Sermon of the Week
The Lord’s Prayer:
Bring About Your Kingdom.
What are we doing when we pray?
Well, there are lots of ways to break down what prayer is trying to accomplish.
Some people do this with big words.
Seminary, by the way, is great for this. If you want to learn big words, go to Seminary.
Like intercessory prayer—which is when you are praying for God
to intercede on behalf of someone else:
-help my mom who is suffering from cancer;
-help my friend, who just got fired;
-help my son, who is learning how to be a good man
at a time when demagogues are trying to make him afraid
that somehow listening to the claims of victims
means that no one can trust him any longer
help him see through all of this and know that good men
don’t fear trusting and hearing the women in their lives;
-help heal my neighbor’s ugliness and cruelty,
who has been laughing at the grief others seem to be bearing
those are intercessory prayers.
There are prayers of supplication, where you lift up your own needs to God,
and Imprecatory prayers, when you seek to vanquish your foes, or,
if you’re trying to be more holy about it,
just those people you are absolutely sure are God’s foes.
We don’t talk about those kind of prayers very much.
There are benedictory prayers, where we ask for God’s blessing on something,
and there are confessorial prayers, where we speak truth about our faults.
Seminary isn’t the only place we learn about the varied and complex ways
that we go about praying.
When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I once had a Sunday School project
where we traced our hand on construction paper
and used each finger, including the thumb
to highlight a different type of prayer:
Petition—asking for something
Intercession and Confession—we covered those
Thanksgiving and Praise.
I’ve seen some versions put “listening” on the palm
a reminder that sometimes the best prayers are the ones where we don’t say anything
but instead seek to dwell in the presence of God
and listen to what God might be trying to say to us.
I think Anne Lamott did us a great service
when she simplified all of this for us in a little book she wrote a few years ago.
The three essential prayers, she said are these: Help. Thanks. Wow.
Help: something’s not right, come give us a hand.
Thanks: God, you’re amazing and we know it.
Wow: There are not enough words to express our awe and our reverence.
Help. Thanks. Wow.[i]
That’s pretty good.
It will get you through most of the stuff you need, day in and day out.
even if the Seminary words are helpful when you’re playing trivia.
I like that listening piece of the sketch-out-your-hand prayer
from my childhood, though.
We should explore that a little bit more,
because sometimes we get so caught up in what we are saying
that we mistake our talking to God for the only way that legitimate prayer happens.
That’s far too limiting.
When you break it down,
prayer is how we dwell in the presence of God. [Read more…]