Lord Teach Us to Pray

In this sermon, I explore Luke’s account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer. The scripture lesson is found in Luke 11:1-13.

You can listen to the sermon here.

Here’s the text of the sermon. Read along if you like. As usual excuse the odd punctuation and indications to pause. I gotta remember those things somehow.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
There is big news in the geek community. Perhaps some of you have heard it if you, like me, are a movie buff.  In a surprise presentation at Comic-con about a week ago, it has been revealed that Batman will join Superman on the big screen. Geeks everywhere went wild when this news broke…because this is a matchup that we’ve wanted to see on the big screen as long as there’s been a big screen. Superman…Batman…the two biggest names in comic book super hero’s…finally coming together. Now, while details of the story are not available, its still exciting to think of these two characters in the same movie together…because of their obvious popularity.
The interesting thing about Superman and Batman is just how different they are. Superman…he can do anything…because he’s an alien…and the energy from our sun gives him super powers. There is nothing that he cannot do…including racking up huge box office earlier this summer…but Batman…well, I think we all like Batman because he’s relatable. Think about it. Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s human, just like you and me.  Maybe the reason that so many people appreciate Batman so much is that, given enough time and resources…given enough training and most importantly…planning…anyone can be Batman. You see Batman, is a planner…sure he’s got unlimited financial backing and amazing gadgets to help him out…but his most important trait in the fight against crime…his ability to plan for every…single…possibility. Batman has spent years focusing his energy on what he needs to do in any situation…and if we took the time, we could do that too. If we just plan everything out in meticulous detail…if we do everything in just the right way…then my friends…Anyone…can be Batman.
Speaking of training…it would seem that the disciples are trying to do just that in today’s story. They’ve been sitting there watching Jesus pray…something that Luke’s gospel tells us that he does quite a bit…and the disciples think to themselves…you know, I bet he could teach us a thing or two about prayer…I mean, he’s God after all…he’s gotta have the inside track on how to pull that off…Lord, teach us to pray…train us how to do it…correctly…because we want to be the Batman of prayer…ok, so they didn’t actually say that last part about Batman…but you get my drift.
In reality…the disciples are revealing something that is very common. A desire to be better…at prayer. Think about it for a second…how many people feel 100% comfortable with their ability to pray? Just think about it. I won’t ask you to raise your hands one way or the other…but think about it? I think when we’re honest with ourselves…our feeling is that we are a long way away from having prayer mastered. (pause) And you know what…pastors aren’t immune to that either.
What are some of the thoughts that come into your head when you think about praying…especially if you are asked to pray…out loud? I wouldn’t know what to say…I probably wouldn’t pray long enough…or maybe I’ll ramble on too long and people will get uncomfortable. Maybe we should just let the pastor do the praying…I bet he took a class in seminary about doing it correctly. (pause)…although if you are wondering on that last idea…no, believe it or not they don’t teach that class…bummer right?
Many people that I have talked to over the years have expressed the same notion that the disciples are expressing in today’s story. I wish someone would teach me to pray better. I want to be able to approach God in prayer…I feel like I should…I just don’t know how…and so the disciples, in a moment of opportunity…go straight to the source. Lord, teach us to pray.
Sometimes I wish that we had a little more insight into the mind of Jesus in these moments. I wonder if he thinks to himself “Jeepers guys, you’ve been following me around for a couple years…haven’t you picked up on this yet?”  Or is it “Finally, these guys have an actual question of merit. GOOD JOB DISCIPLES!” Who knows…maybe it’s a little bit of both…because, as we see…Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them.
What I love about the Lord’s Prayer, is that Jesus shows us a very simple way to do it. Have you ever really stopped and thought about the Lord’s Prayer?  It’s pretty short isn’t it? Especially here in Luke’s account.  We are more familiar with Matthew’s version that contains a couple extra lines not found here in Luke…but even that slightly longer version is still short and to the point.
So what do we learn from that? Well, it seems that point number one on prayer…excessive windiness does not equal better. There is no magical length that needs to be achieved before God starts listening…you don’t need an exact word count before God considers your prayer to be valid.
Next up, Jesus tells us “pray in this way” and he addresses God as Father.  Did you notice that? We do the same thing when we say “Our Father.” Jesus is telling us here that we are able…and allowed…to address God directly, just as He himself does. Through the work of Jesus Christ on earth, we are made children of God…the Bible tell us this in countless places…and we have direct access to God in prayer…and even more so Jesus is showing us the kinship that we hold with him. God is the father of Jesus and we see here that we can also call him Father.
And just as any child can approach their parents with questions or requests or ideas, we can approach God directly. We don’t need someone else to do it for us? We can do so ourselves.
