Sunday, 12 August 2007

How does God want us to pray

Pentecost 11 year C Sermon Prayer 2 How
Last week we began to explore what it means…
to be in communion… with the Creator of the universe. To be in relationship with God.

We learned that before we can even begin to answer why God wants us to pray… we have to ask… how is it… we know anything about God anyway?

And we found out… the only way we can
know anything about God…is because God chooses to reveal himself to us…in our own experience…
and equally… as God breathes meaning to us through his Word in Scripture.

‘When you seek me you shall find me – if you search with all your heart. If you pray to me I will listen to you. I know the plans I have in mind for you – plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. If you pray to me I will listen to you.’

And in history…when God’s word through the prophets was ignored… God made his word…his self revelation… flesh…incarnate… in Jesus the Word made flesh.
And so we see that right from the beginning… God’s been inviting us to enjoy his presence…to talk with him…to walk with him in the garden…whether it’s Eden Gethsemane…or Wanaka.

And then suddenly we know the answer to the question…
why should we pray? We pray…
because God invites us to pray…and the invitation…
has been delivered in person…at great cost…and is reinforced in our hearts… by the Holy Spirit. [pause]

And so in prayer and in faith –not in open sight –
you and I…are drawn into communion with the Father, by the Son…in the power of the Holy Spirit – and we share in the divine life of God.

And the amazing thing is… when we respond to God’s invitation...when we turn our face toward the one at whose command the stars and the galaxies came into being... the amazing and wonderful thing is...we aren’t burned up and consumed... [pause..............]

We’re invited to speak...In fact…we are required to speak as though to a loving parent... in words.
And Jesus first disciples… were as clumsy and inarticulate with their prayers… as we are. When it comes to prayer…we’re all beginners… So Jesus friends beg him to teach them how to pray.

And because God knows us through and through…
knows our reluctance, our laziness, our shyness… and because God knows we need to connect with him a lot more often than we can find the right words…well…
our Lord teaches us and gives us his prayer… Jesus …who ‘talks to the Creator of the Universe as naturally, as intimately… and with the same sense of security…
as a beloved child talks to a loving father.’

Now some people don’t like set prayers… some people think the only proper way to pray… is spontaneously.
But in the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray…there are no empty words...and we never pray alone…

Why? Because as we speak these word’s…
we approach the Creator of the Universe…
at the side of the Master… who taught us to pray.

Our Father in heaven
In this prayer…God…
who is revealed in Jesus and through him…
invites us to call upon him… as our Father…

In Jesus’ school of prayer… we learn the key to all prayer… we learn our first and highest lesson…is to say Abba, Father
And in the knowledge of God as loving parent…revealed by the Holy Spirit…the power of prayer… takes root and grows.

Only at the side of Jesus our brother can we come into communion with ‘our’ Father. Only with Jesus as our compass and our guide… do we learn that we are all
God’s children.

The ‘our’ the ‘we’ the ‘us’… in the Lord’s Prayer… makes our praying different ‘from any so called private religious action.’…because ‘We’… are ‘those with Jesus of Nazareth…those who follow Him because He calls us and claims us…and wonder of wonders…
we are those He’s summoned to pray with Him…

And not only do we pray with everyone else in communion with Jesus…we pray in hope with all those people who don’t know they’re God’s children yet….
We pray in community that’s ‘close knit…but open to all…

Hallowed be your Name
Together with Jesus leading us we respond with worship. We speak out… our desire and adoration…along with the belief… that there is only one Name worthy of our worship and faithfulness. We express allegiance to God … over and against all created powers and self-exalted principalities.

To say this at Jesus side is as politically and socially subversive today…as it was during the reign of the Caesar’s or the rule of the Sadducees in the Temple.

Your kingdom come
This isn’t just any sort of asking, but asking addressed to God at His command. Why does Jesus want us to ask this?

Because today as in the first century…the salvation of the world depends on it. In Jesus prayer we not only join in communion with the creator of the universe…we join in a subversive political and social declaration – that God’s will be done…over and against every power… that separates humanity from God and from each other …
every condition that prevents peace and justice. Every ruler…whether Caesar or President or Chairman of the board.

And in prayer with Jesus… we concede ‘we’re not building the kingdom of God on earth all by ourselves… and that the most we can do…
is to make as much room as possible… in ourselves… and in the world… for God’s energies to go to work’.

