On the Spiritual Trail: Teach Me (Manuscript)

11 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation.’”
He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
11 “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? 12 If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13 If you 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?” (Luke 11:1-13, Common English Bible)

One day a group of people went out on a fishing boat deep sea fishing . After they had been out for awhile, a sudden storm blew in on the boat. those of you who’ve been out at sea and experienced a sudden storm know what I’m talking about. For who haven’t, you will have to take word for it.

Storms can come upon you as quickly at sea. Some of them can be frightening. They are particularly frightening, when you are in a small boat. When the weather starts getting rough even big ships can start to feel like they’re being tossed around like a cork in a bathtub. Bad weather, in a small fishing, boat can be very scary for all on board.

As thy folks were fishing the seas got rough. People got scared and asked the boat,s captain to join them in prayer. He wasn’t interested as he wasn’t a religious man. The storm got worse and his passengers got more terrified. They kept pestering him to pray, he kept refusing. It got to the point he couldn’t stand it. He had enough, and gave in his passenger’s demands. He prayed, “Lord, I haven’t bothered you in 15 years. If you get us out of this mess, I promise not to bother you for another 15 years.

While the story is funny, it is also sobering when think about it. Way too many people, even some of us, only get spiritual when there is trouble. Then, we become spiritual, we expect everyone else to get spiritual too. We want everyone praying for our problem .

At times, like an old friend, we only seem to hear from is when they need something. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Time passes without hearing a word from someone. Then the phone rings and it’s them. Much of the time we know they didn’t call to catch up. We listen and wait, asking ourselves, “what do they want now.”

Some people are that way. Some of us are too sometimes. We get wrapped up in our problems and are oblivious to anything else. An atomic bomb could go off around the corner and many of us would say, “Sorry, but what about my problem.”

Most everyone is like that at times, in our relationship with God. If things are going well, many don’t have time for a relationship with God. We may come to  Sunday worship and to pray before meals. But, there isn’t time for a real prayer life, or interest in Bible study. For many, church has to happen on Sunday morning or it doesn’t happen on Sunday morning, or, as far as we are concerned, it doesn’t happen at all. For even more people, that relationship isn’t that good. Forget prayer and forget church on Sunday morning. “I have better things to do.”

A preacher friend, whose husband is a part time farmer, had a man knock on her door one Friday night asking about picking peas. She said he could. “If it was alright, he’d come Sunday morning, unless she was doing something stupid like going to church.” Obviously, he knew nothing of her work. She said, she was going to church, people expect the preacher to show up.

We often think we run our lives well. We take the credit in good times. Then one of the kids or a parents causes difficulty. The death of a loved one, marriage, divorce, job transfers, school transfers, bad grades, work problems, people we don’t like, someone doesn’t like us, people pick on us. The list of what makes our stress levels rise is endless. What happens then? When life is tough what’s our answer?

Do we accept blame for difficult? Not usually. We shouldn’t always take blame. Many aren’t our fault. We don’t take or accept blame, when things are bad. We will blame God for our problems or ask about God’s. Where is God when I need God most?

That’s when we start praying. We pray, “O Lord, my life is so bad. Help me understand all that’s around me. Help me make right decisions. Guide me and help me to see your will. Amen.” Our prayer may vary some, depending on circumstances. When we finish, we go about our day often doing the things we were doing before we started praying. We may be worried , we runnning around wringing our hands crying, “woe is me,” but we don’t change our lives. We may pray more. Little changes.

Think about that prayer. Where is the thankfulness for God’s blessing? Do we acknowledge God’s greatness? Do we say we need God to get us through? Are we thankful for God’s faithfulness past, present, and future? We don’t even ask God for forgiveness of sin or confess that sin. All we do is admit a problem and that maybe we could use help solving it.

It makes me wonder if God hears us and says, “Well it’s Hal. I haven’t heard from him in a while. I wonder what Hal wants now.” Does that sound at all familiar? I think they sound just like our  “friends” who only contact us, when they want something. I wonder, if God is bothered by that as we are.

