Our Life in God 

Sunday, June 23, 2024
Deacon Stephanie Anderson

Luke 11:1-10

A friend of mine works as a hospital chaplain, a common way that Deacons often serve their call to word and service in God’s world. She spends her days in the hospital, called to situations and bedsides that require a nimbleness from her. She is never quite sure what she’ll walk into. Sometimes the severity or urgency of the situation means that the room is bustling. Sometimes, the patient or family is days or weeks into waiting and worrying and exhausted. Sometimes, the family dynamics are joyful or close and other times the space between people is tense or painful.

When she tells me about her work, about the discerning and decisions that she makes throughout her day, she speaks of how often she’s stumped on exactly what to say. What words could possibly provide comfort in this situation? What prayers could alleviate or comfort the pain? So often she doesn’t know what words to say.

Sometimes, prayer might feel like a time when you don’t know what words to say. We are burdened by centuries of techniques and types and assertions that there are right or wrong ways to pray to God. Despite our best efforts, we can all too often judge our prayers – our words – as flawed or wrong or insufficient. It’s easy to assume that others have the words that we don’t. Or we might find ourselves folding our hands and  crafting a whole thesis for God, hoping that eloquence might be just what we need to impress God or for God to hear our prayer as worthy.

Have I thanked? Have I praised? Have I intercessed and brought forth not only the prayers of my heart, but the needs of the world? Oh, and I did I include this cause and that? And what if I forget something?? Will God forget it, too?

This past week, I had the delight of joining our VBS kiddos for their day focused on prayer. They got to try out lots of types of prayer. Some prayed through dancing, some prayed through jumping jacks, some prayed in singing or in silence. Still others prayed as they sometimes see at church, with their hands open to receive whatever it is God has to say to them.

The freedom and abandon with which they prayed was honest and pure and authentic to their little hearts. Even though we’re told to be like children – that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them – that abandon can be hard to find. As adults, we often tie ourselves in knots, with a pressure to get it right.

In today’s scripture passage, the disciples also felt like they didn’t know what to say; like they didn’t have the right words to pray. Intrigued by Jesus own solitude and prayer, they asked him “Lord, teach us to pray.”

What follows is one of the most familiar passages – the Lord’s Prayer – a prayer that has been written on the hearts of the faithful for over two millenia:

Father, may your name be revered as holy.

May your kingdom come.

     Give us each day our daily bread.

     And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.

Because we recite this prayer so often, it’s easy to miss just how wildly refreshing these words are, to say nothing of the candor with which Jesus invites us to address God. After the briefest of salutations to our God, Jesus invites us right into honest conversation; right into the human condition. The human condition that Jesus also knows intimately as he walks among us.

“Give us… forgive us… lead us… deliver us… ”

You’ll notice that Jesus moves into these petitions quickly! He sheds all fluffiness or rhetoric or unnecessary words to get to the point. It’s almost brazen; there aren’t soft introductions like, “in your gentleness and mercy, God” or “we trust in your goodness, so please” fill in the blank.

Nope. It’s, “God, we need you.” Jesus teaches us that prayer is less about losing oneself in the Divine, but maybe about finding oneself honestly and, therefore, in need. All that prayer requires of us is an acknowledgement of that need and a humility to ask for help.

In Jesus example, we acknowledge that we are:

  1. Dependent, when we say “give us”
  2. Guilty when we say “forgive us”
  3. Lost or vulnerable when we say “lead us”
  4. And praying to our source of love and rescue when we say “deliver us”

This prayer – these words etched in our bones – don’t require that we become anything that we are not already. Don’t require a mask or performance; don’t require posturing or promising. This prayer is deeply human, that is, it’s a prayer for creatures in need.

And so whether we find ourselves at the bedside of a loved one in the hospital. Or teaching the littlest among us what it looks like to pray. The beautiful reminder that we are given today is that all that we are can be our prayer. We can utter these words, we can sit in silence, we can say whatever is true to our hearts. Because our life in God is not determined by the right words or the right actions. Our life in God is not earned. We already – completely and entirely – are known and loved and forgiven and delivered, by a God who walks in our midst, who took on human suffering, who knows alongside us what it means to cry out in need, and who moves among us still.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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