Sermon for Sunday, July 24th, 2016|| Proper 12, Year C|| Genesis 18: 20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2: 6-19; Luke 11: 1-13|| The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
I have a really hard time with this gospel lesson. I have a really hard time with any teaching—especially when it comes from Jesus– that seems to imply that if we pray with enough persistence or enough faith or enough of that mysterious something we have apparently yet to discover, then all of our prayers will be answered.
Frankly, I don’t buy it.
We’ve all asked and not received, all searched and not found, all knocked and knocked and knocked until our knuckles bled and our hearts broke and we crumbled on the floor before a decidedly and steadfastly closed door.
Getting a snake instead of a fish? A scorpion instead of an egg? If we haven’t been the recipients of such disappointing—if not death-dealing– responses to our prayers for life-saving, life giving, life-promoting Divine help, we don’t have to look very hard to identify those who have. We’ve all known good, faithful, God-fearing folks to whom horrible things have happened.
So it’s natural for us to wonder why we bother to pray at all… to conclude that our prayers are, despite Jesus’ promises to the contrary, powerless. But I am convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would go so far as to say that prayer is a daring and courageous act of resistance. Prayer is a bold and determined act of outright defiance. Prayer stares down what our baptismal service refers to as, “the spiritual forces of wickedness” and “the evil powers of this world” that oppose God’s will and says, “No.” Prayer says, “I see you,” to the darkness, then bears unequivocal witness to our continued allegiance to the Light.
Most of you have heard me say (probably multiple times by now) that Jesus wouldn’t have taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” if either of those things were already our reality. There’d be no point. But God’s Kingdom has not yet been fully realized, and God’s will is most certainly not always done. Yet because God’s love was so powerful it was able to vanquish the forces of fear and hatred and death through Christ’s self-offering and resurrection, we do have our Kingdom moments now. We do have the power to do God’s will, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And we need to remember that what we’ve been witnessing for the last 2,000 years are the death throes of a dying beast whose number is up. A beast that knows God’s Kingdom has broken into this world and that God’s will is going to be done. Prayer is looking that dying beast in the eye and saying, “Loser. You don’t fool me.”
In our translation of the gospel this morning from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Jesus tells a story about a man who gets what he needs because of his “persistence.” But instead of “persistence,” the New International Version reads, “shameless audacity.”
Yes! We need to pray with shameless audacity! Not in opposition to God, whose own prayers for life and love, and healing and health, and peace and justice we are simply joining in progress, but in opposition to the one who tries to tell us that our prayers don’t work, or that God’s not listening, or that God answers our prayers but sometimes the answer is just no.
Don’t buy that, my friends. Pray with shameless audacity in opposition to those lies. Pray with shameless audacity to the One who gave his life to prove the Divine answer is yes, always yes! And when you pray, say: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done.”
Then do something to help make it so. Amen.