Lord Teach Us To Pray: Pentecost 7

Lord Teach Us To Pray: Pentecost 7

Year C, Proper 12, The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
July 24, 2022

Year C:    Hosea 1:2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13

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“Lord, teach us to pray.”[1]

In response to the disciples, to what I think is a relatively simple request, Jesus goes on a somewhat circuitous, extended parable. But that long parable is very enlightening and his prayer, and his teaching, what they do is encourage his disciples, encourage us, into a profoundly personal relationship with God, encouraging them to call upon God using the same name he uses — Abba, Father, “our Father, who art in heaven.” He invites his disciples to call upon God as children call upon a loving parent, trusting that they belong to God and that God wants for them what is good and life-giving.

I’ve preached on these pericopes at least four times in the past, and I’ve always glossed over the first reading as if it weren’t there. It’s tough.

The more I thought about the Hosea reading this past week, the more I realized we should not just dismiss that first reading and the context in which it’s offered.

These lines from Hosea are filled with doom and gloom. Repeatedly, we hear people being told, “you are not my people.”[2] This doesn’t seem to be so good and life-giving.

But there’s one line that ties it all up and links it to our Gospel passage. If we focus on the last line, we see the paradox, the contradiction, and the hope: “and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’[3]

Children of the living God.

And that’s the God we are invited to pray to as “Our Father.”

And in our Gospel, we hear the prayer that begins “our Father.”[4]

It’s meant to illustrate that God can be trusted. That’s why Jesus goes into that lengthy parable that we heard. So in some ways, it’s very interesting. Think about it.

Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the friend who calls at midnight. Hospitality was of paramount importance in the biblical world, and when a guest arrived — even unexpected, even at midnight — there was no question that hospitality must be extended. So, when the man in the story finds himself without enough bread for his guest, he goes to a friend and asks to borrow some, even though he must wake up his friend’s entire household.

Think about this, especially for those who have or have ever had young children; imagine getting a knock on the door at midnight if you’ve just gotten your toddler to sleep and suddenly everything is in chaos. You all might be able to sympathize with the fact that you don’t want to be called on at midnight.

What the reading tells us is that this friend persists. There’s no shame. He keeps knocking on the door. I think that’s what God does for us – God keeps knocking on our door, and we’re allowed to keep knocking on God’s door.

But what does Jesus tell us? We’re going to hear it in Hymn 711. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to 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”. [5]

I think it is sometimes difficult because sometimes we’ve asked, and the answers we’ve gotten aren’t the ones we’ve wanted, haven’t been the ones we’ve been looking for. Sometimes we’ve searched and think we haven’t found the answer. We’ve lost loved ones to senseless accidents, to illness. We hear of violence and tragedies, but I believe God is still with us. God never wants terrible things to happen, but God is with us when they happen.

And this prayer, “Our Father. It’s a lament; it’s a petition. And when we pray it later in our service, when you pray it at home. So I ask you to think about each word, and yes, there are several versions out there, but take the one into your heart that fits for you and pray it.

And what I think is fascinating about the Lord’s Prayer is you can read theological tomes, books of a thousand pages, on the Lord’s Prayer. But, even in light of those theological tomes, I am very aware of the power of the Lord’s Prayer because two things come to mind: little children, as young as four years old, can memorize and recite the Lord’s Prayer. And I probably have said this before: people who have dementia, sometimes they’re in nursing homes; they may not be able to speak, but if you ask them if they want to pray the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes the words come out. And other times, even if the words don’t come out, the tears come streaming down their face as they recognize the words.

We try to make it complicated. God keeps it simple.

Our Father, who art in heaven.

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done.

Or Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Whatever feels right, but I think that God is always there. Always more  old prayer puts it, the Lord is “always more ready to hear than we to pray,” and the Lord is ready to give us “more than we either desire or deserve.” (from our Book of Common Prayer )

I leave you with one last thing. What bigger gift can we ask for? What bigger gift can we be given than the gift of prayer, praying to God, and being one with God? So I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to let the spirit prevail in your life. Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek to be that kingdom where God is a parent, and God reigns because I know that God, I know, that God bestows the spirit upon our asking and looks different in each and every one of us. But that spirit and that gift are there.

So, I invite you each night, each day, to pray that prayer.


[1] Luke 12:1, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[2] Cf. Hosea 1:9-10, NRSV

[3] Ibid.

[4] Luke 12:2, NRSV

[5] Luke 11:10-11, NRSV