What we want is real friends. We want friends who celebrate our good times and are with us to comfort and support us during bad times . These friends would gladly give anything to support us and we would do the same. We don’t mind helping others, but we would like to be thankful for what we did.

Don’t you think God wants from us? From a logical we can see it. God created us in God’s image . If it is what we want from others, it makes sense God wants the same from us.

God wants a relationship with us. God wants more than hearing from us every 15 years or 15 weeks or even15 days. Talking to God when we have a problem is OK but I do think that God wants more. God is with us in times of need, but God wants to be part of the times we celebrate. We need to invite God to the good times and the bad. That’s relationship.

God doesn’t want us to do all the talking either. Do you have a relationship with someone and one of you does all the talking? Of course not. Having a relationships means sharing. Yet in a relationship with God we don’t stop and listen to God. Too many times conversations with God are one-way. We do all the talking and God listenins. When we finished we get on with our day giving God no opportunity to respond.

Today is the third sermon in our series, “On the Spiritual Trail.” Our focus is personal spirituality. If we are spiritual people we need a whole, continuous relationship with God. Praying for God’s help in hard times alone isn’t a relationship and our lives aren’t spiritual. If we pray and don’t allow God any say we have no relationship and our lives aren’t spiritual.

We need to be praying, listening people. We need to be people in relationship with God.

Today’s lesson has the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray.” Notice these words. It doesn’t say, “Lord teach us how to pray.” it says “Lord teach us to pray.” Jesus models prayer and continues with two parables about prayer and God’s faithfulness answering prayer and our faithfulness asking. That’s important but we’ll save them for another time.

Today we focus on five words the disciples asked Jesus. They are words many of us need to ask God today, “Lord teach us to pray.” five small words of importance to have a spiritual relationship with God.

Two many are like the fishing boat captain. Too many decide to pray every 15 years when we’re in a bind. Part of it is apathy. But part is an idea that we don’t want to bother God with the small stuff. We forget sometimes in the small stuff can come the greatest blessing. We need that relationship with God.

 I believe this relationship begins with prayer. Not “Lord help me with this problem” prayer . Or, “Lord I sure would like a new piano.” But real prayer , giving God thanks and praise, asking God to share in a whole and full spiritual life today and in the future.

Remember prayer is two-way communication . We need, and we may never understand, to share hearts With God. At the same time, we must take the time to listen for God’s heart. When we meditate, study scripture, Journal, see God’s hand allowing God to speak to us and people around us , we have a two-way conversation. We begin to develop a whole and complete relationship.

“ Lord, teach me to pray.” I didn’t say, “ Lord, teach me how to pray.” The model prayer Jesus gave us teaches me that much. The parables of scripture teach me to pray in faith. I need God to teach me to pray even when I don’t want to. I need God to teach me to share my heart. I need God to make me stop and listen. We all need to take time and stop and listen. “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Theologian of the pasts, like Martin Luther and John Wesley knew prayer’s importance. They were known for making statements like, “if I don’t pray 3 hours every day, I will never get through it.” and, “I pray for two hours every morning . If I’m going to have a really particularly busy day, I will pray for three or even four hours.” Lord teach us to pray.

There is a prayer that in Methodist tradition is credited to John Wesley. More recent scholarship has called the tradition into question. Personally, lacking conclusive evidence that Wesley’s Covenant Prayer that he didn’t write it or that someone else had written it, I will stand with tradition. I would ask that you please join me in reciting “Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.”

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, 
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven.  Amen.

“Lord, teach me to pray.”

I know if the Lord can teach me to pray , if I can learn to not only say what I need to say but to take the time to to listen, in the words of the psalmist, to be still and know God, then God can teach me anything. So maybe I should change my prayer a bit, “Lord, teach me.” They were known for making statements like, “if I don’t pray 3 hours every day, I will never get through it.” and, “I pray for two hours every morning. If I’m going to have a really particularly busy day, I will pray for three or even four hours.” Lord teach us to pray.

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