Summary: Our prayers are affected by the way we understand God. Jesus uses this quirky parable to drive home that God is passionate about humanity and, in particular, your well-being.

Sermon for CATM – November 1, 2009 – “Pray Like You Mean It!”

A young man went into a drugstore to buy 3 boxes of chocolate: small, medium, and large. When the pharmacist asked him about the three boxes, he said, “Well, I’m going over to a new girlfriend’s house for supper. Then we’re going out. “

If she only lets me hold her hand, then I’ll give her the small box. If she lets me kiss her on the cheek, then I’ll give her the medium box. But if she really lets me smooch seriously, I’ll give her the big box.” He made his purchase and left.

That evening as he sat down at dinner with his girlfriend’s family, he asked if he could say the prayer before the meal. He began to pray, and he prayed an earnest, intense prayer that lasted for almost five minutes.

When he finished his girlfriend said, “You never told me you were such a religious person.” He said, “And you never told me your dad was a pharmacist!”

We all have our prayer stories. Prayer figures large in the experience of most of us.

The experience tends to range from simple comfort from knowing we can pray to a God who listens, to more than the occasional miracle that we can testify to. We all have our prayer stories.

I know for a fact that even atheists have their prayer stories.

When I was 16, having been raised with a remarkable ignorance of faith, of God and of anything that you might call ‘spiritual’, I recall that I would be up in my room alone on the 3rd floor of my parents’ house late at night, with nothing resembling faith, and I would look out the window at a light in the distance.

And I would talk about life, I would talk about sorrows, I would talk about hopes for life that seemed so distant and unlikely. And when I was finished I would simply say: “I pray this to the Lord inside”.

You’ve got to understand, I had no reference for the word “Lord” I had no reference for prayer at all. And yet, this young, depressed atheist slowly found language for the cry of his heart.

And, mercifully, a few months later I met some Christians who helped me to understand prayer on the one hand, but more importantly the One to whom I could safely pour out my heart.

Now, prayer can be a struggle for many of us. Even when we understand that when we pray, we’re simply talking to God, we deal with all kinds of temptations regarding prayer. We can get it in our minds that God is here to serve us, and that we deserve to have all our wants met.

This is the Santa view of God, a view that probably is a good indicator that we need to spend more time reading our Bibles. I’ve had people say to me, “I prayed for this or I prayed for that and God didn’t answer me. How dare He!?”

It can be tough to express to people that God doesn’t exist to serve our needs, to be some kind of cosmic gift-dispenser. When our faith hinges on God obliging us, effectively obeying our prayers, our faith dangles most precariously.

I’m thankful to God for his mercy. At one point just a few years after becoming a Christ-follower, I was on the phone in my pastor’s office talking to someone who was complaining that they felt very few of their prayers ever got answered.

As I was listening to the other person talk I started to think about my own life and my prayers since becoming a believer. And I was struck with the realization that pretty nearly every prayer I had prayed in the previous two years had been answered in the affirmative.

I remember being dumbstruck and I barely participated in the rest of the conversation. It was right around then that the answers to my prayers started coming more slowly or started to be “no” or “not now” rather than “yes”. That’s probably a good thing.

So we can get messed up in our idea of what prayer is for. Or we can become directive to God, as if we know best. “God, please help Frank to get this apartment or this car or this job because I know it’s Your will”. Rather than committing people and situations to God to find the answers to according to His will and purposes, we get hyped up about what we think is right and our prayers looe power because we sit ourselves down in the driver’s seat. That, my friends, just can’t work.

Or we can make the mistake of never praying for ourselves and only for others. “God’s too busy to worry about me!” I’ve heard more than once.

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