Won’t you join me in a word of prayer, almighty God, once again, we are grateful for your presence with us, your love towards us. And now in this gathering, we ask that you would cover us, keep us, hold us and unite us. But most of all, fill us for all of the places you are preparing to send us this. We asking your wonderful name. Amen. You may be seated in listening to the gospel that was just read. There are perhaps words that jump immediately off the page. Lord teach us to pray. Each of the gospel writers were moved and motivated and inspired to make certain that the good news revealed through the life of Jesus was recorded. Each of the writers sought to communicate a certain view and perspective on the transforming truth that was revealed through the life of Jesus Christ, the gospel writer, Luke, in his love of contrast, however, and in his unique, subtle manner always sought to emphasize the difference between getting stuck on issues related to worldly greatness or focusing on and wrestling with issues of real importance, time and time again in scene after scene, Lou provides us with very subtle contrast that invite us to focus more intently on the life of Jesus Christ.

That we may be able to experience the fullness of Christ, the joy of Christ, the love of Christ, the transforming spirit given to us by Christ. When we think of all that was done here, Luke invites us to focus more intently on Jesus so that we might see more than what we have seen. Hear more than what we’ve heard so that we be moved to do more than what we have done and empowered to do. It should be of note that in Luke’s gospel, when we’re listening and watching and reading over these past few weeks and listening to Luke’s gospel since the beginning of the Galilean ministry, the request directed towards Jesus predominantly sought to receive from Jesus healing from disease cleansing, from leprosy deliverance, from paralysis liberation, from demonic spirits, the disciples who accompanied Jesus had witnessed requests that had come from all walks of life from centurions, from rulers of synagogues, a woman who was hemorrhaging for 10 years, the disciples had experienced firsthand the trauma and the drama of being in a storm on a lake and seeing Jesus even calm the storm. All of this was coupled with requests that simply wanted to understand the meaning of even the parables that Jesus used to teach

For just a moment, join me in picturing the crowds that followed Jesus in order that they would receive simply food to eat relief from oppression and healing from ailments just prior to the gospel, for those that were with us and even hearing a as Ken Duncan was preaching last week, Luke records a familiar scene of Jesus in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, struggling with each other. In addition to struggling over prioritizing cleaning of the house, washing of the dishes, serving of meals or sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to the savior and countering holy and interacting with the divine. The encounter closes with these words just before our gospel reading this morning, where Jesus says Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her. But then the scene shifts quickly to our reading this morning. The she, the scene moves quite rapidly as we’re moved out of the house of Mary and Martha and into a certain place. And into a moment when the disciples take note of Jesus as Jesus was prayer, as they watched and listened, there may have been conversation between them going on as they watched Jesus listened to Jesus until one of the disciples spoke up on behalf of all of them and stated, Lord,

Teach us to pray. This question should not be seen as literal because prayer was an integral part of Jewish life. They knew the words of prayer. They knew the forms of prayer, but all of a sudden something happened that changed everything. Lord teach us to pray. We look at the disciples, they were familiar with prayer prayers that took place several times throughout the day, prayers in the temple prayers over table blessings, reciting of the Psalms prayers from day to day each and every day, often three times a day plus more. But just for just a moment in listening to Jesus, something changed. Lord teach us to pray. The concerns of disciples are moved from horizontal matters to vertical concerns

Until this moment, the focus had simply been perhaps, and the request had been filled with physical needs. They had focused on sociological crises that were consuming them. They lived in an environment and in a world where they had to deal with the political, the economic and social factors that kept them from seeing life and experiencing life in its fullness. They had to spend perhaps most of their life worrying about bills to pay political posturing, diseases and illnesses that were present and overcoming communities that were suspicious and paranoid when dealing with each other that kept them divided, separated, and even alienated. If I’m not

In such a rush, I could confuse that that time was this time, the same and more of the same political posturing diseases, all around us, economic, political, social unrest, paranoia with communities, dealing with each other, worried about each other neighborhoods that cannot get together faiths and hear those who claim faith cannot walk together with each other divided, separated, alienated, but in the midst of that, Lord teach us to pray. I know the words of prayer, you know, the words of prayer, but something happened when they invited Jesus into the moment and their horizontal focus got connected with vertical concern in this moment that horizontal concerns are about to inter intersect with a vertical reality. Our ability to handle confront and conquer the issues of life should not be seen solely from a horizontal dimension. Money will not solve all of our problems. Just writing it with pen and paper will not solve all of our issues here. We ought to be able to look at life, look at the issues on one level, but they should also be seen in light of the divine, which allows us to move with a greater perception with all that is going around us. So Lord teach us to pray.

