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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 10, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 7:15-23
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Why did Jesus have to go and say that not everyone who calls Him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father in heaven? Why couldn’t He have just stuck with good and bad trees, false prophets, and diseased fruit? Those things seem easier. But how much of our time is spent wondering if we’ve done God’s will or not; wondering what God’s will is at all? Then St. Paul teaches us this morning that whoever is led by the Spirit is a child of God and does the will of God. So there’s that. Were we led by the Spirit to do what we’ve done, or were we led by indigestion from last night’s pizza? Were we led by the Spirit or by our own warped sense of self-importance and pride? How much of our time is spent concerned with God’s will at all? Or are we so consumed by the things of this world that we never stop to discern the will of God? Or are we the sort of Christian who is more concerned with whether or not other people are doing the will of God? Such people are full of pride.

The knot that we get ourselves into is easily avoided. It is easily avoided by daily prayer and meditation on God’s word. Not long Bible reading sessions every day. But five or ten minutes each morning or night – or, both – reciting the Creed, praying a psalm and the Our Father, and reading a small portion of the Scriptures that you call to mind throughout the day. If you want to grow in wisdom and stature before God and man, you must commit yourself to the word of God. You will find that when you do this, the stuff of life begins to give way and the purpose of life begins to shine through. And the purpose is this: to glorify your Father in heaven.

We all know that Jesus often went off by Himself to pray. Isn’t this nothing more than stopping the daily work to meditate on the word of God and the promises of our heavenly Father? Don’t make a program out of it. Don’t give yourself false and misleading goals like reading the Bible trough in a year or praying five psalms a day. There’re no such goals given in Scripture. Start small. And don’t worry if others know that you do it; don’t brag. And don’t assume that others will follow suit. You do it. Others may follow, maybe not.  Just five or ten minutes a day.

But you say you don’t know how. Yes you do. Take the Our Congregation at Prayer. Use the Daily Prayer section in the Small Catechism. Use the Daily Prayers found in the hymnbook that there in front of you. It’s not hard to do … But you want it to be more natural than a set of prayers you read. You want it to come naturally.

Repent. Prayer doesn’t come naturally; it must be learned and practiced. The Psalms are a set of prayers that Jesus read and prayed. Don’t fall prey to the false piety that says that true prayer is from the heart. True prayer is from God’s heart. True prayer is saturated by God’s word. If you want your prayers to come from the heart then your heart must be saturated with God’s word, then your prayer will be true. In the beginning your prayers will not be from your heart. Only when your heart is inundated with God’s word will you pray from the heart. Otherwise your prayers, even if they are from the heart, will not be heard. It is more faithful to read a psalm as your prayer than to trust in your own heart. But neither is it hard to pray. All you have to do is meditate on Jesus, His life and passion, His death, resurrection, and ascension, and prayer will come. It’s called the voice of the Spirit.

What is hard to do is to beat down the old Adam. That’s what’s hard. But there is a saying: habit is the mother of all learning. It was the Lord’s habit, His custom to go off and pray. Make it your habit, your custom. Experience itself teaches that it’s easier to form a habit if you don’t have to invent the routine. Every athlete that starts out follows someone else’s work out routine. Every student follows the pattern of her teacher. So don’t invent your prayer routine. Use what the Lord has already given you though His Church, those patterns of daily prayer already mentioned. Don’t listen to the devil who will whisper “not enough” or “too shallow” or “too formal”. Pray because you are commanded to pray. Pray because of the great and many promises attached to prayer.

Ah, but then you do it for a week, maybe two. Maybe even a whole month! But then what? Nothing’s changed. Your life isn’t any better. Your bills aren’t miraculously gone. Your marriage isn’t any better. Your kids are no better. Your loved ones and family don’t start miraculously appearing at church. Your frustrations aren’t gone. Your depression isn’t lifted. Your enemies have not received their comeuppance. Now what?

Repent. Repent of being concerned with God’s answer to your prayer. Repent of labeling prayer as merely a wish list to God. The chief reason for prayer is to keep your heart and mind in Christ. The chief reason for prayer is your own salvation and devotion to Christ, not for results. Jesus didn’t pray so that His life would get better. He trusted in His heavenly Father. He prayed so that His Father would be glorified. And that’s why you pray. You pray for others and for yourself so that your Father in heaven would be glorified. Then you will be producing good fruit.

Good fruit isn’t good works. Good fruit is prayer and giving glory to your Father in heaven. Good fruit is giving thanks to your heavenly Father for all things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanking Him for salvation, for forgiveness, for eternal life; this is good fruit. Not only so, but by praying you will find yourself doing the will of God. For prayer is the voice of the Spirit and the Spirit does the will of God and leads His children to do His will. Daily prayer, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, no matter how short or choppy it seems to you, daily prayer that is from the word of God is well-pleasing to God and by it your Father is glorified.

If you want to be found doing the will of God, then pray. Then the mysteries of Christ will be open to you and you will call Him “Lord, Lord,” not fruitlessly, but to your everlasting blessing.

+ In Nomine Iesu +