Saturday, July 27, 2019

7 Pentecost Proper 12 Yr C July 28 2019

Audio  7 Pentecost Proper 12 Yr C July 28 2019
Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19), Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray. Luke presents us with these three responses. First, Jesus gave the disciples words to pray with. 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."

Then, Luke shows the disciples what that prayer looks like. Luke has Jesus tell a story about a relationship. There is a person who needs some food for a visitor, even though the visitor arrives in the middle of the night. That person goes to the door of his friend, maybe it’s his neighbor, and knocks on the door in the middle of the night and asks for some bread. The friend sounds mightily irritated to be awoken in the middle of the night, but the story suggests that he did in fact, after a little convincing and cajoling, give him some bread.

And thirdly, what we hear from Luke this morning is about boldness. Ask, knock, receive. Be bold in prayer.

So prayer is about relationship, and prayer is about sharing bread, and prayer is about being bold. Sometimes those who practice a life of prayer are accused of doing nothing. But prayer is not doing nothing, indeed, prayer is doing what needs to be done.

What we have before us is not just the so familiar words we pray as the Lord’s Prayer, but we are given those words in the context of relationship and bread and boldness. Ask, search, knock. Jesus' instruction invites trust and boldness, ask, search, knock, confident that you will receive what you ask. There is no one among us listening who would give a snake or a scorpion to a beseeching child, so how then, Jesus implies, can we not trust that God as divine parent will give us all that we need, including and especially the Holy Spirit?

Jesus seems most interested, at this point, in an invitation to a relationship rather than an explanation about the technique of prayer. Prayer is not a list, but prayer is a relationship. In this passage Jesus invites us into relationship with God through prayer, offering us the opportunity to approach the God whose name is too holy to speak and whose countenance too terrible to behold with the familiarity, boldness, and trust of a young child running to her parent for both provision and protection.

I do think that we tend to get caught up in all sorts of questions about prayer. How do we pray? What do we pray for? And the big ones, does God answer prayer and does prayer change God? Just as Jesus gave the disciples words to pray with, we Episcopalians have all sorts of beautiful prayers that have been handed to us through generations of the faithful in our Book of Common Prayer, and we have wonderful new prayers that broaden our imaginations. However, we are a little bit challenged by extemporaneous prayer. We tend to be formed as people of well thought out and constructed prayer. We tend to rely on the beautiful words of those who came before us. When we are wordless, when the feeling we have is so awesome, so fearful, so sad, so joyful that we are left wordless, speechless, these prayers of our people can lift us up and carry us along.

And there are times, like Anne Lamott writes in a book called Traveling Mercies, that our two best prayers are, "help me, help me, help me" and "thank you, thank you, thank you." Like Anne Lamott suggests, spontaneous prayer comes without thinking. We pray like that all the time.

Prayer is the work we do in building our end of the relationship God has with us. And that relationship is both personal and corporate. Each of us engages a relationship with God in a very personal way, and each of us need to discover a personal prayer life that is intentional, spirit filled and nurturing. There are myriad ways to grow our personal prayer; one size does not fit all. Personal prayer even changes over time, depending on where and when life takes us.

It’s only in the years after my children left home that I have been able to sit in quiet prayer. With young children, trying to find quiet time was near impossible, and if I tried to be quiet to begin my day, before anyone else was awake, I just fell asleep again. My prayer in those day was on the run, in the car, talking with my children. But now I have learned how through practice to spend time now in quiet prayer, without fidgeting and without falling asleep, most of the time. What kind of prayer serves your relationship with God?

We also engage our relationship with God in a corporate way. We gather together in prayer, in fact that is who we are as Episcopalians, people who share common prayer. We sing together, we have silence together, we say our prayers together, we read and hear scripture together, we eat together, and together we are sent out into the world to continue the work God has given us to do.

Bottom line though, is that prayer is a relationship, and a relationship must be worked at, it can’t be taken for granted or set aside, or it will fail. This relationship with God has at its foundation good faith and reciprocal love. It is a relationship that is transformative. "I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me," writes C.S. Lewis. Prayer is really much more about us than about God. Prayer is about our overflowing need to know our creator, and to be known by our creator.

And there is boldness in prayer. Do we ask for what we want? It seems like God should already know that. But Jesus tells us, Ask, search, knock. But I think being bold and courageous in our prayer makes us clearer about what we are asking. It is really telling the truth with God. I think being bold and courageous in prayer makes us discern what it is we really need. As we are bold in prayer, who we need to be, what we need to do, whom we need to serve, begins to dawn on us like a beautiful mountain sunrise. A sunrise that illuminates everything else.

And I know that God always responds to prayer. Often that response is, no Kathy, not now, not ever. Sometimes that response is a surprise to me. I, in my infinite wisdom, would not do it the same way God does it. C.S. Lewis has also written, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."”

Does prayer really work? I turn to Barbara Brown Taylor, a wonderful preacher and writer for that. In her collection Home by another way, she writes about prayer, "It keeps our hearts chasing after God’s heart. It’s how we bother God, and it’s how God bothers us back. There’s nothing that works any better than that.”

Be bold, be courageous in your prayer and your relationship with God. And then do, do the thing, love, forgive, heal, feed, do the thing your prayer asks. Because you are the change you ask for.


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