Saturday, 27 July 2013

The heart's prayer

Sunday GospelLuke 11:1-13 

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:
“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’
He also said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

  ‘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 to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Jesus must wonder if the disciples have been paying attention these past weeks. Or perhaps they have, and have come to a place where they can sit at Jesus' feet but can't quite make the connection with God the Father. However John taught his disciples, it certainly left an impression. Surely, there is some finer formula and sacrifice that God himself requires. Surely, it is not so easy as the conversations that they have with Jesus their friend. Jesus' answer is otherwise. In the Gospel of Luke, he teaches them the simplest and likely truest version of the Lord's prayer. 

The Lord's Prayer is our affirmation of our communal desire to follow the Great Commandments.

We affirm that our relationship is with a paternal rather than a patriarchal God. A Father, not a Master. A Dad whose love for us feeds us with all that we need; not once for the journey but what we need every day; enough to give us strength; enough to move us along the path. 

The Father's overwhelming care for us brings forth a love that is full of courage, perseverence and commitment.   To love our neighbour - without exception; to commit to 'do the right thing' and to trust others to do the right thing by us. And to hope, as any of us would hope, that we never end up in a position where the relationship is put at risk through our own foolish fault.


A simple prayer; the prayer that Jesus teaches us.

And a suggestion that surely it can't be that easy? 

Maybe it is easier for Jesus, having two fathers; the heavenly closely matched by the earthly.  The quiet man, Joseph, seems to have been the epitome of grace and blessing; an air of authority and diplomacy; a protective and valiant provider. For many, many people  - these images draw similarities with our own family background - forgiving the little things between us; knowing that there is much to treasure and be thankful for. But not always...

It's said that our image of God is firstly inspired by our parents. God the Father - the Father - God. Being a son for Jesus seems to have been  a delight and a privilege in both cases. Sadly this isn't always so. In my region there are areas where the number of 'fatherless' families reaches as high as 60%. There have always been single parent families within a community - here they often make up the community.  It can be imagined that, for some children, this means 'grandfather-less' too; in fact an utter lack of male role models; their 'lack' markedly negative in a world of gangs and high unemployment. 

In recent years, single mothers come to Baptism preparation unwilling to even name the father - they are not part of family life. 

How do you look up to 'absence'?

And for some children, the image of 'Father' is an image of fear and violence; not someone to be prayed to 'to deliver us from evil'.  

Yet there is something in the human psyche that understands the ideals of this prayer; the promise of Jesus that includes us in the family of God as beloved children; as brothers and sisters. That brings us together in love and forgiveness. Even when it is hard to be loving or to forgive; the intention is worth a thousand, more wordy, prayers. 

And for those of us whose family have been born through friendship and companionship; Jesus speaks of this too. Friendship is a hardwon gift; not to be taken advantage of or slighted. For the closeness and unfailing compassion of those who have become true friends runs deep with love.  If this is your journey into God; then there is joy at the realisation of such good fortune; the family you grow into;  something not to be taken for granted. 

When we wish only good for those we count as friends, or family - or both- or otherwise. When our desire is that relationships are enriching and filled with love; then each moment of that time is prayer; each moment is filled with the Spirit of God's Love.  


1 comment:

Jade said...

Thought-provoking, it makes a lot of sense as to why many people have trouble with the image of God the Father. This post really resonates with me, and it's a relief that the resistance can be worked through.