Monday, April 3, 2017

prayer 102

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Luke 18:1-17
I am an admitted typing hack.
I lack both the subtleties of a well trained secretary and the pragmatic proficiencies of the classic two pointer-finger method. It takes me about 10 minutes to reply to a text message. My computer skills are not much better. In high school, my inadequacies in my "Keyboarding" class were so monumental, that my teacher was convinced that I had some physical or mental block that made me unfit for typing. She told my parents that I should drop the class and begin immediate treatment. (Wow, now that I think about it, the list of those who've suggested "treatment" is lengthy.)
So it's to nobody's surprise that, by far, my favorite button on the computer is "undo." I hit it so much that I can find it with my mouse with my eyes shut. I need to design a keyboard where it is bigger than the space bar, or better yet, a verbal command.
I also find that this desire to hit the undo button carries over into non-computer life. I catch myself muttering "Undo. Undo!" when I am making a mistake cooking eggs or fixing a sump pump or playing a board game. It doesn't work.
Today's passage is a classic in prayer. It is also a built in "undo" button that all of us can hit when we're off target or stale in our prayer life. From these two different stories, we can see some common maladies that affect our prayers: giving up and praying about ourselves.
Let's face it- it's easy for any of us to become discouraged in prayer. We are not used to waiting these days, and if we find ourselves in a place where we are forced to, (e.g. the deli, the Donut shop, or the DMV), we are so quick to analyze a hundred better ways to streamline the service. So it is understandable that when our prayers are not answered in a time frame that we think reasonable, many of us conclude that God has already given us His decision. So we cut our losses, move on, and save our prayers for another day.
In this first parable, Jesus teaches us to hit the "undo" button on that line of reasoning.
The persistent widow is honored and set up as an example and ultimately rewarded. We are told to be like her. While there are some prayers that are time sensitive, there are a host of other prayers that are not. God never gets tired of our prayers for the lost (1), for our sanctification (2), for those in leadership (3). That's just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I firmly believe that the only prayer that God gets sick of is illustrated by the next parable (4).
In this second parable, Jesus teaches us to hit the "undo" button when our prayers cease to center on Him, and instead center on ourselves. The reason being, as soon as that happens, we are no longer even praying. The "prayer" of the Pharisee was not a prayer at all- it was a pretentious pat on the back. Instead, the humbled and desperate tax-collector is the hero of this story.
I doubt that your prayers are as blatantly ridiculous as the Pharisee here. But its best not to ever assume that we are immune to that kind of thinking. After all, it's human nature to become wrapped up in our own selves, with a narrow view on what matters and what to bring before God. Do yourself a favor and, next time you pray, take a brief inventory of what you are actually praying about. The results can be surprising. The prayer of the tax-collector should be part of our regular arsenal of requests, because the moment we think otherwise, we start sounding Pharisaical.
It's one thing to be a typing hack, but it's even more common to be a prayer hack. That's okay- just don't forget the "undo" button- and make sure you don't forget the basics, AKA prayer 101 (5)
(1) 1 Timothy 2:4
(2) 1 Thessalonians 4:3
(3) 1 Timothy 2:1
(4) Ephesians 6:18
(5) See March 20, 2011 blog!!!

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