The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12C (7/25/2010)

Teach Us to Pray

Lessons: Genesis 18:20-32 Psalm 138 (8) Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19] St. Luke 11:1-13

Semicontinuous Series: Hosea 1:2-10 Psalm 85 (13) Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19] St. Luke 11:1-13

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.  Pour upon us your abundant mercy.  Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

11:1 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."

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 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!”

St. Luke 11:1-13. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

As the story goes, there was an old Jewish man who, on the day of Atonement, over-slept and missed the service. That meant that the prayers offered did not include him, and another year would pass before he could be included in this important annual rite. Not knowing how to pray by himself, he devised this plan: he went to a quiet place in his home where he would not be disturbed, and for the better part of what was left of that morning, he repeated the letters of the alphabet over and over. When he was done, he asked God to arrange those letters into the words of an appropriate prayer. According to the storyteller, the prayer was acceptable to God because of the faith that gave it birth.

Prayer is at the heart of our readings from Genesis and St. Luke this week. Whenever the topic of prayer comes up, so do many questions. “Why do we pray?” “How do we most appropriately pray?” “What sort of language should we use for prayer?” “How do we address God in our praying?” “For what should we pray?” “How do our prayers affect God?” Like that old Jewish man, when push comes to shove, we sometimes wonder if we even know how to pray.

There are many “how to” books on the market, and a Christian could spend the rest of life reading what others have said about prayer.  I suppose if we had the interest, we could study these books, and their suggestions for our prayer life. Perhaps we could even develop a checklist (or a rule book) that could help us offer “appropriate” prayers to God.

But I am drawn to believe that Jesus had a different goal in mind here in this section of St. Luke. In verse one, a disciple says to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Note that he didn’t say: “Teach us how to pray.” The request wasn’t for a checklist or a rule book. The request, based on days of watching Jesus gain strength and purpose and peace from his prayers, was for him to teach the disciples how to make prayer a part of their lives in the same manner. “Lord, teach us to pray.” Teach us to be people who pray our entire lives to God. Teach us to be people who surround every word and deed with prayer. Teach us to be people who, like you, find our prayer time to be a source of strength and purpose and peace.

So how do we answer the questions above – questions related to the mechanics of prayer? Perhaps we answer those questions by giving them to God, realizing that the hows and whens and whys are not all that important. What is important is that we become people who pray. In our own way. From the heart. With passion and persistence. Eagerly and hopefully trusting that God, who hears our prayers, will grace us with those gifts that allow us to continue along the paths of faithfulness.

At Saint Peter, we believe that everything we do as a community must be grounded in prayer. We send our prayer lists in the middle of every week. We pray together on Sundays at worship. We surround all of our ministries with faithful prayers. We commend that to you as individuals as well. May our rootedness in prayer keep us connected with God’s grace and God’s will.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When did Jesus pray?
  2. How do you suppose his disciples were affected by seeing him in prayer?
  3. Why did Jesus teach them the prayer we now call “The Lord’s Prayer?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How would I describe my prayer life to someone else?
  2. When has prayer been most helpful to me?
  3. How can I discipline my life to include more time spent in prayer?