Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Midweek Lent 2011 + Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Week 1: “Heart to Heart” Introduction and First Petition, the Lord’s Prayer
Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Romans 8:19-28; Luke 11:1-11

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

When I was a child, one of my pastors talked about prayer at Vacation Bible School. In what must certainly be good news for anyone who’s ever taught children in Sunday School or VBS, I’ve never forgotten what he said. Our pastor said that prayer is a “heart to heart talk with God.” And the gift of that very simple idea has been profound in my life – somehow it connected with me that prayer isn’t about the right words, or the right place, or even the right posture. I’ve learned from those words over my life that prayer is not about asking for things, or wondering if “prayer works.” It’s not even limited to only saying nice things to God. It’s about my heart, your heart, touching the heart of God.

Or perhaps we should say it the other way: it’s about the heart of God touching our hearts. Because the truth is, most times we don’t know how to reach God, what to say, how to pray. Like Jesus’ disciples, we long for deeper connection with God, and need Jesus to teach us.

The prayer Jesus gave them when they asked, the Lord’s Prayer, is more than words to say. It’s a guide to our prayer life, a guide to our heart-to-heart talk with God.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught it. We do it all the time in our liturgy, in our private devotions, in so many places. There is wisdom and simplicity in these words Jesus taught us to pray. What we seek to understand, however, is that there is so much more Jesus would have us know through this prayer.

On Wednesdays this Lent we’ll look at this prayer in depth and meditate on what Jesus is teaching us. We’ll consider the Prayer as a guide to our whole life of prayer, our focus on God, our relationship with God. In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul invites us to pray without ceasing. And the Lord’s Prayer shows us what such a life might be like.

Today, Jesus invites us to a new thing: that we can turn to God, as if God were our heavenly Father, our heavenly Parent, and simply be blessed in that relationship. This is an astonishing thing we too often take for granted – that we have access to God, and that God desires the deepest intimacy with us, the intimacy of a loving family.

This is what Martin Luther said about this gift:
"With these words God wants to attract us, so that we believe God is truly our Father and we are truly God’s children, in order that we may ask God boldly and with complete confidence, just as loving children ask their loving father."

God wishes to attract us, Luther says, to let us know that in fact we have this loving relationship with God, to trust that God is not distant but always desiring this intimacy.

And it’s true that many people today struggle with the male image of God as Father, and understandably so. But the deeper truth behind the gender is the image of loving Parent – that God wishes that we have this deep and abiding intimacy.

That’s what Jesus is saying to the disciples today – know this truth: you are beloved to God and may talk to God about anything. Isn’t that the most amazing thing? Jesus actually says God will listen to us, willingly! We don’t need to find another person to give us access to God. God, the one who is holy, whose name is hallowed, wants to hear you. Wants to love you. Wants to touch your heart.

We need to learn how to pray from Jesus, and we will do that this Lent and all our lives. And Paul reminds us that God’s Spirit will even pray for us when we can’t. But we don’t need to do anything to make prayer possible – the gift of the Son of God is that God is simply waiting for us with open heart and open love. And God promises to listen!

And this is, in many ways, how we hallow God’s name – with our lives of prayer which shape us.

Living intimately with God will make us new people, people like God. Instead of seeing God’s holiness as something that makes God inaccessible to us and distant, Jesus invites us to share God’s holiness. To be shaped by it. As we learn to trust God, live in full awareness of God’s grace and Word in our lives, we are made different. And we honor God’s name by the new lives we live.

Luther reminds us that there is nothing we can do to hallow God’s name, to make God’s name holy – God is just that. What we ask in this first petition is that God’s name may be made holy in and among us. That we do honor to the God who loves us by our lives lived in God’s grace and forgiveness. That we speak God’s name in our prayer and with our lives of mercy and justice in the world.

In some ways, it’s the point of God’s heart-to-heart connection with us, as we remembered last week on Ash Wednesday. Then we asked that we be given new hearts, like God’s, which beat in rhythm with God’s and show God’s love and grace to the world. God invites us, needs us to pray that we might be shaped by God into the people we were meant to be.

As we ask Jesus to teach us to pray, let’s also celebrate that God’s heart is reaching out to ours.

Let’s take Jesus up on this offer – that we can open our hearts, newly remade by God, to God, and share a new, intimate, and gracious relationship with God. Let’s not take prayer for granted, but rejoice in the amazing gift it is for us.

And then let us pray. And be amazed at what happens in our lives when God’s heart connects with us and we are forever changed, our lives hallowed and blessed for the sake of the world.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church