Peace be with you!
I have been travelling alone for over half of my life, and I have very specific ways to pack and get around. Before I even buy my airfare, I always make sure I have people to help me with eating and other care. My last trip was a bit last minute, and the friend who planned on helping me most of the time ended up having to be out of town. So a few days before I left, I was freaking out and emailing anyone and everyone who I thought was still in the St. Paul area where I attended Luther Seminary. Patricia Lull, who served as Dean of Students when I was at seminary and is now a dear friend, reminded me that God always provides. Did she forget I lost twenty-five pounds my first year of seminary because my personal caregivers did not show up half the time? Did she forget I have to eat to function? It is an incredibly vulnerable feeling to be constantly dependent on someone for your very sustenance.
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). It seems like a simple task to most of us: bow your head, thank the Lord, and ask for [whatever “it” is] you need. But how many of you really pray when you need something? We think others’ needs are more important, or we only pray when it is something major.
Jesus gives the disciples a quick “Praying 101” crash course. Jesus says, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. 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” (Luke 11:2-4 NRSV). Most of us know these words as the Lord’s Prayer, and we say them every week at church. On the Working Preacher website, Dr. David Lose argues this prayer should be called the Disciples’ Prayer. He points out it is a communal prayer – give us and forgive us … as we forgive others. Jesus teaches his disciples to call upon God the Father on the behalf of the community. Praying as and for the community is how Jesus instructs his disciples and us to pray every day. The community comes before the self – you serve your neighbor before yourself.
Jesus demonstrates the power of prayer through a parable: a man has an unexpected guest late one night and has to go wake his neighbor for some food (Luke 11:5-6). His neighbor does not want to get up and wake the children, but he does so to serve his neighbor (Luke 11:7-8). By today’s standards, waking your neighbor for food seems outrageous. However, in biblical times, neighbors helped each other out to keep others from being disgraced. Members of the community took care of each other for the well being of the whole. The neighbor comes before the self.
As a result, prayer invites us into relationships with others in the community and invites us into a relationship with the Triune God. When you pray for and with others, at some basic level you have to know who your neighbor is and what is going on in their lives. This past Sunday a friend had a pastor and a group of us pray over her for healing as she faces back surgery in a few days. It is a scary time for her and for us as we fear the worst and pray for the best. We did the one thing we could do as a community: PRAY to the Triune God and put our trust in him.
Jesus goes on to say:
Ask, and it will be given 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. (Luke 11:9-10 NRSV).
These words strike me with such awe and wisdom. I am finding it difficult to explain their deep meaning: God grants us anything we ask, search, or long for. Others try to meet our needs, but God does it so much grander and with such a meaningful purpose because it all a part of his plan.
I thought I was going to St. Paul to learn and discuss evangelism (which I did at the Rethinking Evangelism conference), but God had other plans for me as well. God was probably laughing as I was worrying about finding people to help me and thinking, “Oh, Erin, my sweet child, you talk with your friend almost everyday. You really do not need to hang out with her for five days. I will give you one night with her, but I really need you to meet with a few others who need to hear about my healing powers. They need to hear your healing story and they need help to look within themselves to see how my healing powers are already at work in them.” I am pretty sure if God replied to my panic email, that would have been his reply. I found myself talking about healing with everyone with whom I shared a meal. One friend needed to hear my story of how and when I accepted my disability, while another friend needed to discuss how one moves on after being divorced. Even during the conference, I talked about healing during the breakout sessions, because evangelism involves us listening to others’ stories and sharing the good news with them, including reminding them that God’s healing power is already working within them.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for teaching us to pray. Help us to come to you with our needs and desires in prayer as a community. Guide us to share our stories with others, to listen to their stories, and to share your good news. Thank you for the power of prayer and the good news. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. When do you pray? Do you invite others to pray with you? Do you pray quietly by yourself?
2. What do to you pray for?