Proper 12C’19
28 July 2019
Luke 11.1-13
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Lord, teach us how to pray; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayers – some of them are short, some of them are long, some of them are written, while some aren’t. Some prayers are loud, and some are soft, some are rhythmic, and others are rough, some are spoken, and some are sung, some are jam packed with words, while some don’t have words at all.  As a priest I have been asked “why do we pray,” and like Jesus, I have been asked “how to pray.” Children are the best theologians; I wonder if they are good at praying? Let’s listen in on their top ten prayers and see what we might learn.

  1. Dear God, my Mom tells me that you have a reason for everything on Earth, I guess broccoli is one of your mysteries.
  2. Please make my parents understand that if I don’t eat salad, I do better at school.
  3. God, please forgive me for hiding my sister’s favorite doll…and please don’t tell her where it is.
  4. Dear God, I need you to make my mom not allergic to cats. I really want a cat and I really don’t want to ask my mom to move out.
  5. Dear God, can you get me a Smartphone, Santa must have forgot?
  6. God, I saw my brother walking out of the shower by accident, God, can you erase that from my brain?
  7. Dear God, when will my sister stop being annoying, I’m down to my last patience!
  8. Dear God, I promise to never say those words again, at least until my next shots.
  9. Dear God, please don’t let it rain on Saturday, the first ball I hit will be for you.
  10. Dear God, I hope my dog is with you in Heaven, please take care of him, sorry if he chews on your sandals. [1] 

They are certainly in the right neck of the woods and they are seeking the hand of God to intervene in their everyday concerns like allergies, physical pain, smartphones, conflicts with family, and friends, trouble with forgiving others, trouble having patience with others, and trouble eating salad! As adults we could certainly add to their list.

Who were some of the people who have influenced your prayer life? Did you ever hear them pray out loud?

Jesus disciples had the opportunity multiple times to hear Jesus pray out loud, sometimes all night. They certainly were impressed by the miracles he performed, by his teachings and sermons, and they were privy to his secret that undergirded and guided his life and ministry – prayer. No wonder they approached him one day to ask him to teach them how to pray.

Luke’s version was a little bit different than Matthew’s version, which is used by Christians all over the globe. Both versions are short, and Luke’s version is even shorter. This is what Jesus left behind for his first and his present-day disciples. How could Jesus have used it to pray all night and how on earth could you make a lengthy prayer out of these short verses, and it would be incredibly redundant to simply repeat the verses over and over again. I believe the prayer can certainly be recited exactly the way we do it in the liturgy or at any time for that matter, but I believe there is something more to this prayer, and the key to this it is as some scholars have suggested, using the Lord’s prayer as an outline. This makes a lot more sense, when taken a phrase at a time we can see that multiple prayer topics and concerns can be covered under each one.

Looking at the first phrase of the prayer in Luke, we see, “Father, hallowed be your name.” Here is where we begin, as God’s beloved child in relationship in the intimacy of a Father, as a close family member. Hallowed be your name, here is where we praise God and recall God’s many attributes, as Savior, Teacher, Healer, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Friend.

The next phrase “Your kingdom come” opens to door for many different prayers of intercession. Here we remember the many needs of ourselves and others, basically, the situations on earth that are not like they are in heaven. Here is where we can go to town lifting up to God all those things in our lives, in our state, nation, and world that need to be changed and transformed – that’s a pretty long list! From hunger, disease, poverty, oppressive regimes, injustice, oppression, to Aunt Zelda’s lumbago, all can be covered.

Next comes, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God knows our needs and offers God’s abundant supply to meet our needs. What do you need, here we are given permission to camp out on these, nothing is too small or too big for us to bring to God?

From there Jesus’ prayer reminds us of our connection with each other: “And forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone indebted to us…” Here we remember that our own forgiveness is inextricably linked to our forgiveness of others. We don’t get to separate the two, we have to let others off the hook if we ourselves expect God to let us off the hook.

The last phrase in Luke’s version: “And do not bring us to the time of trial.” Here we are reminded that there are people, places, things, and scenarios that can come our way that have the potential to destroy us and everything we hold dear. This seems to carry even more freight than Matthews version, “And lead us not into temptation.” It’s like Luke assumes that temptations are simply a part of our everyday lives, but the time of trial suggests something bigger and potentially more catastrophic – save us from these O God.

After the brief outline for prayer, Jesus deconstructs some of our obstacles to prayer, and goes into what some might even call a ‘sales pitch for prayer’, but I prefer see it as Jesus’ invitation to prayer. He makes his case by telling a parable of course! There is a man who has had an unexpected dinner guest arrive but he has nothing to feed them, so he goes to his friend at night after the friend has gone to bed and asks him for three loaves of bread. The man’s friend was already in bed with his children. He tells the man this and refuses to get out of bed. Jesus then explains that even though the friend proves difficult, he is not heartless, and if anything, he will finally get up and give him whatever he wants because of his persistence.  What obstacle might this be addressing? Could it be our tendency towards doubt, despair and hopelessness, our kinship with Winnie the Pooh’s friend, Eore that always is painting a bleak picture of reality? Don’t give up, keep coming back to God’s throne with our requests, this seems to be telling us.

Then we are given one of the few acronyms in scripture: A-S-K: Which stands for Ask – Search – Knock: “Ask, and it will be given you; Search, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened for you.”This small acronym packs a huge punch and holds out a huge promise to those who dare to persevere. When we don’t know what to do we Ask – Search, and Knock.

The last section of Jesus’ invitation to prayer looks at another obstacle, our unbelief in God’s goodness, and our sense of unworthiness to even ask. He takes us back to children and parents as an example: “If your child asks for a fish, will you give them a snake instead? If they ask for an egg will you give them a scorpion?” He then uses hyperbole to bring his point home: “If you 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!”

Jesus gives us the tools of prayer in the form of an outline that is easy to memorize that covers all the bases of all the subjects and objects that we could ever pray about, and then seeks to flatten the resistance that we each have to prayer that are based on faulty beliefs that God is either too busy for us, or is off on a coffee break, or worse he just doesn’t care for us, and underlying it all our ever present sense of unworthiness.

Put in positive terms: We are God’s beloved children and God is our loving parent, God is very much awake, alive, and listening, ask – seek – knock, we are worthy and God is able. Amen!