Summer Worship Series: Sunday September 6, 2015:
Teach Us to Pray
Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-4, 9-10
Anne Marie Holloway
Member in Discernment
Old South Union Church
September has arrived and for most (both student and teacher) the academic year has begun! The hustle and bustle of the school year propels us forward into the season ahead! We all enter the fall season with opportunities of learning awaiting our embrace. Let us be mindful that we are all students of “the way”. The book of proverbs tells us to “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance”(Proverbs 1:5).
(Will you pray with me? “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you O’ Lord. Amen”)
As we learn from our scripture reading in Luke, the disciples are not so sure how things should be done. They have many questions and teaching requests for Jesus. I have an image in my head, of the disciples, gathering round Jesus, papyrus and stylus (possibly?) poised in anticipation – ready to take detailed notes. Their faces filled with expressions of eager expectations, as they ask him, “How do we pray? Can you teach us how to pray like you?” Their hearts must have been hungry for answers and I imagine learning the right way to pray to God was a skill that was weighted with great importance.
Jesus gives them a model of prayer – an ancient practice that we still follow thousands of years later. He not only provides his disciples with a pattern of prayer to follow, but he addresses the human doubt that comes along with learning a new skill. Jesus adds a common sense approach to his words, all the while mixing in encouragement, hope and promise. He shares the prayer with them, and then immediately affirms their abilities to perform the prayer. ~Jesus is an excellent teacher.
Much like the students of today, I imagine the disciples sought approval from their teacher. Much like today, I imagine that the disciples struggled with their own humanity and often found themselves facing the obstacles that come from having prideful hearts.
In not wanting to be seen as unworthy or incapable, pride will often keep us from trying. Pride does not allow us to be vulnerable in front of others. Pride can be an obstacle that often brings doubt and gets in the way of our ability to trust in ourselves, in our relationships and in our skills. Pride does not allow us to be forgiving to ourselves when we are sloppy or unsure. But when learning occurs, it is sloppy and unsure and maybe being vulnerable opens our hearts and our eyes to see and hear things that will grow us in ways never imagined.
Jesus simply instructs his disciples, “When you pray, say this…” It is simple in format. The prayer begins with an invocation and is followed by simple requests. Interesting how Jesus understood the human heart’s desire for order and process. However, then Jesus is quick to provide confidence in the power of prayer. He tells his disciples to be bold and assured when speaking to God. Jesus erases any hesitation from their minds and reminds them of their already existing connection to God. As God’s children their petitions will never be denied.
In a simple, memorable format, Jesus provides us with a guide to help us pray. But, in the same breath he reminds us, that like that of a child speaking to a parent, our prayers should not just be recited versions of memorized verse – but, be spoken from the heart.
Imagine if you will, (for a moment) a night sky that is decorated with a canvas of sparkling lights. A camp fire crackles and bursts of light illuminate the faces surrounding the fire. It might be difficult to imagine, but it is absolutely silent, as approximately 500 people, campers and staff gather closely together to hold hands and form a giant circle around the fire.
Friends and strangers wait in eager anticipation for the first note of the sacred melody of the Lord’s Prayer to begin. A Prayer that was taught to them as children, or possibly for the first time as members of this camp community. People are eager as they wait upon their leader to begin. Differences do not exist, worry and anxiety melt away and a peaceful hope –that is unified in love– begins to take hold of everyone’s hearts.
For some, this is the only form of this prayer they have ever known, this is the closest to the Divine they have ever been. This is their “church”. For many of them, this cherished tradition is ingrained in who they are and who they will become.
Within seconds, the Lord’s Prayer fills the night air in the form of a melody, a song sung in unison by a beautifully diverse community. It does not matter if you can hold a tune, if you are a believer, seeker, or other. The words to this prayer are ancient and simple, the melody passed down year after year after year — and it is the foundation on which this community thrives.
As the prayer is sung, tears are brought to the eyes of many — as the spirit recognizes the words to the prayer and remembers its gift. A gift shared thousands of years ago by one who walked in love. And to quote a member of the group, this moment spent in prayer “is timeless and it is everything – all at once.”
I believe, this is what Jesus would have hoped for. That through teaching us to pray the Lord’s Prayer , we might share this gift with one another, and bring but a moment into our lives in which talking to God is something that all of us are capable of — and are innately equipped to do.
The Lord’s Prayer as sung at camp, is a prayerful lullaby like none that I have ever known. I personally, have sung myself and my own children to sleep with this form of the Lord’s Prayer — which was taught years ago to me as a teen at camp. The Lord’s Prayer in the camp community has become a sacred tradition passed along. A gift of love shared, in hopes that all might know God in a way that only prayer encourages.
In concluding our summer worship series, we have one last item to add to your collection of prayer beads. It is a cross. Be sure to pick up this symbol for your prayer bead collection – before you leave today.
It is our hope that throughout worship this summer, you have discovered ways in which prayer connects you more deeply to God. We hope that you have learned ways in which you are able let go of your worries and trust in the presence of God in your lives. We pray that when looking at your prayer beads, you are reminded to carve out quiet/open spaces in this busy world – in order to hear God’s still speaking voice.
We pray that you realize that you already have the tools necessary to steady your steps upon this journey, that even when faced with darkness you will find light, that you are beloved children of God, that you are able to support those you love through prayers of intercession, that you might see God at work in the world, and that like Jesus you will remember to come before God in prayer for all things – All of your days.