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The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost                                      July 24, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Genesis 18:20-32Psalm 138; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13

Pr. Steve's Sermon: Living Our Prayers
Pr. Steve's Sermon: Living Our Prayers

Children's Sermon: Bible Buddies
Children's Sermon: Bible Buddies

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Steve...  
When I was on internship, we had a really active Boy Scout troop in the congregation. Most of the scouts, and most of the leaders, were members. And each year, they held a big banquet at the church.
They always invited the Pastor and the intern, and my Pastor Supervisor told me that I should expect an invitation. However, he said, going to the Boy Scout banquet was NOT part of the requirements of internship, and I should feel free to accept or decline the invitation as I saw fit.
About a week later, the Scoutmaster, who was a really active member of the congregation, came up to me after church and invited me to the banquet. But, as it turned out, the banquet was on the evening of my day off, and I did actually have plans with friends. So, I thanked him very much, but declined the invitation.
He stood there for a moment looking really worried. He said, "well, the Pastor isn't going to be there either. I guess I could say grace before the meal."
And I remember thinking, "well sure you could! You're a pretty active Christian."  And I wondered why just having to pray before a meal was such a daunting challenge.
But over the years, I've found that prayer can be a really hard thing, even for people who practice being connected to God. In fact, it's really surprising that the first disciples in today's Gospel reading ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.  After all, these guys are the chosen followers of Jesus, who have been watching him and learning from him maybe for a couple of years now.
Why is it that they say, "Lord, teach us to pray"? Apparently, even for them, prayer was hard. But it wasn't hard because they:
  • found prayer so technically difficult... (they knew the routine...)
  • didn't have the words... (they had the whole book of Psalms...)
  • couldn't find the time ... (there were times of prayer set for them...)
Instead, I think they understood that prayer was more than saying words or going through a religious routine. So they didn't just need Jesus to give them special words or gestures. Rather, they wanted to be able to pray like they saw Jesus pray - that is, they wanted to be more fully in touch with the power and presence of God. They wanted to really communicate with God. And they wanted, like Jesus, to be people who actually lived their prayers, not just people who said prayers.
And so Jesus gave them a prayer - a prayer we call the Lord's Prayer. But he gave them much more than a prayer. Jesus taught them also about the attitude and the mind set that they should have about God and about themselves when they prayed this or any other prayer. And in so doing, he also taught them how to live their prayers.
We teach the kids in confirmation that the Lord's Prayer is more than simply one prayer among many. And that's because in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us some basic things for all Christian prayer that can help us live our prayers and keep spiritual dryness from setting in. For example, Jesus teaches us to pray:
  • OUR and US - that is, we don't seek God's will by ourselves (part of what causes spiritual dryness is that each of us tries to speak and listen to God alone, or only for ourselves...)
  • FATHER - that is, to address God as one who loves us, cares about us, and who WANTS to give us good things (part of what causes spiritual dryness for some people is that they have the wrong image of who God is - a distant despot who has bigger fish to fry and can't really be bothered with us...)
  • FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE - that is, to be willing to share what we receive with others (part of what causes spiritual dryness is that when we ask simply for our own satisfaction and well being, we ask for the wrong things...)
And because that kind of prayer is about living your life in the presence of God, Jesus goes on in Luke's Gospel to unpack this for the disciples, so that they and we understand that prayer is a really a way of life in which we:
  • ASK - Jesus calls us to be people who are bold enough to ask God for what we want and need... (We often say, "it never hurts to ask", but we so often don't - not even from God!) (Story about the first million dollar donor to the "Crystal Cathedral" nobody asked ... !; Part of living prayer is always being willing to ask God for what you need ...)
  • SEARCH - Jesus calls us to be people who actively look and listen for where God is leading us... (Sometimes, searching seems hopeless, so we give up; Jesus calls us never to give up on God, and to continue to be open to looking and listening for the various ways God is speaking to us...)
  • KNOCK - Jesus calls us to be people who are persistent (the word used in the Gospel today actually means "shameless"! - it means actively being people who seek God's goodness for ourselves and others ...)
In giving us the Lord's Prayer, Jesus gave us a powerful prayer in and of itself.  But even more importantly, Jesus shows us what it means to live our prayers.  And it's in living our prayers that Jesus tells us that we'll find that God really does want to be in conversation with us. It's in living our prayers that Jesus promises us that we'll find that God is even more ready to give than we are to ask. And it's by living our prayers that Jesus reassures us that we'll grow closer to God and to those we pray for.