August 2016 Pastor's Pen

This, then, is how you should pray...”  Matthew 6: 9-13

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus begins by teaching them about the God to whom they will pray.  The most important word in this prayer is the first word, "Father.”  The actual word used is “Abba” and it tells us something wonderful about God.  Abba is what children call their father... “Daddy.”  A good father loves his children.  A good father takes care of his children.  A good father protects his children.  A good father provides for his children.  A good father is accessible to his children — they can talk to him.

When Jesus teaches us to begin our prayer with the word, "Father," he is teaching us who God is.  He is teaching us that God wants to do good things for us — that God loves us and wants to take care of us — to protect us — to provide for us.  God is accessible to us.  We can talk to God.  Then Jesus goes on to give us words to pray:

   "Our Father in heaven."
   "May your name be kept holy."
   "May your Kingdom come."
   "May your will be done — done on earth as in heaven."
   "Give us day by day our daily bread. "
   "Forgive us our sins — forgive us as we forgive others."
   "Bring us not into temptation."
   "Deliver us from the evil one."

But the most important thing that Jesus teaches us in this prayer is the first word, "Father.”  If we are praying to our heavenly Father, we do not have to come in fear.  We don't have to come thinking that we must know secret words — magical words.  If God is our Father, we can begin our prayer with the expectation that God is on our side — that God wants the best for us.

Jesus goes on to say: "Keep asking, and it will be given you.  Keep seeking, and you will find.  Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you"  (Chapter 7).  That sounds as if God will provide us anything we want.  Just ask, and God will give it.  However, it isn't that simple.  We have tried it, and know that it doesn't work that way.  We have prayed for things that we did not get.

The opening word of that prayer, the word, "Father," is the explanation.  Does a good parent always give the child what the child wants?  Of course not!  A good parent gives the child food and clothing, but the good parent also puts limits on things.  The word, "Father," teaches us that God loves us and provides for our deepest needs.  It also explains why not every prayer is answered as     we ask.

Jerry Kurth was a Marine at Khe Sanh.  Some of you will remember hearing of Khe Sanh.  Khe Sanh came under siege during the Tet Offensive in 1968.  A relatively small number of U. S.  Marines defended Khe Sanh against two North Vietnamese Army divisions.  It was a grim place.

But even in a place like that, there was an occasional light moment.  Kurth says that his skipper asked him one day, "Jerry, if you could have any one thing right here, right now, not counting the obvious, what would it be?"  Kurth answered, "Ice cream!"  He didn't have to think about it.  He knew what he wanted!  He was hot and dirty.  He had been eating MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) for weeks.  Nothing sounded as good as fresh, cold ice cream.  Kurth went on to say:"As God is my witness, lightning can strike me as I say this if not absolutely true.  No sooner do I utter the words 'ice cream' than a large H-53 helicopter appears…. It heads our way with a huge cargo net suspended underneath.  It moves rapidly toward us, swoops down on our helo-pad, hovers briefly, releases its cargo, and departs even faster than it arrives.  Guess what it was!  It was ice cream!  Fifteen thousand Dixie cups packed in dry ice!"

Kurth picked up several of the Dixie cups and began his feast.  He went on to give this report.  He said: "Ten minutes later, my stomach told me that gulping down a large amount of ice cream on an empty stomach after a long abstinence from dairy products isn't a brilliant idea.”

Be careful what you pray for.

Some years ago, a former governor of Wyoming, Milward Simpson, wrote a devotional article in which he told of flying in a plane that developed problems in flight.  The pilot announced that they were going to try an unscheduled emergency landing.  Simpson took his wife's hand, and together they recited words that had become an important part of their faith-walk together.  The words were these:  "The light of God surrounds us; the love of God enfolds us; the power of God protects us; and the presence of God watches over us.  Wherever we are, God is.”  Neither Simpson nor his wife believed that these words would keep the plane in the air.  Instead, these words declared their confidence that "living or dying, we are in God's care.”  That is what it means when we address God as Father.

"Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  May your Kingdom come.  May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

See you in worship

Pastor Ken