Posted on Sun, Jul 28, 2013
July 28, 2013
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 11:1-13 – “Lord Teach us to Pray…”
The Lord’s Prayer
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2 He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
Perseverance in Prayer
5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
Prayer, what is prayer? What happens when we pray? How do we pray? Are there any rules? How often should I pray? What if I make a mistake when I pray? Should I be watching out for lighting from the skies? Lightening sure made Martin Luther pray!!! There might be something to that “lightening will strike” problem. The fact that “Flossie” is bearing down on us on this particular Sunday may not just be a coincidence!
I find it interesting, but not coincidental that the text for today came immediately after, during this last week during a church committee meeting, one parishioner blurted out, “I don’t even know how to pray!” It was an honest and open comment, but I suddenly felt that I have failed in some way in directing our congregation in our journey of spirituality. God helped me out by giving us this particular text long in advance of the comment that was spoken, and rightly raised the issue of our need to give even more attention to prayer. I would also add, we need to give proper attention to prayer in the examples given to us through the great faith leaders of the past, and especially Martin Luther.
First of all, prayer is a gift. Prayer is a gift from God given to us so that we can simply “talk to God.” … Think about that gift we have been given and from whom we have received it. God, the Creator of all that is known and unknown, the One who is from the beginning and will still be around past the end; yet the one who loved us so much the Word became Flesh and decided to live amongst us in order to teach us, heal us and reconcile us to God forever.
Prayer, though simple, is a holy gift that I think we do need to recognize as a true gift from God given so that, through the mechanical or physical process of praying, we can acknowledge that our God lives and we are in relationship with our God. Prayer is an acknowledgement that you believe God exists and that we believe God is listening. Think how crazy we think it is when we talk to ourselves, prayer itself, proclaims we believe in our Savior and Redeemer.
Prayer can be as simple as chatting with God as we walk down the street, or as intense as requiring us to fast for days, and spending a considerable amount of time in silence only directed by scripture or the words of a person of great faith.
There are times some of us choose to say that we talk to God many times during the day. We may even pray at sudden moments all through the day. We may use the verse “pray without ceasing,” as a way to justify our shotgun style of praying, but actually the text says much more, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: 16 “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul is not talking about a shotgun approach to praying, but turning your life INTO a constant prayer, giving thanks and praise to God in all circumstances… If it wasn’t for the strength only given to us through faith, I don’t know about you, but in the past year and a half, my life I wouldn't have been able to keep focused without God’s faithfulness to me through prayer.
Did you hear that? Prayer wasn’t something about me offering to God, but prayer is acknowledging we are in a relationship with God has formed with me through the Cross of Jesus and the Gift of the Holy Spirit; Prayer acknowledges a relationship between us and God, our Redeemer, who promises to be with us at all times, good or bad
I had a seminary professor who was a full professor, but a person we all wondered, “how did he ever become a professor?” … He didn’t have the ‘air’ of a typical seminary professor, even though I believed he really wished he did; he had amazing enthusiasm for proclaiming how amazing our God is, forced to live within the title of “professor.” He was my worship Prof., but he would often show his simple and powerful piety in class. He was one of those guys who was constantly in prayer throughout the day. But not the kind of person who would just suddenly jump up yelling “Thank you Jesus!” He was very subdued, humble and totally genuine. He is the one who taught me the phrase, or importance of; “Whenever you shower, remember your baptism!” I actually think he got that from a Luther statement. He also told us that, whenever you hear a siren, or see an ambulance, stop your work if you can, and pray for the individuals who may be suffering at that moment. He was actually a very simple man, who loved high church, but just loved to teach us how to worship honestly as if in conversation with our Redeemer, or “do our drama before God.” His life was a genuine prayer to God at every moment, and you could just feel his joy and especially his freedom to just be himself, even if he had to “act” like a professor, in front of his colleagues.
