You Asked For It

 Luke 11: 1

Let us pray: Father, we ask that our hearts would be open to the power of your Holy Spirit, both in our speaking and our listening. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit-peace and love from our living Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Do any of you remember the TV program from the 1950's, "You Asked For It"? It began like this: "Whatever it is, where ever it is, at home or around the world, you see it here, because YOU ASKED FOR IT." Home viewers would send a postcard to the show requesting something that they would like to see on the air. There were no interstate highways in the 1950s. Air travel was very expensive and/or uncomfortable. Top name entertainers tended to appear only on the East or West coasts. This series allowed the middle-Americans of the day to see things and acts that they would otherwise never experience.

There are many ways we use the phrase, "You asked for it." We use it as sort of a warning that something isn't going to be that good, "Okay, I'll do it, but you asked for it." We use is as a pronouncement of impending doom, "That's it! I've had it! You asked for it!" Or, "You're receiving this sample in the mail because you asked for it."

But the best one of all is the one where we simply recognize within ourselves when God grants us what we ask for.

Unfortunately, sometimes we don't even recognize that God is granting us what we have asked for because we limit our recognition to the way WE want our prayer to be answered, not the way God knows to answer it with what is most beneficial for us. And, sometimes we don't even know what we have asked for. We ask, but the way we ask is not the way we really meant it.

Most folks praying the Lord's Prayer don't realize all that they're asking for in that prayer. The daily bread we ask for is not the daily food we eat. It's a spiritual food we are asking that God grant us. God hears the request as spiritual food, not food to eat. The Lord's Prayer is a very spiritual prayer. In the early translations of the Lord's Prayer we see that they understood this as they translated that phrase as 'super-substantial bread.' When we pray that phrase about 'bread' in the Lord's Prayer, we're asking for our daily spiritual bread, our daily spiritual lesson or wisdom that helps us grow in our relationship with God, that helps us grow in our relationship to other people and other living beings and to our environment.

We may ask for things from God that are of a material nature, but God hears them as pertaining to our spiritual nature. We ask God for something specific of a material nature, but God answers us with regard to our spiritual nature. That is, let's say you ask God for money. God answers you by giving you the wherewithal by which that could come about. You ask God for better health, God gives you the wherewithal by which that could become possible. Very often folks don't use the wherewithal given them because they're looking for God to answer the prayer in a very specific way-THEIR way!

In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus gives examples showing how God does right by us. But the final sentence of the lesson tells us what he is talking about and it's NOT granting material requests. He is very specific and concrete in leading up to his point. If your child asks for a fish, you wouldn't give him a snake. If she asks for an egg, you wouldn't give a scorpion. So even we who are human know how to give good gifts to our children, then how much more-and here's the clincher-will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

In verse 10 Jesus states, "For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. He's not talking about getting material things. He's talking about matters in the realm of the Spirit. The hymn of the day today is based on a wonderful scripture from Matthew that is found in the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first [or strive first for] the Kingdom of God" and all your other requests will fall into place. As Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message: "Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." Or as the New English Bible translates it: "Set your mind on God's kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well."

We know from the Gospel of Luke that the 'Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven' is within us. So, when Jesus tells us to "seek first, [or strive for first]" the Kingdom of Heaven so that everything else will be in proper order, Jesus is telling us to turn our attention INWARD to matters of the Spirit. Since everything has to work FIRST on the spiritual level, before it will work on the material level, we need to start there. When we pray this very spiritual prayer that we call The Lord's Prayer that Jesus gave us as a guide, not the be all and end all of all prayers, but a guide to how we should pray, he was answering the disciples' request to 'teach us how to pray.' They didn't ask "teach us a prayer that we can use and never change the words," they wanted to know what elements went into a prayer. So, Jesus is teaching us that when we pray "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" we are asking that the Spiritual guidance God gives us in our hearts and minds, in the kingdom of heaven that is within us, we are asking that such guidance then manifest, show itself on earth, in the material world we live and function in. We're asking that what God plants in our hearts and minds be the way that we live our lives-on earth as it is in heaven.

We ask God for so many things in so many different ways. He gave us a pattern in the Lord's Prayer but so often we don't follow it. We don't first strive to know what it is that God wants us to do. We go ahead on our own, and THEN we ask God to clean up the mess we make! We don't seek first to ask God for some spiritual food each day-some spiritual lesson that will apply to all parts of our life. We certainly don't forgive others as God forgives us. We carry around hurts and memories of hurts for years and years and attach those hurts to the person or persons who hurt us. To 'for-give' means to give up, let go of. Jesus doesn't ask us to do that just as some rule to obey. No. It's for our own good to give it up, let it go. It only negatively affects our life, our outlook, our attitude when we don't forgive.

So, finally, what is it that we expect from prayer? Do we just use God as some conduit to give us what we want? Do we even recognize what it is that we ask for? So often we don't recognize God's answer to our prayer because we don't even recognize how we asked for something. Do you think God only listens to your words? No. It's what's in your heart that God hears and responds to. You may be SAYING one thing, but in your heart it means something else. God responds to your heart.

How can God get a response through to you if you haven't forgiven someone? Instead of your hands being open to receive God's love, they are closed like fists, not open to receiving, because you haven't opened your hands to give forgiveness to some one.

How can God make us realize that we've received a response to our prayer when we only want it to be answered one way-our way? We need to put in our request and then let God handle it-not try to force our answer.

We have to remember that our prayers are heard and answered on a spiritual level. If you don't pay attention to what is going on in your spiritual self, how are you going to recognize or understand the answer to your prayers?

The Lord's Prayer is a deeply spiritual prayer. Most everyone SAYS the Lord's Prayer and doesn't PRAY it. It's a rote memory thing. People get upset when you change words, using words that we use today. God is not a "thy" or "thou" from the 1600's. Using that language to address God does not make the Prayer special or sacred; it separates God from the reality of today. For instance, I don't want God to forgive me for trespassing on someone's property (and THAT is my prayer because THAT is what 'trespass' means to me, so God is working with what 'trespass' means to me); I want God to forgive me my sins. If I use 'trespass' I'm not really asking for anything more than that, I'm not asking for what I really want-God to forgive my sins. So, I'm not getting what I really want.

With God, you get what you ask for, and, remember, you asked for it.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie