November 25, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
I do not know how to say, “Thank you,” anymore. I remember as a kid it was easier because my parents would sit me down with a list of names from Christmas, my birthday, graduation or some other special event, and I would write out thank you cards. Today, it seems more complicated because you’ve got the option for a card, email, text message or post on social media. I am not sure which to use to let the gift giver know my sincere thanks. Also, there are times when some sends me such a thoughtful thank you that I feel the need to thank them for their thank you, and I feel myself being pulled into an endless cycle of politeness.
Another struggle besides how to thank others, is prayer. This year has given you all the more reason to pray. With the political turmoil, pandemic regulations and social unrest, you realize that the world needs help beyond what can be found here and so you pray to God to give you, your loved ones, the sick and suffering, the leaders and those in need what they need. The struggle then becomes how to keep praying if your many prayers do not seem to be answered. In Matthew 6, Jesus addressed prayer saying, 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” The hypocrites Jesus referred to were those who observed a rule that they would pray three times a day and made sure they were in public for each of those times to pray for all around them to hear. Jesus said that they received their reward already because of the honor they received from those who heard them for having such obvious devotion. Yet, they would receive nothing from God because their hearts were only after worldly honor. Instead, Jesus said that those who pray in unseen or humble ways, who pray with faith and care for the things of God, will be rewarded. And so, when your prayers have in mind only what you think needs to be addressed and you do not pray about the needs of people God calls important, then you should not expect to have your prayers answered. You and I become hypocrites when we pray to God in ways that deny what he has done and wants to do for us. Hypocrisy is another word for insincerity, and when you and I fall into insincere prayers it reveals our sinful hearts that need what only God can give.
God’s gift of Jesus is what you needed this year. God gave you the gift of life and the whole earth as a home because he is the Father, the Creator of all life, and the Maker of heaven and earth. And since his gift of life was ruined by your sin, by death as the consequence of your sin and an eternity in hell, he gave you forgiveness, eternal life and heaven as he tells us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 5, 8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While you were in your greatest moment of need, Jesus saved you. Your Father in heaven knew what you needed and gave him to you. Now, you are no longer lost when you pray wondering what to say because the Holy Spirit has filled your heart with faith connecting you to God and not some mysterious force as Jesus warned against in Matthew 6, 7 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God has forgiven your babbling insincere prayers, your hypocrisy, lack of thankfulness and all your sins through Jesus who as one with the Father always prayed for what was good, who is often recorded as going off to pray in the Bible, who taught us to pray and who gave his good and innocent life as a sacrifice on the cross to give you what you need, to pay for your sins and free you from death and hell.
Of the many prayers you have prayed this year, there is one which sums up the needs our Father in heaven has met for us. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 6. It is a prayer we have been tempted to say in crowded places and babble on with little thought given to the words. More than that though, it is a prayer held dear to our hearts and spoken with tears of thanksgiving. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ Here Jesus guides us to pray for spiritual blessings-to honor and worship the one true God, for him to rule in our hearts and to hold back evil in this world and let his good will take place, physical blessings-to give us what we need to keep our physical bodies healthy and to deliver us from the evils of body and soul-from our sins, to fill our hearts with his love to forgive others, to help us avoid selfish, wicked ways and also save us when we do fall into sin. The prayer is short but covers all we need God to give us. And the closing words, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever and ever. Amen.” are added as thanksgiving and praise to God.
You have spent many hours in prayer this year trusting God is the one who gives us what we need. And God has given you what you need, which is why another one of the reasons we pray is to give thanks to God. Your Father in heaven gave you the gift of your Savior Jesus. Jesus gave what all our needy hearts needed through his death and resurrection: life, love, forgiveness, purpose and peace. Spend time over the next few days to ponder and meditate on all God has done for you, and if you are not sure where to look read Genesis 1, Psalm 136, John 3, Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15, and then continue to pray with thanksgiving for the Father knows your needs. Amen.