Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Knowing How to Pray

Luke 1

Luke 11:1-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Lord’s Prayer

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Give us each day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our sins,
        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 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!”

Two of my favorite memories from my personal faith journey converge today in this Gospel reading – the giving to God’s people the Lord’s Prayer and a reminder of my favorite hymn “Seek Ye First.”

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but as a camper at Camp Weed in Live Oak, FL (check it out and send your kids there! http://www.campweed.org/), I remember one of our spiritual advisors (read: clergy) giving us instruction on the Lord’s Prayer.  I don’t remember ever “learning” to say this prayer; it has always been the foundation of my prayer life.  But I just went through the motions of saying it because – let’s face it – the word “trespass” isn’t really in a child’s daily vocabulary.  I wish I could give credit to that priest, because that day of learning changed the way I have prayed that prayer for the rest of my life.  We broke the prayer down into parts:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This opening line is about adoration, honor and a reminder to give praise to God.  We were encouraged to think about every single word and its meaning, and I began to emphasize the word “THY.”  Thy is not a word kids use either, but to give it extra value helped me focus on my true north of following God.

Give us this day our daily bread.

The next part asks God to provide for our needs.  I remember a great discussion about the difference between needs and wants – the first time I really ever thought about that as a kid.  A reminder that God provides us our needs – and we should be much more grateful than we usually are.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This forgiveness line was easy at first – I knew how to say I was sorry and I really meant it!  But there was another new concept for the kid version of myself – I had to forgive others????  Whoa…and if I don’t do that, then I may not be able to get forgiveness myself?  I think this is a very complex issue and because of God’s grace we get far more forgiveness than we could ever deserve.  I am a work in progress on forgiving others…two steps forward and one step back on my good days.  Still working hard on this one.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I can get to temptation all by myself, but this part of the prayer is where I really ask God to save me from myself.  I am always my own worst impediment to success, but with help from God, I can turn away with a greater success rate than when I just rely on myself.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. AMEN

Again – “thine” isn’t in my every day vocabulary, but putting an emphasis (picture the word in bold and underlined!) on thine puts the focus where it should be; on living in God’s kingdom and giving him all the power and glory.  This prayer Jesus gives to his followers is so comprehensive that it can truly be a “square meal” when praying.  It has all the parts that God needs from us in our conversation with him.

Then the bonus part of today’s reading comes as the final punch when discussing the value and importance of our prayers and conversations with God – a reminder of that awesome song, “Seek Ye First.”  Ask and it shall be given, seek and we will find, knock and the door will open.  Matthew’s Gospel also has a similar phrase, which I interpret as the not so scholarly phrase, “Keep it simple.”  Ask for our needs, look for God and how we can serve him and take the steps we need to go out in the world.  I see this as God emphasizing our need to be relentless in prayer and service.  He gives us the words to use – a roadmap for our prayer life.  Then tells us to be singularly focused as we pray…ask, seek and go.  Simple for sure, but not easy with all life’s distractions.  Stay focused on the prayers and the service, and the rest will come with our faith in God.

Lord, thank you for teaching us how to pray.  You are full of mercy and deserving of our glory.  We praise you, we have faith in your love and care for us and we know you will lead us through all adversity we encounter.  Our faith is in you and you alone.  Your will is ours to follow.  In your glorious name we pray, AMEN.

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In Your Presence

Martha

Luke 10:38-42

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

As a child growing up in our family, we entertained friends pretty often in our home.  When one of these visits or events was coming up, we all were given jobs to do to prepare the house.  To say that it was stressful was an understatement and it didn’t always bring out the best in each of us, especially my Mom.  She was so worried that the house wasn’t clean enough, that the food and drinks wouldn’t be ready and that our guests would think less of her and our family because the conditions weren’t “perfect” for entertaining.

My Mom was like Martha, and I am sure if Jesus had been the invited guest himself she would have complained about all of us not helping her enough too! Mom often spent so much of her energy worried about what others might need or what needed to get finished that she may have missed out on some really special moments.  I think I have the same tendencies – I don’t entertain as much or often as Mom did, but I do get worried and stressed out when I know someone is coming over…is the house prepared, the bathroom cleaned, the food enough to feed everyone, etc.  I have to really make a conscious effort to plan ahead so I don’t fall into the trap that caught my Mom over the years because I so enjoy when folks are over at our home for a visit.

Then there’s Mary.  Mary may not share Martha’s gift of hospitality, but she is certainly able to capitalize on the opportunity of having Jesus in her home!  While we may not have the physical presence of our Lord and Savior at the kitchen table with us for a meal, do we take the time to stop and just be with Jesus?

One of the readings from Morning Prayer today was Psalm 63 – one of my all time favorites.  Here is the text of my favorite verse from this psalm:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The first line of this Psalm sets the tone for me.  I need to find the time, make the time if needed, to just BE in God’s presence.  I need this….we all need this like we need water and our other basic needs.  Like you, my life is quite busy.  I have a very demanding professional life and a full family life as well.  But I want to define myself first and foremost as a follower of Christ.  There are ups and downs in any relationship – with our spouse, our friends, our co-workers, and others.  I think we can all agree that the more energy we put into a relationship the more likely that it results in a great outcome!  When I invest the time, no matter how busy I am, and choose to be in the presence of God just like Mary did that day amid the hustle and bustle of Martha’s scurrying about, then I will choose the “one thing” Jesus describes in verse 42 of today’s reading from Luke.  Choosing to be in the presence of the Lord will give us more meaning, more joy, more security, more love and more purpose than all the chores in the world.

So I commit to spending just the right amount of time in my Martha role preparing for and serving others and more time in my Mary role, enjoying the grace of our Lord.  Both are necessary in this gift of relationship with Christ, but we need to make sure it is balanced time spent.

Your presence is all I need today, Lord.  Help me stay focused on serving others when it is time and carve out time to talk to you and be with you every day.  Thank you for your presence in my life.  AMEN.