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  • Revd. Luke Foster

Prayer

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Luke 11.13

In the quietness of your home, are you the kind of person to switch on the radio, or call out to your smart speaker?


In the quietness of your home, are you the kind of person to switch on the radio, or call out to your smart speaker?


In many ways I think of myself as a radio person. There is something so soothing in a day shaped by the schedule of a favourite radio station. Waking up with the Today programme. Heading to bed with the shipping forecast there to lull you to sleep. No doubt there are versions of the same structure that are more exciting and less middle aged but whatever the pattern, there is something appealing about knowing that whatever chaos might be breaking out at home or across the world, the radio is there following its own reliable rhythm.


On the other hand there is something exciting about a smart speaker. They may not quite yet be a feature of every home, but more and more of my friends have one of those speakers that doesn’t just play music to you - but that also listens. It is always on. Always listening. And always ready to answer. You can ask it questions. You can make it remind you to buy more milk. You can tell it to buy more milk. You can demand that it tell you a joke about milk or settle an argument over which animals can actually produce milk. (It seems the list includes the cockroach. If you don’t believe me just ask Alexa.) You know where you are with the radio. But with a smart speaker, it knows where you are. And whatever you are doing it can help.


In the quietness of your home, and when you come to pray, are you the kind of person to switch on the radio, or call out to your smart speaker? When you pray which most sums up your attitude to God? For some of us God is a bit like the radio. He is in the distance, doing his thing and the most we can do is to simply tune in. We might ask, we might complain, but a bit like shouting at another crazy caller in a phone-in, we don’t really expect a response. Like the radio, God is transmitting from a distance, and our job is to just tune in.


But it might be that our prayer life feels more lively. We think of God as our very own smart speaker in the sky who is ready to respond to our every need. We talk and we ask. We demand and we expect. He is by our side. He is at our service.


Each of the images holds something of the truth. But each of these images express an attitude that keeps us from the intimacy that prayer can enjoy. When prayer treats God like a radio, we may be seeking to submit to his will. But we are keeping him at a distance. We are making him impersonal and uninvolved. When we pray to God like we call out to Alexa, it is exciting to feel he is involved. But we are making him serve our demands. Like any other gadget he is there to make my life more straightforward.


When Jesus invites us to pray he doesn’t tell us tune in to the radio or suggest we upgrade to a smart-speaker. He reminds us that we are children who have a loving Heavenly Father. Prayer is the cry of a dependent child to a Father who loves them. In Luke 11.9-13 Jesus invites us to pray with the audacious confidence of a child. Ask! Seek! Knock! This confidence bubbles up from a deep dependence. Our Heavenly Father will always give us more than we ask for. As we come to him in prayer through Jesus he gives us nothing less than His Holy Spirit. Our Father gives himself to us in Jesus by his Holy Spirit. Whatever we ask for. Whatever we seek. Whatever has brought us to knock at his door. As we come to our Father in prayer, he always gives us more than we ask.

Those of us who think of God as a radio need to be reminded of audacious and childlike confidence of v9-10.


Those of us who treat God like a virtual assistant need to be reminded of the joyful dependence of v11-13.

All of us need to remember the promise of our Lord as we pray:

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11.13


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Revd. Luke Foster is currently serving with Crosslinks as a missionary in the Centre for Pastoral Studies (CEP), an Anglican training college in Chile’s capital city Santiago. Luke teaches Church History and Doctrine and also serves in his local church. He is currently undertaking a PHD through Durham university.

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