Lord, teach us to pray

A sermon by Lesley Shatwell on the Lord’s Prayer

The disciples said: “Lord, teach us to pray”.

And then Jesus replied by giving us what we now call the Lord’s Prayer.

It’s something which everyone used to learn when they were little – at least that was so back in the 1950s/60s when I was little, but I guess things have moved on since then …

I rather feel that it’s not just me falling behind the times though, because whilst the Lord’s Prayer is the most beloved prayer, well known and well used by Christians every day, I think the words themselves may be concealing some things.

Let me say from the outset that it is completely, totally NOT my intention to question the words of Jesus. These are merely thoughts I have which I hope may encourage you to think prayerfully for yourselves.

Take “Our father” for example.  It seems to me that’s a shorthand for “our mother, our beloved parent who created us, who sees us and knows us better than we know ourselves and who loves us come what may”. Often people have difficulty in thinking about God as father.  It could be for any number of reasons, but we are addressing God here, the God who created us, who is without gender.  Ageless, timeless, and without limit.

And yet, by using the word “Father”, Jesus invites us to have a personal relationship with our God, creator of all things.

We are invited to count ourselves into God’s family.

Our father …

At this point, maybe we had better take a moment to acknowledge the holiness of the Lord’s name.

We come into the holy presence of God.

As Moses was reminded when he approached the burning bush through which God was speaking to him, “Take off your sandals, you are on holy ground.”  Hallowed be your name.

We are allowed to call God “father” but God is holy and we are humble before him.  Let’s not forget the priorities here.

Talking about priorities, “your will be done”.

Yes, that’s your will, Lord, not mine.  Because if I’m honest, you have a much better grasp of things than me.  For instance, I struggle to share all I have generously with your whole creation.  I take too much for granted, I want too much for myself and my loved ones.  I’m inclined to get annoyed and upset if you don’t play your part in my plans to make everything happen the way I want it.  And yes, that hurts.

But I wonder, whilst you are at work on me Lord, it would be useful if I could remember that what I want is not always the most important thing from your point of view.  Help me to be gracious and accepting of your will.  I know ultimately it never works if I try to force you to fall into line with me.  If I make the wrong decisions, gently bring me back to your ways.

Your kingdom come – and please hurry up.  We are in dire need of heaven here on earth right now.  We as humans have made such a mess of so many things.  When your kingdom comes all will be realigned to your ways and I can’t wait.

But in the meantime, we need daily bread now.  Yes, that’s food and clean water, shelter, and safety – everything our bodies need.  But also give us each day our spiritual food.  Help us to grow in wisdom and your grace.

Forgive us our sins.  Oh my goodness, if there was ever someone needing forgiveness, it’s me Lord.  Even when I try to do my best, I fall short.  And I do try, but it is so disheartening when things don’t work out the way you would wish.

I’m inclined to try and hide my shortcomings.  I hide them so well, sometimes it’s difficult to admit I have any, least of all if I call them “sins.” I don’t sin, I’ve been really good just lately … who am I kidding? Yes Lord, I acknowledge that I am less than the perfect human.

I am work in progress, I keep trying and in the meantime I would be grateful if you could forgive my past slip-ups and let me have the freedom to make a clean start.

It hurts when I’m annoyed with someone, when I believe someone is deliberately trying to upset me. Or even if the person upsets me without them knowing it. Lord, give me the grace to forgive everyone who has ever harmed or upset me or my family or my loved ones. Again, I need the freedom which is in your gift, so that I can move on to reconciliation.

Lord, help us through the evil which surrounds us.  Keep us true to you when we seem to be surrounded by darkness and terror.  We are living through uncertain times now.

Circle us with your love and let us know you are with us come thick or thin.  Be with all who suffer, let everyone know that you deliver us from evil.

And Lord, I know I’m asking a lot – but please be aware that I will carry on asking. I’m not going to give up calling on you because I know that you never give up on me. Let me not be too upset if you don’t grant my prayers in the way I ask. You have a far more complete picture than I do, help me to trust your kind and loving judgement of me.

All that said, I do have confidence that if I ask for anything which is good and right in your sight, then my prayer will be answered, in your own time and your own way – for which I thank you.

I know that if I knock persistently on your door you will open it to me.

If I persistently search for you, I will find you.

For you give me your Holy Spirit, so I need never search alone.

Amen

Luke 11.1-13 – Lord’s Prayer: St Mark’s. 28 July 2019.

 

Image by Beki Blade,  used in Thy Kingdom Come 2016 exhibition.

 

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