Teach Us To Pray

Pentecost 10C – Teach Us to Prayprayer
Luke 11:1-13
July 27-28, 2013

I will admit it..
I was a royal baby watcher this week.
I found it hard to resist the excitement as
first we learned Kate was at the hospital;
then we waited for her to go into labor;
then we waited for her delivery to find out if it was a boy or a girl;
then we waited for a glimpse of the new prince leaving the hospital;
finally we waited to learn what they would name him.

George Alexander Louis
Well, officially, “His Royal Highness George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.”

The thing which attracted me most to the television set, I think,
wasn’t really the name,
or even the baby himself,
but his parents – Kate and William.

I wondered how would they interact with their new young son.
Would they be anything like loving parents I know
or would they pass him off quickly to servants?

Would William ever change diapers,
rock the baby to sleep,
talk baby talk,
get spit up on his clean shirt;
read him bedtime stories,
kiss him goodnight or tuck him in?

Would William do any of those things?
Would William always be “Father” ?
or could William also be “Daddy”?

Well as he put the carseat in back and drove home,
I think many of us smiled.

Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them to pray,
and Jesus begins by saying, God our Father is like a loving Daddy to us.
When you pray, the first thing he teaches the disciples, is to say “Abba” – “Daddy” .
(So if it’s good enough for God to allow us to call him Daddy,
I’m hoping it’s good enough for William too.)

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus prays a lot…
He prays after he’s baptized (3:21)
He prays after healing a man with leprosy (5:16)
He prays through the night before calling his disciples (6:12)
He prays after feeding the 5000 (9:21)
He prays up on the mountain of Transfiguration (9:28)

Through all these times of prayer,
it seems that Jesus prays silently.
We don’t know what he’s been saying or
whether he says anything in his prayers.
We don’t know what he’s been hearing
or whether he hears anything in his prayers.

The disciples have been watching.
They’ve seen Jesus in prayer time and time again.
And they want to learn to pray.

Maybe they’re a little dissatisfied with their own prayer lives.
Maybe they don’t think their prayers have been answered the way they ought
and they wonder if it’s because they’ve been saying the ‘wrong’ words.
Maybe they don’t think they feel like anything really happens in their prayers
and they wonder if they’re doing it right.

And haven’t we all felt a little of that at times?

Maybe we feel guilty because it seems like we’re always asking for things in prayer.
Maybe we feel frustrated because we just can’t get into a regular prayer routine.
Maybe we feel like we must be doing something wrong because we just don’t feel a sense of that mystical connection we desire with God in our prayer.
Maybe we feel like giving up because our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

So Jesus responds to their request by teaching the disciples
a version of what we know as the Lord’s Prayer.
Pray like this he says:

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.”

(It’s not quite the same as the version in Matthew’s gospel.
and it’s not quite the same as either version in our hymnal.)

After giving them this prayer they can pray together,
Jesus talks about prayer.

He says prayer is about persistence…
it’s about knocking and knocking … and knocking again.
He says prayer is about relationship – a relationship between a loving parent and a child…
a parent who wants to give good things to his children…
fish and eggs – not snakes or scorpions.
And he says prayer is about Asking and Receiving; Searching and Finding.

All well and good…
but what if you’ve asked and haven’t received?
what if you’ve been knocking and knocking and knocking…
and doors haven’t been opened?

A few days ago I got a phone call from a man I’ll call Steve.
Steve is not a member and I’m not sure how he happened to call our church.
But Steve called to say that he just wanted to give up and wrap his car around a tree.
He was being evicted in a couple of days
and he had been praying…but it didn’t seem to be working.

And in fact over the last couple of years, things seemed to be get worse rather than better –
there were medical issues and family issues and family medical issues –
and he had prayed through them all – but his problems just seemed to keep adding up.

And now the prospect of losing his home was more than he could handle.
So he was just calling to say that he had given up on God…

(Before I make you too anxious, let me just say that Steve is safe.)

But Steve had been praying, but he was like the child in Jesus’ story who asked for fish
and received a snake.
He had been like the one who asked for an egg for breakfast,
and got a scorpion.

Steve is not the first person I know who has prayed and not received what he or she wanted.
We will pray for healing today – and not everyone will be cured.
We will pray for those who are hungry and homeless – and yet tonight there will be children who starve and those without a roof over their heads.
We will pray for an end to violence – and somewhere around the world there will be horrific violence once again.

We have heard people try to explain why prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered.
Their answers seem rather simple…
“Sometimes God says no,” or
“God has a better plan,” or
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Seriously? God has a reason for starving children?
None of those explanations are satisfactory.

The fact of the matter is, that no one knows why
things don’t always work out the way it seems they should.

We don’t know why everyone doesn’t get healed,
or why there isn’t an end to hunger or homelessness or violence now!

I don’t know why Steve’s medical issues have not been resolved so he can work again;
I don’t know why his family is not reconciled with each other;
I don’t know why his landlord is still coming with the eviction notice.

I do know this…
The message of Scripture is that we have a loving God who wants to give us life.
Not everything that happens is part of God’s will,
but no matter what happens in life, we are not alone.

In this text, Jesus invites us to deepen this relationship with God through prayer.
In the prayer Jesus modeled, we learn we can approach God.
We can come to God
with the trust of a young child who runs to a parent
for protection or help.

And so we will offer prayers today.
And we will pray many of them again next week, and the week after that,
trusting that God will hear.
Abba. Daddy. Hear our prayer.

Amen.

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