The next thing that we learn here, is that there’s no special place that we have to go. Jesus isn’t sitting in the temple. He’s not going through a priest…he’s not in the synagogue or at home…quite simply…he’s just…somewhere…and you know what, that teaches us something too. We can pray anywhere….and anytime. God’s always listening. Walking down the sidewalk? God’s listening. Sitting at work? God’s listening. Lounging on the couch? God’s listening. Lying in bed in the middle of the night? God’s listening. Sitting in church this morning…you guessed it…God’s listening. There is no specific time or place that’s required.
We can learn a couple other things from Jesus example on prayer as well. First, we acknowledge the Glory of God. Hallowed be your name…but not just because we say so…it just is…so God, help us to remember your glory.  Then we ask for the kingdom to come…and just what does that mean? Well, that’s a good question…when we ask for God’s kingdom to come…and his will to be done…that’s when we let go of control.
And maybe that right there…is really what we find so difficult about prayer. Because we like to be in control don’t we? Deep down…I think that’s the most basic fear that we all have isn’t it?  The loss of control. The unknown…not being in charge of what happens. It’s tough isn’t it? We like to plan things out…and we like to hold the reigns don’t we? Because we know best right? We know what we need…and we know what we want…no one knows better than we know for ourselves right?
Well…here’s the point where Jesus, in his very simple prayer…in his very simple example…get’s really deep…Thy kingdom come…THY will…be done…Not mine, but yours God. You know, a few chapters later in Luke, we see Jesus praying again…and that time he’s in a garden, and he knows that in just a few hours, he’ll be in agony…and he’ll be killed…but what does he say?  Not my will Lord, but may your will be done.
Can we follow that same example? Are we really willing to let go of control and trust that God’s got our best interests in mind? For many of us…maybe all of us at one time or another…this can feel impossible. We just can’t bring ourselves to let go, but you know what…so many of those things in life…those issues that we’re trying so hard to control…when we’re honest with ourselves…we know that we’ve got no control…and all we’re doing is driving ourselves crazy trying steer things in the direction that we think they need to go.  Sound familiar to anyone? I’m sure it does.
I think of farmers, going out there every single spring…year after year…planting the crops…and hoping…just hoping…that there’s enough sun and enough rain…to make those crops grow…and I’m sure they worry.
I think of people trying desperately to find a new job…fretting over every resume and job posting…thinking if I just try hard enough, I can make this happen.
I think of people watching a loved one that’s sick or injured…perhaps thinking to themselves Why can’t I make them better? Why can’t I? Why can’t the doctors fix this?
We want to control a lot of things don’t we? But that’s not what Jesus shows us today is it?  Thy Kingdom come…well just what does that mean for us?  What does that mean for the person facing the terrible situation…and feeling no control?  And worse yet, what does it mean when we do pray and ask God for help…and maybe the answer doesn’t come…or worse yet…the answer comes back…NO…What do we do with that?  What do we do with the notion that God’s kingdom…and God’s will doesn’t match up with ours?  Or that when we ask for something God’s chooses to wait to respond? Sometimes God waits years…and by then, it might seem like it’s too late…and in that situation…these word’s of Jesus in today’s story don’t seem to make a lot of sense.
He tells his disciples…ask and you will receive. Seek and you shall find…Knock and the door will be opened…Jesus says we’ll get what we ask for so why are there times when God says No? Why are there times when God doesn’t say anything? Why are there times when we ask for the fish and it really seems like God gives us the snake?
I wish I had a good answer for you here…but to be perfectly honest, I don’t. All I can say is that when we pray the words, Thy Kingdom come, we better really mean it…because our short sightedness…caused by the selfishness that resides in all of us…blinds us to the fact…that God is at work.
The kingdom has come…it is here…today and every day. Because God himself broke into our reality through Jesus Christ…we can rest in the hope that in the end, all things will be made new…but that work isn’t done yet…and unfortunately for us in our present, flawed reality…we have to wait for things…and sometimes the Good gifts that are promised to us…don’t seem that great…and sometimes those Good gifts that are promised to us don’t show up in time…but you know what…God knows our needs better than we do. And Jesus himself tells us today, that we can come before God.
There is no magic formula…there’s no special way that works better. There is no right way to do it. Any time, any place, anywhere. IN the quiet of our minds or shouted from the rooftops…anyone…and everyone…can…pray.
We can come before God with our worries…with our fears…with our praise…with everything…and God is listening. But more importantly…even in those times when we can’t see it happening…we can rest assured that the Kingdom is coming…and one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes…one day. Amen.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Teresa on July 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    All I can say is Awesome. Pastor B talked on the same thing this morning. You did a great job.This subject really makes you think things out.


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