Return to Index or Sermons

Proper 24C, Tr 2 (20 Trinity, 17.10.2010
Gen 32.22-31: Jacob wrestles with God
Ps 121: The Lord watches over you
2 Tim 3.14-4.5: re orthodoxy vs myth
Luke 18.1-8: re praying constantly – judge & importunate widow (865)

God, our light and our salvation: illuminate our lives, that we may see your goodness in the land of the living, and looking on your beauty may be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication and Submission)

           In our gospel reading this morning we have a story that is found only in Luke.  As we have heard, in it Luke tells of Jesus impressing on his disciples the need for unrelenting prayer.  No other evangelist emphasizes prayer as much as Luke – prayer for Jesus and prayer for those who would follow him.  It is almost as though he could have written the old hymn which has the recurring line, ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer’.

          It isn’t just that Luke mentions prayer and praying more than the other gospel writers.  He makes prayer much more central to his portrayal of Jesus.

          Luke speaks of Jesus as praying before each stage of his ministry.  Thus, at Jesus’ baptism, unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke (3.21) says Jesus is praying when the Holy Spirit descends upon him.  Luke says that when the multitudes flock to him to hear him and be healed, he withdraws to the wilderness and  prays (5.16).  I think that we are probably meant to understand that he was recharging his batteries so to speak, since Luke then says that ‘the power of the Lord was with him to heal’ (6.17).

          Before choosing the twelve apostles Luke adds that Jesus went to a mountain to pray (6.12).  At Caesarea Philippi Jesus prays (9.18) before asking the question of who do the disciples say he is. Luke also adds that it was as Jesus was praying (9.29) that he was transfigured.  And the last of Luke’s notable additions is that it is after Jesus is praying (11.1) that the disciples ask to be taught to pray, and then follows Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

          So as far as Luke is concerned, if we are to follow Jesus, then we are to pray, and not just a little or now and then.     

          What is prayer?  I believe that, simply put, prayer is communing with God, being with and conversing with him.  Although prayer can take many forms and involve various intentions, both formal and informal, I believe that it is basically an entering into Gods love and resting there along the lines I suggested several weeks ago as put forth by Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God and also by the fourteenth century mystic who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing.  Simply put, prayer is putting ourselves and all things into God’s hands for his will and for any way that he enables us to follow.

        Obviously, prayer can take many shapes, formal or informal, by oneself or in community, such as we are doing now in the Eucharist.  But if we are to pray in something approaching the unrelenting prayer suggested by today’s gospel, then much of it will be done by ourselves when we are alone.  It is that which we might consider for a moment.

        If prayer is basically communing with God, then it will often be done without words.  If you go for a walk with a friend then some of the time you will talk with each other and also some of the time you will simply enjoy each other’s company in silence.  And so it is with prayer.  The silent communion may be one of thankfulness or adoration.

        There is a simple acronym that is often used to teach about prayer.  It is ACTS, as in the Book of Acts. With A for adoration, C for confession, T for thanksgiving, and S for supplication.  I always like to add another S on the end.  I’ll get to that.   

          Adoration.  If ‘to adore’ means to love, which it does, then adoration is loving God with the love with which he loves us.  It is a resting in that love.

          As for Confession, the best image that comes to my mind is that of a small child, who, having been naughty, climbs into the enfolding arms of a loving father or mother, and being warmly held by that love, blurts out the offence and says ‘I am sorry’.

           Thanksgiving is, obviously a giving of thanks.  As we enjoy God’s company we give thanks for all that he gives us: the joy of friendship with others, the beauty we see all around us in the wonders of the creation and the faces of those around us.                 Supplication at its best really isn’t about asking God for anything.  It is rather putting all our concerns for others, for the world, and for ourselves into God’s hands.  In the context of God’s love this enables us to see them in better perspective and  to act on them without unfruitful anxiety. 

       And finally, my own additional letter S for Submission.  Echoing Jesus’ words from Gethsemane and, according to Luke, his final words from the cross, we simply place ourselves and everything in God’s hands with the words, said or thought, ‘Father, into your hands we commit all things so that your will may be done’.

          Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication and Submission.  I believe that no matter where we are or what we are doing, as we walk along with our Lord in his love, so all these will well up in us as the natural fruits of that love so that we are truly enabled to pray without ceasing.