God's Word: Live It!

A Pharisee and a tax collector pray: Luke 18: 9-14

This week's sermon focused on two men who go to church to pray. One follows the rules and does all the right things. The second describes himself as a sinner who does a lot of bad things. Both men had come to church to pray but Jesus says only the sinful man's prayers were answered. If true, then why should I keep all the rules? Why not just do what I want and then beg forgiveness? Why be "good" when "bad" seems to get the same just reward? The answer is the good man bragged about his "goodness" and used it as a weapon against others who weren't as good as he was. He looked down on the sinner and judged him while the sinner knew that he was unworthy. So, what do we do with this story this week in our own lives?

Following God's commandments is difficult and can only be done with God's help. We can't do it on our own. Our rule following and good behavior can be used as an example for others, not as a weapon of moral superiority. We are all like the tax collector: none of us is above the need to beg God for mercy. Being humble keeps us close to God, feeling superior to others puts us far away from God. Asking God every day to do the right thing doesn't make us better than anyone else, but it does make us closer to God.

Persistent Widow and the judge: Luke 18: 1-8

Yesterday we heard Jesus strongly remind us of our need to pray always and not to lose heart. It is a challenge to pray regularly. Our lives are full of distractions. O ur prayers often seem to go unheard. Some of us struggle to believe prayer is worth the effort. Yet, Jesus tells us over and over to pray and assures us God hears and cares about us. Not to pray is not to invite God into our lives and life challenges, fears and hopes. We need God to help us.

Answers to prayers are a tricky business. God's answer is often complex and comes in God's time rather than our own time. Here are some suggestions for enhancing our prayer life:

  1. If you are a parent, pray with your child daily. Don't just say, "It's time for your prayers." Pray WITH them, share your concerns and hopes in prayer so your child can know you in a different way.
  2. Pray anywhere, anytime. In the shower, in the car, in the locker room, in the waiting room, in the grocery store, while you're half watching TV. Time and place doesn't matter to God. DOING it matters.
  3. Remember entering into prayer is as important as receiving an answer to prayer. Being in relationship with God through prayer is much better than facing something alone.
  4. Don't give up. Keep praying, and praying and praying.
  5. Don't let frustration break your relationship with God. God loves you, God listens to you.