This sermon was preached by Reader Christine on Sunday 24 July – the sixth after Trinity. Here it is for you again:
I don’t know if I’m the only one, but a lot of programmes on the general TV, seem to be about cooking. Not that I don’t like cooking, but there seems to be a general consensus that everyone needs to know what makes a good staple meal. I suppose in some cases this may be true.
However, we seem to be bombarded by what to eat, when to eat it, how much we should eat of a certain food product, what not to eat and then, of course, you have the diet programmes or adverts, telling you how many calories you should have and how many you should lose when you exercise.
There is also the adverts about quick menus, ready-made meals and, of course, the ones where all the ingredients are delivered. Now don’t get me wrong some of these are excellent, especially for a busy household where the people work and need to be able to made a quick healthy meal.
We all know the importance of food for any living being, or even plants, come to think of it, and we know what is considered to be staple foods and we understand the needs of trying to keep our bodies healthy.
However, how many of us think about our spiritual life and how to keep that healthy?
As Christians, prayer is an essential part of our faith. It’s usually something we are taught from an early age by our parents/carers or grandparents and at church schools.
It becomes part of our daily life as much as eating.
So, I think we could be forgiven for wondering why the disciples ask, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ Surely, as devote Jews they would have been taught to pray from an early age, but Jesus, must have been doing something different. Maybe it was the actual words he spoke that the disciples may not have hear before or the way he spoke, but whatever it was there was something special about the way Jesus prayed that day which drew the disciples’ attention to him. Let’s face it, it wasn’t the first time they had seen Jesus pray, he did it all the time, every day and night, sometimes all through the day.
However, this prayer seemed to be different. It wasn’t just the usual conversation Jesus may have had with God as he went about his mission. So, Jesus turned to his disciples and began to teach them a prayer.
A prayer that became special to them and to generations after, but a prayer that was designed to be varied, in the same way that recipes can be adapted to meet special diets, or even improved. This prayer was different, it wasn’t the ramblings of constant petitions and complaints, it was offered as a guide to prayer enfolding all the necessary ingredients to be a faithful servant. Like fresh food being delivered with all the ingredients for an evening meal.
This prayer begins with words of praise to God who created us, but also with an honour bestowed on us that we should speak to God as ‘Father’ followed by ‘hallowed is your name.’ To remind us that God’s name is holy and we should praise him as our heavenly father, who created us and it should be a natural thing for us to worship him.
It’s then followed with a purpose: ‘Your kingdom come.’ It’s easy for us to forget that we have a responsibility to carry on Jesus’ mission in the world around us, to be sensitive to the needs of others and to care for his creation. To pray for the needs of the world and not just for ourselves.
‘Give us each day our daily bread,’ that basically sounds self-explanatory, but this is one that give us hope as we ask God to give us our daily needs to make it through each day, which is not necessarily food. Our Heavenly Father knows us well and he knows what we need each day, even if we don’t know it ourselves.
‘And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.’ I’m sure we don’t need to be reminded of the many times, that God has forgiven us by his grace and compassion. Every Sunday we ask God to forgive us our sins and we in return should forgive those who have wronged us in some way or another.
God provides our spiritual needs and Jesus has provided the food by which we are forgiven so we should never be afraid to ask for forgiveness.
‘And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ With the many temptations in the world around us, it makes sense to ask God for protection against making the wrong decisions. Jesus went to a lot of effort and suffering to teach us to have compassion, forgiveness and love. He taught us how to build a loving relationship with God and God has plans for us that are probably much better than the ones we have ourselves. However, we have to put our trust in him and be prepared to listen to him.
The version in Luke ends at this point and we know that the Lord’s Prayer has many variations and should be looked on as a living prayer. Each generation may use it as a model for spiritual communication between us and God.
In the same way ingredients of a recipe may change from generation to generation the words of the Lord’s prayer may change slightly with each interpretation to enable people to communicate with God in a way they understand.
I’m sure many of us have started a prayer by saying ‘Our Father’, and at some stage in our prayer have asked for forgiveness or asked for something we felt we needed. If we examine each line of the Lord’s prayer it can be used to begin a prayer, or included in prayer.
The parable which follows Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray is one of persistence, but not of demands.
It’s the story of a man needing bread from a friend, because he has unexpected visitors, but he knows the door will eventually be opened to him, because of their friendship.
However, the bond that connects the disciples and us to God is more than friendship. It is an intimate relationship and God is always there for us and as a loving Father he will listen to us and give us what he knows we need, which may not be what we think we need.
Jesus tells us. ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’
Let us pray:
Our Father, in heaven, you know our thoughts and needs. We pray for guidance this day to seek you and to be examples of your love, compassion and grace with those we meet each day. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.