Teaching us to pray...and to bargain with God?

July 24, 2019


There's an expression, "You can't bargain with God."


Biblically speaking: baloney.


In Sunday's Gospel passage, Jesus' disciples ask him to teach them to pray, and Jesus gives them what's now known as "The Lord's Prayer."


The very next thing he does, he tells them a couple stories.


The first story is about the value of persistence in prayer (using an example of someone going to their friend, not getting what they want initially, but persevering in asking until the friend yields).


We can bargain with God.


I'm not questioning God's sovereignty (a theological term for God's independence, or self-rule). But here's the thing: the very fact that God is sovereign means God can do whatever God wants! And apparently part of what God wants is to listen to, and respond to, human beings who earnestly and repeatedly keep sharing, with God, their deepest desires.

Just read this remarkable story we'll be hearing Sunday from the Old Testament, where Abraham bargains with God.


What's mind-boggling is that those stories aren't even outliers. Read the story of the persistent widow. Read about Nineveh, Jonah chapter 3, where God changes his mind. (God is God, after all...why wouldn't God have this ability?)


So what does this have to do with perseverance in prayer?


What's the point in persevering (in prayer, or in anything) if there's no hope of change?


Don't take my word for it: listen to Jesus, the Living Son of the Living God: 

"For everyone who asks receives,  and everyone who searches finds,  and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." As I hope to explore more in my sermon Sunday, our reluctance to believe this is rooted in our reluctance to trust God -- really trust God...that God is for us and not against us. That's part of the reason Jesus tells the second story after teaching the Lord's prayer. That story is about God's goodness. About how God wants, really wants, like a good parent, to give good things to us. The point in both stories is that it is appropriate that we human beings engage God... ...there is a give and take with God... ...there is conversation with God...and conversation is by definition two ways. Jesus teaching us to pray. And prayer is engaging -- really engaging -- God in a give and take, in two-way conversation. We're not praying to a brick wall. We're praying to God who is alive...and dynamic...and listening...and caring, and constantlycreating and re-creating. See you Sunday, 

John

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