Saturday, 27 July 2013

Lord, teach us to pray

Luke 11:1-13
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.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
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
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; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him. ’ 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. ’ 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.
“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. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 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!”

Lord, teach us to pray.
A few months ago when I visited our BCs(youth group) through in the lounge, I was really pleased that, when it came to prayer time, the young folk were encouraged to take up comfortable positions before spending time talking to God.
For too long, prayer has been perceived as something we do in a prescribed way rather than being perceived as a relationship that we have with God.
Most of you will remember when the school day started with prayer. You bowed your heads and clasped your hands. And recited the Lords Prayer.
Recently I did some school assemblies based on the Lords Prayer and discovered that very few children could actually recite the Lord's Prayer.
That's just the way it is.
It doesn't mean that folk no longer pray.
They just do it without a prescribed form of words.
And while Jesus, in response to the request: Lord, teach us to pray, taught his disciples a form of words, his stories spoke much more of what prayer is - of how and why we should pray rather than what we should say.
The story Jesus told, of someone going to the door of a friend at midnight, demanding entry seems to tell a story of persistence.
But I don't think we should take from that the message that if we ask often enough, God will deliver.
This is more a message of audacity.
The audacity of asking that one can only have when we know well the one of whom we ask.
Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent, our prayers will be answered.
Jesus is encouraging us to build up such a relationship with God, a familiarity if you like, that nothing will seem too bizarre to ask.
A relationship that will survive, that will see us through when it seems that our prayers seem to go unanswered.
Lets face it, if the desires of our heart depended on our being able to ask efficiently and persistently, we'd all be experts in prayer, wouldn't we?
We'd all have it off pat - we'd know what to ask and how to ask.
But prayer isn't like that.
It is not a magic formula.
It defies logic.
For every one who has rejoiced in the miracle of answered prayer, there are countless others who continue to wait - or who have long since given up hope.
That's why Jesus, when asked: Teach us to pray, focused on relationship and not requests.
Getting to know God.
Honouring God in all things.
Working for God's Kingdom of justice and peace for all here on earth.
That's how we learn to pray. - by building up a relationship with God.
Earlier this year, I enjoyed reading a book on prayer by Anne Lamott, called, Help, Thanks, Wow!
In it, the author suggests that humans, knowingly or not, indulge in three main prayers - Help - prayers that we breathe, imploring God's help, Thanks - prayers in which we concede that there is a higher power to whom we can direct our thanks for the many blessings in life and Wow - prayers in which we acknowledge that words are not enough to express our awe at the sights we see every day.
Help, thanks, wow.
Lord, teach us to pray.

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