PRAY GOD GIVES YOU THE HOLY SPIRIT
Prayer is a central part of our relationship with God. All of us who grew up Lutherans were taught about prayer using the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples after they asked him to teach them to pray like John the Baptist taught his disciples.
I remember being taught by my pastor to pray the Lord’s Prayer one petition at a time and take time between petitions to reflect on what it means. Almost every meeting we have at church ends with us praying the Lord’s Prayer. A high point of the worship service for me is when we pray the Lord’s Prayer before repeating the Words of Institution Jesus spoke at the Last Supper and have been used by the church ever since.
But I think as Lutherans we have not spent enough time on another aspect of prayer: listening. In recent years I have been learning to practice contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer focuses on keeping your mouth shut and shutting down whatever thoughts are going through your head and just listening. You begin by setting a timer and selecting the time you are going to contemplate and getting yourself in a restful position and shutting down all talk and thinking. Often, I find it hard to stop my thinking. I have discovered some ways to think less and listen more. I listen to the noises of what is happening outside my body. I might focus on the sound of the wind going through the trees, or the birds tweeting. Knowing I am listening in the real world I also will listen to a mowing machine in the background or the sound of an ambulance. I suggest you start with 5 minutes of contemplation. Over time you can increase the time by intervals of 5 minutes. Another way to help us is to use a word or phrase to contemplate on a moment, such as, peace or Jesus is Lord or Abba Father.
Don’t get disappointed when you hear nothing from God. In my life most often a word from the Lord for me comes from the scripture or something someone else says to me. God will speak when God wants to speak. You cannot make it happen, but since most often God talks in a whisper you have to be listening carefully to hear it.
Now back to prayer. We discover God wants us to ask for his leadership in the world starting with us, and God gives us our daily needs, central to the life of faith in the ability to forgive and to receive forgiveness. Every verbal prayer needs to ask God to protect us from temptation and the forces of the evil one who is doing all he can to separate us from God.
There is another aspect of prayer that Jesus covers after assuring us that God will respond to our prayer. Often this is the hardest part for me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. Jesus prayed the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane after begging his father to take the cup of suffering and the cross from him.
After wrestling with an issue or challenge for the longest time, I believe the best ending of prayer is nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.
Let’s now look at another aspect of prayer. Often after a prayer petition at worship I will say, “Lord, in your mercy.” You will respond, “Hear our prayer.”
But doing that too often is calling upon God to take care of all our issues and concerns. But what about our response?
A pastor friend of mine has come up with this petition, “Lord of the journey,
with a response of “Show us the way.”
The first petition rather than asking God for guidance is expecting God to do it all. For example, we pray weekly for peace with justice in Ukraine; but if we don’t send them the arms they need to fight the Russian bear, all will be lost. We need to discover how we might participate in God’s action.
I believe that is what Jesus is saying at the end of our Gospel lesson. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Yes, a powerful part of prayer that we don’t think about enough is what, empowered by God, might we be equipped to do if we ask our Heavenly Father to give us the Holy Spirit.
This is why when the church is considering what it needs to do, if we come to believe that is what God wants us to do, God will give us the Holy Spirit to make it happen.
I believe that is what is happening during this year. At the beginning of the year, we decided God would want us to replace the flooring in the narthex, kitchen, hallway, and the fellowship hall. We were given an anonymous ten thousand dollar gift of the fifteen thousand we needed. The Spirit led us and the money came. If we would have been led by the potential cost when we considered doing the updating of the floor rather than it needed to get done, I suspect we would not have tried to raise the money.
In another area we have been praying for the Lord to send new people to join us in our journey of making and growing disciples of Jesus. But nothing would have happened when the new folks came if no one greeted them or made them feel welcome to be worshipping with us. Keep up the hospitality and I believe our church family will continue to grow.
Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Recognizing that God gives us all we need and equips us to participate in his will makes all the difference. Jesus teach us to pray. Amen.