The Bible invites us to unite in prayer with our Heavenly Parent.
And it came to pass that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (Luke 11:1 KJV)
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. People of every faith realize our need to learn more about prayer. We all have questions about how to pray more appropriately and effectively. Faith leaders in all traditions have provided guidance and training to encourage people to pray more faithfully and with growing confidence.
Manuscript of the sermon preached on July 24, 2022, at Briensburg UMC [Audio Podcast]
7th Sunday after Pentecost
2 Chronicles 7:12-16 (Alternate to the Hebrew Text lectionary readings)
Jesus gave several examples, or categories, in the Lord’s Prayer of things to pray for. He highlighted:
- Thy kingdom come
- Thy will be done
- Our daily bread
- Protection from temptation
This was not intended to be a limited list because on the night he gave himself up for us, he said, “Ask anything in my name” (John 14:14 KJV). In this passage, we are introduced to the great promise and principle of prayer: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9 KJV).
The entire teaching of Jesus on prayer was predicated on the relationship Jesus highlighted in the very beginning of his teaching both here in Luke and in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6: “When ye pray, say, Our Father” (Luke 11:2 KJV). In his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians, Paul explains that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us in our spirits to experience this relationship (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) and affirms that “the Spirit bears witness to our spirits that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16 KJV).
Fanny J. Crosby wrote about this prayerful relationship with God in her hymn, “I am Thine, O Lord:”
Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!
We are encouraged to be protective of the divine relationship prayer enables us to share.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind (2 Colossians 2:18 KJV)
The Revised Standard Version translates this verse:
Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking (2 Colossians 2:18 RSV).
Paul warns us not to let anyone sidetrack our prayers with anything that takes away from the relationship we share with our Heavenly Parent, no matter how religious it may look or sound.
When he gave the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7 KJV).
Prayer is not about fulfilling superstitions or appeasing a tyrant. Prayer is about engaging in communication with God and with each other, and with those for whom we pray. Prayer is a caring family relationship of love and inclusion, uniting us in holy conversations that lead to wholeness.
God answers prayer.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:3 KJV)
The psalmist leads us to praise God for answered prayers. In our praise, we are reminded that through prayer, we are strengthened to deal with the challenges we face. We are strengthened in our souls, the spiritual and eternal essence of our beings.
Through prayer, we accept God’s invitation to a personal relationship.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)
The invitation God gave through Solomon was to a personal relationship, coupled with a promise of listening, forgiving, and healing. The Great Invitation of Jesus, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28 KJV), is an invitation to a relationship with God and each other that transcends our belief systems, philosophies, faith practices, religious communities, denominations, and traditions.
Even time and space give way to eternity during the moments we unite in what W.W. Walford called our “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”
Prayer is a universal relationship shared by humanity across all religions and cultures, connecting us in love as one spiritual family in communication with our Creator and each other. Let us pray.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.