July 28, 2019 — Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Rev. Alison Quin
Deep Calls to Deep
All the Gospels mention Jesus going off to pray often–especially the Gospel of Luke. He is in constant dialogue with God, whom he called Abba—Aramaic for papa or daddy.
Jesus made prayer look so easy and natural. When he was hungry, or tired, scared, confused or angry, he talked with God about it. When he was happy, grateful, enthusiastic or inspired, he talked with God.
He was always slipping away to communicate with God.
We are born with the desire to communicate with God—“deep calls to deep” as the psalmist says**. The deepest part of ourselves naturally reaches out to the God who made us, seeking self-understanding, connection, meaning. Children often seem to have an easy time communicating with God—their trust is still intact so it comes naturally. That is why Jesus says that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like children.
Trust is at the heart of prayer. But trust doesn’t come as naturally as you grow up and experience the hard parts of life. The losses we sustain, the sorrows of the world, our own mistakes, hurt or disappointment in religious institutions, can affect our trust in God and in ourselves.
But there is always a deep desire within each of us to return to that intimacy and closeness with God—and with our true selves.
So, we ask, how should we pray? Just as the disciples asked Jesus in today’s Gospel, could you teach us to pray like John the Baptist taught his people to pray?
Jesus responds with several brilliant teachings about prayer.
First, he gives us the Lord’s Prayer—one of the great treasures of our tradition. Keep saying this prayer over and over. It will teach you how to pray, it will be a lifeline even when you feel far away from God. It is a collective prayer—we pray it together with Christians all over the world and across time. It acknowledges the truth of who God is and who we are and our relationship with God. God is holy. God has a plan for the world. God is sovereign. But God is not far away—God loves us as a father or mother love their child.
We need God, who gave us life—We need God for our daily bread, for forgiveness and moral guidance, for help getting through the things that test our faith, and for deliverance from evil.
Praying the Lord’s prayer for me is like the needle of a compass returning to true north—it places me back in right relationship with God and my neighbor, at least when I’m listening.
The second teaching is Jesus’ startling comparison of God to a neighbor who locks the door, goes to bed and doesn’t care enough to respond to our pounding on the door to ask for bread. The metaphor accurately reflects how painful it is to pray your heart out for something important and not get an answer and wonder if God cares. But Jesus teaches us not to ever give up. Ultimately, God will respond and give us what we need if we just persist.
The third teaching is about trusting God. Ask and trust, knock and trust, seek and trust. Because God is good and will answer, open the door, reveal God’s self.
The final teaching compares God to a parent again—Jesus says that if we human parents know how to give our children good gifts, how much more will a loving God give us what we need.
So, pray the Lord’s Prayer. Never give up on communicating with God even when you are not getting a response. Trust in God’s goodness—God loves you and will give you what you need.
And try Jesus’ method of slipping off whenever possible to share your life with God—the good, the bad and the ugly. The more of ourselves that we bring to God in prayer, the more alive we will be. When we acknowledge what is truly going on with us, and let God work on it, then we find we are freer, more available, more alive. “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”
Holy Cross Monastery has a new t-shirt that says, “Pray early and pray often.” Yes indeed!
** Note: Psalm 42