Lord, Teach Us to Pray
Excerpts from a Sermon by Rev. Jan Bihl
July 28, 2019
Comfortable falls into our lap. Alive doesn’t.
Feeling comfortable makes us feel good… safe…
But feeling comfortable is not enough. It traps us in a bubble.
Frankly, just feeling comfortable, feeling good, even feeling safe gets boring after a while.
Then it gets stressful…because that’s not what we are made for.
Feeling comfortable isn’t enough.
We are made to feel and be alive.
Not the rah-rah-rah kind – but the deep and rich and connected, in-the-zone kind of alive…that fires the soul.
And that, friends, is the essence of prayer.
Dynamic, moving, back-and-forth, relational, interactive, real-life engagement…
“Lord, teach us to pray,” one disciple says to Jesus.
Here’s what I imagine happened: one very astute follower of Jesus begins putting 2 and 2 together…hmmm…he is doing amazing things, totally on the ball, engaged, has integrity to the Nth degree, so alive he’s gathering crowds by the thousands…and…he regularly gets away to pray…
Hmmm… I want what Jesus has. I want to be alive like him... Do what he does…
So, he asks Jesus…teach us to pray. And I don’t think he was expecting the teaching he got!
Jesus begins – with the beautiful words…
…that give a structure that includes the essentials…
Which is good….
But it’s not yet alive.
Just when the disciple says “thank-you for that teaching”, Jesus goes on…
‘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; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 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.” 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.
‘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. 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!’
Alive comes in this parable that follows the beautiful words.
Miss the parable – and you miss how the beautiful words come alive.
Alive is risky. Alive keeps knocking at the door – it’s persistent – inconvenient actually, I mean, really, midnight?
There’ no adventure or risk in comfortable.
There is risk in alive. I could fail. I could look stupid…
Comfortable falls in our lap.
Alive takes seeking, knocking, asking – agency – involvement… interaction.
And alive takes trusting the One we are asking…
that we won’t get a stone instead of bread,
a snake instead of a fish, a scorpion instead of an egg…
When we knock, seek, ask…we are being active participants,
and not just about general spiritual seeking…
The punchline is surprising…
Did you expect that ending? “How much more will your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask…”
This is about the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And what could be more alive than that?
If we want to be alive… we need the Holy Spirit to move us there –
It will be a stretch – beyond our comfort zone.
So I’m not talking about Lala Land here.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray,
he was headed for a difficult time.
Being and living fully alive as Jesus was, didn’t go over well in some circles.
Yet his life, his aliveness parted the sea – made a way - for us to be alive.
You and I can choose alive. We can learn alive.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would be our teacher.
And it’s a lifelong learning kind of thing!