Sermon on the Mount Series - Sermon #8 - Prayer
Rev. April S Blaine, Given on Sunday, September 15, 2013
This past June, I found myself down at the statehouse with one of our students. It was a week with a lot of action going on in politics around our country and the Ohio House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the state budget that afternoon.
A significant piece of the budget included some items that I found to be deeply troubling – mostly because they would disproportionately affect the rights of women and those in poverty.
And I felt that could not be silent.
As Lainie and I sat in the balcony overlooking the chambers of the House – they brought their session to order with a word of prayer. I was a little surprised, and expected something very universal, very non- Christocentric, something inclusive.
But the speaker began to speak and she prayed a prayer to Jesus – for wisdom, for guidance, and for discernment. And then, the entire Ohio House of Representatives – said together – the Lord’s Prayer.
Now, I’m a Pastor.
I know the Lord’s Prayer.
I say it with you every week. I pray it frequently throughout my week.
I cherish those words – and they mean something very profound to me.
But – I have to tell you – I have never felt so uncomfortable, so awkward – so strange – saying the words of that prayer as I did in that moment.
I cannot speak to the state of the hearts of the people in that room that day. I don’t know what they were thinking or feeling and I don’t pretend or desire to make those kinds of judgments.
But I do know this to be true.
There are times – where our words – are just words.
Where what we are saying is disconnected to our reality –
and when this is true – when we are praying out of habit, or because it’s the expected thing to do - despite the beauty or power the words might have in other settings or for other people - they are meaningless
If you haven’t already – I encourage you to open your bibles…
Jesus warns his followers in this part of the passage.
What’s the heading say?
Be careful – that your prayers aren’t done so that you are seen – so that you appear a certain way. So that you’ve checked it off the list – don’t think I’m interested in that – or that God cares about you repeating a bunch of words you’ve been taught.
And then he gives us some of the most helpful instruction – “Pray then in this way.”
Now this prayer is so packed with things that we cannot possibly unpack in one sermon – but we are going to talk about two broader themes that this prayer helps to direct us toward in our journeys
And I have placed a couple of items in the room to help us with this –
Who found the first item?
What is this?
What does it do?
Compasses help orient us and face us in the right direction.
The first thing this prayer does is it gives us an orientation for our prayers.
It directs us in a very specific way.
I talk to a lot of people who feel that prayer is a confusing thing for them. They aren’t sure what to do – and if they’re doing it right.
So – the Lord’s Prayer helps us to be ORIENTED. To not bump around in confusion – but to
Say the first words with me -
Our Father, who art in heaven –
A more helpful translation of this would be – to say Our daddy,
The term used here is an affectionate term – one used for someone who you shared a relationship of love and care with.
Now I recognize that the term father or daddy may not have positive connotations for some of you. So – change the language to help – you Our Beloved creator who loves us perfectly – either way – it is a term of endearment and intimacy.
Who art in Heaven.
Where is heaven to you?
This would be better translated
the one in the heavens.
The plural form of heaven – spoke of the expanse of creation that began where we are and stretched to the highest ends of the cosmic universe.
So the Lord’s Prayer orients us – to who it is that we are talking to.
We are talking to the loving and intimate creator , who loves us like a perfect parent – and who is present as “far out” as imaginable, but is also as close as the air that we breathe.
And the other way this prayer orients us –
People often think of prayer as a very personal thing – just between me and God.
But Jesus begins the prayer with the word OUR –
While we may pray on our own – in our closet – in an intimate way – we do so with a deep reminder of our connectedness to each other.
So, he continues – pray in this way –
Hallowed Be Your Name –
Hallowed is holy, set apart. Let us not forget that even though God may be close and intimate and loving and kind. God is still holy in a way that is different than us – and that demands our reverence and our honor.
I pray for your kingdom to come, your will to be done.
Lucy introduced us to the word Kin-dom here – which I think helps us to see and understand a more full understanding of what Jesus originally intended.
Of how God designed for us to live in the world.
And we are asking to orient ourselves towards God’s will and God’s kin-dom.
Which – if we’re honest is different than our prayers can often be – which are more oriented toward how we’d like the world to be and what our will for the situation is.
And I pray - Give me just what I need for today, my daily bread, no more, no less.
And forgive us our trespasses – show us your grace and mercy for all the ways we’ve messed up yesterday and the many days before that. And in the last 5 minutes.
As we forgive those who have trespassed against us - as we seek to develop - the kind of heart – that offers that same grace to others – to see them as just as human and in need of grace as we are– and not holding their own mistakes over them.
Lead us – not into temptation – but deliver us from evil
Help us to not be tempted along the way to forget who we are, who you are, and who we are called to be.
Lead us away and out of the kind of evil that will tell us something else about ourselves.
For its you – your kingdom, power and glory that this is all about.
Not our kingdoms, or our power or our glory.
Do you hear it?
The orientation – toward God – God’s kingdom, God’s provision, God’s mercy, God’s power,
But there’s one more thing…
Last year, I visited one of our dear shut-ins, an older woman who struggles with fairly progressed Alzheimer’s. And Because I did not know her before this cruel illness took hold of her mind and body - Each time I visit, she doesn’t know who I am. For the first 3 visits – she didn’t really speak to me at all. I would pray, talk, sing, and hold her hand – she didn’t seem to mind me being there but there was no response. But in my last visit – I sat with her and I said, as I always do – the Lord’s Prayer.
And clear as day – she looked up at me and said – “Now What?”
I smiled at her and said – what a great question – Now what?
Who found my second hidden item?
What do boots allow us to do?
They allow us to go into places – we would otherwise be unable to or unwilling – they allow us to take ACTION.
Much of this prayer is about orienting ourselves to God – but there is subtle part that requires some serious action from us. Did you hear it?
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Jesus is clear that we can’t miss this.
If you don’t forgive others – read it to me…
When we take Jesus’ words seriously…
Praying – not just these words – but IN THIS WAY –
Will change us –
It will change our hearts and it will lead to the kind of action – the kind of powerful action – powerful enough to allow us to forgive.
I used to think I was pretty good at forgiveness – that it wasn’t something that I really struggled with – until I started praying this prayer more frequently in my life.
Including after people had just done something that really hurt – in moments where the last thing my heart wanted to do – was to let it go.
When we studied this a few weeks ago in bible study, we each shared the struggles that we’ve had and a young lady who was newer to the group – said – I think forgiveness can come in the moment where we can see past our anger for a person and when we can actually feel empathy for them.
When we see that they are just as much in need of grace and love as we are.
I don’t know about you – but there are few things in the world that are harder than to be deeply hurt by someone and to turn around and feel sorry and love and care for them.
Simply don’t have the capacity within me to do that.
Which is why I’m thankful for this prayer.
Because when my ORIENTATION changes - .
An orientation toward God’s love and God’s grace and God’s forgiveness.
Which IS big enough and wide enough – over time – to move me
in the right direction.
We can slip on those boots.
And we can walk into places we would otherwise be unable or unwilling to go.
And we can start walking in the direction that leads to life and love.
So, lets pray this prayer again together.
We’re going to pray it slowly – one line at a time and I want you to close your eyes and take it in.
So, you’ve prayed – Now What?