Reminiscere (Lent 2 - 2015)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 1, 2015
Central Passage
Matthew 15:21-28

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

Last week our Lord taught us that through fasting and clinging to the promises of our heavenly Father we overcome temptation and are rewarded by the comfort of angelic messengers who comfort us and remind us that we are the children of God with all the glory and blessedness that such children should have.

So this week our Lord teaches us by the faith of the Canaanite woman that through perseverance in prayer we will obtain that for which we ask even as He says elsewhere, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name you will receive.” So we have the truth from our Lord Himself that our prayers will not go unanswered and that what we ask for we shall receive as dear children asking their dear Father in heaven.

But like last week’s trouble, that we often must fast for a long time before we are comforted by ministering angels, so this week we learn that when we pray it may be some time before we are answered. Not only that, but there may also be massive obstacles before us when we pray. Certainly this Canaanite woman had massive obstacles. First the Lord acted as though He did not hear her petition. Then He points out to her and to His disciples that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. She being a Gentile would have felt the sting, even rejection of His words. Then, directly to her, Jesus calls her a dog and not a child; a dog to whom it is not right to give the children’s bread.

Now let’s be honest. If we were praying and received such behavior from our Lord we would quickly give up and think that He does not love us and that He has no intention of hearing our prayers or answering them. Many people think this way. Many of us pray for only a short time yet because we do not hear our Lord say “Yes” right away, or if we face obstacles while we pray we give up and think that God must not love us or that prayer isn’t as useful as we thought. Few of us persevere in our prayers. Few of us have the faith of this woman.

She did not doubt that the Lord could, even would answer her prayer. But because we have prayed in the past and received no obvious answer we think that prayer sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, as if it is a magical incantation or something. But the power of prayer is faith; faith that the Lord is faithful to His people in all His promises. Prayer, like fasting, is done by looking to and clinging to the promises of God in Christ. Yet so many try to use prayer as a sort of spiritual lottery. Sometimes you win, mostly you don’t. But unlike the lottery folks that don’t win at prayer give up on prayer. They give up on prayer, on God, on Christ, on church; they give up on the saints of God. We all know such people. They are bitter towards God and resent Him because He did not give them what they asked for when they asked. The feel as though God has said “No.”

But the Scriptures are full of people who prayed and prayed and yet the answer was always “no”. Remember Joseph and his father Jacob? Jacob cried out and prayed for his son that he would be returned to him, but Joseph wasn’t for a long, long time. God kept saying “no” until He said “yes”. Joseph, too, a righteous man by all accounts and yet he was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by his master’s wife, thrown into prison and forgotten about. Surely he wondered why the Lord was not answering his prayers for release and to be returned to his people. But all God kept saying was “no”; until He said “yes”.

And that’s the way it was for this Canaanite woman. The Lord kept saying “no” until He said “yes”.

What these heroes of faith have in common is their perseverance in the promises of God. Their perseverance is based on the promises of God. To Joseph the Lord had promised that his family would bow down to him. This meant that his father Jacob would see him again and that he would be returned to his family, released from prison and servitude. And so he was. And the Canaanite woman had the promise that the Messiah would free not only the children of Abraham from bondage but that He would also hear the prayers of the Gentiles as it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “In Him will the Gentiles hope.”

So they prayed based on the promises of God. You too, have the promises of God. Not only the promise of forgiveness and life but also of daily bread, which includes everything pertaining to this life. You have the promise of being the dear children of God with whom He is well pleased and in whom dwells His Holy Spirit. So you pray based on these promises of your heavenly Father.

His answer may well be “no”. Perhaps for many, many years even. But eventually it will be “yes”. It always is. Right now you might be like the Canaanite woman when Jesus seemed to be ignoring her, or like Joseph was when he was sitting in prison. Your prayers right now may seem to be going unanswered, even ignored by your heavenly Father. Keep praying. Keep asking. Remind God of His many promises. Don’t let the doubt of others, like the disciples who wanted to send the woman away, or of Joseph’s father and brothers who laughed at him when he told them his dreams, don’t let their doubt sway your prayers.

Now someone will want me to say something about praying for the right thing or asking the right way or for the right reasons. Here, too, the Canaanite woman can teach us. First, she found where the Lord was going to be and she went there. That is what you have done today. For the Lord Jesus has promised to be here for you and here He shows you the Father who lavishes on you all His promises, especially the chief promise of the Holy Spirit. Here God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – gathers His people to speak with you, bless you, and to hear you. Our prayers here are not just formal prayers to fill time or sound pious. They are the voice of God’s people crying out to the living God for all that they need and want. It would be a good practice for you to write down what you are praying for daily and bring it here to pray for it while we pray together the prayers of the Church. Because here more than anywhere else, here at the Lord’s gathering, you have the divine promise that God loves you and wants you to be His child and want you to ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

So the Canannite woman did. She found Jesus and there asked Him and did not let up until He answered her. That is faith. And you have it better than she. For you are already a child of God and you have the Spirit of God with you and in you so that what you receive here you take with you into the world. Your prayers find their home here, but they are no less heard in your homes or in your lives because you came from here, from the presence of God, and you pray to return and to remain in His presence.

So pray for spiritual wellbeing, for daily bread, for deliverance from what attacks you or your family or this congregation. Pray for a better car or a visit from an estranged relative. Pray for healing. Pray for peace in your home or your children’s home. Pray for the return of a brother or sister in Christ who has lost their way. Pray for peace in the Church. Pray for peace in the country. Pray for world peace. Pray, pray, pray and do not give up praying. Don’t give up because God’s promises are irrevocable and in Christ all His promises find their “yes”. And you will eventually hear God’s “yes” to your prayers. For all prayers that are born of faith are prayers for the end, prayers for the reign of Christ.

Now what if someone prays for one thing and someone else is praying for the opposite? Let God be God: you pray. He knows how and when to answer. He knows how to keep His promises much better than we do. He doesn’t count slowness like we do and He is not forgetful of what He

has said. So pray! For there is nothing so powerful as prayer and nothing so glorious as prayer. Prayer has the promise of being heard by God almighty. Only don’t forget the lesson of the Canaanite woman: perseverance of prayer based on the promises of God is great faith. If you pray for an hour or even a day or two, but then do not think God will ever answer then you are as St. James says, a double minded man unstable in all your ways and your prayers will not be answered.

But for the one who looks to the promises of God in Christ – which are vast and encompass far more than just forgiveness, but also life and all things that pertain to it – then you will always have the strength to pray and you will pray fervently and without ceasing and you will hear the words of our Lord, “Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you believe.”

+ In Nomine Iesu +