15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Walking in Persistent Prayer”
Genesis 18: 20-33
Colossians 2: 8-14
Luke 11: 5-13
This year marks forty years of God’s faithfulness to us as a Church. The Bible says that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. God’s Word does not return to Him without accomplishing that for which it was sent. I believe He will lead us into forty years more and beyond because our God is a good God and He always fulfills His promises.
This year also marks the time we were received into the communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church marking our reception into the one, holy, and apostolic Church. One year ago was also the installation of the second Bishop of this Diocese. God is faithful and He will never leave us nor forsake us. The time is in His hands, and in His time, everything will turn out beautiful. One thing I have learned through much fear and trembling is: no matter what happens, the Lord reigns and so we do not have to be afraid.
Today's parable is not about what God is like but what our prayer should be like. Jesus portrays what God is really like. Our God is a God who gives us fish, not a snake; an egg, not a scorpion. The reason Jesus came is to show who God the Father is because some have failed to understand it. God sends Someone who doesn’t kill us but gives us abundant life! If He gave His life, what more can He give?
The Father’s heart is that He has gladly chosen us His Kingdom. Why would He withhold other things from us if He gave His Son’s life for us? Let us change our wrong view of our God. He wants the best for us always! He wants our good all the time; He doesn’t change. God's heart is always expressive for a desire for our best. God is always outward; God always blesses and He ever blesses so He is ever blessed.
The parable tells us of what our prayer should be like: persistent and selfless. Abraham was not praying for his wishes or his needs. I am not saying that we don’t pray for our needs. God grants even our whims. Our Holy Father wants to give what is best for us. He is a fish giver and an egg giver, but the request of Solomon and the persistent friend was not for themselves. Their prayers were for the sake and the need of their brother. Ideally, our prayer should be for others.
In our prayers, sometimes what we ask are things that are not necessary good for us. Likened to a child, he would ask something not for his good, but only for his palate, which only gives a fleeting joy. God gives what we ask, but He expects us to mature. Our prayers for personal needs are overtaken by our prayers for the needs of others because we more and more become like Jesus who always thinks of His neighbor first before Himself.
Our mission, our job description, the reason we live is to grow up eventually into the image and likeness of God. Our God is a Blessor; a Giver, and this is what satisfies Him and fulfills Him. God should not be seen as a cosmic genie or a cosmic Santa Claus that grants our wishes. Prayer is so that we can be equipped to fulfill our mission.
Whenever we ask something from God, what is it for? It is not wrong to ask for what is for ourselves, but God would tell us, “I want you to mature. I want you to be like My Son Who is always concerned for the Kingdom.” What He asks is always what is needed for His kingdom. James 4:3 said, “You ask and you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures, selfish reasons, and selfish desires.”
In our faith, we believe this teaching that says, “Name it and claim it!” My question is: who is it for? What is it for? What is our motive for asking? For self or for others? St. Paul says, “If I have a big faith so as to name it and claim it, but I do not have love for my neighbor and ask for my neighbor, then I am nothing.” This is what the world wants to trap us into – the deception of taking care of self. The greatest love of all is not love of self in the kingdom of God, but it is demonstrated by Jesus in giving His life for others.
Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it no one enslaves you and deceives you with foolish traditions of men and the world’s ways rather than the example of Christ who gives His life for the sake of many.” The will of God is for us to be blessed, and blessing means being like Jesus. Blessing means having His heart. Blessing is not accumulating wealth which will pass away. The character of god is eternal.
God ever blesses and this is why He is ever-blessed. What is being blessed? The Sermon on the Mount is how Jesus defines blessing. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the spiritually humble. Blessed are the gentle. Blessed are those who thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful, not thinking that we are taken advantage of. Jesus said that being merciful, being forgiving of the sins of others and their offenses is a blessing. Blessed are the peacemakers, not the war-mongers. How can we derive satisfaction when we get our brothers to fight against each other?
Blessed are those who control their anger against their brother. God has given us a spirit of love, power and self-control, and this is being blessed! Blessed are we when we do not look down on our brothers thinking we are better than they are. If we see our brother as our equal and respect them as a fellow child of God, then, we are blessed!
