Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lord Teach us to Pray

Well, as most of you know, I will post a recording of my sermon each Sunday.  However, today we had a technical glitch and the recording doesn't sound very good.  So, I am writing out a post today that has thoughts from my sermon this morning.

My sermon series through Lent is on prayer.  We began at the beginning, how do we pray.  The disciples also really didn't know how to pray.  In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches them about praying with the right heart and spirit.

Verses 9-14 tell us:
‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
  Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
  Give us this day our daily bread.
  And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.


In Luke, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them.  Neither scripture reading presupposes that we just know how to communicate with God.  We are taught by those who have learned before us.


How did you learn to pray?  Were you taught by a parent or grandparent?  Were you taught by a Sunday school teacher?  Were you young or older?  Most of us learn to pray through rote prayers.  Many of us teach our children prayers for specific situations.  If you having them praying at mealtime, then they may pray, "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.  Amen."  Perhaps praying before tucking them into bed, you might teach them "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  God bless..." and then they list the family members, friends, and others they wish God to bless.  We do not simply know how to pray.  It is important that we are given an example.  Not only the example of witnessing those pray who guide us in our faith, but also in the example of a prayer we can memorize. 

We learn the Lord's prayer, but we do not stop to think about what we are really praying.  We say the words, but don't give much thought as to what we are really praying for.  Jesus' disciples were familiar with the rites and rituals of the synagogue, but still they wanted to learn how to pray.  Jesus not only taught them how to pray, but also taught them something about relationship.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Do we really praise God's name?  Do we really realize that our prayer brings us into the presence of God, and in that brings us a little closer to the holiness we are called to?

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  God's kingdom isn't a someday, faraway thing that is not relevant in our lives today.  We pray for God's kingdom to be in our midst and for God's will to be done in the world around us, just like in heaven.  But God's kingdom starts in the lives of God's people, and God's will is first carried out in the hearts of God's people.  Do we really try to bring the kingdom of God with us everywhere we go?  Do we really seek to have God's will control our lives and our decisions?

Give us this day our daily bread. This involves not worrying about tomorrow.  Not worrying about whether or not we have saved enough money or hoarded enough stuff.  This is trusting that God will provide what you need today...tomorrow...and always.  If we are living in the moment with God being our guide, we will not worry about tomorrow's bread today.  Do we trust God with our future?

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Do we really forgive?  We say we do, but then we get to talking about someone else and pretty soon our speech betrays our true feelings.  If we live a life of forgiveness constantly, we do not need to worry about if we forgive people for the things they do which offend us, because we never hold these things against them in the first place.  Sometimes we have grievous crimes committed against us, but even then forgiveness brings healing and wholeness to the forgiver and opens the door for God to bring the offender to a place of repentance.  Is there someone you need to forgive, so that God can bring the full effect of God's forgiveness for you to your life?

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  We want God to rescue us from the messes we end up in. We think we can dance near the fire and not get burned.  If there is something in our lives that is a temptation for us, we need to remove ourselves from that temptation.  If we have friends who are a poor influence on us, and lead us away from God, then we need to rethink that friendship.  Often, we rationalize we hang around them so we can be an example of Christ for them, but we are not really staying away from temptation.  We aren't living the example of Christ in their midst.

If we are struggling with something, and God knows what you struggle with, then we need to make sure we do not place ourselves in situations that will bring us temptation.  And we shouldn't want to direct our own lives and ask God to bless it.  We need to be able to follow God as God leads us away from those things that interfere in our relationships with God and God's people.  Do you allow God to change you?

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. This is not in the original prayer of Jesus, but was added later.  In this phrase we are turning over our control to God.  Whatever we have prayed before this, and however it will change us, we are placing ourselves in God's hands to be used for God's glory.  In this we are affirming that we are small by comparison  to God's greatness, and it is arrogance on our part to think we are in control.  Do you snatch control of your life from God?  Have you considered that it is arrogance to think we should decide what we want and ask God to bless it? 

If we pray and our hearts are in the right place, then prayer doesn't change God, or even the situations around us, but prayer changes us.  I want us all to be changed this Lenten season as we learn to pray.

Pray for something you want God to change in you this Lenten season.  Pray for someone who needs to be included in the community of faith, someone you might invite to church on Easter Sunday.

3 comments:

オテモヤン said...
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Anonymous said...

Growing up we always said grace (well, my dad always did and it was always the same words) and we prayed liturgical prayers in worship and a few old timers prayed during the Sun evening service and we always had a prayer time at the altar afterward.

All that left me with this sense that prayer was important and everyone else knew how to do it but I didn't have a clue how! As an adult, there were always Bible studies but no real help with prayer.

Later I used the first Reuben Job Guide to Prayer and the next year the second one came out. They were also helpful, definitely intended for a block of time. But something just did not speak to me. For about a year and a half I have been using the Liturgy for Morning Prayer from the Upper Room Worshipbook--singing hymns just like at the 5-day retreat.

What I have noticed is how many fewer words I have gradually come to use in my actual prayers. Like for intercessions I usually just say/type someone's name and hold it as the only thought in my mind until I have the sense that I can move on to another. It's the beginning of contemplative prayer--my mind still and open.

There are more and more resources available now. That introduction to Companions in Christ is very accessible. I wish I'd had it a long time ago. And Renovare's Spiritual Formation Handbook is another one. But even with good resources, I think it just takes time--may be a very long time--to grow into prayer, or let it grow into us.


Later,
Ruth

Rev. Sonja said...

Thanks for sharing that with me. I have struggled with my prayer life forever it seems. I such a short attention span, I have a problem sticking with one thing. But from what you said, it sounds a lot like the journey you've been on.

I too have found that praying is more of a spirit of prayer continually for me. I generally just allow myself to still my mind (no easy task) and allow God to bring to mind those things I should pray for. Because I feel so strongly about God already being there, I know that the prayer is more for me to be faithful to pray.

When I was growing up, I saw my father pray. Personal prayer time, not just praying in church or before meals. Looking back on my faith, that was important to me, so I have tried to make sure I live out my faith in sight so to speak.