Your will be done
Here we confess our faith in the perfect will of God…
And we surrender…gladly …all other allegiances and desires… especially to our own will.
two hundred years ago Scottish theologian Andrew Murray wrote. ‘ ‘As God’s will is done, the kingdom of heaven comes into the heart. And wherever faith accepts the Father's love … obedience accepts the Father's will.’

This is the spirit of child like prayer. God’s will is to have the first and the last word at every point. What we ask out loud for here… is the will to submit our will to God’s.

We’re free to choose God’s will over our own. Remember Jesus words the night he was betrayed..."Father, if you’re willing, take this cup from me… yet not my will,
but yours be done."

on earth
This prayer…this petition is universal’ one is excluded…no thing is excluded…as we express with Jesus…our longing… for God’s will to prevail in all creation and our willingness to follow Jesus as he seeks to reconcile the differences…between God’s will…
and the realities of human affairs.

In the same Sermon on the Mount
where he teaches us how to pray…Jesus also teaches us how to live…so God’s will can be done on earth…

as it is in heaven
In Jesus’ school of prayer…the contrast between heaven and earth… is important …spiritually and politically

When we pray this prayer… we’re confessing our trust…
in the absolute authority of God… and we’re rejecting the idea of some uncreated realm…where powers of good and evil are at war… and where the ultimate victory of God’s love… is somehow in doubt.

We reject that… and instead confess our belief… that God has revealed his heavenly mystery… in Jesus.
“If you have seen me you have seen the Father’.

Jesus … brings and is… heaven on earth…around Jesus the kingdom of God is at hand…if you’re following Jesus’ teaching… God’s cause is working in the world…
the sermon on the mount is being lived out… compassion and mercy and justice are happening…and the powers of greed and death are being defeated… by love.

As we pray with Jesus…we learn how God’s cause of restoring all creation…is to shape not only our prayer… but our life… and give it meaning… God wants us…
to make his cause… our own… before we make our petitions…
for daily bread, forgiveness or deliverance from evil.

Give us this day our daily bread
Having been invited to participate in God’s cause, we now invite God to participate in our cause.
The Lord’s Prayer ensures we’re not… so gripped with a false sense of our insignificance…
that we hesitate to bother God. Jesus teaches us that we may and should ask…fearlessly.

And in asking…we declare our dependence
on God’s providence…and humbly accept… that there are areas of our lives … beyond our control.

Forgive us our sins
I like this quote from Henri Nouwen
‘A human being isn’t someone who once in a while makes a mistake and God isn’t someone who now and then forgives. No - human beings are sinners and God is love.’

And so in the knowledge that we pray with Christ and having the assurance that we are heard by the Father, we ask to be forgiven for our sins, for the times we’ve turned away from the face of God, the times we’ve been off target, when we haven’t loved God or others as God loves us – whether we were aware of it or not.

Jesus has enough experience of the human condition to know we need to regularly repent of our refusal to love…
And so in his prayer… we face judgment and grace.

Later Jesus cry from the Cross...would show just how far God is prepared to go... to forgive. We hear in Jesus words the awesome truth of divine mercy. ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.’

As we forgive those who sin against us
At Jesus side we pray to model our forgiveness on his.

Guide us so we wont fall into temptation
Here we express our faith… that if our hearts and minds and spirits are open to God’s guidance…which is always there for us… we’ll be able to recognise and resist temptation.

But deliver us from evil
And finally we express our faith… that were we to fall … God will deliver us if we ask him to.

St Theresa of Avila tells the story of a senior nun…who complained she couldn’t pray. On interrogation Theresa found that the nun’s trouble… was that it took her a long time to say the Lord’s Prayer. Each phrase occupied her for so long that hours would pass before she could finish.

Theresa decided the nun was actually very gifted at prayer.

It is my experience that lingering in the Lord’s Prayer is nourishing for my spirit and my relationship with God.
I hope you too will find… that with Jesus in the school of prayer…God is revealed as the God of comfort and the Father of mercies. Jesus doesn’t tell us his prayer the only possible way to pray, but in worship and private it’s unwise to try to break free from its authority and service.

With Jesus and with our brothers and sisters in Christ let us pray it together now.