What is Prayer? -July 24, 2022
Pastor Steve (00:00):
Prayer is not supposed to be intimidating. Prayer’s supposed to be a conversation. It’s supposed to be something that, that God wants us to enter into readily and not feel like we have to have all the right trappings or the right, the right postures.
Hannah Hunter (00:15):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with the gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director for digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm beach gardens. Thanks for joining us this week. We are blessed to have pastor Steve of nativity Lutheran church and Palm beach gardens. Bring us the message studying in Luke 11, one through 13. Pastor Steve walks us through what prayer is, why we pray and how the love and grace of Christ demonstrates the spiritual discipline in order for us to grow as individuals and as a community.
Pastor Steve (00:46):
All right, so first I’m gonna read you that passage. Um, we are in, I know if we got a, we got, who haha. Well done. We are reading from Luke, uh, the 11th chapter, the first through the 13th versus, and he, that being Jesus was praying in a certain place. And after he’d finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord teach us to pray. As John taught his disciples and he said to them, when you pray, say this father hallowed, be your name, your kingdom. Come give us each day, our daily bread and forgive us, our sins for we ourselves. Forgive everyone indebted to us and do not bring us to the time of trial. And then Jesus went on and said to them, suppose one of you has a friend and you go to him at midnight and say to him friend lend me three loaves of bread for a friend of mine has arrived at my house and I have nothing to set before him.
Pastor Steve (01:53):
And he answers from within, do not bother me. The door has already been locked and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything. Then Jesus says, I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, at least because of his persistence, he will get up and give him whatever he needs. So I say to you ask, and it will be given you search and you will find, knock in the door will be open for you, for everyone who asks, receives, and then everyone who searches finds. And for everyone who knocks the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child were to ask for a fish will give a snake instead of a fish, or if the child asks for an egg will give a scorpion.
Pastor Steve (02:53):
If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your father? I mean to your children, how much more, how much more will the heavenly father give the holy spirit to those who ask him, this is the gospel of the Lord. So yes, this morning, this morning, I want to talk a bit about prayer and because prayer, it is the mode. It is the mode. It is the means by which of getting God into us. And the goodness of God out of us, prayer is the mode of getting the goodness of God into us and getting it out of us and into community.
Pastor Steve (03:42):
Little bit of, a little bit of a secret. Maybe pastors not only preach for what we think you need to hear, but we preach what we need to hear as well. So I’m not saying that I’m like the plumber with leaky PIs, but maybe I’m the pastor that doesn’t pray as much as he should. All right. Full disclosure. So I want to enter into this conversation about prayer, prayer with you, because we can always pray more. We can always have that conversation with God. And so that’s, that’s a question I, I, I, quick question or survey of you all, what is prayer to you? Just let it out. What is prayer to you? Um, conversation with the Lord conversation with the Lord earlier service, somebody said it’s a time of prayer is a time of introspection of thinking of dwelling of meditating. I think that works, that works as well.
Pastor Steve (04:41):
And prayer comes in all kinds of shapes, shapes, and, and ways. Right? I think of, I think about that, that what we all, the, the place that we commonly pray together, we pray is mealtime, right? That’s a very common time for us to pray. And you know, and prayer at, at mealtime can be, can be as informal as dub dub, thanks for the grub. Right? And then formal, we have this prayer, right? The Lord’s prayer, the one that, that Jesus gives to his disciples today, that is, um, the bedrock of Christian of Christian, uh, prayer identity straight from Jesus’ mouths. It’s a prayer that has said the world over every Sunday morning, at least. And in between there’s a common framework, but today I want to unpack with you two things in regards to this, this passage that I think is important for us. And the first one is the power of place in regards to prayer place, being present in a place.
Pastor Steve (05:44):
And secondly, when does a thought become a prayer, because we’re quick to say things such, such as you’re in my thoughts and prayers, but what exactly does that mean? And what’s our follow through. When I think there’s an opportunity there to close a, a, a gap between our intention and what we actually, what we actually do. And I wanna unpack that with us as well. So we have today in Luke’s reading that Jesus was praying in a certain, certain place. And when I read that, I was like, certain place, God like that, what’s this certain place. Where’s this place that Jesus is praying, but it’s important that they put that certain there because, because you know, Jesus is prayed numerous times with this disciples up until this this point. But for some reason, Luke was like, no, this is a certain place. There’s something about this place at this time.
Pastor Steve (06:46):
And in place that elicited this conversation that, that, that came about, and we see that Jesus is being observed by his disciples. And there’s something about that time. And that space that elicited that question of Jesus teach us like John taught his disciples because John was, had his own following there. At one point, they thought that John was the Messiah and John didn’t turn out to the Messiah because Jesus came on the scene. So Jesus is the man now. But then he saw how John was able to reach his disciples and nurture his, nurture his disciples and teach them. And they watching Jesus praying in this certain space. And they’re like, I want, I want that. At least one of them said, I want that. What’s going on here. There’s something about Jesus in this moment that we need to emulate. So teach us Jesus.
