July 28th, 2019
“Lord, teach us to Pray”
The Rev. Canon Dr. Darcey Lazerte
One of the many things I love about St. Simon’s is how we pray. Our prayers of the people on Sunday morning are moving. It is not simply a formulaic exercise where the intercessor says “Lord in your mercy” and we respond “Hear our prayer”. Rather there is a depth and a spirituality which is very evident. It is not just on Sunday mornings that I appreciate this. It is also when we hold our various events and meetings. We are a church, so we open with prayer, and while I am always happy to pray I really do appreciate that more often than not the opening prayer is led by someone from our congregation and that they do a really good job. Now that said I think we are formed and shaped in how we pray and certainly our denominational roots have a role in this. I often go to meetings where there is representation from a wide array of Christianity. For us Anglicans, and the Roman Catholics and the Lutherns our prayers sound quite similar and have a Collect Prayer (opening prayer in the Sunday service) feel to them. They open with an address to God – something like Loving or Almighty God, make the point in the middle and then close with a through Jesus Christ or in Jesus’ name statement. Take a look at your bulletin, that first prayer in there, it looks like that. This is different form the United Church or the Evangelicals who without a prayerbook tradition just have a different sounding prayer. Again, not good or bad, but just different and I point this out to tell us that we are shaped in how we pray and much of this formation comes from our public worship. I say this because at the heart of our gospel is a request by the disciples, to Jesus, where they ask him to teach them how to pray.
How do we pray? Well, as mentioned, I think we are formed by our liturgy and our Sunday worship. Additionally, I think many of us learn things growing up as children in our homes and many of us might have the same practice of prayer we began as a child. Say at mealtimes or in the morning or at bedtime. The disciples too had learned to pray as children, were part of a religious community and had been formed in prayer and certainly knew how to pray. Yet they came to Jesus and knowing the depth of what he had to offer came to him asking him how to pray. I think many of us are like this. We have been formed in the church and we know how to pray on one level but we want more. I often hear from people, I can’t pray anymore, I don’t know what to say or they wonder if they can pray for their own needs. I hear the struggles you have with prayer, even though we are a people of prayer and when we talk about this one of the things I often do is refer people to the Lord’s Prayer. This is because, while there are lots of resources out there, the truth is that keeping it simple is sometimes the most helpful. And, when Jesus was asked how to pray, he said the Lord’s Prayer. So if it is a good enough answer for Jesus and the disciples it should be a good enough answer for us.
What then does the Lord’s Prayer have to offer? Well, first of all it gives us words. If we do not know what to say, we can simply say the words of this prayer and at a very basic level we have prayed. It does offer more, though. It also tells us what to pray for. It opens with the words;
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Quite simply put this is a “praise God” statement.
Then it continues Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This statement recognizes it is not about us or our ability but rather it is God’s world and we are called to follow where God leads us.
Give us this day our daily bread. Yes it is OK to ask for our needs in life.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Sin and wrongdoing matters. We pray for forgiveness but we are also called to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. There is wrong in this world, there is evil and it can have a hugely negative impact upon us. We ask God to keep us safe at the very deepest of levels.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. A closing salutation which again recognizes the place of God in our lives and the world.
If we can pray like this, we can pray. If we can offer praises to God, recognize God’s will and pray for it, recognize our needs, say sorry and forgive others, as well as praying for protection. That is a good prayer. The disciples said “Lord teach us to pray”. Jesus taught them and he taught us.
Thanks be to God. Amen.