This summer is flying by in our house – how about yours? Maybe it’s because our son and niece are getting ready to head off to college, maybe also because our other son and nephew are getting ready to start high school. I know these transitions are happening in your households also – kids, grandkids, teachers, students, all are starting to look toward the beginning of the school year. It can be a fun and exciting time – it can also bring on stress and anxiety.
“Lord, teach us pray” – that’s what we hear from the disciples in today’s Gospel – yes, please!! Lord, teach us to pray!! Prayer has a many facets and styles – it is our work as Christians, even though we are never quite sure how it works. Prayer can be a source of comfort and connection between God, and us but also among us as a community.
Our worship service is inundated with prayers: formal and informal, from the Collect to the Psalm, to the Prayers of the People, Confession, the Eucharistic Prayer, Post-Communion Prayer, the Benediction – Prayer is the bedrock of our liturgy. Throughout this service, we are either praying together by speaking or singing or we are listening – which is another component of prayer. Speaking and listening is essential in every good relationship.
For the next several weeks, Henry and I are going to tackle preaching and teaching about prayer. We are going to use the Lord’s Prayer – introduced by Jesus in Luke today – as our outline. We will tackle a different section each week and maybe even practice some prayer types as we go along. We get an abbreviated version of what has evolved into what we as Anglicans think of the Lord’s Prayer – this is Luke’s version – Matthew has a different one. We value it so highly that the Lord’s Prayer is said at every Eucharistic service, as a meal prayer if you will. Growing up in Texas, I can report it was said at every high school football game and basically anytime a group of Christians gather, it unites us. It has been estimated that on Easter morning, at least 2 billion people all over the world pray the Lord’s Prayer. It is both an example of prayer to memorize and recite as well as a form to imitate in our prayer lives.
I have the first section today: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” We are children of the living God – we are intimately connected to God – who you may refer to as Father, Mother, Aunt, Uncle – whomever in your life makes you feel loved and valued and treasured – I hope those were your parents, but I know that sometimes it in not the case. Papa was the name of God in the Shack. The important part is not in the uttering of the name, as much as feeling and truly knowing the intimacy of the relationship.
By declaring that we believe that God is in heaven, we are acknowledging the majesty of our savior – belief in something so much bigger than ourselves that we can barely imagine it. We believe God is in heaven and God is holy – hallowed. When we hallow something, we are declaring that it is sanctified, holy; we venerate it. You will hear echoes of this language in our Eucharistic prayer as ask God to bless and sanctify the bread and wine. We believe God’s name is hallowed, holy – and we believe that we should never take it in vain – there’s a Commandment about that.
By saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” we are expressing our adoration of God. It is an ancient formula. We can never forget that Jesus was a Jewish man, not a Christian. These first lines are also found in the Evening Shema prayers of our Jewish brothers and sisters, “Our God in heaven, hallow thy name, and establish thy kingdom forever, and rule over us forever and ever. Amen.” We are continuing the adoration of God from before Jesus walked on this earth.
As Jesus continues to teach about prayer in today’s Gospel, he tells us to be constant – ask, search, knock – keep at it. Do it continually. Be persistent and steady. Intimacy also comes through the continuation and persistence.
This may only be me but the God voice in my head, at least the voice I think of as God in my head – yes get out the straitjacket now – is always loving, and also kind of sarcastic – kind of like Jesus in the end of the Gospel today. I can hear him saying those last lines with a teasing tone in his voice. “who among you would give your child – your beloved child - a scorpion, or a snake?” How is God’s voice heard in your life? When we pray, we must also listen – and we must know which voice in our head is God’s.
The last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said “Understand what you are talking about when you’re talking about God, this is serious, this is the most wonderful and frightening reality that we could imagine, more wonderful and frightening than we can imagine.” Next week, we will talk about the frightening part – there’s your cliff-hanger to entice you back next week.
Here is your assignment for this week: rest in your adoration of God. Let the love of God wash over you – name the intimacy of the relationship if you have never done that before. Adore God by praying this week – naming where you see holiness every day, where you see God at work in the world around you. Every day when you pray, primarily remember that you are a beloved child of the living God and express your adoration. Amen.
Audio of this sermon can be heard through the PodBean Player in the right sidebar.