Pastor Steve (07:41):
And I think that’s something that we can relate to. I think we can relate to the fact that there are times and places where we have, have seen or heard somebody pray. And we’re like, whoa, whoa. And there’s those people in the room that when they open their mouth and they pray, it’s like dog on, they got, they got a connection there. They got, they got the words and that can be intimidating. I remember the first time I was asked to pray in seminary in front of professors and all these other, these other pastor wannabes in class. And it was a class was systematic theology. <laugh>, that’s a, that class was all about saying the right things, you know about, about, about the, the construct of words in regards to our relationship with God and, and who God is. And, and man, to pray in that space.
Pastor Steve (08:35):
Whoa, intimidating, but prayer is not supposed to be intimidating. Prayer is supposed to be a conversation. It’s supposed to be something that, that God wants us to enter into, uh, readily, readily and not feel like we have to have all the right trappings or the right, the right, um, uh, the right postures. But to see somebody pray and to be present with somebody who is, who is connected and to be in that space, it can be incredibly empowering, too empowering, because if they can do it, you can do it. Right. And that’s what happened with that Jesus in that certain place. So like, if Jesus can do it and John taught his folks to pray, then we, by reason of extension should be able to pray like Jesus did Jesus teach us. So they asked Jesus, teach us to pray. And instead of giving them a technique, you know, you know, I think when I think of technique, um, you know, how we teach kids to, to sit hands, their lap, folded eyes closed, looking up, not anything like that, but that’s not what he was getting at Jesus.
Pastor Steve (09:48):
Like, instead of giving you a technique, I’m gonna give you, I’m gonna give you a lesson on how to nurture a relationship with God. I’m gonna give you the meat, not the structure. I’m gonna give you the meat. And that meat was to glorify God, how would be th name right to glorify God. And then he uses this. He uses bread as a symbol, as of God’s provision vision, give us this day, our daily bread, not just, not just the bread as in the physical sustenance, but what we need, what is what we needed a physical sustenance, spiritual sustenance stating God, you are the provider. And we ask you to nourish a small things and then forgive us our sins. And we will do likewise for those that have sinned against us. And then lastly, that, that save us from the time of trial. Whew, an acknowledgement that God does have the eject button, right?
Pastor Steve (10:52):
<laugh> or the trapped door button, but that’s not what, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about acknowledging that God, that God is boss, that God is in charge and that what God wants first and foremost for you is for you to exist in this creation. And then if you work through glorifying him, naming him as the provider of all things and forgiving brothers and sisters, and that saved us from the time a trial thing is not a thing it’s because you’ve been, you’ve been working at it through your life, in that framework. So this was a unique moment for Jesus disciples because they were learning, learning what a Christian life looks like going forward. And it was about relationships. It was about being present with people. We ourselves have our own unique moments of prayer, right? And you have been in certain places where they just stand out out in your mind is like my Lord, the, the space between heaven and earth was like, was thin. It was right there. Right? The, the transcendence we call it, it’s like, man, oh man. And it, and it might have been bedside as someone you love was passing away.
Pastor Steve (12:11):
It might have been at the birth of a child, but there’s those places in which there was prayer. And man, it was holy ground. Right? Holy God there. And I want you to think about that for a second. What happened in those spaces? What made those that time and those that space that you were in, in that scenario? What made it Memor memorable to you? I bet you, it was because the people you were with Jesus disciples hear Jesus praying. And they know that, that he has got this. He’s got this connection with God and they want in on it. They want to be in that head space and that heart space that Jesus is in. So wanna unpack with you place in relation to prayer and what we do in those places, how it’s important, not just for us, but for, for, for others. I was doing a little research, uh, for this, this, uh, this sermon for you all. And I asked my, I asked my wife, I was like, honey, cuz I never call her Amy. Occasionally say honey. I said, what is the most, one of the most impactful and memorable prayer moments in your life? And I got an answer from her that I was not expecting, which I feel kind of bad that I didn’t tap into it. Like, like, like she has <laugh> but she said it was at the birth of our youngest and how she, my at the time 10, eight and six year old were there and our newborn was an hour or two old. And I said, let’s pray,
Pastor Steve (14:12):
Let’s pray. And let’s be thankful. I remember doing that. And I’m trying to remember, why is, why was it, why did I do that? Not that it’s a bad thing. Right? It’s a great thing. Hadn’t done it for the other three, but I did it for this child. <laugh> I don’t think I did. I I, but why maybe it’s cuz I was in seminary at the time because it was on my radar. Right. But I think I did it because it was, it was an easy space to step into because it was joyful. It was, it was wonderful. Right. It’s a new life. And I was like, oh man, I’m gonna seize this opportunity. Heavenly father, thank you for this little child. Don’t let me screw it up. Like I did the first three.
