The Lord’s Prayer

Sermon preached at St Cross Church, Appleton Thorn

On Sunday 24 July 2016 / Trinity 9 (Green) / Proper 12C

Listen to an audio recording of the sermon – click here.

Readings:

The readings summarised as a tweet
Hosea 1:2-10 Want to know what it’s like being your God? Try marrying an unfaithful woman! H’s children named prophetically. #Hosea1_2 #TweetingTheBible
Colossians 2:6-15 Emptiness of deceit vs the fullness of God in Christ and fullness of life in him. From death to life. #Colossians2_6 #TweetingTheBible
Luke 11:1-13 When you pray, say ‘Father…’. Persevere. How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit. #Luke11_1 #TweetingTheBible

Prayer

Gracious Father,
revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction

The disciples ask, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’. You’d expect a religious teacher to teach prayer, as John the Baptist had done.

Jesus gives them the Lord’s prayer, not quite in the form that we are used to. The prayer is recorded in Matthew as well but Luke’s version is shorter.

Given what Jesus has to say about prayer (e.g., in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:7) you’ll know that learning a prayer off by heart and reciting it parrot fashion is not what Jesus is suggesting. Rather, he gives a pattern for prayer, an idea of what Christian prayer is.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Relational

Father…

It comes from our relationship with God – the relationship that God has already established and offers, that God is our Father, we are his children. Prayer is addressed to ‘Father’. (Matthew has ‘Our Father’.) Given that the word Jesus uses is ‘Abba’, a term of intimacy, we begin with a certain confidence. God has made himself known to us as Father and we are invited to address God using the word that Jesus himself used, ‘Abba’. It’s the sound that a child makes, like ‘dada’, but it’s not childish because it also would be used by an adult to address his or her father.

Prayer is Reverent

…hallowed be your name.

We address God as ‘dad’, but this is no indulgent sugar daddy. This father is one whose name is ‘hallowed’, treated with respect. Matthew has ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’. This is our heavenly father, the who whose name is holy.

Prayer is about Ranking Priorities

Your kingdom come.

We pray first for God’s kingdom to come. Not ours. You are not the centre of the universe. The universe does not revolve around you. Matthew has:

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

In prayer, we align ourselves with God’s will. And you thought it was about presenting God with a shopping list!

Then, Prayer is about our Bodily Resources

Give us each day our daily bread

Given that God knows what we need before we ask, why do we ask? Because we need to acknowledge our creaturely dependence on God. That’s the deal: God is Creator. We are creatures. Our daily bread is what we need to sustain us in our earthly pilgrimage. This is not caviar and champagne – though we may enjoy those on occasion – this is the staff of life, meeting our basic needs.

And Prayer is about our Spiritual Resources

And forgive us our sins…

Sin is what breaks our relationship with God our Father in heaven. In Christ, God has done all that needed to be done to restore that relationship. But we can drift away. Each time we pray using the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that the relationship be restored.

Prayer is about our Relationships with Others

…for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

Our relationship with God is always tied in to the relationships we have with others. We can’t expect God to forgive us if we are not open to forgive others.

Prayer is about having the Resilience to cope with life

And do not bring us to the time of trial.

It’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I don’t know if you had noticed, but Christians – even vicars – do not necessarily lead charmed lives! We pray that we may have the resources to cope with what life throws at us.

Our prayer is that God will never take us to a place where we are stretched beyond our capacity to endure, to persevere.

Matthew has:

And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Conclusion

Prayer is never mere repetition or recitation of something we have learned by rote. It is

  • Relational
  • Reverent
  • To do with Ranking Priorities
  • We trust God for our Material Resources
  • and for our Spiritual Resources
  • We seek the Resilience to cope with what life throws at us.

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