Welcome to my attempt to live fully and honestly, to sing out the song of myself, to truly know who I am......

.....either that or the ramblings of a barely coherant, tired out mum of two!!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Lords Prayer and the Friend at Midnight.

A sermon for Sunday 26th August. Luke 11: 1-10

If I were to ask you all individually what your experience of prayer has been like throughout your lifetime I am sure that I would get a number of very different responses. I would expect that we all have different experiences of prayer in our personal spiritual journeys. There may be mountain top experiences or times that prayer seems drier than the driest of deserts.
Some of us may be so in tune with God that we pray almost continually and are not even aware that we are doing so. For others finding even five minutes to spend with God in the midst of our busyness is a challenge and one which we often fail.
Prayer can be a blessing or a burden. It can raise us to the throne of heaven or bounce off the ceiling, leaving us wondering if it isn’t all just a waste of time. So how should we pray? Is there a right way, some formula that will always guarantee us success?
Lets go back to the words of Jesus as reported by Luke in this mornings Gospel reading.

Jesus has just been praying when his disciples come to him and ask that he teach them how to pray ‘just as John taught his disciples’. It was customary at that time for Rabbi’s to teach their followers a simple prayer to use in their own daily devotions. John had done so and now the disciples ask the same thing of Jesus.
Jesus replies with the familiar words of what we now call ‘The Lords Prayer’.
2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.' "
The prayer begins by addressing God as ‘Father’. This reflects the intimacy of the relationship between Jesus and God and hints at the intimacy that we too can have with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is not a remote God that we are talking to - this is a loving Father – our loving Father.
The next line is ‘hallowed be your name’. This can cause some confusion especially if the word is misheard as ‘Harold’, why is God called Harold? The word ‘hallowed’ means sanctified, blessed, and consecrated. In Hebrew culture to speak of a person’s name was to talk about the whole character of that person. Similarly today we talk about someone who is striving to ‘clear their name’. God has revealed to us his Holy nature and for us to pray for His name to be hallowed – sanctified and blessed – is for us to recognise his nature, to know him as he is and so to love and to trust him. It also expresses the desire for the true nature of God to be known throughout the world.
This is a theme followed up by the words ‘Your Kingdom Come’. Jesus came to bring about Gods heavenly kingdom on earth and here he instructs us to continue to pray for its establishment.
The first part of the prayer then is taken up with honouring God, only when we give God his proper place will other things and needs fall into their proper place.

The prayer now moves on to discuss our own needs – daily bread – or enough of everything to satisfy each days needs. This has echoes of the Exodus when God provided manna in the desert – sufficient for each day. In today’s old testament reading we heard how if the manna was kept until the next day it would spoil, go mouldy and be unfit to eat. So we are not to worry about the unknown future but to live each day to the full and trust that God has it covered.
In the first part of the prayer we focussed on the purity and sacredness of God and now we bring our imperfectness, our fallenness to him and pray for the forgiveness of our sins. Yet we are at the same time reminded that we must also forgive others.
The prayer ends sooner than the version contained in Matthew with the plea to guard us against temptation. Temptation means more than just the seduction of sin - it means any testing situation – any trial – that we must face. Some of these testing times can be avoided but for those that we must pass through we can be sure of God guarding us, guiding us and bringing us through safely. Our God is not a remote God – he is our loving Father.

After teaching them the prayer Jesus goes on to tell them a parable.
5 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'
7"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Hospitality in the Hebrew culture is a sacred duty. It is not enough to offer a visitor just enough – the guest must be confronted with an ample abundance. So your friend has just arrived late and the cupboard is bare - there is nothing to give him. What do you do? There is no 24hour Spar – the only option is to go and ask a friend. The friend is asleep. The house would probably have been a one room structure with a single window. There would have been a raised platform with a fire burning on it and the family and the family’s livestock would be huddled together on rush mats. To disturb one person would be to wake the whole household. Your friend tells you to go away. Jesus goes on to say that if the man won’t get up because he is a friend he will get up because of the mans bold persistence or shamelessness and supply everything that is needed.
At first glance it would appear that we should be persistent in prayer and if we don’t immediately get what it is we asked for we should batter away at God until we get what we want.
This, of course, is not true. The parable only makes sense when taken in the context of the prayer before it and when contrasted to the words that follow it. Jesus says:
9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Jesus is telling us that if an unwilling householder can in the end be coerced by a friends shameless persistence into giving him what he needs, how much more will God who is a loving Father supply all his children’s needs?
God – who wills to answer our petitions is contrasted with an earthly person who is indifferent to his friends’ pleas.
A request for physical bread is contrasted with the plea for the food of the kingdom.
If the plea for earthly benefit eventually produces a response how much more will God, our loving Father, respond to those requests for things that are in accordance to his will?