Pastor Steve (15:07):
No, I was wasn’t quite like that. But I stepped into that space because it was easy and it was joyful. I think of another, another instance. I’m gonna give you a few of these, these, these times of prayer. I was flying down from, from middle of nowhere, Iowa, where we, where we lived before we came back to Florida and I was, uh, traveling by way of plane to PBI. And I was interviewing at holy spirit Lutheran church over on Juno beach. And I was sitting on the plane and there was a, I was at the window seat and there was a woman sitting next to me who, if I had to describe her, I I’d say she, she, her aura and her presence reminded me like Maya Angelou. Okay. So she was beautiful, wonderful hair, gray, very stately and had was, was put together and, and uh, and we were talking and Sharon and I had not shared with her what I was, what I was coming down to Florida to do to interview. But she just seemed like a rock of a person. And in the middle of the flight, we started having turbulence and she slammed her arm down on my arm and said, pray with me.
Speaker 3 (16:18):
Pastor Steve (16:20):
Pray with me. Like, okay. So I prayed with her, right? She didn’t know who I, she didn’t know who I was. She made herself entirely vulnerable and said, just pray to me. She didn’t know that I was a pastor. She didn’t didn’t know Jack doodly do about me, but she wanted to step into that space with me because she needed, she needed someone, whether I was cool with, with, with God or not, she wanted, she needed. And I was there and she pulled me into that space. And then we had conversation that we made it, we lived by the way <laugh>
Pastor Steve (17:02):
We made it. And um, yeah. And then I just hold that, just colored the rest of our rest of our, our flight. And then just last week, last week I was walking into Publix and, and as I was passing by a car that had a, had a man who was sitting on the tailgate of his, of his SUV, he says, I heard basket stopping it. I look and I’m like, huh? And I’m looking at, himm looking at his face. And he is like, do you want to basket? I’m like, oh, I’s like, I thought I heard pastor <laugh> if you wanna get my let’s ask my daughters. If you wanna get my attention, they call me pastor Steve <laugh>.
Pastor Steve (17:48):
So I was like, pastor, oh, oh, um, basket. Oh, okay. And I was like, oh, that’s funny. And I was like, well, I thought you called me pastor because it did happens out in the community. And the next thing I know this gentleman, his name is Rick carried on to me about how he is a retired New York city. Oh. I thought you’d all say police officer, cuz they feel like they all retire here. New York city. Yeah. New York city retired, New York city police officer. He now lives down in St. Croix, but he’s up here to have worked on, on his back because he has a bad back and he’s got two do granddaughters that are coming and he wants to have a good back. So he can play with his granddaughters. It’s like beautiful story. Right? Like wonderful. Just let it out. You say your pastor and they let it out.
Pastor Steve (18:34):
It’s fine. That’s great. That’s that’s I, I love, I love the story. I love hearing the stories, but it was at the end of this conversation where I, where instead of stepping into that space with him and putting a hand on his shoulder and or asking him, can I pray with you? I did thoughts and prayers. I said, I’ll keep you into my thoughts and prayers, Rick. So I’ve been thinking about that. That’s been kicking around in my head, right? Another reason why this, I wanted to unpack prayer with you. These prayer ex occurrences, I experienced represent opportunities that were missed and that were met. And I think prayer opportunities are so vital, not just for us, but for creating community so vital. And that is why I believe Jesus did not focus on technique on the how, but instead on the why. And that is to nurture relationship with God, that big words and precision theology not necessary. Just glorify God, ask God to be, to be present, to provide for that person or for, or for your need and to be forgiveness, forgiveness for all. And if we can, we can wrap our minds and, and live in that head space and heart space.
Pastor Steve (20:12):
And we will be a part of on earth as it is in heaven. So to stress, the importance of nurturing relationship with God, Jesus gives the, gives this hypothetical scenario. So you all go to a friend’s house at midnight, it’s pretty inopportune time to go to a friend’s house, right at midnight, because you have a friend who showed up to your house and you need bread in order to feed them. But what you hear from behind the door is go away. I’m in bed, my family, you know, we’re it’s, we’re we’re in for the night go away, but not because he is a friend be because he is persistent, persistent, he will get up and give you what you need.
Pastor Steve (21:02):
God gives us what we need when we display and need for God. I wanna say that again. God gives us what we need when we display a need for God. Now I wanna clarify that. Not in a fairy godmother reward kind of way. Okay? Not in that, not in a fairy godmother, dial it up. No, but in a manner, but in a manner that Becks us to go deeper, to go deeper with God, because God loves the conversation. God loves the conversation. God loves to hear what’s ticking in your mind, the machinations of your heart. God loves it. God wants to hear it. Now God can. God knows it, right? God, cuz God knows everything. But, but God really digs the expression. <laugh> to hear it come out of us because it’s in the conversation that our hearts are taken to a certain place wherein we wherein we spiritually enlist in God’s plans.
