The Lord's Prayer - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

The Lord's Prayer

Luke 11: 1–13

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11 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.

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;

For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?

And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

The Lord's Prayer

'The Crucifixion'by Glyn Jones, part of the reredos at St Bride's Photo: Paul Freeman

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray. He said to them "When you pray, say: Our Father"...  [Luke 11. 1.]

The words of Jesus Christ today touch on a fundamental principle of the Christian faith, how to pray. That is the critical communication process between God and humanity. Our daily lives are dependent upon the process of communication; we speak to each other or not! We look at our mobile phones; our televisions, listen to our radios. Some of us even read! Letters, the papers, books, music! Our knowledge is based upon what we learn through our senses and instincts, communication is a sensitive and fundamental process.

It is the subject of today's gospel and it reminds me of how bereft Christian people can be of the fundamental need to look, listen and speak with their creator God. Jesus responds to a request from a disciple, who sees Jesus focussed on his inner thoughts and asks him Lord teach us how to pray? In order to understand who we are we need to use our senses passionately and willingly. We need to look, listen, speak feel and taste for God!

Just think for a moment of what you are doing here today, do you realise that as you take part in this act of Christian worship you are in fact bridging time and space as you look, listen, speak, sing, taste and touch to communicate with your God. Unless of course you are simply a spectator but even spectators see and hear what goes on before them! In our words our silences our sung and played music in the building itself we are surrounded by a complex process of communication dealing with the life of the spirit at the heart of each one of us.

As the friends of Jesus see Jesus silently at prayer on the side of the Sea of Galilee where today's gospel takes place they want to do the same. So they ask him Lord teach us how to do the same - to pray. The reply of Jesus is direct and challenging he answers "When you Pray, say: Our Father holy is your name."

Notice right at the beginning not "if you pray" but "when you pray"! The expectancy of Jesus is that his disciples will already be in the communication process with God and so he gives them the tools to continue the process. 34 words are the basis of how to speak with God. Most of our basic communications with each other use up more words than that to say hello, how are you!

And the framework for this pattern prayer is very simple it begins with a fact of praise, 'holy is your name'. It then refers to 'God's kingdom coming' and asks for 'our daily bread' - that we receive sufficient for our needs. The prayer continues that we are 'forgiven our short comings' and that we 'forgive others'! Finally in Luke's version we ask 'not to be tempted'. In some versions of the Bible in Matthew the prayer ends with what is known as a doxology a praise of God. There you have it in a nutshell how to communicate with our God.

So what do we learn? To put God first, others second and ourselves last! It is the intention of Jesus that this is how we should pray but not one vital thing it is not 'my prayer' but 'our prayer', it is in fact for a community, his community - the gathered people of God wherever they may be. This means that we never pray alone there is always someone praying somewhere.

Prayer can be described thus: Prayer is a natural human response to things for which we are grateful, the experience of wonder and awe, the needs of ourselves and others, the mess we make of things. When these natural responses are formalised they become thanksgiving, wonder, intercession and confession. And that is exactly what our Eucharist does today. Words are not essential to prayer but sometimes they help. Words can be useful but are not essential; they can be formal from a book or informal in talking to a friend.

At the heart of prayer is simply a desire to be at one with God. To be aware of him we are basically trying to put our wills with his will; no manipulation, no begging just "your will be done". We are asking God to use our love for his purposes. Each person will pray in a different way as is best for them, there are no right or wrong ways and in every case it is God who initiates the process and we who respond. God is always there we are not!

Jesus believed that every living thing could pray by its existence, the natural order prays by living, we pray by giving our wills to our creator and allowing the creator to live in us. Prayer is a natural response to life and if you really could see into each human heart you might find that most people do pray in one way or another. If we don't feel we know how to pray it's sufficient to want to pray, or to want to want to pray. All we have to do is begin.
Jesus helps us do that and says to each one of us "When you pray say: Our Father".

Now you ought to be able to see the painting of the crucified Christ over the altar in this church. I am going to ask you to focus on the picture of the crucifixion and pray with me the Lords Prayer.

Look at he top of the cross and you see the name of Jesus in Hebrew and Greek Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews,
1.    Our Father hallowed be your name.

Look now at the crown of thorns on the head of Christ not a crown of gold but of cruel thorns.
2.    Your Kingdom come.

Now see the open arms of Christ and the hands tied by nails. The open arms have loved and healed and supported us.
3.    Give us each day our daily bread.

Now look at the mark of the spear cut into the side of Christ see the cost of turning from God and going our own way.
4.    Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

Now move to the feet of Jesus struck through with nails to prevent them moving and remember that these feet have toiled throughout the land serving and leading his people by love. Now they cannot move because of the hatred of his fellow human beings.
5.    And lead us not into temptation.

Next time you see the crucified Christ remember this Lord's Prayer and his life given for you - the question is, what do you give to him?

Finally in today's world of communication The London Internet Church is engaging with prayer all the hours of the day. Both on its 'Light a Candle' and 'Post a Prayer' sites over 400 people a week use this church to pray for each other in sadness and in joy. People from all over the globe pray on line with a real church St Stephen Walbrook where their requests are prayed on a Thursday lunch time as a part of this City church community; at its heart is the Lord's Prayer as a guide!

"When you pray, say: Father hallowed by your name".   Amen

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