Psalm 138, Genesis 18: 20-32, Colossians 2: 6-19, Luke 11: 1-13
One of the earliest memories, as I have mentioned before, is of my parents and seeing them kneeling at the side of their bed, at night, saying their prayers. I do not expect, although I may be wrong, that it is a practice very commonplace in this country today. Unlike, as I am sure the Rev’d Darby would tell us, worship and prayer is in many African counties, where there is much joy and full commitment to their religious beliefs.
Of course there are today so many more different ways, via apps, I-pads, mobile phones and online that one can get ‘connected to God’, here in this fast moving internet world in which we live.
It may seem a bit odd that in our Gospel reading from Luke, that the disciples should ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” For as being good Jewish men they would have prayed at least four times a day. Indeed only in Islam is prayer more frequently said than in Judaism. No, it was more to do with the way that Jesus, went away from them, and the fashion in which he prayed, that the disciples did not understand.
So Jesus taught them the rudiments of the Lord’s Prayer we all know so very well today. “Father, hallowed be thy name.” At once there was a closeness to God that would have been completely new and even bewildering to the disciples. Yes, Abraham had spoken directly to God, as we heard in the reading from Genesis, and Moses, along with a few other Old Testament Prophets had also spoken directly to God, but it was not common practice for everyday Jews. Even His name should not pass their lips, He was a figure to be held at a distance, a figure to whom sacrifices were offered, sacrifices bought at the outer reaches of the Temple; The God, not one to be trifled with or ever approached.
Yet here, Jesus does not teach them about the importance of stillness, or correct posture, or focusing the mind. He teaches them to talk to God, and to bring the whole muddle of our lives, both the sublime and the mundane, to God. So that in one breath we can ask for the coming of the kingdom and our daily bread. As Abraham learns that God is indeed the Just Judge here on earth, so when we pray for forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer, we learn not only that forgiveness matters to God, but that it also matters to us, for we need to share that forgiveness with others.
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.”
As Jane Williams writes in her Lectionary Reflections,
“Prayer is not something carefully sanitized, so that we bring to God only what we know he will like. Jesus is encouraging the disciples to bombard God, to tell him everything, to talk to him constantly, to involve him in every part of our lives.”
So, as in the Gospel reading today, in the parable that Jesus told to his disciples, of a friend seeking 3 loaves, we all need to be persistent:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened.”
It can be said that the message from all of the three readings this morning is to go directly to God and to accept no substitutes. For in Colossians, Paul is telling those to whom he is writing, to go directly to Christ, and not to let anything else, however apparently good, get in the way, there is no substitute for the real thing:
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.”
So, we too in our prayers, wherever and however we say them, must bring our whole selves, good, bad, angry, sad or joyfully happy, before a God who not only listens, but understands us far better that we shall ever know.
I will finish with a verse from one of my late grandfather’s favourite hymns, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus.’
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!