Luther was known to pray for about two hours every morning before he began his work. An extra hour if he perceived that his day was going to be more difficult that expected. As I read Luther, it seems very clear that he was using the life of Jesus and scripture as a total guide to his way of seeing and doing prayer. In his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer he reminds of us of the need for simplicity in our prayers and the contents of our prayer should be essentially all encompassing without dumbing down a prayer. Luther’s words are efficient, and cause us to realize that our God is Holy and Powerful, we are God’s children, and the prayer brings up peace in reminding us that God understands our needs and provides them, as well as God will lead us, even in a world filled with evil, if we open our eyes, ears and heart.
Luther sees that in times when Jesus was anticipating a difficult experience, Jesus would go off to a quiet place alone. In today’s text, it is only after the disciples noticed that Jesus went off to a place to pray alone and then returned, did one of them say, “Lord, teach us to pray, John taught his disciples.”
How do we pray? As prayer is a conversation, it demands the same respect as any conversation we have with someone we consider important to speak with as well as to listen to. There are so many interruptions in our life today, it even seems the rule that I was taught when I was a boy, “don’t interrupt people when they are talking to someone else,” has even be thrown on the wayside. It’s okay to do the short prayers walking down the street, or hiking in the mountains, I am in constant prayer of “AWE!!!” when I am diving; but sometimes prayer deserves respect, discipline, intention and sometimes real time and solitude.
Luther recommended we should prayer twenty minutes a day, twice a day. Consider how much time we can find for TV, video games, or even naps, I have found this doable. My morning begins with prayer and devotions guided by several favorite Christian writers.
When I find a quiet place, a place where I know I will not be bothered, I begin by focusing on my position, back straight, head up, and I focus on my breathing, just to get my physical center in place and in balance. I concentrate on my breathing giving thanks and asking for forgiveness with each breath. What I am doing is cleansing and preparing my heart and mind to receive whatever God has to say to me. In asking forgiveness I am asking God to empty me of all the garbage that I have allowed into my heart, mind or soul, or a time to repent of the things I know I have said that were hurtful to someone or something. From the hymnal, “Forgive me for the things I have done, and the things that I have left undone.” I find this to actually be the most time consuming part of my prayer, and Luther says the same thing.
You might notice, many eastern forms of meditation, or “prayer,” begin the same way, but the objective in many Buddhist practices of meditation is to empty your mind of all thoughts, good and bad, and allow yourself to get refocused so as you will not cause, or be the cause of regrets to yourself or those around you. It is not about affirming a relationship with a god, but it is a system for you and your community’s’ well-being.
The Christian purpose is different but in many ways so similar, we use our breathing and centering to allow the words of scripture to reach more deeply into our heart and soul so that when we complete our prayer, this teaching stays with us, and the prayer actually becomes manifested in our life of faith and service. The great mystic and Trappist monk Thomas Merton found much inspiration in combining the meditation methods of the east to help in focus and pray in his monastic life.
Luther would use a psalm most often, a phrase of Jesus, or the passages of Paul that would keep hammering into his heart that we are a fallen people and only through the Gift of the Cross of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus do we find any hope or peace. Uncle Marty was serious about his need for conscious and scripturally guided prayer.
There are many other steps Luther mentions to his “How to Pray,” so to speak, but one gem I really appreciated about learning about his understanding of prayer, is that after prayer, if there were thoughts or lessons learned from the act of praying in such a deliberate way, he would put his thoughts and prayers to music!
If he put his prayers to music, he would better remember them, and better teach them!
Prayer is a gift. Praying may be as easy as praying in the shower and giving thanks for our baptism, to becoming a disciple upon your entire life, thoughts and existence will depend.
When Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: 16 “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When this call to faith becomes a mantra to our life, our faith/life journey becomes alive! Our ears can hear Jesus in the wind, through the children, or even a siren. Our heart becomes light as we can feel Jesus carrying us each and everyday, introducing us to more of God’s children and blessing us with God’s amazing beauty.
And for us, it makes that phrase above our entrance, “Beyond these doors, your service Begins,” becomes the mantra of our lives, “God’s Work, Our Hands! Amen.
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