As most of you will know the Archbishops have called for a week of prayer, focused on the Lord's Prayer, in the week running up to Pentecost and that this benefice have decided to make a positive response. I am pleased that we have. I firmly believe that prayer should be the 'axis of our lives.' I believe that prayer really does change things. But, most of all I believe that prayer changes us. It is through prayer that God aligns us with his intentions or plans. To pray properly is to fully cooperate with God.
On Tuesday night I will talk a little bit more about prayer in general and the Lord's Prayer in particular. I am also happy to answer any questions about prayer in general, or my own prayer life.
On Wednesday I will lead us in short mediation on the Lord's Prayer and, on Thursday we have the opportunity to listen to some beautiful Taize chants and pray the Lord's Prayer.
The Gospel reading we have just heard (Luke 11, 1-13) is of course all about prayer and so this morning I would like to identify four values, or virtues that I think can inform and guide our prayer lives. I am going to focus on these values, today rather than the specifics of the Lord's Prayer. These values or virtues are: humility, intimacy, simplicity and perseverance.
The Gospel passage starts with one of the disciples asking Jesus to 'teach us to pray.' At one level this is a strange request. You would have thought that a good God fearing Jew would know all about prayer, After all they would have spent a lot of time in the temple and synagogue, sat at the feet of the Rabbi and Priest. So I guess what is going on here is that the disciple is saying to Jesus: 'for whatever reason my prayer life isn't quite working, its a bit arid and dry.' I suspect that sometimes we all feel a bit like this. So we like the disciple need to have the humility to ask how to pray.
Jesus response is so radical as to beggar belief. He says that we must start with intimacy: Our very first words should be 'Our Father,' yours and mine. Abba, Daddy. There is a robust theological logic to this: what on earth would be the point of praying to an entity that we can't relate to; such an entity would be bound to be a false god.
And, of course through using the word 'our' Jesus is stressing our interdependency and our equal status as children of God. Prayer is from now on to be warm and relational; intimate. Prayer is to be collective as well as personal. Whenever we pray the Lord's Prayer, even when we do so by ourselves we are praying the Prayer of the Church, alongside countless others doing the same thing at the same time. The intimacy of the Lord's Prayer brings us into relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Then we move onto simplicity. The Lord's Prayer is nothing if not brief. It has no empty words and no unnecessary words. All it contains are the right words: words of gratitude, words of hope, words of forgiveness and a request for deliverance or protection from all that stops us being the image of God in and for the world.
Finally, the second part of the reading reminds us of the importance of perseverance. Prayer is not simply something we do as a one-off, or on a Sunday by Sunday basis, as I have already suggested prayer should be instead the axis of our lives. And, when we pray we trust in the goodness of God.
So this week we are asking you all to pray the Lord's Prayer twice a day – we have even provided some prayer cards. As you do so, please allow yourselves to be guided by these four virtues: humility, intimacy, simplicity and perseverance, because it is these four that I suggest make the phrase, 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done,' a living reality, Amen.