Genesis 18:(16-19) 20-32
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer is asking – as in the Lord’s Prayer; and prayer is intercession – as in Abraham’s prayer for his neighbors in Sodom.
Prayer is praise as in the psalm, and thanksgiving as in the Eucharist.
Prayer is public, prayer is private.
Prayer is talking, prayer is singing.
Prayer is ancient, prayer is rock song, pop song, country music.
Prayer is formal and complete free form.
Prayer is hands folded, hands doodling.
Prayer is church, prayer is meditation, silent centering.
Prayer is fishing, prayer is running, prayer is workout.
Prayer is cooking, cleaning, folding laundry.
Prayer is talking together, prayer is by yourself.
Prayer is emptying, it is filling.
Prayer is loud, it is a whisper.
Prayer is active, it is receptive, listening in silence.
Prayer is hopeful, it is angry, anxious, fearful.
Prayer is wild, it is still.
It is for myself, it is for others.
It is selfish, it is generous. Ego centric, compassionate.
Prayer is prescribed, and it just happens.
Prayer is used to manipulate.
Prayer blesses, it is the balm of God’s tenderness.
Prayer is stirring and it is calming.
Prayer is insistent; and hesitant.
Prayer is focused and determined. Prayer is letting go, opening up, seeking.
Prayer is directed to the future, prayer creates reality in the present.
Prayer is a time of day, or all day.
A book is being prepared by scholars documenting all known forms of prayer from the time of Mesopotamia 3000 B.C.E. to the rise of Islam about 800 C.E. A representative collection of prayers across a span of 3800 years. The authors decided not to give a definition of prayer in the introduction. Prayer does not fit inside any one definition. No ID question on your exam.
When you pray, pray in this way:
Father, hallowed be your name. May your reign come. Give us each day the bread we need. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And lead us not to the test, to temptation.
Jesus’ prayer is a Jewish prayer, drawing from the well of Israel’s ancient trust in and experience of God’s care, tenderness, God’s trusted presence. Jesus’ prayer uses the same language as the Kaddish prayer which our brothers and sisters pray everyday in the synagogue and in their private prayers. Jesus’ prayer overlaps with the Eighteen Benedictions, another core prayer of daily Jewish life.
The Kaddish petitions God’s reign to come speedily and soon, that God’s name be sanctified, that God’s peace will come over all Israel. The Lord’s Prayer and the Kaddish state, expect and know that God’s reign is real, is at the door step, infuses our lives and communities already, the whole world really. The Kaddish is prayed by those who mourn the death of a loved one. It is prayed every day all around the world.
When we pray with Jesus, “hallowed be your name, sanctified be your name” – then God’s name is made holy in the process of praying, kept holy, pronounced holy and announced holy to all the world. In praying, God’s holy name becomes a measuring stick for our unholy world and unholy ways.
Father, loving parent, may your reign come. When we so pray with Jesus, it is here, among us. We live it and breathe it, peace is not out of the question.
For peace we pray with Jesus in widening circles – bread, forgiveness, perseverance in the testing of faith.
Bread – so we live, every one. With dignity, and in health. Sustenance, dignity, health and safety – the basis for peace. We know God provides manna and quail to God’s people in the desert every day, morning and night. There is just the right amount for everyone. There still is, for every hungry person, every destitute addict, every refugee, every asylum seeker.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone indebted to us. From sustenance and dignity for each single one, Jesus widens the focus to you and me, I and the other, relationship.
Forgive us, as we forgive. Peace in our homes, our families, peace between neighbors, among religions, races, across the political aisle: – when we pray with Jesus, forgiveness is like the bread of grace given to make peace every day.
Immeasurable grace, for God has taken initiative in the matter of pardoning; steps in to break the deadlock in which we find ourselves, so we can look each other in the eye anew every day. God’s initiative propels us to forgive each other. So we pray with Jesus “forgive us our sins as we forgive” – to remember to do so, to grow in courage, and to act toward healing.
Then next, drawing the circle yet wider, we pray with Jesus: “Testing, trial, temptation – lead us not there, save us from this, o God.”
The reign of God settles the confusion of good and evil, evil cannot present any longer as its opposite, as good. God steps into this deadlock as well, breaks it on the cross.
Yet, we still are confused, swept up by forces inside us and outside us. We can easily lose our trust in God. Our existence as a whole can spiral down, break into pieces. And so we pray with Jesus, save us from temptation, from trial, to fortify our faith and keep us whole.
From here it is just one small, logical step to the petition “and deliver us from evil.” This most outer circle around Jesus’ prayer holds it all – encompasses it all. When there is no evil, we will have peace. Peace among all and peace in our hearts. Peace for all God’s people and peace for creation.
Prayer is blessing, my dear friends.
Prayer is real, prayer changes everything.
Prayer is God’s invitation, bread of grace, God’s every day good gift. God’s reign is at the doorstep.