Lord, teach us to pray.
No Lord, really, teach me how to pray because I am actually not sure that I am doing it right.
Because I pray pretty much all the time and I hear people talk about it all the time. I see politicians tweet thoughts and prayers after some awful, terrifying thing happens again. And I hear people talk about their prayer life and I do it all the time but Lord, I am not sure that I am doing it right.
I mean I realize there are all sorts of ways to pray Lord. I read about them…we can contemplate, we can do liturgical prayer, we can even pray through movement and dance, but Lord I am not sure that I am doing it right.
I mean I know all the metaphors for prayer: prayer is like incense, prayer is like oil, prayer is like breathing, prayer is like jazz, prayer is like a kiss.
But Lord, teach me how to pray because I am not sure that I am doing it right. Because what you said today in today’s Gospel lesson is not exactly my experience of prayer. I literally want to believe these texts that I heard this morning.
I want to pray like Abraham. I want to be able to go up to God and I want to say “Hey, God, I know you are God and I know you are powerful and just but I have a few ideas I want to run past you. And I think if you listen to me we could kind of work this whole thing out.”
And I want to pray like Jesus, the way you told the disciples to pray. I want to ask and have it be given to me, I want to search and I want to find it, and I want to knock on the door and know it will be opened.
I want to go up to God and say: “Hey God, this friend of mine has stage 4 lung cancer, can you heal him? And hey God, my kids are struggling and could you do something about that? And hey God, I am a little worried about this whole situation in Iran and can you do something about that? And hey God, while you are at it can you do something about the folks who have to sleep outside and make sure they have a place to go and make sure every child goes to bed with a full belly?”
And God will open that door and smile at me beautifully and say “Yeah, sure Jeanne, I hear you. I got it. Don’t worry.”
But I am not sure I am doing it right because that is not actually my experience of prayer.
Because if that was how prayer worked then I think the world would look like a really different place. Because if prayer worked like that then every biopsy would come back benign, and every marriage would be a happy one, and every promotion we want would come through, and my mic would never stop working in the middle of the service, and George RR Martin would finish the last Game of Thrones novel and our dogs would live forever.
So Jesus, I am really not sure that I am doing this prayer thing right so can you help me out? Oh, right, you said a few other things in this passage so maybe I should think about those. After the disciples said “Lord teach us to pray” Jesus says to them (maybe you are saying it to me too) “When you pray say”
Father, hallowed be thy name
So maybe when I pray I am supposed to remember that you’re God, and I’m not and that you’re holy. And in this relationship I have with you there is the potential to be loved and cared for the way a parent cares for a child. In this relationship is the potential for me to learn what it feels like to be loved and cared for the way a parent can care for a child.
Your kingdom come
Hmmm. Well I am wondering here because in Luke I do not hear anything about heaven so I am wondering about where this kingdom is. It sounds like this kingdom is right here and right now. Maybe the kingdom is here amongst us and I am called, and we are called, to look at creation the way God imagined it when the world was first born. Maybe I am called to be what NT Wright calls a ‘kingdom bearer’ to the world.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Ok. So maybe God I am called to trust you, to recognize that I am utterly and completely dependent on you and really all I should be concerned about is what I need in this moment, in this time, in this place. And I will trust that you will provide.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us
I think maybe Jesus is calling me, is calling us, to see the way we are with one another as an extension of the way God is with us. God loves and forgives us, God gives us mercy and grace, and we in turn are called to offer that love and mercy and grace to everyone we meet. Maybe Jesus you are telling us, like the words of Dorothy Day, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
Save us from the time of trial
This is going to be hard sometimes. We are going to suffer. We are going to be scared. But when I pray I must remember that you are always with me God, that you will protect me, and that I will never be alone.
So Jesus, help me to pray because I am not sure that I’ve got it right. Because it sounds like what you are saying is that God is less of prayer vending machine that I put my prayer into and I pull the lever and out pops my answer. But instead prayer is more about being in relationship with God, prayer is more about being in relationship with my community and prayer is more about how I am called to be a disciple of Christ in the world. I think it was Pope Francis who said “Pray for the hungry. Then feed them. This is how prayer works.”
So Jesus, teach me how to pray because I am not sure I am doing it right but I am beginning to get a sense of what you are asking me to do and it is a little less satisfying than “Knock/Seek/Receive” I have to tell you. It sounds mysterious and it sounds hard and I don’t really understand why some people’s prayers seem to get answered and others don’t and that seems kind of unfair.
But I guess, like all we do, it is a mystery we only get the smallest inkling of and we have to trust that your presence is what we receive when we pray. It kind of reminds me of the words of Thomas Merton that I read once. Thomas Merton when he talked about prayer he said the following:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”