Sermon
July 26, 1998
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading - Luke 11:1-13

1 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."

2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

4 And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial."

5 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; 6 for a

friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 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.' 8 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.

9 "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!" (NRSV)

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Text - Prayer

My favorite part of each worship service is listening to the Lord’s Prayer.

What I hear from the pulpit might surprise you - I hear, first of all, the

joining in, sort of a surge of voices uniting together that are always a

comfort to me - at least I know that you all are still with me.

Then I notice the choir, when they are here - and in a way they begin to

lead me - because I know that the next thing I will hear are the voices of

the children - gaining confidence. Their small high pitched voices lifting up

over the wave of deeper adult tones. At that point I feel carried along on

that wave - the children leading us all - as if they are teaching us how to

do this. In that moment I feel as though the kingdom of God is beginning to

emerge - that place in our world where we are united with God in being the

best we can become. And in that moment I know what prayer is supposed to be

-the uniting of God with all of us as the children of God - becoming one - a

moment where all of the world’s ugliness and chaos are reconciled. All of our

voices joining together to pray the prayer created by our Savior.

I wonder how many of you have gone to churches where they prayed some other

version of the Lord’s prayer - where instead of trespasses they say "sins" -

where "thy" becomes your and "lead us not into temptation" becomes "Save us

from our sins" . That is the modern language version of the prayer which more

and more churches have elected to use. It is know as the ELLC text, English

Language Liturgical Consultation Text. This is the text that is widely used

in England, and since 1979, has been an option for the Episcopal church in

the US. When I first heard it at Seminary I panicked. And then began to use

it with the rest of the seminarians, listening to visitors trip over the

language and the one or two souls who refused to use the modern language

version.

I don’t think that Jesus would be scandalized by a modification of the prayer

however - his concern would have more to do with how it effected the pray-ers.

What was the point of Jesus instructing the disciples on how to pray? Jesus

was trying to make the point that our lives should be anchored in God - - to

be drawn closer and closer together so we can begin to trust God to provide

for us, and to forgive us and to lead us in the direction that will bring us

even closer to God - I think that Jesus was trying to tell us that prayer is

an important avenue to a close relationship with God and that is ultimately

what each of us is seeking.

 

Prayer is conversation with God - prayer is giving your attention to God - it

is entering into a space where you are aware of God - It means talking to God.

Like the lord’s prayer. It is a sharing our joys and concerns and asking God

for guidance - but conversation goes both ways, so prayer includes one more

important element - listening - How often do we say, lord, listen for your

servant is speaking? - How often should we say "Lord speak for your servant is

listening"?

We all know how to pray for what we need - that seems to be easy. We are

less familiar with hearing God’s voice amidst the clatter of our daily lives.

It is hard to just sit and listen for God to speak -

A couple of years ago I got to go with the confirmation class to the Quaker

church on rt. 7 . the society of friends. They believe that God will speak

to them in a still small voice - and their job is to sit in silence and wait.

And that is what their worship services are about - no singing, no corporate

prayers, no sermons - everyone sits in silence listening for a word that God

calls them to speak to the group. We had an interesting time when all of us

tried to participate in Quaker worship - we got comfortable - and we began

to be quiet. I noticed every truck that went past the church, every time

someone shifted positions, As much as I wanted to center on the worship style

of silence, my mind wandered. For a while I let it wander and then I decided

to bring it back to center - It was obvious that this kind of worship

requires just as much practice as does our more liturgical style. And there

is always the possibility that each of us needs to find our own best way to

pray - one that suits our comfort level.

When I lead prayer workshops I encourage people to try many different kinds of

ways to pray. It is through those different experiences that we may

encounter God in new ways.

Some of my favorites are:

Sung prayer - any hymn or praise song, sung alone or with a group - can

connect you with a sense of the holy spirit - try it some day - sing your

prayer...

Praying your experiences - at the end of the day - if you are feeling stressed

by the busyness of the day - try sitting quietly, and relive the day looking

for God’s revelation and peace. By opening yourself to God through the events

of your day you will have a clearer sense of who you are.

I love Action prayers. When I am feeling disconnected with God I go find

someone else to help - a call or a friendly word, a note in the mail or a

listening ear. It is amazing how that can be a fulfilling kind of prayer. I

guarantee that you will feel closer to God.

Meditation Maybe you are the type who would like to sit quietly to pray.

Start by contracting and then relaxing all of your muscles - one by one -

begin with your feet and work your way to your neck. then concentrate on your

breathing and finally focus on the peace in your heart which is a gift from

God.

Or try a breath prayer: concentrate on each breath that you take - as you

breath in say one line of the prayer, and as you exhale say the second line.

Breathing in; "I listen", Breathing out; "you are here." this is also one

of my favorites.

There are many more ways to pray - there are whole books written on how to

pray. But prayer, like any other relationship - needs to be attended to -

it needs to be practiced. It needs to become as natural as each breath we

take. No wonder the disciples asked Jesus for advice. Over the years the

Lord’s prayer has become the pattern for all of the spoken prayers we say -

but it is more than that - it is the reminder that the goal is to be as close

to God as we are to our own loved ones - that we can turn to God any place,

or time and be assured that the Holy Spirit will be sent to us to guide us,

to sustain us and to bring the peace of Jesus Christ into our hearts - and the

Kingdom comes, God’s will be done. Amen

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