Saturday, July 23, 2016

Living the Lord's Prayer

Luke 11:1-13
We live in the age of “How to” and DIY. A quick search on Google comes up with 6,230,000,000 responses to the prompt How to. That’s almost 1 per person on the earth! If you narrow it down a bit and ask “How to Pray” you get a much more manageable 141,000,000 responses. And add Christian into the search parameters and you get narrowed down to 13,300,000. That’s roughly 1 for every 18 and a half self-identified Christians in America.
Apparently how to pray is as big a deal now as it was in Jesus’ day! In our scripture lesson this morning the disciples, we will say the 12 though it might have been the 72, are gathered around listening to his teaching. One of them is bold enough to ask “How should we pray?” It’s a question many of us have asked before or had asked of us.
I remember asking my mother how to pray when I was small. Her response was to teach me the “Now I lay me down to sleep.” You know that one right?
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my Soul to keep
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I’ll confess to having a VERY hard time sleeping that night! When I taught this prayer to our kids I changed the last words to God keep me safe through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Still a bit cheesy, but hopefully less scaring.
This disciple wants to know how to pray. Jesus and the disciples have been in synagogues in this gospel so presumably they have been in worship services and heard the priests and Rabbis pray and teach. They may even have parts of scripture memorized to pray such as “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!” From Deuteronomy 6:4
 But they want to know how Jesus, their rabbi wants them to pray. John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, so why wouldn’t Jesus do the same thing.
I wonder if the disciples expected Jesus to give them something to memorize, perhaps some magical incantation of words that would allow them to be heard better than the next poor sap. I wonder if this disciple wanted to be sure he was doing things right, decently in order, perhaps even the first Presbyterian found in the bible!
But Jesus’ response in Luke is far from any of those things. Jesus responds by giving more than just words.
This prayer in Luke is different from the one we find in Matthew, the one we usually pray every Sunday morning. This prayer is short, to the point, and one might even say pointed. This prayer is not a formula, it’s not a set of magic words, it’s not even a how to guide really. It’s a way of life!
Jesus begins by making an amazing request to God. He says, when you pray begin with Father, hallowed be your name. I’ve always been told that this phrase is a descriptive phrase, reminding God that you know God is holy. But I no longer think that is the case. I think it is a request. God, make your name hallowed here on earth! Make your name Holy by bringing about your kingdom. That’s the request of this prayer. God, make this world your own.
How will we know that this prayer is being answered, listened to, affective? We, and all others, will be given our daily bread. Enough for now, just like the manna in the wilderness. Just enough to sustain us for the day, no extra. What happened when people stored up the excess? It rotted. It was no good. God’s kingdom allows for food for today, each time a new day begins.
The next part gets even trickier. Forgive us our sins, Okay that I can ask for. I need my sins to be forgiven, and surely a holy God would do that. But the next part can make you stumble. “For we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” No that’s a tall order.
But that’s what it takes to live the Lord’s Prayer, to be a part of Your Kingdom come. We must be willing to and then actually forgive everyone indebted to us.
I read several stories of forgiveness, some that shocked me, some that brought me to tears, some that honestly made me angry. I’ll share just one with you this morning.
In Iran, it is standard practice for families of murder victims to oversee the execution of murderer of their family member. They are also given the choice to pardon the offender. Such was the fate of a young man who had already served seven years for killing 17-year-old Abdollah Alinejad in a street fight, according to The Associated Press.
In May 2014, Samereh Alinejad watched as a noose was slipped around the neck of Bilal Gheisari, her son's killer. This was her chance to have the vengeance she'd waited seven years to have. Instead, she and her husband stepped forward at the last minute and removed the noose from his neck. Gheisari's death sentence was commuted and he will finish serving a 12-year prison sentence instead.
As WM Paul Young says in his book the shack ““Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat......Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.........Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.........Forgiveness does not excuse anything.........You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness......” 
When we acknowledge God’s Holy Name, when we accept our daily bread, when we ask for forgiveness, as we have already offered that forgiveness to others then we ask to not be brought to the time of trial.
That’s a whole lot to digest isn’t it? Living the Lord’s prayer allows us to live lives that free not only ourselves, but others as well! That’s what spreading the kingdom of God on this earth is capable of doing.  And when the kingdom comes, when God’s kingdom comes, our boldness, our shamelessness will pay off.
Jesus says that a neighbor will give you something essentially to shut you up! When you bring a request to God, bring it like someone raising attention to a need. Create a disturbance until those in power bring you what you need, otherwise no one will get any rest!
As Jill Duffield says “Be as in your face, uncivilized, uncouth, socially embarrassing as these two. This is no “Excuse me sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?”
Have you ever prayed like that? Boldly, fiercely, and perhaps embarrassingly?
Perhaps you should. Perhaps we all should. Crying out to God with our needs is not a shameful act, the scripture today talks about praying boldly, but a better translation is with shamelessness. Pour out you needs before the Lord and I promise things will happen.
Ultimately God can’t keep from giving compassion to creation, even as messed up as we are. God gave us Christ, the ultimate example of compassion. On the strength of God’s love our petitions are heard.
But prayer is not just a laundry list of wants and needs. It is part of a fuller and complete relationship with our creator. Prayer is not designed to bend the will of God. Prayer is meant to bend us to the will of the creator. By coming into a closer relationship with God we begin to follow God’s will in not only our actions, but our requests as well.
So what does it look like to live where a people live the Lord’s prayer? I’d say we look no farther than the Psalm for this morning. Psalm 85.
85:1 LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

85:2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah

85:3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

85:4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.

85:5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

85:6 Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?

85:7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

85:8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

85:9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

85:11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

85:12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

85:13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

May it be so my friends. May our living of the Lord’s prayer help make it so.

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