July 28, 2019 – Proper 12, Year C
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: 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.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?
If you then, 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!”
“Prayer catapults us,” Richard Foster writes
In his book Celebration of Discipline.
“Prayer catapults us
Onto the frontier of the spiritual life.”
(Celebration of Discipline The Path to Spiritual Growth, Foster, Richard J., Chapter 3, pg. 33)
The word catapult
Ignites my creative imagination.
In my mind’s eye I can begin to search for the connection between
A catapult and prayer:
October pumpkins being chucked by modern catapults to the delight of children, and
Jets in full afterburner being flung into flight off an aircraft carrier,
Come to mind.
Prayer, therefore, is about instant acceleration
From stationary to speed,
From potential energy to kinetic energy,
From passive inattention to full-court engagement
With our God.
Fold your hands,
Close your eyes,
And expect to be shot out of a catapult
Directly into the heart of God.
Pray on your own.
Pray with another.
Pray in silence.
Pray out loud.
Use prayer to ask for what is needed.
The temptation is to end the sermon here,
With this summary string of moralizations.
No, you’re not getting a 5 minute sermon,
Much to everyone’s disappointment!
The other temptation is to undress the Lord’s Prayer line by line.
We’d be here to 5 o’clock.
That’s not going to happen either,
Much to everyone’s relief!
Where is the intersection of life and prayer? And
How can this impact our lives?
I’d suggest the Gospel of Luke begs us to be catapulted further –
Into the frontier
Of Spiritual life.
Jesus creates for us a vision of what that spiritual frontier looks like
When he teaches disciples how to pray.
These are a few of the many gems I’ve discovered this week
I’m called to share with you:
- Jesus prepares himself for every significant life event by starting with prayer.
Jesus prayed at his Baptism,
Before starting his ministry in Galilee,
Before choosing his 12 disciples,
Before feeding 5,000,
Before miracles, healings, and exorcisms,
Before raising Lazarus from the dead,
Before turning towards Jerusalem and the start of his passion.
Jesus prayed in the garden and on the cross.
In each instance,
Jesus sought God’s thoughts,
Desired the things God desired,
Loved the things God loves,
Willed the things God willed.
Progressively, Jesus became the will of God
In the unfolding of God’s salvation history.
Prayer is God’s invitation
For you and me to become active participants
In God’s unfolding plans,
In God’s developing kingdom.
- Pray like this, “Our Father …”
Addressing God as Father is a desire
To obtain the same intimate relationship Jesus had
With his Heavenly Father.
In this day and age,
It is understandable to be gender sensitive
When it comes to speaking about our God
Who clearly displays both masculine and feminine loving parental characteristics.
Let us chase from our minds
Those hurtful images or experiences some of us have of an abusive parent.
Jesus wants more for you and me.
Jesus wants us to dwell with God,
To live with the Lord,
And to receive every benefit of his Father’s perfect, loving, generous, grace.
Likewise, Jesus desires to dwell in you and me,
To have a pathway of vulnerability opened to God
Where God can wholly enter and make a home in our lives.
- Praying the Lord’s Prayer is a statement about the God of our experience.
To do so is to stake the claim that
God is trustworthy.
God’s nature is to be accessible and approachable.
Come to the table as the Lord’s guest.
Eat and drink and fellowship,
In the presence of God, almighty.
If ever you or I have felt all alone in this world
It isn’t because God has left us.
It’s because we’ve closed the conduit of prayer,
We’ve cut the umbilical cord
Between God and us.
To pray is to trust.
We boldly build faith through the work of prayer.
To pray is to be confident.
We know beyond all shadow of a doubt,
That God hears our prayers,
Desires our prayers, and
Acts on our prayers.
Prayer brings us into a spiritual intimacy with God
Unlike any other spiritual discipline.
- To pray is to change.
In my experience,
Prayer changes me much more than my prayers have changed God.
I’m more likely to change
Because I’m more likely to be wrong!
I’m more likely to not be listening to God, or
Deaf to God speak through others.
I’m more likely to change
Because my will is bent to sin,
And the Evil One makes every effort to lead me astray,
To tempt me to wrong,
To sink my battleship.
Prayer changes me,
Makes me strong,
Draws me close,
Keeps me connected with God’s will and unfolding plan.
Prayer can do the same for you, too.
To pray is to change.
Does God change?
Scripture is full of examples of God changing his attitude towards us
As a result of our change in behavior.
When we sin,
And turn away from Jesus,
The Lord is grieved and disappointed.
We have a history of God’s corrective actions:
Floods, slavery, and exile,
– there’s even the belly of a whale in there somewhere –
Just to name a few.
When we repent of our sins
And turn in faith to Christ,
God responds with peace, hope, and salvation.
Scripture is full of God’s blessings
For those who abide in his word
And live according to his will.
Behavior matters; both good and bad.
Prayer is an example of good, faithful behaviors;
Behaviors that disciplined disciples of Jesus are encouraged to engage in,
That change God’s attitudes towards us,
That draws us closer to the Lord.
- I don’t know about you, but
I’m cranky when I’m roused from sleep in the middle of the night.
In this brief, uniquely Lukan parable,
God is the kind of listener who is willing and able
To be roused out of bed.
We bang on God’s door with
anaideia: (ἀναίδεια), pronounced (anna-ee-die-ah),
Which translated from ancient Biblical Greek into modern, Western English means:
The gem of understanding here is the word “shameless;”
To pray and petition without regard to what others think,
To pray and petition without shame, but with persistence.
In today’s words,
When we pray,
Just put it out there.
Lay it out there before God and let God take it from there.
Shameless persistence on the one hand,
Is met with hospitality on the part of the homeowner, on the other.
Of course no one likes to be roused in the middle of the night,
But the fact that the homeowner,
None other than the Lord himself,
Does get up.
The homeowner give his neighbor everything he needs.
God’s application of ancient, oriental hospitality brings honor to both,
To both the one doing the praying and to God,
The recipient of our prayers,
Fulfilling every petitioner’s needs.
To pray is to honor God.
In doing so shamelessly,
Our needs are met.
- Lastly, prayer leads to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit to all who ask him.
There’s no need to wait for Pentecost.
Prayer immediately brings the presence of the Holy Spirit.
BOOM! The Holy Spirit is here, granting forgiveness.
Need strength to get through a tough patch?
BOOM! The Holy Spirit is here, giving strength in spades.
Need direction? Discernment? What God’s will is for life?
BOOM! The Holy Spirit opens the door unto you!
Need healing? Body? Mind? Spirit?
BOOM! The Holy Spirit lets lose the balm of Gilead,
Bringing healing to every soul.
Prayer isn’t hard.
Prayer improves with experience.
Strap yourself in and get ready for the ride.
Quite the self.
“Prayer catapults us
Onto the frontier of the spiritual life.”