Devotional Message: The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12C (7/28/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]
St. Luke 11:1-13

Semicontinuous First Reading and Psalm

Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us your abundant mercy. Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

11:1 [Jesus] 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.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 “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. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 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!”

St. Luke 11:1-13, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Teach Us to Pray

At Saint Peter we are committed to faith formation — to deepening our faith in Christ; our trust in God. Our aim is not so much to embrace the correct doctrines, as it is to live a life that centers around loving God and loving neighbor. And so we commit ourselves to certain discipleship habits, hoping to grow into just such a life. We spend daily time at home in prayer and devotion. We worship together weekly. We participate in some act of community service at least once each month. We demonstrate financial generosity. We commit to gathering regularly with a small group or a faith partner, to support one another along the journey. Most of this is fairly self-explanatory. But if there is one discipleship habit that raises the most questions, it has to do with prayer. Often I am asked how to pray, when to pray, what to pray… It seems the easiest discipleship habit to put into place is sometimes the most difficult one to envision.

This weekend, both Abraham and Jesus teach us a bit about prayer. Along they way, they also teach us quite a bit about God.

We sometimes imagine that God is all-knowing and all-seeing, with the future all mapped out. (Concepts, by the way, that are more rooted in Greek thought than the Hebrew Bible — our Old Testament… and not especially likely to give us reason to pray!) Yet in this weekend’s first lesson, Abraham demonstrates a belief that God sometimes needs our partnership to create a world that is grounded in mercy and righteousness. So Abraham barters with God, until finally receiving the promise that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be spared if as few as ten righteous people can be found in them.

Jesus models a robust prayer life, which is an interesting concept! If the one whom we understand as being fully God and fully man finds it important to spent regular time in prayer, it disabuses us of any notion that we don’t need to do the same. One day, after he finishes praying, the disciples ask him to “teach them how to pray.” So he does. We repeat his words on a regular basis, but I wonder whether that is what he had in mind. If the “Lord’s Prayer” is actually more of an explanation than an actual prayer to memorize, perhaps Jesus wants us to see that prayer can be an opportunity to glorify God, to pray for the coming of God’s reign on earth, to express our trust that God takes care of our daily needs, to ground our life together in forgiveness, and to open our hearts so that God might guide through the trials and difficulties of life. As the Gospel lesson continues, Jesus encourages us to believe that God is more likely to respond to our praying than even the best friend or parent among us.

We have been given the gift of prayer; the gift of direct access to our God. We have been asked to practice it on a daily basis. Perhaps, this weekend, we are encouraged to allow prayer to shape us, to deepen our understand of who God is, and to draw us into the kingdom of God that is breaking into our lives.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why is prayer such an important part of Jesus’ life?

  2. What might the disciples be hoping for Jesus to teach them about prayer?

  3. What does it mean that Jesus promises them God will “give the Holy Spirit” to those who ask?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What do I hope to experience in my prayer life? How has this changed for me during the course of my life?

  2. What hurdles prevent me from entering as deeply into prayer as I would like to?

  3. What might help me to stay committed to a practice of daily prayer?