The Lords Prayer gives us a template to show us how to pray and together with the parable it gives us an insight into why we pray.
Prayer is about relationship. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are invited to have an intimate relationship with God.
Our God is not a remote God but a loving Father – our loving Father. When we love someone we spend time with them, we tell them about ourselves, our needs and desires, our hopes and our dreams. When we love someone we listen to them as they reveal their innermost selves to us. We grow together in a bond of love and trust.
This is what prayer is!
Of course there are many things that can get in the way of our relationships from silly misunderstandings to betrayal and mistrust. And there are many things that can get in the way of our relationship with God.
Our busyness can squeeze time with God to the margins of our day, feelings of guilt or worthlessness can make us reluctant to approach a perfect and holy God or we can feel that our lives are just to messy to bring before the purity of God. But God is not a remote God – He is a loving Father – our loving Father.
Those of you who have or have had close contact with young children will know that when a child has fallen down in the mud and is crying what they need is a hug and some reassurance. Generally we don’t wait until they are cleaned up and have got themselves together before we stoop down to them, scoop them up and comfort them.
If even we with all our imperfections can love one another – how much more will our loving Father love us. When we come into his presence dirty and distressed, feeling unworthy or hopeless Our God, Our loving Father will stoop down and scoop us up and give us comfort. Our God is not a remote God but a loving Father, our loving Father.
What’s more unlike our earthly relationships which sometimes go disastrously wrong, God, by his very nature, will not let us down. He will not betray us like our friends can. He will not abuse us as human parents sometimes do. He will not abandon us because of our many failings like some we may have trusted have done.
God is faithful and just and will forgive us over and over again. We need not be afraid to come into his perfect presence whatever state we are in we just need to come.
If you struggle to find time to spend with God for whatever reason start small and grab the opportunity for longer prayer times whenever they present themselves. If you only have a few minutes in the morning then perhaps memorise or write down a verse from the Bible or a phrase from the liturgy we say week by week on a Sunday. Take this verse with you throughout the day, let it swirl around and inhabit your mind. If you are suddenly presented with twenty, or ten or even five minutes during the course of the day then grab it and use it to talk with God. Don’t worry for a moment about the dishes in the sink or the mess in the living room or the mess in your life. Just lets stop, and rest, let God be God and let him hold us and heal us and comfort us. Our God is not a remote God. He is a loving Father. He is our loving Father.


My Retreat part 3: The Spiritual Stuff.

When I got to the retreat house I was a bit surprised to find that it was a silent retreat! I was a little concerned but actually it turned out to be really good. The only down-side being that there was little opportunity to talk to the other tertiary - still I think friends were made!

I went on retreat at a time of feeling very angry and not being entirely sure why. The kids were occasionally taking the brunt of it which is never right and left me feeling even worse. It was good to get away and have some space and thinking time.

During the retreat I sent a text message to a good friend Idle Pilgrim , it read 'God is loud when I is silent'. At the time of writing it was simply short hand for saying that I could really hear God when I was being quiet but as the weekend wore on it became clear that I had stumbled on the TRUTH!

As I spent time in the prescence of God I became aware of just how much I use the word 'I'. It is such a small word yet it has a great deal of power. I became increasingly aware that part of what was making me angry is the loss of my identity. As a mum I am 'mummy' and my needs, wants and desires are nearly always secondary to the needs, wants and desires of my children.

I seem to have two reactions to this fact: either I throw myself into it neglecting myself and putting them first every time - the martyr complex or I get cross and frustrated because even my most basic needs are not being met. Neither of these are healthy responses and I need to continue to work on changing them.

As a diabetic some of my needs MUST come first. If that means leaving the kids to cry and moan while I get something to eat then that has to be. When my blood sugar levels drop I get irrational and angry. If I keep my sugars balanced I am much more likely to keep my temper and emotions balanced.

Of course there are always going to be moments when the little ones stretch my patience to the limit but if I am on an even keel to begin with I am much more likely to manage even the difficult situations. There is still some head work to do on other bits of the anger problem but recognising this aspect has made me safe to be with my kids and made it possible to look at the deeper issues.

One other consequence of my retreat is that I recognise that I do have the right to have my basic needs met. I don't need to be a martyr and neglect myself. I need to look after me so hat I am healthy physically and mentally to look after those who depend on me.

'God is loud when I is silent'. It is highly appropriate at times that I stop worrying about my own needs, wants and desires and listen to the heart of God.