If we don’t divorce or we don’t have that spirit of division, then, we are blessed! If we don’t retaliate, if we don’t have that principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, if we forgive our brother even if they offend, then we are blessed because we have the Divine nature at work in us and in our hearts. Blessed are we when we have the ability to offer the other cheek after we be have been slapped and offended. It is not letting others abuse us, but we should always have this attitude that people have hope. People may fall, but they are servants of God and God is able to make them stand because God is faithful.
Blessed are we when we ask for the sake of others first before ourselves. Blessed are we when we are able to love our enemies. Greet our enemies and this is not being a hypocrite, but being truthful because God loves our enemies. He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the wicked and the righteous alike. We are being hypocrites if we go against the Divine nature of God. Blessed are we when we give without a show and when we seek first the kingdom of God and not material wealth. Blessed are we when we don’t judge and we don’t treat people the same way we want to be treated.
True blessing is to be like Jesus – a Giver, not a taker or asking for oneself. Let us be persistent in ministering. A minister means to meet a need. Many times, we are to minister to meet the needs of others, not ourselves. Jesus said, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give you the Holy Spirit generously to those who ask?” The Holy Spirit is for our equipping, for strength, for ability so that we can fulfill our mission in His kingdom. He has given us every spiritual blessing from the heavenlies.
Jesus said, "If you ask anything in My name, you will have it.” What does it mean “in the Name of Jesus”? It is not a formula. It is not something we say to ensure what we want. “In Jesus name” means we submit to the will of God - not a formula to ensure that we will get what we want. If we pray and spend time with Jesus, like what Mary did, we will have the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we will bear fruit.
If we spend time in prayer in the name of Jesus, with God, we will not have hatred for our brother. We won’t have bitterness in our heart. We don’t have unforgiveness in our heart toward our neighbor. We will only have love and acceptance despite their weakness. It will only be a desire for their good no matter how they have hurt us or offended us. Our prayer should be led towards this. The Biblical test case for the love of God is our love of our neighbor. We only love God as much as the person we love the least. We love God as much as we love the person that we may hate or that we may consider our enemy. We cannot love God whom we do not see, if we do not love our neighbor whom we see. We want to be like God. The more we are, the more we accomplish things not by might or power, but by following His ways.
In the story of Jonathan and his armor-bearer, two people went to the camp of the enemy and the famous saying of God came out of the mouth of Jonathan, “The Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.” The Lord is not restrained to save by the foolish or the wise; by young or by old; by male or by female; by the rich or by the poor. God is not restrained to save. To save is to give life, to cause His kingdom come, and to cause His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In fact, it seems intentional on His part that He uses foolish things of the world to shame and to confuse the wise. I, myself, would ask why He would choose somebody like me to lead this Diocese. I don’t understand it myself because I don’t trust my ability – only His ability. God uses the base things of the world to achieve His purpose. He can use a donkey, a Gentile king, a righteous king or a wicked king. The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of God and He guides it toward where He wants them to go.
In the life of Gideon, he was outnumbered 135 thousand to 32 thousand, and Gideon ended up with three hundred. I will tell you what He told Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah and many others, “You, in this generation, who are going to be used by God to accomplish more and greater things, will be used mightily by God in your generation. Do not be afraid!” The Lord has been with us faithfully for forty years and He will never forsake us. We worry with too many things, like Martha, when all we need to do is to look back and see how God has been faithful. God is not restrained to fulfill His plan by many or by few. Stop worrying; stop being fearful. Start believing and start being courageous.
Our God is a great God. Because of Him, we are a mighty army that will defeat the enemy however intimidating and however formidable and seemingly big it may be. Even if we are outnumbered, through our God we will have the victory. He will make every knee bow. He will make the culture of our time bow. He will make the spirit of this age bow down to Him. Not by might, nor by power nor by riches, not by human wisdom but by His Spirit.
We will overcome every adversary because the Lord is with us and we will do this by His Spirit that leads us to be humble, to be forgiving, to serving others, to giving preference to others, and to respecting one another. Follow Jesus and do things in the name of Jesus. Meet the needs of others; pursue peace and the building of one another. Overcome with good. This is how we will change the culture. Then, we will make a difference in our culture. Then, we will change lives, and we will renew the face of the earth.
As a Church, we did great things, great projects, but greater things are yet to come. If we think that the glory of the former Church is great, the glory of the latter Church will be greater because we belong to a kingdom that is on the increase. There is no end to the increase of God’s kingdom. We yield ourselves and we participate in His work; then, we will be blessed to be used by Him. This is how God builds His kingdom and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.