I need to see more than what I’ve seen. I need to hear more than what I’ve heard, because prayer brings us into the presence of God. And it helps us to deal with the pain of the past, the problems in the present while embracing his promises for the future. Oftentimes I can get stuck in one dimension when God is operating in all three, I can get stuck in one situation when God is calling and providing me with all things that I might move out of, where I am into the places of where we should be. Prayer is not simply an exercise appropriate religious protocol. I grew up, grew up hearing in my house that there’s power in prayer. That prayer changes things. I have been told that even when you must wait, because prayer doesn’t immediately change things. If you pray right, stay right work, right. Prayer will change you and give you the power to change things in a day. When many have declared, they have grown weary of praying. I remind you this morning, that prayer is conversation with God. And I’m confident that God still answers prayers because of my wife, I have learned to enjoy the theater,

Uh, the stage, but I must admit I have not yet come to the place. Being excited about musicals, just when the plot gets thick and rich, someone’s gotta break out in a song there. How there are however, a few musicals where the plot is so rich that I’m caught up through the entire movement. I’m a fan of Fiddler on the roof. And as the main character Tevye, the milkman played a central role. He was always walking around, looking up and talking to God constantly in conversation throughout the entire play throughout the entire film throughout the entire reading, he’s always talking to God and early on one day, Tevye is walking. He looked up and he said, as the good book says, heal us. Oh Lord. And we shall be healed. In other words, send us the cure. We’ve got the sickness already. They realize Tevye realized and we realized something’s got to change. Something needs to be transformed. We need to do more than what we’ve done. So we have to see more than what we’ve seen. Hear more than what we’ve heard. Jesus heard their request and provided them a model to teach them and to help them when they pray. And I remind you on today, Jesus did not say, if you pray, he said, when you pray,

Just like the disciples, then this prayer was not offered to help conform us to the world around us. But this prayer was offered that it might transform us in the world in which we live, that we might be transformed by being in the presence of a God who loves us in the presence of a God who provides for us in the presence of a God who holds us makes ways for us open doors for us, forgives us, builds fences all around us. We have heard the words of prayer, but the real question is when we hear it today, will we be transformed in our prayer moment, by the God who is on the other side of the conversation in prayer, in this 11 chapter prayer precedes the problem, saturates the response and influences the outcome.

Jesus provided them a motto for prayer and then presents them with a problem that could be clearly seen on a horizontal level, but now needed to be responded to with a vertical influence. Listen to Jesus. As he said, suppose you had a friend and you go to him on behalf of a friend, not asking the friend to give you, but to lend you. I am not going because of me. I’m not praying just for my own needs, but I’m praying because there’s a friend who’s in need. I’m going because there is someone around me who is in need. Our perseverance and prayer is not for me and me alone, but because I have a friend and we have a friend in need, we know a child who is hungry. We are aware of the violence in the street. We recognize that wars all around us, that racial strife is with us.

Political unrest, destabilizes us ecological. Devastation is threatening us and economic subjugation is destroying us. I keep on praying because prayer is the key and faith unlocks the door. I pray not just because it’s me, but because there are friends all around me. I have faith in what Jesus said, ask, and it will be given to you search and you will find knock. And the door will be opened for everyone who ask receives and everyone who searches finds. And for everyone who knocks the door will be open, but I’m not praying for my own personal concern. I’m praying because there’s a communal concern. Jesus continues teaching and he paints the picture of the problem so that you will see it, not just outside your door, but behind your door. He says, if you have a child who asks for fish, will you give him a snake instead of a fish or a child that asks for an egg, will you give them a scorpion?

Not just those who are outside my door, but those who are behind the doors, prayer will transform and strengthen our spirit so that we will speak to our neighbors so that we will love our neighbors. We will welcome the stranger assist. The needy prayer will help us to turn our belief into action. I know that Barry white says years ago, practice what you preach, but I need to remind you practice what you pray in a few moments when we pray, pray like you believe, pray with personal commitment. Pray with communal awareness. Pray, not just for yourself, but I need to pray cuz I’ve got colleagues sitting here pray because I’ve got friends sitting out there pray because I’ve got loved ones who are online somewhere. Pray for the person sitting next to you. Pray for the one sitting behind you. Pray for the one sitting in front of you.

Pray for the ones that you’ll meet on the way out the door. That you’ll be able to tell somebody. I didn’t just pray for me. I prayed for you. Pray that there’ll be a difference. Not just in our talk, but in our walk pray. So that there’ll be power. Not just in what we say, but in what we do pray so that we would live right talk, right. Serve right lift. Right and help. Right? Pray for the family connected to you. Pray for everyone that is around you. Pray so that when you hear the words they’ll mean something to you so that you will hear father hallowed, be th name your kingdom. Come give us each day, our daily bread, forgive us, our sins for we ourselves. Forgive everyone indebted to us and do not bring us into the time of trial. So pray, not just for me, but pray for you. Pray for the ones that are around you in this. They changed and everything changed because Jesus was right there. The horizontal intersected with the vertical. And if you picture that, it’s the emblem of a cross where our horizontal needs meet our vertical concerns and there’s power in the cross. There’s power in Jesus. There’s power in his name, what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to God path. What a privilege it is to carry. Not some things, but everything to God in prayer.


The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr.

Canon Missioner and Minister of Equity & Inclusion