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Dear Christian friends,
Most everyone knows the numbers 9/11. It is hard to believe that occurred twelve years ago. I was in my office at King of Kings Lutheran Church inMaitland,Florida. The phone rang. Our secretary asked if I would get the phone. It was friend of the church who told me that I should turn on the TV. Our home was all of fifty feet away. The first of the twin towers burning. As I was watching I saw another plane fly into the second of the twin towers. I wondered if I really saw that correctly. The late Peter Jennings who was the newsman talking to the nation didn’t say anything about the second plane that I thought I saw. A few seconds went by. It was obvious that he wasn’t watching the same camera angle as I was. It took a few seconds to register, but it was true. The second plane hit the second twin tower.
Then there was the chaos; fifteen minutes later there was the collapse of the towers. It was hard to look at and yet mesmerizing all at the same time. History had just been made, the kind one would like not to remember. 3000 people lost their lives and the world has not been the same since.
Like many in Americapeople were driven to their knees. I was. I know you were too. We commemorate that day this week. Last year the attack on Benghazitook place. Let’s pray that nothing happens this year or any year. We turn our attention to a prayer of Abraham. His prayer certainly suggests that in spite of the vile nature of humankind to, “Be Daring in Your Prayers.” 1) When it comes for whom you pray; 2) When it comes to how you pray.
Did you ever have real important house guests? Perhaps you have had the person who owns the company where you work. Maybe you have an important relative. Aside from those of you that we have had over at our house, we did host the president of our synod once. He would have been embarrassed to think that anyone thought of him as a VIP. But let’s talk Abraham. He had VIPs like no one else visit his home, or should we say ‘tent?” There were actually three. They are identified. Two of the men were angels. The other was the LORD himself. They had come for two reasons. They had come to announce that the childless couple of Sarah and Abraham, very advanced in years, would have a child within a year; they came to inform Abraham of the immoral mess polluting the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah where Abraham’s nephew had taken up residence.
The first time we went to visit Courtney when she was living inCalifornia, a lot of people from Apostles’LutheranChurchwhere she was teaching asked us what we were going to do while out there. One of the plans was to go to San Francisco. It didn’t pan out the first time. Yet people from the church almost without exception said, “Don’t be shocked at what you see.”
It’s not like we had never heard about it. As we know San Franciscohas a very strong and loud gay community. Frankly, I didn’t notice it that much. Sodomand Gomorrahwas the San Franciscoof ancient days, where the men loved men and the women loved women. While we Christians are really criticized for our so-called lack of tolerance, critics of Christians are criticizing the Lord we follow. He is the one who calls it sin. He is the one that sets standards regarding sex and marriage and men with men and women with women aren’t on his list that he approves of. Anyone who argues against that is despising the Lord. He despised it so much that he let this slip to Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”
Eventually God would destroy the cities. They have never been found. You know why? Because they are under theDead Sea! But look at Abraham’s reaction to the news. See what he does and doesn’t do. He didn’t jump up and down and high five the LORD himself for finally getting rid of that trash. Before the cities were destroyed he sought the Lord’s help for them. He prayed for the cities. He interceded for them. He asked the Lord to spare the cities for the sake of the believers that were there. In delaying the judgment he was asking the Lord to give them more time to repent and stop turning away from the Lord. Abraham dared to pray for the people who wanted nothing to do with God.
I have to say that when I saw the twin towers come down, it was easy to pray for the people in the middle of it all. It was easy to pray for the families who were seeing their loved ones entombed in the mass of metal that had come tumbling down. It was also easy to despise the ones who perpetrated such a crime. It was easy to despise those who were captured by cameras celebrating in the Middle East the deaths of 3000 innocent people here inAmerica. It was easy to despise those celebrating the deaths of Moms and Dads who had left their homes that morning kissing and hugging their spouses and children fully expecting to repeat those hugs and kisses when they got home. It easy to get enraged with people who have the same mindset, who want to destroy other people’s lives any way they can.
Who do you think Abraham would have included in his prayers if he had been living on 9/11/01? He dared to pray for the cities of Sodomand Gomorrah. He prayed for the people who were committing sins that God was so disgusted with that he would one day destroy the cities with an exclamation mark. Jesus once said, “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
It is easy to pray for those whom we love and who love us. There is nothing wrong with that. Continue to do so, but there are also those who will die and go to hell unless they are reached with the Word, unless their hard hearts are penetrated with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Unless they know that Jesus died to win forgiveness, they are lost.
I have to admit my failure here too. I pray for our troops and our president, but it is also our duty to pray for those who in rage cry out, “Death to the Infidel!’ Frankly, don’t they need our prayers?
When the Bible says, “Pray continually,” that seems like a tall order. But it is a tall order only because it requires stamina and perseverance and not because we would ever run out of material for which to pray.
Be daring in your prayers. Abraham surely was. "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it." We see how Abraham took God all the way down to ten people. If ten people were found inSodom andGomorrah who were believers, God said he would spare the cities.
God wants us to be persistent. He delights in it. Jesus was teaching the disciples about prayer. In fact, he was teaching them the Lord’s Prayer when he told this little parable about persistence and boldness in prayer. Jesus said, “Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
Too often we give it one shot and then when if we don’t think he hears us right away, we give up. A father was teaching his family about prayer. The father told each member of his family to pray for one person. The son prayed that God help his friend Eddie to be better at school because he was getting into trouble all the time. When the family got together again, the father asked if his son was going to pray for Eddie again. “No, he said, “I prayed for Eddie last week and he was still bad.” Persist!
Someone once said that the church doesn’t have people who really grapple in prayer. He said, “The church sometimes has too many organizers but too few agonizers; too many who pay but too few who pray; too many resters but not enough wrestlers; many who are enterprising but too few interceding.” Persistence in prayer honors God. Praying persistently shows the LORD we know where our help really comes from. “Our help comes from the Lord who made the heaven and the earth.” Dare to pray with persistence.
Dare to pray boldly. Our Scripture says, “Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” As I looked at the Hebrew word translated ‘approach,’ I don’t get the impression that Abraham was shy barely choking out the sentence. The word means “to put the pressure on.” You can put pressure on friends for favors because of the relationship you have. We have such a relationship with the Lord. In fact, he is more than a friend he is our Father. Because he is our Father, the apostle said that we don’t need to be afraid to come to him but to do so with boldness and not fear. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”
While he is our Father, he is our Heavenly Father. He is our God. When we ask friends around us for favors we need to remember that they are only human. They have limited resources. They have limited physical abilities. James tells us when we go to God that’s another matter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James says “don’t doubt.” Why should we doubt? If we doubt James says we are “double minded” and “unstable.” He is our God of unlimited love and unlimited power and wisdom. He will do what is best for us because he is our God of love. He can do anything for us because he can do all things. When we pray he makes his power, wisdom and love available to us. So if we pray for rain, don’t doubt. He will do what is best. In fact, when we pray we should probably take an umbrella.