Monday, July 22, 2013

Praying the LORD's Prayer in Faith. A Homily for 7.28.13 from LUKE 11:1-13, the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 7.28.13
LUKE 11:1-13
17th Sunday in 
Ordinary Time
Year C






The Lectionary Gospel reading for today brings to our attention the importance and power of prayer in the life of Jesus and in the life of the Christian believer as well. 

We have before us St. Luke's rendition of what has commonly come to be known as the Lord's prayer, but in reality it would probably be better to call it Jesus' model prayer. St. Luke's form of the model prayer differs significantly from Matthew’s version, but most scholars have left us with little doubt that they think the prayer goes back to Jesus himself.

Before we attempt unpack the prayer, perhaps it would be a good idea just to think in terms of Jesus' relationship to prayer. St. Luke offers us powerful examples of Jesus in the work of prayer:


21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22 
16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:16 
12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 
18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Luke 9:18 
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. Luke 9:28-29 
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46
Clearly, Jesus relied upon prayer as the foundation of his relationship with GOD and as the power behind his Kingdom-mission endeavors. As such, he establishes prayer, along side of the Spirit, as the life-blood of his words and works. 

What then does the prayer have for us? 

Much. 

Let us unpack today's text using three ideas:

THE RELATIONSHIP OF PRAYER -- AS TO A FATHER
THE PERSISTENCE OF PRAYER -- KEEP KNOCKING
THE IMPETUS OF PRAYER -- FAITH


THE RELATIONSHIP OF PRAYER -- AS TO A FATHER
Notice, the text reads,
He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father...
and again,
If you then, who are wicked,know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
At the point of the prayer St. Luke reminds us of Jesus' ongoing relationship with GOD, a relationship described as a loving Father and a devoted son. Explicit in these prayer-words we find displayed an intimacy of relationship that springs from what may be only understood as the mystery-fellowship found within the Trinitarian moment. We are on holy ground here.

In this prayer Jesus, the devoted Son, demonstrates a lively, moment-by-moment dependence upon his loving Father, a dependence that exhibits an hearty affiliation with the Father, as well as their ever-fresh exchange of mission-purpose and guidance.

Another way to think about this is to say that Jesus of Nazareth walks before us a genuine flesh and blood human being. This means he was (is) totally and steadfastly dedicated to the love of the Father and to the mission of the Father. But, this mission, based as it is on the love of the Father, was never settled; it was never routine or mundane. That is, Jesus had to actually live-out this mission day-by-day based upon the love of GOD, his loving Father.  And to do this Jesus wanted and needed the love and direction of the Father. Therefore, Jesus lived his life as we do: searching, listening, walking faithfully and humbly, all in the moment-by-moment of the rough and tumble of life. 

This presents to us the immediacy to prayer,  as well as the power and the potency of prayer in Jesus life. For him, nothing would be accomplished apart from the presence of the loving hand of GOD on his life, and this hand was known in the ongoing moment of prayer. 

 Can there be any more clear instruction to us on how we must attempt to follow the Christ than to be equally devoted to prayer? If he needed this, how much more do we? Of course the question that comes with a follow-up question: How? How are we to pray as Jesus prayed? The answer is to do just what the disciples did: ask.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray..."

THE PERSISTENCE OF PRAYER -- KEEP KNOCKING
The second idea that opens a window into the text comes to us in Jesus' parable about prayer. Here the the pericope reads:
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within,‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. 
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
At this point we learn that true prayer is found within the act of persistence. Prayer for the Kingdom to come and for GOD's will to be done means there is much at stake in our prayer, and that there is true work before us. N.T. Wright helps us here in his analysis of the portion of the text when he writes:
"What counts is persistence...Jesus...is encouraging a kind of holy boldness, a sharp knocking on the door, an insistent asking, a search that refuses to give up. That's what prayer should be..." (Luke Commentary pg. 134)
Prayer is nothing less than sweat. True intercession for a world at war with itself takes upon us the work of Jesus himself. This prayer leads us to see beyond the me and mine to a world so broken that, if we are to follow Jesus in prayer, we follow him into the garden where his prayer burst his own blood vessels. Truly, this is the only way the Kingdom is birthed anywhere. 

THE IMPETUS OF PRAYER -- FAITH
Finally, we come to the heart of the prayer matter. Simply said, the heart of prayer -- the real prayer that is made from relationship and persistence -- finds its birth in faith. That is true prayer must be born in the faith that GOD is there and not silent.

 In today's steep secularism, this quality of faith is difficult to discover in oneself. Today monochrome world, if we are not careful, we more often than not only see the world with eyes blind to the horizon of GOD's presence. Or, perhaps it is only I who struggle with the hope that GOD is as work. I see the struggle of the church, the lostness of our people, the decadence of the culture and I grieve, but I don't pray as Jesus prayed. Why not? I suppose I lack the faith.

But, clearly, faith -- the strong, vital belief that GOD is at work and will work through the prayers of his servants -- is the basis of Jesus’ prayer, and this prayer-burden opens to us the outrageous faith he possessed. This is so foreign to me. How can I understand the prayer of Jesus until I myself become so burdened for the world that I weep for the world as he did?
41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. (Luke 19:31-43)
The only path I see beyond the acid of secularism, therefore, is the burden of prayer. (This statement should be repeated so as to allow us to think-through what is being said.) Dr. Wright goes on in this same passage to remind us:
“There is a battle on, a fight with the powers of darkness, and those who have glimpsed the light are called to the struggle of prayer..."
Do we really see the battle, or have we assumed that our work is done once we become part of the Kingdom? Certainly, it is the easier way to let the world go to hell while we wait for the LORD to appear.

Said differently, the way I know I am in the Kingdom battle Dr. Wright describes is if I consistently agonizes in prayer for the Kingdom to come and for GOD’s will to be done. That is, Jesus' desire for the Kingdom is no hyperbole. These prayer offerings are  not overstated and exaggerated statements not meant to be taken literally. No, in fact the prayer for the Kingdom is the only way the Kingdom may be manifested in the world, for without prayer we will never become part of the battle, we will never truly work for the Kingdom to come.


___________________________

LUKE 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed. 
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish? 
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”