July 24, 2016; Mokena United Methodist Church
What is prayer?
"In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, the Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path - the path of those whom you have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked Your anger or of those who are astray." Surah 1:1-7 of the Koran
"May His great name be exalted and sanctified in the world which He created according to His will! May He establish His Kingdom and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near..." Part of the Jewish Kaddish.
Takes place immediately after last week's reading, in "a certain place" - Bethany?
"Teach us to pray"? Magic words? Right way? Acceptable to God? Ease?
Some of Jesus' disciples had transferred from John.
Revival - Kaddish?
Jesus alters the Kaddish:
The Kingdom is not a future hoped for event.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Kaddish - the "Anointed"
Read Luke 11:2-4 (Why I'm reading from The Message?)
John Wesley: "This prayer, uttered from the heart, and in its true and full meaning, is indeed the true badge of a real Christian."
From "the heart" or from rote?
"True and full meaning"? Do we study or do we recite?
Catholic funeral story...
The prayer is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
Between warnings against showy religion and showy fasting - simplicity and humility.
Read Matthew 6:5-14
Parts of our current Bible are edits by scribes through time to clarify or to make the Gospels more "synoptic".
Usually something added
End of the Gospel of Mark originally left us with the women running from the empty tomb in terror! Only later were the post-resurrection appearances added!
Earliest versions of Matthew included a doxology: "For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen."
My first prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep - I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake - I pray the Lord my soul to take"!
"Rockabye baby in the tree-top, when the bough breaks..."
We want some magic words, words that are easy to say without thought, we want tokens and totems.
The Right Way?
We all know people who are afraid to pray in public, because they think they don't know the secret way to pray correctly. We don't know the words that will impress God with our theatre and our goodness. Prayer is hard work! Did I forget something? Chill out Martha!
Richard Foster, the founder of the Renovare church revival movement: "We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough to pray 'rightly'"!
So why do we stress so?
Prayer is not just Martha work, it is also Mary listening.
Jesus then tells a parable to move us away from the surficial "what to say", to the deeper "how to say it":
"Imagine you have a friend coming to visit, and you go to another friend for help..."
To me, this is talking about relationships, not supply and demand.
Relationship with our brothers and sisters.
Relationship with God.
We ask God to help someone else so that He and they may enter into a relationship.
Richard Foster: When we pray for ourselves, we should always add "if it be Your will", but if we pray for another we should never add it. We have been granted the authority by Jesus to do that very thing, and so we weaken our prayers by being wishy-washy. We exhibit a lack of faith.
Over and over again, the gospels tell us that before Jesus prayed for someone, he was "moved by compassion".
In his "Celebration of Discipleship", Richard Foster says: "The courage to actually go and pray for a person is a sign of sufficient faith. Frequently our lack is not faith but compassion." It is hard to pray for a stranger, and harder still to pray for an enemy.
The parable moves on to talk about persistence.
Praying for Steve Bryant example.
The parable also speaks of "good gifts" - "need" vs "wants".
Often, Jesus explains the teaching of the parable at the end.
Like many a good sermon, the Good News is revealed at the end.
What we seek to find is not forgiveness, but the Father!
What we open the door to is not salvation, but the Son!
What we ask for is not things, but the Spirit!
The Good News is that God is love and generosity!
So, again I ask: "What is prayer?"
Foster: "To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. if we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives."
Do we pray to invite change, or do we pray to prevent it?
Is prayer part of our character, or are we just going through the motions?
Once more I ask: "What is prayer?"
Wesley preached: "As continually received by faith, so it is continually rendered back by love, by prayer, and praise, and thanksgiving - love and praise and prayer being the breath of every soul which is truly born of God. And by this new kind of spiritual respiration, spiritual life is not only sustained but increased day by day."