Fr. Devin Rodgers – 12 C Proper
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “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 who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”LUK.11.1-13
Have you ever felt the desire to pray and not known what words to say? Maybe you’ve found yourself flipping through the Book of Common Prayer searching for that one perfect text to soothe whatever situation you found yourself in. Ever scoured the internet searching for resources and tools to address your spiritual situation? Our tradition is full of prayers to God. Some are hundreds of words long, others may be as short as the word “help!” Some have motions and words. Some have no words at all. Some are completely silent. With so many options, it is hard to know exactly where to begin in addressing God. Even when we do find the right prayers to use, we still have a lot of options!
Do we use Rite I or II? Is the traditional Lord’s prayer just as good as the contemporary one?
Aside: Either is fine. The Lord’s prayer is always a great start. Aside from being the one prayer that nearly every Christian knows, forms the foundation of our prayer life. My priest in college once told me if you have no idea what to pray, pray the Lord’s prayer. You’re sure to get all your bases covered.
We might even view the Lord’s prayer as a summary of the entire Gospel. Why is that? The Lord’s Prayer appears two times in the Gospels, and each presents a different perspective. It is theologically and missionally rich.
In Matthew, it is a part of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. Matthew was writing for Jews who
converted to Christianity. It’s interesting that the Lord’s prayer follows a similar format to other
Jewish prayers. In this Gospel, Jesus is restructuring prayer to take on new meaning for
followers of the Way. He is tying it to the revealing of God’s kingdom on Earth. Prayer has a
functional and mission-driven purpose. That purpose is to transform us for the revealing of the
kingdom of God.
Luke’s presentation of the Lord’s prayer takes on a different approach. Luke is writing for a
Gentile audience who probably were not as familiar with Jewish religious customs. In fact, they
probably did not have much of an understanding of being chosen as God’s people, adopted into
the family of God, and being formed as a holy nation. Therefore, Luke centers the Lord’s prayer
around our relationship with God. God is Personal, loving, and approachable. Calling God “Father” makes the relationship familial and deeply personal. It’s a bond that even if we did not experience the care and concern of a loving father, we understand the deep bond of love that exists there. God surpasses this!
However, fathers had different roles in Greco-Roman society than in Jewish society. This would
have been important for Luke to address to his largely Gentile audience. I’m sure most Gentile
fathers loved their children, however, the institution of fatherhood was fundamentally different than that of the Jews. For example, in the Greco-Roman world, the father was an all-ruling, authoritarian figure. Fathers owned their children and could decide their fates–keeping them after childbirth, abandoning them, selling them, or even in some circumstances, killing them in infancy.
You might imagine how significant this difference in culture would be as Jesus is trying to
portray a loving, steadfast God. Jesus teaches that our relationship with God is based on love, not
fear. The child of God in seeking God is in charge of moving the relationship forward; it is
never forced upon them. God is not coercive, and there is no punishment or abandonment for not
meeting expectations. God’s love, while best described as Fatherly, transcends the capabilities of
any earthly father in that it is entirely sacrificial and not self-serving. If this is the case, children of God can be bold and fearless in their prayers to God. Jesus tells them two parables that relate to this boldness.
The first of these parables relates to persistence. A friend travels to another friend’s home,
knocks on the door, and requests 3 loaves of bread. Even though it is late and the initial response
is “no,” the persistence will pay off and the friend will be given what is necessary. Relationship is
also central to this parable. Friends seek each other in times of need because they know that they
will receive support. Our relationship with God is stronger than even the best of friendships. If
we persist in prayer, God will eventually supply us with “what we need.”
In the second short parable, Jesus uses the disciples’ own parenthood to illustrate the nature of
God. When your child asks for food, you don’t intentionally give them a snake or a scorpion.
Most in our society agree that humanity thrives best under goodness, compassion, generosity, and
decency. This is all the more true for parents. AND if this is true for parents we can trust that
God’s care for us surpasses even that. God doesn’t respond to us with wrath and punishment (no
matter how much some religious folks would like you to believe that). This isn’t to say that there
are no consequences for actions or inactions, but God never brings out shame and ill will
Ultimately God gives us the best gift possible…God’s own Spirit. The disciples said, “Lord teach us to pray.” However, Jesus didn’t give them the words to a cover-all-your-bases prayer. Nor was he enshrouding verbiage, be that Elizabethan English or Contemporary English into our worship liturgies. Saying the prayer is not enough. We are to internalize and then embody prayer as a spiritual practice so that it changes our perspective and behavior. Prayer changes the way we view the world and our relationship with God. This is certainly true of the Lord’s prayer as it serves as a
basis for all other prayers directed to God.
Knowing that God is our creator and parent, we can approach God with:
- Persistence and Trust – God is faithful
- God views us with Compassion, Mercy, and Love
- Sustenance comes from God’s own self. God Provides.
Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ForLUK.11.9-10
everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door
will be opened.
This is how prayer moves from mere words to a belief and embodied practice – a transformation
of heart and mind. From this perspective perhaps the Lord’s prayer is a foundational posture before God. God meets us in whatever culture, time, and place we find ourselves. God transcends the words we may offer, but the nature of God and our relationship with our Creator is the same. Whether we pray the traditional Lord’s prayer, sit in silence, or pray corporate prayer God is there and provides for us out of love.
Recently, in the Sanctuary Bible study, which meets on Tuesday evenings, I offered this version
of the Lord’s prayer. It is a direct translation from Aramaic, Jesus’ native tongue, into English.
Listen to Christ’s words and learn to pray from him.
Beloved giver of life, who fills all realms
May You be honored in me.
Let your divine rule come now
Let Your will come true in all the universe,
in the heavens, and on earth.
Give us all that we need for each day, and
Untangle the knots of unforgiveness that bind us within,
As we also let go of the guilt of others
Let us not be lost in superficial things,
But let us be free from that what keeps us from our true purpose
From You comes all rule, the strength to act, and the song that beautifies all
From Age to Age.
I confirm this with my entire being.
Lord, Teach us to pray.
But don’t merely help us scour prayer books and websites for the correct words to say. Teach us
to pray by fearlessly accepting the love that you offer. May we trust that your Holy Spirit will guide us to all that is necessary for true life, health and salvation.
We confirm this with our entire being–a being united to God in everlasting love.