Pastor Steve (22:18):
When we go deep in the conversation with God, our hearts are taken to a certain place wherein we spiritually enlist in God’s plans. And that is where my second meditation for this passage comes in. And that is when does a thought, when does a thought become a prayer? When does a thought become a prayer? Now I’m gonna go back to that thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers. You’re in my thoughts and prayers and how that can often, you know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a Facebook line. It’s a, it’s an Instagram line. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a meme on, on Facebook or on Instagram and all that social media ease.
Pastor Steve (23:05):
When we know that is not a subs, not a substitute for the physical presence and entering into the space with, with, with our brothers and sisters in Christ. So all too often just saying thoughts and prayers is often flat platitudes. So I’m challenging us, challenging myself to be more present. Cause the thought becomes a prayer. When we attach action to it. When as Jesus states, we ask, we search and we knock for when we permit ourselves, that means to get out of the way and let the holy spirit do. Its do its thing thing. When we permit ourselves to ask such knock God, we are giving to God that certain place for God to cultivate, to cultivate, to turn our heart’s soil. And when we give that space for God to cultivate, we end up doing God’s will in certain places that we are called to and not necessarily places that we, that we want to be, but places that we need to be going back to that idea, that that because of persistence, God gives what you need, not what you want, but what you need. So if we get our hearts in those certain places, God, God will take us to places that we are called to where God needs us to be asking, searching and knocking. So I wanna do a little exercise with you here. And I want you to think about in your own lives about this asking, searching and knocking. What have you been asking God for recently? What have you been asking God for?
Pastor Steve (24:55):
And if it’s hard to get to that, to get to an answer, if something doesn’t pop up right away, maybe you’re not talking to God enough. What have you been asking God for? And then ultimately, what did you receive? What did you receive? What, what, what line did God give you? What, what did Lord give you? What have you been searching for? I’ve been searching personally. I’ve been finding myself searching for, for, for a piece of mind in the midst of the craziness of this world. Peace of mind and trying to locate where, where God is, is working. Because it just seems like it there’s a lot of broken right now, right? A lot of brokenness. So I’ve been searching for places of peace, quiet time to meditate and think on God. And lastly, which closed door has God opened for you? What door have you been knocking on the doors open? And there’s a, a threshold that you have that you have been given access to. You’ve been able to cross into a new new space because you’ve been knocking. What did you find there? What was behind that once closed door that now has you, that has you hearing God, seeing God feeling God loving God conversing with God.
Pastor Steve (26:29):
And when thinking about this in this asking, searching and knocking, ultimately I want, we need to know and focus in on what did these findings tell you about God? And I betcha, I betcha the common theme. You’re gonna find in the asking the searching and the knocking and the receiving and the revealing and the doors opening. You’re gonna find that God is for you. That God is 100% for you, for you as an individual for this faith community, as a family, that God is for you. And if God is for you, then what else do do you need? And that is why Jesus conveys in the last few verses of this scripture. When he says this, is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish who will give a snake instead of a fish, or if the child asks for an egg will give a scorpion, if you then who are evil, that’s that’s Jesus acknowledging that the, the brokenness of the people, if you then who are evil, think broken, then know how and know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will a heavenly father give the holy spirit? That is the power of God, to those who ask him for those who ask for those who search for those who knock how much more, cuz we know that we will do anything for a child, right? We will do anything for a child, unless God will do anything for you. And in all our brokenness, God still listens and delivers what you need.
Pastor Steve (28:16):
God delivers what you need. So don’t just think brothers and sisters don’t just think, but do ask search, knock, enter into those spaces, close the gap between intention and, and what we actually do and build community with one. Another compassion in is, is done by best. By being close, justice is best understood by hearing the stories and being close understanding of, of those who are different from us is done best by, by, by not over airwaves, but by being close and hearing their stories and being willing to enter into that space and pray with them, that certain space in which when we can glorify God, don’t just think, but be a doer because of what God did for you, what God did for you in Jesus Christ, a God who did, who did something that had never been done before <laugh> who gave of, of himself. So that all may know eternal life. That is a unique attribute of our God. No other God gives of themself like, like our God did and not for God’s self, but for you, it was a selfless, loving action. And that’s what we’re, that’s what we’re here to do is respond, respond, participate in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and to ask search and knock,
Pastor Steve (30:04):
To learn how to be good. Good people for one another to one another. Amen.
Hannah Hunter (30:15):
Hey, beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm beach gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm beach area, we would love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 1115, for more information about our community and faith, check out our website at thegatheringplacefl.org. Thanks for listening.