Psalm 85: 10-11
On Practicing Prayer
July 24, 2022
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
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.” 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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.
“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. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 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!”
*** Today’s sermon it titled On Practicing Prayer.
My husband drives a 2001 Toyota Tcoma pick-up truck. He made a boat rack out of two-by-fours so he can carry two or three or four boats on top and still have the entire back of the truck for paddles and gallons of drinking water and some “crumbs” (that’s his code word for food, just so no one gets too excited about just what might be in the cooler). You may have seen this green truck on the road lately. It’s hard to miss. There are towels and swimsuits clipped onto ropes, flapping wildly as he drives down the road. You can bet there are always at least two kids in there, but usually four, and definitely two dogs, one is rather large and one, thankfully, is rather small. If it’s in the afternoon when you see this mobile house of fun, just assume that the dogs are wet, the kids are wet, and the inside of the car is good and soggy. And they will all be smiling, except for the little dog, Pono, because he hates to be wet. This is how most of my family lives, all summer long.
It’s not uncommon for them to go away for a few days at a time while I am working. I can see that the truck is loaded with boats and rock climbing equipment and camping gear, but I am never quite sure where they will be going and what they will be doing. Sometimes it’s only my husband and two of the kids, but other times it’s the entire family, except for me, rolling out of the driveway and heading north. There were times in the past, especially when the children were very young, when my worries would get the best of me and I could barely enjoy the time for wondering if they were all ok. These occasions have provided me ample opportunities to practice prayer as a way to calm and overcome by worry. In my experience, prayer is definitely a practice. When the circumstances are dire, mind heart and mind go directly to prayer, but for common worries and stressful situations, my first tendency is to weather those storms alone. I’m trying to change; I’m trying to train myself to cultivate a practice of praying, even when life is smooth sailing.
I believe in the power of prayer with the same conviction that I believe water is wet. The tricky thing about prayer, though, is we don’t always receive what we pray for so we become leery about the effectiveness of the practice of praying. Our scripture reading from the eleventh chapter of Luke presents us with an example of how to pray, an example offered by our teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says, “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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’”
This sounds very different than the Lord’s Prayer that we are accustomed to. The version that most of us know is found in the book of Matthew, chapter 6. Even though the words differ, let’s remember that Jesus was demonstrating how to pray. He was giving his followers a pattern to follow and what a beautiful pattern it is. The pattern is to first acknowledge God, then to invite God’s influence (your kingdom come), then to ask for what we need, right now, today (give us our daily bread), then ask for forgiveness and remind ourselves in the very same breath that we are in the (neverending) process of forgiving others. Finally, there is the petition that we not be faced with more than we can handle. This is a pattern for prayer, if we choose to use it. It’s quite profound because it is quite simple, really.
Jesus offers something more, though, in the scriptures. In fact, it is at the end of this passage that we are given a critical piece of information that might just change the way we think about prayer, and the way we practice prayer.
In the last sentence, Jesus says, “If you 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!” How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. The awkward wording in this statement is an impediment, so allow me grammatical license to just reverse the order of the phrases, without changing any of the words, the essence of Jesus’s message becomes so much clearer. “The heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.”
How might our lives unfold if we start praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God? That is a new way of praying, is it not? How differently would we move through our days if our morning prayer was “Dear God, fill me with your Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.” How might our lives be experienced if we prayed first and foremost for fullness, fullness of God which is fullness of love? How might our choices be influenced if we were praying to be filled, and therefore
guided, by the Holy Spirit of God? Can you imagine with me the sense of security with which we could face all manner of hardship, were we filled with the spirit of God? Can we imagine the peace and hope that such a perspective affords, to be able to look ahead into the future from a place of fullness within? I can imagine that such a perspective would change everything.
I imagine that from a perspective of fullness, we can more easily shift our priorities, more accurately determining what we need and what we do not. I imagine that from a perspective of fullness we are healthier in relationship because we are not dependent on others to fill our emptiness. I imagine that from a perspective of fullness we have no room to hold fears and doubts. From the perspective of fullness, we can not be threatened because come what may we are not alone.
In closing, I invite you to join me in changing the way we pray by doing just exactly what Jesus suggests, asking first, asking foremost to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Amen.
God of earth and sky, we are blessed with so many gifts; open our hearts with gratitude for the areas of our lives that are full and healthy and functioning. Inspire us to give thanks to the people who have been most instrumental in our lives, the people who have believed in us, the
people who have loved us just because of who we are. Bring them to our minds, Lord, in prayer. When we are faced with challenges, lack of necessities, sorrow or loss, illuminate the presence of goodness in our lives, past and present, so that we may be guided homeward by your holy light.
In the ways we need healing, I pray we are open to receive. For all of our brothers and sisters
that are struggling, may they be noticed, may they receive the care and comfort they need. I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.
I leave you now with a translation of the Lord’s Prayer directly from Aramaic, the language that
Jesus spoke. Scholar of Aramaic, Neil Douglas-Klotz provides us with the following translation:
Lord’s Prayer — Aramaic to English Translation, by Neil Douglas-Klotz: Bible: KJV: (Our Father which art in heaven)
Aramaic: Abwoon* d’bwashmaya
Translation: O Thou! The Breathing Life of all, Creator of the Shimmering Sound that touches us.
Bible: KJV: (Hallowed be thy name.)
Aramaic: Nethqadash shmakh
Translation: Help us breathe one holy breath feeling only you-this creates a shrine inside, in wholeness.
Bible: KJV: (Thy kingdom come)
Aramaic: Teytey malkuthakh
Translation: Desire with and through us the rule of universal fruitfulness onto the earth.
Bible: KJV: (Thy will be done in earth; as it is in heaven.)
Aramaic: Nehwey tzevyananch aykanna d’bwahmaya aph b’arha
Translation: Create in me a divine cooperation-from many selves, one voice, one action.
Bible: KJV: (Give us this day our daily bread.)
Aramaic: Hawvlan lachma d’sunqanan yaomana
Translation: Grant what we need each day in bread and insight; substance for the call of growing life.
Bible: KJV: (And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.)
Aramaic: Wahboqlan khaubayn (wakhtahayn) aykanna daph khnan shbwoqan I’khayyabayn. Translation: Erase the inner marks our failures make, just as we clean our hearts of others’ faults.
Bible: KJV: (And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.)
Aramaic: Wela tahlan l’nesyuna Ela patzan min bisha
Translation: Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner-free us to walk your path with joy.
Bible: KJV: (For Thine is the kingdom, & the power, & the glory, forever. Amen)
Aramaic: Metol dilakhie malkutha wahayla wateshbukhta l’ahlam almin. Ameyn
Translation: From you is born all ruling will, the power and life to do, the song that beautifies all-from age to age it renews.
*The English version begins, Our father who art in heaven. The word abwoon means Divine Parent. Like God, it’s genderless. But it also means: the Oneness, Creative flow of Blessing, the breath or Holy Spirit, and the vibration from the Holy Spirit as it touches and interpenetrates form. Heaven in Aramaic presents the image of light and sound shining through all of creation. Hence: O Thou! The Breathing Life of all, Creator of the Shimmering Sound that touches us.