Teach Us to Pray
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us to pray”
And Jesus did just that.
He said, “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.”
We know this prayer. We pray it all the time.
But there’s also some really important points here that we need to unpack:
Points that we often gloss over because we know this prayer so well:
We can sometimes say these in rote:
without paying attention to what they really mean.
So let’s take Jesus’ words here line by line.
The prayer begins: “Father, hallowed be your name.”
This tells us, first of all, that our prayers are addressed to God.
And to God alone.
We might pray with others, alongside others, and for others:
But our prayers are our words to God.
And this opening line of the prayer also tells us a bit about who God is,
and who WE are.
God is Father,
And we are his children.
And even more than that:
God is a HOLY father.
When Jesus says “Your Kingdom Come”
He is telling us not just to hope for or pray for, but to help BRING god’s Kingdom here to earth.
But this is also GOD’S kingdom:
Not necessarily OUR ideas of what God’s kingdom should look like.
This line of the prayer forces us to put God’s hopes and dreams above our own:
And to trust that God will bring them about, with our help and faithfulness.
The third part of the prayer says:
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
In this line, Jesus is teaching us to pray for the things we NEED.
Not necessarily the things that we WANT:
But the things that we need for sustenance, for life.
Next we hear maybe the hardest words of this prayer.
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.”
Here, Jesus acknowledges the reality of sin:
The reality that we ALL participate in.
Jesus announces our need for forgiveness,
And our need to forgive others.
And this line, is a bit different than the one we generally recite.
Here, it says, “for we ourselves forgive EVERYONE indebted to us.”
It’s pretty clear.
That we need forgiveness from God,
And we also need to forgive EVERYONE else in the same way.
A hard pill to swallow.
Which is part of why we need to pray about it.
To ask God to guide us, help us, and inspire us to forgive:
Precisely because it’s sometimes awfully hard to do:
Maybe even impossible to do without God’s help and guidance.
Finally, Jesus tells us to pray:
“And do no not bring us to the time of trial.”
We are familiar with the other words: “And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil.”
In both cases,
We are asking God to guide us:
And to not make us vulnerable to those powers that rage against God’s kingdom.
Now: that was a nice sermon, huh?
To break down the Lord’s prayer?
But Jesus has more to say about it.
He tells a hypothetical story about a cranky friend,
And the power of PERSISTING.
With this hypothetical story, Jesus is telling us to keep praying:
Over and over and over again.
To keep praising God as our father,
To keep naming our needs.
To not give up until God’s kingdom becomes a reality here on earth.
And its worth noting that Jesus didn’t teach us to pray so that we could be passive.
This story about the persistent neighbor
(or in other translations the neighbor is described as “shameless”)
Is a story about someone who has the audacity to keep asking.
And that shameless audacity will eventually get him the help he needs.
Jesus is telling us to pray SHAMELESSLY.
He’s saying that prayer should be like knocking on your neighbors door in the middle of the night DEMANDING loaves of bread.
When the neighbor doesn’t want to get up because he is already in bed,
Jesus’ advice is to keep asking until he gives in.
It doesn’t matter if he wants to give you the bread or not:
He’ll do it eventually if you bother him enough.
Jesus is telling us that prayer is meant to be bold,
Persistent, and sometimes even uncomfortable.
Prayer is meant to be SHAMELESS.
It’s meant to get results.
After his hypothetical story about the shameless neighbor,
Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given you,
Search and you will find,
Knock and the door will be opened for you.”
This idea of bold, shameless, persistent prayer is a good reminder to us that prayer doesn’t have to be silent.
Certainly, at times it can be, and maybe sometimes should be.
Prayer happens in dark, quiet, private places.
But prayer also happens in LOUD places. With wailing, shouting, crying tears of grief, reckoning, and yearning.
Prayer happens when we’re alone with God,
And when we’re gathered with others with God.
But prayer is not meant to stay just between us and God.
Our prayers need to have feet and hands.
Prayer is the practice of seeking God’s presence and guidance as we work toward creating a better world.
Prayer is one way we know God is with us, even when the challenges ahead seem insurmountable.
Jesus wanted our prayer to lead us to difficult places:
To challenge us to do uncomfortable things in his service:
(Like continuing to bang on our neighbors door in the middle of the night.)
Jesus wanted us to be unabashedly shameless in our prayers:
To keep asking for God’s presence in our lives and in the world, despite how daunting our challenges may seem.
What is happening in our world today that requires our shameless persistence in prayer?
What is happening in our lives that needs to change?
What are we seeking, and what are we hoping for?
Jesus promises us that if we knock the door will be opened,
But we might have to knock hard and often:
We might have to ask others to join us:
We might have to be loud in our knocking.
Jesus invites us to pray with the assurance that God is listening,
And not only that, but that God is acting on our behalf:
Ready to respond and to transform our lives and the world around us.
And if we have moments when we feel like our prayers are weak,
Or like we don’t know what to say or do,
We can be like the disciples,
who asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
And Jesus, always:
Stands ready not only to answer our prayers,
But also to show us the way in bold, persistent, shamelessness.
Leave a Reply.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.