Those of you who were lucky enough to be present at the service of Evensong which I led a few weeks ago heard me preach on the version of the Lord’s Prayer which we have in Matthew (see The Lord’s Prayer – more than Liturgical Ovaltine). Today you are going to have more of the same – but with a Lukan twist. Luke’s version (as you can see from my “Know the Lord’s prayer crib sheet”) is even shorter and more concise than Matthew’s, the central direction and purpose of the prayer, however, remain very much the same.
It still covers the principal types of prayer: –
Adoration (praising God) – “Hallowed be thy name”
Thanksgiving (giving thanks for our blessings) “Give us each day our daily bread”
Confession (admitting our faults and weaknesses) “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Supplication or intercession (asking for help) – “Lead us not into temptation”
As such it covers the basic needs of humanity – food, personal security and our relationships
Above all it is about our relationship with God – revered as father, life giver, lawgiver and saviour
Our other readings this morning also explore these issues of relationship with God.
In Genesis we hear about Abraham bargaining with God to save the people who have been led into temptation in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Old Testament God often condemns the innocent bystander alongside the guilty. He also often changes his mind. Do we believe that we can change the mind of God through prayer?
I am not sure that we can. We know that the reality of the world, regardless of prayer, is that the innocent are often slain by famine, war and disease and die alongside the sinful.
So how then do we pray when our prayers appear to go unanswered?
The writer of Colossians, is dealing with this as he explains that salvation does not come from keeping the law, by physical practices central to the Jewish faith and identity like circumcision, not even by good acts or good deeds – for our salvation, our being in a right relationship with God, has come through the example and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He has done this for us – we do not need to have a relationship with God of good deeds like the Jews.
So how then do we pray – when we are saved by Christ regardless of what we do?
In the passage from Luke we explore further the working of the relationship with God through prayer
Picking up perhaps on the petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives the example of a man who asks his friend for bread for a late arriving guest
It is inconvenient for the man to acquiesce – his kids have gone to sleep – but he will do so not because of their friendship but because of the persistence or boldness of the petitioner in asking in the middle of the night – friendship is not enough – persistence is the key.
How then shall we pray?
Persistently, repeatedly, constantly
What can we expect?
Can we change God? Like Abraham we may think that we can, but I don’t think so
Rather through prayer we can change ourselves and be more in tune with God – the more we pray, the more likely we are to succeed in being like God and acting in a Godly way
And what is it to be Godly? What is God like?
I had to answer this in my recent selection process – so this is what I believe (today at least, before 3 years of the formation process – ask me again in three years time!)
God is not a person as we understand the expression and so is better defined and understood by attributes
What are those attributes?
First – unchangingness, constancy, stability, endurance – as we sing in the famous hymn
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
As in the hymn – we might see this an an attribute of God the Father
Secondly – God is love – a companion on life’s journey, found in the loving relationships between human beings – the examplar and epitome of which we have in the loving service and sacrificial life of Jesus Christ – God the son
Thirdly God is mystery and wonder – a sense of that which can be known though it lies beyond human reasoning, the truth beyond science: the beauty in things, the richness in life, in music, in art, the feeling you have when standing on a mountain top or watching the sun set – the meaning beyond the molecules – present in all things – God the holy spirit
How then do we pray?
We pray to be in tune with God, aligned with creation – to be constant and loving and present to all those whom we meet
In all this I can think of no better example than our dear Leslie Worth
Constant in his support for this church
Constant in his love and companionship for Rosemary
A presence in this place for 50 years or more – and present with us still today in its fabric and his example
My repeated prayer this day, therefore, is that I can be changed to be more like the God which I saw reflected in him.
Sermon given by Chris Hancock at St. Andrew’s Box Hill, 28th July, 2013