July 24, 2016

Let’s Make A Deal

Passage: Luke 11:1-13


 

Let’s Make A Deal
Luke 11: 1 – 13
Sunday July 24, 2016
Rev. L. Bryan McClain

 

You know they have come back out with the old game show, Let’s Make A Deal.  Remember that show with host, Monty Hall.  All of the contestants for some reason were dressed up in crazy costumes and would come in with the craziest household items on their person, just in case they would be called on and asked if they had such item in order to win a cash prize.

A big deal might start with such a hook, but then lead to a bigger deal until they make it to the big deal of the day. And there, they would have the opportunity to choose whatever was under the box right in front of them or what was behind curtains 1,2, or 3 on the stage.  They could win anything from a brand new car to an old clunker of a bag of trash.  All you had to do was make your choice.

I have had many people over the years ask me about how to pray.  I’ve always found that to be just a little awkward, because even though I am an ordained pastor, I personally don’t feel that I am anymore of an expert on the topic than anybody else; other than to pray, you just start talking to God.  But there are a few helpful hints that we all can take.

So today’s lesson takes us down that road as Jesus is found to be praying in a certain place.  Here is the first lesson that we need to pay attention to.  You will notice where Jesus is, or more importantly where he is not.  It just says he is in a certain place.  He is not necessarily in the temple or synagogue.  He is not specifically in the Mount of Olives here, or the upper room.

The writer intentionally tells us a certain place as to say, a place in general.  So to begin with, you do not have to be in any specific place or a place that is more Holy than another, in order to reach out to God.
It’s kind of like the Verizon commercial on T.V. only better.  You can dial in from anywhere and God will be able to hear you.

Jesus then goes on to give a basic example of how you would start a prayer.  It may be all you need to say, then again there may be more that you need or desire to say.  But let me begin at the beginning.
Jesus teaches his disciples to start with a salutation of respect.  Just like we use to learn hopefully at home, but most certainly in school whenever we as young kids would address our elders.  We might say something like, Good Morning sir, or ma’am or Mister or Misses.  In the Military the junior ranking or enlisted member would always be the first to offer such a greeting along with a hand salute which was a symbol of respect.

So in the beginning of the prayer that Jesus teaches, he is saying to begin with a greeting and salutation showing your respect.  Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. – Meaning Our creator  whose being extends to the heavens, Sacred is your name. Or Holy are you.  In that opening statement, you have expressed your respect to the most High God.

Think about that for just a minute.  Back when I first went to Lackland AFB, the Vice Commander of the base, Col. Chase sent out an Email to all of the chaplains, asking for input on something he wanted us to begin to consider. And in the email it said to let him know what we thought.
Well No one had ever told me that it was not appropriate for a newbie Captain to send directly back to a High Ranking officer any email traffic, even if he has asked you for that input.
But apparently if I had any suggestions I was to send them up through my chain of command for it to be vetted or tested out before reaching his desk, so that he is not wasting his time.
That is what I learned after getting a scolding E-mail from the Deputy Wing Chaplain who had E-mailed me in all CAPS. which I also did not fully understand.  I got the impression that he was upset that I had sent the email by what the email said which was something like. You never send an email to VC without letting your Commanding officer know.  IT was only later that I learned that he was actually yelling at me through the e-mail.  It really is kind of funny, because the VC saw me later and agreed that it really was kind of silly, but it was protocol and we both had a chuckle over it.  No harm no foul.

The Point being, in prayer, we have direct access to the High supreme Commander of Life and we have it anywhere anytime.  Do you understand what a gift and a blessing that is?

Jesus then goes through an opening that clears the way for the majority of our prayers to be heard.  That is to say that even though we have this remarkable access to God, we should always remember that God is God.  And we do not come asking God for anything without first remembering and trusting that God will meet our most basic needs as we thank Him for our daily bread.

We should not need to fret over where or how or what we will eat from day to day.  God will supply it.  In the world we live in today, we do tend to forget that.  Especially in our culture where most everybody buys their food from a store, and if you don’t have money then you don’t eat.  But that is not true.

Food comes from plants many of which will grow right in our back yards, and some of them in the wild.  God does provide what we need.  It may not always be what we want, but it is what we need.  God does give to us what we need and we should always be gratef0ul; whether we choose it or not is our problem.

Then the prayer that Jesus teaches us reminds us to ask God to forgive our sins.  This request also places the burden of showing respect to God.  Again we are asking, not demanding God to forgive what we have done wrong. But is also shows us that we can indeed dare to ask this of God and trust that God will grant us this, so long as we remember to forgive those who have wronged us.  At this point in our prayer, it is a good time for us to recount the previous day in our hearts and see if there is anyone we neglected to forgive; if so why?  What is holding us back? Ask God to help you with that, so that you can move on.

This is not so much about letting someone off the hook of accountability, but that you are able to come to peace or have closure with your differences, especially with someone you know or are in relationship with.

That request for forgiveness leads right into the next statement about helping us to avoid evil and temptation. When we ask for God assistance in helping us to avoid evil is not to say that if we do not ask for it, God will not help us.  God is always there doing God’s best to aid us.  But when we ask for it, we are being proactive and aware that evil and temptation does lurk at every corner of opportunity.  When we have God to guide us in prayer and especially with this prayer, we are less likely to fall into it.  But even when we do, and sometimes we do, we can still count on God’s forgiveness, so long as we again are proactive in forgiving others who come seeking it.

So you see, Prayer works this way.  It is striking up a conversation with someone who basically does outrank you in life.  But It is also someone who cares about you and wants you to be in relationship with Him and who wants you to ask for what you need.  For it is God’s good pleasure to give it.

But sometimes, to get what we need, then like Let’s make a Deal, we have to start with dealing with stuff we really would rather not.  If you want to get to the big deal, you first have to deal with the little stuff under the box right in front of you.

If you stop right there, you never make it to Curtain # 3.  But the key difference in dealing with God in prayer verses playing a T.V. game show is first, you don’t have to dress up in a silly costume and bring a roll of toilet paper in your purse or man purse.  All you have to do is show God the love and respect he deserves and he is willing to deal fairly and squarely with you, and provide you with all that will make your life good.

God never grows weary in helping us, but we must understand that God’s purpose is not to spoil us with whatever we want, but to help us grow into the likeness of Him who came to set us free from the bondage of sin and to be in an ever-growing relationship with God the Father who art in heaven, and whose name is most certainly hallowed above all names.

So in conclusion, God wants to make a deal with you, but not one that will leave you with a clunker, rather one that will lead you into an everlasting relationship through an everlasting life.  What happens to us will not always be easy, we won’t always get what we want in the short term, but we will get what we need if we keep our focus and our respect on the one who Jesus leads us to. 

And the only way we can do that is to stay in contact with God through prayer.