a remarkable display of divine mercy and grace toward his disobedient people.
The psalmist asks God to grant salvation, bringing about their revival and restoration and wants that the same divine mercy be granted to their present troubles. (vv. 4-7) The word “restore us again, O God our Saviour” is a desperate request that God’s favour be once more extended in this present hour. The phrase “put away your displeasure toward us” indicated that their present crisis was because of their own sin. (v.4) This was a plea for the spiritual awakening of God’s people, a petition that God would restore their hearts with renewed devotion toward Him. If God would revive them, they would rejoice again. But reversely, there can be no true rejoicing without spiritual revival.
The psalmist requested, “Show us your unfailing love and grant us your salvation out of our present problems and spiritual apathy.” (v.7) The psalmist confessed, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say” and believed that His salvation is near. Such salvation is reserved for those who fear Him and His name. Such a God-sent revival would cause his glory to dwell in our land. The deepest longing of the psalmist’s heart is God’s presence. The restoration of His people would make known His greatness and majesty to all. (v.9) God promises peace and salvation to those who fear Him.
In today’s text, love and faithfulness meet together, and his unconditional, steadfast, loyal love will work together with his faithfulness. Also, righteousness and peace will work together in perfect harmony. All four of these spiritual qualities are expressions of God’s abundant favour toward his people. God’s blessing surrounds his people. The LORD will indeed give what is good, namely, love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace. (vv. 11-12) In addition, wherever God’s presence is in the restoration of his people, righteousness will be clearly seen in the lives of God’s people. (13)
Psalm 85 asks God to “revive us again,” to “speak peace to God’s people” (vv. 6, 8). The psalm reflects speaking and listening, a conversation rather than a monologue, just as the last lines of Luke 11:1–13 show. You won’t give your child a snake instead of a fish. As Jesus taught the disciples to pray, we ask for our daily bread; it is important for deep-down listening to know what nourishment we need for that day. May we listen as well as speak when we pray.
Seeing Jesus at prayer made the disciples want to imitate him. Jesus’ disciples saw that Jesus’ actions each day came out of his prayer life with God and wanted to learn to pray from Jesus. In Luke 11, Jesus taught them a model prayer, and this prayer contains the essence of all prayer. The Lord’s Prayer praises God, seeks daily needs, asks for deliverance from temptation, and promises to forgive others in seeking forgiveness for oneself. Prayer is an essential part of the life of one who follows Jesus.
Christians have come to know this prayer as The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ Prayer, or The Prayer Jesus Taught. In the Lord’s prayer, addressing God as holy or hallowed sets God apart from the world. The words of prayer proclaim a great hope: God’s way of being and God’s desire will be present in the world. The next prayers are to ask God to provide three basic needs – sustaining the world by providing food, restoring individuals and communities by forgiveness, and protecting the world.
In our prayer and life, we depend on God to take away our sins. However, we know that forgiveness is not just an activity of God, we are also responsible to forgive those who treat us wrong. It is not a business transaction or give and take issue, rather, it is a process of focusing on godliness and not on worldliness. May we pray that God will transform our nature so that we become more like Jesus.
In Jesus and his preaching, the kingdom of God has been seen on earth. We pray that the day will come when the kingdom will be seen in its fullness and its permanence even though we do not know when. May we pray that God’s reign will have come, and His will be fully achieved.
Prayer is not just concerned with recognizing God and establishing his kingdom, but it is also individual and personal, asking for the necessities. However, prayer never becomes individualistic and selfish. We pray not just for ourselves but for all God’s people and the world. In all circumstances, may the intimate Father-child relationship be maintained. Prayer is an intimate talk between God and people and invites us to enter an intimate relationship with God.
Jesus got to the point of his parable: Ask God. Seek something from God. Knock expectantly at God’s door. The loving Father will open the door and provide what we need if we depend on the Father’s goodness and love. Faithful prayer will find answers even when those prayers are petitions for personal need. (9)
In Jesus’ parable, a friend comes to dire needs and knocks on your door late at night asking for bread. In the story, we see the desperate need, but the situation is for a family to sleep in a one-room late night. In this undesirable situation, friendship might not be strong enough to force the sleeper to awake and meet the visitor’s needs. However, the person would be shamed and dishonoured if he did not help a friend in need. It is because of “being put to shame” rather than just persistence or boldness.
Jesus describes further to whom we are praying and uses parables to emphasize God’s response to our prayer. In today’s text, even the least suitable parents will provide basic care for a child. The message to the disciples and to all hearers of this text, including us, is that God is good. God will always hear and respond, not because we are worthy, but because God’s nature is generous and loving.
Jesus said to them, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (v.9) This week, we are invited to visualize ourselves asking, seeking, and knocking unceasingly to be confident that to persist in prayer is to move forward in faith, hope, and love. Prayer is the work of the people, and people will express prayer in many ways. It will be at the very heart of our acts of faith. Some of us who have been long and persistent in prayer might have felt helpless in the face of extreme tragedy and pain. In many moments, however, prayer is often our only response. Faithful prayer has the potential to build faith communities through hospitality, support, and compassion.
God is good and always hears and responds. Prayer praising God and persistently asking Him to meet one’s needs represents an integral part of the dedicated life. Jesus’ disciples will ask God for the Holy Spirit to lead their lives with faithful prayer and response. May we pray to God every day, praising Him and seeking His provisions for our life and the world. In the love of Christ, may spiritual revival and restoration take place in our life, in our faith communities, and in the world through our faithful prayer and response.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)